No announcement yet.

irocz0r's 1987 Alpine White 4-door 325i

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    irocz0r's 1987 Alpine White 4-door 325i

    Hey everyone, I'm irocz0r. I've been driving this wonderful and charismatic car for almost two years now. I'm planning on doing a lot of work on my E30 throughout this summer and who knows how long. Instead of making lots of little threads about questions I have, I thought it might be more fun to make my first ever "build thread". Hopefully I can get information from you guys here when I need it, and maybe documenting my experience will help out others.

    If you want to get straight to the build thread, you should probably skip to the bottom of this post. First, a little about why I bought this car... ever since I was a little kid I wanted to buy an old car and fix it up. For the longest time, I wanted a Camaro. An IROC-Z, as you might infer from my internet handle. I always dreamed about a badass and sharp looking 2nd or 3rd gen Camaro. Then I test drove two. A nightmare hotrod project Firebird Formula, and a nightmare basketcase IROC-Z. They felt like driving tractors.

    I knew a kid back in college who had an E30 early model 325i cabrio, and I thought it was pretty cool. Then I met his friend, who I watched S52 swap his E30 318. Seeing him accomplish that was just about the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Flash forward ten years later, and I no longer wanted an IROC-Z, but I still wanted an old car. I looked at first gen Miatas and an AE86. Then I started getting really excited about the idea of an E30. I read a lot about them, and started looking around for one. Since my daily driver is a 2015 FR-S, I thought it would be fun to get a sedan. It would be a cool weekend car I could pile my friends into, plus the sedan seems much less common than the coupe and cabrio. Also, the sedan and coupe share the same wheelbase, so unless I'm mistaken, I assume the sedan has all the sporting pretentious of the chassis of the famed coupe.

    So, I decided I wanted a black or white, 5-speed manual, 4 door, facelifted 325i with working A/C.

    After considering a couple of cars and making a few emails, I found a local car I liked a lot. It was a late model 318i, and it was a white 4 door with a stick. I drove it, and I loved it. He said he had $14,000 into it. The guy wanted $4,500. I offered him $4,100 tops, and he wouldn't take it. He said he'd consider it, but then sold the car to someone who was offering what he wanted. I liked that car, but I really wanted a 325i.

    Then I found the car I did buy. It was for sale in Montana. It had been there for three years, and before that, it had been a lifelong California car. I called up the guy, we talked about the car, we agreed on a price, and I bought a plane ticket to Montana. One week later, and the guy calls me and says the A/C stopped working. After pressing him some, he admits it didn't so much as *stop* working, as he had the belt taken off, never used the A/C, and just assumed it worked. So in his sale ad, he said the A/C worked, even though he hadn't tested it. He offered me $500 off the price, but it was a punk move to claim the A/C worked, and by then I'd already bought the plane ticket. The guy threw up some other red flags for me as well. He told me- to my face as I was driving- he had the car aligned and it tracked straight... even though I had to hold the wheel to the right to go straight, and when I let go of the wheel the car drifted to the left. Later he mentioned that he put rims, exhaust, and a cold air intake on his GTI and now it makes an extra 50 HP. I'm serious. The guy was either not the sharpest pencil in the box, or he was messing with me because he figured "he's already here, what's he gonna do, not buy the car?".

    The Montana guy's ad (here on r3vlimited) also said and I quote: "Suspension: Everything refreshed (sway bar drop links, CAB, control arms, tie rod ends, sway bar bushings, rear subframe bushings, etc...) recently including Bilstein B4 shocks and HR OE Sport springs done at 240,008 miles"... For the record, the suspension is all creaky and squeaky, it sounds and feels completely shot. My mechanic confirmed the shocks are blown and need replacing. Even though this clown claimed the suspension had "everything refreshed", it's a big part of my "to do" list to fix the creaky squeaky suspension.

    I did buy the car and drove it from Montana to Texas. It was almost 30 hours of driving, and it was beautiful (though it would have been better with A/C). Here are some pictures from that roadtrip, the first I ever took of the car:

    I drove home, had a friend's mechanic do some important work on the car, and I've barely had any problems since. I'll specify what work I've done on the car in a little bit.

    First, let me talk about the history of the car.

    This car as introduced to the enthusiast community somewhere in the late 2000's. Before that, it was owned by the hypothetical "little old lady" who drove it for a ways past 200,000 miles, before parking it outside under a tree for a few years. Then it was purchased by a couple of enthusiasts- father and son I believe- who have built a number of BMWs and have been on this forum as well as Bimmerforums. Never tried reaching out to them though.

    When they got the car, it was in a sorry state. Non-running, dirty as well, tiny wheels, and diving boards.

