Photo Source: Bimmerforums

Last year I put together a list of holiday gift ideas for the e30 lover (or BMW enthusiast) on your list. But a new year welcomes new ideas and so I present my 2013 Gift Guide. Happy shopping!

Gift Suggestions

  1. BMW Fabric Wallets: makes simple billfold style wallets in popular BMW fabrics that any enthusiast will recognize and appreciate. The Mtechnic fabric is represented here as well as Alpina. Priced under $60 for a billfold and matching keychain or $20 for a card wallet this gift is classy and budget friendly. There are officially licensed versions available from BMW or Amazon but the WalletWerks billfolds have classic charm and no faux-chrome.
  2. Keychains: BMW leather keychains are NLA (no longer available) from retailers like Turner Motorsport but they can still be found on eBay as reproductions or NOS (new old stock). A search on Ebay for BMW leather keychain will turn up some vintage items. Don’t wait to the last minute to order or your may not get it by Christmas.
  3. Driving Gloves: Last year I recommended cheap gloves which I use myself but this year go all out and get the Lowly Gentlemen gloves.
  4. Diecast Models: There is a limited range of BMW models available but the BMW M3 will be popular with every e30 fan. Check Amazon for other options.
  5. Fender Mat: The real deal with a BMW logo would come from a mechanic who doesn’t need it. They are very rare. But you can make one by ordering a plain black fender mat from Amazon or the Griot’s Garage red fender mat and adding a BMW iron-on patch from an Etsy seller to the bottom corner.
  6. BMW Car Blanket: BMW swag can be hit or miss with the vintage enthusiast but a car blanket is a timeless classic. These are no longer available on Amazon but can be found on Ebay and Etsy. They are probably not officially licensed. BMW club members can buy official licensed picnic blankets through the club shop.
  7. That’s my 2013 list. There are a couple other good ideas on last year’s list so be sure to check that out. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

December 4, 2013 guide

If you look at photos of the intake manifold on a BMW M20 engine in an e30 you’ll see a recurring spot of wear illustrated in this older photo of my car:

BMW e30 M20 Engine Bay

This is caused by the black fibreglass hood liner which sags slightly and rubs against the manifold. You can barely see it in this photo:

BMW e30 hood liner

Also note the red tape that’s being used to protect the powder coated intake manifold which is at best a temporary solution. The permanent solution is to remove the hood liner:


The unadorned hood isn’t ugly but it does allow more noise to escape the engine bay and some armchair mechanics postulate that the heat from the motor will cause the paint on the hood to bubble or wear poorly.

There’s two solutions for this:

  • BMW makes black foam insulating panels for some models but enthusiasts report that it falls apart after a few years of use and soaks up oil and grime. Part numbers are not noted on RealOEM but the set is available.
  • The other solution is mylar covered foam.
  • I bought my panels from BMP Design. They have a complete DIY on how to install the hood liner which is helpful.


    Now a few comments about the product:

    • It’s recommended that you “test fit” the panels before installation. Once the contact cement is applied you really only get 1 shot at installing the panel so plan how you will place it (which end will go in first, etc.)
    • You may find that the panels do not fit exactly. I suggest *returning* them if they don’t fit. I tried to cut mine with a ruler and knife, then scissors and it is very difficult to cut cleanly.
    • Even if your panels fit you will find ragged edges where the mylar has been torn. Clean these up with scissors before installing.
    • The panels come with an adhesive backing. This is not strong enough to affix the panels without contact cement.
    • No fault of the product, but it does tend to show wrinkles if not applied perfectly flat on a surface. The e30’s hood has some bends and curves so some wrinkles are inevitable.


    Installation was straightforward once I trimmed down the panels:


    • Cover the entire engine bay in plastic.
    • The Weldwood adhesive is supposed to be workable for about an hour after application – if it’s applied thickly. I decided to apply it thinly using a foam roller which made application quick, although the roller produced some spider-webs of contact cement that had to be tamped down or pulled away from other surfaces. This saved time but also reduced workability to seconds once the panel and the hood were contacted.



