The never-ending refinement of Jesse Remkes’s 2JZ-swapped E46 has seen this J-styled Euro come back wider, wilder, and more wet-patch-inducing than ever before
From the moment pen hits paper in the design room until the final second that panel steel is crushed down and melted into oblivion, a car’s life story is filling the pages of a non-existent history log that only the car itself will ever truly know. We rely on snippets from previous owners to form the story for ourselves; some of us go on to make up a very small portion of that fable — the here-for-a-good-time-but-not-a-long-time mentality, having our fun before flicking it onto the next owner. In other cases, we’re even responsible for sending it to that big racetrack in the sky. But there are others out there who may as well be the entire story, trumping whatever may have come before them and even rewriting the story multiple times while they still hold the keys.
Jesse Remkes is one of those story rewriters, the Whangarei-based modifier originally appearing on the pages of NZ Performance Car Issue No. 232 with his then–freshly 2JZ-swapped 1999 BMW E46. Even back then, he’d already clocked up a good seven years of ownership, having gone through the era of big chromies and neons to come out the other side with a slammed powerhouse that made the most of a JDM engine swap.
“I’ve owned it for a very, very, long time. It was there during the teenage years, [I was] growing up in that car. Going back to then, it’s almost embarrassing. It’s been through more than its fair share of rewrites, including supercharging the factory four-cylinder, and more wheels than you can count on your fingers,” Jesse tells us.
He explains that the biggest shift in this BMW’s narrative would come by way of a trip to the 4&Rotary Nationals in 2016, where it appeared on the NZ Performance Car stand.
“Walking around the show seeing all that customization, I knew I had to step up. That’s when I went straight home and started working on a widebody,” he says, before continuing, “I mean, as soon as I got home, before I got it tuned or anything, straight into cutting the guards out and mocking the flares up with cardboard.”
With fibreglass sheets, resin, expanding foam, a ton of sanding paper on hand, and next to no idea what he was doing, Jesse gave it a crack. You see, he had a very specific idea in his head and knew that if he were to commission someone else to do it, they’d never be able to get it to where he had envisioned it. What was available on the market was too tame for the fitment he wanted to pull off. The only answer was to get his hands dirty and see how good he could get it — what’s the worst that could happen, right?
The results were, for the most part, outstanding, albeit Jesse isn’t able to recount how many hours he put into the crafting. While this would serve as perhaps the eighth or ninth incarnation — Jesse is unable to recall which at this point — it wasn’t quite perfect enough for his taste.
“That first kit was pretty basic — it had no real curve to it — but, with this second one, I learned how to put the shape in. The standard rear is a real low radius with so much rake you could be tucking rim at the back and have no tyre up front and still have rake. It looks shit, which is why this version has even more raised radius, because it’s bagged. I didn’t want it to be hard-tucking the rim; it was all about the raised radius on this second kit,” he explains. “I actually ended up winging it quite a lot; I didn’t even have the wheels to build it around at that stage. We had a 17×8 inch with 100m worth of spacers just to guess it, all without a tyre; I don’t know how it worked out, but it did.”
With the kit good enough to satisfy Jesse’s desires, Heino from Autostance was tasked with piecing together the rollers that would fill the rather large hole at each corner. Forget scrolling down a fitment list on your regular assortment of off-the-shelf options; these needed to be special: the kind you’ll probably never see anywhere else in the world. Starting out with a set of 16-inch factory BMW-style 32 alloys, the lip and rear barrel were cut away from the face before it was machined and drilled to be sandwiched between fresh barrels and lips that step up to an 18-inch diameter. The final result is 18×10.5 inches up front and a whopping 18×12 inches down back; even more impressive is that the car tucks 255- and 295-wide Toyo R888R rubber at the front and back, respectively.
It’s a good thing that it’s wound up with all that meat. With the exterior aesthetics rewritten to a whole new level, there was only one place left for Jesse to turn his attention: the engine bay. He claims that the intention was a simple tidy and turbo upgrade — although, when the turbo didn’t fit on the manifold and the engine needed to come out for the bay to be resprayed, that was the excuse that he needed to chase a few more punches of power from the Toyota heart. In went a set of Brian Crower 264-degree camshafts with valve springs and OS Giken cam gears. Meanwhile, the old intake was replaced with an Elwood Parts unit, and Dan from Walsh Motorsport crafted the stainless turbo manifold that the Holset HX40 huffer sits atop, which also sees that hefty Turbosmart Power-Gate60 sending unrequited boost, and flames, cracking straight out the bonnet.