    In those pictures, you can see this car's characteristic trunk ding, right by the 325i badge. Through all the changes this car has been through, that dent has been there for a decade or more. I'd love to fix it one day.

    Now, these California boys were, as far as I'm concerned, a couple of wizards. Underneath that tree gunk and 80's-spec trim, they polished out a real gem. They fixed some mechanical issues, and they converted the bumpers to plastic. This involves a lot of work chopping up and shortening the rear bumper, which they did properly. They also ditched the bottlecaps and put on some custom filled-and-drilled Style 5 16" wheels off of an early 90's 7-series. Oh, and they did shadowline trim.

    Here's a list of some of the things the California guys had done by the time of the sale:

    -4/1987 4 door 5 speed and around 230,4xx miles
    - M20B25 that has 120,000 on it with the new HG. HG was done by first owner.
    - 3.73LSD
    -Clutch was done fairly recently and it has a lighter weight single mass FW
    -A/C converted to r134
    -Timing belt, thermostat and water pump recently done
    - Slave cylinder replaced
    - brake fluid flushed and replaced with ATE Super blue racing fluid
    - Hawk HPS brake pads done recently
    - Oil changed every 3000 to 3500 miles with Castrol GTX 20W50
    - new Fuel filter
    - new fuel pump
    - new fuel pressure regulator
    - Odometer is functioning and had plastic gears recently replaced
    - alignment is good and the car tracks straight and true. Handles beautifully
    - Clear title, no accidents, not ever driven hard
    - zero rust
    - passed smog with flying colors 12/2010

    - UUC Evo III ssk with DSSR with ZHP knob
    - Mtech I steering wheel in ok condition (no rips)
    - Black interior
    - sport seats in decent condition. No tears or rips. Just normal wear
    - Rear head rests ( also have an extra set)
    - Has very nice Kenwood head unit X891
    - Zapco i-force 5.2 component speakers in front stock locations
    - German audio specialties sub box, aka Luke subwoofer box, with Obcon 10 inch woofer
    - audiobahn and jenson amps
    - Interstate MTP-91 battery
    - Rear 318is black rubber spoiler
    - Euro trim
    - black out grill
    - Updated front and rear bumpers
    - functional brake ducts
    - oil cooler
    - Modified LKM so fogs stay on when high beams are on
    - projector head lights
    - 16 inch Style 5 basket weeve wheels converted to four lug
    - Falkin tires with a fair amount of tread left
    - bilstein rears, OE front shocks and tokico springs

    ... and here are some picture of the beautiful work they did:

    And they sold the car to the guy in Montana. Unfortunately, the Montana guy seems to have done a number on the exterior of the car. From the California pics, the front bumper is flawless, and there don't seem to be any door dings. Now, the car has a dented and rock-chipped-to-hell front bumper, broken fog light, and numerous door dings on every door. That drives me crazy and I'd love to PDR or otherwise do something about those door dings.

    Here are some better pictures of the car soon after I got it:

    Now, let me talk about what I've done to the car, and what I plan to do in the future.

    After getting the car, I took it to a mechanic I knew. He replaced the timing belt, the clutch, and spark plugs, and the intake boot. And most importantly (in Houston), he fixed the A/C.

    After that, I've needed to put almost no money into it. I do have to top off the power steering fluid and coolant occasionally. I've fixed the following things.

    1.) A major gas leak. There was a hose under the car, in front of the rear driver's side tire, that was rubbing against the chassis, and it split. I had the same length of hose cut from the Autozone for the great price of $0. Very easy fix.

    2.) Next the A/C stopped working. I looked up a long, daunting troubleshooting list about A/C. The very first thing was to make sure the compressor clutch was spinning (which it wasn't), and to check voltage going to the compressor. I touched the cable going to the compressor, and the clutch magically jumped to life. I made sure it was plugged in real good and zip tied it down, and the compressor clutch spins ever since.

    3.) Next the blower fan started only working on the highest setting. I replaced the resistor, super easy fix.

    4.) The worst problem I fixed, and the most complicated, was a high idle issue. One day, I had to jump start the car, and all of a sudden the car was idling at 4,000 RPM. It was nuts. I manually pressed the throttle closed, and after that it would idle at 2,000 RPM. The car sat for months before I finally had time to look at it. I took the throttle body off, and found the throttle position switch was out of whack. I fixed it. I also noticed that two hoses that go into the throttle body were extremely loose. I teflon taped them into there nice and tight. When I put everything back together, the car idled great and the appropriate RPM.

