No announcement yet.

Restoring my E30 318is

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Restoring my E30 318is

    Hello, in this thread I will tell the story of how I purchased my '90 E30 318is and how I am restoring it.

    I am a Mechanical Engineer that live and work in Dubai, UAE, and I drive a Toyota GT86.
    In my home country, Lebanon, I wanted to have a car that have similar characteristics, and a project car that I can have fun working on restoring and bringing it back to stock condition during my vacation days (1 month / year).

    So I began searching online for one, and it seems in Lebanon nobody knows what a real 318is is. All kinds of 318s were claiming to be one, some with 4 doors, some with automatics, some with the wrong engine, ect... until I managed to get in contact with someone who sent me the car registration form showing the chassis number which I verified online, it was:

    Looking at the photos of the car, it was looking a beater neglected car:

    Since I was living abroad, I sent my father with a mechanic to inspect the car, and it showed no red flags, and there was no rust in the usual areas.
    It had no maintenance history, and the odometer has stopped working @ 160,000 km. The seats were leather from an E36.
    The market for E30 in Lebanon is quite prosperous, with clean examples in the range of 5000 $ price tag.

    So I got the car for 3400$, and repaired the exterior dangs and hits with black body filler. I also painted the hood as it was faded, as temporary solution until I can fully paint the car. The results are below:

    On to the maintenance issues, I ordered most of the parts from pelican, and I started addressing the known problem areas:

    1- Changed the chain tensioner with the upgraded one:

    I tried expanding it before installation, but it sprung open into 3 pieces and I could not get the snap ring back on. After many tries, I used grease and twisted it back into position.

    2- Inspected the lower oil pan for loose bolts and broken chain guides, it was clean.

    3- Replaced the fuel pump as it suddenly became dead one day while driving.

    4- Replaced the water pump. This was a nightmare, the pump outside housing broke while trying to remove it with the bolts method, and then when using a chisel and a hammer, it came out but half of it was broken inside the block. We continued to remove the broken pieces carefully until nothing was left inside.

    5- The car was reaching normal operating temperature (at the half way mark) after 30 min while driving, so I knew the thermostat was broken, and it was:

    I replaced it with a new one @ 88 deg. C.
    Notice the build up on the thermostat housing, since Prestone radiator flush is not locally available, I flushed the coolant with distilled water, until I can get one online.

    While installing the thermostat, the metal housing broke, so I searched for a used one in the stores that sells used parts.
    The o-ring that came with the thermostat seemed a bit thicker than the old one, so there was always a water leak from the new housing, until we decided to use the old one back.

    6- Changed the spark plugs, fuel filter, rear disks (old ones were faded), air filter, radiator hoses, flushed the brake fluid and steering fluid, replaced the steering fluid reservoir.

    7- When changing the transmission oil, this was the quantity I found inside:

    From 1.2 liters required, this was what is inside only, I wonder how the car was moving.
    I filled with Liqui Moly 75W-90 GL4.

    8- I changed the engine oil to a synthetic 0W-40 grade oil, the one selling me the oil refused at the beginning to sell me as he said was for newer cars only, and not for old cars. lol

    9- Around 75% of the fuses in the fuse box were above the required rating, so I replaced all of them. The previous owner was so cheap, he used metal wire to fix a melted fuse:

    10- Fixed the mess of wires under the dash, replaced the airbag steering wheel with an M-Tech 1 wheel, and replaced the plastic shift knob with an original leather shifter:

    11- The car was idling rough, so I cleaned the ICV, and when you go WOT, the car was choked, hesitating and turning off between gear changes.
    I used STP Compete Fuel System Cleaner, but it showed no improvement.
    I decided to inspect the injectors and clean them if necessary, and I found this:

    Silicon was used to press the injectors in place :/
    Again I wonder how the car was running.
    I replaced all the o-rings with new ones and cleaned the injectors in a special shop.

    12- I noticed that in traffic, the temp. gauge reached the 3/4 mark, and the aux. fan did not kick in, when I looked at the radiator, the temp. gauge switch was missing !
    Also notice how the fan shroud is smaller than the stock one and not covering the complete fan:

    13- Replaced the front tie rods and rear shock mounts with E46 ones and reinforcement plates, below picture of the old one:

    14- The shift linkage is completely shot, you can move the arm carrier by hand.
    I am planning to replace the bushings in the future and installing a Z3 1.9 shifter.

