Do you remember the first car you built? Of course you do. John Lau’s first car was probably like many others, if not the same: a 1993 Honda Accord, turbocharged, with working wheels and lowered Koni shocks. John also installed alternating strobe lights and a Kenwood sound system.
Sounds good, especially considering John grew up in Los Angeles, CA with strong JDM influences.At that time, he often found himself in
gardena Mexico, watch street races take place on any given Thursday night.
John laughs with me as he reminisces about those days, in fact his Accord “Probably added about 3 pounds.”
While some things remain the same, it’s safe to say things have John has changed a bit since then. Cutting to the chase, this BMW M2 is also turbocharged—twin-turbo—and produces 1,100 round horsepower in its most hardcore tunes.
But since John Lau is a certified lunatic and often drives this F87 coupe on the street, he tunes it to a modest 900 horsepower at the wheels. That sounds more reasonable, doesn’t it?
Oh yes, it’s a manual.
this is a show car
From the mysterious Los Angeles street scene, John said, “I just love cars, and I love building them.” So, naturally, when you get to the extreme length that John has under the hood of the M2, you also install some other supporting modifications.
For John, the build started with a wild widebody kit. but which one?
With so many options on the market, the Darwin Pro full carbon fiber kit finally stood out for John. “It had a JDM flavor to it, but we wanted to do it more Singer-esque than just bolt the kit to the factory body. I got in touch with Linh Nguyen from Garageworks and he was up to the challenge,” John told me. Linh has worked on many vintage-school cars at his Hayward, California-based shop over the years and is no stranger to extensive metalwork and high-end paint jobs.
The carbon fiber kit is molded seamlessly onto the German-stamped steel, which is then engineered in a special metallic blue hue. The color matches Ferrari’s Avio Metallic, but seeing the end result in person, it seems like some extra magic has been applied to this already dazzling color. Or, it could be six coats of solid oil-based paint, followed by a dozen coats of clearcoat to make it that crazy.
You can’t fully appreciate all the hard work that went into producing this color and subsequent brilliant finish unless you see it in a different light as the sun sets.
this is a racing car
What’s more important, at least from a performance standpoint, is what happens behind the scenes. John had actually replaced the stock engine in the M2 with a race-proven unit that a friend was running in his M3. M3 at over 185 mph in half a mile. You may ask, how is this possible?
The engine was rebuilt from the ground up with CP-Carrillo forged pistons and connecting rods, King main bearings, maximum PSI fixed crankshaft hubs, and many other internal upgrades. The large ASR Kratos titanium turbochargers need to be fueled from high-pressure injectors, which are paired with a Dorch Engineering fuel pump and a Walbro low-pressure pump.
You don’t compromise on power like this, and the top of the engine has been further upgraded with a CSF Race intercooler and iPE titanium charge pipes. The engine is balanced by a set of Eventuri carbon fiber intakes and Valvetronic Designs valved straight-pipe exhausts with titanium tips.
Everything is dressed up, with various hats and other hardware patched in a coordinated fashion. But make no mistake, this is a full-fledged racing engine hidden inside the body of the show car. However, this combination of form and function abutments is what makes John’s M2 the best thing for me.
This is further reflected in the cockpit where you’ll find a pair of Recaro Podium carbon fiber bucket seats amidst a sea of custom embossed Alcantara. The little lightning bolt is John’s own signature, and this personal touch extends to many of his buildings.
The Recaro Podiums are the first set of seats to be shipped to North America, and I’ve heard that supply chain issues are still preventing immediate delivery from potential buyers of these seats. They’re by far the most comfortable yet supportive seats I’ve experienced in a long time—perhaps ever—so the amazing price point makes sense.
I’d love to use them in a Project 345, but a pair would let me know what I paid for the whole car up front. Recaro, if you’re watching, my birthday is coming up…
It’s pretty amazing when you consider that fact, though, especially when you also add a Studio RSR roll cage, a custom carbon fiber yoke steering wheel, and tons of other carbon trim. There is even a fire suppression system in the cabin.
My point is that each of these items add up.
And I haven’t even mentioned the Air Lift Performance air suspension system, which comes with 3P management and a neat little mount for mounting the controls in the cabin.
Or 19×11” front and 19×12.5” rear Brixton forged 3-piece wheels – wrapped in 275/35 and 325/30 Toyo Proxes R888R rubber – and other supporting suspension modifications.
Often you’ll see a car where only one of these aspects is fully addressed, but more often than not you’ll come across a car where every aspect has been considered. Even rarer, you’ll come across a car in which every system has been elevated to stratospheric levels. John’s M2 falls into the latter category.
To M2 or not to M2, that is the question
But, you might ask, why build the M2 to such a level? It should come as no surprise that John actually owns a number of other cars. Picture the McLaren 720S and the Lamborghini Huracán STO contrasted with the RWB Porsche and every generation of the Nissan Skyline since the R32 and you’ll get a good idea of his collection. There are also a couple of FD3S Mazda RX-7’s and some other JDM stuff out there, but I digress.
It’s not about showing off John’s garage, and if you see him in any of his cars, he’ll never reveal that he has such a coveted collection of iconic machinery unless you really press him. My point of asking this question is just to reiterate that the kid who built the turbocharged ’93 Accord decades ago hasn’t disappeared, he’s just grown up.
Even better, John actually drives all of these cars, and he drives really hard. The plan for the M2 is to take it on a half-mile race and see what it can do. For this purpose, the body was reinforced with steel plates under the skin during the initial construction.
John keeps his car clean, but all the road debris accumulating in the cracks of the M2 is enough to justify his willingness to drive the car for miles with gusto at any given time. Also, you can tell that the car also has full PPF from the small areas with weird colors in some of my photos (shown only through my polarizer).
Ultimately, John just likes that his M2 is “The whole package.” he continued, “It looks like a complete show car, but it beats most cars out there. I can lock it to the lock and we’ve fixed everything. I drive it back and forth to Monterey, and I’m on the street With it on, I just use it. It’s definitely a statement piece, a bit of Beauty and the Beast.”
“I sometimes drive my daughter to school…” John ends with a friendly laugh, his mind wandering to the memories he’s already had in his ultrawide F87.
That’s a cool dad, if you ask me.
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