Features

Michael Gershanok's E36 M3

Photography by Matt Petrie

Michael’s E36 M3 started its life out like most club racing cars – as a regular street car. From there it began its transition towards the track, but in a rather unusual fashion.  He purchased the car new in 1999 as the “Monday through Friday” means of transportation, yet he felt that the motorsports division at BMW was lacking.  He looked no further than to Steve Dinan for the solution to his problem. The result was a fully prepped and supercharged commuting monster. On the weekends Michael took the car to local auto cross events through what is now known as MOTORSPORTS NORTHEAST.

Parking lots and cones were no strangers on the weekend. He found himself frequenting these large sanctioned lots trying to improve his times rather than mowing the lawn or passing out on the patio furniture with a book in his lap. Now compared to the latter this is no cheap alternative especially the weekend at Metlife Stadium where his car and a light pole were acquainted for the first time.  This is where one might put racing aside and reevaluate their hobby, but not Michael. From this point his involvement accelerated and only a real enthusiast can understand and truly appreciate the following chain of events.

Wasting very little time he picked up a 1994 325ci and used his wrecked M3 as a donor car, transferring ALL of the salvageable parts into the non M. Keeping the car off the streets, he immediately stepped up into club racing through BMWCCA and NASA, completing and winning multiple races. Those victories were over shadowed at Watkins Glen when a rainy track day resulted in a multiple car pileup destroying his “325-M’s” front end.  Once again Michael was down, but not out. He came back even stronger by resurrecting his original M3 into its current form you see here.

The emphasis here is placed on “stronger.” Michael sourced a Euro S50 motor with an SMG I transmission. For those of you unfamiliar with the engine and transmission setup, the Euro S50 engine is unrestricted due to the difference between US and European emission laws, therefore making more horsepower and torque than the M3’s sold within the states. The transmission dubbed “SMG” for Sequential Manual Gearbox was made famous by the E46 M3 from 2001-2006. The E46 M3 owned the second generation of BMW’s electro-hydraulic clutch engaging manual gearbox. What most people don’t know is that the E36’s in Europe have been running this technology since the mid 90’s and is extremely rare to see in the US.  The only other manufacturer to offer this technology in their street cars during the 90’s was Ferrari. Worry not all of you die-hard, 3-pedal purists because he swapped out the SMG I transmission for a true 6 speed manual.

The damaged body was corrected with an E30 M3 inspired full fiberglass wide body. The only thing still left metal on the body is the roof itself.  With the full roll cage, Lexan windows, and ATL fuel cell filled, the car weighs in at 2600lbs. To any ordinary enthusiast an E36 weighing in at less than 3000lbs with a Euro S50 engine would be one hell of a ride, but Michael was not finished there.  He is running a Vanos delete with cams from VAC Motorsports and a CSL carbon fiber intake straight through the front end with a headlight delete.  With all the modifications made to the engine he opted for a KMS engine management system and puts the 420bhp to the rear wheels with a Blanton 3:91 differential.

His racing “career” has been very successful with multiple wins in both the CCA and NASA events.  Michael has proven himself on the track, but you cannot be competitive without a properly functioning car. The credit of the builds and rebuilds as well as preparation and trackside assistance goes to Mike O’Neill and Al Wilson of Northeast Motorsports.  Keeping this car in running order week in and week out is what allowed Michael to have multi-year NASA GTS4 championship victories.  After back to back championships in 2008 and 2009 he decided it was time to retire the E36 and move up to the GTS3 class with more competitive cars and drivers.