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    FORCED INDUCTION FRENZY!

    BOOST MODE #Stunning 610 whp turbocharged E36 M3 turns up the heat. Cars are meant to be driven and it was that realisation that took this E36 M3 from mild to wild.

    JUNKIE BOOST Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Patrick Lauder

    Dean Yarza never intended for his E36 M3 to turn out this way. He’d always wanted one, that much he did know, and finally owning one was the fulfilment of a high school dream, even though it followed a modified E46 M3 ZCP. You might have thought that his former car would have been the keeper, the big one, because it was an E46 M3 after all, but life’s not always that straightforward. That Dean has been dreaming about owning an E36 M3 since his high school days is no surprise; this is a man who, briefly, owned a hand-me-down E21 323i as his first car and who admits to having been interested in BMWs since first being able to drive.

    The Carbon black 2005 E46 M3 that he purchased in 2006 was where his BMW journey began proper, Dean having experimented with numerous vehicles prior to that. “I’ve basically modified everything I’ve owned since high school, giving in to the typical sickness the everyday car nut suffers from and I do not discriminate when it comes to the hobby,” he grins. This explains why his car ownership history includes an Acura Integra on nitrous, a couple of Saleen Mustangs and a Saleen Cobra, all of which ended up running over 500whp courtesy of aftermarket superchargers, a Ford F150 truck and even a couple of Yamaha R6 bikes. It’s a varied, colourful automotive past in which Dean has sampled all manner of modified machinery and that most certainly did not stop when the M3 entered his life. “I modified it with all the NA boltons including long tube exhaust manifolds, performance pulleys, air filter, 4.10 gearing and a performance tune. The exterior was also fitted with the full line of Vorsteiner VSL pieces – front bumper, rear deck lid and diffuser. 19” BBS LM rims and a Brembo GT brake kit were also installed,” completing what sounds like a thoroughly sexy and sorted M3. So why the switch from 46 to 36?

    “After parting with my E46 M3, I yearned for another M and, more importantly, something to give me purpose, spending hours on forums researching and purchasing parts. At the time, it was the perfect platform to satisfy the need to handle, perform, and modify while being fairly painless to attain,” explains Dean though, in truth, the E36 did almost put the brakes on his modding addiction but, as we all know, you just can’t fight it…

    “As many E36 owners know, it’s a bit tough to find them in a non-abused state in today’s market,” he says, and he’s not wrong. “After failing to find one to my liking for a few months, I put out a wanted add online and, amazingly, received a response for what was almost exactly what I was looking for. Prior to my search, I’d curbed my expectations, accepting the fact that these cars are close to 20 years old and I wasn’t going to find a gem. My initial want was just for a clean-titled, decent paint/interior M3 knowing that 90-110k miles would be the norm. What appeared in response to my add was a single-owner, excellent condition M3 with only around 33,000 miles, completely stock, still with the break-in instructions applied to the windscreen, as well as the original window sticker still in the glove compartment. It was far too pristine but in no way would be passed up.” That sounds like a once in a lifetime find to us and it would have been very silly of Dean to turn down the opportunity to own such an immaculate car, but it was the car’s virgin state and lack of miles that presented Dean with a bit of a quandary. “Prior to finding one with such low mileage, my plans were night and day from what the car is now,” he says.

    “I initially only wanted something I could drive every day and everywhere, occasionally having weekend duty for spirited driving in the hills. To do this, I planned nothing more than a capable coilover set and a nice wheel and tyre combo. In a way, I just wanted a cool car I could really beat on and not care too much about,” but obviously that couldn’t happen now and a different approach to the whole ownership and modding outlook had to be taken. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, Dean wasn’t even sure whether modifying was the right thing to do. “As I did not plan to find such a low mileage/collector type of car, it was a tough decision to modify,” he says, before adding “ but eventually the bug got the better of me,” and so things began to happen.

