It’s probably safe to say a lot of NASA racers check Craigslist regularly looking for what one day could become their next racecar. So, we go, we look and more often than not, all we find are cars no one wants anymore. But when NASA Rocky Mountain’s John Scheier looked on Craigslist, he kept seeing the same E36 BMW for sale.
“It was on Craigslist, and I’m known to surf Craigslist a lot,” Scheier said. “The 318 had been listed for probably two, maybe three years, and the price had come down several times. I finally decided to go out and look at it.”
As it turned out, the previous owner of the car actually passed away in it, so the car sat in police impound for a long time, and by the time Scheier went and looked at it, the car was tucked away in the back of a Ford dealership’s storage warehouse. It had seen better days, of course, but it was all there, and it was the perfect platform for Scheier to turn into a GTS2 car. The price? Just $2,500.
He gave the car a quick nut and bolt check, refreshed all the fluids and gave it a once over, and took it to Pueblo Motorsports Park. The car was a handful with the setup it came with, which isn’t too difficult to imagine. The car is not an M3, nor did it come with a six cylinder engine. It’s a 318i, which came with a four cylinder, but it was then equipped with a 2.5-liter six from an E34 5 series.
“It’s a very interesting car,” Scheier said. “When you buy a car and the owner’s deceased, there’s not a lot of documentation of what was done and where those parts came from.”
As he went through the car in the fall and winter of 2014, he found a potluck of 318 and 325 parts. The 318 parts included a lighter rear subframe, axle shafts and smaller trailing arms. Even with Scheier in the car, it weighs just 2,940 pounds. Because the cage wasn’t legal per the NASA CCR, Scheier took the car to Titan Specialty Metals to bring it up to snuff and to add all the little sheetmetal reinforcements so essential to racing this chassis. With all the details shored up, it was time to go racing.
“We put it on track for the first event in 2015 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, and blew the motor in the first race,” he said.
In its place, Scheier installed an S52 engine from a 1998 M3. He took the engine and harness, and handed off the car to someone else for parting out.
The trick was putting an OBDII engine and harness into a car originally fitted with a four cylinder and OBDI computer controls.
“The nice thing about it is there are so many people in NASA running E36 cars that the knowledge is already out there, so a lot of this has already been done before by other racers and BMW fanatics,” Scheier said.
Still, getting all the sensors and connectors squared away took some doing. Scheier still experiences some electrical gremlins now and again, and he’ll spring for new wiring soon enough, but he had an initial goal in mind.
“When I first bought the car, the goal was to be competitive for the least amount of money possible in GTS,” Scheier said. “GTS as a whole usually has some really, really beautiful cars out on track that you can tell guys have poured a ton of time and money into. Starting out with a $2,500 car, the challenge became how quickly could we put the car together for the least amount of money and be competitive. In year one, including the replacement motor that blew up, we were on track for $12,300. That was Hoosiers, that was brake pads, everything, all in.”
How competitive was it? Well, Scheier won the 2015 GTS2 regional championship with it. Of course, by the end of the year, he was tired of his competitors having aero modifications and him wheeling the daylights out of the car to stay with them, so he sprang for a Brooks Motorsports carbon fiber rear win and a front splitter. The resulting downforce called for new springs, but the car now works better than ever, and Scheier took the 2016 GTS2 regional championship, too.
“The balance is amazing,” Scheier said. “The car sticks everywhere and it’s very, very easy to drive fast.”
Scheier loves the car and truly enjoys racing in GTS2 in the Rocky Mountain Region, where they have large fields regularly attending. It’s just another appealing part of what is probably the least expensive GTS2 car in the country.
“I’ve got to say that in the Rocky Mountain Region, we all came together and pretty much said we were going to stick with GTS2 and make it work,” Scheier said. “I believe we’re up to 13 cars in GTS2 in our region and it’s just a great bunch of men and women racing together, having a good time. They’re always willing to jump in and help the other driver and help out with whatever’s going on. We go to other people’s houses and help them get their cars done so they can make it to the race. It’s just a really great group of people.”
|2,940 lbs. w/driver
|S52 M3 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder
|Front: AST 4200, 900 springs
|AST 4200, 1100 lb. springs
|Front: Hoosier R7, 245-40-17
Rear: Hoosier R7, 245-40-17
|Front: OEM M3
Rear: OEM M3
|Titan Specialty Metals, Vorshlag Motorsports, SCR Performance.