The E36 BMW M3 coupé is already a classic.
It plastered the walls of every teenager’s room in the ‘90s, and now those same teens are adults with money. But like so many other performance icons from this era, the E36 M3 been skyrocketing in value of late, and as such, finding a good one for reasonable money is getting harder by the day.
Despite its collectability now, the E36 M3 isn’t overly special and for that reason was overlooked by many for a long time. It’s an obvious driver’s car designed with great handling and good styling, but cars sold here in the United States were stunted by a power deficit.
While European E36 M3 owners were treated to a high-performance engine boasting refined heads, ITBs and a variable valve timing system that added up to 282hp at 7,000rpm in the early cars, US owners had to make do with a pretty mediocre spec that developed 240hp at 6,000rpm. To rub salt into the wound, the European engines ended up delivering 321hp in later years.
The car at hand is a rare combination: Largely original, Dakar Yellow, M Rain interior and just 70,000 miles on the clock.
Its owner, Lawrence, had a traditional car upbringing. He started by poring over his dad’s car magazines, which led to him scanning online forums and blogs for all the car-related content he could soak up. As soon as Lawrence was able to get his license, he started driving as much as possible.
Lawrence has always loved European cars. He’s run through almost every brand – VW, Audi, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz – but BMWs hold a special place in his heart.
Both of Lawrence’s parents had BMWs growing up, and he always found the automaker’s motorsport history particularly inspiring. Lawrence proceeded to buy every generation of M3. He loved his E30 M3 because of its racing pedigree, his E46 because of its handling, and his E92 for its beefy V8. But at first he wasn’t sold on the E36 M3. After all, it had that detuned engine in the US, shares the same body panels as a normal 3 Series, and its interior quality isn’t great.
But after driving one and getting to know the car, Lawrence changed his mind.
He’s found the E36 M3 to be the perfect size for both track and daily use.
Lawrence noted that it’s hard to find an E36 with an original exterior paint and interior combination these days, and even more rare to find one with Dakar Yellow paint and a silver M Rain interior. He wanted to appreciate the rare elements of his car, so used an OEM+ lens when approaching some select modifications for it.
He’s fitted a genuine BMW Motorsport E36 M3 GT/LTW chassis-mount splitter to give the front end a more aggressive look while adding functionality. Lawrence also mounted up a set of hard-to-find BBS LM089 wheels made especially for the E36. Most LMs in 17-inch are 5×114.3, but this set that he imported from Japan is 5×120.
We’re starting to see more of this ‘less is more’ thinking in the car community, and for good reason.
The car is pretty much sitting the way Lawrence wants it, though he is considering installing the full Dinan catalog in the future. And despite ever-rising hammer prices for good-condition E36 M3s, Lawrence doesn’t plan on ever selling the car, which is a rare thing to hear these days.
It’s refreshing to see people love their cars regardless of devaluation or a boost in value, because that’s what we are all here for, right? Enjoying cars, not business ventures.