1996 BMW E36 M3 Evo Coupe

In early 2005, I waved goodbye to my M3 Saloon, and was in the market for another car. After much research, I concluded that for the money I simply couldn’t do any better, and so bought another M3!

While the saloon was a great car, I didn’t want a straight replacement, and therefore elected the refreshing change of an M coloured M3 coupe, with as many toys as I could find. This then 80,500 mile example was in excellent condition. Details:

  • 3201cc I6 engine: 321bhp, 258 lb/ft
  • 6 gears (manual)
  • LSD – RWD
  • Build date: June 1996
  • Registered: August 1996 (P reg)
  • Techno-violet metallic paint
  • M-tech silver grey leather interior

For reference, that interior looks like this:

I was very pleased with the options list:

  • Dual zone digital climate control
  • Electric tilt and slide sunroof
  • Electric, heated wing mirrors
  • Auto-dip rear view mirror
  • Electric windows (all four)
  • BMW ten speaker “Hi-fi upgrade”
  • Heated front seats
  • On board computer (OBC)
  • Front centre arm rest
  • Through load system
  • Driver and passenger air bags
  • Rear spoiler with integrated third brake lamp
  • Illuminated gear shifter

As can be seen, it arrived almost standard, the sole exception being an ACS roof spoiler fitted at the top of the rear screen. This looked quite smart, and had been well fitted, so I elected to keep it.

Two days after I acquired the car, I took it up to see Andy Eccles. Andy kindly changed the rear trailing arm bushes, while I fannied around changing the VANOS filter.

The next weekend, I fitted a DAB MMC Blaupunkt head unit. It’s great to be able to store music on MMC cards as they don’t skip like MP3 CDs. This headunit works really well with the factory “Hi-Fi” option; I’m very pleased with the sound compared with normal factory systems.

A month later, I had the clutch replaced along with the gear linkages. Always worth changing those linkages – really tightens up the gear shift making the action feel like new.

Soon after I fitted the xenon headlamps that I had fashioned from an E46 kit. Nice bright true white light again makes the car look newer, and greatly improves visibility in the dark. NB – Thanks must go to Andy Eccles for seeding the idea, and to Tom Titler for supplying a spare ballast when one of my originals got bust when the old car was written off.

I then turned my attention to the brakes – a regular moan of mine with respect to M3s (expect news on this in the next couple of months!). While the discs and pads looked quite new, I decided to flush and change the fluid to DOT5.1 and fit braided hoses (Goodridge). In this process I noticed some of the fixed pipework at the rear of the car was corroded, so I replaced some of this. Thanks to Ian Haynes and Ste Nelson for their help with pipe flaring.

Disaster next – the VANOS bolts snapped. My article here explains more in depth, but needless to say I replaced a few bolts!

As summer approached I decided to sort the A/C – again helped by Ian Haynes, I sourced parts from AirCon Medic and replaced the condenser and receiver-dryer myself. On a jaunt to Cornwall I swung by a garage in Dartmoor recommended by Andy Eccles, and got the system tested and charged. Since then, it’s blown ice cold!

An inspection II followed. It had been pointed out to me when the clutch was changed that the main sump drain point looked knackered, and some research into the car’s history revealed that the sump thread had been stripped. My mechanic took charge, and fitted a heli-coil kit, and again, this problem has been fine ever since.

I was then forced to return my attention to the brakes as they’d begun to judder. Following recommendation from a fellow forum member I swapped the front pads around, and during this process I discovered that the thread on one of the brake carriers was stripped. I was starting to notice the poor level of attention this car had received in the past. Luckily for it, I was determined to get it all right, so sourced and fitted a good condition second hand carrier. The brake judder went away, but not for long…

At the ‘ring (where the car otherwise performed excellently), the brakes became useless – *again*. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to take a spare set with me, and once changed, they largely survived the day, but smoked a lot and suffered a bit of fade and judder.

In the Eurotunnel on the way back I noticed the engine was leaking a little oil. Further investigation revealed that the sump gasket had gone, and yet again the previous owner’s mechanic had seen fit to attempt to patch it up with instant gasket rather than fix the problem properly. So, an engine brace and sump gasket were sourced, and duly fitted, along with a new reverse light switch.

Again, problem properly solved this time – many thanks to Alex Barden for his help.

As the car was almost due an oil service, I refilled the engine after the gasket change with some Halfords 5W/40 I had lying around. Afterwards I noticed the engine had got really noisy, and so soon after I invested in some Castrol RS 10W/60 and had the oil service performed, with the result that the engine (and VANOS) got much quieter.

In late autumn the car made a couple of trips to Curborough sprint circuit where it entertained as much as ever.

Around Christmas time I flirted with the idea of larger wheels.

Ultimately this proved to be a bad idea so the car is now back on its standard rims.

In early 2006 I set about smartening the car up. I replaced the worn driver’s seat belt and gear knob, and the rear shock top mounts.

While doing this I noticed that the axle carrier looked rusty, crusty and weak, especially around the join where the one on the saloon snapped.

As a temporary measure I got under there and wire brushed, and sanded all the rust off, and have applied some underseal. In the long term I’ve acquired another carrier which I intend getting blasted, strengthened and fitted with new bushes, but I’m sure I’ll post more about that when it happens.

The car passed its MOT without issues or warnings. I’m was really pleased with this car – the E36 doesn’t get much better than this! This car’s specification really did stand up against new cars. Including my hard wired Tom Tom installation, it had sat-nav, xenons, heated seats, 321hp, six gears, LSD, dual zone climate control, 4 electric windows and sunroof, 2 air bags, leather etc etc – an excellently equipped and really good fun car.

This car was traded in against a 330d Sport Touring in March 2006. The ‘for sale’ advert for this M3 can be found here.

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