Dripping with raw aggression and with a massively modded S52 pushing out a monster 605whp, this full-on turbo E36 M3 is an absolute beast.
Feature first appeared in Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Daniel Piker
Aftermarket forced induction is the ultimate sign that you’re committed to performance – BMW may have made forced induction mainstream, but on the scene we do it better and bigger – much bigger. We might feature a lot of aftermarket forced induction cars in the magazine but, realistically, they make up a tiny percentage of all the modified BMWs out there – the number of people who can commit to their car on this level is tiny because it’s always a lot of money to spend. Even if you opt for an off-the-shelf kit it’s still a big deal but if you put it together yourself, that’s another level of dedication to performance and Joey Princen is flying the forced induction flag in a big way with his monster turbo E36 M3.
When Joey’s not busy being an Alaskan commercial fishing captain and professional fishing guide, he’s busy enjoying the fruits of his forced induction labour in the form of this magnificent E36 M3, and for Joey, this is the fulfilment of a childhood dream. “I have been into BMWs since I was 14 years old,” he begins as we chat, “I remember watching videos of ‘Dado’ from DTMPower.net in his turbo Dakar E36. I knew this is what I wanted to do when I was older and more financially secure; there was no other car that I wanted besides a turbo E36,” he says with a broad grin. “The unique balance of the E36 created a driving experience I couldn’t find in any other car or even in newer BMW models: the E36 truly is the ultimate driving machine – the way they shift, turn and sound and maintain the perfect balance in a sports car,” he smiles. “In boosted terms, the high-revving M5x/S5x inline-six, paired with a proper turbo, can beat some of the world’s best high-horsepower inline-six engines such as the 2JZ-GTE and RB26. The M5x/S5x engines are incredibly well-built and today these BMW inline-six motors are competing with the best of the best sixes for big boosted horsepower,” he smiles and his car is living proof of that.
With such passion for BMWs and the E36 M3 in particular, it’s no surprise to learn that Joey has had more than a few and not a single one has left his hands stock. In fact, he’s owned no less than four E36 M3s, all modded to varying degrees, but 2016 was the pivotal year for him when, after a seven-year break from BMs, the call of the E36 M3 brought him home and he knew what he had to do. “I knew I needed to build the one-of-a-kind E36 I was waiting for,” he says with a smile. “The time in my life was right and E36 prices had fallen to an all-time low. I searched and found my 1999 Fern green E36 M3 after months of looking for a clean car and the build began shortly after. As green is my favourite colour I made it my goal to find a clean 1999, Fern green M3; Fern green in the sunlight is such a mesmerising, metallic colour and the 1999 E36 was the last year we could get this platform in the United States. The 1999 versions of these cars so feel much tighter and well-sorted over earlier models and OBD2 is the perfect option for stock ECU tuning a boosted E36 platform,” Joey explains. “I found the car on a local BMW Facebook page in Seattle; it was owned by three other BMW enthusiasts and well maintained since the day it was purchased. There were only 140,000 miles on the car when I bought it and the condition was 7/10, the car needed some TLC to get it back to OEM appearance but it was fun bringing the car back to OEM condition all by my myself in the garage and I find it pretty incredible an E36 can turn so many heads on the street once they are clean like they were in the ’90s,” he grins.
So Joey had his perfect green M3 and he also had a plan, a big plan for big power and he wasn’t going to waste any time. “I purchased the car with the intent to boost it and see what a stock S52 can really do with proper tuning and good hardware. In the last five years the US M5x/S5x engines have come so much further in head gasket and tuning advancements and these incredible tuning advancements have kept these engines together more reliably than ever before, and I knew it was time to try to make my dream power goals on a stock motor,” he smiles. “The entire goal of this build was to make 600whp+ on just 92 octane and pure methanol. We were able to do this all while keeping the internals of the S52B32 completely stock – our goal was accomplished,” Joey grins proudly. “We only used a JE cut-ring head gasket and copper spacer combined with ARP head studs. I wanted to keep the stock ECU and complete factory wiring harness and let Zack at 22RPD tune the car to make these impressive power levels reliable. It’s impressive to find that an OEM S52 from 1999 can put down over 600whp reliably with no major internal work, it’s all in the tune on the stock Siemens ECU. The build only took around three months to complete, but these were long days and nights; boosting a naturally aspirated motor takes time and patience with all the extra changes it requires,” he says. “There were no problems with the build itself once finished. The car fired right up and we fixed a few vacuum leaks initially. It’s been bulletproof since with many long hard pulls to the limiter,” he grins and that’s almost the most impressive aspect of the whole build.
