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.   

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