One of many sad truths about the current state of the auto industry is that the traditional car is slowly disappearing from showroom floors.
In its place are an abundance of crossovers, and it’s looking like they’re here to stay. The rise of the crossover is partially due to consumers not knowing what they want out of a vehicle, and manufacturers unfortunately catering to them with the whole ‘everything in one’ package.
I guess the ethos behind what automakers are trying to deliver on is practicality; they want to give us the ability to haul the family, the groceries, and the dog, all without sacrificing the fun aspect of a sports car. But from my perspective, the mark is missed, quite significantly actually.
Because the ultimate solution has always been here, and it’s one that comes from the initial emergence of the automobile – the station wagon.A Man Of Practicality
Jason Ford’s love affair with station wagons began in his adolescent years, where he spent countless nights laying in the back of his father’s Oldsmobile wagon, gazing at the stars as they drove across town during warm summer evenings in the Pacific Northwest. He always loved the fact that he could lounge carelessly in the back, open to the world around him, but protected from the physical elements. From these fond memories, his love for the station wagon blossomed.
As the years passed, Jason owned VW Beetles, and eventually a E36 M3/4/5 that was utilized for several purposes: It was his daily driver, family hauler, and track weapon. Not too long after though, he began testing the limits of what the car was capable of. It was modestly modified, and plans to turn it into a high-horsepower race car were not in the books. Jason could keep up with mostly anything on the track, except for an experienced driver with anything over 300hp under their feet.
So the only logical solution for him to beat the big guys was to upgrade. One thing he couldn’t sacrifice though, was practicality. Jason explains, “I loved the versatility of having four doors. I have two sons, and was able to take them with me everywhere in my E36, so I knew the new car couldn’t have anything other than at least four doors.” But the constraint was choosing the right platform since most of the more capable track cars tend to be coupes.
But as Jason recalls, the E46 chassis had been proven to be an effective choice on the track. “It was simple, had tons of aftermarket support, retained classic good looks, and was fairly easy to obtain in decent condition. Not to forget, was also quite practical.”
Shortly after selling the M3, Jason went on to find his 2000 323i Touring in Southern California. It was the perfect spec being that it was the base model, which meant the lightest of all the packages offered – perfect for converting into an M3.
Only, it wasn’t converted into an M3…2J The World
One day, while Jason was working on another project at his wife’s shop, he overheard a neighbor doing dyno pulls on something that sounded like a straight-up rocket ship.
“Clearly this motor was doing work, revving well beyond the 8,000rpm range, and I just had to know what was making all these noises,” Jason recalls. “After some digging around the complex, I came across my now good friend Lawrence Shipman, and the car he was tuning was a Toyota Supra.”
Jason went on to find out that the Supra was putting down a little over 1,000whp, and his mind was blown. Taking into consideration that supercars typically make around 600 to 700whp, it’s understandable why.
While the months passed, Jason began prepping the Touring for an engine swap. Which engine would be going into the car was undecided at first, but as his friendship with Lawrence grew, so did the idea of going unconventional, meaning swapping a 2JZ in instead of the more common S54 from the E46 M3 that Jason initially had planned. Despite what purists might think, I’d say it was the right choice for what Jason wanted the car to do.
The ‘M3 Touring that was never made’ end goal in mind soon pivoted into crossbreeding BMW quality and refinement with Toyota reliability (ironic, isn’t it?) as Lawrence made way towards completing the swap. Jason wanted a fully-built motor that would put down solid power, but still retained air-conditioning, electronics, comfort features, and so forth as you’d expect from any practical track car. And that’s precisely what he ended up with after commissioning Lawrence to take on the swap.
After months of building the car, the overall final numbers resulted in 931.6hp at the wheels, transferred through the built 2JZ-GTE VVT-i engine running a Garrett GTX3584 single turbo, V161 6-speed manual tranny, and all managed by an AEM Infinity engine management system.
Of course, Jason couldn’t just stop at the engine and drivetrain for it to properly compete against the big leagues, so the suspension was overhauled with a mix of M Performance and aftermarket upgrades, along with StopTech 6 and 4-piston brakes. Body modifications include rear flares and an assortment of M3 panels up front, and it’s all tied together with sweet set of Advan Racing GT wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes RS1 slicks.Do It All, Do It Well
With the build mostly complete, the only thing left for Jason to do was test its abilities and see if he really did have the ultimate one car solution.
“It’s done half a dozen track days now at both Laguna Seca and Sonoma Raceway. It’s done a few Shift Sector half-mile shootouts, reaching a max speed of 181.74mph, but it won’t be going any faster any time soon since I don’t want to have to make the additional efforts needed for safety equipment on cars that can hit 200+mph,” says Jason.
I’ve actually witnessed Jason driving the Touring at Laguna Seca once, and can attest that he was indeed passing Porsche GT3s and Viper ACRs with no trouble at all. It was hilarious and glorious at the same time.
But perhaps the best part of it all, is how Jason leverages the utilitarian function of having a wagon. He’s taken it on camping trips to Yosemite, slept in it overnight during track days, and has even hauled home improvement projects from the hardware store.
It is quite literally the best and only ‘one car’ solution anyone could ever ask for. So take notes big manufacturers: We don’t want your six-figure, three-ton, overpowered crossovers anymore. We never did. All we ever wanted were 200mph estate cars that can do everything, and do it well.