In May of 2019 I made the awesome [I question my sanity] choice to buy a 1998 BMW E36 M3 Sedan in marvelous 90s Resale Silver. First choice on color? No, I would want Techno Violet or Estoril Blue. But somehow I landed with this truly fantastic car. And now, I want to tell you why.
I fell victim once again to the allure of an M3. It was not that difficult to be honest, all I had to do was get in and drive. Instantly, I was reminded of the ways my former E46 M3 was stellar, and then I was made aware of all of the ways the E36 M3 is actually more rewarding to drive than anything else I have ever driven.
The steering is wonderfully weighted in 90’s glory. The brake pedal is high and firm – but still placed in PERFECT relation to the throttle. Heel toe? In every gear at every opportunity. Interior rattles? HA! Everywhere. The engine sound. Oh god the sound. It is delicious in ways that are aurally appreciated in person, at full throttle, sounds that only a naturally-aspirated six will ever make. Being a sedan, I can fit four grown adults inside. Plus a cooler in the trunk full of what ever one may need to power through a “21+” weekend with “my queens” (fans, glitter, heels, vodka, you name it).
Now on to the details. Unlike my previous cars, this one is decidedly not stock. Every bushing you can imagine has been changed. The engine is tuned. Lightweight flywheel and clutch. Mishimoto radiator. Momo steering wheel. UUC Exhaust with DTM styled-upturn tips. Carbon-fiber intake and ASC delete. Sticky 255-section rubber all around and sweet looking TireRack C4 17’s. And it came that way! All I had to do was to slap serious track pads on it (Raybestos ST43s), some fresh rotors, and some Motul 600. SEND IT at the next track day.
As one can expect, maintaining a 21+ year old car is not all butterflies and roses. Parts are old, bolts stick, and in my case, I broke bits trying to remove the famously awful rotor locator bolts. Take my advice, get a drill bit, and drill the head of the bolt out, leaving the shank in the hub. You will be happier for it. You may find it would be well worth your time to have some space to do light wrenching yourself, or have a trustworthy friend that can help you work on the car and pay them for their help. My E36 specialist and friend has been a total life saver.
Now, the car came from the previous owner nearly perfect. However the car had three issues to address – there was no primary puller fan, the tires rubbed in T11 at my home track, and the car was missing a little (ahem) flare. So we added a SPAL electric fan and did a little ride-height adjust. I have to admit, I miss the tucked look the car had from the previous owner, it was HOT. All I had left to do was to address the (lacking) flare. For the month of Pride, I had some vanity plates made. All I have to say is yass queen, yass.
So what is the 90’s super sedan special like on track? It’s easy, it’s largely drama-free, and in the wet it is deliciously tail happy (Sorry Maribeth at GingerMan, I was totally drifting all day at the rained-out season closer). I have a long way to go as a driver, but the car is so positively hooked at all times, the limits inspire, then frighten. Through 7-8-9 at GingerMan Raceway, the only limit is your mind. Shift into 4th at the transition between 6-7 where the body is settled for a spit second, maintain throttle, and then flat at the apex of 7 all the way to the braking zone into 9. Again, I am slow, but hitting 95+ back there is fun. Check that your brakes work because the ride off at 9 is a long one…
Speaking of sliding in the rain… I sent it off at T2 at GingerMan, backwards at 50 mph. Thankfully the outer berm arrested my journey with grace – I should probably get my back checked out, and my suspension aligned. Don’t mind the dirt/grass in the tire beads…
The E36 M3 is the plastic-fantastic, the analogue special, and after just a taste, already has me on a ride. Perhaps instead of “Oops, I did it again,” it should be “I’m addicted to you.”