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Finally Restoring This E30...

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    Finally Restoring This E30...

    This story's been a long time comin....

    With so many other older BMW models to experience, I told myself I'd never buy another e30. Not that I dont enjoy them, because I do, but because after owning one for 9 years and dealing with all its problems I've grown numb and annoyed. And life's too short to only drive an e30. Had you approached me back in my e36 days I probably would have told you that the e36 is my favorite platform. But now having experienced e30s, e24s, e46s, etc etc, I would never say the e36 is my favorite. I would instead probably say the e30 is my favorite, but that's perhaps because I've never had an e28, e34, e9, e39, etc in my garage. My point is that you need to diversify your ownership experiences to have a true grasp of automobile qualities. Keeping this in mind, there's always been this one e30 in particular that would make me "fall off the wagon" and repeat my e30 habit... this bucket.....

    Crazy, right? Why would anyone be drawn to that thing? Plus it's got 270k+ miles. Lets be honest here.

    Well.... let me explain.... back in my junior year of highschool, nine years ago, I wanted to sell my e36 and buy something more barebones that I wouldnt feel bad about leaving behind for college. Two blocks from where I grew up was this very same e30. I passed by it every week at least while it sat on the baltimore city streets. It was clean-ish, but what drew me in was it's color combination and proximity. I know it sounds borderline creepy to say, but it felt like it was teasing me haha So in 2004, about the same time I joined this forum, I left a long note on it's windshield introducing myself and asking the owner if he'd ever sell it. Never heard anything back. I still saw it every week, it was obviously cared for and driven, but the owner just never responded.

    Fastforward two years and I had two e30s of my own.
    Full thread:

    I was just starting off on my ridiculous rebuild story. Well one day, while I was in the garage swapping parts around, this 30-something year old guy walked down the road and saw the mess I created in the driveway. He introduced himself and asked if I had any window regulators I'd be willing to sell. I said sure, and asked him if he owned the black e30 up the street. He did! He was kinda weirded out that I would know where he lived, but then I told him that it was me who tried to buy the car years ago. We got along pretty well after that, and I'd help him source parts when he needed them. Well a year later he had to move to China or something like that and wanted to sell the car. I certainly counldnt buy it, but I had a friend, Greg, whose Ford Exploder was just about to die out on him. Greg didnt know anything about BMWs but he seemed to like my e30, so I made the introduction. The price was right and he liked the color, image, style, etc of the car, so he bought it. $2500 got him an all original, 215k mile, shwarz on black heated leather 325iS. Rust under the battery tray, fresh dent in the fender, ripped seats and everything. Nice. He drove that thing into the ground for five whole years. Every few months I'd hear about how he's planning on buying a new fender, new seats, on and on, but he never did. Bless his heart but he never did any preventative maintenance or restorative work on it. He accumulated thousands of dollars in parking fines at UMD I believe, but never did do the fender or cleaned the wheels. To his credit though, when something did break down, he'd fix it. Alternator, radiator, you name it. Always did the oil too. Somewhere around 2010 I convinced him to give me some cash to do a full detail and fix as many things on the car as I could. I posted up on BFc about it and here's the quote:

    Originally posted by Pino
    One of my good friends, Greg, got himself into an e30 a few years back. Great guy and loves his car, but he’s not so great with upkeeping her in the hectic UMD college park environment. When Greg left on vacation, I picked up the car to see if I could sort out some issues and get the paint looking clean again. It’s structurally very sound, but little things have been holding it back from being a great e30 example. This car took much more time & effort to get right, but it’s been way overdue and certainly turned out to be worth it. I replaced the rear moulding trim, door seal, taillight, moved his jammed passenger seat, installed a new idle control valve, full paint detail, mounted two super clean basketweaves in the front, interior scrub and clean, brake fluid, and about a month ago did the exhaust. Total she's got about 250k miles probably, and used to show every bit of it.

    .... this is what happens when you dont clean your wheels. Notice the big chunk missing too...

    2 bags of junk hauled out. I found glass cups, forks, steak knives, paperwork and reciepts from years ago, a 15yr old (glued on) radar, a full size jack (without pump handle) and 5 cans of various oils & fluids....

    Edit: oh, and half a hookah setup + a half eaten bag of recces peanut butter cups from a roadtrip well over a year ago.... :rofl

    After washing & claying, you can tell that the underlying paint isn't all that bad. Certainly it's got it's scratches, nicks, swirls, etc, but nothing catastrophic.

