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Thread: Educate me about track BMW, why are they so popular ?

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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    Default Educate me about track BMW, why are they so popular ?

    no, I am not shopping for one.
    but it seem they are really really popular now a day.
    last few races I've attended, it seems BMW is now the #1 brand (at least that's what it seemed to me). or at least, it is catching up to Mazda really fast in California.

    in last few NASA enduro, I think there are more BMW than Miata
    even in Chump car races, E30/E36 are now more popular than ever.


    I don't quite understand it, because:

    1. BMW use McPherson strut on front
    2. BMW use some funky rear suspension, antique designs of 1970s...
    3. parts are expensive. at least relatively to Miata, Corvette, Mustang and Honda FWD. not sure how it compares to Evo, S2K, and WRX,
    4. labor are not cheap. as the time it takes to do simple things like timing belt change. I believe shop rate is 8 hours, vs. 3-4 hours for a Miata.
    5. weird expensive tools. I remember Hakeem's post about needing special tools for BMW.
    6. BMW are relatively heavy...

    this all seem to go against what a track car should be. yes I've owned BMW (Z3 and Z4), loved the I6 engine. not denying they are great street cars.

    what am I missing here ? what, Ultimate Driving Machine
    Last edited by bellwilliam; 07-16-2012 at 02:32 PM.
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    Administrator ucfbrett's Avatar
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    From where I sit:

    In Southern Cal, I know NASA's Shawn Meze has worked hard to grow the Spec E30 class and Midnight Oil provides excellent track-side support. They carry everything you'd need to fix the cars, and they have cabinets loaded with booze.

    BMW CCA comes to a lot of NASA events, which is great for the CCA because they get to race and have all the safety crew and corner workers already in place. I think it's natural for a lot of them to gravitate toward enduro weekends.

    Lots of E30 donors and RWD.

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    Itz cuz their BEEMERS!!!!!
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    The only benefit I see to a BMW over a Miata is interior room for building a cage and installing all the safety equipment. Beyond that, you're paying extra to race.
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    BMW Master bawareca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_5 View Post
    The only benefit I see to a BMW over a Miata is interior room for building a cage and installing all the safety equipment. Beyond that, you're paying extra to race.
    And there are definitely some power advantages as well
    For a DIY guy there should be a little to no difference building E30 or E36 vs Miata.More $$ consumables come with added weight and power.

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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bawareca View Post
    And there are definitely some power advantages as well
    Power is easy enough to add to most cars. It's much more difficult to reduce weight.
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    BMW Master bawareca's Avatar
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    E30 can be lightened to 2100 lbs easy without going to extremes.There is a club racer from Canada with S54 swapped E36 and 2200 lbs dry weight.That is pretty much stock 01-05 M3 engine with ~330 whp.
    How easy/cheap is to add power to your Miata?

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    Senior Member fatbillybob's Avatar
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    I like to build cars. I wish I had more room spec e30 is very interesting to me. There are 6 bmws in my family. They are the ultimate driving machine. You just got to experience it like no one can understand the pain of why one would put up with a ferrari until you drive them. I also think my t1 vette is too fast for me. E30 I can drive without fear.

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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Some thoughts having just built my E36 from a stock DD into a dedicated track car with about $30k of mods:

    1) The cars are cheap to acquire initially. Decent E36 is anywhere from $2500 (non-M)
    2) Parts are cheap. OEM parts that is.
    3) Aftermarket parts are ridiculously expensive IMO, at least compared to JDM options. Good example, decent race exhaust (no fab required) is $1200.
    4) The chassis of the E30/E36 is garbage. The amount of reinforcing and general hacking needed to get it not crumble under its own weight was surprising. I spent a good amount of $ just on this alone.
    5) As the cars were raced professionally for a long time both here in the US and abroad, this is an enormous amount of knowledge and information about racing them competitively.
    6) Follow on to #5, there are also alot of race-proven parts available for these cars. There is literally nothing that I couldn't find an off the shelf solution for, which is nice.
    7) The S50/52 engines have serious oiling problems. It is practically impossible to not have some kind of scavenging issue if you are going fast with R compounds. Switching to the S54 (E46 M3) oil setup fixes it, but $2k+ in parts there.
    8) Surprising amount of special tools were needed. Some could be hand made or figured around, and some others couldn't. I spent probably $1k in misc random tools, and that was trying to be pretty crafty about it.

    In the end it's a pretty fun car, but it's no FD.
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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bawareca View Post
    E30 can be lightened to 2100 lbs easy without going to extremes.There is a club racer from Canada with S54 swapped E36 and 2200 lbs dry weight.That is pretty much stock 01-05 M3 engine with ~330 whp.
    How easy/cheap is to add power to your Miata?
    LSx swaps are pretty common as are the older Ford 5.0. Lots of turbo and supercharger options as well. The sky's the limit and relatively inexpensive - not cheap but neither is racing.

