Much of my formative driving occurred whilst training in Germany and therefore became used to driving LHD.
Wishing to own a 3.8L I noticed in 1997 this car being advertised in Germany at Rosenheim very close to the Austrian border (my 900 mile journey back to the UK will be remembered as one of 'those' drives, through a balmy September afternoon, evening and might the enjoyment value be difficult to surpass). Three points were immediately attractive; halt the then UK price, the 'lighter' European Spec (non electric front seats) in particular and low mileage - 11,000km from new, having been in the single ownership of a main BMW dealer in East Germany.
The car has now covered 155,000km. During my ownership I have upgraded the car to the later specification of the six speed cars by fitting the larger floating hub discs 345/328mm and callipers. (Anyone who has experienced the larger brakes will be familiar with the characteristic cooling tink tink when one has come to the end of a journey. The flexible brake lines are now braided stainless steel. Also fitted the later 18" parallel wheels with 40 and 35 respectively ratio tyres (to keep the correct rolling radius). The suspension has been changed to non EDC with the full Schnitzer suspension and larger dia Anti Roll Bars. Although the EDC suspension system is highly rated I found the rough UK roads induced a frenetic response, basically too much data to assimilate so the ride became 'choppy', the Schnitzer kit is more comfortable and compliant on the straights and no less firm in the corners - in fact more predictable.
The speedometer replaced with a UK MPH reading.
The five speed gearbox and prop shaft removed and replaced with the later six-speed ratio box and prop shaft but retaining the 3.91 LSD. This has created in effect a close ratio gearbox and made a huge difference to the responsiveness of the engine, which suits the 4,000 (2nd power delivery stage) with its ram air effect as the car is now always close to the engines natural power band.
The petrol consumption has been marginally reduced but is more than worth the loss for the improved drive ability - no longer does it bog down in between 2nd and 3rd gear as it did previously.
Under the 'individual' programme BMW offered Recaro seats as fitted to the E30 M3 Sport EVO. A pair of Recaro front seats were sourced and reupholstered in the correct cloth / Amerrata material, the support frames were reduced to lower the seating position and the effects have been to provide a tighter more comfortable set of front seats.
Cosmetically the car was purchased with the 'individual' E36 M3 style mirrors, I have since fitted the Schnitzer pedal set and Schnitzer gear knob with a short shift mechanism, which enhances the close ratio aspect of the gearbox.
Rarely using the front fog lamps but often finding the lenses cracked. I decided to fit air ducts instead. After being frustrated in trying to find suitable items I removed and dismantled the lamps and modified the rear lamp casing (with some filler to create a scoop that matched the style of the E30 M3 Sport EVO. I spray painted the revised units so that the brakes receive increased airflow.
Bridgestone SO3's are now used formerly fitted SO2's (3's are better due to firmer side walls). Initially I fitted 265's to the rear and this is a perfect combination for grip / traction but have recently reduced to 255's as with familiarity and experience have discovered greater tactile pleasure in having the rear less grippy and therefore reducing understeer, which to my mind (along with the steering box as opposed to rack and pinion) are the cars only Achilles heel when driving "the twisties".
The soundtrack of the engine whether its ticking over with its distinctive beat or in the 'lets go' band between 4 and 7rpm is worth turning the radio / cassette / CD sound system off. The other joy is when "getting in the groove" along a deserted A or B road and finding the car literally shrinking around one is surely to discover motoring nirvana, such is its surefooted poise and balance. At such times it demonstrates the skill of the BMW engineers at their highest and although the E39 M5 has more power and perhaps more grip during the process it lost its tactile soul. To me this is by far the more enjoyable animal.
In the UK the car is largely wasted as its real performance envelope is discovered from speeds above 70mph where the car smoothes out and the performance comes into its own.
It is only when driving the German Autobahns that the whole design focus is fully appreciated, otherwise the car us working at 2/3rds of its potential.
By way of demonstrating this I had occasion in June 2001 to drive from Munich back to the UK. Leaving Munich at 9pm on the A9 had covered 145 miles in the first hour, the drive was relaxed and the car felt planted to the road even though some sections were quite curvy (where reduced speed limits are enforced) and on the few occasions where traffic was busy the ability to pick up its skirts and sweep past the traffic one felt a sense of ease, security and lack of drama with the proceedings, this sort of progress would be undreamt of in the UK and mores the pity.