A “SPECIAL” AUTOCROSS E36

BY: MICHAEL FELDPUSCH

I first saw this car compete at the SCCA National ProSolo finale back in the early 2000s. It was lined up against David Fauth in the DSP class and I watched these two E36s battle it out, with David winning the in the end. The car was driven and built by Brian Matteucci from the Houston region, and it was built to win the DSP class, taking advantage of every line in the rule book. After several years, this green E36 came to Colorado when it was purchased by Paul Leonard, a member of the BMW Club. Paul and his son, Evan, drove the car for several years on a local and National level with SCCA. It was in 2009 that I purchased this car because I didn’t want this “special” E36 to leave the state. I already had an Autocross car (SCCA SSM Corvette) and thought, “This is what I need, another autocross car.” But I bit the bullet and got the car because to build an E36 like this, from scratch, would cost a lot of money and time. But here is an SCCA DSP car that is basically ready to go.

My first year at Nationals with this car, I placed 5th and took the last trophy spot. With the addition of the Mazda RX8s to the class, the E36 has been tough to win at nationals, which means there is always more room for development. This article is to detail out the complete built, from end to end, starting with Brian and working up to my upgrades.

This E36 is a 1995 325is that was originally purchased by Brian. Not sure on when, but the theme for this car was to build it as light as possible and to the limit of the class (at that time). Before any power or suspension work, legal weight reduction was the first step. The car came stock with a sunroof, but the roof was completely replaced with a non-sunroof roof from an E36, including the headliner in the cabin. The next thing to be replaced was the windshield. Brian purchased 15 windshields from various vendors and weighed each one. He took the lightest windshield from the batch and returned the rest. All the low hanging fruit for weight reduction was performed like replacement seats, steering wheel, stereo, and AC removal. Additional reduction included lightweight rims and at that time, the SSR 18×10” rims were the lightest rim that could fit the widest tire, which are 285. Fender flaring on the front and rear fenders were performed to make this car look great and fit the wider-than-stock rims. For power, a low-mileage 1999 2.8-liter motor was swapped in for the original motor along with additional upgrades such as lightweight pulleys, electric fan, Conforti software, cold-air intake, BMW 540i MAF, Dinan throttle body, and an M52 intake manifold. In addition, there is a Euro M3 tubular header
with updated exhaust. Suspension wise, Brian put H&R sway bars, upgraded springs, and Koni single adjustable shocks.

Photos provided by Fox Chung and Michael Feldpusch

When Paul obtained the car, the first thing he did was name it Green Machine. During Paul’s time with the car, additional work on the car to make it lighter took place such as replacing the front dash with a non-airbag dash from a 1993 E36. Evolution of the Street Prepared rules enabled Paul to lower even more weight with small things here and there. Too much to list but some of the significant upgrades were AST double adjustable shocks, rear spoiler, LTW 15-inch custom rims, lightweight flywheel, M5 clutch, stainless steel brake and clutch lines, and replacement of parts like control arms, bushings, and wheel bearings.

Then it was my turn for the continuation of the build. The first thing I did when I obtained the car was put on the BMW Racing black strip up the hood and the roof. It took me, David Jobusch, and Jake Latham three hours to put it on. Never again. The Green Machine name was retired and Jessica, my wife, decided to name the car Stewie. But it is often referred to as, “the green car.” It was a big transition for me going from a 600+HP V8 motor to an inline-6 with barely 200hp. But the car is fast, not because of the power but how well it handled and how light it was. As the tradition of this car’s owner, updates and upgrades are constantly being done. These are not necessarily in order, but the modifications (with legal weight reduction in mind) I did early on were: Upgraded Ignition coil packs, replaced stock baffled intake boot with smooth silicon boot, updated cold-air intake, purchased a Riot Racing big-bore throttle body (65mm to 68mm), larger fuel injectors, upgraded ECU tune software, replaced the old faded headlights, markers, and rear tail-lights, custom LTW front splitter, and Joefist rear spoiler. The biggest upgrade was going to 17×11” rims with 315s. This required a replacement of the front fenders to make room for the tires as well as some “fitment” adjustments on the front bumper. The rear fender flares, which is a part of the chassis, was not touched but by removing the rear sway bar and upgrading the springs 1000#s allowed no roll but plenty of stick in the rear. The exhaust from the headers back was replaced with a better flowing exhaust which was obvious by the throttle response and sound. During the COVID lockdown, I was able to drop another 20 pounds by replacing the rear folddown seats with a stock 1993 E36 non-folding rear seat.

After the abbreviated 2020 Autocross season, it was determined a LOT of maintenance type of things needed to be done. This includes repairing a leaking power steering system, replacing worn slipping clutch, shock rebuild or replace, and brake rotor replacement are a few just off the top of my head. The list is growing and there are more things to do, if by me, or by the next chapter member that owns this wonderful Autocross car.

, , ,