    BMW e30 m20 engine bay with BMP Design mylar hood liner

August 26, 2013 guide, mechanical

According to many the stock BMW Mtech I steering wheel is the cheapest, best steering wheel for any e30. It’s period correct, sized so that it does not block the driver’s view of the dials and has 3 horn buttons which can be pressed without ever taking your hand off the wheel. It’s perfect for everything including city driving and spirited back road hoonage.

For all those reasons I put off, and put off, buying a new steering wheel. But on May 4th I’ll be participating in the BMW CCA GGC’s HPDE and I felt it was time to update my wheel. The biggest motivator is that there is not enough room for my leg between the wheel and gas pedal when heal-toe braking / blipping the throttle. I’m only 6’1″ but I have to twist my leg in a weird way that just barely works and is generally clumsy. As well my old wheel has no leather texture left and is unpleasant for long drives without gloves.

Admittedly I bought a new steering wheel based on looks and community opinion of the manufacturer. I’m becoming a rally racing fan and the yellow center marking on the Momo Mod 7 has big appeal. Because I was already placing large orders for M20 parts I decided to just add a wheel to my already huge order, save a couple bucks on shipping and just go for it. I put the wheel on this morning and drove to work only once but I can already feel that the light weight and smaller diameter makes the wheel easy to turn and grips nicely.

The BMW horn button is after-market and hard to find. Initially I was searching enthusiast forums but found an inexpensive plastic version with the perfect fitment on Aamzon for less than $20. Links for all items are below the photos.

BMW e30 Momo Mod 7 with BMW horn button


BMW e30 Momo Steering Wheel Installation Instructions
Momo Mod 7 Steering Wheel
Momo e30 Hub Adapter
BMW Horn Button for Momo Steering Wheels on Amazon

April 22, 2013 cosmetic, guide, interior


Photo Source: Bimmerforums

Inspired by a thread at R3vlimited I’ve compiled a little Gift Guide for the e30 (or BMW) owner and enthusiast on your Christmas list. Family of mine who might be reading this, this is by no means a hint! On to the list!

Gift Suggestions

  1. The BMW e30 prints from this Etsy store are very nice. Don’t forget a frame.
  2. Any vintage looking BMW keychain.
  3. Driving gloves. I have a pair of the cheap ones, love them.
  4. Gift card for ECSTuning, Turner Motorsport, Pelican Parts (or any major parts distributor).
  5. Any BMW swag: Hat, license plate frames (if he doesn’t already have some), MTech wallet. Some of the BMW gear looks a little pretentious so just be thoughtful and keep it simple. Don’t buy him a travel mug, e30s don’t have cup holders.
  6. Build him a detail kit with with some Vinylex, micro fibre towels, wheel spray and brush, stuff like that. Put it in a nice, closed container that will fit in the trunk. Try to find out if he’s already using a specific brand then go to that manufacturer to get the items. If brand is in doubt Griot’s Garage is a safe bet.
  7. Uncut master keys. The ignition and door keys are different, so you may have to go to ebay to find both. Searching for “e30 blank ignition key” or “e30 blank door key” should generate the desired results.
  8. Glovebox flashlight (OEM item is hard to find). Or a nice flashlight because really… he’s going to use it. If not for finding things that have fallen under the seats then for checking his oil in the dark.
  9. Any euro stuff he doesn’t already have (find it from someone on R3v): euro (german) check panel, plate filler, grills, clock or 6/13-Button OBC.
  10. Touch up paint in his car’s color.
  11. AAA membership. No joke.

December 8, 2012 guide

I am by no means an expert so take this advice only at your own risk – some of this information may even be wrong. I’m just someone who bought an e30 without really knowing what I was doing and learned from the experience. The saying “buyer beware” is never more true than when shopping for a car. There are a couple of good guides already written that cover most of the mechanical stuff, so I’ll try to give you some tips that are not already covered elsewehere.

The best guide is this thread:

Above and left to right: early model e30, late model e30 and e30 M3.

Years & Models

1989 or later 325i or better yet 325is. These are the most modern e30s and offer the greatest opportunity for modification. Since parts from late model e30s and m3s can be installed on early model cars you should always check the VIN to find out the production information of any specific car. Read the Wikipedia entry for more information on how the e30 has changed over the course of it’s production.