“Everything is a stepped-up version of what I wanted to do originally; you know, budgets change and time becomes more available. It probably still cost me the same, but that’s with motor and everything. It was all already there; I just had to step it up and finish it properly,” explains Jesse. “It’s also a pain when you can’t drive it on the road legally; that’s really what this was all about: stepping it up completely and being able to drive it.”
That pursuit of a higher level of presentation and the ability to put rubber to public road without the ticket book coming out is why you’ll find a gaggle of trick pieces hidden in plain sight. The brake booster has been deleted for a cleaner engine bay, requiring a Tilton pedal box to be installed inside the cabin and a custom steering column to allow for clearance. Sitting static on the bump stops like it used to wasn’t going to fly this time around, either, which is why Airstance airbag–converted BC Gold coilovers occupy the corners, making use of the Air Lift 3P Management System and a Viair 444cc tank with custom lines.
It’s a real melting-pot story, where a widebodied Euro has been crammed with a built Japanese heart, sat over massive wheels, and bagged, while the interior shouts race car with bucket seats and a half cage. On paper, it would be hard to imagine, but it’s as clear as day when laid out here. It may have taken a good 10 years and beyond to reach this point, but, for Jesse, that’s all just extra paragraphs in the car’s story, one that he has the full intention of continuing to write, with many more years of enjoyment and inevitable refinement still to come.
BUILD TIME: 11 years
LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 11 years
THANKS: Huge thanks to Dan Walsh from Walsh Motorsport, for always going out of his way for me and producing amazing work — can’t thank you enough, bro; Matt and Heino from Autostance, always setting up the car perfectly and helping in a huge way with the build right through wheels, tyres, and suspension; Cam from CM Performance, for endless late nights wiring, drinking beer, and support; Adam from Motorsport Plumbing Supplies; Ezra, for the epic paint and late nights on the car; Aron, for always lending me a hand over the years and support; Glen from GDS Automotive; Nathan, for all the late-night help; my dad/boss, for covering work on all my day missions off and support; Steve from Mikes Engines; Nick from Slip Vehicle Wheel Stands, for the support; Phil, for the constant trailer lending; Jon, Ryan, and the team from Frankensignz; the boys — Kyle, Clem, and Jesse — for the extra hand; and, last but not least, my partner, Shontelle, for the endless support over the last five years
1999 BMW 320i (E46)
ENGINE: Toyota 2JZ-GTE, 2997cc, straight-six
HEAD: Brian Crower 264-degree camshafts, OS Giken camshaft gears, Brian Crower valve springs, ARP head studs
INTAKE: Elwood Parts manifold, titanium intake pipe, Fenix intercooler, stainless intercooler piping
EXHAUST: Three-inch stainless system, stainless screamer pipe
TURBO: Holset HX40, Walsh Motorsport stainless manifold
WASTEGATE: Turbosmart Power-Gate60
FUEL: Bosch 1000cc injectors, Walbro 400-litres-per-hour pump, Turbosmart fuel-pressure regulator (FPR)
IGNITION: Microtech ignitor
ECU: Link G4+ Xtreme
COOLING: Fenix radiator, Fenix oil cooler
EXTRA: Alloy catch-can, Chase Bays overflow, Chase Bays power-steering reservoir, Chase Bays washer reservoir, Suspicious Garage alternator-relocation bracket
GEARBOX: Toyota R154 five-speed
CLUTCH: Quartermaster twin-plate
FLYWHEEL: Niteparts chromoly
DIFF: Custom BMW 330 4.1:1 helical limited-slip
EXTRA: Custom driveshaft
STRUTS: Airstance airbag converted BC Gold coilovers
BRAKES: 330 E46 calipers
EXTRA: Air Lift 3P Management System, Viair 444cc tank, Hardrace camber arms, SLR front control arm lollipop, Tilton swing-mount pedal box
WHEELS: (F) 18×10.5-inch custom three-piece BMW Style 32, (R) 18×12-inch custom three-piece BMW Style 32
TYRES: (F) 255/35R18 Toyo R888R, (R) 295/30R18
PAINT: Resprayed by Ezrab Panel and Paint
ENHANCEMENTS: Custom over-fenders
SEATS: Bucket seats
STEERING WHEEL: Factory
INSTRUMENTATION: Link MXS Strada dash
FUEL TYPE: Gull 98
TUNER: GDS Automotive