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I received this crinkle-finish powder coated valve cover and intake manifold 2 weeks ago from Guten Parts. I have literally dreamt about how beautiful my engine bay would look with these in it. But the voice of reason has given me the sound of advice that I should not invest any more money in my m20 motor because it’s burning oil. If my motor wasn’t pure stock m20 and an engine swap wasn’t already in my plans then perhaps things would be different.

My options:


  1. Install anyways and sell at a substantial loss when I part out the motor (post engine swap sometime next year)
  2. Save parts for some other e30 that I don’t yet own. My wife might not like that
  3. Sell to someone else and put the money in the swap fund

Putting out a feeler for #3: Paid $275, would like to recoup as much of that as possible. Will deliver within 25 miles of Santa Clara. Contact me at e30@iamgary.com.

November 2, 2012 cosmetic, status

See previous post on the car that these tails came from. According to the local e30 folks the car had Corvette wheels and was a “rat car” in a good way. Supposedly the engine blew and that’s how it ended up at the auto wreckers.

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  • washed the lights to remove all the dirt
  • wet sanded the lights with 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit
  • tails were still pitted (and of course full of small & large cracks)
  • sprayed with 4 coats of Rustoleum clear gloss
  • sprayed with 2 coats of Testor clear gloss (by far the superior product)

Tails are no longer dull and pitted, now they are shiny and wavy from many layers of clear over crappy paint, probably a solid 4.5 out of 10. I like the way the all-red tail lights look on the car and will probably do it my own tails (but do it right). 

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October 22, 2012 cosmetic

Installed LED trunk, license plate and interior lights. In the process discovered that I need to solder a resistor onto the trunk LEDs otherwise they cause a false positive on the check panel and that the switch in my glove box is broken. Always something to fix… more photos to come when I set up a tripod for proper night-time shots.

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Part Notes:

  • License Plate LEDs: Error Free LEDs on Ebay (which I should have bought)
  • License Plate, Trunk and Glovebox LEDs: 3710 LED at Superbrightleds.com
  • Cabin Dome Lights: 6451 LED at Superbrightleds.com

Update:

Ordered the eBay LEDs which even fit inside the bulb housing better due to the shape of the resistor. They don’t generate an error unless I restart the car the without also turning off the lights (i.e. stall it), in which case the trigger the check panel light.

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October 13, 2012 cosmetic

Finally got all the center caps on my TRMotorsport C1s – you may recall that I glued some BMW emblems onto the center caps a couple weeks ago. The front caps snapped right on but the rear caps wouldn’t seat snuggly because of the size of the axle hubs.

  • tried removing the wheel at Tech Shop, putting on the center cap and re-installing the wheel
  • that didn’t work at all, hub pushes the cap right out of the wheel
  • used some 60 grit sand paper to shorten the retaining clips
  • caps seat better now, seem as solid as the caps on the front wheels

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October 6, 2012 cosmetic

Apologies for the lousy photos. Front end is coming together nicely, cosmetically speaking. Now if I could just fix that scratch by the rondel. It would be nice to make some performance upgrades soon but little cosmetic tweaks are cheaper and easier. Things I did in the last day or so:

  • replaced badly painted black-out kidneys with OEM chrome kidneys
  • replaced light grills with better specimans (sans M badge, which was just false advertising)
  • fog light deletes
  • touched up some of the paint chips
  • put on my BMW CCA badge
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      Next year when it’s time to renew my plates I’ll get new ones that aren’t bent, probably personal plates (a.k.a “vanity plates”). Also made some cosmetic improvements to the engine bay this afternoon:

      • wiped down everything i can see
      • swapped in a cleaner airbox specimen replacing my scratched up airbox
      • finally installed the blue washer fluid reservoir (see my old one in photos)
      • fit washer fluid reservoir with stylish black cap (BMW  61 66 7 264 145)

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September 30, 2012 cosmetic, photos

I picked up my car today and I’m so happy to have it back!! So here’s how this came about: there was this fellow on r3vlimited.com who was offering to answer anyone’s questions about auto body repair, and his signature said he lived in San Jose. He seemed pretty knowledgable so I approached him about my e30 and he told me to bring it by his shop if I wanted a quote. Turns out he works at a Macco franchise in Sunnyvale.

