At The End of the Day, it’s Just Another E30

This absolutely cracking wee 1990 215 bhp, E30 M3 came in the other day, with a potential blown head gasket. The owner has it had it a few weeks and was understandably concerned.  

It had apparently overheated – probably due to a burst hose – and the owner had, sensibly, stopped at the first sign of steam escaping and had the car recovered to a modern BMW specialist who had diagnosed a blown head gasket, but had fairly indicated that they weren’t set up to do the work. 

On arrival, I checked the cooling system for leaks and bled the system. There was no evidence of coolant/oil contamination and the coolant level was correct.  So I started it and carefully watched both for leaks and the behaviour of the temperature gauge as the car idled and it rose to, and maintained, normal operating temperature. 

There is no viscous fan on these 16 valve, S14 engines, derived  for the Motorsport division from the venerable M10 block, so when idling, there is no air flow  through the radiator, and the temperature will climb quite quickly. There’s a thermostatically controlled cooling fan which also appeared to be operating correctly. 

After about 45 minutes of idling, with the temperature being maintained correctly by the electric fan, I took it for a half hour run on mixed roads, some National Speed Limit and some Friday afternoon Hamilton Town Centre traffic. It behaved faultlessly and the temperature remained spot on. 

Back at the workshop, after it cooled down, the coolant level was checked again and found to be correct and further visual checks showed no signs of head gasket failure. 

As a final precaution, the owner agreed that a compression test should be done and I am pleased to say that all four cylinders came in between 11 and 12 bar, and I’m hopeful that the owner’s worst fears of head gasket failure have been dispelled.  There are certainly no indicators of head gasket failure.  

There’s no doubt  that – even though he was only minutes from home – his safety first approach of stopping as soon as he saw steam, and calling for the recovery service, was instrumental in saving his engine, and his credit card, from a very expensive cylinder head overhaul.  

At the customer’s request we had a general look around the car and found it to be in the the sort of overall excellent condition you’d expect to for a car that has covered only 80000 miles in its 27 years. 

And it’s another confirmation that even low mileage, well maintained, blue chip classics aren’t  immune and can  suffer in the standard E30 areas that are known to be rust prone.  

So, this fine, low mileage example of the exotic and iconic E30 M3, was found to have both boot pockets – on the M3 one is the battery compartment –  in the same condition as you’d expect of a standard 1990 four door 316i auto. 

Here you can see the extent of the corrosion and our usual repair with all the rot cut back, new panels fabricated and seam welded in place, welds ground flat, and rustproofed using Dynax UB. 

A couple of other minor wee bits and pieces, mechanical and aesthetic, were attended to and it’s off now to be detailed prior to its appearance at this weekend’s (17 June 2017) Milngavie Classic Car Show. 

A cracking wee car and a privilege to work on it.   

1986 Baur TC2 320i Recommissioning

This very original 1986 Baur TC2 has been owned by its current custodian for in excess of ten years. 

It has been used regularly, but is still showing a relatively low mileage and, like so many cars we see, maintained primarily to allow its continued use. It confirms the truth that cars when used regularly, will deteriorate with age as well as with mileage. Low mileage therefore, of itself, is no guarantee of condition.   

It is in better condition than most thirty year old unrestored  Baurs and its owner now feels that the time is right to secure its long term survival.  

We started with a full service, all fluids and all filters changed, new rotor arm and distributor cap, and timing belt and water pump changed.  The M20b20 is, in my experience, almost always the smoothest engine fitted to the E30 and this is no exception.  It has a beautifully quiet, smooth engine.  

It is showing some rust in some of the usual places, the front trays, footwells and sills in particular, so we started there, and stripped off the front wings, bumper etc. and started with the footwells, transport pads and sills. 

Here’s the offside with all the rot cut out and repair panels made up and welded in place.  The floor itself, the transport pad, the usual join between the floor and inner sill, the inner sill, and the jacking point on this side all needed rot removed and good clean metal welded in its place.  The forward portion of the outer sill had to be removed to allow access to the rusty inner sill behind itas can be seen here.

Here is the portion of the outer sill welded back in place. The outer sill around the jacking point will require to be replaced and the jacking point strengthened and re-attached. Before that, though the sills will be flooded with Dynax UB rust proofing.  

And here’s the passenger side with the transport pad and the rusty footwell cut out. This isn’t so bad and the inner and outer sills – at the front anyway – appear to be sound. 

The next stage is to grind flat the external welds, finish the floors and footwells,  recreate the transport pads and weld them in place.   

