Jef Groff's Castro Motorsports LSM3 Drift Car

Jef Groff's Castro Motorsports LSM3 Drift Car

by Jonathan Lawson

Headed up by Chris Castro, Castro Motorsports has a knack for putting out some high-quality work. If you haven’t seen the airbox on Pablo Mazlumian’s Project E46 M3, take a moment and give it a gander. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of art. Castro Motorsports is full of true die-hard enthusiasts with performance oozing through their blood. They do everything from custom fabrications to motor swaps and big-turbo builds, and speaking of motor swaps, who wouldn’t love flinging an LS3-powered E36 M3 around? Well, drifter extraordinaire and professional stunt man Jef Groff sure doesn’t mind… 

Jef competes in Formula Drift's feeder series TopDrift in a 1997 M3 running a 2013 LS3 V8 mated to a T101 4-speed dog box transmission. Cool fact: Jef was working on chase and crash scenes in a Jason Statham action movie while Castro Motorsports was working on his LS3 swap… Tough life!


DTM Fiberwerks body kit drift car
The DTM Fiberwerks body kit does a good job of hinting at the LS3-powered M3’s real purpose, with its flared fenders, venting, and integrated splitter. 
E36 fender flares DTM Fiberwerks
Did we say fender flares? Those are much easier to see from the rear angle, as you can see the extended-width rear bumper and some of the other trick ventilation pieces that help keep things cool at hot SoCal drift events.
E36 M3 drift car APEX ARC-8
No argument on wheel choice from this E36-loving guy. The 18” APEX ARC-8 wheels are a great balance of strength and light weight. Plus, the black finish looks right at home with the matte finish of the LSM3. Stock-component front brakes, aside from the aftermarket cross drilled rotors, may not look like the business, but with adequate pads and fluid, they can be surprisingly robust. Plus, this car isn’t generally intended to be slowed in a straight line, so a BBK isn’t a necessity.
BMW dive planes
Dive planes in a paddock can often be a shin-shredding bit of havoc, but the blunt edges of those used on the LSM3 aren’t lethal, yet they still do the job of adding a bit more frontal downforce and airflow channeling.
BMW front bumper secured E36Anyone who’s owned a track or race car that needs to be towed to and from events can appreciate any effort taken to make removal and replacement of the front bumper a bit easier, and these latches look the part, as well as potentially holding the bumper on after minor instances of unplanned contact. You can also see that the front wheel track is nice and wide even with the fender flares.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2015 2:44 AM
I'm sorry guys but this article is disappointing. Maybe I'm just used to the (semi)high-level builds you're known for featuring but an article about an LS-swapped grassroots build with questionable fabrication(wires hanging under the dash, radiator completely open to the interior, strut tower mounted crash bar!?) simply doesn't cut the mustard. Also I'm fairly certain that in most forms of motorsport lines containing cooling water or lubricating oil must be outside the cockpit. There's a reason for that.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 5:32 AM
+1 twist, this thing is scruffy in a bad way.

I understand needing to build your drift car on the cheap, but a lot of the weak points on this build could have been addressed with plenty of effort and know-how with only a little bit of money. Low-cost materials can still be assembled in a smart way.

There is some basic performance driving stuff that I've seen on lots of simple E36 street car builds that is missing from this car. The most glaring to me is on page 3, fourth image down. It's that goddamn plastic clutch pedal on those goddamn plastic bushings that deflects abruptly when used in an aggressive way. It is a menace at best in E36 street cars, so it has got to be horrendous in a drift car.

Again, I understand not wanting to drop massive cash on a fully tricked out race car pedal box. I get that. Totally reasonable, but anyone with even a smidge of knowledge on the E36 aftermarket knows that it is trivial to drop in a metal clutch pedal that rides on brass bushings. Keep the pedal box stock, because it's great in an M3, just ditch that crappy clutch pedal. The ubiquitous Bimmerworld carries a nice option from Mason Engineering.

Jeff, you've built a V8 drift car! The thing needs a clutch pedal that can be kicked, stomped, and worked aggressively all day long with no awkward wiggles or slips along the way. I don't care if it's a low-budget ratmobile. Fab up something ugly that works if you have to.

This is just one flaw, but as twist pointed out, there is serious ugliness in this build that just flat-out doesn't have to be there. More effort could have produced a much more solid car for little to no added budget.