    Suspension and wheels came first, as per his original plans; “Knowing that I did not participate in high performance driving/autocross events, I was looking for something simple in terms of handling and comfort,” Dean explains. “The Bilstein PSS9 kit fits this bill as it is a basic coilover setup which is not too aggressive while offering, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable rides for a coilover while still improving handling capability. Along with this, I’ve also chosen a set of Dinan front and rear strut braces and a BMW X-brace, which is found as standard on the M3 LTW.” Handling benefits aside, the adjustable ride height of the PSS9s means that Dean has been able to dial-in his perfect stance and the drop he’s gone for is serious; those front arches are a hair’s breadth above the rubber while at the rear he’s got the tyres tucked just past the edges of the lips and the result is spectacular.

    As far as his wheel choice is concerned, for many BBS fans it’s the holy grail for both modern and classic BMWs alike and a wheel he has a lot of love for. “It was only fitting that for a classic M3 I’d want to stick with classic wheels. My favourite wheels for the BMW have always been BBS LMs, I feel you can put these on any car and drastically improve the look, especially European applications. I owned a set on my E46 M3 and had nothing but positive experiences with them in regards to looks, performance and strength. You get what you pay for with wheels and in my eyes, they are half of the car. I did consider other wheels but this was very short-lived, I was set on LMs for my build. It turned out to be very difficult to find a set, though, as 18s were much harder to come by than the typical 19” and above. Luck still was not on my side which forced me to become a little more creative and experiment with a set taken from a Honda S2000. This presented a bit of a challenge as the offset and PCD were different but after some research I found a local wheel customisation shop which was able to adjust bolt pattern as well as offset to get them to fit correctly.”

    It’s safe to say it was worth the effort as the LMs look so good on the E36, as they do on just about any BM, and here they’re finished off with a BBS stud conversion kit and those iconic red centre caps.

    That’s all well and good, but the real reason we’re here is for what’s under the bonnet and it took a bit of a personal revelation for Dean to make the huge leap from mild NA mods to off-the-scale, full-on forced induction fury. “I found deals on the basic bolt-ons such as a Dinan CAI and Dinan exhaust and the car stayed in this state for quite sometime as I did not want to overly modify it, risking an adverse affect to the car’s value considering its mileage.

    Eventually, realising that cars are meant to be driven and I would not be satisfied until I had it the way I wanted, I decided to open the floodgates and enjoy it while I have it,” he says and this is definitely the right philosophy. “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build, beginning with the actual turbo, a Garrett GT35R and SPA T3 manifold, fuel components, Cut-Ring head gasket, and Zeitronix data logging gauges and equipment, the essentials I needed to get started. After a year acquiring these components – and then some – it was all installed in one shop sitting, taking a few months to complete.

    “The car was taken to David Tran at 4B Auto in Santa Clara, CA; David is known to have built some of the fastest turbo E36s around with upwards of 1000hp, so I knew I was in good hands with this build,” says Dean. “The motor was disassembled, having to remove the head for resurfacing, while upgrading the head studs with an ARP2000 10mm stud kit. From there, the stock head gasket was also upgraded to an 87mm Cut- Ring head gasket. When the head returned from resurfacing, the SPA T3 turbo manifold was mounted while the Vanos was also rebuilt and the head was finally ready to install. Once the engine was reassembled, various changes were made including upgraded fuel components such as a Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, 115lb high impedance injectors, and an Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator. The intake manifold was also swapped for an M50 model for better flow. Impressive to say, the engine was able to fire up at first attempt with no hiccups. David’s engine work was one of the smoother processes throughout.”

    High praise indeed and there’s nothing better than a true turn-key conversion that just works, especially after such a huge amount of work. A quick glance at the engine spec is all you need to know that this is a serious performance project but all that research and time spent on it was absolutely worth it.

    It enabled Dean to pick the best components and the ones best suited to helping him achieve his end goal, and all that work has yielded some astonishing numbers. Peak power now stands at 610whp, which is around 700hp at the crank however you like to do your calculations, and is backed up by 571lb ft of wheel torque, both serious numbers and definitely plenty to be getting on with.

    Obviously, as well as the suspension upgrades that were carried out before Dean let loose, the chassis and transmission have received further modifications to be able to cope with that huge increase in output over stock. First of all, there’s a big brake kit in the shape of Brembo’s GT kit and before we even get onto the specs those red calipers are just killer and work perfectly alongside the red detailing on the LMs and against the white bodywork.