As Joey says, adding boost to a naturally aspirated engine is no small undertaking and while the internals of this S52 might be stock almost nothing else is. The aforementioned combo of head gasket and copper spacer have dropped the compression ratio from 10.5:1 to 9:1 and the head itself was removed, pressure checked and then hot tanked and decked to ensure a flush mounting surface. The timing chain guides and valve seals were replaced and there are Achilles Motorsports internal oil pump upgrades. The turbo itself is a BorgWarner S366 with a polished cover and it’s equipped with a 44mm Tial MVR wastegate and a 50mm blow-off valve, and it sits on a RapidSpool Industries top-mount manifold. The exhaust system, meanwhile, is a custom setup from Fuse Fabrication with a 3.5” stainless pie cut downpipe and a 3.5” straight-through system that’s pie cut all the way to the tips. “One of the most unique parts of this build was the fabrication to the exhaust and intercooler system, done by Fuse Fabrication,” says Joey. “His incredible talent reflects in his TIG welding abilities and this downpipe electrifies the under-hood characteristics of this turbo kit. Fuse pie cut each bend in the exhaust from the back of the turbo, all the way to the exhaust tips. If you lift the car up, it looks as good on the bottom as it does on the top. His welds have slowly been changing colour into the rainbow spectrum as the car has heat-cycled over the last year. This was by far my favourite part of popping the hood,” grins Joey and it’s a spectacular under-bonnet spectacle.
Helping to slake the engine’s massive thirst for fuel is an Aeromotive Stealth EFI 340lph fuel pump with an AEI FPR while 80lb Siemens Deka injectors sit at the business end. Cooling is taking care of by a selection of Mishimoto goodies, including an M-Line intercooler, radiator and expansion tank which has been relocated to the driver’s side of the engine bay for additional turbo clearance, which Joey needs with the size of that thing. Finally, there’s the meth injection and he’s opted for an AEM 30-3300 boost-activated system with a direct port into the throttle body and 1000cc/minute injection. We already know what all this adds up to and that’s a dyno-proven 605whp, which is basically 700hp at the crank, but in “kill mode” Joey says it’s pushing closer to 650whp, which is insane. But this S52 isn’t just about the business of power and performance and the engine bay looks damn sexy – you’ve got the polished turbo housing, the gold foil, that incredible downpipe, the stainless steel vanity cover and it makes for a spectacular sight with the bonnet up. The two other incredibly impressive things about this build are the fact that the engine now has over 148,000 miles on it, and the only transmission upgrade that has been applied is an FX Stage 4 unsprung six-puck clutch, both of which are a testament to the sturdiness of this powertrain.
