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My Forever Car: '89 325i Touring

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    My Forever Car: '89 325i Touring

    Hello R3V! Long time lurker, first time poster.

    I'll keep the intro short: Car guy all my life. Grew up with a '71 MGB in the garage, which most likely sparked the passion that would come to define my life. Went to Michigan State University for ME, now working as a chassis controls calibrator for a major supplier to a major OEM, driving all day every day.

    Got my first E30 in college for a steal at 1200. A '90 Brilliantrot 325i. All it needed was a battery and it dealt with my continued abuse for about 4 years before it was sold to a friend to live the rally cross life.

    Next up was another '90 325, this time an Alpine IS. Purchased as an autotragic with a supposedly blown head gasket and a complete manual swap included. I say supposedly because every test in the book pointed to the M20 being healthy, minus some badly worn rings. I drove it for the summer while accumulating parts, and in the fall I (and some generous friends) pulled the engine and trans, swapped it to manual, and rebuilt the bottom end... in a weekend. Didn't sleep, but didn't care; that soul-sucking slush-box was finally gone. I had grand plans of a resto-mod DD, but alas I suffer from the genetic defect that makes me lust after long roofs...

    Which leads me to E30 #3 and the focus of this thread: my forever car, an '89 325i Touring. I researched importing for a bit, but buying a car sight unseen was a turn off, not to mention the importation process. Then I found her, of all places, on EBay. An '89 325i in Lachsilber, RHD, and auto. Definitely some compromises in there, but she was a rust free base (something I've come to greatly appreciate, having lived my whole life in the salted Earth that is Michigan in the winter). The price was right and the auto wasn't an issue given my drivetrain plans, so I pulled the trigger. Using SkyMiles (thanks work!), the ladyfriend and I flew to Quarry Motors in Florida to drive the car home. Having been through some issues with my previous E30's, I was hesitant to drive an unseen 28 year-old car 1300 miles through the U.S. but the detailed pictures Neil at Quarry provided put my mind at ease. When I arrived, I was not disappointed:

    And it was parked next to the nicest E30 I've seen to date.

    The transaction went smoothly and Neil was great to work with. You can tell he's a real enthusiast and it showed in the level of detail in the Alpina Touring. I'll be going back to him to import some of the rarer Touring pieces.

    Fitting, given she's British.

    She made the drive with no issues, but I did manage to find a handful of things: as the astute of you may have noticed, the speedo backlight is out and the tach is reading unreasonably high. A quick jaunt to redline all but confirmed that the wrong coding plug is in the cluster. That leads me to believe that the cluster has been replaced at some point. So the mileage can't be trusted, but based on the condition of the chassis I think the mileage is actually less than what it says.

    After first arriving home.

    Removed the ///M badge immediately. No M parts, no M badge.

    Some musings about driving RHD: If you've never done it before, it's weird. I've driven some at work before, but it had been a few years. On the open road I found myself hyper aware of where the road lines were, constatnly worried that I was over the left line. For the first half of the trip I actually adjusted the mirrors down so that I could see the lines. The human brain is a remarkable tool, however, and you adjust. I can now hop in and out of LHD and RHD cars and be confident I'm in the lines.

    I was also sure that after driving RHD for a month or two the fun factor would wear off and I'd dislike it. It hasn't. After dailying it all summer I still get that goofy grin when I step into the right side. I had 100% planned on swapping to LHD by getting a donor chassis and swapping everything. Now, I'm not so sure. Plus, the brake booster set-up will be an advantage for the planned engine swap(s).

    As she sits now.

    I've compiled a list of everything she needs, but it's OCD-detailed and not entirely relavent for an opening post. I'll stick to the main points.

    What I've done so far:

    - Regular synthetic oil changes
    - Swapped MTech-2 steering wheel, alcantara wrapped
    - IS lip
    - Blacked-out kidneys
    - Compiled a list of all the shit that needs to be replaced/upgraded

    The short term plan:

    - Repair/replace said shit
    - KILL ALL RUST. KILL IT WITH FIRE. And POR-15. Mostly POR-15.
    - Manual swap. Trying to go 6-speed first but have a Getrag 260 as plan-B.
    - 3.73 LSD
    - Fix newly formed oil leak.
    - Replace all weather seals I can get my hands on.
    - H&R Sport springs

    Mid-term plan:

    - S54 with 420G
    - Wheels, tires
    - Ground Control suspension
    - Brake upgrade
    - Sport seats

    Long-term plan:

    - Glass-out paint, color TBD
    - Reupholster
    - N54/5?