    They do, of course, deliver on the braking front too, but then you’d expect nothing less with four-pot calipers and 355mm discs stationed up front and only a fractionally smaller pairing located at the rear. As far as the transmission is concerned, Dean has bolstered the ZF five-speed manual gearbox with a selection of UUC components, including a twin-disc flywheel/clutch combo, steel clutch line, and short shifter, all of which combine to allow it to far better cope with all that power and torque.


    What we really love about Dean’s E36 M3, and we love everything about it, is the fact that, really, there’s no way for you to know just how much power is lurking beneath that pristine white bodywork. Obviously it’s not a stock car, but he’s kept all of the styling within the spectrum of normality and as a result there’s little to suggest that this might be nothing more than a lightly breathed-on older M3. “My intention for the exterior was something not too aggressive; basically maintain the stock look and body panels yet add some touches to give a slightly more aggressive look,” and we’d say it’s mission accomplished. Euro lights have been sourced from ECS Tuning and fitted all-round, along with a set of ZKW HID projector headlights; a Max Velocity RS front lip sits beneath the front bumper for a hint of extra aggression, while at the rear there’s a Mateo Motorsports diffuser and a sexy UUC adjustable carbon spoiler. The interior has been kept largely standard, bar the addition of numerous gauges and a few minor tweaks that enhance what was already there. The Vader front seats, finished in Mulberry-colour leather, have been left alone and Dean has added some M3-logo’d mats, a customwrapped Euro three-spoke steering wheel and MT Shift Boots alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters to complete the look.

    Four years of ownership are what it’s taken to bring the E36 to this level and while it has clearly been worth the effort, there has been a lot of it involved in getting the car to where it is. As Dean himself says “I currently have no plans for a next car, other than possibly a modern 5 Series daily driver. At this point, I may have exhausted all energy to even think about starting yet another project,” and that’s something we can all relate to it, that feeling of near-exhaustion when you’ve “finished” a project, or at least got it to the next stage of its evolution. Of course, this M3 has not finished evolving, not in the slightest. “A contingency plan is actually already in place,” says Dean.

    “Simultaneously with the turbo install, I have also been working on a fully-built spare motor capable of 1000hp, which was also completed about the time the turbo install was competed. Also on hand is a full drivetrain upgrade, which includes a Euro six-speed 420 Getrag transmission, DSS six-bolt 1000hp driveshaft, upgraded rear axles, and a large case 210mm limited slip differential from a 1990 BMW 750iL.

    The only future decision to be made now is which turbo and manifold configuration to fit. With the upgraded turbo and motor, the car should be able to generate and handle even more power with ease. If any mishaps were to occur, these components are ready, that is if impatience does not get to me first and I proactively go ahead with the swap.”

    That’s a very sensible approach to take with a completely unhinged project, and we whole-heartedly approve. Dean’s E36 is pure performance: there’s no frivolity here, it’s full-on, focussed and furious with it, and we love it.

    “After the basic bolt-ons, the turbo research began brewing and opened up a whole new world. For one whole year, I began researching and stockpiling the turbo components needed for my build”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW / Turbo #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-M3-Turbo / #BMW-M3-Turbo-E36 / #Garrett / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36 / BMW

    ENGINE 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 , Cut-Ring 87mm head gasket (stock compression), #ARP2000 head studs, #Garrett-GT3528R dual ball-bearing turbo, #SPA-T3-turbo manifold, 610x305x76mm front-mount intercooler, #Tial 50mm blow-off valve, Tial 44mm MVR wastegate, M50 intake manifold, #Mishimoto coolant overflow, Mishimoto performance aluminium radiator, #Steward high-performance water pump, RK Tunes E85 turbo tune and MAF, 115lb high impedance injectors, Rally Road high-flow billet fuel rail, Aeromotive adjustable fuel pressure regulator, Vibrant intake filter, custom fabricated 3” stainless steel down pipe and exhaust system, #Vibrant turbo muffler, #Radium-Engineering oil catch can, #Radium-Engineering 12 micron fuel filter, Racetronix Fuel Pump wiring harness, Walbro 485lph fuel pump