    15- When I lifted the car, I noticed the tag on the differential saying 3.45, so sometime in the life of the car, it was changed from the stock 4.10 that came with. I will look for a 4.10 and replace it when I find one.

    17- The tachometer and fuel econ. gauge are not working. I replaced the SI battery but no results. I will see if I can replace the dash, or make more troubleshooting.

    18- When you put the car in reverse, the drivetrain shakes and clunks, I examined the transmission mounts and noticed that one was crushed, so I replaced them, problem solved.
    In the future I will do the engine mounts too.

    In the future, I am planning to:
    - change the wheels to 15" OEM basket weaves.
    - change the engine mounts and O2 sensor.
    - refresh the shift linkage and install the Z3 short shifter.
    - fix the aux. fan and fan shroud.
    - flushing the cooling system.

    Thanks for reading.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by kenshin86; 05-17-2020, 09:25 AM.

    Nice start!

    That was certainly a beat platform that you started with. Looks much better already.

    Keep us posted.
    My previous build (currently E30-less)

    A 2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4x4 Offroad in Inferno is my newest obsession


      so much satisfaction in just the first post! Keep up the good work man this is great.
      1984 Delphin 318i 2 door


        Nicely done! I can't believe how beat those old RSMs are!!

        For some reason I thought 318is was a US-only model.
        M119 M42 M62 S52 S62


          Update: I returned to my home country for a 2 weeks visit on April 2018, and I did some work on the car that I will share with you below.

          The car is kept in the shade with a battery tender installed.
          My father runs it once every month to keeps the fluids circulating.

          1- Since filling up the AC system with new gas and fixing the leak points, it worked fine for some time, then it stopped blowing cool air.
          It turned out the compressor needed replacement so I removed it with the condenser until I can source out a replacement.
          It will be fine since I am not daily driving the car during summer.

          Good weight reduction:

          I can't believe that a condenser this big was sitting in front of the radiator blocking air.

          2- Also, I removed the Air Bag unit under the dashboard since I replaced the steering wheel with an M-tech one already:

          3- Replaced the hood strut with a Stabilus one from Pelican:

          4- A failed attempt to restore the white color of the washer fluid reservoir using retrobright solution (hydrogen peroxide), no improvement was observed:

          5- 1st flush of the radiator using STP coolant flush:

          6 - Now moving to the differential, since the original 4.1 diff was replaced by a 3.45 one in the past, I was not pleased with how the car drove, it lurched and jerked at low rpms in 2nd gear, so I knew a shorter gear ratio was a must.
          I managed to find one for 70$ 100 km away from my city so I bought it directly.

          New diff cleaned and ready to go:

          Car lifted:

          The 4.1 diff transformed the car completely. As it was intended from the factory, it feels mush nimbler. No more jerking at low rpm in 2nd gear.
          The 1st gear is almost useless now in the city, and I find myself in the 5th gear cruising at 40 mph, but it is a fine trade off since we don't have a lots of highways and most driving is done inside the city and on mountain roads.

          7 - Replaced the output shaft seal. You can see the oil leakage splashed all around the transmission tunnel:

          8 - Replaced the throttle cable. Since it was specific to M42s, I could not find one in the local parts store, so I order it online:

          Washing under the car with diesel:

          9 - Replaced the oxygen sensor with a new Bosh one:

          10 - Moving to the shift linkage: shifting gears felt like rowing a stick in a pudding bowl, so I knew I had to replace all the bushings.
          In addition, I chose to install a Z3 1.9 shifter to shorten the travel distance.

          Rear carrier of the arm was held in place using a wire:

          Shift assembly removed:

          New parts:

          Z3 shifter installed:

          Burned the old rubber bushing out and replaced it with a plastic one from Garagistic:

          Installing everything back, the difference is like night and day, it feels like a new car for me.

          Until next time, sleep well.

          Last edited by kenshin86; 03-26-2020, 05:53 AM.


