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E36 M3 (1992-1999) {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999


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Old Fri, Aug-17-2018, 09:17:03 PM   #1
Majdnoon
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Default Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Sad news. About two weeks ago, Leila, my beloved Cosmos '98 M3 coupe, was totaled. Thankfully nobody was hurt. No reckless behavior involved, just a freak accident involving a really slick road. She was my baby for the six years I had her. I never imagined it would end like this, but I always move forward and try to make the best of things.


The frame is so bent that she's way beyond repair.*But, almost all the mechanical stuff is still fine. Drivetrain, brakes, suspension, steering, even the radiator! So there's plenty of potential moving forward.


I used the M3 as a "weekender" or dual purpose car. I have a dedicated daily, so the M3 was for racetracks and fun drives. As such, I wanted to get another car that fit this description. I considered parting Leila out to fund another weekender (A70 Supra, G35, Mustang, etc). But goodness, I love the M3 so much. Almost nothing out there has the combination of performance, usability, and (relative) mechanical simplicity that a solid E36 offers. Plus, most my knowledge is for E36s. If I got something different, I'd have to learn all the quirks and issues all over again.


I thought of buying another M3, but the price for anything in good condition is ridiculous. I don't want a POS CraigsList junker that I'll have to spend at least $10K restoring. Also, I wouldn't feel right taking an expensive, mint-condition M3 to the track or driving it a little hard. The car's purpose is not to be a garage queen, it should be beat on a bit, without feeling guilty.


My plan became this: Buy a very good to mint-condition E36 3-series coupe, with low miles and full maintenance records. Swap all the working M3 stuff into it. Add whatever preventative maintenance that's not already been done (i.e. shock mounts). And no, before you ask, no M3 badges


I figure this is a solid plan. The best 3-series is equivalent in price to a crap M3 nowadays. I HAVE all the M3 parts, so sourcing those would not be an issue. Really, the biggest cost hurdle is buying the car and then paying a trusted shop to do the work (I am a lawyer and have only mild mechanical skill. I could swap, say, the suspension, but the engine and wiring and etc will all be totally out of my league).


I have a couple questions. First, has anyone done this? Any advice? Any surprises? Cost estimate?*


Do you guys think this is wise? Are you seeing any issues that I am not?*


If this is a terrible idea, why? What's a good alternative? A70 Supra?*


Is the E36 3er different in an irredeemable way to the M3? For instance, is the chassis so different that it can't be as stiff as the M3, despite receiving all the M3 parts?*


Anything other than standard preventative maintenance (shock mounts+reinforcements, sway bar reinforcements, belts, bushing refresh, diff bolts, fluids) that I should do while the car is apart? Clutch, maybe?


If I get an automatic 3er, what's the difficulty/cost on swapping my manual in? Is it too cost-prohibitive?


Finally, any other thoughts? War stories? Pieces of advice? I greatly appreciate whatever you can give.

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Old Fri, Aug-17-2018, 09:19:41 PM   #2
Texaz3
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Sleeper. Yes!
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Old Fri, Aug-17-2018, 09:54:31 PM   #3
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

You should be fine stiffness wise. There is no differerence.

Well, the M3 did get reinforced subframe plates, but that's it. You can retrofit these.
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Old Fri, Aug-17-2018, 11:41:24 PM   #4
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

rear control arms are ///M
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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 12:06:24 AM   #5
M_Parallel
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Yes and control arms, bushings, top mounts, brake calipers.

But that all transfers over to the non M chassis.
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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 01:21:15 AM   #6
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

If you are planning on paying other people to swap the interior, drivetrain, suspension and brakes, not to mention paint and body, it's going to be a lot of hours of labor. Also, it's worth noting that you'd be wise to rebuild or replace a lot of the pieces as you go through the process of swapping everything. Think "while you're in there" to the extreme. Seems like more of a DIY project unless you have 15-25k burning a hole in your pocket.

If anything, this sounds like the perfect chance to improve your mechanical skills by doing as much of it yourself as you can!
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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 01:27:27 AM   #7
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Most shops do not want to tie up bays and man hours to strip 2 cars down to nothing and then build one back up. If you are having a shop swap the drive train and suspension from your M3 into another E36 I highly doubt it will be financially beneficial over buying a good E36 M3.

There are still good deals to be had for well maintained or mildly modified higher mileage M3s.

You can part out your wrecked M3 for some cash back.

The other benefit is you will be back on the road much sooner.


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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 03:17:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Quote:
Originally Posted by M_Parallel View Post
Well, the M3 did get reinforced subframe plates, but that's it. You can retrofit these.
Where can I find those?

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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 03:18:58 AM   #9
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate047 View Post
If you are planning on paying other people to swap the interior, drivetrain, suspension and brakes, not to mention paint and body, it's going to be a lot of hours of labor. Also, it's worth noting that you'd be wise to rebuild or replace a lot of the pieces as you go through the process of swapping everything. Think "while you're in there" to the extreme. Seems like more of a DIY project unless you have 15-25k burning a hole in your pocket.

If anything, this sounds like the perfect chance to improve your mechanical skills by doing as much of it yourself as you can!
Not planning on swapping interior, body, or doing anything with the paint. I'd love to do as much as I can myself, but theres a whole lot that's above my level of aptitude.

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Old Sat, Aug-18-2018, 04:37:01 AM   #10
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Default Re: Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3

If you can't do most (all) yourself I'd take the payout and buy another M3.
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Discussing Plan to convert an E36 3 series to an M3 in the E36 M3 (1992-1999) Forum - {Euro - S50 B32 321hp @ 7400 rpm} {U.S. - S52 B32 240 hp @ 6000 rpm}
Total Produced: 71,212 - Years Produced: 1992 to 1999 at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)