    POWER AND TORQUE 610whp, 571 lb ft wtq

    TRANSMISSION Five-speed #ZF manual gearbox, UUC twin-disc flywheel/clutch kit, #UUC steel clutch line, Rally Road clutch pivot pin, #UUC-EVO3 short shifter with double shear selector rod, #Vorshlag polyurethane transmission mounts

    CHASSIS 8.5x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #BBS-LM wheels with 235/40 (front) Hankook Ventus V12 Evo2 and 255/35 (rear) Toyo Proxes R888 tyres, BBS red centre caps, #BBS stud kit, #Bilstein-PSS9 coilovers, Vorshlag polyurethane engine mounts, #Dinan front and rear strut braces, #BMW OEM X-brace, #Brembo GT BBK with 355x32mm two-piece discs and four-piston calipers (front) and 328x28mm two-piece discs and two-piston calipers (rear), #Hawk HPS brake pads (front and rear)

    EXTERIOR Alpine white, ZKW HID projector headlights, ECS tuning European front clear corners, side markers and rear lights, Max Velocity RS front lip, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, UUC three-way adjustable carbon fibre spoiler

    INTERIOR Custom wrapped European three-spoke steering wheel, MT shift boots Alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters, Rally Road steering column dual gauge pod, LeatherZ centre gauge pod, Turbosmart Eboost2 boost controller/gauge, #Zeitronix ZR-2 wideband AFR, ECA-2 ethanol content analyser, ZR-2 boost and ZR-2 fuel pressure gauges

    Hard-pipe-mounted Tial blow-off vlave.
    Turbo is hidden away, only the air filter is visible in the engine bay.
    Interior home to various gauges plus Alcantara gear and hand brake gaiters.
    Gorgeous 18” BBS LMs and #Brembo-BBK .
    Up front, HID projector headlights with angel eyes.
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    Razzle Dazzle Wild, wide-body, air-ride E36 M3. Beneath the jarring geometric shapes and black-and-white lines, there’s a pretty astonishing M3 hiding in here. And the deeper you dig into its story, the more mystery and intrigue you unearth… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Brian McGee.

    The Zebra M3’. That’s a name a lot of people seem to throw at this car. But have you ever seen a zebra with stripes like this? That’d be one funky-looking equid. No, the style you’re seeing here is a retro mind-melter known as ‘dazzle camouflage’. We know what you’re thinking – camouflage is meant to blend you into the background, right? Like the traditional greens and browns of army gear, or the beige tones used for desert combat. But what can possibly be so jagged in black-and-white that you could morph with its style like this? Some sort of explosion in a print factory? No, the idea here is not simply to hide, but to hide in plain sight; to confuse and distort. Dazzle camo first appeared on ships in World War I, its deliberately interruptive patterns intended not to conceal the vessels, but to make it impossible to judge how big they were, how fast they were going, and how far away they were. And that’s why the offbeat camo works so well today on a wide-body Pandem E36 M3, and makes those three questions are easy to answer. How big is it? Very, thanks to those Rocket Bunny extensions. How fast is it going? Again, very – it’s an M3. How far away is it? Sweetheart, it’s totally in your face.

    The act of being totally in your face is all in a day’s work for Carl Taylor, of course. He, as some of you will be aware, is the driving force behind the Players shows as well as a marketing superhero for Air Lift, and what he doesn’t know about badass show-stopping rides could be comfortably felt-tipped on the back of a postage stamp. The germ of the idea that led to this car in fact appeared back before Wörthersee 2014, when Carl and Rotiform’s Brian Henderson built a pair of E36 Art Cars with Rocket Bunny kits; a 323i and a 325i. “I loved driving that car, and I decided I needed to build another one once I moved to the States… but this time with more power,” he recalls. “So I bought an M3. I found it locally after I moved to California – it was in pretty good condition, the paint was sunburnt but that didn’t matter as I was planning to wrap it anyway,” he says.

