A detailed look back at the lightweight E36 BMW M3

A detailed look back at the lightweight E36 BMW M3

In 2020, the low-mileage M3 Lightweight fetched $385,000 at a Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction. It wasn’t the bank-breaking price just because the example was part of a 19-vehicle set from the late Paul Walker collection. The market has seen the price of classic M cars break the proverbial ceiling and touch the six-digit threshold.

With only 126 models from the factory, the BMW M3 Lightweight (LWT) from E36 . generation It is one of the rarest M cars ever built, even rarer than its super-exclusive counterpart on the Old Continent with only 356 copies. BMW LWT offered as the North American version of European M3 GT. The GT was the final version of the E36 3-Series, all leaving the factory in British Racing Green.

The “LWT” in the M3 name is not only for decorative purposes. This name was earned by the significant omission of important ergonomic features such as air conditioning, radio and sunroof, which made the car weigh less than 1,350 kg. BMW also got rid of the alarm system, replacing the standard M3 carpet with a thinner one, using cloth upholstery for the seats, and installing aluminum (instead of steel) doors. It was about 225 pounds lighter than the regular M3, which is a must-have for BMW M collectors.

Related: 8 reasons we love the E36 BMW M3 (2 reasons not to buy one

E36 BMW M3 Lightweight Car Wallpaper

Mr.choppers via Wikimedia

The offending S50 B30 engine means that BMW has no plans to introduce the flagship 3-Series sedan to the North American market. US emissions laws wouldn’t allow it, so Bimmer introduced a watered-down version at the 1994 Los Angeles Auto Show, nearly two years after the M3 was launched at the 1992 Paris Auto Show.

In 1992, BMW Motorsport raced with a wide and badly spoiled bow M3 GT in German ADAC GT ChampionshipShe won six of the eight rounds led by Johnny Sekoto. GTR also appeared and took 4th place in the Milhas Brasileiras in 1994. This US-focused version of the S50 B30 features a cylinder head very similar to the standard E36 M50.

It had an rated power and torque of 240 hp at 6000 rpm and 225 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm. Meanwhile, the European S50 B30 engine produced 286 bhp at 7000 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque at 3600 rpm. Lightened M3s arrived in the U.S. loaded with standard features, including metallic paint, leather, driver and passenger airbags, air conditioning, third brake light, ten-speaker stereo, and an economy gauge in place of the regular M3 oil temperature reading.

Following its M3 GTR racing exploits, Bimmer has set its sights on the IMSA GTS-2 class in North America, contracting with Virginia-based Tom Milner’s Prototype Technology Group to manage the campaign. So, BMW GmbH introduced the IMSA-compliant M3 GTR, a road-legal left-hand drive called the E36 M3 GT. She made some forays into the 1995 IMSA season but it wasn’t a match for her Porsche 911 Carrera RSR And the Mazda RX-7.

This was before the wide-arch GTR stunned the 1996 and 1998 campaign seasons. US racing teams pressured BMW to get a homologation version to compete in sports car racing, which led to the 1995 introduction of the track-focused machine called the M3 Lightweight. We note that although the radio was omitted, BMW left the speakers and wires behind.

E36 BMW M3 lightweight body and bodywork


Instead of the softer US spring and damper rates, the M3 LWT used Euro M3 Coupe settings with Bimmer forged Double M Spoke wheels measuring 7.5 x 17 inches up front and up to 8.5 x 17 inches in the rear. As the M3, LWT was based on the E36 Coupe. The suspension system consists of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link Z axle at the rear. I used 315 and 313mm ventilated brake discs front and rear with retuned ABS and a larger brake master cylinder.

Other distinguishing features of the M3 LWT include a 30mm reduction in ride height, thicker anti-roll bars and rear wheel bearings borrowed from the 850i, progressive-rate springs and stiffer dampers, modified track arms, reinforced spring mounting points, and the front axle.

It also included a standard rear spoiler (featuring a third brake light) and borrowed the GT’s satin black adjustable front splitter to improve downforce. Similar to the M3 GT available only in British race green, the M3 Lightweight had only one color scheme – Alpine White with Motorsport graphics across the left and right rear corners. A 62-liter E36 fuel tank was hidden under the rear seats.

Related: Why every gear head should drive a BMW M3 E36

E36 BMW M3 Lightweight Interior

1995 BMW M3 Lightweight
via Barrett Jackson

As mentioned earlier, the defining feature of the E36 BMW M3 is the omission of some important amenities. However, not everything was missing – for example – electric windows. Inside, the very basic cockpit has seen the bulk of the interior revisions, with a blur panel where the stereo would have been.

The M3’s high-back Vader seats give way to the manually adjustable sport seats wrapped in hurricane anthracite “fabric”. There is no sunroof either. Getting rid of more than 200 pounds of weight might not seem like a lot until you consider that the E36 M3 Coupe was actually lighter and lighter than its predecessors. In fact, M3s are becoming increasingly heavier after the current E36 generation, ergo, M3 Competition xDrive which clocked 3,990 lbs. in US specs.

E36 BMW M3 lightweight and performance engine

1995 - BMW - M3 - Lightweight

The US-focused lightweight E36 M3 lags behind its European GT counterpart due to the weaker M50B25 engine borrowed from the less exotic engine 325 i, while the euro-focused GT carries the more powerful S50B30 engine making 295 horsepower and 238 pound-feet of torque. The lightweight M3 made 243 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. The 86 and 85.5 mm bore and stroke resulted in a displacement of 2,990 cc, with power being supplied to the wheels via a soon-to-be ZF 5-speed transmission with a Sachs single-plate clutch and limited-slip differential.

Of course BMW ditched the speed limiter and a shorter differential ratio of 3.23:1 compared to the normal 3.15. The cylinder head was not complicated. The M50B25 features a 24-valve DOHC straight-six camshaft with a cast iron block and a light alloy head. In short, the title of “Ender E36 BMW M3” goes to a one-time Compact Prototype M3but the real honor goes to both the European-focused GT and the US-focused lightweight.

#detailed #lightweight #E36 #BMW

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.