The BMW E36 benefits from added chassis bracing and aftermarket parts. The modifications result in a stiffer chassis and greater longevity.

The E36 is a great candidate for a racecar. One look at NASA’s German Touring Series will tell you that. The E36 strikes the right balance between a decent amount of power and a mindful eye on weight, and if you’re creative, it’s possible to get these down to less than 3,000 pounds. It’s a little faster than a momentum car and not as psychotic as some of the faster V8-powered cars racing in NASA, and that makes it comfortable for a lot of drivers.

In addition to its suitability for track and racing purposes, E36 production numbers were high enough to support a healthy supply of salvage parts, and the cars are now old enough that donor prices are rock bottom. M3 cars are a bit more difficult to come by and certainly more expensive, but if you can afford the M3, it’s the better way to go.

Whether you go with an M3 or a standard E36, the cars still need some basic modifications to get the most out of them, chiefly suspension bracing in all the right places. In The Doghouse Garage is building an E36 M3 for a customer, and it made the modifications we’ar highlighting in this story. But is it really necessary? What if you don’t?

“These start to crack and ripple, the front mounts under the floor,” said ITDG owner Patrick Orozco. “Because the floor is really thin metal, so it just starts to rip apart.”

ITDG had the cage builder fabricate an X brace that ties in with the differential mounts. They also made modifications to the subframe that carries the differential, the upper control arms and a few other pieces of the rear suspension.

Up front, the E36 M3 was treated to a few new parts, such as lower control arms from Bimmerworld and additional bracing welded underneath the engine mounts and that strut towers on the unibody. Without that bracing, the metal can fatigue and crack.

Conveniently, most of the bracing plates are provided in kits from Bimmerworld and Turner Motorsports. If you are considering building an E36, the following photos can give you a better idea how to brace the car for the realities of racing.

Rear suspension bracing on an E36 starts with your cage builder. This roll cage ties into the differential subframe mounting locations with an X brace. Without the additional bracing, the floor can flex and crack.
Rear suspension bracing on an E36 starts with your cage builder. This roll cage ties into the differential subframe mounting locations with an X brace. Without the additional bracing, the floor can flex and crack.
The roll cage also should tie into the rear shock towers with additional plating up top and a cross brace connected the other side.
The roll cage also should tie into the rear shock towers with additional plating up top and a cross brace connected the other side.
The customer wanted additional fuel capacity and faster refills for enduros, so he took advantage of the NASA member benefit and got a FuelSafe fuel cell, which provides three more gallons of capacity.
The customer wanted additional fuel capacity and faster refills for enduros, so he took advantage of the NASA member benefit and got a FuelSafe fuel cell, which provides three more gallons of capacity.
In The Doghouse Garage fabricated the brackets up top and underneath, tucked the wiring and plumbing and treated it with Raptor undercoating, which is harder and less gooey than regular undercoating. It’s lighter, too.
In The Doghouse Garage fabricated the brackets up top and underneath, tucked the wiring and plumbing and treated it with Raptor undercoating, which is harder and less gooey than regular undercoating. It’s lighter, too.
The front pickup point for the lower control arm is strengthened with a reinforcement plated welded to the chassis. This is a critical point because it’s where you adjust the toe settings.
The front pickup point for the lower control arm is strengthened with a reinforcement plated welded to the chassis. This is a critical point because it’s where you adjust the toe settings.
You can’t see it in the photo, but ITDG welded additional bracing on top of the upper control arms where springs land on them.
You can’t see it in the photo, but ITDG welded additional bracing on top of the upper control arms where springs land on them.
The front and rear urethane bushings on the differential subframe were replaced with sold aluminum bushings, which limit movement even more.
The front and rear urethane bushings on the differential subframe were replaced with sold aluminum bushings, which limit movement even more.
ITDG sourced lower tie bars from Turner Motorsports and installed new axles.
ITDG sourced lower tie bars from Turner Motorsports and installed new axles.
The factory mounting point for the sway bar end links (center) is just a tab made of stamped steel. ITDG welded plates to the rear of the tabs to strengthen them.
The factory mounting point for the sway bar end links (center) is just a tab made of stamped steel. ITDG welded plates to the rear of the tabs to strengthen them.
ITDG also strengthened the stamped steel subframe that holds the differential with additional bracing.
ITDG also strengthened the stamped steel subframe that holds the differential with additional bracing.
Up front, ITDG installed Bimmerworld lower control arms and bushings and reinforced the subframe where it attaches to the unibody, which also is where the engine attaches. ITDG also welded braces on the underside of the strut towers.
Up front, ITDG installed Bimmerworld lower control arms and bushings and reinforced the subframe where it attaches to the unibody, which also is where the engine attaches. ITDG also welded braces on the underside of the strut towers.
A Rogue Engineering differential cover provides additional capacity and superior cooling.
A Rogue Engineering differential cover provides additional capacity and superior cooling.

 

RESOURCES

www.rogueengineering.com

www.bimmerworld.com

www.turnermotorsport.com

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Image courtesy of Brett Becker