Weaksauce. It has so many of the right parts, but they haven't been brought together with the same level of care as we are used to seeing on the pages of MotoIQ. I'm with twist, kinda disappointed :\
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 6:04 AM
Thanks for the input. Note that this wasn't a MotoIQ build, but rather a car we were told about that sounded interesting, and had some intriguing features. Your points are valid ones.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 8:21 AM
I do have to say though, i dig the 80s box style fender flares!
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 8:32 AM
The crash bar is pure fail, it will destroy the car on the first hit...
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 8:36 AM
I'd be really surprised if those are the M3 brake rotor size, looks like 325 sized.

Are you sure the VIN starts with WBS? Or did they downsize to smaller brake rotors?
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 8:54 AM
The info I received on the car stated that it was a '97 M3, and no reference to being a non-M chassis. Of course, the info also stated that the car has Bilstein PSS10s, which I don't believe were ever offered for the E36 at all. I'll pose these questions to Castro Motorsports and edit if needed...
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 8:59 AM
I'm on the bandwagon with the others. Shockingly poor finish to the car. Hard to believe that someone paid for this to be built for them. Not questioning Castro, and maybe I'm missing the point. Looks more missile than competition car. But I guess we are all spoiled with the tech reviews for most of the high spec builds that MIQ typically shows. The rats nest under the dash is enough to make me cringe...
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 9:36 AM
Come on the car isn't that bad, it is just not on the level of $100k plus Formula D builds. We featured this car in response to requests that we take a step back and feature more obtainable grass roots builds.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 9:41 AM
Yup, I have no issue with features of grittier cars. I like them.

So what if the guy did do everything the optimal way? I am sure in hindsight the builder would make some changes too.

Makes for a good conversation piece for MotoIQ readers, and shows us a car that hasn't been splashed across 10 other car websites/blogs already.

Keep it up MIQ

PS I'm with MDR on the rotor size. I have a 99 M3 and they are much larger. Good spot.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 11:27 AM
I'm glad it was featured. As nice as it is to get in depth look at super baller, high budget racecars, I enjoy features like this just as much. And there's a lot more I can learn from a car like this, good and bad, than a car that has an entire organization dedicated to keeping it race ready.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 12:05 PM
I rather liked the creativity of the roof mounted NACA ducts to feed air to the rear mounted radiator. Notice the outer ones are angled a bit too for when the car is in drift. And the hood venting is close to my heart, not really pretty, but cheap and effective. The rear trunk deck venting is interesting too.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 12:12 PM
They did some painting with broad strokes. I like that part of the build. It feels like something I would do. Would I build this, probably not, but I understand the spirit of the build. I love the choice of transmission.

The radiator setup though... sigh.
Mike Hawken
Mike Hawkenlink
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 12:56 PM
"I’m pretty sure this is what the kids these days would refer to as a No Flex Zone" They know better, motoiq.
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 2:44 PM
Jonathan, hey I'm the owner/driver of this car and I can't thank you enough for doing the article.. this car was built in 3 weeks while thats no excuse yes there are things done imperfectly, but yet it functioned flawlessly. I focused on it being ready for the Formula D Series Top Drift in the time i had before i got the call to leave the country for work. We are currently rebuilding the car for next season, have since address some of these exact issues we didn't have time for last year.

To clear some things up since you didn't get the information from me its a 97 bmw m3 chassis... and yes those are stock rotor, never changed and bilstein pss10's didn't come stock on the car but i bought the set and put them on for much better control of the car.. love them!
The clutch pedal was never a issue and has always performed every competition, taking beating after beating....
rear mounted radiator is amazing thanks. water lines are boxed in and rear of radiator output/input switched as well cleaned up now and no rule to rear mounted as long as fuel cell is covered...The down bars on the cage did terminate into the cross bar and castro's didn't do the cage, i had it done at another shop which didn't follow the design i had asked for however castro's has since fixed which now terminates into strut tower per formula d rule book.
Wiring Castro's didn't do wiring either a friend of mine did that clearly wired it to work not win a car show haha, castro's has since rebuilt wiring into a distribution box separate from dash.

yes some things could be changed to be 100% awesome however money is spent on the things that are needed not on things that don't look good, the car has been amazing since we did the swap 100% pure race car.
if you want to see the car in action leaving smoke clouds follow me on instagram@jefgroffaction and Facebook@jefgroff
Jonathan come back and do a update on the car since it will be much different and updated!
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 3:01 PM
Thanks so much for chiming in, Jef! I'm sure we can work an update into the schedule, and I'm sure everyone's happy to have you jump in with some clarifications.
Castro Motorsport
Castro Motorsport link
Wednesday, March 04, 2015 10:10 PM
Coming from all of us at Castros we'd like to thank MotoIQ for the wright up. To everyone who shared their thoughts and from what we see constructive criticism, we jumped on board late in the season and continued what Jef and a few others had started. We had time crunches, budget issues, and we also had a business to run while building this car. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and we all do things differently, many of the things on the car where already done and frankly didn't have the time or money to re-do them. We've improved many of the flaws some of you pointed out, and Jef's car is in fact a 97 M3 with factory brakes, spindles, trailing arms, and subframes.

