APEX Arc-8 on M3

Project E36 M3: Part 4 - APEX Arc-8 Wheels and Michelin PSAS3 Tires

by Jonathan Lawson

I still remember the first time I strolled onto a BMW lot back in the mid-90s to see the new E36 M3 in person. I fell in love with everything about it, including some of the factory wheel offerings. The wheels were considered fairly large at the time, too, with 17" diameters. Of course, that size in a factory cast wheel meant a hefty weight of nearly 24 pounds each. 

Fast forward almost 20 years, and wheel and tire choices are abundant these days—many current performance cars are designed with 19-20” wheels in mind. Having seen a few E36 BMWs with 19” wheels stuffed into the fenders over the years, I have no qualms giving my own personal opinion of, “That just ain’t right!” Luckily, the wheel gods haven’t yet decided to rob us of our 17” and 18” wheel choices, and even within that window, the choices are plenty.


E36 M3 race carMy personal experience with “Light, strong and affordable. Pick two!” These were the best combination of light and affordable when I had my race car. Notice that I make no mention of them being strong. Sure, they were half the price of Arc-8s, which weren’t available at the time, but I had to replace three due to broken spokes, so they ended up costing a lot in the long run.

If you’re performance-minded, however, the good choices start to narrow down quite a bit, and there used to be a saying with regard to track wheels, “Light, strong and affordable. Pick two!” I really don’t recall a choice before 2009 where you could actually have all three of those qualities in one particular wheel. Buying used track wheels was always an option, but it should be noted that wheels are wear items, so while a used set may make an otherwise expensive set of wheels more affordable, it’s highly likely that the lifespan of those wheels will be greatly diminished.

What happened around 2009 to change that, at least within the BMW community? A thread popped up in the Track section at Bimmerforums.com where a major player in the BMW wheel community was about to take off. It started with some digital images of the wheels an individual was planning to manufacture, and it was immediately apparent that all the big-name wheel companies were going to be put on alert. The APEX Arc-8 wheel was born, and we suddenly had an affordable, attractive, light and strong wheel thanks to flow-form manufacturing gaining ground.


Supercharged 2002 E46 325iTMy previous project car, the supercharged ’02 325iT ├╝ber wagon, which wore similar 18” x 9” ET42 APEX Arc-8s in Hyper Silver.

Not long after APEX (Aftermarket Performance EXpress) hit the scene, I had my first set on order for my 325iT (wagon) project car, and I liked them so much that Project E36 M3 had a set on order in no time. Yes, I sold the original set with that project car, and I still regret it.

Seeing as APEX has designed their wheels with specific BMW fitments in mind, there was no worry in getting a size that might not fit within the narrow confines of the E36 wheel wells. I decided to go with 18” diameter by 9” width again, as that would allow me the widest range of tire choices down the road. Unlike the E46 chassis, space is a bit tighter on the E36, but the 9” width and reasonable tire sizes will still be no problem.


APEX Arc-8 in boxThe glorious moment of opening the first box and examining the Hyper Black Arc-8s. It’s like being a kid at Christmas! The wheels are JWL tested and VIA certified, and the lug recesses aren’t painted, so there’s no fear of bolts or lug nuts coming loose if you don’t sand them down first.
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014 9:15 AM
Maybe I missed it, but what are the final effective offsets after spacers?
Colin Fiedler
Colin Fiedlerlink
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 11:51 AM
Baby Dolls still down the street?
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:22 PM
@Vehicular, I didn't make any mention of effective offset change, but I will go back and make note of the new spacer size, as I left that out in error.

Original spacers were 12 mm, but the new ones are 15 mm and bought enough clearance. Wheels are ET42, so after extending the mounting point out 15 mm, I suppose you could call it ET27. Rears required nothing, of course.

