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Canadian turbo vert project

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    Canadian turbo vert project

    Hey everyone! Long time lurker, but haven’t posted too much before. Well, I figured I’d document my turbo project. I’ve documented the process on video in my stories on IG (@ducksarevcute), but a build thread here seems to be a more organized way to go about it.

    This all starts with my 1989 325i Alpinweiss over Indigo 5-speed vert that I bought in late 2019 with 204k km (126k miles) from an elderly couple. I bought the car with no check panel lights, A/C working, minimal terminal rust (just heels of both fenders), a rear window non-functional, a really slow driver window, central locking being finicky from the trunk lock cylinder and a sticky driver door lock cylinder, and torn seats with broken mechanisms. Although it’s my third 325i vert I’ve owned, I haven’t had much experience wrenching before.

    Here’s my current mod list:

    Euro chrome bumpers with tinted turn signals
    Euro Hella smiley headlights
    E34 chrome headlight trim rings
    Euro grills
    Shadowline P50 LED headlight bulbs
    Aliexpress LED license plate bulbs

    Mtech-1 385mm steering wheel
    Reupholstered seats (cloth center, vinyl bolstering)
    Gauge cluster remodel with Programa SI board
    Ebay odometer gears
    Clarion M508 head unit
    E34 door pod tweeters and front woofers
    JVC C-DR521 rear woofers
    Ebay Audiopipe CRX-203 crossover
    Ebay JF Customs shift boot
    Scrap yard plastic shift knob from E34
    Garagistic fire extinguisher front seat mount
    Canadian Tire fire extinguisher
    VDO Vision Black vacuum/boost gauge
    VDO Vision Black oil pressure gauge
    VDO Vision Black oil temperature gauge (soon)
    Wide angle rearview clip-on mirror
    Aliexpress LED dome light
    LED strip trunk light

    Turner J-stock springs
    Koni SA shocks
    10mm rear spring pads
    E90 front spring perches
    E46 M3 convertible rear shock mounts
    ECS Tuning rear shock mount reinforcements
    Garagistic rear trailing arm reinforcements
    Garagistic rear subframe sway bar reinforcements
    SRSConcept rear subframe diff mount reinforcements
    Revshift 80A polyurethane offset lower control arm bushings for increased caster, riser rear subframe bushings to reduce rear toe in and negative camber, rear trailing arm bushings, diff studs and spacers to accommodate the higher subframe
    Mercury Villager front sway bar end links
    UltraRacing front cross brace

    Wheels and tires:
    BBS RM012 15x7.5/15x8
    Dunlop Direzza DZ102 205/55R15

    E46 330i yellow tag steering rack
    E46 inner tie rods
    E36 outer tie rods
    Garagistic steering rack swap kit
    Garagistic solid steering giubo

    E28 535is 3.25:1 limited-slip differential rebuilt by Bavariandiffs
    Z3 1.9 short shifter
    Ireland Engineering dual-shear selector rod
    Garagistic shifter bushings
    Garagistic secondary diff mount (soon)
    Revshift 80A polyurethane diff bushings

    Whodwho Megasquirt ECU
    Innovate LC-2 wideband O2 sensor
    ARP head studs
    Bosch 30lb injectors
    NGK BPR7ES (soon)
    Rotomaster T4 turbo, .58AR exhaust housing, 60 trim compressor wheel
    TCD bottom-mount turbo manifold and downpipe
    Tial 38mm wastegate with 0.5bar (7.25psi) spring
    Greddy RZ replica blow off valve
    Ebay universal 27.5”x7”x2.5” intercooler
    Ebay universal 2.5” charge pipes and silicone elbows
    Ireland Engineering magnetic oil pan drain plug

    Custom 3” turbo back with hollowed catalytic converter and two unknown straight through mufflers

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    Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 07:41 AM.

    I took the interior apart to clean everything, and considered swapping seats with my red 325i vert before selling that car. All the front seat mechanisms worked, they'd been reupholstered and didn't have any tears, and all the heating elements worked. Since my red car's seats were black, I decided to switch the seat backs to have blue backs so it'd tie into the rest of the blue interior better. I took the mtech 1 wheel out of my red vert and put it in my white vert.

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    I then changed the front speakers to E34 woofers and tweeters. Since E30s don't have crossovers, I ordered cheap ones on eBay, wired them in, and they worked great. I cut out the E30 tweeters out of the sail panels and sealed in the E34 speakers so it all looks stock from the outside. Treble is much more clear, and bass reaches noticeably deeper. ​
    Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:06 AM.


      Since one of my windows was non-functional, I removed the rear cards to access the rear windows, and pulled the regulators to clean and lube with white lithium grease. This had the windows working like new, so I did the same with the front windows.
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      When locking my car from the trunk, the central locking would temporarily lock my car for a second, and then unlock the whole car on its own, but trying to lock the car from the driver door felt like I was going to break my key. After talking to some friends about my locking issues, I was recommended to lube my door latches with white lithium grease and spray graphite lubricant in the lock cylinders. This fixed everything and now I had perfectly working central locking and no broken keys.

