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If you’re looking for the ultimate machine that has it all, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better than the BMW M3 E36. Price point, durability, looks, handling, power — this was one of the few vehicles that met that pinnacle of perfection for its era (with the lack of power for the US being one of its few complaints). Oddly enough, it was a car that was overlooked by many for years, now, it’s one of the most sought after vehicles out there. Just a few years ago, a great example M3 E36 was selling under $20,000 USD. Now high mileage are those prices, and the best examples can be pushing $35,000 USD or more. Those numbers will simply keep growing as the demand increases and supply decreases. So why such demand for a 30 year old vehicle? The answer is in its history…
Introduced to the world in 1992, the BMW M3 E36 was the second generation of the M3. Following the motorsport heritage of its predecessor, the E36 M3 offered significantly higher horsepower, more comfort and an updated exterior design. It was a vehicle that could “do it all”, you could build it into a terrifying track monster, or have some fun on your way into work. The interior was distinctively German; comfortable, at times colorful, with a healthy dose of luxury stuffed inside. The handling was upstanding for its time, making it a huge reason why the E36 M3 platform has won many racing championships all over the world. The naturally aspirated inline-six motor offered 286 horsepower, and later increased that number to 321 horsepower — however, those numbers weren’t available to the US without the help of aftermarket (we got 243hp). While still popular, this reason is something we personally believe diminished its full market success in the US at the time. Imagine spending $38,500 (just shy of $65,000 today) only to know you’re receiving almost 100 less horsepower than your European counterpart. Nonetheless, with today’s aftermarket support specifically for the E36 M3 is vast and helps answer the complaints some have. Especially when it comes to power, many E36 owners swap their S52 engines for the S54 motor that comes from the E46 M3. Then there are some who decide to keep the original motor and just give it a boost.
Opting to keep his original S52 motor, Mitchell gave his M3 a boost from 240-ish horsepower to around 400 horsepower (on 101 octane) with the help of his Active Autowerks Twinscrew style supercharger — water / methanol injection was added as well. A complete Bimmerworld exhaust system accompanies the engine upgrades for a more efficient route for the exhaust gasses to escape (also it sounds pretty fantastic). To further improve performance response, Mitchell added a lightweight flywheel and clutch to get to the higher RPMs much faster. Of course with any additional improvement to your overall performance, you’re going to need better stopping power, so Mitchell also included a front and rear big brake upgrade from Wilwood.
While we’re sure E36 M3 owners are pretty happy with the current handling and suspension on their stock vehicle (that’s what made it magical out of the box), technology has come quite a long way in the past 30 years. To maximize his handling potential, Mitchell opted for a Ground Control suspension system. For the wheels and tires, he chose our Super Touring Speed Silver Podium in 18x8.5” 5x120 ET35 wrapped in Falken RT615K+ tires. Interior wise, Mitchell wanted to keep it form over function, adding only what he needed to keep it track worthy. A Cobra competition racing seat with willans 6 point harness, a MOMO Steering wheel with quick disconnect, and a roll cage fabricated by TC Designs.
Mitchell’s supercharged BMW M3 E36 is just one of thousands of examples of how versatile this particular platform has. Whether it be a Super Touring Track build, or just a fun, good-looking commuter - the BMW M3 E36 has it all. If you’ve ever thought of getting a hold of one, better do it sooner rather than later as they’re only getting more expensive by the day. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed.