Author Bio

Greg Hudock has contributed to numerous publications, including Bimmer, Excellence, Forza, and Upscale Living. Features he has done range from interviews with Formula 1 World Champions Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Kimi Raikkonen to articles on the BMW Art Car series.

He has an A.A.S. in Motorsports Technology from Luzerne County Community College, a B.S. in Business Administration from King's College (PA) and is a native of Pennsylvania. His daily car is a 1997 BMW 328is 5-speed.


Writing this book was a great experience. In the last year, I've met and communicated with many great people within BMW and the BMW community, driven some great E36s, and found the essence of what makes the 3-Series the tremendous success it is.

I would like to thank the staff at Brooklands Books, including but not limited to John Dowdeswell, Barbara Cleveland, and Jane Powell. John and Barbara made sure I had everything I needed and Jane did an excellent job of putting it all together. They were very supportive throughout the entire process of writing this book and were a delight to work with.

Thank you to BMW UK Corporate Communications Director Graham Biggs for allowing me to use BMW press and parts catalog photos. Thank you to Herbert Schnitzer for writing the foreword to this book. I would also like to thank David Mecey for his M3 track day photo, Manfred Eckweiler for his Baur TC4 photos, Diedrick Galestien of Orange Sports Photography for his portrait of Herbert Schnitzer and tuners Alpina, AC Schnitzer, and Hartge for their photo contributions. Also, thank you to Jay Baier and Will Turner at Turner Motorsport and Mike Hugh at Active Autowerke for their photo contributions as well.

The magazine editors, who have encouraged me from day one, including Cameron Evans, Pete Stout, Aaron Jenkins, Jackie Jouret, and Eric Gustafson, are the people who gave me the confidence to write and continue to pursue bigger and better things. They gave me great opportunities and I am determined to continue to be my best and never let them down.

To my family, including my parents, brother, and aunt: thank you for your support. I can still remember when I was 4 or 5 years old, being in my father's garage with my paternal grandfather, Joseph Hudock, looking at engines. My father and his father are the men who sparked my interests in cars and I am forever grateful for this.

I would also like to thank you, the reader. If you are reading this, the chances are very good that we share the same passion for sports cars and BMWs. Anyone with a true love of sports cars is a friend of mine. You are the reason this book was written. I did my absolute best to give you a core source of information on the E36 generation 3-Series. I hope this book finds a special place on your book shelf. And I wish you many years of enjoyment from your E36. They are great cars and tremendous fun.

Greg Hudock, 2012



BMW cars and racing are my two great passions. In both areas, the BMW E36 3-Series has played a special role in my life. This generation of the 3-Series was a real hit with AC Schnitzer tuning clients, not only because it represented a bold and successful design-jump, but also because of all its different body forms: a four-door, convertible, coupe, compact and a touring model.

We also used the E36 in numerous races and championships. We won the ADAC Super Touring Car Cup in 1995 with Joachim "Smokin' Jo" Winkelhock and in the same year, the Japanese Championship with Steve Soper. We also memorably won the German Super Touring Car Championship in 1998 with Johnny Cecotto.

These and many other successes certainly have contributed to the reputation of the E36 on roadways and racetracks around the world. Preserving and restoring the E36 generation 3-Series keeps alive a great chapter in both road going and motorsport history for BMW. I hope you enjoy reading.

Herbert Schnitzer, President of Schnitzer Motorsport




Introduction to the E36

Chapter 1: E36 - The Models

Chapter 2: Buying an E36

Chapter 3: Keeping Your E36 Alive!

Chapter 4: Body Restoration

Chapter 5: Suspension and Steering

Chapter 6: Brakes

Chapter 7: Transmissions

Chapter 8: Engine Types

Chapter 9: Cooling and Heating

Chapter 10: Fuel System

Chapter 11: Electrical System

Chapter 12: Interior Restoration

Chapter 13: Restoring Other Parts

Chapter 14: Modifying the E36

Chapter 15: E36 Facts & Figures

Useful Names and Addresses



Third Time's a Charm

The BMW 3-Series is a well-built, good looking, great handling, track day caliber car that you can comfortably drive every day. To me, that is the essence of what makes the 3-Series outstanding and what makes the E36 the star it is. It is a car that is at home on a race track, yet also sensible enough to take on a road trip anywhere without any worries.


