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.