E30 Big Brake Kits

For Project “No Bother”, we designed a big brake kit for the front that uses cracking big E38 7 series four pot calipers; Corrado G60 discs – providing the correct offset and a decent improvement in size – these have to be machined slightly to fit the E30 centre bore; our custom modified 51mm strut housings and brackets laser cut from 10mm high tensile steel plate.

This is the result:-

We have a couple of spare sets

Comprises- Modified 51mm bare strut with ABS hub. No spring. No insert. No brake back plate.

Larger Corrado G60 disc with correct offset and bolt pattern. Centre machined to match.

Laser cut mounting brackets in 10mm plate.

One pair of E38 4 pot calipers. New pads.

A standard 15″ BBS wheel will not fit, though it is very close and may be machinable to fit. We have had 16″ Lenso wheels on and 17″ Alpina replicas without issue.

£400

E38, E39 and E53 Instrument Clusters

The instrument clusters in the E38,  E39, and, E53 are interchangeable, though I’ve only ever seen the “low” cluster in the E39.  All E38 clusters are the “high” cluster.

All are renowned for losing pixels in the display – to the extent that sometimes even the mileage can be illegible.

We can now repair these using a brand new complete screen and ribbon for £80 plus P&P.

We can also code replacement clusters – from another car –  to remove the tamper dot, and switch off the ASC/DSC light you often find with a replacement cluster.

We can reset the mileage to zero – so that the cluster will read your mileage from the light control module – or to whatever mileage you want it to be.

Get in touch if you need your cluster repaired or recoded or the mileage corrected/tamper dot removed.

We can also code Light Control Modules, General Modules and EWS out of the car if required.

 

 

1990 BMW E30 318iS Project Turns Into S54 Powered Track Car

I’ve a little reluctantly come to the conclusion that this E30 318iS project is unlikely to get to the front of the restoration queue much before it becomes eligible for free road tax and I’m prepared to move it on to allow someone else a shot at building a very tidy 318iS.

I’m not going to feed you all the baby M3/prices are only going one way/better than a 325i/investment potential bullshit and I’ll assume that you know what an E30 318iS is and how much more unusual it is than the ubiquitous E36 318iS.

If not, it’s a sporty 16 valve E30. Quite sought after, it does perform nicely and very differently from the six cylinder cars. Revvy and peppy, it is quite an enjoyable drive. Only manufactured for about a year in 1990/91 it is one of the rarer E30 variants.

What is for sale?
It’s a very good, solid 318iS rolling shell. Effectively all the iS bits – except the black headlining – have been removed – believed stolen, but the removal of the engine certainly doesn’t give the impression that it was done by thieves.
A known good 97000 mile M42 with all ancillaries, loom, ECU etc. This will bolt in and once done, the car will drive. Everything required to get the car mechanically sorted is there. There are even some duplicates/spares.
A pair of 51mm vented disc front struts – it’s on 45mm struts just now.

What does it need to complete it?
Interior – we’ll have some bits which I’ll include, but it definitely needs seats and door cards
Dash
Front valance and bumper – I might have one
IS lip – I can get new for about £100
Wheels. It’ll come on four slave wheels
N/s rear quarter light
Other bits and pieces

But it’s a rare opportunity to buy a good solid two door genuine iS shell with some desirable bits – not least the complete 318iS running gear M42 engine gearbox, prop and diff, 51mm front struts, black headlining etc. Think of the value of the parts alone and it’s a good deal, never mind the good iS shell.

I’d consider an E30 convertible or a Baur or any other interesting classic (BMW preferably, but not necessarily) in px/swap too.

Sensible offers bearing in mind what’s on offer will be entertained. Stupid offers will be ignored. If you make an offer and don’t hear from me, you can assume it was a stupid one.

Introducing Project “No Bother’ – S54 Engined Track Focussed Car – Part 2

When I advertised this for sale, it was specifically on the basis that we were unlikely to have the time to build it up ourselves and it was really combining  two existing  projects together to free up some workshop space and time.

We had a good wee 318i convertible that I had acquired the 318iS running gear for, with the intention of building another car that BMW should have built – the 318iS convertible –  but, at about the same time as the shell appeared, I decided that the convertible would be better kept as a 318i.  It has low owners, low mileage and lots of history.

Anyway, I turned the two into one complete 318iS project and advertised it for sale.  Two chaps from a local garage  – one of whom I have known for a wee while – came to see it.

They were building a track car for a customer who had provided them with a V8 powered two door shell that he had bought – more of this shell later.  They had examined the shell and suggested to the customer that  it was looking likely that it would be more trouble to repair than it was worth and suggested to their customer that he should find a better shell.

They came to see this one, examined it, and declared it to be ideal for their customer’s intended purpose.  