    As the title suggests, I have no plans of ever selling this car. No manufacturer makes what I consider my "perfect car," so I'm taking a hint from Ferdinand Porsche and building my own. I'll be taking my time and doing things right (and most likely re-doing them, as the engineer in me is never 100% satisfied with my work on the first go). My end goal is a fun, comfortable, and deceptively fast daily driver. It may take me a few years, and an embarrassing amount of money to get there, but I will.

    This thread will serve as both a build diary and a motivator for me to keep up with the car. Progress may be sporadic in the summer months when racing takes up most of my time (and funding), but everything else will go into this car. Hopefully I can spread a little Touring knowledge while I'm at it.

    *UPDATE: Project Goals*

    I believe that every project needs a goal. Otherwise, how do you know what you're working towards? You can build a car with all the parts in the world but if they don't work together you can end up with a mess that's not worth driving.

    My goal: C7 Corvette Grand Sport performance levels in a sleeper wagon form. Let me explain…

    At work, one of my major tasks is traction control calibration for GM performance cars, and my first one was tuning the C7 Grand Sport. I spent the better part of a summer whipping that thing around a skid pad and I can say with confidence that everything that the magazines say are true: the chassis/power balance is perfect. The performance is accessible, but still requires a skilled hand to get that last 10% out of it. It's essentially a 450hp momentum car.

    Over the course of that summer I just got used to that level of casual ass-hauling. I owned an AP2 S2000 at the time and loved it, but after driving the C7 GS all day it was legitimately disappointing (I ultimately sold it. POUNDSIGNBECAUSERACECAR). As a result, the Grand Sport became my new benchmark for daily driver performance.

    "Well then, why not grow a dad 'stache, get some jean shorts, and buy a C7?" Because student loans suck. And race car. And house. And E30's kick ass.

    Plus, in Spec Miata we're not allowed to tinker a lot (we do, but in a VERY limited scope. That's a whole other discussion) and I need an outlet for my inner enginerd. I want to see if I can take a 28 year old wagon and make it capable of going toe-to-toe with a modern Corvette, while also being more practical and cheaper to maintain.

    With that said, here's target performance:

    0-60: 3.9s
    60-0: 90ft
    Lat Accel: 1.18g
    Fuel Econ: 16/25/19mpg

    That's a tall order for a reliable daily driven E30, but I don't think it's unrealistic. Also not captured in mag data is NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). OEM's have NVH targets and the equipment to measure it, but it's a little harder for us enthusiasts to quantify. My target for that is "comfortable enough for Michigan roads." I hate using subjective targets, but it is what it is.

    Speaking of subjective targets, probably the most important aspect of this project is unquantifiable: it needs to be fun. It's a subject that's been beaten to death but is never the less true; a lot of modern cars simply aren't fun to drive. Cars as a whole are faster than they've ever been, and yet they're somehow disconnected from the driver. For cars I've driven, the GTR is my prime example. Ludicrously fast, yet numb to the driver. You're simply the meat sack giving it a direction. Point and go (and boy does it go). But that's boring. I need a car that requires an operator, that wants to work with me, not for me.

    So, how is this going to come together? With time, monies, and mediocre engineering prowess. This is the plan so far:

    - Powertrain: S54, 420G trans, 3.73 rear end ratio.
    - Suspension: Ground Control kit with custom spring rate, double adjustable dampers, camber plates in front, adjustability kit for rear, ARB TBD, 80A polyurethane bushings throughout
    - Steering: E46 "purple tag" rack, solid steering linkage
    - Tires: Dunlop ZII Star Specs, 235/45R17 front, 255/40R17 rear
    - Brakes: TBD. Definitely need increased thermal capacity. Open to suggestions.

    "But your target car has a V8. Why not LS is, bro?" I ran the numbers, and came up with this:

    This chart compares the non-tire limited acceleration capability of the two cars (Corvette in thick line, E30 in thin). I take the engine torque from dyno plots, multiply it by the gear ratios (trans and diff)to get actual torque at the wheels, convert that torque to force using wheel size, then F=ma to get the theoretical acceleration of the car. Simple, right? Of course, both cars are tire limited on launch, but they are remarkably similar throughout. One of my favorite things about the C7 is the ability to hit the pedal at any speed in any gear and actually feel something. According to this chart, an S54'd E30 will do that.