    Ride height difference between stock & GC Coils on their highest setting

    The damage to my claybars and cutting pads was ravenous


    Greg continued to drive it for another two years and eventually grew tired of throwing money at it and needed to sell. Our local shop even said the m20 was on it's last leg and can't be trusted any more. I once again couldnt buy it though, but I knew my buddy Richard was always looking for another project beater to toy around with and I didnt want to see it dumped away to some random kid, so I pimped the car out once again to a friend. Richard thankfully bought it for $1000. It immediately needed a new transmission and an oil pan from when Greg jacked the car up by it for some unfortunate reason. I think he confused the concept of the LSD jack-point with the oil pan. Oh well. Richard is awesome with e30/e36 mechanics so this was no big deal for him. Otherwise, all Richard did was basic maintenance for about 7 months. The spark plugs were of course shot to hell, a few gaskets, cap, rotor, blah blah, but this 270k+ car turned out to be the most reliable e30 I knew of. Between Richard, myself, and our friend Gus, we had 4 e30s. All of them constantly broken down. Except for the most neglected, stock, example. Weird.

    Here's Richard & Gus's spec e30 build that I painted around this same time...

    But let me clear up any misconceptions for my readers - Richard hated this black bucket. But to be honest he pretty much hates e30's in general. I had been bugging him for months to sell it to me, which he was more than happy to do, but only on the stipulation that we find him something of equal or lesser value on craigslist. It took a couple weeks, but he landed a clean 1993 318iS 5spd in need or work for $920.

    Which meant my while-whale e30 finally became MINE!
    Mandatory "before" shots:

    So let the restoration begin...

    One day after ownership I landed a full cardinal interior over here on r3v for $200. Front, rear, doorcards, everything. It was neglected, not perfect, but who cares? It was $200 and it's way better than the current setup. I've always wanted a red interior. I can make this work...

    First had to vacuum, scrub, shampoo, scrub, vacuum, and scrub the carpet.

    The driver's seat of course didn't function so I had to take it apart. Everything turned out to be easier than I had feared. Had it working in 15mins with some helpful online DIYs.

    Rears & passenger seat treated, and I left the driver's side for dramatic effect.

    I first used this stuff called Byron's Leather Food. I've been using it for years now, love the stuff.

    I swapped around the doorcard pulls using the original black doorcards. The cardinal doorcards are too much for me. I like contrast.

    One thing I've always wanted to try out on these older BMWs is getting some experience dying carpet. In this car's case, I wanted to dye that rear decklid. The gray color really stood out on this black/black car, so let's try this out. I picked up duplicolor black carpet dye for $6. First I vacuumed, scrubbed in carpet cleaner, and wiped away as much dirt as I could. Then just spray! It took 5 light coats, I used the whole can actually, and in between coats I scrubbed the dye into the carpet fibers with a toothbrush. This is such a simple touch to do in the interior but it really stands out to me now. Even from the outside-looking-in.

    I know this sounds crazy, but one of my favorite things to clean on a new project is the doorjams. Why? Because I know that I'm always the first to do it haha At least for the kinds of projects I've been used to. People just dont care about this area, but to me it stands out. So i wash the jams and scrub in PB blaster in the joins.


    As you can see, the seats are looking good, but not great. They're in need of some rejuvenation. I dont know where this interior is from, but I'm guessing somewhere hot and parked outside in the sun for two decades. It very cracked and rough. Another product I wanted to try out on this was Leatherique's Leather Rejuvenation Oil & Pristine Clean. It's really simple: just massage in the oil liberally on your already cleaned seats and let it cure for 24-48hrs. I'll update this tomorrow when they're done.


      Wheels were an easy problem. They were structurally good, just never cleaned. Luckily, after owning nothing but baskets for almost a decade now, I'm used to this.

      Wheel wells scrubbed with bug & tar remover, then washed

      Time for tires. I dont know how, but Richard drove this thing for something like 8k miles with four different terrible tires on it. All with different tread levels and sizes too. I'm a big proponent of tires being the best performance / handling upgrade you can do. And in this car's case, the effect would be dramatic even if I bought junk. The problem with this would be finding something good in a 14" size. BMW standard sizing is 195/65/14 but that market died. I went with 195/60/14 Kumho Solus KH16's, though I'm regretting not looking into more 205/60/14 options. 195's look so skinny compared to the 225's I run on my other e30. But I guess it's cool to stick with how BMW intended the car to ride/look/feel. Wheel barrels also scrubbed. I'm very excited to feel the difference with these, and I should be given they're the most expensive thing in this little restoration project.