Later the same day, their very enthusiastic sounding customer called and we discussed it in some detail.  He was of the view that his garage weren’t terribly keen on welding and much more interested in the mechanical side of the build and asked if we could prepare the shell to his spec and the two chaps who came to view it would then build the car into this shell.

No bother.

I spoke to them before agreeing, and far from being unhappy with that course of action, they were very keen, so from the starting point of  intending to reduce the projects we had to complete, I had managed to take on another one, but it was only a light refurbishment of an already sound shell.  It won’t take long!

E46 M3 Powered E30 – Project “No Bother” – Part 3

So, what our now mutual customer wanted was a bare bodyshell, repaired as required, and rustproofed for delivery to the garage who were going to build his car for him.

We started by getting absolutely everything stripped off the car and mounting the bare shell on our own custom made spit  and repairing what rust we could find in the sills, inner flitch panels, floor and footwells, transport pads etc.

Our custom spit allows 360 degree access to all areas and makes repairs so much easier. We have fitments for both E30 types and E24/28 too.  It also makes moving a wheelless shell much easier.

 

Once the shell was repaired,  the customer explained that the other garage weren’t all that keen on welding and asked if we could do some strengthening and weld in a roll cage that had been removed from the other shell.

No bother.

The cage was delivered and we spent a good part of a  morning trying to get it to sit in place. it just wouldn’t go in.

Then I checked the other shell.  No sunroof! That’ll be it then.  So, after discussion with the customer, who’s vision for the car is to try to make it look as much like a standard 318iS as possible, we shortened the cage and fitted the rear half in place.

We fabricated fillet plates to brace the strut tops to the inner wing, like on the factory convertible and welded these in place.

We shortened the front half of the cage to fit and needed to manufacture some pads for the floor to make it secure.  I was concerned that there might be very restricted head room with the front half of the cage in place and suggested to the customer that as it was to be a road legal, road looking,  and road useable track day car, it might be better to fit just the rear half cage. Another benefit would be to allow a fully trimmed interior and a full dashboard – without the cage requiring it to be butchered – to be fitted.  He was having none of it.

We found some Bilstein coilovers and the customer bought them.  At this stage, he thought it “might be easier” if we were to carry on with the build and deliver to the garage, a repaired, rolling shell, with the roll cage fitted.

No bother.

 

Project “No Bother” – Part 4

So, now the project that we were selling because we didn’t have the time to undertake another project is starting to grow into a bit of a project.

To recap, the shell is stripped,  rust free, the rear half of the roll cage is in, but the front isn’t,  and now we have to acquire, build and fit front and rear suspension in order to deliver the bare rolling shell to the garage who are going to complete the build.

We have already acquired Bilstien coilovers front and rear, and we keep strengthening pieces in stock for the front crossmember – around the engine mount and the ARB mounting points. So,  one of our strengthened front crossmembers was welded up and sent for powdercoating.

We have laser cut diff mount strengthening plates too and a rear beam was removed from the powdercoating pile, the strengthening plates welded in and the rear beam sent for powdercoating too. You can see the extra strengthening in these photos.

We acquired an E46 purple tag steering rack – which is an astonishing modification and if you use an E30 day to day, you really ought to do it – and we collected all the bushes, new bottom arms, rear trailing arms etc., required to build up the suspension and turn the shell into a bare rolling shell.

“I think I’d like it painted. Can you get your paintshop to paint it and can you build the painted shell up so that we deliver a fully painted, clothed rolling shell to the garage for them just to fit the running gear?”

No bother.

The bare shell acquired a pair of doors, bonnet and bootlid, a set of glass, bumpers, trim, a new front valance, lights and an iS lip.

All of these were sent with the car – still on our spit –  to be painted inside and out in the original Brilliant Red.

“The guys in the garage are really busy, while you’re building up the bodyshell, could you maybe run the fuel lines, brake lines and stuff, fit the fuel tank and brakes etc., so that it is really just the engine conversion that the guys need to do?”

No bother.

ZF Sealed For Life Gearboxes

 

When we bought this, the seller happily told us that it had a gearbox fault and that it would go into limp mode very quickly.  He wasn’t kidding! Within about 100 yards, it would go into limp mode (this provides fourth gear only – useable, but a bit of a pain, particularly taking off from standing on a hill!). Though, if you cleared the fault code, the car would drive normally until the next time you switched the ignition off.

Reading the codes showed that it had had problems with the fluid temperature sensor and gear monitoring.

We did all the work detailed in this blog entry and had reached the stage where we had to come to a decision about what to do with the gearbox fault.

