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The BMW E36 3 Series has become one of the more desirable BMW models for drivers and enthusiasts in recent years. Launched as the replacement for the E30 3 Series in 1990, the E36 was a success from the beginning. While maintaining the tradition of four or six cylinder engines in front of the driver, and cars available in coupe, sedan, convertible, and wagon configurations, the E36 also brought BMW’s visual styling into the modern age while still having a distinct BMW look. It featured updated aerodynamics, a multi-link rear suspension and was ranked highly by the motoring press during its production run.
The E36 also continued BMWs tradition of success in motorsports that dates to the 328 of the 1930s. The BMW E36 M3 was available in two and four-door body styles, and the ultra-rare BMW M3 Lightweight is one of the most coveted BMW collector cars out there. The E36 platform was successful at the biggest Sports Car and GT races around the world. A GT win at the 24 Hours of Daytona, overall wins at the Nürburgring and Spa 24 Hours, a win at the Bathurst 1000, and multiple Touring Car Championships put the E36 in elite company few others can match.
In the past few years, the E36 has been trending upwards and has become one of the most popular models to modify. There are several reasons for this. For two decades, the E36 has been a used car, making them much more affordable than current 3 and 4 Series models. They have a fantastic motorsport history, so the E36 platform has tons of potential as a race car. And probably the most important reason they are so popular to modify is the fact that they are relatively easy to work on for E36 owners. The 2000s marked the beginning of the age of electronics, with modules and electronic gadgets that often require dealer-level software to repair, making the E36 one of the last analog BMWs. A knowledgeable BMW enthusiast with the right tools can perform most repairs and modifications on an E36 chassis in their garage or driveway.
While almost every part on an E36 can be upgraded, listed below are some of the coolest and most popular modifications out there.
BMW has produced some of the safest cars on the road, but for serious track use, a safer seat is aways suggested. This upgrade is popular because seat choice can be based on a driver’s personal taste, and nothing is cooler than the classic M-Rain pattern found on OMP’s M-Rain racing seats. The Classic BMW Motorsport colors are instantly recognizable to any enthusiast, and while these seats can be used in other models, they fit perfectly with the E36’s 90s aesthetic and will look equally as good at car shows featuring 90s’ icons as it will on track at Sebring or Road Atlanta.
The most important thing to take into consideration when modifying a car is Safety, and OMP has been producing some of the best FIA Approved racing safety equipment since 1973. You can’t go wrong with a modification that is a style and safety upgrade. The best-selling OMP M-Rain seats and mounting brackets for the street and track are available at Condor Speed Shop.
The E36 continued the 3 Series tradition of being a proper driver’s car, and since most cars that see track use feature a manual transmission, the cars shift lever plays a significant role in the driving experience. An upgraded shift knob is one of the best BMW parts out there because it is one of the few moving components that physically connects the driver to the car. Different knobs are available to suit various driving styles. Shift knobs see a lot of wear and tear, and if your E36 still has its original shift knob, it is probably in bad shape. If it does have an aftermarket shift knob, it might not be one that suits you as a driver.
Condor Speed Shop offers tall and short weighted shift knobs that are made from the best material, act as a counterweight for cleaner shifting, and look great. These are brand new parts that look like the classic shifts knobs found in BMWs of the previous decades. There are many choices for the knob’s cap so that one can be chosen that reflects your personal taste. Check out the popular shifters in our online store.
A weighted shift knob by itself is a great functional performance upgrade but upgrading your car's shift and e-brake boots with Condor Speed Shop’s M-Rain pattern boots is one of the more stylish interior modifications out there. BMW Motorsport’s now-famous M colors first arrived in the early 1970s and have become ingrained as a part of BMW’s performance history. The M-Rain pattern featuring the M colors first appeared in the 90s, adding a great visual element for an E36. The shift and e-brake boots available on Condor Speed Shop’s website are hand-stitched locally to ensure a top-quality product. M-Rain shift and e-brake boots are easy to install, bring a dash of style to any track car, and look badass on any streetcar.
Being able to control the front wheels and direction of a car is one of the most critical aspects of driving. An OEM BMW E36 steering shaft that links the steering wheel to the steering rack contains rubber components that provide comfortable and adequate responsiveness. These rubber components will wear out over time, so many E36 race car owners upgrade to a steering shaft conversion kit.
Condor Speed Shop offers a kit that replaces the rubber couplings with CNC machined U-joints with heavy-duty bearings and a stainless-steel shaft that eliminates any slack that rubber components allow. This is a must-have for any car that will see track time where split-second decisions must be made and car control is key. The best steering shaft conversion kits on the market for an E36 can be found at Condor Speed Shop.
Engine and transmission mounts are among the most popular upgrades available for the BMW E36. Factory rubber mounts help provide a smooth ride, but they will break down over time or even fail completely and need to be replaced. A cool and common upgrade is to install polyurethane mounts instead of stock rubber mounts.
Polyurethane will not break down and fail like rubber, but it will still provide a higher comfort level than mounts made of other materials or solid mounts. Mounts made from this material are 30% stiffer than a stock BMW mount. This makes them perfect for E36 daily drivers and street cars that see spirited driving. These parts are easy to install, and Condor Speed Shop’s VIP Line offers high-quality polyurethane engine and transmission mounts for M44, M5X and S5X powered E36 models as a kit.
A BMW E36 is a car that looks great sitting at stock ride height, but they look and drive amazing when they have been lowered, so it's no surprise that a KW, or AST coilover suspension kit can be one of the best modifications that an E36 owner can make. These cars came from the factory with shock absorbers that were comfortable while still providing an authentic GT car feel, but they were not adjustable, so swapping over to a coilover suspension provides you with the opportunity to increase your car’s handling while also selecting the ride height that is perfect for you.
It is nearly impossible to achieve a balanced ride height by cutting your car's stock springs, and many lowering and suspension upgrade kits that are found on the fringes of the internet are cheaply made, and both options can pose a safety risk. Both KW and AST have been in business for decades, and their suspension kits offer the best way possible to lower your car, decrease body roll & improve handling. Condor Speed Shop offers different levels of coilover kits for everything from street cars to all-out race cars. If you want to have one of the fastest E36’s around, check out the different levels of coilover suspensions in our online store.
Probably the most noticeable performance modification available for the E36 (and most other popular BMW Models) is upgraded rear subframe and differential bushings. From the factory, the E36 came with rubber-based bushings, which are subject to intense wear and tear and will eventually have to be replaced. Upgraded bushings are a must-have for any car that will see track time, and they are a popular performance mod for any streetcar that needs a suspension refresh.
The best bushings available are manufactured from high-quality UHMW (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) material that will not wear out like conventional rubber parts. These bushings are all available separately, but Condor Speed Shop offers them as part of a parts combo, which will save you money (which is always cool!) and gives you the chance to replace multiple worn parts at the same time. You can find the best UHMW subframe and differential bushings at Condor.
If you are the owner of an E36 3 Series BMW, congratulations, you already have one of the coolest cars on the road! If you want to make it a little bit cooler, check out all the BMW E36 performance parts available Condor Speed Shop. Install them yourself or have these best mods installed by your favorite independent BMW repair shop and get ready to wow the crowds at a local car show and have one of the fastest cars at the track!