    Now, you don’t get to be the figurehead of an industry powerhouse like Players without having a few ideas buzzing around the ol’ brainbox – here’s a man who, after all, can count around fifty cars in his personal history with every single one of them being modified in some way or another – so of course he had a plan for the car. Its fate was written in the stars before he’d even hauled it back to his sun-drenched new home. “I’d broken up the Wörthersee car and saved some parts from that,” he explains. And before the scene knew just what had hit it, Carl was delivering a sucker punch at SEMA 2014 with a fresh, super-wide new build. It wore a minty green Tic-Tac race livery, chosen to emulate the Team Valier E30 M3 that used to race in the DTM, but caricaturised to be broader, fatter, meaner, scarier. The E36’s stock arches were unceremoniously savaged to allow the fitment of a full Sarto Racing kit, with non-M bumpers swapped on to flow more cleanly with the new lines. A set of colossal Rotiform ROCs filled the arches, resplendent in satin gold, and – inevitably, given Carl’s line of work – a top-of-the-range Air Lift setup found its way in. It had a full-on race car look inside; Cobra bucket seats, a rollcage, not a lot else. The effect was pleasingly startling, Carl’s decades-old coupé with its relatively short (but nevertheless superbly well-chosen) spec list more than holding its own against the show’s multi-million dollar builds. What’s key with projects like this, you see, is being relatable as well as aspirational. When you make something as awesome as the Tic-Tac E36, you can shift a lot of wheels, and air-ride kits, and seats, and bodykits, and… well, you know how the game’s played.

    The game, naturally, never stops. Not for a second. So it was imperative for Carl to shake up the formula right away; the car would be returning to SEMA the following year, and it had to be rocking some significant changes. You can’t stand up on a Broadway stage and sing the same song twice. The next thing we knew, the broadhipped M3 was wearing a fresh Art Carinspired wrap, emulating that Wörthersee road trip that kicked the whole process off, along with a Rocket Bunny Pandem kit, a jarring set of Rotiform USF wheels (a sort of double-three-spoke affair, very retro JDM) and a raft of detail changes. The scene was set for the car to once again break necks and steal hearts at the world’s largest aftermarket tuning show.

    Except that, as is his wont, Carl changed his mind at the eleventh hour. “Six weeks before SEMA 2015, I decided to change it a bit,” he says, dabbling masterfully in understatement. Indeed, you’ve probably spotted the car’s not dolled up like an oldschool Art Car in these photographs; no, we’re back at the dazzle camouflage motif we opened with. And there’s also a V2 Pandem kit thrown into the mix. This isn’t so much hiding in plain sight as just running up to people in the street and smacking them across the chops with an embroidered leather glove. If you want a fight, sure, this angry M3 is definitely spoiling for a rumble. “Being a sales manager for Air Lift Performance, I had to equip the car with the latest 3H system with Performance struts,” Carl reasons, “and we had Because Bags create a custom rollcage install for it too.”

    This really is a sight to behold, the way the tanks and hardlines caress the cage like one of those terrifying metal spiders in The Matrix. It’s details like this that steal the SEMA headlines. “I only ever run Rotiform too,” he grins. “The design was left down to Brian Henderson, however I did choose the Corky Pink finish myself to add some colour to the car.” Yep, you certainly can’t argue with the logic of that. Those flashy fourspokes do stand out, don’t they?

    “We’d just decided that we really needed to make a change if we were going to return to SEMA with the same car,” Carl shrugs. “We had the race car interior theme reworked with some custom Cobra Suzuka Pro seats, and the wheels came out perfectly, the finish is amazing – I think they’re my favourite part of the car. The rebuild took Vaderwerks around two weeks to finish up, with the kit install and then wrapping it and setting the air up with the new wheels. Everything worked out perfect.”


    Now, it’s probably time to address the elephant in the room. SEMA 2015 was a little while ago… so why are we featuring the car now, in 2017? Well, this ‘zebra’ evolution was only one step of many along this everevolving car’s path. Things have happened between then and now. Important things. “The car was sold before we were even back from SEMA,” Carl admits. “Someone heard about the project and made an offer, so it was time for something else. I regret selling this car, to be honest, as after all the work it looked the best ever.”

