PH Fleet: BMW 328i (E36)
Dale's getting over the loss of his RX-8 via the time honoured route of Buying A New Car
So when replacing the rotary ring tool, it seemed like a good idea to listen to the opinions of others for a change. One car that I'd dismissed as too obvious and too boring quickly became the number one choice.
BMW's E36 3 Series was more than just a sales-rep status symbol during the '90s, it was a saloon-car racing superpower. And a quick ask around some of my Nurburgring friends revealed more local parts and knowledge for this car than any other option.
My particular car was sourced in the UK by a fellow British Nürburgring resident. Boasting a decently solid four-door shell, but a completely knackered motor, this car might not sound like an ideal purchase. But Richard sourced a nice nearly-new engine, fitted it and brought it across to his house at the 'ring for only a tiny bit more than the €1,000 euros I had left from the RX-8 sale.
I love the four-door shape, and a common bit of Nurburgring gossip will tell you that the shell of the four-door saloon car is the best choice for a race-car due to its superior stiffness and a lighter stripped weight than the coupe. Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. I don't really care.
None of this stopped me taking the standard car out for a lap on the Schnelleschwaben event. In standard trim, with knackered, leaking dampers and questionable brakes the 328i recorded a 9min3sec BTG laptime. Not bad, but a country mile away from the nimble RX-8.
8min20sec BTG. New (OK, secondhand) H&R Cup struts and springs could never be called sophisticated, but they're a massive improvement over stock. Some borrowed wheels and an almost-dead set of Toyo R888s managed to find their way on the car, as well as some pattern discs, EBC Bluestuff pads and Goodrich brake lines. All the fluids were changed for Motul including their 300V racing oil and RBF660 brake fluid.
Since then I've put the car through it's German MOT, which it passed easily enough. Right now, I'm on a high with the 328i. It's quick, it's cost me comfortably less than €2,000 to get to this point and I'm not worried about the engine going pop. And even if it does, it's a few hundred euros of parts, not a few thousand. The RX-8 is dead to me. Long live the 328i.
Car: 1997 BMW 328i SE
Run by: Dale Lomas
Bought: September 2012
Purchase price: £950
First month: Thrashed it, serviced it, modded it, thrashed it more, planned more mods
Onboard video of that 8min20sec lap