Joachim Winkelhock won the 1993 British Touring Car Championship with an E36.

The E36 marked the third generation BMW 3-Series. With increased interior space, more aerodynamic styling, a more sophisticated rear suspension, and more powerful engines, the E36 improved upon the few gripes customers had with the hugely popular second generation E30 3-Series. And that was good. Until the fourth generation 3-Series took over the title, the E36 was the best selling product BMW had ever made.

Today, the E36 is still a favorite among BMW daily drivers and racers. Compared to the generations that have followed it, E36s are relatively simple to work on. Parts for them are available in abundance. And getting those parts at a reasonable price is easier than ever thanks to the power of being able to search for the best deals for them online.

Whether you are interested in restoring a standard E36 3-Series or looking to get more power out of an M3, there are very few cars on the planet that offer the amount of fun and style an E36 offers for the money. As with the E30 Restoration Book from Brooklands Books, use this book as a companion book to the E36 Bentley Guide and you will be aware of and able to fix practically any issue that ever arises on your E36.


The first generation 3-Series, the E21.


The second generation 3-Series, the E3

Why is it called E36?

From 1968 on, each generation of BMW cars got an internal designation starting with E, which stood for Entwicklung, which is German for development or was known as the E21, the second generation (1983-1991) was known as the E30, and the third generation is obviously the E36. The 36 in E36 indicated it was the 36th project BMW developed since they adopted that nomenclature.

BMW 3-Series Generations:

1st Generation (1975-1983): E21
2nd Generation (1983-1991): E30
3rd Generation (1991-2000): E36
4th Generation (1998-2005): E46
5th Generation (2006-2012): E90/E91/E92/E93
6th Generation (2012 - ): F30/F31/F32/F33

E36 Production Years

Saloon: 1990-1998

Coupe: 1992-1999

Convertible: 1993-1999

Compact: 1993-2000

Touring: 1994-1999

M3 Coupe: 1992-1999

M3 Convertible: 1993-1999

M3 Saloon: 1994-1998


The third generation 3-Series, the E36.

Chapter 1

Coupes, Saloons, M3s, Compacts,
Convertibles, Tourings, Diesels & Tuners

Few manufacturers could build a race winning coupe, an economical saloon, a compact city car, solid convertible, and strong touring diesel all on the same platform. But BMW did with the E36. This chapter looks at all the configurations the E36 3-Series was available in.


The standard E36 coupes and saloons varied in more than just the number of doors they had. Virtually all the body panels were unique to each body style. Although the saloon was slightly heavier, performance between both was relatively comparable. All non-compact E36s got a “Z-axle” multilink rear suspension, replacing the more primitive trailing arm rear suspension that was in the previous generation 3-Series.

Standard European E36 models were available with 4-speed GM automatic transmissions for 4-cyl-inder models, 5-speed ZF automatics for 6-cylinder models and 5-speed Getrag or ZF manual transmissions. All standard coupes and saloons in North America were available with either a 4-speed GM automatic or a 5-speed Getrag or ZF manual transmission. In Asia and Oceania, models were available with either a Getrag or ZF manual or a Jatco 5-speed automatic transmission.

4-Cylinder Models:

Most standard petrol 4-cylinder models were powered by M40 engines from 1991-1993 and M43 engines from 1994-1998 (US versions were powered by M42 engines from 1992-1995 and M44 engines from 1996-1998). Basic European versions had rear drum brakes. All North American versions got disc brakes all round. Although they are lacking in power compared to their 6-cylinder siblings, the 4-cylinder E36s can still be a lot of fun. And they are excellent candidates for turbo or supercharging kits for those who want a boost in power.


1.1: Though standard saloon and coupe models ranged from underpowered 4-cylinder models to robust 6-cylinder cars, all non-M E36s had few visual cues to distinguish them from one another.


1.2 Coupe models looked sexier than their 4-door siblings, though those good looks came at the cost of practicality.


The 316 was the basic entry level E36 in Europe. They ranged in trim lines from the basic bog standard 316i to the luxurious 316i SE. When consumers looked at what was available in the market, the idea of owning a BMW that was relatively affordable and economical really struck a chord. Today, the 316 is best suited for those who want an inexpensive E36 that is both reliable and fun on a winding road. It makes a great first car for a new driver too.

