After reading the glowing magazine reviews for two and half years in the mid-90s, I finally test drove my first BMW E36 M3 back in 1997. That drive was all I could think about until July of 1999 when I finally gave in and bought my first M3. I was coming from a 1994 DC4 Acura Integra LS, so everything about the E36 M3 was incredible to me… Except the shifter. The first thing I remember from that very first test drive was the feeling of churning butter just to shift gears. The overall feel was acceptable, but the length of the throws was ridiculous compared to the notchy goodness of the Acura, so that was the first thing I changed on my original ’99 M3, and it’s the first thing I’ve changed on each E36 I’ve owned since then.
Coming off an unplanned hiatus, we’re ready to get back into full swing with Project E36 M3. In part 4 we covered our new ARC-8 wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 tires with a sneak peak of the finishing touches on V1.0 of our suspension, and that brings us to the present…
I 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 large at the time, with 17" diameters, and no one knew that APEX would have their 18" x 9" Arc-8s within wheel wells. The M3s were also delivered from the factory with the then-impressive Michelin Pilot MXX3 tires, with no one ever thinking that the "all-season" Pilot Sport A/S 3 would not only perform even better, but allow you to drive in all but the most foul of winter weather conditions.
Now we’re getting into the exciting bits of Project E36 M3. It’s been a joy to drive in mostly-stock form, but it’s time to get into the real fun: Suspension!
The groundwork for our suspension project began a few months ago when I had a meeting with Brian Hanchey of Hanchey Vehicle Technologies (HVT) while we were at Kansas Speedway’s GRAND AM race weekend. The prospects of our discussion had me bouncing off the walls with excitement.
We managed to get the handling of our E36 M3 back up to a stock-like feel in Part 1, so the car has been feeling almost new. With some exciting parts on the way, we decided to keep ourselves busy while we wait by adding a bit of convenience which the Germans didn’t seem to have as a priority. We also wanted something a little fun to help us pass the time, so we increased the crisp feel of our chassis with a simple but effective part from the BMW Motorsport division...
I'm an addict. A full-fledged, mainlining, E36 M3 addict, and I haven't been able to lift myself out of it since 1995 when the E36 M3 was released in the U.S. By the summer of 1999 I jumped in at the tail end of the production run. I'll save you from all of the boring in-between details for now, but after trying to shake the chassis out of my system, my fourth example now sits in our garage.