Tuesday, September 22, 2009

M3 (E36)

Article copied from: BMW E36 DRIFT BLOG

BMW E36 - ///M3 Story
source: Wikipedia 

The E36 M3 debuted in February, 1992 and hit the dealers' showrooms in November that year; it was the first M3 powered by a six-cylinder engine, displacing 2990 cc and developing 286 PS (210 kW; 282 hp). Initially available as a coupé only, BMW introduced M3 convertible/cabriolet and saloon/sedan versions in 1994, the absence of any M5 models in the BMW line-up between the end of e34 M5 production in 1995 and the launch of the e39 M5 in 1998 prompting the introduction of the four door Motorsport model. The E36 is also the first M3 to be manufactured in right-hand drive.

Also in 1994, BMW produced the limited-edition M3 GT as a racing homologation special; all GTs were British Racing Green and featured an upgraded 295 PS (217 kW; 291 hp) 3.0 liter engine. 350 GTs were built.


In summer 1995, M3 coupé and saloon were upgraded to a 321 PS (236 kW; 317 hp) 3.2 liter inline-6; at the same time, the cars received clear indicator lenses, new wheels and a 6-speed gearbox. The Cabriolet did not receive these changes until spring 1996.

The majority of E36 M3's were produced at the Regensburg factory, however a small number of right hand drive M3's were assembled at BMW's Rosslyn plant in Pretoria, South Africa. In total, 46,525 coupés, 12,114 Cabriolets and 12,603 saloons were produced. Saloon production ended in December, 1997; the coupé ceased production in late 1998; and the Cabriolet in December, 1999.

BMW E36 M3's: Saloon, Coupe, Convertible
North American models

The first E36 M3 to be imported to the United States was the 1995 model, which received a 3.0 L 24-valve DOHC inline-six engine with 240 bhp (179 kW; 243 PS) and 305 N·m (225 lb·ft) (S50B30US), a different suspension and a 0-60 mph (97 km/h) time in about 6 seconds. It was available with 5-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

A CSL (Lightweight) M3 was produced in limited numbers for the 1996 model year:

The 1996-1999 model years had displacement bumped up to 3.2 L, still with 240 bhp (179 kW; 243 PS) , but torque increases to 320 N·m (240 lb·ft) which is the same S52B32US engine used in the early M Roadster and M Coupe. The manual gearbox remains a 5-speed despite the European versions being upgraded to 6-speed. It was also available as a sedan starting in model year 1997, and as convertible in 1998. Production of the sedan was halted in 1998, while the other models continued until 1999.

US sales figures include a total of 18,961 coupes, 7,760 sedans and 6,211 convertibles.

BMW E36 M3 Convertible

United Kingdom

The E36 M3 was also available as a saloon in the UK for a limited period during 1995-6, during which around 400 RHD models were sold in the UK. This variation had slightly softer suspension but could be purchased with the firmer coupe set-up if the customer wished. Performance figures did not change with the standard 286 bhp (213 kW; 290 PS) (more than the US model by some margin). The 3.2 Evo was introduced with 316 bhp (236 kW; 320 PS) .

BMW E36 M3 Coupe
E36 special models

There were six special-edition models of the E36 M3 produced: the M3 Euro-Spec (Canadian Edition), M3 CSL (M3 LTW), M3 GT, M3 GT-R, M3-R and the Imola Individual GT2 (the last of the E36s)

There was also an M3 Anniversary Edition only produced in 1999 for Australia. This was the final year of production for the E36, with only 50 coupes and 70 convertibles being made. Furthermore, "BMW Individual" were able to custom design an M3 with specific coloured leather, woodgrain and other personalized options including polished magnesium alloy wheels from the Anniversary edition. Convertibles lacked the sports seats found in the coupe but retained every other feature.

BMW E36 M3 Interior

M3 Euro-Spec (Canadian Edition)

In 1994 agreements existed between Canada and several countries in Europe which allowed any car authorized in one participating country to legally be sold in any of the others.Though BMW had unveiled the next generation E36 M3 in Europe in 1992, the company felt that the production version would need to be priced much higher for export to North America than the market would allow. While the engineers worked on a less expensive North American version of the E36 M3, BMW Canada seized the window of opportunity: 45 numbered European specification M3 coupes were specially produced and imported into Canada.

BMW E36 M3 Coupe Tehnical Drawing
Even with a base price of $59,900 (a substantial sum for the day given that the standard equipment list did not include forged lightweight wheels, air conditioning, a sunroof or even metallic paint), all 45 cars were spoken for in just 3 days. Unlike the other special versions of the E36 M3, buyers were free to choose any colors and options they wanted on their cars. The cars all came equipped with the 286 PS (210 kW; 282 hp) 3.0 L inline 6 cylinder engine, vented brakes with floating rotors, glass headlights and other European standard equipment. They were initially delivered to Toronto, then shipped all across the country to the dealerships where they were ordered.