318i & 318is

The 318 was a step up from the 316 in Europe and the entry level model E36 in North America. Like the previous generation 3-Series in Europe, the 318i was everything the 316i was and a little more. They were a huge hit with customers who wanted the panache of an E36 without the big price tag of a new inline-6 powered model. If you want a nimble E36 that‘s good on petrol, they can still provide a lot of fun for relatively not a lot of money. Though the base 115bhp non-US engine was a bit of a slouch, the 140bhp inline-4 can be reasonably entertaining.

There were a number of special editions based on the 318, including the 318is Class II saloons built for the 1994 and 1995 model years (1,000 for Germany and 1,500 for the rest of Europe). Launched to compliment the M3 GT, they were built to meet homologa-tion rules for FIA Class II competition. The Class II received a performance suspension, M body kit and M3 GT rear wing. There were other unique special editions, like the fully optioned Signature Edition, and the Limited and Executive editions assembled at the Pretoria, South Africa BMW factory.


1.3: The “Z-axle” rear suspension found in all non-compact E36s was initially developed for the Z1 sports car.


1.4: The Z3 roadster was based off of the E36 platform, albeit without the Z-axle rear suspension. Instead, it got the trailing arm set up from the previous E30 generation 3-Series.

6-Cylinder Models:

The range of standard petrol 6-cylinder E36s run the gamut of performance. The 320 was a slight step up from the 4-cylinder models, while the 328 was nearly as fun as the M3.


The 320 served as the entry level inline-6 powered model in Europe and Canada. It was the best selling 6-cylinder model E36 built. Power came from a sweet sounding 2.0-litre M50 engine from 1991-1994 and an M52 from 1994-1998, both of which produced 150bhp. Though not as beloved as its larger displacement siblings, it still offers the relative economy of the 4-cylinder entry level models, but with more grunt.

323i & 323is

The 323 was introduced in 1996 to replace the soon-to-be-departing 318i as the entry level non-compact E36. Powered by an M52 engine with the same displacement as the 325‘s M50, the 323 was rebadged to make the 328 appear more distinguished in comparison. For this reason, the 323 was detuned to make only 168bhp. Though many discount it as a lesser model, the 323 should be considered if you are in the market for a 325. Though the 325 is held in higher regard by some, the 323 is essentially an updated and better version of the 325.


1.5: The E36 M3 coupe still looks good today.


1.6: While the E36 was the successor to the E30 M3

325i & 325is

Prior to the introduction of the 328, the 325 was the most powerful of the standard 3-Series line. Before the M3 was introduced, it was essentially the star of the E36 range. And it certainly deserved the praise. It had an iron block M50 putting out a strong and smooth 189bhp. It could provide performance almost as thrilling as the previous generation M3. It would be (marginally) eclipsed by its 328 successor as the most fun non-M3 E36 3-Series. But still, they are a lot of fun for the money.

328i & 328is

Producing slightly more power (190bhp vs. 189bhp), more torque, and fewer emissions than the outgoing 325, the 328 raised the bar for all standard 3-Series models. The 328 is a good alternative for those who want a sporty E36 without the added expense that comes with the M3.


Several Individual, M-Technic, M-Sport, and Club Sport models and packages were available during the E36 production run. These packages usually added upgraded wheels, suspension, body kits, and interior bits. They definitely hold a premium price over their standard counterparts, but don‘t have the same panache of the M3.


I always liked the line, “A Ferrari in a Saville Row suit.” The E36 M3 was quite different from its E30 predecessor. While the E30 M3 was a 4-cylinder car tuned for racing, the E36 was more of a GT that was just at home on the street as it was on a race track. But don‘t let the GT image fool you, it is a beast of a sports car! In Europe, 3.0-liter models got 5-speed ZF manual units while later 3.2-liter versions got 6-speed Getrag manual transmissions. A few got 6-speed semi-automatic Getrag SMG transmissions. In North America, they were offered with either a 5-speed manual or automatic, both produced by ZF.


1.7: Many credit the E24 635CSi as its spiritual predecessor.


1.8: The E36 M3 was offered in saloon, coupe, and convertible forms.

M3 & M3 Evolution (Europe)

Launched for the 1993 model year, the European version of the E36 M3 became an instant classic. Though it looked like a normal E36 on the outside, underneath its skin, it had a firmed up suspension that was suited for a race track. Underneath the bonnet, there was a 286bhp 3.0 liter 6-cylinder S50 engine that could push it to its 155mph limited top speed with ease. For 1996, the Euro M3 became the M3 Evolution, gaining a bigger 3.2 liter S50 engine, which put out a strong 321bhp. It was, and is, a truly brilliant sports car and a legend in the world of BMW.