Colin, I tried to avoid looking at the name, but that's probably the place. LOL!
King Hax
King Haxlink
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 11:52 PM
Mmmm ARC-8 sexiness. I actually picked up some Style 5 RC090's for my e36 M3, great rims. But they're a lot heavier than anything from APEX. I'm still not a good-enough driver to be taking advantage of anything like those ARC-8s.

Actually, Jon, seeing as how you seem to be pretty well-versed with all things 90's BMW, what are RC090s like as a performance wheel? Also, if I want to get into autocross and HPDE, how good is an E36 M3 brake package? Should I upgrade to better pads and braided brake lines, or would a BBK be a better option? I'm not wheel-to-wheel racing, so it's not like I need monster stopping power... I'm assuming that he stock M3 setup is pretty decent. I could be wrong lol
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 10:22 AM
I don't actually know much about the RC090/Style 5 wheels much beyond the fact that they've got a great classic look to them. I've never seen anyone use them as a track wheel, but I've also never heard anything negative about them with regards to street use.

If you're just getting into track/autox, the factory brakes are fine. I put 180K miles on my first E36 M3 before going the BBK route, and that was only due to the race build. It was more about weight savings, heat management and pedal feel, too. That's the biggest benefit of a BBK, IMO. The rock-hard pedal feel lap after lap inspires a whole lot of confidence.

Stock brakes with good high-temp resistant fluid, braided lines and a good track pad are plenty adequate. For autox, you'd obviously want something that comes on at a lower temperature, but it depends on the course layout, too. I've only done autox for fun, so I always stuck with whatever I had on the car at that moment. For track, I like a good endurance-style of brake pad. Something than can handle high temperatures, but that will get you through more than 2-4 track weekends.

Keep in mind that a BBK won't necessarily shorten your stopping distance on the first application. They can allow much better heat management for repeatable braking zones, however. Plus, the weight savings can be significant and the pedal feel is the biggest bonus if you ask me. Generally speaking, stopping power itself is going to be a function of tire grip more than anything else.
King Hax
King Haxlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 1:57 AM
Great, thanks for the info!
Thursday, January 30, 2014 8:01 AM
Looks good, but you keep talking about how good the fitment is:

"The fitment and design of the APEX Arc-8s are perfect on Project E36 M3"

Yet you are running a spacer!
Thursday, January 30, 2014 8:26 AM
That's true. Fitment on the front is normally not an issue, but the spring collar on the HVT 6100s is just low enough that it requires a spacer. On an otherwise stock E36, they can often fit up front with no spacers. Tire width and front struts obviously play into that, but with OE-style struts, I ran the smaller spacers only because I had camber shims which tilted the top of the wheel inward. Without shims, they'd have fit without spacers.

Even with stock wheels, some people are able to run the rear 17x8.5 wheels up front with no spacers, and some require a 5mm spacer. Just about any time you run a height-adjustable damper on the front, it will likely require a spacer for best fitment of most wheels.
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:04 AM
I have the same setup, and I may be a bit biased, but I honestly think this is the best possible setup on the E36. It's not too aggressive, so you can fit 255's with a mild roll, and you can even fit a large BBK which looks pretty damn sweet when it fills up the wheel. It really is the best fitment. I used to be one of those people who thought 18's were too big until I actually mounted them.

Wait until you drop you car a bit, it will look amazing.
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:06 AM
Didn't see the other pages haha. Looks perfect! Nvm about the drop lol
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 4:32 PM
Hey Jonathan, I know this is a little late but I couldn't wait for another E36 article to go up. I am seriously looking into purchasing an E36 M3.

Considering the milage on even the cleanest examples, do you have a buyers guide or a link to things to watch out for? I have no problem taking something to a mechanic to get looked at but decent ones aren't close and I don't want to waste $85 to have a clunker looked at if I could have known it was a no go.

I have bought enough used cars to know the basics across all brands so I am mostly concerned about the BMW specific stuff (never owned one) and the major issues to look out for on that specific model.
Anonymous User
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Tuesday, March 03, 2015 10:46 PM
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