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Hagerty Employee

Full power: The Canadian M3 | Hagerty Media

BMW fanatics have long disdained the North American-spec E36 M3 as the red-headed stepchild of the model's lineage. While Europe got to savor the full BMW M experience, the E36 M3 shipped across the Atlantic was a shadow of itself-down on power, performance, and looks.

A great story that makes my Canadian heart swell... thank you!


Hey, sometimes the little guy just has a better idea, and can carry it out. But increasingly, we’re all mired in the sludge of big systems and rigid processes. Those systems are predictable and minimize risk. They produce manageable, usually unspectacular results. They protect investments and corporate dominance. They also reinforce hierarchies and entrench both market share and privilege (no, not white privilege — but come to think of it, maybe that too?). They discourage innovation and minimize competition. They are the neo-liberal creed, and they are a major parasitic draw on healthy, market-driven, socially responsible capitalist economies, which need competition and innovation to work properly.

Pit Crew

Cool story. I'd known about the "better" Canadian E36 M3. Now I know that was just the one year wonder. KS
New Driver

In 1993, if you bought an M5 in the US, you got a free trip to Germany! Tourist delivery was an option that I took, saving about $8000 on this very limited production hand-built car. There were 4 trips total. Mine was the last one, in August of '93, and there were about 20 other owners on the trip, with one other also picking up his car. The trip included a tour of the M production plant, and then we piled into a fleet of identical yellow '93 M3's to drive to the Nurburgring for the remainder of the trip! Why M3s? They didn't have enough M5s for all of us, though two Euro '93s with the 3.8 motor and Nurburgring suspension package made the trip, just to make us jealous, I'm sure. I did get to drive one of those, and the extra power compared to mine was notable, leading me to modify mine, but that's another story. Why were they all yellow? They were all ordered as blue, but an error at the factory had them produced as yellow! Those were the days. There were 2 blue cars on the trip as well. It was quite a fleet!

So here we were with this car that was unavailable in any form in North America. These did have the first generation of this engine, with variable timing on only one set of valves, not both, but it was a true M motor, built by hand at the same plant as the engine and the rest of the M5. So we drove from Munich to the Ring in this fleet of M3s! We stopped for lunch at some winery along the way, where we had a wonderful lunch with wine(!). We left the winery with our carton of M labeled wines(!) and went to a gas station, where the entire fleet of about 25 cars gassed up at 1 pump on 1 BMW corporate card. Took forever, and you can imagine what the place looked like swarming with this fleet of identical bright yellow M3s! We sort of created a small traffic jam! Then we proceeded the rest of the way on the Autobahn, going as fast as we could and then slamming on the brakes as the trucks would venture into the passing lane at a limited 90 km/hr (55 mph) as we were hitting 140 mph+! Great fun,

The rest of the trip was track time in the M3s, doing basic driver training exercises, and also some hot laps on the F1 Grand Prix track. We also got rides in the Ring Taxi on the Nordshleife, an M5 with a full roll cage piloted by a giant German running at speed for the whole 14 mile course with 3 passengers, a very eye opening event! I'm sure there were some soiled shorts on that one!

We were all very pleased with the performance of these M3s, and many would have traded the much heavier and slower M5s were they available in the US, after our 5 day trips. The '95 E36 M3 we finally got was a great car, especially for the money, but I think the real one would have sold nearly as well, and boy was that engine sweet. I've never seen a Canadian M3, but I bet they were truly special.
Pit Crew

Another Canadian performance sedan story. Think back to Volvo 123GT. If we had only known.
Hockey, Molson/Labatts, Canada by Rail and two period specific sport sedans. Nice work by our highly respected neighbor to the north.
Pit Crew

Yep, great read! Tom writes a nice column in the ROUNDEL (BMW CCA magazine) as well.
- I don't recall their being any discernable body differences between US and Euro/CAN spec E36 M3 bodies. Care to clarify? Thanks.
- One major change that I didn't see noted between the two versions was that the Euro/CAN M3 came with a 6 speed with a nice overdrive final gear ratio, something the US version (5 speed manuals initially) really needed, as mine spun at 3000 RPM doing ~80mph and really could've used another gear, for sustained highway cruising.
- For the most part, the US market versions actually worked very well. While down on HP, they had a lot of low end torque, more suitable for most US driving needs, and made for a great "point & squirt" driving experience. (FWIW mine was a '97 M3/4/5 a.k.a. 4 door 5 speed manual)
- The E46 M3 "rectified" these differences, as it was essentially the same engine tune, body/appearance, and 6 speed manual trans for essentially if not all markets. Suspension tuning may have differed, especially for the German versions bound for the Autobahn.
Intermediate Driver

At least 2 of those cars were written off during the first year they were sold and I'm pretty sure another one was critically injured; enough that two were spliced together down the middle. It IS 25 years ago but I know there are many around that can tell you more and better stories aboot these.