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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 04-22-2014, 09:11 AM
TomTheWicked TomTheWicked is offline
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New guy with questions (Yes, another one of those)

Hey guys, long time listener first time caller. I'm looking to get my start in NASA by starting in HPDE (obviously) and eventually working my way into GTS in a couple years. I've done a little research and I'm hoping you all could help me round-out my decision making process by maybe giving me some help or guidance.

I currently drive an '08 335i with an AT and N54. It will probably see a few hyperdrives, but I've decided against running it in any HPDE sessions (might be a lie, see below). That being said, I'm looking for a dedicated track car that I can modify/upgrade over time (through the HPDEs) over the course of a few (1-2) years and have a solid car by the time I sign up for my first GTS event.

From the research I've done, my best options are either an E36 (good initial purchase price) or an E46 (slightly higher initial purchase price). Both have an abundance of aftermarket parts available and there's a wealth of knowledge available for both of them.

Okay, all that being said, which model of E36 would likely fulfill by long term objectives? My "initial purchase" I would like to keep somewhere around $4k-$5k (crazy low, but I think it's doable) so I'm aware that an "M" model is out of consideration. I want a car that can grow with me (fairly reasonably) although I don't have the expectation to turn an HPDE beater into a world class cup car.

I would appreciate any feedback anyone has to offer. My plan so far is as follows;

1) Buy a mechanically sound car. Mostly concerned with motor, trans, and rear diff here. (~$5k budget)
2) Replace worn suspension parts (~$500-$700)
3) Fix the "known" weaknesses on the E36 chassis (RSM, motor/tranny mounts, rear arm bushings, etc) (~$500? Not too sure here)
4) Buy a basic "performance" spring/shock combo. (No idea on costs, I'm assuming this could be bought for <$700)
5) Wheels and tires (~$2k)
6) maybe a few aero parts, budget permitting.

I plan of doing all of this before the car sees its first HPDE session. I'm sure that my 335i could do just fine in HPDE1, so depending on time/money I may just run it for a few events.

I should mention that I will be doing all of the mechanic work myself, so the "budget" doesn't account for any labor costs.

Okay, specific questions for feedback...

Will the E36 platform be able to grow with me as much as I'd like it to?
Are there better options than the E36 that still meet my budget and goals?
Is my budget realistic? Is there a better way to spend it?
Any other recommendations? Looking for experience here, hopefully not "I know a guy who knows a guy who did xyz"

I greatly appreciate it guys.

-Tom

EDIT: Like I said, I'm new here. If this isn't in the right subforum, would one of the mods move it? Thanks.

Last edited by TomTheWicked; 04-22-2014 at 09:17 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-22-2014, 10:37 AM
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hornhospital hornhospital is offline
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Welcome, Tom!

Your budget and plan sounds very do-able. Yes, an E36 can 'grow' with you. I personally would go for a 97-99 328 5speed for a track car project (but I have a '93 325 that's going to be just that....it's what I could afford).

There are plenty of other members here that will chime in with better advice than I can provide as to suspension, tires, wheels, and engine mods. I encourage you (strongly) to read the stickies at the top of the forum. Those will answer MANY of your questions.
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  #3  
Old 04-22-2014, 11:25 AM
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dc_wright dc_wright is offline
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This will probably bring out the flamers, but if I had no brand bias at all my first recommendation would be a Miata. Mazda literally made a million of them so they're dirt cheap, there's lots of race classes specifically dedicated to them and the cost to mod them is very low. On tracks that place a premium on turns and don't have any long straights, the Miata would be as quick or possibly even quicker than an E36.
That being said, I DO have a brand bias and I agree with Ken on the 328. There's not that big a performance difference* between the M52 and S52 engines and what you'd save on the e36 M3 price premium you can apply to other parts for the 328. The M3 suspension is better than the 328, but you'd still replace all of that anyway (springs, struts, shocks, sway bars) as you worked your way to a dedicated track car.

*Note to other 'Festers - I didn't state there was no difference, just that the difference isn't comparatively large.
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  #4  
Old 04-22-2014, 12:00 PM
hnaz hnaz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
This will probably bring out the flamers, but if I had no brand bias at all my first recommendation would be a Miata. Mazda literally made a million of them so they're dirt cheap, there's lots of race classes specifically dedicated to them and the cost to mod them is very low. On tracks that place a premium on turns and don't have any long straights, the Miata would be as quick or possibly even quicker than an E36.
That being said, I DO have a brand bias and I agree with Ken on the 328. There's not that big a performance difference* between the M52 and S52 engines and what you'd save on the e36 M3 price premium you can apply to other parts for the 328. The M3 suspension is better than the 328, but you'd still replace all of that anyway (springs, struts, shocks, sway bars) as you worked your way to a dedicated track car.