    5.) Since I've had my car, the licence plate warning light has been on. I tried changing the bulbs, but that didn't work. Well, I got complete replacement licence plate housings off a parts car, and swapped the housings. Now the license plate lights work! It's a very unimportant fix, but it's a very important symbolic victory, because now my car has no warning lights.

    6.) My driver's E30 sport seat was completely clapped out, and instead of rebuilding them, I bought E46 sport seats for $150. I bought "plug-and-play" seat rails from Kaduzka, but I had to modify them extensively. The seats need some cosmetic attention, but I thought the price was fair. They are power adjustable, and I had fun running wires and wiring them up. Working power seats in my E30!

    I decided a long time ago I wanted to white-out all the trim on my E30. I would love an M-tech kit, but they're hard to find on a sedan. I considered going for a $1,000 aftermarket M-tech kit, but if you look at Vlad's silver sedan build thread, he couldn't get the side pods to work at all. After that, I decided it would be shame to slap a fiberglass, replica bumper on the car after all the work the California guys did to facelift the car properly using OEM components.

    So, what I'd really like to do is paint black trim Alpine White; the bumper strips, the side strips, door handles, the side mirrors, and the spoiler. The black strip below the doors also needs a respray.

    I painted the door handles and the bumper trim myself, and they came out great! It looks a little off-kilter with the black side trim and spoiler, and I really need to paint those. Those parts are rubber, which is why I've been putting off painting them. People have done it successfully in the past, but painting is already like voodoo science to me. I just don't want to have to do it over and over or have it come out crappy.

    Here's the latest pictures of the car:

    I know color-matched trim is extremely controversial here, but I'm set on doing it. After all, worst case scenario, it would be extremely easy to repaint it all black. I already have bought all the paint, so I'm having fun (and agonizing over re-doing pieces) trying to accomplish my vision of color-matching the trim.

    Finally, without further ado, here's the list of things I am planning on doing on the car.

    In the immediate future:

    - changing all three accessory belts
    - adjusting my valves, currently ticking loudly and is due for adjustment
    - changing my motor mounts (the engine seems to like to jump around under the hood even though it idles fine)
    - changing my tranny fluid
    - changing my power steering fluid
    - Plastidipping my wheels gold
    - adding keyless entry

    In the near future:

    - using SEM flexible primer on the rubber trim pieces and then painting them Alpine White.
    - Pulling the dent on the front bumper, respraying it myself, and replacing the foglight
    - changing the shock absorbers
    - trying to change as many bushings as I can. I figure I can do the front control arm bushings relatively easily with the vice-grip-as-a-press technique.
    - restoring my E46 seats cosmetically- fill the creases, sand them, and spray with black paint. I found a good walkthrough on Bimmerforums or something.
    - while I'm re-spraying the seats, I might as well add heated seats.

    In the distant future:

    - dropping the rear subframe and changing the rear subframe bushings. Sometimes when I shift, there's a thumping coming from the rear. The California owner said the car needed subframe bushings. The Montana owner said the subframe bushings were done, but I have a hard time believing he actually "refreshed everything" on the suspension when the shocks are clearly blown.
    - I want to change the diff fluid, because of the thumping issue. I don't know what causes it but this could help.
    - addressing the oil leak issue. The car definitely, definitely needs an oil pan gasket at the least.
    - adding a late model rear valence, and some sort of side skirt.

    So, that's the whole story of the car and my plans so far. I'm going to update this thread as I work on the car. Hopefully if I post here asking for help, someone can chime in. And I'll always need help diagnosing issues. My "immediate future" goals are pretty reasonable, but I need to do something about the creaky suspension, and I'm not sure what exactly causes that.

    But the time for talk is over, and the time for buying parts and wrenching is here!
    Last edited by irocz0r; 07-11-2017, 09:38 PM.

    Just thought of something else. It recently came to my attention that my catalytic converter seems to have a problem. It vibrates and clunks.

    I live in Texas where there is no emissions inspection for a 30 year old car, so I'm going to delete it. Tomorrow I'm going to go to an exhaust shop and have them cut it off and just weld a pipe in there.

    I'm excited, this will not only fix the car but hopefully will improve it as well.


      That's quite a difference in choice, wanting a F-body and ending up with a 4 door e30.

      1992 BMW 325iC
      1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza 140hp


        Well, I did delete the cat. The good news is it cured the evil-sounding rattle coming from the catalyst. The bad news is, I actually really hate how it sounds. It's super loud and ricey, and there's a lot of drone. I'm not sure what I expected.

        In the long run, I'm going to have to do some research and find the right muffler and maybe resonator set up and get a muffler shop to put the whole thing together.

        Anyway, here's the delete!