    But he needn’t be sad, as the car’s latest curator isn’t one to rest on his laurels or let the grass grow. Dylan Coleman is the name to watch – you may know him as @hawaiianeze on Instagram – and he’s a man with more than a few plans. Dylan’s set up a pretty astonishing business in Hollywood, you see: he and his father, Lee, are the brains behind StreetFighter LA, and they’ve been working with the fabled Long Tran at LTMW to kick out some pretty mould-breaking builds. “I was looking for another project to start after we parted with our #ProjectHulk Liberty Walk Challenger,” he explains. “I’d come from a BMW background, and the E36 M3 has always been one of my favourite models. While looking around for potential cars, our friends at Rotiform Wheels contacted us and just so happened to know someone who was looking to sell…”

    Yes, Sherlock, that person was Carl. So Dylan was cruising around LA in one of the world’s best-known BMW builds. That must have felt pretty good? “Well, yes and no,” he says. “We brought the car back to Los Angeles after SEMA, where I started to use it as a daily driver while we were finishing up some other projects. But although the car was a great build that caught the attention of everyone on the road, I never truly felt the connection like I did with my past projects; with high mileage and a stock engine it was time to look to start rebuilding or swapping the engine…”

    But that, friends, is another story for another day. You’ll just have to keep an eye on your favourite BMW modifying magazine for the next chapter. For now, however, let’s leave Dylan basking in the glory of Carl’s achievements, sprinkling on some of his own unique blend of magic, and formulating his plan of attack to take this iconic build to the next level. Hiding in plain sight? Boy, it sure is dazzling.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Wide-body #Air-ride #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3 / #BMW / #BMW-M3-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36 / #Rotiform / #Air-Lift-Performance / #Air-Lift / #BMW / #BMW-M3-Wide-Body / #BMW-M3-Wide-Body-E36 / #BMW-E36-Wide-Body / #BMW-E36-Art-Car / #BMW-Art-Car / #BMW

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION Stock #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 3.2-litre straight six, full #Magnaflow stainless steel exhaust system, #K&N induction. Five-speed manual gearbox, welded diff

    CHASSIS 17” #Rotiform-RBQ wheels in Corky Pink with 235/45 (front) and 255/40 (rear) Toyo R888 tyres, full #Air-Lift-Performance-3H airride System

    EXTERIOR #Rocke-Bunny-Pandem-V2 wide-body kit with #Downstar fixings, custom-designed 3M wrap by JD Wraps installed by #Vaderwerks , #AC-Schnitzer mirrors

    INTERIOR #Renown steering wheel, custom Cobr a Suzuka Pro seats, #Wiechers roll cage, custom Because Bags roll cage-mounted #Air-Lift install

    THANKS Gino the Master Sepe at Vaderwerks, Brian, Jason and the Rotiform team, Mark and Adam at Cobra Seats, James and Ken at Because Bags, Corey and all my Air Lift Colleagues, Russ and Erik at JD Wraps, Paul Kitch at 3M, Stan at Toyo Tires, 714 Tires, LTMW, Magnaflow, and Renown

    “I had to equip the car with the latest 3H system with Performance struts”

    “The wheels came out perfectly, the finish is amazing - I think they’re my favourite part of the car”
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    This E36 M3 R is one of the rarest of the rare, but that didn’t stop one owner beefing it up to be a full-on track terror. Words and photos: Chris Nicholls.

    FULL-ON BMW-E36 / BMW-M3 R Hardcore Australian special

    GYM JUNKIE UNICORN Ultra-rare E36 M3 R from Oz

    Just 12 E36 M3 Rs were made available to the public back in the mid ’90s by #BMW Australia. Built, as some of you may know, to be the ultimate non-GTR E36, the cars were basically Group N racers for the road. They came with full Motorsport Group N suspension, a tweaked engine putting out 325hp (more than any E36 M3 other than the GTR), AP Racing four-piston brakes all-round, the full M3 GT bodykit, plus Super Tourer wing and extendable splitter, and almost all creature comforts, such as rear seats, air-conditioning and fog lights, removed. Developed by the legendary Paul Rosche, then M GmbH’s head of motorsport, and team members from the famous Australian Frank Gardner’s outfit, including Ralph Bellamy - former F1 engineer and one of the men responsible for inventing ground effects at Lotus - the M3 R remains to this day arguably the greatest E36 variant you can actually buy, albeit one that required a racing license when purchasing it new and one that is, unsurprisingly, also climbing in value today.