Canada would not see another E36 M3 for sale until two years later, when BMW finally made the American versions of the 1997 M3 available for sale. Forty five Euro-Spec Canadian Edition cars were built, each one having a numbered engraved plaque in both the glovebox and the custom leather case which holds the owners manuals. Only the Australian M3-R was built in lower numbers.

BMW E36 M3 Coupe
M3 CSL (E36)

Beginning with the first E36 M3s delivered, BMW racers began pressuring BMW for a race-ready version with which to compete against Porsche 911s in sports-car racing.

In 1995, BMW relented and began building batches of the M3 CSL at BMW Individual. Upon completion they were sent to Prototype Technology Group (PTG) Racing in Virginia for final preparation, which included the front and rear Motorsport flag decals, and "trunk goodies." In the boot there was a different oil pan with dual pick up oil pump, longer oil dipstick tube, front strut bar, lower x brace that owners could install at the risk of voiding the standard BMW warranty. The car also came with the normal M3 low wing mounted but most dealers installed the special high wing when prepping the car for sale. An adjustable front lower lip/spoiler was installed. Each new owner was given a 1 page legal document to sign stating that any installation of trunk items voided the new car warranty. The ECU had the top speed limiter removed which resulted in a drag induced top speed. Forged 17" alloy wheels, 7-1/2" wide in the front and 8-1/2" wide in the rear, mounted with identically sized 235/40-17 tires front and rear were an additional difference from the standard 17" x 7-1/2" wide cast alloy wheels mounted with 235/40-17 tires on standard M3's. A 3.23 rear differential was installed vs the normal 3.15 installed in 1995 model year M3's.

Although BMW promised to build at least 85 examples, BMW never released the number of M3 CSL's built, and because of the peculiar assembly line, to this day may not be known. However, enthusiasts now believe that there exist approximately 120 models.

The first two cars, which were used as press cars, are not technically M3 CSL's as they were regular production M3's that PTG made similar in appearance to the not-yet-built CSL. After press duties, those two cars were brought back into the PTG stable.


Another article about E36 CSL:
From: US Auto Parts

In 1995, BMW produced a limited number of lightweight M3's. The factory started with an E36 M3 and then removed practically everything not needed for competition. True to their sporting past, these M3's were dubbed CSL's - for Coupe Sport Light - and they were reminiscent of the famous racing CSL's of the '70s.

The M3 Lightweights were reduced weight vehicles, yet they were fully equipped for the road. They were only made in Alpine White, with colorful Motorsport racing flags on the front and rear. Today, the Lightweights are the rarest of the late model M3's.


The 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight was an E36 M3 designed for performance enthusiasts and racing teams. This M3 was modified and specially equipped to be a base production car for drivers and teams competing in motorsport events. Yet the car had to be capable of being driven on the road.

Here's what was eliminated:
  • air conditioning
  • leather seats
  • sunroof
  • radio
  • took kit
  • interior noise reduction mats
  • underhood insulation
  • trunk panel insulation
  • forged wheels
  • spare tire and jack
Here's what was retained:
  • dashboard
  • heater
  • power windows
The power windows were kept since they were necessary for BMW's unique door glass sealing system.

Here's what was added to the vehicle:
  • aluminum doors
  • special carpeting
  • carbon fiber trim
  • sport suspension
  • revised rear axle ratio of 3.23:1
  • a large strut brace connecting the front shock towers
  • an X-brace assembly to hold the entire front end together
The underbody X-Brace and Motorsport strut brace were included to stiffen the front chassis to counteract the body flex that can occur during cornering.

The weight savings was about 200 to 300 pounds over a stock M3. The savings varied depending on which of the performance options were added by the customer.

BMW E36 M3 CSL Engine

BMW took other steps to improve the performance and handling of the car:
  • To improve performance, the M50 B30 3.0-liter engine was hand picked by BMW engineers. Reportedly, production engines were tested, and only those with the best performance numbers found their way into the M3 Lightweight.
  • The top speed limit was removed from the ECU.
  • The rear differential was increased to 3.23 over the 3.15 found on the stock M3. This increase improved the low-end torque, providing quicker acceleration.
  • To improve the handling, stiffer springs were standard and a strut brace was installed. A common add-on for BMW's, the brace connects the front shock towers to make the car more rigid. An adjustable air dam in conjunction with a rear spoiler was also included to increase down force.

BMW E36 M3 CSL Rear Wing

BMW placed several options in the trunk, which the user could install if desired. Why did they put them in the trunk? Because if BMW found out they were installed, it would void your warranty!

