286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

Do estate cars make good drift cars? For Jack Cockburn, the boxy chic of the Touring is a great way to surprise people.

Jack in a Box

With V8 German muscle under the bonnet, this fullon E30 drift machine is a hardcore masterpiece.

It's a well-established fact that the more workaday, less overtly sporting retro BMW variants have grown in stature to stand proudly alongside their two-door peers. Four-door saloons, estates, it’s a long time since these have been viewed as poor relations or weak links in the old Bavarian chain; they’re simply differently-textured canvases upon which to paint one’s own interpretation of what the car in question should be.

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

And, of course, it allows enthusiasts to build unexpected cars simply to be cantankerous — imagine cornering the original owner of this E30 Touring back when it was new and saying: ‘In a few decades, your sensible workhorse will have a whacking great V8 and an amusingly complicated roll-cage’. Their reaction would undoubtedly be one of surprise, no (not least because they were being harangued by some looper in peculiar clothes claiming to have come from the future...)?

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

So we can accept that E30 Tourings are, in certain quarters, every bit as desirable as their two-door brethren. But when it comes to motorsport? Well, that’s a very different thing. The E30 has colossal sporting prowess in its DNA, obviously, thanks to the M3 essentially reframing what smallish three- box cars meant and could achieve, but it’s an unavoidable fact that the BMW racers in the BTCC and the DTM weren’t estates. And, plotting another point in time and another discipline on the motorsport spectrum, they’re not all that common in drifting today either. Not unheard of, sure, but certainly not commonplace.

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

Jack Cockburn, however, is not your average drifter; indeed, he’s not your average car enthusiast. His Insta handle — @jack_the_plumber_drifts — tells you much of what you need to know. This isn’t a moneyed race driver who was plonked into a pro kart when he was four; this is an everyday guy who happens to like driving fast and, whenever possible, sideways in a cloud of atomised rubber.

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30 - engine

It’s dedication and tenacity that have spirited this angry station wagon into being. “If you want to be a record breaker,” said Roy Castle back in the terrestrial TV era, “dedication’s what you need.” And he had a point.

The world is filled with people whose dedication to the cause in question makes them the go-to guy or gal when it comes to the proverbial crunch. If you want to break into Alcatraz, talk to Sean Connery. Need to know a thing or two about knocking out number-one hits? A couple of The Beatles are still available for questioning. Clarkson’s DMs are open if you want to ask someone what their own foot tastes like. And if the name of the game is skidding Bee-Ems, talk to Jack — his passion and skillset are grass-roots, but they’re growing by the day.

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

“I was first introduced to BMWs about seven years ago when I got my first drift car,” he explains, “and I’ve probably had about 15 since then! As well as this Touring, I’ve currently got another standard E30 325i Touring away getting painted, an E36 tds Touring, an E36 tds saloon, an E36 328i Touring backup drift car, and a few other shells and spares cars…”

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

OK, that explains the BMW connection. So how about the drifting itself? “Well, I didn’t know much about BMWs when I started out,” he continues. “My mate told me he knew of a 325i for sale, so I went and bought that, then realised it was actually a 328i! That was my first road-going Beemer, and I was addicted to the power and how fun it was to drive. I think that is where my drift career progressed from, I just couldn’t get enough of it.”

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

It’s a natural evolution then, rather than having seen an episode of Initial D or a round of Formula Drift and thinking: ‘I want a bit of that’. Jack’s got a pretty long history of modding, as it turns out, but it all started with a very different focus. His first car was a Citroen AX, around 17 years ago, and that got modded in the aesthetic style of the time, with a smoothed boot lid and bad-boy bonnet and what-have- you – the skiddy power cravings came much later.

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

So then, how did this Touring enter Jack’s own narrative? “I was drifting my 328i at the time, and I needed more power,” he reasons, which is fair enough, really. “I had always wanted a V8, and this V8-swapped Touring came up at the right price at the right time. I saw the car advertised on Facebook Marketplace, not too far away from me; it was a complete and working ‘drift-spec’ car, in need of some welding on the shell, and I knew it needed a bit of work, so I decided to get it as a project. My plan was to gradually rebuild it and hopefully use it to help me progress in my drift career.”

286bhp M60 4.0 V8 engined drift BMW 340i Touring E30

Now, different people have different ideas of what ‘a bit of work’ might entail, but whichever way you slice it, Jack probably wasn’t expecting that the main reason he bought the car – the V8 – would be the first thing he’d replace. “The day after buying the E30, despite having given the engine a good check-over when viewing it, it developed a nasty knock,” he recalls, evidently still somewhat bruised by the experience. “That meant the first thing to be fitted was a replacement 4.0-litre V8 engine!

We did a lot of welding in the bay, bulkhead and floor when the engine was out and gave it all a fresh coat of paint before replacing the engine again. The shell then got some roll-cage modifications to meet the current British Drift Championship regulations and a full paint job in Hellrot. We got new Sparco Sprint bucket seats, and it’s now running on BC Racing coilovers and staggered Dare RS alloys.”

The M60B40 is a heck of a motor to drop into a lightweight E30 – keep in mind that in its native location in the likes of the E34 540i and E38 740i, it was good for 286hp and 295lb ft. And of course, this E30 really is a superleggera featherweight, having been shorn of all sound deadening, trim, carpets, quite a lot of metal, and anything else it doesn’t need. So for now, the engine itself is in a stock state of tune, although when we say ‘the engine’, this isn’t the first M60 that’s been in there; in fact, Jack’s on his third engine and second gearbox, such are the stresses of competitive drifting. All part of the fun though, isn’t it? And he’s getting pretty quick at swapping drivetrains now…

“We got the front end spaceframed to make engine removal easier,” he explains. “And it’s running a custom 18-litre coolant system now too. In addition, we have altered the steering, it’s now fitted with an Astra electric steering pump, and my aim next is to add a turbo if all goes to plan. Although that will necessitate relocating the coolant system and so on to shoehorn it all into the bay.”

When it comes to the exterior of the car, there’s an inherent aggression to it which neatly demonstrates the skill in exercising restraint and focusing on a few well-chosen mods rather than throwing the kitchen sink at it. The shell is largely stock really, glowing brightly with its fresh paint and artfully augmented by some chunky arches: “I’ve always preferred the M Tech II kit the best, so it was a must,” says Jack. “I got an ABS plastic version from Ukraine, with arches to suit the wide wheels.” And it’s the in-your-face motorsport stance that really makes the impact: the staggered Dare RS rims fill out the substantial arches with measured menace (the rears are a meaty 10”-wide), and it sits competition-low on those BC Racing coilovers. “Fully adjustable coilovers make all the difference – we can adjust the damping to suit different tracks and weather easily,” Jack explains.

“I love how it’s all come together,” he continues. “It’s proved to be a real head-turner wherever it goes, and I’ve actually been offered good money for this car twice now, but I’m not ready to sell, and I’m not sure if I ever will.” It certainly does seem to have got under his skin, and with the revolving door of BMWs that have come in and out of his life in recent years, this plucky Touring is certainly marking itself out as a keeper. It’s not just a car, it’s a brother-in- arms. “Being a drift car, it’s never long before there’s some damaged bit needing attention again,” he says, with genuine affection, and it’s clear that this is about far more than slaying tyres and making rumbly V8 noises.

The Touring may once have been the unloved variant of the E30 range, but for this devoted and dedicated drift fan, junk-in-the-trunk is the only way to go.

Jack has put a lot of work into his V8 drift Touring, and he’s built himself a beast.

The M60B40 is a heck of a motor to drop into a lightweight E30 – keep in mind that in its native location in the likes of the E34 540i and E38 740i, it was good for 286hp and 295lb ft

TECHNICAL DATA V8 drift BMW E30 Touring

  • ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: 4.0-litre V8 M60B40. Five-speed manual gearbox (3.0-litre V8 spec)
  • CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) Dare RS wheels, BC Racing coilovers, hydraulic handbrake, space-framed front end
  • EXTERIOR: Full respray in Hellrot, replica M Tech II body kit with one-piece rear bumper and custom arches, polycarbonate windows
  • INTERIOR: Fully-stripped, Sparco Sprint seats, Sparco harnesses, weldin multi-point roll-cage, Nardi steering wheel, switch panel, plumbed-in fire extinguisher, battery and fuel-pump box
  • THANKS There are so many people who have been involved that I’m bound to forget someone! But my dad helped a lot with funds to buy the car and provided his garage and ramp for a lot of the work. All my friends, who basically spent two weeks over Christmas living in the garage with me working on the car. Lee Smart Racing for the alloy fabrication, work on the coolant system and space-framing the front to suit, Rood Fab for the cage alterations, Neil from KDKustomsUK for arranging the paintwork, Street Tech for supplying the rear bumper, and everyone else who’s helped out over the years, it’s much appreciated!

Dare RS wheels look the part and really suit the car. The interior has been fully stripped and features a weld-in multipoint roll-cage.

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