The BMW E36 318i
The phrase ‘race of Sunday, sell on Monday’ might have been coined in the endurance racing world, but nowhere has it rung truer than in touring cars. In the 1980s and ’90s, especially, saloons more commonly seen traversing the motorways of the world ferrying businessmen from boardroom to boardroom were stripped, stickered up and sent into battle on the racetrack, driven by steely drivers who gave each other zero quarter. The resulting racing could only be described as door to door – and if feuds weren’t settled in the cars, then they were often concluded out of them!
A marque woven into the very fabric of touring car racing is BMW. From the Capri-killing 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ to the legendary box-arched E30-generation M3, for example, which is the German marque’s most successful model of them all. Needless to say, the E30 M3 left big shoes to fill when regulation changes left it obsolete from most touring car championships in the early 1990s.
Enter the BMW E36 318i. Boasting a two-litre version of the E30’s bulletproof two-litre S14 engine and thus adhering to the FIA’s new Super Touring framework of rules, the 318i more closely resembled the production 3 Series in the showrooms. It proved quick – very quick – winning a plethora of domestic touring car championships around the world.
“In the 1980s and ’90s, saloons more commonly seen traversing the motorways of the world ferrying businessmen from boardroom to boardroom were stripped, stickered up and sent into battle on the racetrack, driven by steely drivers who gave each other zero quarter.”
The car we’re thrilled to be offering is chassis number E36A-033, which was the very first Super Touring Class 2-specification 318i, built as a factory BMW Motorsport entrant in the 1993 British Touring Car Championship.
In 1992, the BMW of Great Britain satellite team had represented the Munich marque in the BTCC. But as BMW itself withdrew from the DTM in Germany at the end of 1992, it instead sanctioned a full Works assault at the British series for 1993, operated by its trusted outfit Schnitzer Motorsport. As Schnitzer was otherwise engaged campaigning the older E30 M3s for the Works at the end of 1992, the construction of this car was instead entrusted to Valier Motorsport.
As with all the cars destined to be run by Schnitzer, the inside of this 318i – including the roll cage – was painted all in red. However, for the subsequent chassis, BMW stipulated that the interiors be painted factory white.
E36A-033’s first on-track duties came in the form of three test days – two at Monza in February of 19933 and one at Silverstone in March. The car was driven by the factory BMW Motorsport drivers who’d been assigned to race the 318is in that year’s BTCC: Steve Soper and ‘Smoking Jo’ Winkelhock.
On 15 March, this BMW starred prominently in the official press day for the BTCC, driven once again by Soper and Winkelhock. Nineteen ninety-three was a big year for the series. A title sponsor had been found in the shape of Auto Trader. No fewer than 20 manufacturer-backed cars were due to battle it out. The crop of drivers was the best it had ever been. And all 17 rounds were going to be broadcast on BBC’s Grandstand programme, with commentary from the legendary Murray Walker.
After two further test days at Silverstone and Snetterton, this BMW’s maiden competitive outing came at the opening round of the BTCC at Silverstone on 27–28 March. E36A-033 was adorned with the race number six and assigned to Steve Soper. In their first weekend representing the Works on British soil in a British championship, Schnitzer Motorsport was the class of the field.
The brace of BMWs proved unstoppable, Soper clinching pole position and outright victory with this very 318i ahead of Winkelhock in the sister car. “Those that should have challenged drivers Steve Soper and Joachim Winkelhock were simply less ready than the BMW organisation,” reported Autosport magazine. “The Britons will simply have to raise their game to see off the Germans this year.”
“In their first weekend representing the Works on British soil in a British championship, Schnitzer Motorsport was the class of the field, Soper clinching pole position and outright victory with this very 318i.”
The next round of the BTCC at Donington assumed an elevated status in the paddock as it served as a support race for the 1993 SEGA European Grand Prix – yes, the race in which Ayrton Senna made everyone else look like they were standing still in what were truly biblical conditions. Soper once again took the helm of E36A-033, picking up where he left off at Silverstone with an impressive pole position.
