A car weighing a mere 2,400 pounds and having a custom-built S54 motor ought to be enough to make most people salivate. Better yet, it’s one of the best bargain racers around—the E36 M3. Of course, the E36 is no new kid on the block, but its balanced platform and linear power delivery make it a track scalpel that can’t be easily bested for the money. So when the motor from an E46 M3 is added, the track widened, and some monstrous rubber planted at each corner, the result is something that can take down much more expensive machinery with apparent ease.
Built for the NASA GTS4 series, which features a variety of heavily-modified BMWs and Porsches, mainly, this German Touring Series takes the best the Fatherland has to offer and puts them in close competition. To stay competitive against modern GT3 Cups and the like, these cars are largely based around open power-to-weight rules. In this case, the 3.5-liter S54, tuned by Randy Mueller/Epic Motorsports, makes a whopping 347 horsepower and 297 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels—and it’s all delivered in that lovely, soaring, smooth fashion.
Therefore, the massive rear Hoosier slicks can put the power down quite easily, and even in slow corners, the motor is howling and the car moving forward. It’s also stable in the faster corners, reassuring, and predictable; the driver never looks taxed or caught out. Those reasons are part of why I recommend these cars—albeit in mostly stock trim—to guys just getting started on track days. The other reasons revolve around my preference for screaming six cylinders and rear wheel-drive cars, but that’s more personal preference than anything.