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Mustang vs. LS-Swapped E36 M3: Meet the Cars of Driver Battles Episode 7

When we think of the most iconic manufacturer battles in automotive history, Ford vs. Chevy tops the list. The two companies have gone toe-to-toe for decades in a constant battle of one-upsmanship. That’s why, for this episode of Driver Battles, we brought out a 1987 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 and…1995 BMW E36 M3? Something’s not adding up.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Track

Of course, much like every car in this series, this M3 isn’t quite like the one that rolled out of the factory. In fact, on top of numerous upgrades, it’s been given a 7.1L LSX under the hood. Now this battle makes a bit more sense.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Amir Car

Let’s take a closer look at both of the cars from this battle. First up is Joe Ayad’s 1987 Ford Mustang LX 5.0. Battling him is Amir Bentatou, driving for redemption after his performance in episode three, in an LS-swapped 1995 BMW E36 M3.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Sunset Group

1987 Ford Mustang LX 5.0

The Ford Mustang. This was the car we all had on our bedroom walls. Its V8 power in a small platform is what made us, Joe included, fall in love with it. That said, Joe has invested more into his Mustang than most of us.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Side Front

Starting with that V8 power, it has a semi-built SBF 306 bottom end, Paxton Novi1000 supercharger at 16 psi, solid motor mounts, 80 lb injectors and a 70mm throttle body. Comp Cam, Trick Flow and ARP have provided the finishing touches, with a Comp Cams camshaft and 1.6 roller rockers, Trick Flow twisted wedge aluminum heads and street heat intake manifold and a full ARP suite.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Trick Flow

Moving down the powertrain, Joe has a Fresh T5 five-speed transmission, coupled to a short throw shifter, Solid Trans mount and aluminum driveline.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Shifter

The suspension has been completely redone, thanks to a Maximum Motorsports grip box package. There are too many upgrades to list here, but a few highlights include front control arms, an adjustable rear sway bar and HD rear lower control arms. On top of this is a set of 40-way adjustable coilovers from QA1.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Track

Putting power to the ground are 315/30R18 Nitto NT01s all around. That’s right, those massive tires are on both the front and rear. Joe thinks that this upgrade will make the biggest difference on the track, and we agree. Inside those massive tires are 18x10.5 ESR SR01 wheels and five-lug cobra brakes.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Tire

Every part of the interior has been made track-ready. From the Sparco wheel and Evo2 seats, to the five-point harness, 10-point cage, Holley HP with 7.5-inch dash display for tuning and logging on the fly and the removed radio and back seats, this car is made for speed.

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Interior

A Carter Customs front splitter and rear diffuser help guide the air for maximum downforce. All of this adds up to a car with a wide stance and great grip that’s a joy to carve on open roads. With over ten years of driving at the drag strip and three years on the track, do he and his car have enough to spoil the return of Amir?

Driver Battles Episode 7 Mustang Rear Side

Tuning Menu: Joe Ayad's 1987 Ford Mustang LX 5.0

ENGINE: Semi-built SBF 306 bottom end; Comp Cam camshaft, 1.6 roller rockers; Trick Flow twisted wedge aluminum heads, street heat intake manifold (ported and gasket matched); full ARP suite; 70mm throttle body
TRANSMISSION: Fresh T5 five-speed transmission, new clutch, short throw shifter, solid transmission mount, aluminum driveline
SUSPENSION: Maximum Motorsports grip box package: k-member (with two-point brace), front control arms, heavy duty torque arm, panhard bar, XL Series full-length subframe connectors, coilover conversion kits in the front and rear, caster/camber plates, HD rear lower control arms (no spring perch or swaybar mount), adjustable rear sway bar, aluminum steering rack bushings, solid steering shaft, bumpsteer kit (adjustable outer tie-rod ends), strut tower brace, front swaybar relocation kit, front swaybar bushings, front swaybar end links; QA1 40-way adjustable coilovers
WHEELS AND TIRES: ESR SR01 18x10.5 wheels, Nitto NT01 315/30R18 squared, five-lug cobra brakes
INTERIOR:  10-point cage; NRG quick release; Sparco steering wheel, Evo2 seats; five-point harness; removed rear seat; battery relocated to trunk; main off switch at rear of car; Holley HP standalone with 7.5-inch digital dash display; removed radio
BODY: Carters Customs front splitter and rear diffuser
SPONSORS: Black Widow Exhaust, Mishimoto Automotive, Carters Customs, EBC brakes, QA1