    Which makes it all the more bizarre that this M3 R’s previous owner, Alan Palser, decided to tune it so much there’s basically nothing left of the original car bar the little silver build plate on the centre console. To whit, there’s the DTM Fiber Werkz widebody kit, JRZ dampers with Eibach springs, Turner front and SM Motorsport custom rear anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom control arms, Alcon monobloc front and AP Racing rear calipers and two-piece slotted discs, AP racing twin-plate clutch, boot-mounted Speed Master fuel cell with Bosch 044 pump and swirl pot and a range of engine mods, including a very sexy CSL-style carbon airbox, which bring the power up to around 370rwhp. In a car running Hankook slicks on its 11x18” Apex EC-7 wheels, and weighing only 1220kg thanks to being completely stripped and caged, that makes this is one rapid racer indeed. But one that isn’t really much of an M3 R anymore.

    So why did Alan do it? Well, there were two main reasons. The first is an all-too familiar story. Having fallen in love with BMWs as a lad growing up in the Group A era, Alan decided he had to have one, and eventually managed to fund the purchase of his third-hand M3 R ten years ago when it had just 40,000km on the clock. However, as one does, he started to chat more and more to people in the club scene and eventually got talked into attending a few track days. And that’s when the bug bit, hard.

    “At the time I bought it, I would say the plan was to have it as a road car, but having started to talk to some people in car clubs, they said, ‘Oh, you should come down and join the club and have a go on the track on a club day’. Then once I’d done that a couple of times, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I think I’m going to enjoy this’. So I once I’d done a couple of those, I started orienting the E36 more towards that and less as a car to drive on the road.”

    And once Alan started, he found it hard to stop, spiralling down that route we all know of upgrading ever more bits and pieces. “Once I was on that path, it was easier to continue on it, rather than scrap it and go back to a start point again,” he says. Eventually, after entering a couple of tarmac rallies, Alan decided it was time to develop it fully and, having sent it off to BMW whiz Sam Markov at SM Motorsport in Wodonga on the Victoria/New South Wales state border, things just got even more extreme, eventually leading to a wilder state than it is in now (this engine is its second after the previous fully-built and E85-tuned beast blew prior to the sale to its current owner). As for the second reason, that was more to do with the used car market at the time. Although it might seem silly in today’s climate, despite its rarity, engineering pedigree and extremely finely-honed nature out of the box, the M3 R wasn’t actually all that valuable ten years ago. You could pick one up for less than AU$50,000 (around £25,000) and there wasn’t a sense that they would be a future collectible. Hence why Alan says “I didn’t feel like I was totally killing something that was worth a lot of money at the time.” Of course, thinking about it now, he agrees that were he to do it all again, he would have started with a basic 3 Series shell, but such is life.

    Eventually, having arrived at a development crossroads, Alan was unsure whether to replace the engine with an S85 V10 or the like, or sell it to fund something like a Z4 GT3. In the end he decided to part with it, which is where current owner and Avis franchise holder (hence the stickers) Les Sears comes into the picture. A Holden man for much of his time in motorsport, one drive of an E46 back when it was new changed his life forever and after that, Les became a devoted BMW fan, building up quite an impressive collection that currently includes a stock E36 M3, three E46 M3s (one road car, one complete racer and another in the build) and an F82 435i daily. Hence why, when he found out this car was up for sale about a year and a half ago, knowing how rare it was and how much effort had gone into it, he pounced on it.

    Of course there was still the matter of the blown engine to take care of before he could enjoy it at his local motorkhanas and track days, and given the previous highly-strung motor’s issues, and the fact the chassis set-up was good enough to ensure speed without huge power, Les decided to tone down the new power plant a little in order to keep it reliable. Thus, right now, it runs a completely stock 3.2-litre bottom end, and only the aforementioned carbon airbox with custom trumpets (on stock runners), K&N pod filter, ARP rod bolts, 296º Schrick cams, Vanos delete and Motec M600 ECU as mods. Despite this, thanks to Sam Markov’s nous (Les kept him on as the car’s mechanic, as unlike for Alan, Sam was local), the car puts down 367hp at the wheels, which as we said is still plenty in a circa-1200kg car, and easily enough to keep Les at the top of the time sheets at whatever event he enters. “Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car. It’s very, very well balanced, and it doesn’t do it with horsepower, it does it with cornering speed,” he says.

