Introducing John Kessler, a mechanical engineer based in Saint Louis, who is an esteemed member of the automotive community. Recently,’s Billy Jarrell had the privilege of interviewing Kessler, allowing us to delve into his journey and experiences. During the interview, Kessler shared insights about the process of transforming his 1995 BMW M3 into a high-performance machine, utilizing the MegaSquirt MS3X standalone ECU. This exclusive interview provides a glimpse into Kessler’s passion for cars and his engineering expertise.

Getting to Know John Kessler:

John’s love affair with cars began with a ’96 Probe GT, later transitioning to a ’95 Probe GT with an MS2. However, it was the acquisition of a ’95 BMW M3 that ignited his true automotive passion. Chosen for its versatility and simplicity, the E36 chassis became the canvas for Kessler’s mechanical creativity.

BMW E36 M3 MS3X Standalone ECU equipped with turbocharged Toyota 2JZ engine swap.
Clean lines hide a beast under the hood!

While occasionally hitting the 1/4 mile tracks, John has big plans for his BMW. Aiming to conquer 1/2 mile races and roll racing events. His mechanical expertise and dedication shine through in the car’s powerhouse. A Toyota-sourced Non-VVTi 2JZ-GE engine with a Borg Warner SXE369 turbocharger.

The Heart of the Machine:

Turbo Toyota 2JZ in the engine bay of BMW E36 using MegaSquirt MS3X standalone engine management.
The heart of the beast! A turbocharged 2JZ dancing to the tune of an MS3X ECU.

The BMW E36 is a masterpiece of attention to detail. Notably, the car features a BMW E46 M3 6-speed transmission, a Thayer Motorsport upgraded Limited Slip differential, and a meticulously assembled engine. The engine, in particular, boasts a 10:1 compression ratio, Brian Crower valvetrain, Tial BOV/Wastegate, and LS ignition coils. All of these components work together in perfect harmony, controlled by the MS3X standalone ECU.

DIYAutoTune’s Crucial Role:

Over the course of 15 years, Kessler has remained a steadfast supporter of MegaSquirt. His collaboration with friends at Hi-Tuned Performance, including Jarod Lawson and Jordan Tuchband, has been instrumental in integrating the MS3X Standalone system. Working together, they were able to bring BMW’s factory gauges to life while still maintaining the car’s original style. Thanks to their partnership, the MegaSquirt system was successfully integrated, resulting in a vehicle that is both stylish and high-performing.

BMW E36 M3 MS3X Standalone ECU equipped with turbocharged Toyota 2JZ engine swap.
A custom 2JZM3 badge gives a clue that something special is lurking under the hood of John’s E36!

Despite the significant challenge of wiring, John found a reliable partner in MegaSquirt’s MS3/MS3X wiring harnesses. He seamlessly integrated these components with the original BMW harness to preserve factory aesthetics and ensure optimal performance.

BMW Standalone Strategies:

Collaborating with Lawson and Tuchband, Kessler tackles ECU tuning and implements a Zeal conditioner for ABS signal integration. Additionally, the car features a GM flex fuel setup, rolling anti-lag, and a 7MGTE CPS for full sequential control. Moreover, there are plans to increase performance by adding more sensors and idle air control in the future.

Tips and Tools:

As a DIY enthusiast, Kessler emphasizes the importance of patience when it comes to successful projects. To simplify the wiring process, he suggests using DIY flying lead harnesses. In addition, de-pinning and picking tools play a vital role in cleaning up unnecessary connectors, ensuring a clean and efficient installation.

Clean. Inside and out.

Looking Ahead:

John has set a goal for himself to achieve a power output of 850whp and exceed a speed of 170mph in the standing 1/2 mile. In order to reach this goal, he has made some plans for the future. These plans include installing aftermarket cams, remote idle air control, a new fuel rail, converting to a DBW throttle body, and adding a fuel pressure sensor to his setup.

BMW E36 M3 MS3X Standalone ECU equipped with turbocharged Toyota 2JZ engine swap.
Attention to every detail. The MS3X standalone ECU ensures power is reliably delivered on demand.

Special Thanks:

In the spirit of gratitude, John extends special thanks to the individuals and entities that played pivotal roles in his BMW E36 project:

Hi-Tuned Performance: The craftsmen behind the scenes, Hi-Tuned Performance, were responsible for significant fabrication work, including the intercooler/piping, intake manifold, engine mounts, and the original exhaust. Their expertise laid the foundation for Kessler’s vision.

Jarod Lawson: A friend and collaborator, Jarod Lawson’s contributions were invaluable. From reworking the exhaust to tackling the intricate wiring, Lawson’s dedication and skills left an indelible mark on the project.

Jordan Tuchband at Powersquirt: Jordan Tuchband played a crucial role in tuning and setting up the car. His expertise added the finishing touches to ensure optimal performance.

1jz and 2jz Powered BMWs Facebook Group: Beyond the hands-on contributions, John also expresses gratitude for the community he created and runs on Facebook. The 1jz and 2jz Powered BMWs group serves as a platform for enthusiasts to share insights, experiences, and support.


John Kessler’s BMW E36 stands as a testament to the power of MegaSquirt standalone ECUs and the collaborative spirit within the DIYAutoTune community. His journey epitomizes the fusion of engineering expertise, a deep passion for cars, and cutting-edge technology, inspiring enthusiasts to embark on their own transformative projects. As Kessler continues to push boundaries, the legacy of his BMW E36 serves as a beacon for those seeking to redefine the limits of automotive performance.