Sedans & Coupes

The BMW M3 GT Is the Coolest E36 M3 the US Never Got

The E30 M3’s status as a revered classic BMW isn’t just due to performance. It led to a long line of sports sedans, with the 2021 BMW M3 being the latest heir. However, the E30’s immediate successor, the E36 M3, doesn’t have quite the same reputation, especially in the US. That’s because, in addition to our version missing some things, we never received one of its best trims: the BMW E36 M3 GT.

What makes the BMW M3 GT different from the regular E36 M3?

The North American E36 M3 was a bit hamstrung compared to the European model, Road & Track reports. For one, our version had significantly less horsepower. Also, it never received the later-available 6-speed manual. And while we got a few Lightweight models, the BMW E36 M3 GT was firmly out of our grasp, R&T reports.

A green 1995 BMW E36 M3 GT drives around a wet racetrack
1995 BMW E36 M3 GT | BMW

The 1995 BMW E360 M3 GT is a homologation special, like the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort RS Cosworth. It exists because BMW wanted to take the E36 to the races. And to do so, it had to sell a given number of road-going models, Petrolicious explains.

The green and carbon-fiber-trimmed interior of a UK-spec 1995 BMW E36 M3 GT
UK-spec 1995 BMW E36 M3 GT interior | Car & Classic

The BMW M3 GT has a 3.0-liter inline-6 like the ‘normal’ E36 M3 does. However, it has an upgraded oil pump, retuned ECU, different cams, and higher compression, BMWBlog reports. As a result, it makes 295 hp, 13 more than the Euro-spec model at the time. In comparison, the US version had 240 hp.

The green 1995 BMW E36 M3 GT's rear wing
1995 BMW E36 M3 GT rear wing | BMW

Along with the power boost, the BMW M3 GT has stiffer springs and shocks, a strut-tower brace, carbon-fiber interior trim, and well-bolstered sport seats. Partially thanks to aluminum doors, it’s about 66 pounds lighter than the base E36 M3. It also has a functional and adjustable splitter and double wing. The rear wing is so functional that the downforce it generates can break the trunk latch, R&T reports. And, like the base car, it has a limited-slip differential.

The BMW E36 M3 GT drives like a proper homologation special

Although the US-spec E36 M3 is down on power, it’s still a fun car to drive, ECS Tuning reports. Michelin even uses a Lightweight model to test its tires, Car and Driver reports.

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The BMW M3 GT, though, is everything good about the E36, but accentuated. It’s not quite as sharp or raw as the E30, R&T reports. However, it’s arguably more capable as an all-arounder, Petrolicious reports.

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You notice the extra power, but it never overwhelms the suspension or tires. The steering wheel’s level of feedback is excellent; combined with the suspension and chassis, you never feel unconfident in the corners. Plus, the more aggressive cams make for an incredible metallic howl from the exhaust.

All this is why Carfection considers it the “ultimate E36 M3.”

Finding one will be difficult

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Unfortunately, as if its Europe-only sales don’t make finding a BMW M3 GT hard enough, it’s also fairly rare. BMW made just 356 E36 M3 GTs. The German automaker also made 50 cosmetic-only examples in right-hand-drive for the UK market. However, these lack the mechanical upgrades the ‘real’ GTs have.

The rear 3/4 view of a red Euro-spec 1995 BMW M3 Coupe
Euro-spec 1995 BMW M3 Coupe rear 3/4 | Bring a Trailer

However, that doesn’t stop even the RHD models from commanding a premium. US-spec E36 M3s hover around $10,000-$20,000 on Bring a Trailer. In contrast, as of this writing, Car & Classic lists 2 RHD examples at roughly $36,000.

A white 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight
1995 BMW M3 Lightweight | Bring a Trailer

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But there is at least one way to get something close to a US-spec E36 M3 GT. The Lightweight models have a few GT parts, Car and Driver reports, such as the splitter, strut-tower brace, upgraded oil pump, and Euro-spec suspension. However, these too are pricier than the standard M3s. The last example sold on BaT went for $76,250.

Alternatively, you could try recreating the BMW M3 GT by scouring the BMW Classic parts catalog. But given the homologation nature of the car, you likely wouldn’t get all the way there.

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