Mods and Consequences BMW 3 Series (E36)
These cars are cheap and aftermarket parts prevalent, but the E36 also has weak points that the prospective modder needs to address before creating their own ultimate driving machine
’A big bonus is that the E36s is the cheapest 3 Series you can get’
Oh, to be the middle child. That’s certainly where the E36 seems to have found itself, sandwiched between the sought-after E30 and the newer E46. The E36 owner should see this from the opposite perspective however, as the car blends older, more dainty looks with modern performance. Added appeal is that E36s are the cheapest 3 Series you can get, with six-cylinder cars less than £2000 in decent condition.
As a design, the E36 was light years ahead of the E30, modern computer modelling allowing BMW to precisely calculate the steel thickness for each body part. This poses a problem to the modifier as just a small increase in suspension stiffness can cause the areas around the front and rear suspension to deform and crack. BMW was perhaps too precise, leaving little breathing room. Fortunately, off the shelf reinforcement plates for both the front and rear mounts are easy to install. In some cases, a strut brace will double up as reinforcement, no bad thing, as many regard the E36 to be lacking rigidity. With this issue sorted, the world is your oyster when it comes to handling upgrades, with a bewildering array of aftermarket options.
When it comes to power however, there’s a lot you can do with stock components before turning to expensive third party options. Putting a six-pot engine into a four-banger E36 is easy; the wiring is compatible and the front half of the driveshaft will bolt onto the four-cylinder’s rear half. That’s handy, as only the 318is offer sporting performance among the four-cylinder cars – standard 316i and 318i suffered from the E36’s weight increase over the E30. Having said that, six-cylinder models are so cheap you’d have to find a very nice four-cylinder that’s worth dropping a six-pot engine into.