1995 LS-Swapped BMW E36 M3

You may remember Amir from episode three, when he lost to a Porsche 996 in an R32 Skyline GT-R. Well, he’s back for redemption and the taste of victory, this time in an E36 M3. With its great, neutral handling, the M3 reminds Amir of another JDM vehicle: the Miata. Only the M3 is both larger and faster. With upgraded suspension parts and an LS, all those great elements are supercharged and turned up to 11.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Front

Let’s start with the star of the show: that LSX. Specifically, it’s an ERL Superdeck Aluminum balanced and blueprinted 434ci 7.1L LSX with AFR 245 heads. The LS gives the car the power that it lacked from the factory, with all the torque you need from the beginning of the powerband to the end. This could be a game changer in this battle. To list a few of the many other upgrades to the engine, a Mishimoto radiator, Nick Williams 102mm throttle body, Fast 102mm intake ported by Mamo Motorsports and Walbro 485 high flow fuel pump have been added.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 LSX

Moving on to the transmission, we have a RPM Stage 5 T56 transmission with an RPS twin disk carbon clutch and flywheel and Lakewood scatter shield. Inside, it’s been mated to a MGW short shifter and Condor shift knob.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Shifter

Even though the suspension was good to begin with, everything can be improved. Moton Motorsport two-way coilovers with swift springs are aided by a 3.91 210mm Cusco 1 Hybrid limited slip differential and Ground Control camber plates and front and rear sways.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Track

The M3 is also on Nitto NT01s, though he only has 315/30R18 on the rear. His front tires are 275/35R18. His wheels are Volk TE37 SLs sized to 18x10.5/12 with Motorsport Hardware race grade 12.9 78mm studs, Titan nuts and spacers. Stopping the crazy LS power are Sparta Evolution 6/4 Piston BBK brakes and pads.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 NT01

This car’s interior has been modded for racing too, with a stripped interior, Kirk four-point roll bar, Condor Speed Shop clutch and brake pedal bushings and an OMP HTE-R seat with a Sparco harness.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Seat

A custom widebody with flares, custom canards, a Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser and a Voltex type V 1700mm double plane wing give the M3 its aggressive look and help keep it planted to the track.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Front Side

This car is the best of both worlds, Amir says. While the M3 may have come from the factory with great handling, it lacked in power. Now with an LS, it has all the power it needs to push its suspension to the limits.

Driver Battles Episode 7 M3 Rear

Tuning Menu: 1995 LS-Swapped E36 M3

ENGINE: ERL Superdeck Aluminum balanced and blueprinted 434ci 7.1L LSX with AFR 245 heads, Walbro 485 high flow fuel pump, Fast 102mm intake ported by Mamo Motorsports, Nick Williams 102mm throttle body, Improved Racing oil pan baffle, Improved Racing oil cooler, Cunningham Motorsports tuned, Mishimoto radiator, Spal race fan, Mechman high RPM alternator with underdrive pulley, Turn One power steering pump with cooler, dual three-inch exhaust
TRANSMISSION: MGW short shifter, RPM Stage 5 T56 transmission, Condor shift knob, RPS twin disk carbon clutch and flywheel, Lakewood scatter shield
SUSPENSION: Moton Motorsport two-way coilovers with swift springs; Ground Control camber plates, front and rear sways; 3.91 210mm Cusco 1 Hybrid limited slip differential
WHEELS AND TIRES: Volk TE37 SL 18x10.5/12; Nitto NT01 275/315/30R18; Motorsport Hardware race grade 12.9 78mm studs and Titan nuts, spacers; Sparta Evolution 6/4 Piston BBK brakes, pads
INTERIOR: Stripped interior, Kirk four-point roll bar, Condor Speed Shop clutch and brake pedal bushings, OMP HTE-R seat with Sparco Harness
BODY: Custom widebody with flares, Custom canards, Mateo Motorsports rear diffuser, Voltex type V 1700mm double plane wing
Motorsport Hardware, Motorsport Fluids, JMP Autowerkz, AST/Moton Suspension USA, RS Future, Swift Springs, Sparta Evolution, Hard Motorsport, Condor Speed shop

Will the pairing of American muscle and German engineering win out over a beautiful piece of Americana? Can Ford one-up Chevy’s legendary engine? You’ll have to tune into episode seven of Driver Battles to find out.

Driver Battles Episode 7

Do you like the cars of this battle? We have a ton of other battles for you in our Driver Battles series!

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