Bergsteiger E36 Build Journal
Sort by Name Sort by Price

Bergsteiger E36 Build Journal

Last Update: 05.05.2021

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 2019 we entered one of our F82 M4 GT4 race cars - tuned by Epic Motorsports and improved our time with a 10:39.786 run. For our next entry, however, we have 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 is E36 based.... Yes, it is turbocharged..... Yes, it has mega aero upgrades..... And it's like no other E36 you have seen.

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!

The Battery

This project began with a torture test of an OPTIMA battery. One battery used in the most punishing environments a battery would every see: from the Red Rocks of Moab to the Green Hell of the Nurburgring, a single OPTIMA YellowTop battery powered a wide range of vehicles. We used this YellowTop on our first Pikes Peak entry, a BMW E92 M3 and also during the Nurburgring 24 Hour in a BMW M235iR. Hooked on the hill climb we set about building a monster of an E36, again with OPTIMA on board.


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 700whp on our dyno with just an Epic Motorsports flash tune (over 800hp at the engine). And that got us seriously re-thinking our choice of powerplant. A tricked out N54 pushing 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. 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 be filled with intercoolers and ducting for our aero package.

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. 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 Balance of Performance rules. Through our conversations we were able to get a spare P63 V8 engine sent to us for mockup and development. 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 might 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 so substantial work would be needed on the body and chassis.

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.

A Familiar E36 Shape
On the surface this car looks like a very familiar E36 shape. The widebody panels for this build came from the same molds used for the 1990s E36 M3s raced by Schnitzer Motorsport and Prototype Technology Group. It was hugely important that we get a lot of BMW DNA in this project and what better representative of the E36 legacy than the shape that brought multiple Manufacturers and Drivers titles to BMW. Underneath is a different story altogether as you'll see from the photos below.

Initial E36 Chassis Work

Front Strut Towers Raised & Carbon Fenders Test-Fitted
The front inner fenders and shock towers were 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!

Update: once the needs of the P63 V8 were realized we had to scrap the modified stock fender wells and construct a tube frame. We left these images here for general interest.

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!

Update: once the transaxle, fuel cell, and tunnels were mocked into place we realized we had to scrap the modified stock fender wells and construct a tube frame. We left these images here for general interest.

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).
Update: after test fitting the transaxle, fuel cell, and suspension we had no room for the factory floor section and switched to a tube-frame and sheetmetal. We left these photos here for general interest.

E36 Tube Frame

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? We'll have custom MCS dampers mounted to the tube frame. 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.

Rear Suspension
The rear suspension is our tubular aluminum arms mounted to the transaxle 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.

We have the ultimate PFC braking system on this build:
Front: 380mm V3 discs with ZR78 6-piston monoblock GT Endurance calipers. Calipers are massive but weigh only 6.34lbs each! Because it's an Endurance caliper - and pads are super thick - no removable caliper bridge is necessary so the caliper is incredibly stiff.
Rear: 380mm V3 discs with ZR77 4-piston monoblock GT Endurance calipers. Super-sized but weighs only 5.21lbs.

Pads: PFC 11 race compound. We don't need the super-thick 30mm pads but it's a trade-off to get these awesome calipers on the car.

Forgeline GS1R Competition Monobloc wheels sized at 18x12" sit at all four corners.

Front Aero
This car has the full complement of aero enhancers, inspired by contemporary DTM and LeMans prototype cars. In addition to the massive tunnels under the car, an equally massive front splitter is there to capture air off the nose. The splitter came from a Lola B2K/40 LeMans prototype car. To evacuate air from under the car and the engine bay, side channels were cut through the E36 rocker panels and large vents were built into the hood. Slippery it ain't but dynamic it is!

Rear Aero
One of the core features of this project has been to create substantial downforce to go along with the big power. These tunnels were borrowed from a IMSA Camel Lights race car from the 1980s (when downforce was unlimited). The challenging reality of fitting tunnels to a unibody chassis was not lost on us but required extensive work in the back to make everything fit within the E36 body shell. At first the factory rear floor was going to be raised with the tunnels cut into the backseat and spare tire well. But things escalated from there and it was decided to cut the rear floor out entirely and build from scratch. This had the added benefit of allowing the tunnels to be extended even further. What's better than downforce tunnels on an E36? Longer tunnels of course!

Cockpit & Interior


SEMA Unveiling at OPTIMA, November 5, 2019, Las Vegas

Testing Action

Click for extra-large 1920px size.


Video Walk-Around (4:28)

Dyno Warm-Up and Pulls (2:34)

Shakedown Test and Notes at Road Atlanta (6:41)

Splitter-Cam at COTA (2:59)

Ride-Alongs at COTA (8:08)

Build Summary

1996 BMW E36 M3

Racetech RT9119 Kevlar seat
Lifeline Zero 360 Novec fire system (plus 1KG handheld)
Schroth 7-point SFI harness
Schroth FIA cockpit nets
OMP 310 ALU GT steering wheel
ATL custom fuel cell
E36 M3 GTR (ALMS) carbon widebody, modified for additional cooling and downforce
Full body underwing meshes a modified Lola BK240 front splitter, custom floor and undertray, and Argo JM19 Camel Lights downforce tunnels. Estimated 3,000+ lbs of downforce.
Race weight: 2,650lbs
E36 unibody basis with partial tube frame
Custom double A-arm front
Factory BMW E46 M3 trailing arm with BimmerWorld tubular aluminum rear arms
MCS 4-way dampers
DCE power steering
Performance Friction GT-spec endurance package
Bosch Motorsport ABS
Wheels & Tires
Forgeline GS1R 18x12"
Continental/Hoosier racing slick
BMW Motorsport P63 (M6 GT3) twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8
Twin Weistec turbos
Built and tuned by Roush Engines using ported heads, forged rods & pistons
Bosch Motorsport ECU
Motec dash and PDM
OPTIMA YellowTop battery
Over 1,000hp with E85 fuel
Hollinger 6-speed transaxle (rear mounted)
Paddle-actuated air-shift

Latest updates posted to Facebook: BimmerWorld and James Clay


Sort by Name Sort by Price