Picking up where we left off in the last Project 345 update, my E36 BMW M3 sedan was still in need of better headlights and brake pads.
This isn’t a super exciting SH Garage post, but I wanted to cover these items quickly and share some driving impressions after getting the car back to the track again. I’m glad to say that I finally felt more at home behind the wheel, but I’ll dive into that in a moment.
First, after seeing my own photos of my car on track at Laguna Seca, I just couldn’t bear those halo-style headlights for another day. They promptly came off, and as you can see above my Hella units from eBay Kleinanzeigen were a big upgrade in the aesthetic department. A huge thank you to my friend Max in Germany who handled pick-up and shipping to the US for me.
I actually took a number of images I was planning to include here showing the differences between the glass Euro headlight assemblies and my US-spec ones, as well as my aftermarket Depo lights that were previously installed. I seem to have misplaced those and it’s no great loss because they weren’t terribly interesting anyway.
The gist of it is that the Euro and US lights shared the same plug, the housings were similar but not identical, and they mounted up with no modifications. All European-market E36s received glass lenses, and the Hella ones I have are equipped with significantly larger lamps. These ones are also manual-leveling, and if I could figure out the wiring I could add a switch for that in the interior. I’ve just bypassed this for now.
They arrived with quite a bit of pitting from many
miles kilometers covered on the German autobahn, but I didn’t mind at all. I think it’s a kind of cool in a way to transfer that history over to my car, which quite clearly has its own share of highway miles and is not in the best shape. Damn German ’90s clear-coat… And it doesn’t help that I didn’t bother cleaning the car for these shots, either.
More importantly than all of that, the output of these Hella headlights even with standard bulbs is simply insane compared to the aftermarket pieces I had. They’re also much brighter than my stock setup, and I have greatly appreciated this on many late-night drives since. I also carried over the German corner lights, which are amber like US ones but have a simplified look without the integrated reflectors.
Now an old man might reverse into me at night and I can get a free paint job. I think that’s how it works?
Moving on, I also needed to address the vibration coming from the front under braking. To fix this, I had my rotors cleaned up at a local machine shop – the last one left in town – and went for a set of Project Mu Club Racer pads.
I’ve gone for a half black-and-white image here so that the car looks less dirty. Did it work? No? Okay.
The install was super easy, especially as the calipers were already extended from my previous pads, which were still basically like new. They just couldn’t withstand the temperatures at Laguna Seca.
So how would these Project Mu pads do at Thunderhill with Corsa Club?
In as few words as possible, the Club Racers performed perfectly. It shouldn’t come as a surprise at all as these are a pretty serious pad, meant for more hardcore applications than they’ll ever see with me behind the wheel.
Speaking of being behind the wheel, I felt a lot better here than during my first time out. At Laguna Seca I was pretty uncomfortable, but here on the more-familiar-to-me Thunderhill West course I really started to come to terms with the chassis.
And my headlights looked way better, so that’s a win.
Being on the stock suspension with worn Koni Yellows, we’re seeing a lot of body roll but at least the car felt like it was doing exactly what I expected. As the day went on I felt more and more like I was part of the car. Still on those Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires – that’s Dry, Wet, Snow – I was getting the rear to step out with some regularity and catching it with more and more ease as I put my right foot down to pick up speed for the straights earlier each lap.
The E36 really is such a great chassis, and whether I keep the car stock or go with more hardcore suspension it’s clear what we really need most is a driver mod. AKA, more seat time.
Putting more heat in the tires this time out, I eventually wore through the all-seasons. It’s time to track down a 200-treadwear tire, but nothing seems to be stocked in a 235/40R17 for my fronts.
The car was solid all day long, though, proving what I said earlier: all you need to track an E36 is pads and a cooling upgrade. You could probably get away without a cooling upgrade, but who wants to be surprised by that? Not me, and I am happy to report that with my CSF radiator and Stewart Components water pump my temperature needle didn’t move a hair even when driving back-to-back sessions. Nor has it moved in stop-and-go traffic or hours-long backroad romps.
As for the brakes, it was (very) smooth sailing all day. The EBC website claims that their Yellow Stuff compound – used on my old pads – is rated up to 900°C, but looking at their more detailed graphs you can see that the wear rate jumps by a factor of nearly six between 600°C and 800°C. Compared to their Yellows, the wear-rate of more hardcore EBC compounds is 50% less over this jump in temperature. As mentioned in my last update, the Yellows felt great on the street but overheated at the track and began to fade a bit and deposit unevenly after a couple of sessions.
Meanwhile the Project Mu Club Racer RC09 pads are rated to 800°C according to their website, but perhaps more importantly their coefficient of friction is actually slightly lower, between 0.42 and .55μ compared to ~0.6μ with the Yellows. This means roughly 30% more pressure is required to achieve full braking force, and I experienced this first-hand at the track with less aggressive bite and better overall feel. I’d broken PMu pads in less for many less miles on the street than I had with the EBC compound, too, yet they delivered more consistent results over the course of the day.
Most importantly, no overheating, no brake fade, and no more vibration.
There are some more significant upgrades in the pipeline, but in the meantime I’m happy that Project 345 is finally on the right track and is getting hammered around a race track like it should be.
The E36 is such a good car to drive, so let’s do more of that.