1999 BMW E36 323ti
After some years of SimRacing and justifying my expensive Sim Rig to my wife by saying “Hey, I know it’s not cheap, but have you looked into the costs of real racing? Therefore a Sim-Rig is a steal! Also I am safe at home!”, I thought to myself, I need to try driving on a racetrack at least only once in real life.
So I took my Golf 7 DSG that I had at the time and drove to the Nürburgring, which is around 300km from where I live. I mean how hard can it be? Surprisingly easy, once you arrive there, you go buy a ticket at the blue office, you drive up to the toll barrier, swipe the card and you’re good to go. It was quite a surreal feeling seeing the Track for first time IRL. Somehow I already knew the place. I have been SimRacing mostly in VR in AC and iRacing, it was crazy how almost identical the track felt. However I was not prepared for the elevation changes! Going down the foxhole at 200kmh for the first time, I had difficulties keeping my eyes up due to the insane compression.
After the experience that day, I know I needed more of that -sorry bank account-. I couldn’t justify trashing the leased Golf. So together with a friend of mine we bought our first budget tracktool:
For around 3000 EUR we got a 1999 E36 323ti, the uglier version with the stubby rear, it had 250,000 km on it and with some rust, but nothing too crazy. Finding a rust free E36 was and is very difficult. The previous owner already had stripped the interior to some degree, and had just rebuild the engine, so we knew we were fine if we survived the first track day. The 323ti has a 2.5 inline six rated at 170hp. Some would prefer the lighter 318ti with the four cylinder, but we just though a inline six was cooler .
So at first track day ever at Hockenheim, the car was overheating, brakes were fading and I was sliding around in the non supportive factory seats, but it was still immensely fun.
After that, and over the next year, we upgraded the cooling, brakes, suspension, added bucket seats, a roll cage and some very very stick semis.
Mods and work
Some duct tape so the hood doesn’t open at 160kmh … anymore
The car feels now pretty confidence inspiring, and it’s always fun chasing cars with double the amount of power. The E36 compact comes with a disadvantage though compared to the regular E36. The rear suspension is borrowed from the old E30, which is a semi trailing arm, that changes the camber and toe in compression. In the video below you can see me driving on the Nürburgring, and at the Schwendenkreuz Corner I suddenly get some somewhat scary oversteer, due to a small bump located there and a light rear:
The BMW 323ti has now seen over 6000km of hard track day use and has been very reliable. Knock on wood.