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1984 325e Turbo Resurrection

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    First thing's first, the seized front brakes. Don't they look lovely?
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    You can see that I had installed a wheel stud kit at one point. I don't recommend this. The quality was questionable for such a critical component. Over the years the nuts rusted to the studs, effectively making them bolts again. This happened before I even parked the car to some of them. Anyways, don't bother. Just keep the bolts, I say.

    The tires were brand new when I parked the car, and the front brake pads were brand new as well, I think. Kind of a shame. The plan for this car is to do the e36 M3 front brake/hub swap, and the Z3M rear brake/hub/trailing arm swap. So none of this assembly will be used for this build. One of the last things I remember about this car was that with 1 bar of boost and 6,000rpm redline the stock brakes are very inadequate. Since I know I'm not using these parts, I was very liberal with the hammer and the pry bar. I was trying to be careful enough not to break the brakes, since I still need them to work well enough to move the car in and out of my garage, but not worried at all about dents or breaking off bits of the pads. Unfortunately I have no pics of them after they cleaned up. I was under the gun and didn't take as many pics as I would have liked. Suffice it to say: Pry off the calipers, take off the rotors, clean them up with a sanding wheel, actuate the calipers by pressing the brakes and then using a beefy c-clamp to reset the piston (this part is important: I bent a not-beefy c-clamp on the first caliper). I was delightfully surprised that none of the brake lines popped. I had to push the brakes pretty hard to break the front calipers free. This part of the job went easier than I feared, and actually at the end of the day I don't think I really damaged anything. This was the only thing I needed to do before shipping the car, so by the end of day one the first goal was achieved: It stopped, rolled, and steered.

    One final note on the brakes: anti-seize is a godsend. The wheels all came right off: None of them were stuck on. The caliper bolts came right out, the rotors and the retaining screw came right out. Besides the actual brake pads seizing onto the rotor, and the caliper piston seizing into the caliper, the rest of the assembly was very easy to work on. My advice: Always use anti-seize, the stuff is a miracle. Thank me later.

    Unfortunately, the rust situation was worse than I was hoping for.

    The driver's side wheel well sheet metal is almost completely detached along the full length of the seam. I'll need to basically pull the entire interior to fix this, since it gets pretty far up under the dash. This is the sort of thing where it's not safe to drive the car with this kind of damage, especially with a motor that makes north of 300hp (but your gonna have to wait a year or two before I have actual dyno results). The floor pan plug on the drivers side completely rusted to the point of detaching. The passenger's side is generally in better condition. New floor pans are pretty much top priority once it gets in my garage - well, after I pull the engine and send it to a shop for some professional treatment.
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    The rear jacking storage area is also pretty bad. This was already rusted through 10 years ago, and clearly it's only gotten worse. As you can see by the time I took this photo I had removed the antenna so I could cover the antenna hole with tape. Plus the power antenna was non-functional, so it's probably easier to ship the car with it removed.
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    This is a rust area I don't hear as much about on the e30: In the trunk, right behind the rear seat back. This is on the passenger's side. I'm not sure what that part is on the other side of the hole, but my guess is that it rubbed against the frame, then it got rusty, and rotted up from underneath. This is in the area of the rear axle, so I definitely need to pull the subframe and fix this before driving the car much. It would be a very bad idea for me to fix the motor without fixing the chassis: The chassis is all straight, as far as I can tell. It still seems pretty rigid, too: When the car is jacked up on one end, the doors all still work totally fine, everything is still lined up. But rigidity and strength are different things, and it would suck if I started putting major forces on this chassis and bending stuff. Much better for me to fix it now, before the turbo motor, big brakes, and big tires start stressing these parts...
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    Which leads me to the biggest problem area of all: the main structural rails behind the front suspension:
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    This giant hole is right under the driver's foot area. This is a main structure on the e30 chassis, and the rust here is really, really bad. When I discovered this I was really disheartened, and half thought that the car might not be worth it. I found this right around lunch time, and then my wife and I put our son down for a nap, and I had a bit of a heart-to-heart with her. I was like "I really don't know if this is worth it" and her response was right on point. She said to me "Nothing about this project is rational or practical. Don't think about it that way. Think about it like if this is the project you want to take on, if THIS is THE project car that will bring you the most joy. It's not about the money, or the time, or the practicality. It's just about whether or not this will be fun and bring you joy, or if it won't."

    And she's 100% right. I'm not doing this project because it's a "rational" thing. I already have a nice DD and another nice sports car. I'm doing this project to this car because I had a dream about what the e30 could be with some "resto-mod" touches, and this specific car not because it's rationally the right chassis or even the right base model, but because it's the car I bought when I was 19. It was my first "real" car that I chose (although it wasn't my true first car. that would be a 1981 VW Rabbit Diesel that was given to me after my cousin was done with it).

