I6MT6 New Reader
5/30/17 8:41 p.m.

I am looking to get a track focused, but street legal RWD car. I'm one season into my track career and I'm very interested in building my driving foundation from the bottom up with a slower, momentum car. I know what The Answer is, but I'm not going to go into why I'd rather not.

I've always wanted an E30, and I can find decent track prepped ones for around $5000, give or take. Also in that price range, though, are much more capable, but mostly stock E36 M3s or E36 non-M3 track-modded cars.

I realize E36 M3 is the better car, but for someone who wants to start with more of a momentum approach, is it worth getting an E30 in this day and age? Can I get the same experience with a non-M3 E36? Thoughts from more experienced drivers?

Robbie GRM+ Memberand UberDork
5/30/17 8:48 p.m.

You probably can't go wrong either way.

My e36 never felt more at home than on the track. E36 m3 is a bargain track monster.

I'd take half the budget to purchase a car, and the other half for catching up on maintenance (bushings, shocks, cooling system, etc). If you can make that work with an e36 m3, get it. If not, pick the BMW you like the looks of better, E30 or e36.

jr02518 Reader
5/30/17 9:17 p.m.

I have a 1994 325is, stock engine with Bilsteins and sport springs. The rims are 17X7.5 ET41, square with 235/45 17 Kumo's, street tires. The car has a 3.15 LSD and Hawk Blue front pads ( the rears are ceramic). I change fluids three time a year; brake, engine, trans and diff. The oil in the motor is 10/40, the BMW world is very focussed on this but my car gets fresh fluid so often it is not an issue. To me.

Last year I drove the car at three track events. VARA University at Buttonwillow, and two BMWCCA events. Chuckwalla and Laguna Seca. I have 20 plus years of autocross experience and I drove a 325is at the Nationals in STX.

The car pulls up to the rev-limiter with no issues. The oil pump nut has been safety wired. The engine and transmission mounts are fresh. Just about every hose and sensor on the motor is new, to pass smog in California, along with a CA legal cat.

But, if I had it to do over again, I would start with a M3. And make it a 4 door. You will still need to freshen everything, including the rear subframe and install the M50 intake manifold. But people will not have to slow down for you after they give you the "point to pass".

To that end I have an older, retired NASA GT2 BMW E30 running a 1991 non vanos M50 that is getting refreshed. Just for the odd track day, to have some fun. Ok, more fun.


mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/30/17 9:28 p.m.

realize that even the E36 M3 is no HP monster. With roughly 240ish hp, you are still within the envelope for being a momentum car, but you will still have enough HP to not get passed on every straight and will have enough power to cover up a few shortcomings here and there.

The suspension is also that much better than the simpler E30. the rear suspension on the E30 is like that of the 911 with it's semi-trailing arms, they WILL bite you hard if you screw up a corner.

M2Pilot HalfDork
5/30/17 10:24 p.m.

It's been a while since I've tracked it because my left knee feels about 10 years older than the rest of me, but my basically stock e36 M3 is a joy to drive at HPDEs.

I6MT6 New Reader
5/30/17 11:14 p.m.
jr02518 wrote: To that end I have an older, retired NASA GT2 BMW E30 running a 1991 non vanos M50 that is getting refreshed. Just for the odd track day, to have some fun. Ok, more fun. David

I always see everyone praising the M3, which make my decision seem easy until I read a comment like this that makes me think twice. I guess I'll keep an eye on the ads and see if I find an E30 thats worth it before I find a perfect-for-my-budget M3.

ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual)
ManhattanM (fka NY535iManual) Reader
5/31/17 7:28 a.m.

This comment isn't directed towards which of the two is better on track, but is more just another point to ponder. It sounds like you're not planning on trailering the car to the track. Depending on how far away you are from the tracks you'll be at most frequently, I wouldn't underestimate the value in having a reasonably comfortable ride on the way there. I find the e36 a lot easier on me to drive long distances, better a/c and such, and better able to carry all the stuff needed at the track.

jr02518 Reader
5/31/17 8:41 a.m.

And I 2nd the above. Driving to the events in a car with AC and back doors make's for a much more pleasant event. The format of a BMWCCA event is a great learning experience. Having a M3 gives you the chance of working into the faster groups, having an instructor and driving home in your car.

I am still working on how to get my old race car on my trailer without scraping off the exhaust system. Nothing about this thing is coming out with not having to work with "what could happen next".

Ricky Spanish
Ricky Spanish Reader
5/31/17 8:45 a.m.

Turner Motorsports $2,300 325is

Click this link since it won't let me embed

Robbie GRM+ Memberand UberDork
5/31/17 9:23 a.m.
Ricky Spanish wrote: Turner Motorsports $2,300 325is Click this link since it won't let me embed

Thanks for that. Now I'm looking for e36s again.

I6MT6 New Reader
5/31/17 2:23 p.m.
Ricky Spanish wrote: Turner Motorsports $2,300 325is Click this link since it won't let me embed

Well the slicks are kind of cheating, but I get the idea.

Furious_E Dork
5/31/17 3:20 p.m.

Honestly, for your purposes, I don't think the M tax is worth it over a "regular" 3 series and it's going to be extraordinarily hard to get one in track ready condition for $5k. That's really the very bottom of the market and anything in that range is going to need at least half again as much in deferred maintenance overhauling the cooling system and replacing all of the 547 bushings in the suspension.

For the purchase price of the M, you could either buy an E30/36 (heck, even E46s are getting that cheap) that's already prepped and ready to roll or build one yourself. Down the line, if/when you desire more power, you can always swap in an S52.

bludroptop UltraDork
5/31/17 3:47 p.m.

E36 non-M cars worthy of fixing are getting a bit thin on the ground lately - won't be long before prices start creeping north again.

The Pick-n-Pull used to be full of them. Now full of E46s.

Buy soon.

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