*Note to other 'Festers - I didn't state there was no difference, just that the difference isn't comparatively large.
OP, I agree here. the E36 is a very formidable track car, but a Miata is more for the budget racer with plenty of fun.

Your budget you mentioned up there is a bit on the VERY cheap side in terms of making a competitive and reliable track car. I converted my M3 to a quasi track car myself without sparing cost on suspension, brakes, and engines refresh. As a result, I can red-line that sucker all day and still drive home in one piece and running smoother than ever.

As far as the E46, money-pit. Enjoy that one, I know a couple people with deep pockets have either switched to the Z4 or E36 or even the E30.

I'd pass on the E90/92 platform easily. I had one I leased for a grueling couple years and regretted wasting money on it. It feels like a rear wheel drive pig. The E88 1 series was an AMAZING track car and very hard to find. The new 2 series is leaving a few people, like myself, with a sour taste in our mouth, especially with the absence of idiot gauges and LSD in a "M" 235i. However, the 228i has been selling like hot cakes recently because of the 4 cylinder turbo setup, lightweight, and slightly lighter overall curb weight than the "M" 235i.

I put the "M" in quotes because that car is NOT an M car, and I will get my salesperson to even say it on tape when I go for another test drive.
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  #5  
Old 04-22-2014, 02:38 PM
TomTheWicked TomTheWicked is offline
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First guys, thanks for the feedback.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hornhospital View Post
There are plenty of other members here that will chime in with better advice than I can provide as to suspension, tires, wheels, and engine mods. I encourage you (strongly) to read the stickies at the top of the forum. Those will answer MANY of your questions.
I was planning on doing my research before looking for specific items to buy. I just wanted to put out a basic plan and get a sanity check before I pulled the trigger. I read all of the stickies and now I'm better informed on what exactly I'm getting into. Thank you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
This will probably bring out the flamers, but if I had no brand bias at all my first recommendation would be a Miata.
As much respect as I have for the Miata competition drivers, I just can't do it lol. They're a good solid platform and I'm sure they're a blast to run, but they're just not for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
The M3 suspension is better than the 328, but you'd still replace all of that anyway (springs, struts, shocks, sway bars) as you worked your way to a dedicated track car.
This is what I was thinking and largely the reason I'm not hard pressed to start out with an M3. Aside from the cost savings, I'm really looking to learn how different modifications effect the cars handling. While the same modifications would provide the same effects on an M3 platform, I would think the effects would be more drastic when starting out with a 328 (and my primary seach vehicle now ), as you and Ken have recommended. The only thing I'm noticing about the '97-'99 328's is that the coupes seem to be hard to come by. Good thing I'm not in a hurry

Quote:
Originally Posted by hnaz View Post
Your budget you mentioned up there is a bit on the VERY cheap side in terms of making a competitive and reliable track car.
Just to clarify, I don't expect that the budget I've posted will give me a "competitive and reliable track car." That budget is what I expect to "invest" in the car during HPDE (and possibly TT's for more seat time) and prior to going into a full GTS competition. I expect to spend MUCH more when it comes time to "get serious" and go full competition with the car. All the other input is appreciated too.

I'm also thinking the '97-'99 328 is the best choice for what I want to do. I live in an emissions state and anything with an OBDII computer doesn't need get the sniff test, just checked for codes.

I would still appreciate anyone else's input
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  #6  
Old 04-22-2014, 04:26 PM
hnaz hnaz is offline
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Mein Auto: 328i, M3, 325is M-Tech
Quote:
Originally Posted by TomTheWicked View Post
First guys, thanks for the feedback.



I was planning on doing my research before looking for specific items to buy. I just wanted to put out a basic plan and get a sanity check before I pulled the trigger. I read all of the stickies and now I'm better informed on what exactly I'm getting into. Thank you!



As much respect as I have for the Miata competition drivers, I just can't do it lol. They're a good solid platform and I'm sure they're a blast to run, but they're just not for me.



This is what I was thinking and largely the reason I'm not hard pressed to start out with an M3. Aside from the cost savings, I'm really looking to learn how different modifications effect the cars handling. While the same modifications would provide the same effects on an M3 platform, I would think the effects would be more drastic when starting out with a 328 (and my primary seach vehicle now ), as you and Ken have recommended. The only thing I'm noticing about the '97-'99 328's is that the coupes seem to be hard to come by. Good thing I'm not in a hurry



Just to clarify, I don't expect that the budget I've posted will give me a "competitive and reliable track car." That budget is what I expect to "invest" in the car during HPDE (and possibly TT's for more seat time) and prior to going into a full GTS competition. I expect to spend MUCH more when it comes time to "get serious" and go full competition with the car. All the other input is appreciated too.

