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Bergsteiger E36

Last Update: 8.2.2019

de: "Bergsteiger" : en: Mountaineer, Climber

About Pikes Peak

Pikes PeakFollowing our inaugural Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 2017 - sixth in class, 11:02.966 - we approach our next hillclimb effort with a renewed appreciation for what it takes to go really, really fast up a mountain. They call it a "hill climb" but the hills are way below us. Don't mistake Pikes Peak as anything but a mountain. This course is 12.42 miles and 156 turns, with a starting line at 9,100 feet above sea level, and an elevation change of 4,720 feet!

The 2017 entry with a E92 M3 was our first attempt at a hill climb car and it exceeded our expectations and performed flawlessly. That car was built with specific objectives in mind: a serious contender in the Time Attack 1 class but with many bolt-on upgrades that a weekend track toy would benefit from. For our next entry, however, we had to go beyond the realm of the typical track junkie. We had to crest new heights and strive ever higher in our quest for speed on the mountain.

Yes, it will be an E36.... Yes, it will be turbocharged..... Yes, it will have mega aero upgrades.....

This car will be so far advanced from what any other E36 has been that we need more than a year of development for it. Keep checking this page as the months and weeks count down to our next Pikes Peak International Hill Climb!


Our target power number was over 900hp. At the Pikes Peak altitude we can expect to lose 20% of our output so starting big is key. The original plan called for a monster N54 build with Roush Engines and MOTIV Motorsport. They were well on their way to hitting our target. But then we had a new M6 make 700hp on our dyno with just an Epic Motorsports tune. And that got us seriously re-thinking our choice of powerplant. An N54 using every conceivable trick and approaching the upper limits of its design. Or a S63TU reaching target power with minimal effort using stock internals and hardware.

As interesting as a monster N54 would be to build and document, the "effortless" power from an S63 was too attractive. But moving from an inline-6 to a V8 presents some obvious additional challenges, the first of which is obviously, "Will it fit?" Other V8 swaps have been done on the E36 but the "hot vee" layout of the BMW S63 makes this fitment more interesting. On the hot vee design the turbos are in the V of the engine block and the intakes are on the sides/bottom. The exhaust runs down the back of the block. In that respect this application is better because we won't need to fabricate intricate headers to fit within the E36 frame rails, which were already previously reinforced and modified along with the strut towers. The initial test install of the V8 in the E36 engine was promising. The more compact V8 leaves more room in the front, which will quickly be filled with intercoolers and ducting for our aero package. The exact placement to the firewall, and an exhaust layout, has yet to be determined.

To learn more about the engine itself we checked in with BMW Motorsport on how the P63 engine in the M6 GT3 and M6 GTLM is laid out. Through our conversations we were able to get a spare P63 V8 engine sent to us for initial mockup and development. The P63 is the official code for the racing version of the S63 street engine. Most of the differences are in the packaging and support systems as the race engine actually makes equal power to the street version to meet international Balance of Performance rules. The P63 would be a better start for our project saving us from engineering and fabricating similar pieces ourselves (fuel and oil systems for example). Much of what we need is already in the M6 GT3 catalog! And just like the GT3 our E36 will run a transaxle which will further improve space in the engine compartment.

"Hey, I have an idea!"

Body & Aero

Our basic needs are a wide footprint and literally tons of downforce. As anyone who has built an E36 track car knows, it's not easy to fit super-wide tires under stock bodywork. Watch this space as we transform a homely E36 into a chopped and sectioned mountaineer ("bergsteiger").

E36 #1
Our first E36 candidate was this humble 325is that was offered to us by a customer. The body was rough and although we would be chopping, sectioning, and channeling, it was too sad-looking for us to build upon. We were able to acquire an empty E36 M3 shell that we could start on right away.

E36 #2 - the one that is "just right"
Work begins by eye-balling the IMSA GTP tunnel molds we had kicking around. These were originally used on a Argo GTP Lights car in the 1980s - the pinnacle of aero downforce development. We laid out our carbon fiber and did some further scrutineering on how we're going to get these massive tunnels up into a steel-bodied production car.

Front Strut Towers Raised & Carbon Fenders Test-Fitted
The front inner fenders and shock towers have now been relocated upward to lower the chassis for aero effectiveness and to make room for our monster wheels, tires and brakes. A ton of work went into reshaping the strut towers without affecting suspension geometry. Just a little more massaging and it will fit together almost like a stock car!

Rear Wheel Wells Raised
Just like the front, we sectioned out the rear wheel wells and raised them up into the body. We have kept the factory sheetmetal here because the floor will also be raised up. Any gaps were covered with sheet steel and the structure was beefed up with square tubing. This is by no means a finished position but check out the ground clearance in the last photo!

Raising the Rear Floor
To make room at the back for the tunnels we raised the trunk floor after the back seat to mate to the raised wheel wells. Again, we cut along pre-planned existing seams so that it goes back together like the factory shell. We could have kept the outer skin and fabricated the internals with standard sheet metal but this way retains somewhat of a factory appearance (picture it fully painted).

V8 Engine Mockup in the E36 Chassis
We were fairly sure the N54 inline-6 would fit within the E36 firewall and frame but now we have a hot-vee 90° V8. And did you think we were going to use E36 lower control arms and suspension? This is where the Bergsteiger project took a radical turn and the engineers said something like, "It's time to get serious." The Motorsport P63 engine has to sit low and rearward for optimum performance. How about we just tube it up?

Firewall and Floor
Since the original E36 engineers didn't think of our P63+transaxle+tunnel project we went ahead and chopped out the pieces that were in the way. The firewall was not strong enough to support the P63 in the proper way. Square tubing will fill its space and form the center of a front tube-frame and interior safety cell.

Tube Frame and Safety Cell
This roll cage structure will provide the strength needed for 1,000+hp as well as the critical safety net around the driver.

Body Shell and Tube Frame Meet
One does not simply build a tube frame within an E36 shell. It takes many mockups to check and re-check clearances, alignments, and to plan for just about everything. We still don't have a dash or wiring harness, steering column, transmission/torque tube tunnel, or a rear axle. But work continues with big milestones coming up.

Rear Suspension
The rear suspension is mostly custom tubular arms mounting to the chassis but we do have a factory E46 M3 rear trailing arm. This gives us mounting locations for the brakes, axles, and rear shock. It also clears the underfloor tunnels really well. The rear shocks will be a custom set of MCS dampers.

Front Aero

Rear Aero

Lots more to come! Latest updates posted to Facebook: BimmerWorld and James Clay


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