315s on an E36 M3: Dream or Reality?

In November of last year, the SCCA reorganized many of its Street Prepared classes. With the Mitsubishi Evo, Subaru STi, and to a lesser extent the Nissan 370Z, moved out of BSP, the plans to prepare our M3 for BSP started. We used the car to compete locally in BSP last year, but made no changes from its STU preparation other than mounting some smallish 245 Kumho v710s tires on our 17×9 wheels. To make a more serious attempt this year, drastic changes would be needed.

The first priority was to fit a wider tire. A popular modification for E36 BMWs is to cut the fenders and graft on the fender contours from E46 non-M front fenders. This allows Hoosier 285/30/18 tires to fit. We considered doing the same, but opted to use E46 M3 front fenders instead so that we could fit with Hoosier 315/30/18 tires.

I made a call to the guys at Complete Custom Wheel to order a couple of 18×11 wheels. They knew exactly what backspace was needed and shipped the wheels within a few weeks. PJ Corrales, a local SM competitor, generously lent us a couple of used 315/30/18s that we could mount and use for test fitting during body work.

Finding a body shop to perform the work was an unanticipated and time consuming challenge. Many shops told us that fitting 315/30/18s was impossible, while others gave us sky-high estimates, and some even were afraid to attempt such a task. One, who will remain nameless, agreed to do the work only to back out after having the car for a week. The only positive side effect of our travels to the numerous body shops was the discovery of a fantastic pizza place located near one of them. It was a surprise that, regardless of the interest level from each shop, they all wanted to see the car in person before discussing the work.

Finally, Steve Hazard referred us to Mike’s Auto Body in Malden, MA. They were excited with the project, had done something similar on his E36 in the past, and could get started right away. I brought the car to them along with four E46 M3 front fenders and two 18×11 wheels with the 315/30/18 tires already mounted.

The following are just some of the pictures I took during my many visits to ensure that the modifications would be BSP-legal. There are many more in the Flickr album – just click on one to see the rest.


After picking it up, I drove right to Ace Performance to have a set of Enkei NT03+M wheels w/tires installed. The fronts are 285/30/18 and rears are 295/30/18. The rears left so much room that I stuck a 20 mm spacer in there just to make it look a little better. These will be used for street use until we have a proper tow vehicle.


Finally, a few pictures from the first test with a fresh set of 315/30/18s installed. The ride height is set a bit too high here, but I wanted to be sure that everything cleared.



Thanks to Mike’s Auto Body for doing an amazing job (and putting up with my frequent visits), Steve Hazard for recommending Mike’s, Miguel Aponte-Rios for more help than could be explained here, Mike Simanyi for information about the fender work done on his car, PJ Corrales for letting me borrow tires for test fitting, and Lana Tsurikova for helping me survive the many weeks that I was without a car.

M3 Rear Subframe Bushings

The 135i was at Ace Performance Tuning yesterday having the stock rear subframe bushings replaced with BMW Motorsport M3 bushings. These bushings are much stiffer than the stock ones and should dramatically improve the 135i’s responsiveness and handling. (The image here shows 2, but we had all 4 replaced.)

I had been contemplating doing this work myself, but cannot explain how happy I am that we took it to ACE instead. They of course have a lift, which is a big help, and their tech was able to finish the work much faster than I would have. Special thanks to Hp Autowerks for the bushing tool rental.

Borla Exhaust

The quest to drop weight from the M3 continues. A Borla Cat-back Muffler has been installed. The Turner web site states that it will result in a 5 hp increase, but I am just as interested in it being 26 lbs lighter than the stock system. It’s built from exhaust_borla_e36_tips_close_lgT-304 stainless steel (inside and outsize) and comes with a 1,000,000 mile warranty. It is a bit louder than stock, but not so much that it will wake the neighbors.

Installation was quite easy. I consider myself lucky that the bolts for the stock exhaust, although rusty, were removed without incident.



Here are the "before and after” videos (taken with my iPhone 3GS).

Lightweight Battery Installed

In an effort to reduce the weight of the M3, I’ve installed a Russ Wiles battery box from BimmerHaus along with a Hawker Odyssey battery. The battery box is designed to hold this small battery and be mounted in the stock location using factory cables and hold down clamp.

The stock battery weighted 43 lbs. The new battery box + battery weighs 18 lbs.


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New Bearings and UUC Underdrive Pulleys Installed

Lana didn’t get to finish her afternoon runs at the 1st BMW event because the left front wheel bearing started to make noise. A few days after the event I brought the car to Nick at Ace Performance Systems to have both front wheel bearings replaced. Nick is a BMW Technical Training specialist, is BMW Master Level 1 certified and an all-around great guy.

uuc_pulleys While there, I mounted some tires and Nick also installed the UUC underdrive pulleys. I had been planning on installing them myself, but Nick has all of the right tools and is a much better mechanic than I will ever be. I haven’t had the car on a dyno since last year and can’t provide any accurate “before and after” results, but UUC Motorwerks claims a 4-11 hp increase. The M3 can use every bit in it’s battle with the Evo and STi in the SCCA STU Class.

Tired of broken fog lights?

IMG_0174Both of the fog light lenses are cracked, one of them has a broken bulb and I am tired of taping them for each event. The solution? I ordered this set of fog light covers from Turner Motorsport and will install them tonight. They should be more durable than the fog lights (I know, stop hitting cones..) and I never turn the fog lights on anyway.

Some other STU competitors have suggested that I will have to tape weights to them so that they weigh the same as a fog light. Wait! I can replace the whole front bumper with an aftermarket one, but I can’t replace the fog lights without equalizing the weight?! That doesn’t make sense. I think an “aftermarket” bumper made out of carbon fiber might be in my future. LOL.

New H&R springs have arrived


The new H&R springs from AllSprings.com have arrived. Last year we used 500 lb/in front and 600 lb/in rear springs. By the end of the season, I was sure that we needed stiffer springs. The car was leaning too much and the rear tires were rubbing the inside of the rear fenders after approx 2” of wheel travel. After doing a lot of research on what other people have used, what worked and what didn’t, we decided to try spring rates of 110 N/mm (621 lb/in) front and 140 N/mm (799 lb/in) rear. This is somewhat stiffer than what most others have used, but not as stiff as what some very knowledgeable sources suggested.

They should be installed tomorrow and ready for the first BMW event this weekend.