    Also, this:
    Good lord that sound...

    So, those are the goals for the project. Way easier said than done, but you've got to start somewhere.
    Last edited by -J-; 06-14-2017, 04:05 AM. Reason: Grammar/Goals Update
    -----I drink and I know car things-----
    1989 325i Touring - Daily W.I.P.

    This forum can never have enough tourings! Great project, mazda also looks like a ton of fun.

    And I too suffer from the genetic defect that makes me lust after long roofs
    Instagram : makeitsnap

    1985 e28 520i


      Cool story, and great looking touring. Happy to see another active Michigan member also!
      My Feedback


        Originally posted by -J- View Post
        Next up was another '90 325, this time an Alpine IS. Purchased as an autotragic with a supposedly blown head gasket and a complete manual swap included. I say supposedly because every test in the book pointed to the M20 being healthy, minus some badly worn rings. I drove it for the summer while accumulating parts, and in the fall I (and some generous friends) pulled the engine and trans, swapped it to manual, and rebuilt the bottom end... in a weekend. Didn't sleep, but didn't care; that soul-sucking slush-box was finally gone. I had grand plans of a resto-mod DD, but alas I suffer from the genetic improvement that makes me lust after long roofs...
        Fixed it for you.
        Steve • Toronto
        1991 318is • Brillantrot
        Build Thread


          Nice pickup! Wagons are so useful and stylish



            1991 325i


              Hell yeah, can't wait to see more!


                Very interested to see where this goes. Good luck!


                  This should be good. It's awesome when an ME goes into a big project like this.

                  OBDI M62B44/6 swap
                  Transaction feedback
                  - jpod999


                    Nice! I call my zinno '89 coupe my "Forever car" too....I'd sell everything else I have before I sell it.

                    I also say, one day, when I get my shit together- i'll give it to my kid to drive and he will probably end up totaling it...but at least I have a good detailed progression of the work I did on it here on R3v- make him realize how much blood sweat and tears I dropped into the thing ;)
                    555Garage - Kingston, PA

                    '13 BMW e70 X5 35d
                    '95 BMW e34 525i
                    '92 BMW e30 325i S52 Vert (Quade the Vert)
                    '92 Range Rover Classic
                    '90 Range Rover Classic
                    '89 BMW e30 325i Coupe (The DIRTY30)
                    '81 VW MK1 Rabbit Caddy Diesel
                    '76 Honda CB550K Cafe/Brat
                    '67 Pontiac LeMans
                    '24 Model T Depot Hack
                    ....And a bunch of Motobecane, Puch, Garelli, Batavus and Honda 49cc-78cc Mopeds...


                      Thanks for the kind words dudes/dudettes! I managed to make some progress before the snow hit. One part rust repair, one part manual swap parts accumulation.

                      I pulled her into the garage after major rain fall and found this:


                      But miraculously, very limited rust. Mostly just dirty.

                      The other side hadn't fared so well.

                      The hole you see is actually a water vent intended to allow any water inside to get out. What it also does very well is allow the water kicked up by the rear tire in. As a whole, automotive engineers are some pretty smart people but stuff like this make you say WTF. That will definitely need to be addressed.

                      I then went on a rust hunt around the rear hatch (they are notoriously rust-prone on Tourings).

                      What you see here is is corrosion caused by a physical crack in the chassis around the taillights. Uniform on both sides. Touring peeps, is this a thing?

                      Also found this yellow goo on the inside of the sheet metal. Anybody know if this is factory rust-proofing or aftermarket?

                      At this point the rear hatch is removed and I've ground most of the rust off. The plan is to POR-15 the cleaned bits, primer and paint. That's held up at the moment due to mother nature and an unheated garage.

