I will have had my E36 325is for seven years this March. If you would have told 16-year-old Tyler back in 2012 that his E36 would still be around today, and that it would win him some regional championships on top of that, he would be super excited. But if you told him of all the amazing life-long relationships this car would bring him, he’d say you were insane. Yet here I am seven years later writing an article for an LGBTQ Motorsports blog, with a friend I met through my E36, surrounded by a community of people who fully support it and me. That in itself is something 16-year-old Tyler would be terrified of.
My point is, people change over time, and their participation in motorsports constantly evolves in a similar manner. The original goals with the E36 were to learn more than the basics of motorsports, and to build a car that would teach me the ins and outs of wrenching. I’d say it did that very well considering I couldn’t even drive stick when I first brought the car home. In fact, I didn’t even have my license!
However, all good things must come to an end. I have been saving up in the off-season to start a new project, with a BMW 128i. It won’t be the last of the E36 though! There are two possible owners lined up who are very close to me, and will give it an even better home. But why a 128i?
The 128i rides on BMW’s E82 chassis. It’s basically an E90 328i in a smaller and lighter package. It shares roughly the same power/weight ratio as an E36 M3, but with an improved rear suspension design and modern comforts. The multilink rear suspension in the 128i does not share the same structural weak points as the E36 and should be considerably more composed. The 3.0-liter naturally-aspirated inline six-cylinder (dubbed the N52) is the modern day M50. I’ve personally seen numerous N52s well beyond the 200k mile mark, and some even knocking on 300k. They run strong and they run forever, which is exactly what you want in a car that will spend most of its life between 5,000-7,000 RPM.
While the 135i is a rocketship of a sports coupe, the twin turbos add complexity to the engine bay, and I just don’t have the wallet for that long-term. Aftermarket is plentiful, albeit not as plentiful as the E36. However, the 128i is still SCCA STX class legal and a rare sight in the class for the most part. The last person to build one took home first place at a Nationals event, so dare I say that’s the long-term goal for this one?
While a trip to Nationals is definitely on my bucket list, the real goals for the 128i are as follows:
- Be faster than the E36 around the track and at autocross
- Be more comfortable than the E36 so it can still be enjoyed on the street
- Make more memories
In reality, every weekend racer wants to be faster and better than they were before. And for some, half of the fun is the the build to get there. I am beyond excited to start a new chapter with a new car. And I can’t wait to follow along with what becomes of the E36 – now with 266,000 miles – in the hands of its future owner.