I'm also thinking the '97-'99 328 is the best choice for what I want to do. I live in an emissions state and anything with an OBDII computer doesn't need get the sniff test, just checked for codes.

I would still appreciate anyone else's input
I live in MD as well, and go through the same crap myself. However, I have two OBD I cars that do get the sniff test, the 95 M3 being one of them.

As far as the money you're going to be spending, just remember there is a "do it again" price which you will enjoy spending money on, and then there is a "one and done" price where you do it once, then you just add on top of it.

I went with two M cars myself, though one of them is almost complete. Just get the proper parts first to get a taste of the track with an E36 or what have you, then add on top of it.

In my opinion, go with a Miata. I think that is more suited to what you may be looking for, especially an E90/92 driver.

Cheers!
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  #7  
Old 04-23-2014, 06:19 AM
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Brake_L8 Brake_L8 is offline
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Hi! NASA-MA official here, small world.

If you get a 93-95 325i/is, you can build it for Spec3, which is a fast-growing class. The 325's will also fit into GTS. A 328 will work in GTS but not Spec3. Just depends on how flexible you want to be with classing.

My vote would be a 325 with 160k or less, who-cares condition of interior since it'll all be ripped out anyway, with good maintenance records. You'll be installing full safety gear, suspension, tires and brakes, so condition of all of that doesn't particularly matter from day one. And I think you could find one for what, $3k or so? And have it all built for $6k if you find deals. You can use expired seats/harnesses for HPDEs, so save your money and buy used gear (not from a wreck, just from a racer who needs to be up to date) for the time being, then upgrade when you start playing with the big boys.

Feel free to ask me questions either about building the car or NASA stuff in general, I've been around for quite some time now.
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Old 04-23-2014, 06:29 AM
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Brake_L8 Brake_L8 is offline
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Oh, and don't bother with aero for now. The cars kind of need it once you really get fast, but to start, you truly don't need any aero aside from factory bits.

If you run Spec3, you'll need 15x7 basketweaves from an E34, they're $Cheap. If you run a GTS class (and for HPDEs), you can get two rear sets of M3 wheels (17x8.5) and run 245-width tires on 'em. Also $Cheap.
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Old 04-23-2014, 08:02 PM
Homer23 Homer23 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brake_L8 View Post
Oh, and don't bother with aero for now. The cars kind of need it once you really get fast, but to start, you truly don't need any aero aside from factory bits.

If you run Spec3, you'll need 15x7 basketweaves from an E34, they're $Cheap. If you run a GTS class (and for HPDEs), you can get two rear sets of M3 wheels (17x8.5) and run 245-width tires on 'em. Also $Cheap.
I will expand a little with this advice; get a full set of M3 wheels or other factory BMW wheels. They will be cheap so you can use those initial savings for maintenance or future repairs.

If the car is just to be used for HPDE, don't rule out a Miata or any other small, ugly , good sports car. A car that you think is ugly might just be your favorite behind the wheel.

Nobody thinks of this but you are also looking for someone selling a race or a track car. It may not be the most exciting idea to buy a car that is already modified for you but you can save quite a bit of time and money if you go this route.
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Old 04-24-2014, 07:47 AM
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Brake_L8 Brake_L8 is offline
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Originally Posted by Homer23 View Post
Nobody thinks of this but you are also looking for someone selling a race or a track car. It may not be the most exciting idea to buy a car that is already modified for you but you can save quite a bit of time and money if you go this route.
This. So much this.

It's far cheaper to buy a car pre-built than it is to DIY. I know some people love "the experience of the build" but you'll spend quite a bit more.
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Old 04-25-2014, 04:27 AM
garbageman garbageman is offline
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I did the car build up myself on an RX-7 back in the day when I was running SCCA, and it was fun. But today I would suggest you capitalize on someone else prior work and let them take the financial hit and buy there project. There are tonnes of them out there you just have to start looking. Lots of guys quit racing every year so there are always cars available at different levels.
Having driven a variety of sports cars short of the 914-6 the Miata is one of the best grin machines ever made.
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Old 04-25-2014, 07:51 AM
hnaz hnaz is offline
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OP, start with this site if you're looking for some "racing" cars:

http://www.racingjunk.com/
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