1992 E36 M3 GTS3
992 BMW E36 M3 GTS-3 #E36/1 001 92
2,990cc S50 inline six-cylinder, 380 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Scott and Fran Hughes (since 2011)
Sunset, South Carolina
Designed to succeed the E30 M3, the E36 M3 should have been every bit as potent as a DTM racer. Unfortunately, BMW pulled out of DTM in December 1992, shortly after the new M3 debuted at Paris. The M3’s 3.0-liter S50 inline six was a Motorsport masterpiece, with six individual throttle bodies, VANOS variable intake camshaft timing, and 286 hp, but BMW’s competitors wanted a 2.5-liter V6 formula.
The high-maintenance S50 and a projected retail price of $55,000 nearly doomed a US version of the E36 M3 road car, too, until the BMW CCA got involved. Thanks to a letter-writing campaign led by Roundel columnist Bob Roemer, M brand manager Erik Wensberg and BMW NA CEO Vic Doolan advocated for an E36 M3 with a more moderate cylinder head. BMW Motorsport director Karlheinz Kalbfell agreed to build it, and in 1995 the US finally got an E36 M3…plus a full-factory IMSA racing program run by Tom Milner’s Prototype Technology Group (Team PTG).
Racing with the internationally homologated Euro engine, Team PTG’s M3s also wore BMW CCA stickers on their spoilers, acknowledging the club’s role in bringing the car to the US.
The car shown here is chassis #E36/1 001 92, the first E36 M3 built by BMW Motorport in 1992. It was used for testing but probably never raced in Germany before coming to the US in late 1994. One of the first two cars raced by Team PTG in IMSA GT, it scored a best result of 3rd at Phoenix with John Paul Jr. in 1995. In 1996, the car finished 2nd at Road Atlanta, Lime Rock and Mosport with Pete Halsmer; and 2nd at Sears Point with Bill Auberlen. In 1997, driven by Dieter Quester and Marc Duez, it won at Laguna Seca and finished 2nd at Lime Rock, Mosport, Pikes Peak and Sebring, 3rd at Watkins Glen. “We had some great runs and came up short at the end,” says Larry Hahn, #001’s chief mechanic at PTG.
After 1997, #001 was sold to Genesis Racing and raced in Grand-Am. In 2011, Wensberg helped Scott [and Fran] Hughes purchase the car, then in very rough shape prior to a four-year restoration by TC Kline. Wearing its 1995 Valvoline livery, the car sees regular track use today.
With Team PTG, the E36 M3 became a huge success in IMSA, and in 1996 it introduced a young talent named Bill Auberlen to the BMW community. Auberlen won the IMSA GT driver’s title in 1997, and he’s been with BMW ever since. As of 2019, he’s tied with Scott Pruett on IMSA’s all-time win list with 60 victories.
The E36 M3 became a big hit on the road, as well, making the US the world’s largest market for M cars.