M3 (North America)

The E36 M3 was not initially intended for the North American market. However, the 1994 European M3 generated so much interest that BMW put together an E36 M3 just to suit the US market. Due to concerns with production costs, the US M3 didn‘t have the same engine as the European version. Instead it got a 3.0-liter 240bhp S50US engine for 1995, missing expensive bits like the Euro‘s individual throttle bodies. A 3.2 liter S52 engine was available from 1996-1999. It also made 240bhp, but produced more torque. Though not as powerful as its European counterpart, it is still one of the finest sports cars available in North America from the 1990s.


1.9: While it was initially criticized by some purists, the E36 M3 saloon was just as capable as its 2 door counterpart.


1.10: The 3.0-liter S50B30 engine was found in European-spec M3s from its introduction until 1996, when it was enlarged to 3.2-liters.


1.11: Among its performance modifications, the M3 GT also got aunique boot lid spoiler.


1.12: The M3 GT was a Euro-spec M3 built to homologate the M3 for FIA and IMSA competition.


1.13: The M3 GTR looked aggressive and ready to race.

M3 (Canada – 1994 only)

Prior to the introduction of the North American spec E36 M3, Canadian BMW dealers imported a limited edition of 45 1994 Euro spec M3s. They were the only Euro spec E36 M3s to reach North America directly through BMW.


BMW made a number of special edition M3s, mostly to qualify for racing homologation rules and to commemorate anniversaries.

M3 GTR (1994 – Germany)

The GTR was essentially a race car. It was built as a homologation model so the E36 M3 could compete in the 1994 ADAC German GT Cup Touring Car series. It was powered by a 300bhp version of the 3.0 liter Euro M3 engine. Only 2 street legal GT-Rs were ever built.


1.14: The E36 Compact was aimed at younger buyers.


1.15: The E36 M3 was especially striking in full on race trim, pictured here with Hans Stuck.


1.16: Though the rear end of the car was shortened and altered, the Compact still looked like it belonged in the 3-Series fold.


1.17: The Compact was offered with an optional large fabric sunroof.


1.18: Built with taller doors in order to have a straight body line running the length of the car, the E36 convertible was a mix of sport and subtlety.


1.19: Convertibles were available with an optional hardtop, like the one seen here.

M3-R (1994 – Australia)

These too were race cars built for homologation. The M3-R was made for the Australian market so the M3 could compete in the Australian Super Production series. Equipped with a 3.0 liter Euro M3 engine rated at 322bhp, the M3-R was the most powerful factory produced E36 M3. The M3-R also got a stronger drive shaft from the E31 850Ci, an AP racing clutch, BMW Group N springs and dampers, the top speed limiter disabled, and the radio, central locking and check control systems were omitted. They were only available in Alpine White III with an Anthracite suede interior. Only 15 M3-Rs were produced.

M3 GT (1995 – Europe)

The third special M3 homologation edition, the M3 GT was built so the E36 M3 could compete in FIA and IMSA GT races. Only available in Europe, a total of 400 were built. Of those 400, 50 were right hand drive models built especially for UK customers (known as the M3 GT Individual). They had a stiffer suspension, strut tower brace, and adjustable front and rear spoilers. All non-UK M3 GT versions had aluminium doors. However, 9 UK versions were specially ordered with them. Power came from a 3.0 liter Euro M3 engine tuned to 295bhp. All M3 GTs were painted British Racing Green.

M3 CSL (1995 – North America)

Built in the spirit of the original CSLs of the 1970s, the E36 CSL was 90-140 kilos (200-300 lbs.) lighter than its stock counterpart. The weight savings came from deleting things like the air conditioning, sunroof, noise insulation, radio, spare tire and jack. Standard components were also swapped out for lighter weighl versions. That meant it got special bits like aluminium doors, lighter weight carpeting, and carbon fiber trim. It was equipped with a standard US spec 240bhp 3.0 liter S50 engine. Though official production numbers were never released, it is believed approximately 120 CSLs were produced.


1.20: The M3 convertible was nothing short of stunning.


