The E36 M3 Lightweight Is The Strangest M Car Ever Built

This ultrarare E36 M3 lightweight is an extremely strange way to do a performance car.

4y ago

Special edition performance BMWs are hit or miss. Today they can't keep these cars in stock but in 1995 BMW had a different problem. Their special edition E36 M3 known as the Light Weight was not selling. Dealers couldn't give away these cars away, and it wasn't until huge incentives were offered that BMW was able to sell all 125 or so examples.

Today, collectors can't get enough of these low production German cars and they're willing to pay top dollar. It appears the unloved M3 Light Weight had the final laugh as an auction on Bring A Trailer has already crossed the $100,000 mark.

Although it was unloved, the BMW M3LW, as it will now be referred to for the remainder of this article, was very special. To improve the M3LW BMW borrowed the "Simplify and Add lightness" mantra of Colin Chapman. They were able to shed 200lbs from the M3 which easily improves every performance metric.

Weight was stripped by excluded sound insulation, leather seats, A/C, sunroof, and using aluminum in the skins of the doors. Since this car was now lighter than a standard M3, BMW thought of the unimaginative name "Light Weight" was appropriate for their limited edition M3. All of these stripped down Alpine White M3LWs were destined for a special assembly process.

In addition to the weight savings, BMW went to work on the drive train. Engines were hand selected off the assembly line for their performance potential like Chinese gymnasts. The final drive ratio was shortened to 3.23 rear versus the standard 3.15 to improve acceleration. The suspension used Euro-spec springs for a lowered ride height and forged alloy wheels to reduce unsprung weight. BMW then sent these cars to Prototype Technology Group (PTG) Racing in Virginia for the final touches.

There they installed the most important feature of them all, the motorsports flag decals. These decals not only look amazing but they add about 3 horsepower per checker in the flag making this the most significant upgrade on the M3LW.

Other non-essential upgrades include various body bracing, a rear wing, new oil pan, and oil pump uninstalled in the trunk. These uninstalled upgrades were joined by a binding legal document stating that the installation of these parts voided the BMW factory warranty, how cool is that!

Although nobody has a clue how many M3LWs were built in total, the consensus hovers around 125 examples. These special cars were unloved in their time but now they have the final say. As BMW charges forward into the tech-filled world on tomorrow, cars like the M3LW become more special. In 1995 a stripped down coupe wasn't enough to excite enthusiasts. But today when everything weighs over 4,000lbs this little 3,200 coupe speaks to us. Although I find this car very interesting it's not $100,000 interesting. Lucky for the seller, I don't have that type of money anyway and somebody else does and they want this M3LW.

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Comments (10)

  • The E36 M3 LTW isn't the strangest, the E36 M3-R on the other hand is a good candidate (if one rule out the one-off street legal versions of E36 M3 GTR and E46 M3 GTR). The M3-R production was limited to 15 cars for the Australian market. See comment below for details.

      4 years ago
    • What is an E36 M3-R?

      In late 1994, BMW Australia ordered 15 special road-going E36 M3-R models to compete in the Australian Super Production series (GT Production class). Originally built as standard M3 models on the normal German...

      Read more
        4 years ago
    • You should've wrote this bit instead.

        4 years ago
  • Cool car

      4 years ago
  • I didn't known this one existed, just saw one go for 82.500,00 on Bring a Trailer and thought "what the heck!". Very exquisite car, but I don't get why it costs so much hence they kept the 240hp US spec engine.

      9 months ago
  • Probably one of the best chassis of the 90' Finland for example, this car is still used on the national rally championship...

      4 years ago