    Despite its pace and the fact it’s no longer much of an M3 R though, Les has no desire to risk such a rare car (even in its current state) in actual racing, saying “I’m a little reluctant [to race it]. I don’t mind doing the sprints in it, but once you get into a race meeting, I’d hate to damage it. I’ve got an E46 [an ex-Targa Tasmania machine, no less] which can take a bit of a hit and it’s easy to panel beat, but this thing with that body kit on it, it’s quite hard to start rebuilding that. I’ve got a new E46 being built as we speak too, and when that’s finished I’ll put this car up on blocks and leave it there and won’t race it at all”.

    Now, given he’s only had the car for less than two years, such a plan might sound impossibly sad, but it’s actually part of a grander scheme to leave it in as good a condition as he can for his son, who also races. Essentially, Les says that he’ll take the M3 R out every so often just to keep it running until his son takes it over, and continue racing in the new E46 once that’s built. “It’s a new shell that we’ve got in another shed with a new cage through it and I’ve bought all the parts for it. I’ve just got to assemble it, basically,” he says. “I’ll do that the same way - it’ll have a 3.2-litre in it, but the bottom end won’t be stressed out and we’ll just get it to breathe.”

    Hopefully both cars can see the use they deserve for many years to come, as although Les is now 69, he has no plans to stop racing anytime soon, and that’s the sort of thing we love to hear. If, however, he does eventually decide to give the game away, not only will he have his son to look after the cars, he’ll also still be able to enjoy them in other ways, saying that “I just get a kick of out of being in the shed and having a cup of coffee with the cars… And they’re not as noisy as the wife!”

    S50B32 straight-six has been fitted with #VAC Vanos delete kit, among many other mods, and now makes 367whp.

    Carbon blanking plates are most definitely at home in the stripped-out interior.

    “Everywhere you take it, if it doesn’t win, it’s always second or third. It’s a quick little car”

    DATA FILE / #BMW / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-M3-R / #Apex / #BMW-M3-R-E36 / #BMW-M3-E36 / #Motec-M600 / #Motec / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-M3 / #BMW-3-Series-M3-E36

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2 litre straight-six #S50B32 / #BMW-S50 / #S50 , #K&N pod filter, custom carbon airbox with OEM runners and custom trumpets, #Schrick 296º cams (inlet and exhaust), #VAC-Motorsports Vanos delete kit, #ARP rod bolts, #NGK spark plugs, #Bosch-440cc /min injectors, Bosch-044 fuel pump, custom swirl pot, #Speed-master fuel cell, Evosport underdrive pulley, Turner Motorsport solid engine mounts, SM Motorsport stepped headers, custom 2.5” stainless steel exhaust and silencer, #Motec-M600-ECU . Five-speed manual gearbox, #AP-Racing twin-plate 7.25” clutch, stock M3 R flywheel, #OS-Giken-LSD

    CHASSIS 11x18” ET25 (front and rear) #Apex-EC-7 wheels in Anthracite with 20mm spacers (front and rear) and 280/650 - 18 Hankook slicks (front and rear), #JRZ-RS dampers with #Eibach springs, #Turner-Motorsport (front) and SM Motorsport (rear) anti-roll bars, SM Motorsport custom front suspension arms to increase track by 100mm, #SM-Motorsport custom rear trailing arms, SM Motorsport custom bearings and rod-ends, Whiteline front strut bar, Alcon monobloc four-pot calipers with 355x32mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS1.11 pads (front), AP Racing four-pot calipers with 330x28mm two-piece slotted rotors and Ferodo DS2500 pads (rear), AP Racing fluid, SM Motorsport custom braided lines and custom pedal box

    EXTERIOR DTM Fiber Werkz wide-body kit (customised by SM Motorsport), custom Topstage Composites front bumper and carbon splitter, #APR-Performance rear wing

    INTERIOR Brown Davis roll-cage, short-shift kit, RPM SL S/W Comfort suede steering wheel with quick-release hub, Velo Apex-XL seat, Sparco harnesses, carbon blanking plates for centre console and gauge pod, Racepak display
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