1.21: A pair of Baur TC4 saloon convertibles in Germany.

M3 Compact (1996 – Germany)

The rarest factory built M3 special edition of all, only 1 was ever built. The M3 Compact was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the German car magazine Auto Motor und Sport. It was powered by a 321bhp 3.2-liter engine.

M3 Evolution Imola Individual (1999 – Europe)

The Evolution moniker was applied to Euro M3s from ‘96-on to distinguish them from their 3.0-liter predecessor. The M3 Evolution Imola Individual (also known as the GT2) was a limited-edition built for Europe. It featured Imola Red paint, a special interior, and a M3 GT rear spoiler. Though the SMG transmissions they got would normally be a good thing, they were commonly problematic. Many owners have actually since converted their cars to traditional 6-speed transmissions. The UK got 50 Imola Individuals while the rest of Europe got 200.

M3 Anniversary Edition (1999 – Australia)

Built for Australia only, the Anniversary Edition was built to celebrate 25 years of BMW Motorsport. These were essentially mechanically and cosmetically identical to a standard M3, save for sterling silver anniversary plaques on the center console. A total of 120 were produced (50 coupes and 70 convertibles).


1.22: A Baur TC4 with its top down.


1.23: The E36 Touring was a blend of sports car and utility vehicle.


Launched in 1994, the E36 Compact was 23cm (9in.) shorter than the standard E36 3-Series thanks to a shorter rear clip. It used the trailing arm rear suspension from the previous generation E30 3-Series, rather than the “Z-axle” found in regular E36s. It was essentially BMW‘s shot at building a small, economical city car. While it didn‘t meet sales expectations in North America, it was very well received in Europe. Today, they make great platforms for track cars, given their light weight and the ability to use many performance parts from their bigger E36 siblings.

316i Compact

The 316i Compact was available in markets outside North America. Like their standard saloon and coupe counterparts, they were economical and practical. While lack of power is a complaint with the standard 4-cylinder E36, that is somewhat less of an issue given the Compact version weighed less.

316g Compact

The 316g is a prime example of how BMW set out to make the E36 the leader in innovation in its class. Very rare, the 316g came equipped with an 80-liter compressed natural gas tank (CNG) giving its owner the choice between running on petrol or natural gas. It produced 102 horsepower running on petrol or 87HP running on CNG. Though not necessarily a collectible, it is certainly a curiosity. Only 544 were ever produced.


1.24: The 325tds looked practically identical to the petrol powered 325i.


1.25: The Touring naturally had a large cargo capacity.

318ti Compact

The 318ti was the sportier version of the 4-cylinder Compacts. It was also the only E36 Compact available in North America. It came equipped with M42 and M44 (‘96-on) engines rated at 138bhp, which meant they were decent performers. As far as special editions, there was also a 318ti Club Sport edition, which got a more aggressive suspension, special red and black interior, and an M body kit. There was also a limited “California Edition” which featured a large fabric sunroof.


1.26: A diesel powered E36 320d racer won the 24 Hours Nurburgring in 1998, albeit with a prototype E46 engine.

318tds Compact

The 318tds was the only diesel E36 Compact. They got good fuel mileage and produced a relatively entertaining amount of torque. Not all that notable, but certainly different.

323ti Compact

The 323ti was a sort of sleeper performance car. Available in markets outside of North America, it looked just as unassuming as most other Compacts, but had the grunt of an inline-6 in a lightweight package. The 323ti is definitely a car that can be a lot of fun, especially in Sport Limited Edition trim.


1.27: AC Schnitzer offered cleanly modified E36s.


1.28: The 318tds offered the best economy of the diesel range.


There were two E36 convertible types: the standard 2-door drop top and the quirky and rare 4-door Baur TC4.

Standard Convertible

The E36 convertibles were produced in 318, 320, 323, 325, and 328 varieties. They were very rigid for an open model and offer great performance. Essentially everything said about their coupe and saloon counterparts apply to them as well.


1.29: A menacing looking AC Schnitzer convertible.


1.30: The Alpina B6 2.8 was a subtle rework of an already solid machine.

Baur TC4

The E36 Baur convertible was definitely unique. While the Baur name harks back to classic BMW convertibles, their take on the E36 was rather unusual. They offered convertible tops custom fitted to saloon E36s only. They were built up until 1996 and were initially only available in Germany. Only 310 were produced.