Per Schroeder
Per Schroeder PowerDork
3/3/09 9:04 a.m.

Unless you’re into experimental industrial music, you probably wouldn’t want to listen to a violin concerto next to a busy freeway. It just wouldn’t sound very good. You need the proper location to enjoy the sweet music that a violin can make—a quiet concert hall, for example.

Most things in life work best in the appropriate environment, where strengths are played to and weaknesses minimized. Cars are no exception.

BMW lauds their automotive offerings as the Ultimate Driving Machines. Certainly a stock car from the company is a pretty well-rounded street machine that will work at just about any autocross. But once the speeds increase and the limits of high-speed handling are discovered on a real race track, any production car’s weaknesses can be found. As a result, the car can feel out of its element. Most cars are a little soft, a little heavy and a little down on power, no matter if they’re a BMW, a Chevy or a Porsche.

Despite being an ultra-sporty version of their normal 3 Series, BMW’s M3 model is no different. It’s got too much body roll and is way too heavy for proper club racing use. But with a little tweaking and re-engineering, the already-potent M3 can become a real terror on the track.

Since 1986, there have been three generations of the M3; to learn more about each type, we visited Sebring for the Porsche BMW Owners Club Winterfest race. There we would drive, watch and compare the three as they did their dance at speed. It was a good excuse to get out of the office for a few hours, and Sebring in late January is beautiful.

We also polled some of the top names in the BMW performance tuning world to get their expert opinions. Will Turner of Turner Motorsport, James Clay of Bimmerworld, Bob Tunnell of Bimmer Haus Performance and Jay Mauney of RTR Motorsportz came up with a host of recommendations and opinions on each of the three cars.

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