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Photo credits and text: BMW
He would have outclassed them all, we're sure of that! The BMW E36 M3 Compact “Pocket Rocket”. Yes, like that too E31 M8, the E39 M5 Touring or the E46 M3 Touring, even the potent Compact was never officially allowed on the road. It never went into series production, and yet it still has an effect today. Long before compact sports cars with over 200 hp became the focus of passionate sports car fans, it already offered everything that makes this vehicle class so popular today. It is not without reason that many sports car fans see him as the pioneer of later successful models such as the BMW 1 Series M Coupé and the BMW M2.
BMW E36 M3 Compact
Technology fans and car enthusiasts know that if engineers are given a free hand from time to time, the most fascinating achievements are often the result. Alleged limits are explored and standards are redefined. The technological finger exercise in the form of the BMW M3 E36 Compact from 1996 proves this impressively. But the truth also includes: The result does not always meet the spirit of the times, but at least in retrospect it turns out to be a promising look into the future.
The centerpiece was of course the engine!
The heart and highlight of the BMW M3 Compact is of course the engine. The in-line 3-cylinder engine (S6B50) borrowed from the M32 Coupé with its unmistakable character propels the compact sports car with 321 hp if required.
In the case of series production, the engineers would still have had to turn the performance screw in favor of drivability - and in the opposite direction. Due to its compact dimensions and low weight, test drives quickly showed that the M3 Compact was only for experienced drivers. 5 STRONG FACTS:
- 01 Year of construction: 1996
- 02 Power: 321 hp
- 03 Engine: S50B32 inline 6-cylinder
- 04 Weight: 1.300 kilograms
- 05 Never built in series
uncompromisingly agile driving behavior
With the extremely active overall package and the progressive, almost rebellious appearance of the prototype, BMW M GmbH wanted to inspire a young clientele in particular. Features such as comfort and space could therefore be pushed into the background a little, the fun factor in the foreground: the developers paid full attention to the maximum sporty appearance and uncompromisingly agile driving behavior.
Short body and low weight!
For good reason, the high-performance compact sports car is seen by many fans as the forerunner and forerunner of iconic models such as the BMW 1 Series M Coupé and the BMW M2. The prototype weighs 150 kilograms less than the weight-optimized E36 M3 Coupé. In addition to its low weight of 1.300 kilograms, one of the trump cards of the BMW M3 Compact is the significantly shortened body: In the rear area, it is a good 23 centimeters shorter and makes the entire vehicle more agile, as less mass swings behind the axle. It is often reported that the wheelbase of the prototype is also shorter than that of the BMW M3 E36 Coupé. In fact, it is identical.
But the body was not the only starting point. There were also numerous other measures to significantly reduce the weight compared to the larger series vehicle, which is particularly evident in the purist interior. In order to achieve the ratio of power to weight, which is impressive even by today's standards, everything that was not absolutely necessary had to give way. In return, the M3 derivative received a real roll bar and racing seats from Recaro. The remnants from the BMW 3 Series of the predecessor E30 series are also striking, for example in the area of the center console facing the driver and the air outlets in the dashboard. This is where the Compact clearly differs from its series-produced brothers M3 E36 Coupé and M3 E36 Cabrio.
It stays with the prototype!
Despite, or perhaps because of, its extraordinarily strong character, the BMW M3 Compact never went into series production. Over the years, some specimens found their way onto public roads or were used at racing events. However, all of these models were created by passionate M3 Compact fans and enthusiasts who were looking for exactly what the M3 Compact embodies to this day: driving activity without compromise.
Don't worry, of course that was far from being the case when it came to auto / auto tuning. Our magazine still has tens of thousands other tuning reports in stock. Do you want to see them all? Then just click HERE and look around. Or are you particularly interested in everything to do with M-GmbH (+ M Performance Parts)? Then the following excerpt with other vehicles is definitely the right one.
Works vehicle: BMW E36 M3 Compact “Pocket Rocket”!
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