One of the more common engine swaps among E36 M3s (as well as basically everything) is the Chevy LS-swap. The Chevy LS V8 is only of the most commonly used engines for swapping because it will fit in almost anything, is easy to work on, affordable to buy and makes a ton of power. So stuffing the monster 5.7 lite LS1 V8 in the E36 M3 is a helluva power upgrade, especially for a North American M3. In this video, we get to see such a car drag race an equally powerful Hemi-powered Jeep Wrangler.
The E36 M3 in this video uses the aforementioned naturally-aspirated LS1 V8 engine to make a hefty 420 horsepower, up from the 286-ish horsepower of the standard car. That pairs to a Tremec T56 six-speed manual transmission and powers just the rear wheels. It also only weighs 3,200 lbs, so it’s seriously quick.
Opposite the E36 M3 at the starting grid was a Jeep Wrangler with a 6.1 liter Hemi V8, also with 420 horsepower. Except it gets an automatic transmission, four-wheel drive and a curb weight almost double the M3’s. So which is faster at the strip?
It’s quite obvious which car is faster — the E36. With a monster V8 and very little weight to worry about, it’s an absolute drag-strip weapon. Sure, the driver missed a shift here and there and the car had some trouble with traction but once it hooked up, it was dominant. That’s not surprising, given the Jeep’s far inferior power-to-weight ratio but it’s still cool to see. It also makes us kind of want an LS-swapped E36 M3, as it seems like a lot of fun.
While a free-breathing BMW straight-six is an absolute thing of beauty, and is more characterful than an LS1 V8, sometimes there’s just no replacement for displacement.