The BMW M3 GT Is the Best E36 You Might Not Know About

Just 356 were built to homologate the E36 M3 for FIA and IMSA GT racing. That gives it enthusiast cred no other E36 M3 has.

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BMW

In the US, the E36 M3 sort of lives in the shadow of its predecessor, the legendary E30. In Europe, the story is a little different. There, the M3 got a real BMW Motorsport engine, the 282-hp S50 3.0-liter straight-six. And in 1995, European customers had the opportunity to buy a very special E36—the M3 GT.

As Carfection's Henry Catchpole explains in this video, BMW built just 356 examples of the M3 GT, with the purpose of getting the car homologated for both the FIA and IMSA GT championships. The GT had aluminum doors and an adjustable splitter and wing, stiffer springs and shocks and a strut-tower brace. Apparently, the wing generated so much downforce, it would occasionally break the trunk lid latch. Clearly, it's not just a show piece.

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BMW

The M3 GT's S50 3.0-liter straight-six featured increased compression and different cams. A standard Euro-market E36 M3 made 282 horsepower at the time; the GT made 295. For comparison, the US-market M3 of the time made a mere 240 horsepower.

All 356 examples were painted British Racing Green—to my eyes, a perfect color for a very handsome car.

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The E36 M3's S50 3.o-liter straight-six.
BMW

Catchpole isn't completely blown away by the car—especially after driving an E30 M3 Sport Evolution. The E36 is just a bigger, softer car, though its smooth, powerful six earns special praise.

But the GT has something that other E36 M3s lack—racing pedigree. The regular M3 of the era was essentially a more powerful, warmed over 3-series; the GT helped birth the racing M3 GTR, giving it major enthusiast cred.

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