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E36 Rebuild, Part 1 | MW3 Motorsports
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E36 Rebuild, Part 1

If you’ve been keeping an eye on MW3 the past year or so, you know we’re coming up on the anniversary of an event that retired one of our chassis’ from the stable… the 1995 E36 M3 with the Z3 M roadster engine. We’re up and running again this year, but it wasn’t without some hard work, sweat… yes, even a few tears. We thought we’d share the journey with you over the next few weeks so you can get a flavor of what it takes to get a car from 0 to 130mph and ready for NASA Time Trials in less than six months. All the while continuing to excel at the day job!

It took him a while to commit, but he finally decided to start over. Good ole CraigsList searching uncovered a fabulous 325is car that was looking for a new home.  After some negotiation (whereby MW3 scored the deal of the century!), the seller accepted the offer and Jeff began the track rebuild.

And so the challenges began.  You may have heard that between 1992-96 the E36 chassis was unchanged.  Turns out this statement is close… but not completely accurate. It is different in a few, key ways.  Because we want to provide you with the shortcuts so you can go about this sport and save money, here are a few key items to keep in mind should you decide to undertake a similar project:

1. A non-M chassis does not have x-brace holes pre-drilled. This is an easy fix from Turner Motor Sports (TMS) or your local home depot for 5 bucks.

2. There aren’t reinforcement plates anywhere in the car. Anywhere. To amend this, you’ll need to buy the Rear control arm reinforcement kit, Sub frame kit (all 4 mounting points and the sub-frame reinforcement), along with the front cross member reinforcement kit.  All of this can be found on TMS’ site and is relatively inexpensive for the gain. We’ll share the installation process with you in a moment.

3. The last item is one that caught everyone off guard. The 325is drive line is not the same length, size, or mounting configuration as the E36 M3. Again, we’ll get to why this was such a PITA shortly…

Installation of the reinforcement plates

This process reads as if it’s relatively simple. High level directions were as follows: Take out rear end, weld in plates, reinstall rear end. Easy breezy, right? Well, sort of.

You’ll also need to remove the cat-back portion of the exhaust. After that, you’ll have to take out the shocks from the top tower. Then uninstall the brake lines (BTW: a perfect time to replace with SS braided) including the emergency cable. And doing that means you’ll need to take out the heat shield so you can disconnect the E-brake clips that holds the cable. Finally, release the final 16 bolts and voila, the rear end is ready to drop out of the car. The guys completed this task (including the front reinforcement kit) over one weekend.  If your buddy tells you he can have it done in 4 hours, he’s lying to you.  There were two competent do-it-yourselfers, they had all the right tools. Two air guns were zipping the better part of Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday morning. Take your time on this and plan for a long weekend or many nights if you’re going at it alone. Oh and by the way, the entire rear end, including the diff and drive axles can come out all together.

How hard is this? All in all, if you know how to weld and use air tools, Jeff rates this 5-6 out of ten in terms of difficulty.

Drive Line Woes

During the rebuild Jeff decided to replace the entire drive train (Motor, Transmission, & Differential) since we had all the M3 parts and figured they could be swapped, no problem.  Jeff chose to go this route because the M3 parts (bearings, joints, bushings, mounts etc) were new. He thought doing a full swap would allow him to get back on the track and finish the 2010 season. To do so, he planned to use the 325is motor and transmission and mount them to the new rear end that was installed after the reinforcement kits were welded in.


This DOES NOT work.  The 325is transmission mount (connects to the guibo disk) is .5” smaller in diameter than the M3 mount/guibo disk. In addition, the drive line from the 325is is a 4-bolt to the rear end while the M3 is a 6-bolt.  After several attempts to make it work, he resigned himself to knowing he couldn’t use the 325is drive line. Nor could he use the M3 drive line because the 325is transmission mount was different… and the carrier bearing mounts are in a different location (mentioned later).  The only option left was to use the 325is diff, but that was dead. Of course!

Many of you will not have an M3 to swap parts onto another E36-type chassis to get to the track…So the point to #3 is this:   If you are doing a motor swap with a 1992 or 1993 chassis you’ll need to pay close attention to rear end and drive line. And depending on the motor, you may need to go with a different transmission too.

Stay tuned for more exciting info regarding this project…


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