It’s quite hard to find completely stock, unmolested examples of the BMW E36 M3. Being that they’ve always been quite cheap (even though prices are inflating as of late), young enthusiasts and tuners alike have been able to get their hands on them and do all sorts of crazy things. I’ve seen countless LS1 V8 swaps, E36 M3s turned into drift cars and numerous other silly things. What I’ve almost never seen is a completely bone stock E36 M3. However, Matt Farah gets to drive one on this new episode of The Smoking Tire.
Not only is this example almost completely stock, it has very low miles for being a ’97 model year. Only 92,000 miles are on this car, which is incredibly low for a 19 year old car. It’s also in superb mechanical condition, with everything working as it should. The only minor issue is the radio display screen stopped working. It also looks great. The E36 M3 doesn’t get enough love for its boxy, ’90s-cool looks. I’m also a sucker for those soccer-ball M3 wheels, as I had those myself for many years.
One thing I can really appreciate about this E36 M3 owner is that he didn’t change the exhaust. He claims he likes intake noise more than exhaust noise and on old-school Bimmers he’s right. Instead of putting on a boomy exhaust, it’s so much better to just listen to the engine work and appreciate its pure sound. In old-school BMWs with free-breathing I6 engines, you can actually hear them breathe, listen to the intake and the sound of the engine actually working. For BMW nerds like me, this is nirvana. Farah even comments on how good it sounds, which is surprising because he’s used to the extreme noises of exotic supercars and highly tuned sports cars.
Farah is impressed with how tight the E36 M3 feels, likely attributed to the low mileage. E36 M3s tend to feel a bit floppy after a long time, as subframe bushings start to rot and wear away. This can be remedied with new bushings of course, but it’s nice to feel the original tightness of the car. He also notes how it’s fun to drive and is a bit of a momentum car, meaning it can carry good speed through corners and needs to due to its lack of power.
He even appreciates the engine, despite it being the neutered 240 hp US-spec version. He notes how smooth the I6 engine is and how nicely it puts power down. It is hard to beat old-school BMW I6s for silky smooth power delivery.
Overall, it seems Farah liked the stock E36 M3 which is impressive given that he sees such extreme cars all of the time. I know I can certainly appreciate the charms of a bone-stock E36 M3, so it’s nice to see that others can, too.