On Sunday, the wet-weather Michelin tyres fitted to the Renault 19s of Tim Harvey and Alain Menu gifted the French team a spectacular and unexpected one-two victory. Soper’s deft display of driving in the frankly atrocious conditions resulted in a third-place finish and this BMW’s second podium in as many outings.
For the remainder of the 1993 season, this BMW 318i served as a spare car for the BMW Motorsport Team and did not race. Suffice to say, BMW dominated the BTCC, clinching the Manufacturers’ Championship by over 50 points. The Driver’s title, meanwhile, was secured by Winkelhock. At the TOCA awards dinner on 25 September, E36A-033 was proudly displayed at the venue with the newly crowned champion’s name on the rear side windows.
By no means were this BMW’s duties over for the year, however. In September, the first ever FIA Touring Car World Cup was held at Monza. The premise was simple: to pitch the finest touring car drivers from around the world against each other in a bid to determine which country boasts the richest talent. This BMW was entered once again by the Works, though driven by Thierry Tassin, who was one of four drivers representing Belgium. After two races that were as chaotic and spectacular as you would imagine, Tassin finished 34th and 32nd.
For its next outing in November, E36A-033 made the cross-continental journey to Macau on the south coast of China. The Guia Race of Macau was a prestigious event touring car event run annually since 1963. In 1993, the race was run to the German DTM regulations and Schnitzer Motorsport (again, representing the Works) fielded two BMW 318is.
This car was one of them and driven by the young Italian driver Emanuele Pirro, who’d famously go on to become one of the most successful sports car racers of all time with five Le Mans victories. On the narrow streets of Macau, Pirro drove an excellent and mature race despite suffering a puncture midway through, finishing third overall and second in the two-litre class.
“A race-winning ex-Works BMW Motorsport Team car which played an integral role in securing BMW the 1993 British Touring Car Championship, this 318i is a wonderful embodiment of the glorious and fondly-remembered Super Touring era.”
Java in Indonesia was this BMW’s next destination. In December of 1993, an invitational touring car race was staged on the newly opened Sentul International Circuit. The final outing for E36A-033 under the Works BMW Motorsport banner, the car was driven once again by Pirro, who won the race in fine fashion.
Following the race at Sentul, this BMW 318i was sold to Team Taisan in Japan and refinished in black with red Valvoline sponsorship – a combination that worked very well on this particular car given its all-red interior. In 1994, E36A-033 contested the All Japan Touring Car Championship in the hands of Kazuo Mogi. After the season had concluded, this BMW was carefully tucked away into storage, where it remained until 2020, when Girardo & Co. acquired the car and arranged for it to be returned to England.
We promptly delivered this BMW to BBM Sport Motorsport Engineering, one of the world’s leading historic racing car preparation companies, for a sympathetic overhaul. Totalling over £55,000, the extensive works included a full strip of the bodyshell and exterior repaint in the factory BMW Motorsport Team white, complete with the 1993 Steve Soper BTCC livery.
The straight-four engine was stripped, thoroughly inspected and rebuilt, likewise the transmission and driveshafts. The pneumatic airjack system was refurbished, while the entire braking system was overhauled. The suspension and steering rack received the same treatment and the wheels were refurbished. Finally, new tyres were fitted. It’s important to note that during the recommissioning, BBM did not touch the original factory red paint inside the car, as evidenced by the original scrutineering stickers attached to the roll cage.
Finally, we commissioned a full report from Schnitzer Motorsport, the outfit which ran this 318i on behalf of the factory, in order to authenticate the car’s period competition history and its originality today. The 12-page report is utterly fascinating, with period hand-written lap charts and event itineraries complete with notes from Schnitzer Motorsport’s chief Charly Lamm. We sold the car to its current Italian owner in 2021, since when it has been carefully stored and only used on a handful of occasions.
A race-winning ex-Works BMW Motorsport Team car which played an integral role in securing BMW the 1993 British Touring Car Championship, this 318i is a wonderful embodiment of the glorious and fondly-remembered Super Touring era. What’s more, it was driven by Steve Soper and Emanuele Pirro, two of the greatest touring car drivers of all time. E36A-033’s subsequent international competition career, 26-year storage period and recent recommissioning are all fantastic strings to its bow. This is a car which needs to be enjoyed and shared with the world once again.