                      In tandem to the rust hunt, I began sourcing parts for the manual swap. I had originally thought that sourcing a decent condition Getrag 260 wouldn't be a problem, hence compromising on the auto. It appears I was mistaken. G260's are scarce here in Michigan. 70% of yard cars are auto, and any manuals get snatched quick. So I started researching 6-speeds and wound up with this:

                      A ZF GS6-53BZ out of an '08 335i. It was a wreck part-out so I got the trans, clutch, flywheel, and starter. I'll be upfront about the 6-speed swap: it makes no sense. Financially, it's more expensive. Physically, it's more difficult to do. Fuel economy wise, it's 6th is worse than the G260's 5th (although potentially more efficient, as WanganStyle has pointed out). So why would I do this? So I can say I have a 6-speed E30, haha. Plus, it's modern parts are more likely to be good than our 25-year-old-at-the-youngest G260's.

                      A special note about manual swaps for RHD cars in LHD markets: Everything appears to be the same except the pedal box (thanks RealOEM!). It appears that the pedal bracket is the same between auto and manual RHD cars, but the manual has a longer brake pedal bolt that also mounts the clutch pedal. Unfortunately it's not as simple as ordering the long bolt and and bolting on an LHD clutch pedal and master cylinder; the clutch pedal is also RHD-specific. So, your best bet is to get the whole pedal box from across the pond, as I did, from Sskoda. Thanks for putting up with my constant questions, and for the wicked fast shipping!

                      Unfortunately progress is stalled at the moment, but for good reason. Currently working on a significant garage upgrade...
                      -----I drink and I know car things-----
                      1989 325i Touring - Daily W.I.P.


                        interesting. Havent seen anyone use the 53bz on these yet. I love mine in the 135i, so i'm sure you'll like it too. 135i runs a 3.08 diff so grab a 3.15 or 2.93 and you'll be sweet
                        RHD OBD2 M50b25 turbo build thread:


                          Got the garage mod for Christmas.

                          -----I drink and I know car things-----
                          1989 325i Touring - Daily W.I.P.


                            Lookin' good! I love my lachssilber touring as well. Just now getting mine up on stands for some.. involved rust repairing.

                            I have many of the same rust spots in mine. In your right rear quarter, check behind that little felt-like rear wheel-well cover on the inside. I had a pretty big rust hole right there that tossed water into that same spot.

                            Besides that, it's all the same rusty E30 areas, the front toe-box area on both sides, the bottoms of the front fenders, etc.
                            '89 318i Touring
                            '90 Miata


                              *UPDATED FIRST POST WITH GOALS*

                              Long time no post. PHOTOBOMB, INCOMING

                              I've made a lot of little fixes to the car since the last update, but they certainly add up. The car is now back to its fully functional daily self with all the important bits working. Engine and chassis are butter smooth once again.

                              Took care of the rust around the rear hatch pinch weld. It was a tedious process as there were a lot of little spots forming in awkward spaces, but I got them all to bare metal, POR-15'd, primed, and painted.

                              Who needs help when you're got an engine hoist?

                              Unfortunately the color match was garbage. I'm planning on a full respray in the future, so I'm not too upset.

                              Also picked up an E46 "purple tag" rack. This is not the mythical ZHP rack (gold tag) but is significantly cheaper and still 40% faster than stock. I got lucky and got this one for 120 bucks shipped from the UK. I didn’t trust the condition though, so I ordered the rebuild kit and got to work.

                              Some Neanderthal-like grunting noises and hammer swings later…

                              Rebuilding this rack was remarkably simple. I used this write-up as a guide:

                              Ditch all of the old seals...

                              Clean it up...

                              and boom. Like-new rack.

                              All of the seals inside looked great, and this rack probably didn’t need a rebuild. But hey, now I know it's good and I learned how to rebuild steering racks.

                              Also picked up Moog inner and outer rods. I don't mind shelling out for the good stuff for this car and I'm not about to fuck around with my ability to steer. Per our right-hand drivin' homies over at E30Zone, I picked up E46 inner rods with the pressure-relief slots, and E36 outers.