            August 2018, had 2 weeks to work on the car. I was able to source the original 15" BBS wheels for 200 $, car looks much better in my opinion:

            Old wheel lugs vs new ones:

            The throttle pedal linkage had little bit of play, so I replaced all the bushings and the return spring:

            This time I bought all of my parts from ECS tuning, found out they are cheaper than Pelican.

            Here's a shot of the airbox after cleaning it with a mix of boiled linseed oil and thinner:

            It was about time now to do the mess under the intake, since the car had a bit of hesitation when you go WOT, so maybe clearing out vaccum leaks will help with that.

            My set of tools in the trunk:

            Upper and lower intake manifold removed and all old hoses taken out to be replaced by new ones:

            Broken coolant hoses at the end held together by cable tie for the throttle heater plate:

            Cracked fuel hose:

            The sum of all the deleted / replaced hoses:

            Below are some pitcures before and after the cleaning of 30 years of crud and grime.
            Spraying fuel and using a wire brush gave the best results.

            lower intake manifold ports:

            throttle body: notice the excess of gasket maker at the bottom

            upper intake manifold:

            previous owner cut an oval shaped opening in the gasket having a size smaller than of the opening of throttle body, choking the air intake in return:


              Below are the things done to the car in April 2019:

              The existing radiator and fan shroud were not the ones that came with the car.
              No wonder why when sitting in traffic the temp gauge needle starts to climb.
              I replaced them with the correct ones for M42 engine.

              Old radiator and fan shroud on top:

              The intake boot was also from an E36, it was stretched and cracked. The new and correct one can be seen on the right:

              Popped out the AC vents to install some plastic washers to prevent them from sagging down:

              30 years of dust is cleaned:

              Old vs new shifter boot:

              Old fuel rubber boot near the filling cap was also replaced:

              Below are some pics of the parts bought:



                Keep up the good work!


                  Awesome work! We've done a lot of the same things to our cars. I bet it's driving really well now!


                    How did I miss this...?

                    A thorough approach to getting everything back to a good baseline.
                    E30 320i vert
                    But daily drive is Volvo V60 Polestar


                      Great thread and nice work you have done! I have a 318iS my self.

                      It's an interesting VIN number you've got. AD00001 and a very early production date for an 318iS. Could this be one of the first produced?


                        Thank you all for your replies !

                        Yes, the car drives very well now, still many things to be sorted like suspension.
                        The car still have its original shocks and springs.
                        I have all the parts ready, ball joints (going with OEM rubber) and B4 OE Bilstein gas shocks, as the roads in Lebanon are rough for B6s.

                        The vacuum lines on this thing are a real nightmare, the Mess Under the Intake thread helped me a lot.

                        The things that are bothering me are:

                        The oil pan clearance: as you know the M42 is pretty close to the ground, and I don't intend to lower the car at all.
                        I hope it will get better when I replace the engine mounts with new ones (with some extra washers) and install new strut tower mounts.

                        Also when I installed the derlin bushing in the rear shifter assembly arm carrier, after doing hard acceleration or cornering, it becomes difficult or not possible to change gears because there is no play or buffer to absorb the relative motion between engine/transmission and chassis.
                        I will either remove the derlin bushing completely or drill it to make it wider or go back to old rubber.

                        And I need to sort out why the RPM gauge is still not working after replacing the SI board batteries.
                        Last edited by kenshin86; 03-25-2020, 06:01 AM.


                          Originally posted by Glaede View Post
                          Great thread and nice work you have done! I have a 318iS my self.

                          It's an interesting VIN number you've got. AD00001 and a very early production date for an 318iS. Could this be one of the first produced?
                          That's interesting ! never thought of it, so the last numbers should indicate the number of production ?


                            Originally posted by kenshin86 View Post
                            I have all the parts ready, ball joints (going with OEM rubber) and B4 OE Bilstein gas shocks, as the roads in Lebanon are rough for B6s.
                            I went with B4s and H&R OE Sport Springs. To get the 318is to sit level on H&R OE Sport Springs, you can swap out the stock rear lower spring pads with E46 14.5mm rear spring pads. Check out my thread for more info (see signature).


                              Originally posted by kenshin86 View Post

                              That's interesting ! never thought of it, so the last numbers should indicate the number of production ?
                              I'm not sure what it indicates. My own is build in January 1990 and it has VIN number AD10xxx something.