Here we are.
It’s been quite a journey, and we can’t lie; it’s been a tough one. Project Euro M3 began as more of a dream than anything: Build a fully functioning – comfortable – 500+ horsepower ultimate driving machine. The platform for the ambitious build was arguably one of the most coveted iterations of the legendary marque, the European market E36 M3. Our mission was simple…add a bunch of extra air.
Both in the engine bay, AND the cabin.
Those that have been following along are already familiar with the clutch and suspension jobs we completed on this particular chassis. However, those were a virtual cakewalk compared to what lay ahead. As we mentioned previously, the owner of Project Euro M3 was looking for something unique – modern climate control in addition to our signature Euro M3 supercharger kit. After months of research, measurements, and parts ordering, we were finally ready to feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme; get on up, it’s A/C time!
Beginning with a right hand drive M3, originally equipped WITHOUT air conditioning, meant we had our work cut out for us. Or rather, we would have to cut out our work.
In went orders for the pressure hose assembly, condenser, compressor, compressor bracket, and all associated pipes and hoses. Almost immediately, we encountered an issue; The European E36 M3 has a unique air compressor, with a very unique part number. A week went by while we waited in anticipation to hear from our overseas supplier. Once we did though, it was more bad news. Another Euro M3 that had suffered an accident had just bought the last unit in stock. Considering that the M3 was only in the U.S. on a visa, and would need to be shipped out within less than 2 months, time was suddenly becoming a major factor.
In the meantime, we purchased a junked USDM M3 to scavenge parts from, and determine whether there was any cross-compatibility. Fortunately, some parts did appear to share some common characteristics…unfortunately, we encountered other issues. One look at Mike’s notes from the build should give an idea:
– A/C evaporator casing is very different.
– The blower motor doesn’t even look BMW!
– The fuse box has blank spaces where the A/C circuit should go.
Wiring of course presented the most intricate and complicated problems. We were forced to carefully separate the wiring harness from our wrecked left-hand drive M3 and attempt to integrate it into Project Euro M3’s. Obstacle after obstacle arose, none of which could have possibly been foreseen. Of course, converting the older style vent controls to the more user-friendly triple circular units wasn’t making anything easier.
It got bad enough at one point that Project Euro M3’s owner suggested we completely scrap the idea altogether. But we persevered…right up until the car’s ECU died. Without an operable ECU, we had no way to continue to trouble-shoot the system. Everyone involved was very close to throwing in the towel on the project.
Never ones to give up, Active’s team dug deep. Relying on Mike’s leadership, Craig’s ingenuity, and Karl’s technical wizardry, we secured a new engine control unit got the car running, the air conditioning running ice cold, and everything operating as if it had just rolled out of the factory. The end result was a domestic wiring harness integrated with the car’s European version. We were able to utilize the USDM evaporator case, actuators, blower motor, and master control…meaning any need for replacement parts in the future would be a “breeze.” We had finally caught a break.
Ready to build on this success, our world-famous Euro-specific supercharger system was installed, and we were ready to strap the car onto our in-house dyno. On 9 PSI with moderate tuning, we saw over 500 horsepower at the flywheel. However, due to the lower 91 octane fuel available in the Bahamas, we decided to install a 7 PSI pulley and a more conservative tune. Final results can be found below:
And for comparison’s sake, here’s how Project Euro M3 stacks up against an E60 M5:
All in all, Project Euro M3 was an unprecedented success. Even through all the adversity and frustration, we have to admit this has been one of our favorite builds to date. We’re almost surprised with how well the final product turned out ourselves! A pristine Dakar Yellow BMW rolled into our shop; what rolled out was one very cool M3.
Who says you can’t bring winter to the islands?
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