It’s widely known by car enthusiasts here in the US that we often receive the short end of the stick when it comes to performance variants of our favorite cars – whether they be European or Japanese. A few examples that come to mind are most iterations of Audi’s RS line of hardcore performance vehicles, and Nissan’s flagship performance vehicle through the 90’s and early 00’s, the Skyline GT-R.
After the original iteration of the M3 flopped in North America due to its large price tag and a four-cylinder engine that consumers at the time thought to be inferior to the inline-6 found in the much cheaper 325is, BMW had no plans to bring the E36 M3 to North America. But while they never sold the nearly-300hp E36 M3 in the US, a small number of examples did make it to Canada. 45 E36 M3’s made it to Canada before BMW corporate caught wind of what was happening and put the nix on it.
The story begins with the head of BMW’s motorsports division making a trip to the US to try and sell BMW’s US division on the idea of another M3 – but it wasn’t meant to be. The dismal sales of the previous E30 chassis M3 left a bad taste in the US dealer market, and understandably, they did not want to risk their money on a second one.
The M3 would now be relegated to European markets, and the fact that it would not be homologated for the US put the brakes on Canada’s efforts for the most part, but that wasn’t going to stop BMW Canada’s product planning manager, Tom Plucinsky, from giving it his best shot.
Unlike US law, legislation in Canada allowed a small number of Norwegian-spec cars to be imported each year, and it was by using this loophole that Plucinsky was able to place an order for 45 units.
There were plenty of hurdles to clear to get the Norway-spec cars into the country, but Plucinsky pulled it off, and 45 E36 M3’s were available for purchase in Canada for the 1994 model year – each selling for at least CAD 60,000, or the equivalent to about $73,000 in today’s money.
BMW corporate was not happy when they discovered Plucinsky’s scheme, and when the head of BMW’s motorsport division left the following year, the prospects of more E36 M3’s in Canada went with him. Not all hope was lost, however, as BMW of North America was designing their own version of the M3 that used a tuned version of the straight-six available in the 328i – which became the E36 M3 that most Americans know today.
All variations of the E36 chassis continue to be popular options for racers of all skill levels with us here at PBOC, but regardless of what you drive, you should consider joining us for a track day or driver’s education course to take your skill to the next level. Call us today at (407) 804-0892 with any questions.