    Discovering this rust spot really changed the plan for the project though. It became very clear to me that I can't drive the car on the street until the chassis has a lot of rust repair done to it. I was hoping to fix the motor and then be able to cruise the car around while piece-by-piece doing all the mods I have planned, but this discovery changed that, and it's now pretty clear I'm not going to get the car where I want it without two tear downs. The first tear down is a partial one to fix all the big structural problem areas, plus swap in the big modifications and make sure everything is playing nice together: e36 M3 / Z3M brakes and 5-lug swap, 245 width (or bigger) tires, R134a A/C install, bigger intercooler, twin-scroll ball bearing turbo with twin 2.5" exhaust pipes, e46 M3 ABS/DSC, 3rd brake light install, rear head rest install, chassis reinforcements, power rear pop-out windows, under-seat subs - all or most of these things are going to require some changes to the chassis, and I don't think it makes much sense to try and do all those mods, AND get the chassis stripped and repainted in one go. I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of kinks to work out along the way, and the new plan is to get them all in place and working together before doing the final strip and repaint. This will also give me a chance to evaluate the chassis and suspension at a trackday (or a few) to see if there's a need for additional stiffening reinforcements, and just keep going through that process until the car is dialed in. Then, and only then, will it be ready for the "restoration" part of the project.

    Hopefully in the meantime I can get some decent color matched rattle-can lapisblau paint, so I can keep it kinda looking like a put-together car.

    TL;DR: The rust on the chassis was disheartening, but my lovely wife reminded me that it's an irrational project and I'm doing it because it brings me joy, not because it makes sense on paper. My closing thought for Day 1 of this trip is best paraphrased by Søren Kierkegaard: "Rebuild the e30 or don't rebuild the e30: Either way I'll regret it".

    The project is a-go!


      After discovering all the chassis rust and getting the front brakes operational, things started looking a little more bright. My dad encouraged me to try and crank the car over, and I was adamant about not trying to start it for the plethora of reasons starting a car that has been sitting for so long can be a bad idea: Water in the oil, hydro locked cylinders, bad/dirty fuel, breaking the timing belt, all kinds of stuff.

      Anyways, we agreed to pull the fuel pump fuse and crank the motor just to see if at least that part of it would work. The e30 lacks a clutch safety switch for the starter, so being able to move the car with the starter motor can be very useful to get it positioned in a shop. We checked the oil to verify it looks good and not over-full, since over-full could indicate water in the oil. Overall the oil looked like it was changed yesterday, and was at the perfect level. I pulled the fuse, hooked up a battery, and cranked it for just a second or two: Enough to verify the starter works and the motor turns over. To our surprise, we all thought it sounded like the motor fired pretty much immediately. Mind you, this car has not been cranked in at least 8 or 9 years. I don't know when the last time was that the fuel pump pressurized the fuel system. So I pulled out my phone to take a video and decided to give the motor another crank:

      The damn thing fired right up! I did nothing. In fact I did an irresponsible amount of nothing. This was so unexpected I didn't really give a full check of the intake for mouse nests, or other debris. We didn't change the fuel filter or drain/replace the fuel. I didn't use my borescope to check the cylinders first. We just cranked it and it started up immediately and sat there running as if it was parked recently.

      Well now things seemed really exciting! After that video we discovered a fuel leak (which my dad set about repairing) and I got to work on cleaning it up to be shipped. If I had any doubts before the project was definitely a-go at this point. I will say that even though the engine has run for only a total of 2-3 minutes now, it seems to be running worse than that initial firing up. My guess is that the fuel is bad and/or dirt is clogging up the fuel filter and/or injectors. Ideally I would have done more to flush the fuel system first, but I'm not terribly concerned. The fuel lines all need replacing anyways, and the fuel pump (dual pump setup on this 1984 model) will probably be swapped to a single Walbro high-capacity unit before the vehicle is street driven again.

