Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
2/18/08 8:42 a.m.

One of the reasons the E36 M3 was showered with accolades upon its introduction in the 1995 model year was its handling balance. While those enthusiasts that spend more time on track than the street may find the stock suspension settings a bit soft, most folks would agree that the BMW chassis engineers came up with a pretty fantastic ride and handling balance right out of the box.

Our M3 has been putting smiles on our faces for the last 11 years, but time ravages all things, and BMW suspensions are not immune to this. With over 120K on the clock and more than a decade of riding on the same suspenders, the time has come for a bit of freshening up. Fortunately, the aftermarket abounds with good suspension choices for this popular car. As our car is a daily driver/occasional autocrosser/track day car, we decided to forgo the radical coil over and stiff spring options on the market, and instead follow a more balanced, less aggressive path.

During our occasional track day and autocross adventures, we have noticed a bit of body roll that was dialed into the M3's suspension settings from the factory. The fairly thin (24mm)front anti-roll bar was the most likely culprit. We have rectified this by purchasing an Eibach 26mm bar from the nice folks at VAC Motorsports. VAC has built up a strong reputation in BMW circles through the years, and they carry everything from complete, ready-to-race engines to shifter knobs. A quick phone call, and our shiny new bar was on its way.

We have also found that swaybars, like most other components, have a bit of variation from the factory. Because we are a bit concerned about upsetting the M3's great balance, we opted to contact the folks at Powergrid, Inc. to check out their adjustable anti-roll bar end links. They claim these adjustable THK resin ball stud-links have very low friction in the joint and offer up to 50 degrees of articulation. This eliminates binding and allows for smooth transitions. These links should eliminate pre-loading the sway bar, ensuring that our BMW will turn right as well as it turns left.

With the end links and anti-roll bar taken care of, it came time to choose suspenders. We decided to keep with the theme of adjustability and fine-tuning, so we opted for Koni adjustable strut inserts up front. TC Kline offers a slight modification to the rear Koni suspenders that allows for external adjustment to the rear suspenders as well as the fronts. With this level of fine tuning available, we hope to be able to improve the M3's handling, while retaining it's wonderful balance, and comfort levels. As this car is used frequently, it encounters pot holes, steep driveways, and parking lots. We have decided, for now, to keep the stock springs in the car to retain it's ride hight, and comfortable ride. We may decide to change to firmer springs later, but first we are curious to see how the car responds to track use with the new set up. We can always change to more aggressive springs later.

Stay tuned as we make these changes, and head out to the track to record our progress.

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