Turning my BMW E36 into more of a dedicated race car!

I determined towards the end of 2017 that I wanted to turn my BMW E36 into as close as a street legal race car as possible in order to turn up the fun factor even more! To me, no race car should have an interior or any sound deadening. That means it shouldn’t have five seats, carpet, interior lighting, radio, speakers, extraneous wiring or any plastic trim. Basically, if it adds weight and isn’t crucial to making the car run, it has to go!

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I didn’t document the process of ripping out everything but just imagine hundreds of pounds of “comforts” coming out of the car and being tossed on the driveway.

I did keep a few key things that some true BMW E36 race cars don’t have:

  • Heat (only for windshield defogging)
  • Air conditioner (so I can race in comfort in the summer!)
  • Windshield wipers and washer fluid
  • OEM steering wheel with airbag (for street legality)
  • OEM seat belts for front two seats only (will keep until/if I go to a roll cage)
  • Glass side windows with electronics (I race in the rain and drive to the track, I need windows that can seal well and can go down)
  • Door cards to cover side window mechanisms
  • Emergency parking brake (I may remove in the future)
  • Full dashboard
  • Glovebox (just a convenient place to keep car documents and the Koni shock adjustment knob)
  • Headlights, tail lights and corner lights

Weighing the car is something I haven’t done yet but I’m pretty sure that I’ve removed 300+ lbs so far. Weighing the car in race trim is on my to do list this year.

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Besides the increases in acceleration, deceleration and cornering gained by removing so much weight, the other great benefit to me is the noise that you now hear when driving the car! Let’s just say you don’t want to make these same modifications if you ever plan on having a conversation with others while driving. That goes for whether the other person is sitting next to you or they’re on the phone.

The noise increase isn’t just due to tires slapping the road, it’s primarily gear whine from the transmission and differential, engine noise and exhaust. All glorious sounds in my opinion! It makes you feel much more involved with the car now that you can hear everything going on, not deadened by insulation. With the full exhaust in my car, it’s not so loud inside that you need earplugs (though my wife may disagree). On the other hand, when my 10 year old daughter takes a ride with me she can’t stop laughing every time I accelerate due to the sound.

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All this extreme weight loss has bumped the car into a new SCCA class. I’ll discuss that in a future post so stay tuned.

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After replacing the front control arms and tie rods, I had to take the E36 back in for another alignment. This time I had them give me the printout so I can show how the car is currently setup:

Alignment

As you can see, I could only get the front camber to about -2.5instead of the -3.5o that I think is optimal. It’s maxed out on the Ground Control camber plates but the technicians think it’s just because there’s no compliance in much of the suspension bushings or ball joints anymore, a good thing!

Toe is set at 0.00 and caster is maxed out, on the standard rear control arm bushings, at almost 5o.

The rear suspension camber is right about -1.75o on both sides which I think works well in the trade-off between more camber for cornering but less camber for acceleration.

The first practice of the season is just a couple weeks away.  The E36 seems well sorted and ready to rock!

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