Designed for racing only, the performance options were:
  • An oil pan with a dual pickup. The dual pickup helped ensure constant oil flow in hard cornering.
  • A non-DOT spoiler to increase down force. The spoiler does have a penalty of a few mph at high speeds.
  • The spoiler included an upper GT Race wing with two spacers. The spacers could be used to raise the upper wing further into the air stream if desired, like in the above picture.
The M3 Lightweight also had several lesser-known standard features including:
  • An oil vapor separator to reclaim oil that would otherwise burn off under high temperatures.
  • A unique set of lightweight, forged 17" alloy wheels.
  • Firmer springs than the stock M3. 
In the 1995 model year, BMW only produced 120 to 125 of these cars. Only 85 cars made it to the USA. It is only recently that enthusiasts have recognized these cars for what they're worth, and today they are in high demand and quite collectible. Rarely do you see one for sale.


The M3 GT Coupe was a limited-edition mainland Europe only edition of which 356 were made, 50 further M3 GT Individuals were made in right-hand drive for the UK market. All built in 1995.

Famous for being British Racing Green with a Mexico Green interior - a peculiar choice when the traditional German national racing colors were white with red numbers.

The BMW M3 GT was a homologation series special built to allow the E36 M3 to compete in the FIA-GT class II, IMSA GT and international longdistance races.

BMW E36 M3 GT2 Imola Individual
M3 Evolution Imola Individual (M3 GT2)

The M3 Evolution Imola Individual was a limited-edition (200 units for Europe with part VIN WBACB5103-AN307--, 50 for the United Kingdom) car sometimes referred to as the M3 GT2. The engine and performance characteristics of the car were unchanged from the 1996+ euro M3, and a special exterior and interior colour combination was once again chosen by BMW; Imola red (405) paint with Nappa leather & Amaretto seats in Imola red and anthracite seats. It also included side airbags, the M3 GT Class II rear spoiler, front class II corner spoiler extensions, electric seats, and double-spoke polished alloy wheels.

Prior to the release of the Imola Individual there was a pre-production model made which was used as the basis of the special edition, it featured the Class II front and rear spoilers, special order Imola red Paint, special order Nappa + Anthracite Amaretta interior, SMG gearbox, GSM Phone Kit, headlamp washers and double-spoke polished alloy wheels.


Fifteen M3's were ordered by BMW Australia in 1994 to race in the Australian Super Production series. All were delivered to Frank Gardner Racing for final preparation. 11 were made available to the general public, (who have to possess a CAMS license to be allowed to buy one), 4 were retained for the race series, the M3R had locally sourced King springs fitted to group n adjustable struts and rear perches, AP racing twin plate clutch and 4 piston brake calipers, dual pickup sump, an oil restrictor in the head, A C Schnitzer cams, a 3.25:1 ratio medium case diff and M5 driveshaft, cold air snorkel into air filter box replacing left hand fog light, non functional rear seat, air conditioner delete and more aggressive tune, GT front splitter and rear spoiler with extensions and gurney strips. this was the most powerful production E36 made with 240 kW (326 PS; 322 hp). a bolt in FIA approved roll cage was also a factory option (locally produced by Dencar)there were several differences between the cars depending on customer requirements, early numbers had non staggered BBS wheels, later had staggered BBS wheels (individually numbered plaque fitted to centre console below emergency brake lever)

M3 compact

To celebrate the 50th birthday of the German automobile magazine Auto Motor und Sport in 1996, BMW M GmbH handbuilt (at least) one official BMW E36 M3 compact. The car was tested and written an article about in the June edition of the named magazine.

The car embodied all the technical (engine, driveline, suspension) and optical (bumpers, wheels, mirrors, dashboard) characteristics of the stock E36 M3. It was powered by the 321 DIN-hp 3.2-litre engine, and its color was red with a black cloth/alcantara interior. It had the forged Styling 24M 5-doublespoke wheels that came standard on the M3 cabriolet, an exhaust with fairly centered quad exhaust tip, Recaro sports bucket seats, red four-point seat belts and an alcantara wrapped steering wheel and gear lever.

The car was donated to the automobile magazine, but there are no details of the car's present whereabouts.

Fan built replica of the M3 Compact:
Images from BMW SLO:

BMW E36 M3 Compact Replica

BMW E36 M3 Compact Replica

BMW E36 M3 Compact Replica Engine

BMW E36 M3 Compact Replica Interior

BMW E36 M3 Compact Replica Recaro Bucket Seats

 For the end, I suggest you take a look at the BMW M-Registry FAQ section:

BMW M Registry E36 3.0 FAQ
BMW M Registry E36 3.2 FAQ

BMW E36 M3 Advertisement