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The car that never was: E36 M3 Compact

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  • The car that never was: E36 M3 Compact

    Yes, it's true. BMW was this close to production. They of course thought it was a smarter idea to put the M3 engine in a shorter wheelbase car, the M Roadster, than to put it into the Compact... and then the S54 went into the Roadster too. Here's a quick look:


    Even less known than the BMW M3 GT is the BMW M3 Compact. With its unusual combination of characteristically short rear overhang, lower weight and typical M3 ingredients, it would undoubtedly have been the compact sports car of its time. In fact, the model did not go beyond being a prototype. In addition to the significantly shorter body, the interior is particularly striking. The M GmbH engineers decided to do without everything that was not absolutely necessary and instead equipped the M3 Compact with Racaro sports seats and a roll bar. Another interesting detail of the concept car is its four-pipe exhaust system, which offered a foretaste of the BMW M3 E46.

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    Not mentioned, is that the "M: guys also reworked the hatch with a spoiler that (when further swollen) would end up on the E46 CSL...

    A little video I found, which shows the under-hood goodness as well:

    I didn't learn of this car, until after I had completed my swap. I couldn't have done the Euro engine any sooner than 2023 anyway, but imagine if they built this thing... with a full interior, it runs about 400# less than the M3. It retains the E30 rear suspension (same as the M Roadster), so very predictable handling. And, despite the appearance, the wheelbase is exactly the same as the rest of the E36 line, unlike the Roadster. Obviously, I'm a fan. But imagine a racing series revolving around the Compact...

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    Unknown ti racing in Europe. Note GT wing with risers and (apparent) lack of factory support.

    Independent ti racer video. I like the widebody kit!

    (note photos and video are linked, and may disappear at any time. Maybe they can be permanently attached at some point)

    Comments welcome!
    Last edited by J!m; 09-01-2022, 07:02 AM.

  • #2
    Cool stuff!

    Here is an actual picture of it.

    And even though we are talking ti, I ran across a pic of this unique M3 coupe that I should have asked about but didn't. Have never seen that designation on a euro spec car.


    • #3
      That’s a great picture of the rear- you can easily see the hatch overlay they did to create a spoiler.

      But I don’t follow your second statement? They had the ti in Europe. Even carried it to the E46 platform (but it became very unique and ugly) Europe got the 318ti and 323ti (with a six) and maybe the 316ti but I’m not certain of that. I have a 323ti rear diffuser in the garage because it is made for a dual outlet exhaust. My 318ti diffuser was cut to clear the M3 pipes. The diffuser awaits the final exhaust option, which might be the Group N cats, Euro header and E46 330 muffler (with modifications). Like you, Jim, I prefer the x pipe to the H pipe but I guess it works…


      • #4
        Originally posted by J!m View Post
        But I don’t follow your second statement?
        Maybe this will help.

        I don't know what makes it a leichtbau.


        • #5
          1998 Lightweight?

          I guess they deleted air, aluminum doors (did it have side air bags?) radio and sound deadening? Probably a 1995 US spec LTW but with the S50B32?


          • #6
            EW40790 is part of the normal production run, so would be interesting to know its exact built sheet, that made them designate it as Leichtbau.

            It's not a 1995 spec, as it's an 1998 built, well beyond the facelift as well.

            If it has alu door, it won't have side airbags. By that time normal production had side airbags as standard equipment, which meant no alu doors.


            • #7
              What can I say about the e36 compact's looks that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan


              • #8