  • Early Model e30s (1982-1985): Most recognizable by metal front and rear bumpers.
  • Late Model e30s (1986-1992): Bumpers have been updated to plastic and fog lights and air dam are integrated into the front valance. The engines are typically higher HP and the interior is slightly refined over early models.
  • e30 M3: Distinctinve side skirts, fenders and rear spoiler are easy to spot. Of course, the real difference between an e30 M3 and any other stock e30 is mechanical: the M3 has suspension and motor ugprades throughout.


Sub 200,000 miles is desirable, after that it doesn’t matter the m20 engine can go 400,000+ as long as maintenance is followed. Mileage isn’t really a factor in reliability or value unless it’s less than 100,000 or more than 300,000. Maintenance is more important than mileage.

Where To Find e30s

Try to find a car from an enthusiast: Check r3vlimited and bimmerforums.You may pay more but will get a well cared for car for less than the previous owner put into it. These guys often put $15K into a car and sell it for $8K. If you buy fom Craigslist try to find a one owner car. They are usually better cared for.

Title & Smog

Do not buy a car with a salvage title. Not worth the hassle and they are hard to resell.

Do not buy a car that hasn’t passed smog. You can spend a lot trying to get it smogged and it is illegal to sell a car without a smog certificate in California. Also, without a cat and OEM air box the car will not pass smog. Many performance mods will cause a car to fail smog automatically (visual inspection).


Arrange for a pre purchase inspection at a shop of YOUR choice. As I learned the hard way there is too much at stake and you can’t trust the seller to take the car to an unbiased shop. You’ll have to pay for the PPI, shouldn’t cost more than $130 but can save you much more if the car needs $3k work just to be roadworthy

Taking It Home

Plan to have the car towed home or to a shop for a once-over or for critical repairs after you buy it, unless you bought the car nearby. You don’t want to have the timing belt break and ruin the engine, or some other catastrophe.

Prices (by Category)

  • Neglected worth $1000 or less

    My car started out in this range, but I didn’t realize it and paid too much. Cars in this category have not had basic maintenance, wear and tear parts haven’t been replaced (bushings, suspension, radiator, belts, water pump). Some have only cosmetic work put into them and can be hard to identify as truly neglected because they may have after market rims, cone air filters, HID headlights or other superficial enhancements. Cosmetic things are cheap, easy and fun so don’t pay for someone else’s decorations. Beware of body kits. They can be poorly installed or be falling off and the community tends to frown on them. If you buy a neglected car have it towed to your garage, do not plan to drive it home.

  • OEM worth $1600-$3000 (maybe as high as $4500 depending on market)

    I refer to an OEM car as one that doesn’t have any (or many) aftermarket parts and is generally an e30 the way BMW built it. A car in this range should have had all the basic maintenance performed recently. Probably has stock rims (basketweaves or bottlecaps), there may be some interior wear and tear (see interior below) but generally the car should be mechanically sound and in good condition. Car should have an un-cracked dash, new timing belt, new water pump, maybe a new radiator, recent oil change, low mileage brakes and tires to fetch the upper end of this scale. Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs are a plus but remember suspension goes bad eventually and the owner would have to replace those just to keep the car drivable. Bilstein shocks are not an upgrade for e30s (so I’ve been told): that combo just reproduces the feel of OEM shocks. Engine may be a little dirty. The only people who clean engines are OCD or do their own repairs and this car was probably serviced at an indy shop or BMW dealership. Expect torn seats, some missing trim pieces, paint scratches or dents. Also plan on $1K or $2K repairs. Less if DIY.

    Note: Beware of neglected cars sneaking into this category because the market for e30s is lucrative. Beware of people who have neglected cars with a few cosmetic upgrades trying to sneak into the OEM or Modified / Clean price range.

