Customer Review of our E36 M3 Competition Big Brake Kit


We recently sent out a survey asking for customer feedback on our Essex Designed AP Racing Competition Big Brake Kits. This particular customer is running our E36 M3 Competition Kit. He has been beating the heck out of our kit (as we would hope) in the Northeast region since the summer of 2012. Here's what he had to say:

Your Experience Level & Driving History

I’ve been tracking and time-trialing an E36 M3 since 2009, and am at the track 40-50 days a year. I time trial with NASA in TT3, and with the COM Sports Car Club of Massachusetts in Super B. Both clubs have recently changed classification schemes; the photos show the car with the former NASA TTS and COM PB classifications. In addition to TTs, I use the car for instruction at HPDE events, and also run one or two open-lapping events per year where testing takes place.

How has the Brake Kit Changed Your Driving Experience?

After installing the Competition Kit, the first improvement I noticed was a more consistent pedal after the braking system was fully up to temperature. I attribute this to the greater mass of the kit’s rotor combined with the lower rotor temperatures I’m experiencing (see next bullet item).

The other improvement has been in release characteristics. This was noticeable when using the same pad as was on my former kit, the Hawk DTC-60. The Hawk pad was, if I recall correctly, 43mm in height, and not the 50mm height of the C300 in the Competition Kit, which I began using after a C300 pad became available for my OEM rear caliper. Whatever the reason, the improvement is as welcome as it is noticeable – a consistent release gives this driver confidence knowing that he doesn’t have to use precious attention while trailing into an high-speed corner.

Problems that the Competition Brake Kit Solved

I replaced a lesser AP street-oriented kit with the Essex Parts’ Competition Kit and immediately realized a significant reduction in comsumables expense. The rotors are 50% heavier in weight than my former rotors – this has resulted in no meaningful cracking (formerly, this was a regular issue), thereby allowing me to get full use of the rotor before replacement becomes necessary. In addition, brake pads are lasting longer; I attribute at least a part of that to the thicker pads the Competition Kit permits.

The Competition Kit’s rotors are half the price of the lesser rotors used in my former kit; together with the longer rotor life, my rotor costs are roughly one-quarter of what they were prior to my acquiring the Competition Kit.

Brake rotor paint shows peak rotor edge temperatures have been reduced by 150-200°. I bleed the system once per event and flush every three events; this is the same schedule I followed with the previous kit.

Favorite Product Features

  1. More consistent release characteristics.
  2. Reduced rotor expense.

Comparison to Other Products You’ve Tried in the Past

The kit to which I’ve compared the Competition Kit above is the AP Racing Road Car Upgrade Kit. While I had no real complaints about the performance of the other kit, I do find that the Competition Kit is a more suitable system for a 2875# 320HP race car; and, as mentioned, it’s less expensive to operate as well.

Overall Ownership Experience...How Easy is it to Live With?

It’s as easy to live with as one would wish: pad changes take almost no time at all; fitment was fine, with only a minor exception; and, rotors and pads are readily available at reasonable prices – what’s not to like?

Customer Service by Essex Before and After Initial Sale

I dealt with Ryan Jones, and he was always very responsive to my needs and the needs of the shop that maintains the car.

There was one issue that never did get resolved, and it left the shop uneasy, but we accepted the situation and moved on. The issue was that there was an odd wear pattern in the rotors, with wear greater in one area of the pad’s swept area than in the rest of that area. It was, if you will, as if a small part of the pad was harder than was the rest of it, and this resulted in a noticeable dimple in the rotor along with a matching high spot in the pad. Essex’s response was (and I’m working off memory here, as I wasn’t a part of the conversation) “Don’t worry, this isn’t an issue.” The shop owner, a fellow with many decades of racing experience, including a stint as production manager at March Engineering, held the position that there was an explanation for the dimple in the rotor, and he wanted to know what it was. He sent the rotor in, but never did receive what he felt was a satisfactory explanation. Bottom line: The anomaly did not affect the performance of the Competition Kit so it was appropriate that we moved on.

Documentation and Ease of Install

Funny you should ask. I received the kit at home, rather than its being sent to the shop, and when I dropped it off at the shop the car was already on the lift. Around a half-hour later the brakes were installed and being tested. So, installation was a no-brainer.

Would You Buy It Again, and Would You Recommend It to a Friend?

Yes, on both counts. I’ve recommended the Competition Kit to at least a dozen other E36 M3 owners. I’ve also recommended the kit on bimmerforums, as well as on ft86club, where I’ve suggested the Sprint Kit is the way to go for the daily driver/track car owners on that forum.

Anything About the Product that You Think Could be Improved?

As a guy who just drives the car and doesn’t turn wrenches…no, nothing. For this driver, the Competition Kit is like instant hot water: I ask the brakes for impressive braking characteristics, and they deliver – first stop, every stop. I love ‘em!

Race or Event Wins on Our Kit

Numerous time trial wins with my local time trial club; these have taken place on braking-intensive tracks as different from one another as Loudon and Watkins Glen.


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