Picking up where we left off in the last Project 345 update, my E36 BMW M3 sedan was still in need of better headlights and brake pads.
This isn’t a super exciting SH Garage post, but I wanted to cover these items quickly and share some driving impressions after getting the car back to the track again. I’m glad to say that I finally felt more at home behind the wheel, but I’ll dive into that in a moment.
First, after seeing my own photos of my car on track at Laguna Seca, I just couldn’t bear those halo-style headlights for another day. They promptly came off, and as you can see above my Hella units from eBay Kleinanzeigen were a big upgrade in the aesthetic department. A huge thank you to my friend Max in Germany who handled pick-up and shipping to the US for me.
I actually took a number of images I was planning to include here showing the differences between the glass Euro headlight assemblies and my US-spec ones, as well as my aftermarket Depo lights that were previously installed. I seem to have misplaced those and it’s no great loss because they weren’t terribly interesting anyway.
The gist of it is that the Euro and US lights shared the same plug, the housings were similar but not identical, and they mounted up with no modifications. All European-market E36s received glass lenses, and the Hella ones I have are equipped with significantly larger lamps. These ones are also manual-leveling, and if I could figure out the wiring I could add a switch for that in the interior. I’ve just bypassed this for now.
They arrived with quite a bit of pitting from many miles kilometers covered on the German autobahn, but I didn’t mind at all. I think it’s a kind of cool in a way to transfer that history over to my car, which quite clearly has its own share of highway miles and is not in the best shape. Damn German ’90s clear-coat… And it doesn’t help that I didn’t bother cleaning the car for these shots, either.
More importantly than all of that, the output of these Hella headlights even with standard bulbs is simply insane compared to the aftermarket pieces I had. They’re also much brighter than my stock setup, and I have greatly appreciated this on many late-night drives since. I also carried over the German corner lights, which are amber like US ones but have a simplified look without the integrated reflectors.
Now an old man might reverse into me at night and I can get a free paint job. I think that’s how it works?
Moving on, I also needed to address the vibration coming from the front under braking. To fix this, I had my rotors cleaned up at a local machine shop – the last one left in town – and went for a set of Project Mu Club Racer pads.
I’ve gone for a half black-and-white image here so that the car looks less dirty. Did it work? No? Okay.
The install was super easy, especially as the calipers were already extended from my previous pads, which were still basically like new. They just couldn’t withstand the temperatures at Laguna Seca.
So how would these Project Mu pads do at Thunderhill with Corsa Club?
In as few words as possible, the Club Racers performed perfectly. It shouldn’t come as a surprise at all as these are a pretty serious pad, meant for more hardcore applications than they’ll ever see with me behind the wheel.
Speaking of being behind the wheel, I felt a lot better here than during my first time out. At Laguna Seca I was pretty uncomfortable, but here on the more-familiar-to-me Thunderhill West course I really started to come to terms with the chassis.
And my headlights looked way better, so that’s a win.
Being on the stock suspension with worn Koni Yellows, we’re seeing a lot of body roll but at least the car felt like it was doing exactly what I expected. As the day went on I felt more and more like I was part of the car. Still on those Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires – that’s Dry, Wet, Snow – I was getting the rear to step out with some regularity and catching it with more and more ease as I put my right foot down to pick up speed for the straights earlier each lap.
The E36 really is such a great chassis, and whether I keep the car stock or go with more hardcore suspension it’s clear what we really need most is a driver mod. AKA, more seat time.
Putting more heat in the tires this time out, I eventually wore through the all-seasons. It’s time to track down a 200-treadwear tire, but nothing seems to be stocked in a 235/40R17 for my fronts.
The car was solid all day long, though, proving what I said earlier: all you need to track an E36 is pads and a cooling upgrade. You could probably get away without a cooling upgrade, but who wants to be surprised by that? Not me, and I am happy to report that with my CSF radiator and Stewart Components water pump my temperature needle didn’t move a hair even when driving back-to-back sessions. Nor has it moved in stop-and-go traffic or hours-long backroad romps.
As for the brakes, it was (very) smooth sailing all day. The EBC website claims that their Yellow Stuff compound – used on my old pads – is rated up to 900°C, but looking at their more detailed graphs you can see that the wear rate jumps by a factor of nearly six between 600°C and 800°C. Compared to their Yellows, the wear-rate of more hardcore EBC compounds is 50% less over this jump in temperature. As mentioned in my last update, the Yellows felt great on the street but overheated at the track and began to fade a bit and deposit unevenly after a couple of sessions.
Meanwhile the Project Mu Club Racer RC09 pads are rated to 800°C according to their website, but perhaps more importantly their coefficient of friction is actually slightly lower, between 0.42 and .55μ compared to ~0.6μ with the Yellows. This means roughly 30% more pressure is required to achieve full braking force, and I experienced this first-hand at the track with less aggressive bite and better overall feel. I’d broken PMu pads in less for many less miles on the street than I had with the EBC compound, too, yet they delivered more consistent results over the course of the day.
Most importantly, no overheating, no brake fade, and no more vibration.
There are some more significant upgrades in the pipeline, but in the meantime I’m happy that Project 345 is finally on the right track and is getting hammered around a race track like it should be.
The E36 is such a good car to drive, so let’s do more of that.
Trevor Ryan Instagram: trevornotryan tyrphoto.com
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The car is looking great, love watching the progress and info on these project cars! And I bet those German headlights made the car that much faster on the track...
Ha, maybe at night! There actually was a sunset/nighttime open track nearby at Thunderhill recently. Looked awesome
Great to see the E36 M3 back here! And man those headlights are so nice! They should have had an option at dealers to install OEM Euro parts
Thanks! They are a huge improvement over the plastic US units and are way better than my previous aftermarket ones as well. My rudimentary understanding is that US regulations prevented glass headlights from being used as they would be less safe (when Americans inevitably crashed their cars and got glass all over the road). So it's possible dealers wouldn't have been able to even offer this.
Ah I see that makes sense Still that's a nice OEM upgrade
on the head lights also try splitting the front main lense with a blade, then removing the two round lenses. replace the main lense with proper silicon. sort of gives the outer lamp a xenon eye ball look once done. o and visibility is better so its a win win situation
Haha I just pulled my 'angel eye' headlights and sold them as I don't love the look on the E36 personally — looks nice on the contemporary five-series though.
Until recently I didn't understand why people were interested in non-M BMWs of this era. Now I get it. Modern cars are too hard to work on (or simply have function in the first place), older cars are too simple... and old, these are just the right blend and are really a driver's vehicle. I want a stripped BRZ with a hayabusa swap now.
Yeah I'm glad I have the M3 for a few of reasons, but have considered getting a base model just for fun as well. They're great cars and still very cheap for a RWD platform that's not entirely gutless, fun to drive, and easy to live with. Even a decent 328i is getting hard to find now, though. Good luck on the hayabusa swap lol
I like how you did a track day and the first thing you thought about was how your car looks. Kind of missed the point there buddy!
Yes, the whole time I was driving at Thunderhill I was trying to look at my headlights in the reflection of the car ahead
Glad you're happy with the headlights Trevor even though they've seen quite some Autobahn action Also interesting write up about the brake pads! Do you have Project Mu dealers in the US? For some reason it always gives me a hard time finding performance brake pads in Germany, except EBC. If you ever need something, you know where to contact me But here is a downside to your SH Garage article... now I want a trackrat BMW again *sigh* ^^
Thanks Max, they work great! Yeah we can get PMu stuff here pretty easily although sometimes they aren't stocked and wait times are bad, but that seems like everything right now anyway. I'll definitely let you know when I need more stuff from Germany and thanks again!
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