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The build thread in which I learn what an E30 is... '91 318is

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    The build thread in which I learn what an E30 is... '91 318is

    Hi all,

    This is my first post here, but I've wasted more than a few nights reading some of the amazing build threads on R3V, so I figured I would start my own to share this project I've taken on. Also to contain the endless stupid questions that I will undoubtedly have to (more or less) one location.

    Last month I picked up this 1991 318is from a coworker with a minimum of rational thought. He was selling, I had always had the idea of E30 ownership in the back of my head, and that was pretty much it. This is only the second BMW I've owned (the first was a 2013 135i, which was unfortunately totalled recently), so I really don't have any experience working on them. Should be interesting.

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    The 318is seems to be in pretty good shape… 149k miles when I bought it, lived its life mostly in Utah and Arizona, so I haven't found much rust. Paint is in OK shape, with several pretty deep scratches that I'm hoping won't require repainting the whole car to correct. Except for a cracked dash, the interior is in good condition - the cloth sport seats were reupholstered by the PO and look good. The car runs pretty well, shifts smooth, and has functional AC that has already been converted to R134. That said, it still needs quite a bit of work, particularly in the worn-out suspension and maintenance items for the engine.

    So I think my goal is to leave it mostly stock, while cleaning up the body and interior as much as I can, and addressing all the deferred maintenance that has accumulated over 28 years. I already have a truck that I can DD and a race car, so I really just want to have this as a fun commuter and weekend car. I'll do a few mods and updates, but want to maintain the original character of the car as much as I can.

    Looking forward to learning more about this car and having some fun with it!

    Couple more photos to show the starting point:

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    Clean for updates.
    1982 528e - Sold
    1987 325e - Totalled
    1990 325is - Sold
    1997 540i6 - Sold
    1991 325ic - Sold
    2013 335i - Sold
    2005 X5 - Daily
    1991 318is - *work in progress*


      Great starting point. Thanks for sharing!


      • Nate37
        Nate37 commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks! Love your car as well, and your build thread has already been hugely helpful.

      Welcome to r3v. Clean car!

      Hit those rockers with some black spray paint!

      '91 318is - Aluminum block M52/ZF/Torsen 3.15 and fresh paint
      '05 330Ci ZHP 6MT - DD
      '03.5 Mazdaspeed Protege - Sold
      '91 318i Sterling Silver project - Sold :sad:
      '91 325i auto coupe - Sold
      '90 325iC - Sold
      '91 318i - Project/dead engine- Sold


      • Nate37
        Nate37 commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you! That's definitely on the list of to-dos!

      Looks like a nice purchase! Sounds like you have a good plan of attack on the maintenance items which will also help you learn about the car. Seems like a little elbow grease and some cleaning products will get that thing looking fresh.



        great find! when was the timing belt last changed? get to it... sent from hell using tapatalk
        '90 325i sedan daily driven
        '85 325e coupe also a daily


          Originally posted by cheffy30 View Post
          great find! when was the timing belt last changed? get to it... sent from hell using tapatalk
          M42 has a timing chain. Though dropping the lower oil pan to check the upper bolts and for pieces of timing chain guides wouldn't be a bad idea.


            Originally posted by View Post

            M42 has a timing chain. Though dropping the lower oil pan to check the upper bolts and for pieces of timing chain guides wouldn't be a bad idea.
            I have a pile of service records from the PO. It looks like the chain guides and tensioner were replaced about 5 years and 40k miles ago. What's the service interval for the guides and tensioner? It sounds like I don't need to worry about replacing the chain as long as the guides and tensioner are serviced regularly, correct?

            The lower pan is leaking like a sieve, so I will be pulling that fairly soon. Debating whether I should just do the upper pan gasket at the same time.


              I would suggest doing both upper and lower pan if you're in there. You'll have to unbolt the motor mounts and lift the engine up about an inch to get the upper pan out, in my experience.

              EDIT: Can you post more pics of the cloth interior? I like the way they were reupholstered. Were the door cards also done?


              • Nate37
                Nate37 commented
                Editing a comment
                Yeah, seems like both pan gaskets would make sense. Do I need to buy some sort of support to raise the motor up? I don't have an engine puller.

                See my update below for more pics of the seats. The door cards are apparently original, as are the vinyl side panels on the seats. Only the cloth was reupholstered according to the PO. He said this is the shop that did the upholstery work:


              Alright, a couple of updates with stuff I've been working on for the last few weeks:

              When I bought the car, the rear tires were corded all the way through the first set of steel belts (yikes), so the first order of business was new tires. There don't seem to be a lot of options for 14" tires these days, so I decided to upgrade to 15s. As much as I would have liked a nice set of BBS wheels, I'm trying not to blow the whole budget for this build in the first week, haha. These 15x7 TRMotorsports C1's with 205/55R-15 Yokohama S.Drives will do the trick for now. All for $850, mounted, balanced, and shipped to my door:

              My next plans were just to wipe down the incredibly dusty interior, which resulted in this about two hours later:

              The interior is clearly pretty filthy. The back seat isn't much better, with a big stain that clearly leaked under the lower seat cushion:

              Fortunately that big stain came out just by throwing the insulation in the wash. A few hours of scrubbing with carpet shampoo and Purple Power resulted in this progress on the carpet. Way better, but not as clean as I'd like. I'm thinking about renting a steam cleaner. Has anyone had good results with using one on their carpet?

              Also, this was neat:

              Fortunately the PO provided the unmolested original center console with the car.

              Once I got all of the seats out of the car, I realized that the fronts are a completely different color than the rears! It looks to be the result of sun fade, since you can see the headrests and some of the unexposed parts have retained the original silver color. I guess a new upholstery job is now on the to-do list:

              Since the interior is already halfway apart, I sourced a crack-free dash and will be installing that in the next couple of weeks here. Looking forward to getting the interior cleaned up and back together so I can drive the car a bit while the weather is nice here!


                You can use a come-along to a rafter in the garage, tree, etc. Not pretty but it works in lieu of an engine hoist. Thanks for the update! I really like this car and it's great to see the transformation already happening.

                Remember to unbolt both motor mounts and only raise it 1-2" at most as needed, you will figure out the best way to get the pan in and out of there, it's not fun but it can be done.