      That pretty much concludes the mechanical portion of the project at my parent's house. The remainder of the project was cleaning the car up to be shipped and make it at least somewhat presentable. First up the interior:

      The front cleaned up rather well. I always hated these seat covers, but the cloth on the front seats is completely shot, and admittedly: The covers did me favors for the car sitting for 10 years. Hard to see in this pic, but unfortunately the driver's seat rails are very rusty. Not sure what the plan is here for rebuild or replacing the seats.
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      The rear bench actually cleaned up nice. Unfortunately the fabric is so sun damaged the threads are breaking. Every cloth surface in the interior needs to be replaced. The rear parcel shelf is even worse, but I already have a parcel shelf from a later model car that I was planning on swapping in. Not 100% sold on doing that at this point, but it's an option. I'm mostly considering it because it will work better with power rear window actuators, but I'm not sold on that placement for the actuators.
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      Under the rear floor mats the carpet looks good as new!
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      Trunk is dramatically cleaned up. This was a disgusting mess. Still will need some love via steam cleaning or a pressure washer.
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      And last but not least for the interior: The glove box still has a rats nest in it, but at least it's my rat's nest!
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        And last but not least, the exterior got a quick wash. Unfortunately no time to polish the areas of the car that still have single-stage paint, but it at least looks like something worth restoring. Here I am washing it:
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        And a couple glamour shots. The r3v file host doesn't do my DSLR justice, I'll post links to a nicer photo album once I figure out where to host them.
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        Driver's 3/4. This is my favorite photo from the trip:
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        While nobody managed to get a video of the car driving, here's a quick shot of driving it back to the parking spot under it's own power. Since the engine might not have any coolant in it, I didn't have time to mess around with photos/videos whenever it was running (30-sec to a minute at a time).
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        And the last photo from the trip: Parking the car back in the same spot, but this time with a few additions to try and manage the moisture and creatures. While it should only be here for another month or two before I ship it out to my house, I wanted to do what I could to help preserve it a little better.

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        The next major update will be when the car is shipped to my garage. Aiming for ~September to give me enough time to get the space prepared and the car shipped.


          wow, blue interior! I have the pacific blue also. Are your sport seats matching as well? Super jelly!!!


            Cool! Yeah, it has the 0151 Pacific blue cloth sport seats. Both front seats are trashed though, hence the crappy covers. Reupholstering the seats is on my early to-do list, if only because I think the fabric is NLA and will probably be pretty hard to source.

            I always liked the interior on this car, so I'm going to try and keep it true to form. One goal of the whole build is to keep all the mods subtle at first glance, and the cloth sport seats are great to begin with. I wouldn't mind finding an e30 M3 rear bench, though.

            If I can't find the exact blue check pattern, I'll just go with something very close that I can find. I plan on replacing all the cloth, regardless.


              I've shipped cars from SF to North Carolina for $850, so 2k seems excessive. Also, i'd buy a parts car/shell.. and just start cutting good metal and replacing yours. Best of luck with the project! If you were closer to SF i'd let you have my parts shell (4 door though)
              Build Threads:
              Pamela/Bella/Betty/325ix/5-Lug Seta/S60R/Miata ITB/Miata Turbo/Miata VVT/951/325xi-6


                Originally posted by Julien View Post
                I've shipped cars from SF to North Carolina for $850, so 2k seems excessive. Also, i'd buy a parts car/shell.. and just start cutting good metal and replacing yours. Best of luck with the project! If you were closer to SF i'd let you have my parts shell (4 door though)
                Where did you get shipping quotes from? Prices might be up right now, I hear the trucking industry has a driver shortage.

                Unfortunately I don't really have the space for a parts car. Gonna have to be junkyards, other folks, and replacement panels to Frankenstein it back together.


                  Fantastic!! Keep going!
                  Jon (OO=[][]=OO)
                  1992 325ic white, stock with a 5-speed swap
                  Palm Beach County


                    That rust gives me the heebie jeebies, but fortunately you're in California where any parts sourced will be in great shape. Excited to see the revival!


                      Søren Kierkegaard: "Rebuild the e30 or don't rebuild the e30: Either way I'll regret it".

                      Something I contemplated earlier this year and came to the same conclusion.


                        Originally posted by zwill23 View Post
                        That rust gives me the heebie jeebies, but fortunately you're in California where any parts sourced will be in great shape. Excited to see the revival!
                        For sure. I'm a little worried this is biting off more than I can chew, but I'm going for it! It just kinda sucks because this basically means the first thing I'm doing is saving up for a car lift and possibly a rotisserie. I have a very tight shop space and the rotisserie will make it a lot more manageable.

                        Since the plan for this car is to push a lot of boost and make a lot of other mods along the way, chassis reinforcements were always part of the plan. I figure it's not *that* much additional work to do the rust repair. I could be wrong. I'm fairly certain I'm going the chemical stripping route eventually, so that should make it easier to identify and fix all the rust areas.


                          That’s Tetanus-izing, But what a great paraphrase!

                          Søren Kierkegaard: "Rebuild the e30 or don't rebuild the e30: Either way I'll regret it".

                          Awesome you’re bringing back an old friend.

                          Keep up the literature, I love a cars story.
                          Last edited by moatilliatta; 07-16-2021, 07:02 AM.

                          I was up above it, Now I'm down in it ~ Entropy - A Build thread.