The Compact models in the BMW range were considered odd birds back in the day. The first one ever made was the BMW E36 3 Series Compact, a car that was meant to be ever sportier than the 3 Series Coupe by means of weight reduction and by using a shorter wheelbase. That’s how the Compact versions earned the ‘Pocket Rocket’ nickname back in the day, a nickname that still rings true to this day.
The approach was rather simple: cutting the rear end short makes the car smaller and therefore lighter and faster. With a weight of around 1,300 kilos, the E36 Compact was definitely light and had plenty of power in most cases to handle everything thrown at it. The rear axle was borrowed from the E30 3 Series, so it wasn’t the same as on the ‘regular’ E36 models, but it’s not like anyone ever complained about the E30 rear axle before, right?
Another reason why the Compact models were made was to offer customers a cheaper car to begin with. The 3 Series Compact was the cheapest BMW you could buy back then and that was also due to the fact that a lot of E30 components were used in its making. That included interior bits as well, not just the rear axle assembly. However, BMW also pondered making an M3 version of the Compact E36 and they actually created a prototype which we can check out in the video below.
It had the second-generation of the S50 engine, with over 320 HP under the hood and an incredibly nice interior as well, adorned with Alcantara and featuring two lightweight bucket seats. On the outside, the front fascia had an M3-style bumper, while round the back you couldn’t miss the car’s four tailpipes. It would’ve been such a crazy project if the higher-ups agreed to put it in production!