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Mostly-calypso: A $600 learning experience [Now S52 swapped]

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    Mostly-calypso: A $600 learning experience [Now S52 swapped]

    Hi all - have been a lurker for a long time, and figured I should start a build thread for my main project, #mostlycalypso

    Little background: We bought our first E30 4 or 5 years ago for my better half as a simple, cheap daily driver. One of the most solid E30's I've ever driven - quiet, reliable, drama-free.

    I decided we needed another one. Couple years later (August 2014) I picked up a '91 325i as a project to compliment my DD at the time (MKV GTI). Turns out, not all E30s are created equal.

    Things wrong:
    • Was in a fender bender - front and rear bumpers were cracked to hell
    • Auto trans was shot
    • Interior was rough
    • Exterior was rough

    Things right:
    • The engine ran
    • It was $600

    Bought it anyway, and had it trailered to Das German in Franklin, TN for a 5 speed swap and timing belt job. This is where the learning bit comes in. My car repair skills before this point were... limited. Changing spark plugs and air filters were roughtly at the top of my mechanical abilities list. Time to learn by doing right? Right.

    Without knowing where to really start, I took a crack at some cosmetics. Basic theme of this build: Can't get any worse?

    Painted the valve cover

    Replaced the airbag wheel

    Pulled out the core support a bit with all the proper tools...

    Cleaned and dyed the carpet

    Snagged a front bumper on ebay, rattle canned to a close (read: not close at all) match

    Did the same to the hood

    Then I started digging into the mechanicals a bit. Ended up giving it a bit of a baseline. Changed all fluids, replaced motor+trans mounts, thermostat, expansion tank cap, handbrake cable, fan clutch, and a bunch of other things - basically just throwing parts at it until it got better. It kinda did.

    Installed some fun suspension bits:

    H&R Race springs, billy sports, e90 drop hats

    Stocker on the right:

    Finally starting to enjoy driving it, rather than noticing everything that's wrong with it

    Junkyard cat is the best cat:

    That winter I was able to pick up a pair of recovered vinyl sport seats at the E30 shop. I also took a crack at installing an E46 center console. This was a pretty nasty project that took way too long. Happy to say it came out alright - I was just happy to have an armrest again.

    Also managed to swap out the stock S4.10 unit with a S3.73. Much happier on the highway

    Took a crack at some paint correction, despite not knowing a thing about it. Buffed out relatively nicely considering, but with the failed clear coat, results didn't last very long. Also installed some sable side skirts because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Drove it as is for a few months after replacing some other suspension bushings, brakes, belts, etc, and just enjoyed it for a while.
    Last edited by NJBiddle; 08-12-2019, 01:27 PM.

    Picked the project up a few months later when I came across a craigslist post for some 15" BBS RS041's in need of some love. They had been split, were rattle canned black, and dual drilled in 4x100 and 4x110. Picked them up cheap and decided to refinish them.. by hand.

    This turned out to be a pretty brutal project. Super tedious, and probably not the smartest use of my time.

    First thing I did was strip them down and sand out any leftover paint. Yes this took forever.

    Rather than putting in the money and getting them powder coated like a sane human, I decided to paint them by hand with wheel paint

    Cleaning all the bolts:

    In primer:

    After 4-5 coats of base + clear:


    Sealed 'em up and got a deal on some kumho ecstas to throw on them:

    Extremely pleased with the results, and worth the extra effort despite the time it took. Going on a year now with no paint chipping, fading, etc. Prep work is important.

    Taken recently after installing some 1/4 height hex caps


      About this time in our E30 ownership-saga a couple things happened. My GTI was beginning to get boring, and we didn't really have a need for three cars. So we sold it and decided to rely on two nearly 30-year old BMWs as daily transport.

      Turns out this wasn't the smartest decision. Our Delphin sedan decided to snap a rocker and go down for the count about a month later. Leaving us with a $600 project car as our only driver. Nice.

      One craigslist search later, and we'd picked up another E30.