So we know this E36 has one hell of a bite on it but it also delivers in spades when it comes to bark and Joey has absolutely nailed it in the looks department. Sometimes green can just look a bit bland and uninspiring, but Fern green is lush and full of character and it suits the square shape of the E36 perfectly, and the woodland hue is enhanced by the stance of this thing and it looks outrageously mean. While Joey hasn’t gone overboard on the exterior mods there’s plenty here that has amped up the aggression to scary levels, and it’s no surprise that some of the styling mods have made their way onto his list of favourite upgrades on the car, from both an aesthetic and practical standpoint. “I love my DTMFiberWerkz hood and side skirt extensions, these are uncommon E36 modifications that really added character to this build. The hood allows the large S366 BorgWarner turbo to be visible from the outside and vents engine bay heat,” he says. Not only does the vented bonnet serve a functional purpose, but it also looks extremely intimidating and we applaud Joey’s decision to paint the bonnet while just leaving the vents in exposed carbon and it adds an extra layer of depth to this car’s visuals. At the front end, you will find a Rieger GT Cup splitter, which does an awesome job of making the car’s jawline appear even more intimidating as well as making the car appear that much lower to the tarmac, while the side skirt extensions (visible in some shots but not in others as this shoot happened in two sessions spread across a couple of months) make the car appear that much lower and wider in the flanks as well as that much more muscular. At the rear, meanwhile, sits a Mateo Motorsports diffuser, which does a fantastic job of filling out the rear bumper with its array of massive fins. Beyond that, though, Joey has kept things pretty subtle – the massive Mishimoto intercooler is visible in the front bumper aperture and there are yellow-tinted high-beam lenses but otherwise, the styling hasn’t been messed with and it looks all the better for it.
As we mentioned, a large part of what makes this E36 look so damn aggressive is the stance and wheel combo – it sits low to the ground, the arch gap is all but invisible and the fat tyres take up any remaining real estate in the arches. It looks squat and pumped up like it’s looking for a fight and that squared-off ’90s aesthetic makes this one car you wouldn’t want to mess with. “I chose the ESR SR05 wheels on purpose; I feel that, for a replica brand, ESR has great quality products,” explains Joey. “The main reason I chose this particular wheel and brand was they offered a deep-dish 17” LM-style wheel in aggressive specs. The car sits on a 9.5×17” square setup with an ET20 offset; this offset and the width are extremely aggressive for the car and really helped make the car look ‘full’ without having to add spacers and I couldn’t find many wheels with this sizing for the E36 bolt pattern. Soon, the car will need Weld drag wheels for the big power we are throwing at it,” he grins. “The tyre choice was obvious: for big power on the street it’s hard to beat the look and performance of the Toyo R888R. This tyre is incredible after a few hits; when I get them warm they really put the power down and don’t spin that much. However, as we are creeping into the mid-600s traction is getting harder and harder to make, so in the future we will need a racing slick,” he says. Regardless of how you may feel about reps, there can be no denying that these ESRs look damn good on the E36 and suit the whole look of the car perfectly, and the square setup and low offset combo is an awesome one. That purposeful drop comes courtesy of a set of Ground Control Track/School coilovers utilising Koni Adjustable shocks along with a set of front and rear ECS camber-adjustable arms dialled in for -1.5° of camber up front and -1.0° at the rear, while an OEM X-brace keeps chassis flex to a minimum. This trio combines to deliver not only that intimidating stance but also ensures that Joey can fully deploy all of that monster power and really enjoy himself doing it. And, when the time comes to stop having fun, the combo of Brembo drilled discs and Sport pads ensure that there’s plenty of slow to match the go.
The final stop on our journey around this turbo E36 M3 is the interior and here Joey has left things almost entirely stock, but with those iconic Vaders up front that’s no bad thing. The interior has been treated to brand new OEM Dove grey leather with added 3/16” hardened foam so that the seats feel like new, there’s a VAC extinguisher mount and a polished extinguisher to go with it, and there’s a trio of VDO gauges for oil temperature, pressure and water temperature discreetly mounted ahead of the gear lever in the dash while a pair of additional AEM boost and wideband gauges are mounted to the steering column.