    That's pretty light fo an E30, I'm guessing the newer I6 weighs less than the original. Does it still have Mac Struts?

    BTW, I like older BMWs and am even envious of the NASA SE30 fields.
    Last edited by Red_5; 07-16-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hakeem View Post
    Some thoughts having just built my E36 from a stock DD into a dedicated track car with about $30k of mods:

    1) The cars are cheap to acquire initially. Decent E36 is anywhere from $2500 (non-M)
    2) Parts are cheap. OEM parts that is.
    3) Aftermarket parts are ridiculously expensive IMO, at least compared to JDM options. Good example, decent race exhaust (no fab required) is $1200.
    4) The chassis of the E30/E36 is garbage. The amount of reinforcing and general hacking needed to get it not crumble under its own weight was surprising. I spent a good amount of $ just on this alone.
    5) As the cars were raced professionally for a long time both here in the US and abroad, this is an enormous amount of knowledge and information about racing them competitively.
    6) Follow on to #5, there are also alot of race-proven parts available for these cars. There is literally nothing that I couldn't find an off the shelf solution for, which is nice.
    7) The S50/52 engines have serious oiling problems. It is practically impossible to not have some kind of scavenging issue if you are going fast with R compounds. Switching to the S54 (E46 M3) oil setup fixes it, but $2k+ in parts there.
    8) Surprising amount of special tools were needed. Some could be hand made or figured around, and some others couldn't. I spent probably $1k in misc random tools, and that was trying to be pretty crafty about it.

    In the end it's a pretty fun car, but it's no FD.
    so other than #1, #2 and #5, it is pretty crappy car ? you are not explaining well why BMW is popular....

    I also like to know what you meant by cheap OEM parts ? are we talking about Chevy cheap, Mazda cheap, or German cheap ?
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    Chest hair required Olitho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_5 View Post

    BTW, I like older BMWs and am even envious of the NASA SE30 fields.
    Those are large fields, but aren't they made up of a gazillion individual classes so really there is only 1 to three cars per class? That is what I was told....
    To the right of The Sheriff. Isn't everyone?

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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellwilliam View Post
    so other than #1, #2 and #5, it is pretty crappy car ? you are not explaining well why BMW is popular....

    I also like to know what you meant by cheap OEM parts ? are we talking about Chevy cheap, Mazda cheap, or German cheap ?
    I don't know much about Chevy prices, but everything was pretty cheap for the E36 by Mazda standards. New waterpump was about $65 for example. BMW uses the same part on multiple cars, and in some cases for multiple generations, so economies of scale are heavily in play.

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    Senior Member robburgoon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olitho View Post
    Those are large fields, but aren't they made up of a gazillion individual classes so really there is only 1 to three cars per class? That is what I was told....
    You're thinking of BMW CCA (jcrist's w2w for slowpokes).

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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olitho View Post
    Those are large fields, but aren't they made up of a gazillion individual classes so really there is only 1 to three cars per class? That is what I was told....
    SE30 is just one class. The NASA GTS classes are 5 separate classes made up of different German cars.

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    The Real Captain Slow Red_5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olitho View Post
    Those are large fields, but aren't they made up of a gazillion individual classes so really there is only 1 to three cars per class? That is what I was told....
    No, SE30 is Spec E30, just one class as far as I know at least with NASA. That might change when BMW CCA, or whatever it's called, participates on NASA weekends.

    SoCal NASA usually has more than10 SE30s each weekend but had 35 for the CA Crown weekend - the same thing Burgoon won in SM.

    Edit: Burgoon and Hakeem beat me to it.
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    BMW Master bawareca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Red_5 View Post
    That's pretty light fo an E30, I'm guessing the newer I6 weighs less than the original. Does it still have Mac Struts?
    E30 I6 is 2 valve per cylinder with a timing belt(exception in the BMW world,there is only 1 other engine with belt) and is pretty lightweight-under 200lbs for the long block.E36 engine is dual cam with chain drive and heavier.2000+ engines are aluminum block and much lighter,but are crap.You have to spend a fortune to make it reliable for the track.All I6 M engines are cast iron.
    E36 body is generally stiffer and heavier,so they usually run around 2700 lbs with driver.

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    Senior Member bellwilliam's Avatar
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    oh, isn't suspension bushing like a wear item ?
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    dirty smack talker hakeem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellwilliam View Post
    oh, isn't suspension bushing like a wear item ?
    Isn't that the case on every car?

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    Member 5:04's Avatar
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    The e30/e36 has a pretty low buy in cost, the parts aren't that much more expensive than a Miata, and they're fairly easy to work on. Many people are passionate about BMW as a marque which is a lot of it. I personally don't care much for them and would much rather drive other cars. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by them every day and see all of their faults.

    Posted that a bit early, but bmw's are also pretty fun to drive, and despite their "inferior" suspension design the can be made to handle very well.
    Last edited by 5:04; 07-16-2012 at 03:24 PM.

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