      My girlfriend had been searching for a white 'vert for longer than we could remember, so rather than repairing the head on her sedan, we cut our losses and opted for a new one. Moved some parts over from the Delphin, and she was back on the road

      Might start another thread for this one, but here's how she sits today on H&R sports, billy sports, and drop hats

      After that fiasco, we decided a reliable daily driver was in order. We were also feeling the pain of not having a hatchback to haul bigger stuff around.


      Rather than getting a responsible, low-maintenance, newer truck/SUV, I bought this:

      It's a 2003 E53 X5 with 160,000 miles. M54 3.0 engine, 5 speed manual trans. It's big, it's comfy, it's weird, and I love it.


        Alright back to E30 content (and present-day)

        Went on a rampage and replaced a bunch more stuff. Things fixed:
        • CV shafts
        • Removed all window tint
        • Clutch slave + master
        • SS brake + clutch lines
        • Walbro fuel pump, lines and regulator
        • Diff cover + bushing
        • Oil pan + gasket (stripped plug)
        • E36 Steering rack and poly guibo
        • O2 sensor, OEM cat back section of exhaust
        • Renown wheel
        • Timing belt, pump tensioner again
        • Plugs, wires, cap, rotor
        • Power steering pump after a failure

        Started driving it again after the weather warmed up a bit. Decided something had to be done about it's constantly degrading paint situation. Not wanting to plunk down a significant amount of cash on a full respray, I decided to go with a vinyl wrap.

        Ordered some samples to see if I could get a close match in 3M's 1080 catalog.

        Turns out 3M's newest color "cinnabar red" is a relatively close match to calypsorot. It was decided.

        Started stripping it down and decided to fix some dings that have been bothering me. Only problem is, I've never done body work before now. Learn by doing they said.

        Did I mention I have no idea what I'm doing?

        After I filled some dings and rolled my fenders, I started wrapping. For those of you who do this for a living, I salute you. Wrapping is hard as hell.

        Trunk before and after

        Front couple panels done

        This is how far I've got up until today. Hopefully by this weekend I'll be finished up. Stay tuned for final results and the rest of whatever this project turns into


          Great progress.
          1990 Alpine 325is
          1992 Schwarz 325ic (sold)


            Lookin' gooood. Reading through all your progress, I'm going to have to gauge your opinions on a few things now
            '89 318i Touring
            '90 Miata


              Originally posted by Heitzke View Post
              Lookin' gooood. Reading through all your progress, I'm going to have to gauge your opinions on a few things now
              Heh happy to help when I can. Although some may argue I still know nothing after all this ;)


                Dope calypso.

                And the 3.0 X5 is uber reliable!

                1991 318iS Sterlingsilber - 1989 325i Cirrusblau (sold) - 1990 318iC Brilliantrot (sold)


                  Originally posted by SSE30 View Post
                  And the 3.0 X5 is uber reliable!
                  Only time will tell.. Hoping the 5MT adds to the reliability factor. Where's the fun in boring reliable cars though amirite


                    Nice work so far

                    Parts for Sale
                    YouTube Channel


                      Great progress, cant wait to see the results.
                      Euro Delivery Thread///E30 Project Klaus///COTM August 2021


                        Thanks for the encouragement everybody. Protip for those interested in wrapping, the color I used was a little semi-translucent so things like white/pink primer or filler will show through pretty clearly. Had to hit spots with a darker primer to cover it up, which probably should be done anyway

                        Got a couple panels done this week, so hopefully I'll be done soon. In the meantime, here's a shot taken a couple months ago after a local E30 poker run a few groups in the area organized:

                        Had a great time - looking forward to the next one!


                          Fun read, cool that you're fearlessly diving in. I've considered picking up an X5 myself. Just makes sense.
                          Chase Bays Instagram
                          Chase McMaster Instagram


                            Made a little more progress this weekend. Finished basically the whole front end. Only panels left are the roof and the rear quarters which I'm not looking forward to -- complex curves are haaaaaaard. Sorry for the potato pics:

                            Also re-painted the trim, but it's not coming out quite right. Think it's too hot/humid here in TN for the paint to lay down.


                              Solid progress so far! That cat has murder eyes.
                              Current: 99 M3
                              Past: 84 325e, 84 528e