Some of the fabrication that was may not make sense to all of you and to us as fabricators we are always being creative and doing things a bit differently. As for the exposed radiator plumbing, it has been re-routed and been sealed from the cabin, the radiator was going to be shrouded/divided from the cab, but decided not too. Our strut tower mounted radiator support which is attached to bash bar, is built with crumble zones and hollow bolts which will sheer off at point of impact and was something we wanted to try/test out. Regardless of where a bash bar is mounted on an E36, any bashing, or hard impact will destroy the frame, but ours will destroy the strut towers which will tear from the frame rails, and are easily replaced due to having factory replacements readily available. We have seen many E36's out at the track with bent frame rails due to bolted bash bars, but our view on Motorsport, performance driving, and fabrication is to try new things and test things some aren't willing to do, we don't always succeed or don't always win but that's what makes us better.

We sponsor Jef's car 100% on all labor and many other things and unfortunately we are a small shop trying to survive and offer our services to those who want it. As much as we would want to work on this car full time we can't, we are currently working on version 2 and is going to be very different. This car is far from 100k budget although Jef has spent thousands on this car and having a family and personal issues that come up on both our ends put big dents on building a very pretty race/drift car, again we take all of your thoughts and opinions and turn them into positive ideas to help and improve our build little by little. Thank you to all of you that see what we are trying to do here, big thanks again for the guys at MotoIQ for the feature, version 2 will be great and can't wait to have it back on the track!
Thursday, March 05, 2015 12:06 PM
I'm pretty sure those rear camber arms are from Turner Motorsports, not SPL. I actually hate those things they feel soft and too flexible.
Thursday, March 05, 2015 12:29 PM
Good eye, EvanFitch. Editor's error, but the reference has been corrected/deleted. They were listed as SLR arms, which was mistakenly carried over from the front of the car. The blue would certainly hint at TMS, but there was no official mention on the parts list we received.
Thursday, March 05, 2015 4:37 PM
evanfitch and jonathan,
forgot to correct that yesterday got focused on so many of the other flames my bad but yes they are turner's and evan I've ran steel adjustable and snapped the right one and then these and never had a issue. they are semi easy to adj on the track and accurate. Ive been in so many different cars from stock to supercar and boy I've never been able to feel flexibility or softness in the rear camber bars. these if not tighten up properly do flex and move but you need to tighten properly. I like them and for my application they work crap they better for $300 bills...Evan what are you running now id love to check them out. thanks bud Jef
Friday, March 06, 2015 2:10 PM
@Jefgroffaction. I've put the Turner arms on a few different E36s, all drift or street/drift focused and they've broken on a couple of them. I don't know if there is a better solution right now. Maybe the Wisefab arms? I think they are made of DOM and look pretty beefy, but they could be more difficult to adjust and I do believe are somewhere around $400.
Friday, March 06, 2015 5:02 PM
Not gonna hate on it too much, because I understand building within a budget and all. But I can't believe the material and route of the radiator tubing falls within the rules for this series. The way it is done right now is just asking for the driver/passenger to get a SERIOUS burn in an accident or mishap. That is just dangerous with a capital D (like Initial or Formula) Please have them reconsider the routing and material. There is flexible tubing that can be used, with some sort of firewall or separation from the passenger compartment, or run the tubing under the car.
Sunday, March 08, 2015 4:50 PM
@evanfitch... gotcha thats for input @none I guess you didn't read the routing of water lines has been addressed and changed for this season per the rule book etc. all hose ends are boxed in and exposed lines are covered, all other lines are routed under car and are boxed in as well! but thanks for your concern... i can't stress enough these are older photos of the car and all plus much more has been addressed on it for this next year.. new photos and build sheet coming when Motoiq has the time. car will be on display at bimmerfest in May as well come by say hello
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 5:41 PM
Good lord, the haterade at the top, what the hell? There are so many things that just aren't as important as people make them out to be when it comes to race day, and other things that are critical, but aren't flashy and are easily overlooked. I think a lot of fan boys get lost in the perfect, no expense spared mindset and that's why they've got really pretty projects but are light on track experience. Spend your money on tires and get going.

That being said, this car is sick. I love the venting all over the place, ugly and functional. This thing looks like it would be a blast on the track. Seriously, those naca ducts to the rear radiator, glorious. This page needs more videos!
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