      Now, with a perfectly-functioning white vert, it was time to take the hard top, BBS RMs, and brand new NGK 5077 spark plugs off my red car, sell the red car, and store the white car for the winter.
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      Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:08 AM.


        Spring of 2020, Covid hits and Montreal’s strict lockdown had me cooped up alone. I took this as an opportunity to learn to do some mechanical and body stuff myself for the first time.

        I got a set of euro chrome bumpers shipped in from Australia, a set of euro smiley headlights from Germany, and a full set of Shadowline P50 LED headlight bulbs to test before becoming available on Shadowline's website. I sanded and repainted all the scuffed and greyed euro bumper black trim with Duplicolor Trim and Bumper Black. I wired the bumper parking lights to the city lights in the euro smileys, and bought some cheap dark vinyl tint from ebay to blacken the turn signals in the bumper.

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        The Shadowline P50 LED headlights were plug n play. Very easy. The cutoff line is precise, and visibility is so much better than stock. Putting the rubber dust covers over the back had one overheat and die, so I immediately took those off, but I was sent replacements immediately. Excellent customer service.
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        I installed new Koni SA shocks, H&R Race springs, new Lemforder E46 M3 convertible rear shock mounts and reinforcement plates to replace the old squeaking worn out rear shock mounts.​​ The H&R Race springs work very well with the Koni SA shocks, and I found the ride quite comfortable. My only prior experience has been Vogtland springs and KYB shocks on my old red vert, which were too soft and would bottom out if taking speed bumps too fast.
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        Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:10 AM.


          One of my first curvy spirited drives in my life with a bunch of friends, I learned a hard lesson by taking a curve and lifting off throttle when I got nervous due to oncoming traffic on the curve. The rear end started sliding out, I overcorrected, the car started fishtailing with my counter-steering not able to keep up, and I spun out backwards into a ditch. One of the most scary and discouraging moments of my life by that time. Immediately got out and started piling rocks to try and make a path to drive the car out of the ditch and not need to get towed. Started the car and the oil pressure light lit up, so I turned it off. The ditch messed up the bottom of the tail panel, destroyed my stock muffler, cracked my oil pan, and bent 3 of my wheels' lips. I got towed home that night and was extremely grateful to be alive and not have a totalled car. It could have gone so much worse.
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            After some time away from the car to figure out what to do, I started sourcing parts to rebuild. A friend in Florida only charged me shipping for the oil pan. Some friends paid a visit to hang out, and a few of them helped me do my first oil pan job and get the car drivable again. It was a lot easier than I anticipated. I sanded and painted the front lip to get rid of the scratches from the crash.
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            A local E30 guy gave me a stock catback.
            For the wheels, I got the lips repaired/straightened.
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            I figured I might as well build them exactly how I wanted to since one of them leaked air beforehand anyway and the tires were off, so I started brainstorming and photoshopping.
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              From when I bought the car, there'd be a clunk when turning the steering wheel in parking lots. Inner tie rods needed to be changed, so I figured I'd just source a yellow tag E46 330i ZHP steering rack from a scrap yard and get that whole section of the car done. I found one at a scrap yard in Ontario, ordered brand new Febi inner and outer tie rods, new boots, new hard lines to replace the old rusty ones from the scrapped E46, and a Garagistic non-airbag steering rack swap kit with a solid steering giubo. I had to bend the tabs on the front subframe to get it installed, but it worked out pretty easily. The power steering lines took minimal hammering in a bench vise to fit right. I bled the power steering fluid, and then took it for an alignment. This wasn't too difficult to do and it made a HUGE difference in how an E30 drives, in my opinion.
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              I also picked up a Z3 short shifter with a new shifter cup from someone who crashed their own E30 in Nova Scotia :(
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              The selector rod would now make contact with the driveshaft vibration damper in some gears, so I had to bend the selector rod with a hammer to clear. After that, everything worked great. Felt more notchy for sure. Still some shifter slop, but I wasn't going to do the rest of the transmission stuff yet.
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              Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:26 AM.


                Wanting to get more involved with engine stuff and make more power, I was debating an S50 swap vs M54 swap vs learning to turbo the original motor in the car.

                S50b30us swap pros: More stout than an M54b30 and M20b25 turbo supposedly being built from the factory expecting to be beat on, no oil burning issues that plague the M54b30, more simple ECU stuff than an M54b30, no DISA valve to worry about.
                S50b30us swap cons: Most expensive engine upfront, not easy to find replacements for cheap if anything went wrong with it, VANOS to service, needs oil pump nut secured, needs brake booster moved or swapped, heaviest.

                M54b30 swap pros: Lightest engine, most fuel efficient, flattest torque curve with most low-end torque.
                M54b30 swap cons: Most complicated, piston oil rings would ideally have to be changed meaning engine rebuild, DISA valve to service, double VANOS to service, needs oil pump nut secured, needs brake booster moved or swapped.

