BMW E36 M3 Compact


BMW M enthusiast Frank Kohn meets the unique BMW M3 Compact.

A dream comes true.BMW M enthusiast Frank Kohn meets the unique BMW M3 Compact.

Luxembourg resident Frank Kohn is a passionate mechanic and has been a heartfelt BMW M fan since his early childhood. He was particularly taken with a model that, strictly speaking, didn't even exist – at least not for sale: the E36 series BMW M3 Compact. An offshoot of the M3 Coupé, it caused a lot of sensation among experts, but never made it beyond prototype status.


However, that fact never dampened Kohn’s desire to own one of these models at some point in the future. And so, years later, he went ahead and built his own BMW M3 Compact using a BMW 323ti Compact as the base. We talked to the passionate BMW M enthusiast and heard his inspirational story.

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Frank Kohn and his E36 BMW M3 Compact
Frank Kohn and his E36 BMW M3 Compact

Frank Kohn and his E36 BMW M3 Compact


Profile of a BMW M enthusiast.

Name: Frank Kohn

Nationality: Luxembourg

BMW ///M enthusiast, currently incurable

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"To me, ‘individual’ means to express myself. The way I want it is exactly the way I implement it."


The beginnings of an obsession.

Even as a young boy, Frank Kohn developed an extraordinary bond with BMW’s cars. At the age of just three, he would browse through his father’s automotive trade magazines and see them on the page.

The first Matchbox car replicas were launched around the same time, further cementing his enthusiasm for these special vehicles from Munich. By the time he was four, Kohn could identify nearly every M model he saw in a magazine – and couldn’t understand it if his grandmother was unable to do the same.

Another formative event occurred when he was six: a first visit to the IAA motor show with his father–where Kohn would only leave the BMW stand after vehement protest.

In 1994, his father finally bought a BMW M3 3.0 E36 in Mugello Red. After being driven in it for barely more than 200 meters, Kohn junior was certain that one day he too would have to own an M3! By the time they returned home and parked in the garage, Kohn’s attachment had grown so strong that he refused to leave the car and had to be dragged out of it.

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BMW E36 M3 Compact


The willingness to suffer for his dream.

In June 1996, Frank Kohn first became aware of the BMW M3 model that inspires him most to this day: the BMW M3 Compact. When the then 13-year-old found out that the car was merely a prototype, he even wrote a letter to BMW asking them to put it into series production. The request remained unheard.

It was not until October 1997 that some good news arrived: the BMW 323ti Compact was introduced, and shortly afterwards Kohn was able to admire the car in Techno Violet with the M package at a local dealership.

Kohn acquired his driving licence in 2001, and one year later he bought a BMW 320i E30 with his last savings – at that time he could not afford anything more. In 2006, by chance Kohn discovered a BMW 323ti Compact E36 with individual equipment in Techno Violet and M package for sale on the internet. The fact that the seller's place of residence was some 700 kilometres away didn’t matter in the slightest. Kohn bought the car and decided to use it as the base on which to build his own personal BMW M3 Compact E36.

From the beginning, Kohn was clear that the conversion should be as close as possible to the original. In 2008, he acquired a second 323ti in Techno Violet, intended for use as an everyday car.

But it then transpired that the chassis number exactly follows the first 323ti Compact, which led to Kohn's brother deciding he would buy this car from him so that he too could convert into a BMW M3 Compact E36.

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BMW M3 Compact in german auto motor sport 1996

BMW M3 Compact in german auto motor sport magazine 1996

BMW M Magazine: Mr. Kohn, why was it the BMW M3 Compact that caught your eye?


Frank Kohn: There's no explanation for it, it was just this car. It was like love at first sight.


What makes the BMW M3 Compact more exciting for you than a BMW M3 Convertible or M3 Coupé?


The way it drives. It is still has the old rear axle from the E30 and it makes the car a lot more agile to drive. It's also harder to drive, but it's also much more fun.



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BMW E36 M3 Compact

Is it just the driving experience, or does the design fascinate you too?


It’s also the design. Inside, all these elements, like the ventilation nozzles from the E30, the dashboard that is even more driver-oriented…they just work.

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BMW E36 M3 Compact
"The mix of the E30 and the E36 makes the M3 Compact the best of everything."


So close to the ultimate goal.

By 2009, the conversion of the first 323ti Compact into the legendary M3 Compact was virtually complete. The first chapter of this special piece of BMW M history had reached its conclusion, for the time being.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck the second converted 323ti Compact, completed just five years later. In 2014, Kohn's brother had a serious accident in the vehicle, which was almost completely destroyed.

Nevertheless, the two brothers could not be dissuaded from the idea of owning two BMW M3 Compact E36s that were almost identical and as true to the original as possible. In mid-2018 they found another 323ti, which was produced on the same day as Frank's (22 September 1997) and was only 21 units away from the chassis number. Since then, it too has been under reconstruction.

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How did you come to build an M3 Compact together as brothers?


The desire was to rebuild the car, because unfortunately the original did not go into series production. When I found the second car, in this colour, it was clear that if I could do it, then he could do it too. We made it our task together.


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The E36 BMW M3 Compact from Frank Kohn

Seats, engine and powertrain of the E36 M3 Coupé: the BMW M3 Compact by Frank Kohn


How can a story that already gives every BMW M enthusiast goosebumps become even more emotional? The answer: by bringing the original BMW M3 Compact prototype and Frank Kohn together. The Luxembourger and his brother were given the exclusive opportunity to enter the legendary halls of BMW M GmbH, because this is where the object of Kohn’s remains to this day – and thus the circle was closed.

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What was your first thought when you found out you would get to meet the original BMW M3 Compact prototype? 


I still didn't believe it until an hour ago. I thought: after so many attempts and so many setbacks, it couldn’t be that 23 years later my dream would finally come true so suddenly.

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BMW E36 M3 Compact

Distinguish each other only in the rear view: the prototype from 1996 (right) and the BMW E36 M3 Compact from Frank Kohn

"This is the best day. Today really was a dream come true."

What remains in question is the future of this unique, self-built vehicle – one that comes closer to the original BMW M3 Compact than any other vehicle in the world. Here, too, it is clear that Kohn's passion – typical for BMW M enthusiasts – is not just about owning his dream car. He wants to drive it, feel it and hear it. Of course, the former is done only in the best weather – he still has a bit of the collector in him, after all.

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"I still take it out on the road, but only very rarely. Five or six times a year at most, but there can't be a cloud in the sky. The 1,200 kilometres it has driven in the past few days are a very big exception!"
The BMW E36 M3 Compact from Frank Kohn
The BMW E36 M3 Compact from Frank Kohn