      Next I had to start my focus on the exterior. Mainly: THAT FENDER! It's been bugging me for nine years now. An otherwise clean, original, e30 ruined by that enormous dent. I had two options here: either buy a random fender and have it painted, or find an original shwarz fender. I opted to try and find a shwarz one for sale so the paint would match better and to be cost effective. Had I had a fender painted, the paint would look obviously much better than the rest of the car and it would cost about $200 for everything. It took much longer than I expected to find a shwarz fender, but whilst trolling Orlando Craigslist I finally found one. $50 plus shipping. Done. All I had to do was take off the bumper. Easy, right? No. The bumper torx bolts wouldn't move. I broke one of my bits then gave up and brought it to my shop. The used an impact wrench with 1250lbs of pressure and still nothing. Wow. Richard and I even tried using a blowtorch and still managed to break another torx bit. The only option I had was to drill out 6 other torx bolts and order new bumper shocks. Not awesome, but at least that means I can finally take off that $&(#ing fender.

      My major paint detailing work would have to wait for some space to open up thanks to the two broken ass red e30's currently occupying the garage. That said, this was the perfect time to take care of the rocker panels and front & rear valances. All of which were worn down and nasty. I had been dying to do this simple task for years. It's easy.

      1) Spray on tons of bug & tar remover
      2) Scrub with a rough sponge
      3) Wipe clean with towel
      4) Do some light 320grit sanding
      5) Simple Green
      6) Wipe clean
      7) Rub in rubbing alcohol with towel
      8) Dry for twenty minutes
      9) Tape!

      Rockers and lower half of rear valance:
      1) Duplicolor Clear Automotive Adhesion Promoter (2 layers)
      2) Rustoleum Matte Black (3 layers)

      Front valance and upper half of rear valance:
      1) Duplicolor Clear Automotive Adhesion Promoter (2 layers)
      2) Shwarz basecoat that was custom mixed by (4 layers)
      3) Rustoleum Acrylic Clearcoat (2 layers)

      Now for taillights. Since I went with a red interior, I decided to stick with the red/black scheme and paint the tails. I cleaned, did some 1000grit sanding, and simply sprayed VHT Niteshade Red, then clearcoat and polished with my orbital.

      This would prove to be a big pain in the ass: removing the pinstripe. It was painted on. I had to be extremely careful not to burn through the paint, but I had to end up using a dremel tool and some of my medium strength paint compound. I inevitably left behind a trail of swirls, but that's nothing I dont expect to solve when I do my full major paint detail.

      As she sits today:


        Nice... like it!


          You ain't no rookie, thats for sure.
          » PARTS FOR SALE


            Your thread = my motivation.


              Looks great, you've been hiding awhile. Good to see your still doing the E30 thing.


                Nice story, seeing the car gradually get worse and finally getting better. What did you use to clean the door jams?

                Originally posted by StereoInstaller1
                My expectation is an immediate 5 speed swap. Autos suck more than a 50 year old whore.


                  doing work!
                  -1986 S50Turbo Sedan (475WHP/417WTQ) Castromotorsport Built (Sold)
                  -1987 Coupe (17x10.5"/17x14")
                  Castromotorsport / Buddha_Concept_designs Built *UnderConstruction*

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                    this is a great thread mate, altho yours is a bit more far gone that mine looks like you're putting in just as much hard work to clean it back up.

                    that red interior is brilliant for the colour of the car.. I really hope you retrim them in the same colour. I wish recaros were as easy to find in australia for E30s
                    Boris - 89 E30 325i
                    84- E30 323i


                      nice post


                        Awkward infactuation with this thing lol. Stalker love story. Looks like the car went to a good home. I hope you have many ventures in your black mamba

                        NEW ERA AUTO GLASS - SFV SOCAL - 818 974-3673

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                          I want black e30 :(
                          My Sig killed itself. :wgaf:

                          -88 325is Zinnoballer


                            i think cardinal door cards with black handles would look cool.

                            otherwise nice transformation so far


                              You're definitely puttin a whole lotta love into that thing! Just going to keep this one stock right?
                              IG: deniso_nsi Leave me feedback here