So I know Macco does not have a great reputation but they are a franchise so quality and service can vary a lot between locations. I felt o.k. going to this location because my contact was an e30 enthusiast like myself, really knows what he’s talking about and what my car needed was pretty basic. They were awesome, treated me great and hey, they guarantee their work against defects. Here’s the scope of the work:

  • remove old valance
  • prep and paint replacement (used but un-bent) valance
  • bring front end back into spec: fix dents in fenders, align hood
  • replace radiator support
    • So here’s the high points:

      • job was done to the estimated amount, almost to the dollar
      • only the items on the work order were fixed
      • they were able to source the radiator support for me from their own “parts car”, cost me almost $0
      • one of my lights was broken before I took it into the shop and the lens fell off and smashed. they gave me a new one from the parts car
      • i had some unpainted air ducts in a box which i forgot to tell them about and they didn’t find until they re-assembled the car today. they painted them at no extra cost, i can pick them up later
      • So I’m super happy with the experience and the work done. Here’s the after and before:

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        Still to do:

        • paint & install fog light deletes (coming… I’ll have to do this myself)
        • delete fog lights
        • install brake ducts
        • install lower bumper grille

        Unrelated, I epoxied some BMW center cap stickers to my TR Motorsport centercaps.

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September 27, 2012 cosmetic, photos

The cupholders in BMWs are either lousy or outright missing with the exception of some late model cars. In our e39 wagon the cupholders are flimsy, prone to breaking and unable to hold anything but a size small coffee. In the e30 there just aren’t any.

I think this a purposeful statement by BMW engineers: when you’re drinking coffee, do nothing but drink coffee. When you’re driving, do nothing but drive. This would be true to the motorsport roots of the company. More on the motorsport part some other time…

It really only holds 1 beverage, which is all that’s really needed. It’s a pretty simple affair, just a few peices of MDF with vinyl stapled over it. I had to add the AC plug myself. Bought it from SFGadgetGuy.

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September 14, 2012 cosmetic

I found an even better steering wheel -BMW M-Tech model to replace the 3-spoke Sport wheel I have now. It needed quite a bit of work as the leather was cracked and someone had leaned a car door against it which scuffed the leather and crushed the foam padding. On a scale of 10 it’s probably a 4/10.

I used Leatherique Leather Restoration products for this. This is my third time using this system (second steering wheel) and I’m getting better each time.

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Step 1:

  • remove dirt from the leather with a damp cloth, clean the vinyl with Vinylex (or similar vinyl care product)
  • applied “Leather Rejeuvenator” but any non-waxy leather care product would probably work
  • cleaned the leather with “Pristine Clean” (not sure what it is, some kind of mild solvent)
  • allow the leather to rest for 48 hours

Step 2:

  • using 400 grit sand paper wet with “Super Prepping Agent” (another solvent, definitely contains some acetone) removed most of the old dye, smoothed off any raised parts of the leather
  • filled the crack with super glue to keep the edges from curling up
  • used leather crack filler (almost like plaster but with quite a bit of flex in it) and 600 grit sand paper to fill in cracks and crevices
  • allowed crack filler to dry for 20 minutes or overnight
  • kept using crack filler and sanding until smooth

Step 3:

  • applied dye using a foam brush, allowing 20 minutes between coats
  • let dry for 48 hours

Theoretically I should be able to use 1500 grit sand paper to wet-sand down any spots where the leather die has gone on unevenly or a droplet has formed but everytime I’ve done this on a steering wheel it just sands right through the new dye. Instead, gently dry sanding for only the shallowest of problem areas seems allowed. It’s more important to put on thin coats and take your time in the first place rather than fix it later.

I’d rate the wheel a 8 or 9/10 now. The leather used on these wheels doesn’t usually have much texture to begin with and after decades of wear and tear and my restoration there is even less leather grain left. Completed job:

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August 25, 2012 cosmetic

I needed some clips, grommets and caps for the upcoming replacement of my door trim and I find that BMW of South Atlanta has the best price for little fitment items like that – often 1/2 or 1/4 the price of ECSTuning, Pelican Parts or BavAuto. I added a headlight knob to fill out the order because it was cheap.

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August 21, 2012 cosmetic

The roundel fell off my hood while driving last week and I discovered what sin against all that is holy the PO had done to affix the old badge: piles of crazy glue and who knows what all because he was too cheap, naive or pig-headed to buy $2.00 plastic grommets.

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I swear I am saving this car from the junk heap, one fix at a time. I should not have bought it. But it is what it is and it’s mine.

Someday I’ll have the car repainted, when $2,000-$4,000 is not better spent elsewhere – like on suspension, clutch, engine swap, seats, differenital, exhaust. Yes, the outward appearance of the car is pretty low on my priority list. But it bothers me to drive around with a missing roundel. Ordered the real deal from BMW and it seems they have changed the design so that the silver bits are all raised. Feels nice under the fingers.

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Update:

I found it again!

August 19, 2012 cosmetic

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