BMW originally stated that these gearboxes (ZF5HP) were sealed for life and no fluid changes, checks, or top ups were required. They pretty quickly changed their tune and now suggest a fluid change and a filter at 100,000 miles.

Anecdotally, a transmission service can cure many “faults” and the never, ever wrong, ever, internet suggested that the fluid temp sensor fault “might” be cured by a fluid and filter change.

The car has only done 88000 miles, but it is nearly 20 years old and a few litres of fluid and a filter can’t go wrong

The proper fully synthetic fluid is quite dear, though the filter isn’t terrible. I reckoned about £100 at trade prices would get the fluid and filter. A DIY transmission service isn’t particularly difficult, but you are really only draining the fluid in the sump and you do leave a couple of litres in there, in the torque converter in particular.  To get it all out, you really need to use a specialised pump and even just filling it to the correct level is a bit of a pain for those without the special equipment.

I phoned the local ZF agents/service centre (Mackie Transmissions)  and they would supply us the correct fluid and filter from stock for just under £100. Or, they’d drain it, flush it, fit the filter and refill it for about £150. That’s a fluid change rather than just drain and refill. Go on then.

They were very professional.  They asked if there were any faults and explained that there was no guarantee that any faults would be fixed and in fact, some faults were known to get worse after a service.

We dropped it off first thing – in fourth gear – and they phoned at about 4:00. It was done and had been serviced successfully, but, unfortunately, it was still going into limp mode within a very short distance. The codes thrown were gear monitoring and slippage in second gear and third gear.  Only a rebuild would fix it – at a cost of about £1800!

Well, it was worth a try.  I’ll look out for a good secondhand gearbox, then.

We collected it and, sure enough, it went into limp mode after a few yards. I cleared the codes and drove it back.

I used it the next day, doing the same thing, clearing the codes and just driving it.  The next day, I thought it might have taken very slightly longer – maybe a few hundred yards –  to fail into limp mode and after a week, I was getting a few miles. After a fortnight, it went from East Kilbride out to Milngavie – 15 miles or so. Now, four or five weeks later – and I’m jinxing it now – it hasn’t gone into limp mode in over a week.

I’ve used it in manual, auto and sports mode; driven it gently, driven it normally and red lined it more than once,  and the gearbox “appears” to be working perfectly.

Now, I am not unrealistic, the gearbox may chuck its toys out the pram at any point and I may just be having a run of good luck, but my advice if your ZF5HP (fitted to loads of mid to late 90s onwards stuff, not just BMWs) is dropping into limp mode, without any obvious noise, bangs, clunks or slippage, is that a fluid and filter change is definitely worth a try before condemning the gearbox to the scrap pile.

What odds on “BONG” “Trans Failsafe Prog” tomorrow?

 

Coincidence? Or Something More Disturbing?

Well, FrankenSeiben is off to what appears to be an appreciative, permanent new home in the London area.

I’m pleased with how we managed to save a car with loads of potential and turned it into a decent car. It isn’t by any stretch of the imagination original, with different paintwork, wheels, lights and interior from when it left the factory, but I think the black interior suits it very well and it looks and drives superbly.

Here it is on refurbished 19″ M Parallel replicas which set off the Mora paintwork very well indeed

 

It is very interesting that the interior that is now in it came out of a car – the silver car – with a VIN number only 15 earlier than this one.

So, these two cars would probably have been together on the production line at Dingolfing, on the boat to Britain and in BMW GB compound in the UK before going their separate ways in late 1999, only to be reunited at our premises 17 years later.  If only Cilla Black was still alive.

In what may have been a bout of separation anxiety, FrankenSieben shed its serpentine belt midweek. The idler and tensioner were pretty worn and both date stamped “1999”, so they were all replaced and the car prepared for its new owner’s arrival on Friday.

On Friday, on the way to the station to collect the new owner in the silver sister car, the silver one shed its serpentine belt!

Who says cars don’t have feelings?

Me.  All that can be deduced from this is that the expected lifespan of M52TUb28 belt idlers and tensioners is *exactly* 17 years and three months.

You have been warned.

The upgrading of its silver sister continues – this car is like the terraced council house with home cinema, sauna, jacuzzi, guest wing, wine cellar and motor house.

Recent additions are the E60 M5 instrument cluster (actually an E53 4.8 iS cluster)

and the famed, “porn lights” – the same as the ones pictured below.

We also finally managed to remove the supposedly good tank from one of the 735i breakers and, unusually, found a secondhand E38 fuel tank in better condition than expected. It has done a total of about five miles since being fitted and is a genuine BMW tank.

It’ll get fitted to the silver council house along with recently acquired rear air conditioning, an hydraulic soft close boot and a practice putting green.