                              As for the RHD steering linkage, E30Zone proposes several options. There's one that uses an E36 lower mated to an E30 upper, one that uses an Opel Corsa lower mated to an E30 upper, and one even says remove the steering guibo and bolt them together. The E36 option maintains the steering giubo, but that might cause a clearance issue with the S54 exhaust. The Corsa option sounded solid, but it requires grinding on the input spline of the rack. No thanks. And the third is a no go because removing the guibo rotates the lower joint 90deg, putting the u-joints out of phase. This causes non-linearity in the steering. In the end I hit up Summit and ordered Flaming River low-profile steering joints. This should allow for maximum exhaust clearance when I go S54. The price was tough to stomach though…

                              Next up was the exhaust. While under the car for an oil change, I noticed the rear muffler hanger was looking a bit ragged. "Meh, it'll probably be fine" I though. I'm dumb. On a routine trip to the West side of Michigan, I was greeted by the unholy sound of my exhaust scraping on the highway. I pulled to the shoulder immediately and got as far over as I could, but waist high grass prevented me from going as far as I would have liked (thanks MDOT!). I got under the car, and sure enough, that hanger was gone. I scoured the car for anything I could use to tie the forward-most hanger to the chassis until I could find an exit, and I shit-you-not the only wire I had on me was the handle from a Chinese place take-out container. I McGuyver'd the exhaust in place (which was terrifying, because apparently no one moves over for disabled vehicles in Michigan) and limped the car to an exit. 7 over-priced dollars worth of bungee strap later, and I was back on the road.

                              When I got back home, I ordered the rear hanger kit and the rubber "theta" hanger and went to install. No bullshit, the bungee cords had disintegrated but the take-out container wire was still there, still supporting the exhaust. Say what you want about Chinese parts, but they don't fuck around with their take-out containers.

                              The muffler and resonator (the UK didn't require cats back then) are definitely aftermarket, as they didn't match the RealOEM drawings. However, they were still in pretty good condition. I had noticed an exhaust leak from the resonator section and noted a small hole in the bottom. I didn't worry about it much considering my swap plans, but it had seemed to get louder in the few weeks leading up to the hanger install. Well, when I went to install the "theta" hanger I had to reef on the exhaust to get it to slide into place. This reefing action tore what was remaining of the resonator exit pipe weld, and it snapped off completely.

                              Fuck. The car was now unbearably loud to drive, given that the resonator is directly in the center of the car. It had to be patched sooner than later. I ran to the local metal outlet store and picked up some scrap steel. A few minutes with a hammer and an hour or so with my friend's welder and it was all sealed up. Welding credit goes to my friend, Vegas. He did two FSAE tube chassis' pretty much solo, and he's able to weld even the crappiest of my pipe fits.

                              Primed with VHT high-temp and installed. The difference it made to the car was remarkable. It has to be a placebo effect from getting shit done, but the car as a whole car feels smoother. From engine to drivetrain, this is the best the car has felt.

                              Also fixed some random part failures: coolant level sensor, fuel level sender, and diff speed sensor connector. At one point I had no fuel indicator and no speedometer, and in incorrect tach. Classic E30. I had to cannibalize parts from the coupe, which I feel bad about. She'll get some much-needed TLC soon.

                              The coding plug was obviously from a 4-cylinder, so I swapped that and now the RPM reads correctly. The bulb was also burnt on the speedo side, so that was swapped with a spare I had lying around. For the first time since I got the car the cluster is fully functional.

                              The last thing I did was on the engi-nerd side of things. How do you know how much you've improved if you don't know where you started?

                              I do all of my own set-ups for the race car, so I have all of the alignment tools at my disposal. I measured corner weights, camber, toe, and ride height. I use roll-off leveling scale pads and a laser level to true the pads.

                              Note that these measurements were taken with 180lbs of my simulated ass in the driver's seat and the fuel tank full. This works out to 2900lbs curb weight. This car is completely stock, has an M20, an automatic trans, no A/C, electric sunroof, and the rear windows are manual. Overall, not terrible for a 28 year old grocery getter with womped out bushings.

                              Next was a benchmark of performance. I borrowed the AIM EVO4 data acquisition unit from the race car and waited for a clear, quiet night. I did several 0-62.5mph runs, several 62.5-0mph runs, and hit some round-abouts to get some lat accel data. These were probably pretty good in 1989, but are far from impressive in 2017…

                              0-62.5mph: 10.7s
                              62.5-0mph: 39.1m (128ft)
                              Lat accel: 0.84g

                              That 0-62.5mph hurts my soul. The autotragic needs to go. Speaking of which…

                              I've accumulated all the parts needed to do the manual swap. The only current issue is time. I want to do this in one go, so I need to find a free weekend. Looks like it'll be July at the earliest.
                              -----I drink and I know car things-----
                              1989 325i Touring - Daily W.I.P.