                M20b25 turbo pros: Known condition of engine, no need to pull the engine out of the car, best sounding (IMO), smallest and supposedly easiest to work on, easily replaceable, least down time, cheapest route to 300whp.
                M20b25 turbo cons: Longest learning curve, most things to go wrong, least fuel efficient, least low-end torque.

                I decided the biggest factor here as a beginner with limited space and tools was not have to pull an engine out of the car, let alone rebuild an engine, so turbo M20b25 would be the best route for me to go. I wanted the car to be drivable with the least downtime, and I could always do one of the other options down the road to turbo.

                After learning to do my first timing belt and water pump job on my own and changing the cam seal, I bought a used Whodwho Megasquirt ECU with an Innovate LC-2 wideband O2 and a set of BOSCH 30lb injectors from a guy in Colorado.
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                It wasn't too difficult to get working. I used a GM IAT and E36 TPS with Rabbit Wiring Solutions adapters. I teed off from the vacuum line to the fuel pressure regulator to the ECU with 3/16" rubber vacuum hose. I learned TunerStudio and tuning basics enough to get the car running NA without the ICV. Wow, deleting the AFM really improves throttle response. ​I also happened to find a deal on used ARP head studs as well, so I removed my head bolts 1 by 1 and put the studs in their place. Changed the valve cover gasket too and rocker shaft plugs too.
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                Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:33 AM.


                  My friend at Magnus Coatings in Montreal had availability to help me powdercoat my BBS RM012 wheels, so I split the set of wheels for my very first time, marking what lips went on which wheels in what position, brought them to him, told him specifically what I was going for, and he worked his magic. I painted the centers satin black myself since they’re plastic.

                  I then assembled my first set of multi-piece wheels. 2 inch lips for the rear (15x8 ET14), 1.5 inch lips for the front (15x7.5 ET20)
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                  Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:35 AM.


                    nice work. gotta stop crashing e30's though lol


                      Originally posted by 82eye View Post
                      nice work. gotta stop crashing e30's though lol
                      Yup! One more crash coming up though in a future post :(

                      So end of summer 2020 comes, and I decided I to order an ebay intercooler and charge piping kit while I waited to find a deal on a turbo manifold and other stuff. I knew I wouldn't need too crazy of an intercooler only going for 250-300whp. I got two L brackets from Home Depot to mount to the sides of the frame rails, an aluminum flat bar to connect to the L brackets and mount the bottom of the intercooler to, trimmed the headlights housings, and got it all to fit snugly. It measures 27.5x7x2.5" and is for 2.5" piping. I had to delete the aux fan for this, which led to intermittent increases in coolant temps when idling. This led me to believe that the fan clutch was probably on its way out.

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                      Canada's first H2Oi event was about to happen. I did my first road trip in this car with my other local car friends and enjoyed the weekend in Wasaga Beach. My friend riding shotgun helped me adjust the fuel table in TunerStudio during the drive.

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                      Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:37 AM.


                        I stumbled upon a deal for a used TCD bottom mount manifold and downpipe, Rotomaster T4 turbo (.58AR exhaust housing, 60 trim compressor wheel), Tial 38mm wastegate, and custom turbo back exhaust. It was all located in California so I had my good friend Pete try the car first before the turbo parts came off to ensure everything was in good shape, and he was kind enough to help ship it all to me.

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                        Now I could really start planning this turbo project. I liked the idea of a bottom mount because it looks more inconspicuous, would allow me to easily keep A/C without touching anything, I could still run a washer fluid tank, and under hood temps would be cooler. I didn't need the extra flow capacity of a tubular manifold for my power goals so the reliability of a cast manifold seemed ideal for me.

                        I shortly after found a pre-owned knockoff Greddy RZ blow off valve that I thought was real at the time of purchase and got a flange for it on eBay. I then bought two VDO Vision Black gauges (oil psi, vaccum/boost) to mount in the center vents and the matching VDO oil psi sender.
                        Last edited by Cairn; 04-04-2023, 06:40 AM.


                          The end of 2020 progress came the day before winter storage where I had a rear-end incident at a stoplight that bent my tail panel in and ruined my rear chrome bumper. The newer 5 series had no visible damage at all except for a cut in their front bumper from my exhaust pipe. Euro chrome bumpers aren't legal where I live and if I got a vehicle inspection ticket given to me, I would have had to revert a lot of the car to stock. The other party was fine with moving on, and I decided I'd deal with the damage next season since my tail panel had already been damaged from my first accident in the ditch.
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                          This replica Mtech1 wing fit horribly so I just sold it.

                          Very discouraging end to the year that had me take some time apart from the project once again.


                            Ah super rough luck my dude. I know how it goes, my 85 got wrecked then I bought an 89 touring which got tagged in a grocery store parking lot 4 days later. Just keep after it, it'll get better
                            Current Builds
                            1989 S52 E30 Touring | The Grey Athletic Shoe
                            1993 Toyota Landcruiser | The Trail Snail


                              I installed my euro bumper the night before this happened.
                              Attached Files
                              Current Builds
                              1989 S52 E30 Touring | The Grey Athletic Shoe
                              1993 Toyota Landcruiser | The Trail Snail