This turbo E36 M3 is an awesome modern-day throwback to the ’90s turbo era when Japanese performance machinery dominated the streets and by boosting this square-jawed Bavarian brute Joey has built the turbo E36 M3 he’s always dreamed of. It looks awesome, the power level is monumental and it’s a full-on build that doesn’t disappoint and which delivers on every level, and there’s an awful lot to love about it. “I’m really glad we decided to recirculate the turbo wastegate system, as doing so allowed for this particular turbo to create incredibly loud spool noises you can hear from a mile away. Enjoying the engine noises is as important to me as the performance aspect as well,” grins Joey and with a car like this it’s absolutely all about the whole driving experience, and what an experience it delivers. Impressive as this build is, Joey’s got some big plans and he’s ready to take this E36 to the next level; “We have a built motor slowly being assembled on the side right now: the goal is 1100whp on E85 fuel. The motor won’t be installed for a few years because the stock engine build has gone so well,” he says and his shopping list includes a fully ported and built head from CES Motorsport, custom 22RPD Diamond pistons, triple Walbro fuel pumps and a one-off twin-scroll top mount manifold with a Garrett G42 turbo and that taster of the spec list has got us salivating already. With 605whp on tap right now and almost double that in the works, Joey’s boosted beast of an E36 M3 is one epic machine and it’s here to remind us of those ’90s glory days in the loudest, fastest and most extreme way imaginable.
Tech spec: Turbo E36 M3
Engine and Transmission:
3.2-litre straight-six S52B32, lowered compression from 10:5:1 to 9:1, CES Motorsport 86.4mm JE cut-ring head gasket with copper spacer .140” total thickness, ARP 2000 head studs, Achilles Motorsports S5x internal oil pump upgrades, head removed, pressure checked, hot tanked and decked for flush mounting surface, new OEM timing chain guides, new OEM valve seals, entire car converted to JEGS -4AN vacuum/boost lines, 22RPD M logo stainless vanity valve cover, BorgWarner S366 T4 .88 A/R turbo with open exhaust housing with 66/73mm inducer/exducer diameter and polished cover, 44mm Tial MVR wastegate, 50mm Tial Sport Q blow-off valve, Cummins -10AN flex drain return to pan, RapidSpool Industries S5x top-mount T4/T3 flange exhaust manifold, custom one-off exhaust by Fuse Fabrication with 3.5” stainless pie cut downpipe with wideband and single O2 sensor conversion, 3.5” straight pipe exhaust completely pie cut to the exhaust tips, OEM ACS delete with 3” intake charge piping welded directly to throttle body, Vibrant clamps, 80lb Siemens Deka injectors, blow-through MAF, stock wiring system, Mishimoto M-Line intercooler, Mishimoto radiator, Mishimoto expansion tank relocated to driver’s side for turbo clearance, Steward high-flow performance water pump, lower 80°C thermostat, new OEM fan and clutch, Aeromotive AEI 13109 fuel pressure regulator with gauge relocated to engine bay, Aeromotive Stealth 1569 EFI 340lph fuel pump, S50 manifold conversion, stock S52 fuel rail, AEM 30-3300 boost-activated methanol system, on/off toggle switch for tuning sessions, direct port into throttle body @ 1000cc/min injection, stock ECU, software by Zach Schaper with 22RPD. ZF Type C five-speed manual gearbox, FX Stage 4 unsprung six-puck clutch with OEM dual mass flywheel
9.5×17” ET20 (front and rear) ESR SR05 wheels with 245/35 (front and rear) Toyo R888R tyres, Ground Control Track/School coilover suspension with Koni Adjustable shocks, ECS adjustable camber arms (-1.5° front, -1.0° rear), OEM X-brace, Brembo drilled discs and Sport pads
Fern green, DTMFiberWerkz carbon vented bonnet, Rieger GT Cup front splitter, Depo yellow high-beam headlights, BavToys 6000K AC HIDs, DTMFiberWerkz carbon fibre side skirt extensions, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, Depo smoked corner, side markers and rear lights
New OEM Dove grey Vader interior leather skins with added 3/16” hardened foam to fit like original, AEM Tru-Boost and LED Wideband Failsafe gauges, RallyRoad column-mount cluster, OEM OBC delete with VDO oil pressure, temperature and water temperature gauges, VAC fire extinguisher mount with polished extinguisher, ECS full interior LED conversion