Inside Michael Essa’s 1000hp Formula Drift BMW E46 M3!

Renaissance man 


The definition of a Renaissance man or woman is a person who is well educated and sophisticated and who has talent and knowledge in many different fields of study.

Leonardo da Vinci was considered a Renaissance man because he was a prolific inventor, painter, sculptor, and architect.

Leonardo da Vinci was considered a Renaissance man because he was a prolific inventor, painter, sculptor, and architect.

Michael Essa also fits this definition.  As probably the most underrated Formula Drift Champion, Michael is a great fabricator, wrench, engine builder, engineer and driver!

The Essa Autosports E46 M3 has been around for awhile having made its debut in 2016. After a problematic 2015 season driving a Camaro, Michael decided to return to his Eurocar roots with the E46.  The car has been evolving continuously since its debut. being refined and getting faster by leaps and bounds. The E46 has many advantages as a drift car, one of which is the chassis which is amazing at finding grip.  We have found that out first hand by having our team’s car smoked off of the start and out of the turns by the Essa Autosport E46 and the HGK Racing Eurofighter.

Not only is the E46 chassis magical, but the BMW S54 engine is quite a beast.  We see it and one of the premiere inline six cylinder engines, perhaps even better than the legendary Toyota 2JZ!  The Essa Autosports S54 pumps out an amazing 1015 whp at 7700 rpm with 760 lb/ft of torque at 6700 rpm!

The Essa Autosport S54 engine is built in-house and is amazingly stout.  In its first iteration, the bottom end lasted 2.5 seasons while the head was rebuilt after 1.5 season.  In its current iteration, Michael expects it to last as least two season.  This is incredible as Formula Drift competition is absolutely brutal on engines and it’s not uncommon for many teams to go through several engines in a season.

The engine is surprisingly stock.  The stock factory CNC ported head sports Supertech valves, retainers and valve springs while running the stock cams.  Michael explained that the S54 is a high revving engine in stock form and the stock cams are pretty large.  Judicious programing of the Vanos variable cam timing system helps spool the turbo quickly and is responsible for the engines awesome super wide powerband and flat torque curve.


  1. Some very nice little details – I very much like the adaptation of the blade swaybar end to the splined bar, and the use of multiple batteries as not-technically-ballast amuses me. There’s definitely a feel like… about a well sorted car where there’s not much excess, which you would figure.

  2. It’s interesting how some shops swear by using the latest in performance bearings for their rods or mains. And then there are the ones who check their clearances and successfully run stock bearings (not even WPC etc. treated).
    In my experience a crank with too much runout or oval/worn journals is the main culprit of bearing failures, not the mechanical properties of the bearing itself.
    I’ve even noticed that some performance bearings have less crush height than OEM ones, especially on Honda engines.
    Using performance bearings in daily driven engine is also a recipe for disaster. They just don’t absorb contaminants as well, leaving them float around in the oiling system and grind away on your precious polished crank journals.

  3. Great article Mike! The E46 has quite a long wheelbase (2720mm) relative to its overall external dimensions. The current Mustang is also in the 2720mm range. The BRZ (2570mm) and S15 (2520mm) are significantly shorter in wheelbase

    The A90 Supra has a 2470mm wheelbase.

    As horsepower and speeds increase in top level competitions do you anticipate more competitors moving to long wheelbase platforms for improved high speed stability.

    Would the short wheelbase of the A90 Supra hinder it’s high speed stability to a significant degree? Is the BMW E92 Coupe at 2760mm.wheelbase the new benchmark platform for top level drifting?

  4. The power steering cooler looks like a low pressure unit but it does not look like a CSF product… possibly a Setrab ProLine STD range cooler?

  5. Curious as to why 6 speed transmissions are starting be the norm. I’m not aware of many tracks where a 4 speed would not suffice

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