Some of you may remember one of Short Shift’s first reader’s rides: Brandon’s Evo IX RS. After an intense rebuild a follow up shoot was required. Well he’s here again, but with a something a little bit different. Here are the details on Brandon’s BMW E36 M3.
Why the E36? My intrigue started when I got serious about autox in the class STU back in 2008. The main cars competing at the time were Evos, STIs and e36 M3s. The AWD boost buggies definitely had a power advantage, but the superior handling characteristics in a well prepped e36 put it at the pointy end of competition. And the sound of that BMW in-line engine at high RPM…Oh baby! I admired my M3 competitors who put down incredible times exceeding the Evos and STIs. They definitely had my attention.
First E36 Experience
Fast forward a few years and I was doing wheel to wheel racing in Chump and WRL with a great group of friends. We went through 1st Gen MR2, a 2nd Gen, and finally a 328i e36 chassis. The BMW has balance and is consistent. It was a treat to drive because it talked to you every step of the way. She would give advanced notice of any ill behaviors allowing anyone to jump in and feel comfort. Bottom-line, she was rewarding to drive and the icing being her sweet notes she could sing. I enjoyed our endurance car so much and it got me thinking back to those STU days, and I wanted my very own E36 M3! With the driving characteristics it would be the perfect car to get my wife into the sport. She entertained the idea and I set out to find a good candidate.
I located “Twitch” in the Winona area. A Cosmos Black, 1995 BMW M3 with 104k miles. The car was bone stock with a set of mild drop springs. Most importantly, it had a rust free underside. Quickly, I got to work. I enlisted the help of a racing teammate and BMW professor, Shawn Carroll.
We freshened the suspension and gave her fresh fluids to get her feeling spicy again. I serviced the brakes, placed some proper wheel studs and then mounted up an ideal STU wheel and tire combo. It wasn’t a full STU prep but it would work great to start. Sadly, my wife and I only did one event with the car before it mostly sat for the last 5 years or so. We got busy with family and other racing activities so it dropped off the priority list. Well not anymore!
Twitch is back with the help of some amazing friends. The changes as of recent have been super exciting. I love this car more than ever! The plans with the car are to compete in the GridLife Street class. The class has become insanely fast and no ordinary e36 would stand a chance so she needs to bring a little extra. That’s where the S54 swap comes in to play.
Engine Swap Time!
The rule set allows same manufacture swaps so long as it’s the same number of cylinders. The original S50 was removed for the much more powerful S54. It makes roughly 100whp more and weight is roughly the same.
Of course, with more power we would need more grip. A set of Hard Motorsports flares were secured in order to accommodate the 18×10” wheels with up to 285 series tires. A set of 1 way Coilovers were mounted to help keep the rubber to the ground. I’m planning for this car to race so safety was also a priority. A really nice welded 4 point was installed this past winter with provisions to reinforce the rear subframe and weak suspension mounts.
We’ve also installed a CAE shifter, Sparco quick release steering wheel, Sparco seats. Next up are suspension bushings, an ATS read diff with proper final drive ratio, further weight reduction, larger front brakes and some factory optioned aero pieces. The evolution of this build have been wonderful. It has already been to 5 track events this season with loads of fun filled laps!!
Special thanks to: ASM (Andy Smedegard in Plover Wi – S54 Swap and mad scientist Artsem Vechar – Cage artist Peter Collins – Motivator and Instigator