posted on January 27, 2014 13:31
Project E36 M3: Part 4 - APEX Arc-8 Wheels and Michelin PSAS3 Tires
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.
My 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.
My previous project car, the supercharged ’02 325iT über 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.
The 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.