  • Modified / Clean worth $4500-$8000

    Keep in mind that a good condition daily driver e36 is about $4500 – an e30 fetching the same price needs to compare to that newer e36 to qualify. Cars in this range are either “clean” (very well preserved OEM cars, over and above what you would see in the OEM category) or “modified”. A modified car can have many cosmetic blemishes but have so many upgrades that the price is justified. Modifications are hard to value but they can include (in order of how common they are): air intake / air meter (afm, maf) upgrades for increased HP, ECU (computer) chip upgrades for HP, suspension (GC or other coil overs), LSD upgrade (watch it, this sometimes does nothing to improve the car’s acceleration unless other mods are done. BMW usually gets the LSD right when they make the car), engine swap (usually swapped cars start at  $7.5K though may not add much HP), fuel injector upgrades, stroke mods, bore mods. Some people with clean cars want the high end of this price range but that’s a losing proposition for you, the buyer. Save your money and find the same car with mods that justify the price. An engine swap offers the greatest HP value of any mod, benefits of other mods are debatable and complicate getting your car smogged.

  • M3 Territory worth $10K+

    Anyone asking more than $10K is in M3 territory. I’m not sure how to price M3s but I’ve seen them for sale for as little as $10K (but in need of work, usually body work). The only non-M3 cars that should be in this category are modified AND clean cars. They should have swapped engines, pristine interiors, suspension upgrades, aftermarket rims and tires and excellent paint jobs. All the wear and tear parts should have been replaced recently. Engine and entire car interior and exterior should be clean and generally blemish free.


Clean vs. dirty engine bay. Neither proves anything about the mechanical state of the engine.


  • Get To Know e30s

    This is probably the VERY best tip I can offer: If you’re not familiar with e30s except as a passenger you should go to the Pick N Pull or other auto dismantlers and get to know the cars as intimately as possible – pretend these are cars for sale and evaluate the worthiness of them. How is the engine, suspension, radiator, interior, etc.? Look for things that are missing, broken or in poor condition: lots of e30s for sale are missing bits but you won’t know that if you’ve never seen an e30 with that part before. Wear gloves, touch things – hell, take things apart, the Pick n Pull doesn’t care (and see mechanical below)! For extra credit read the first 2-3 chapters of the e30 Bentley Service Manual (you can find it as a PDF if you are diligent).

  • Recent Work

    Owner should produce receipts for recent repairs. Timing belt and water pump need to be changed every 60K miles. If the owner hasn’t done at least this then walk away (or offer very, very low): the car is neglected.

  • Easy Fixes

    Beware of issues dismissed as being “easy fixes”. Some people bring these up as a smokescreen for more serious problems. “Runs great, all it needs it a water pump. Easy fix.” Ask yourself, if it was so easy then wouldn’t the previous owner have fixed it? What else didn’t he fix that’s going to cost you?

  • Odometer, Instrument Cluster:

    Can be fixed if it’s not working but is not worth the hassle of unknown / incorrect mileage. I would avoid. When you start the car do ALL the indicators light up? People sometimes disconnect lights so they don’t have to look at them, or to pass smog / mechanical inspeciton and therefore problems go unchecked. Cluster lights are easy to replace but can hide other problems if left burned out or removed.

  • Engine Off

    How clean is the engine? A clean engine usually but not always indicates good maintenance. Are any hoses cracked or leaking? Those will need to be replaced, plan $12-$24 for each hose, $100 more if you’re hiring a shop. With the car off, but warmed up, check the dipstick. Is oil level low? Leaks, poor maintenance. Is it milky or creamy? Coolant leak, show stopper. Check the coolant reservoir. Any oil in it? Head gasket leak, another show stopper. Look under the car with the engine off. Any leaks, oil droplets forming? Oil accumulation? Are the rubber axle boots torn or cracked? Use a flashlight here. Axles are $100 each used but installation can be trouble. Rebuilding them is cheap but labor intensive and messy. Visually inspecting the spark plugs will tell you so much about an engine but the seller may not allow you to do that (or may have replaced them just before putting the car up for sale) so get a PPI and make sure that’s part of the inspection. Expect that anything leaking would need to be replaced. Check the rear differential, steering rack, front oil cooler, front radiator, oil pan. Bank on average of $250 per part (used price, double for new) plus the same in labor.

  • Starting The Car

    Car should idle around 750 RPM, though 900 RPM is acceptable. Lower idling indicates air or vacuum leaks but may not manifest itself unless the engine is dead cold. May be cheap, may be expensive / elusive to fix.

  • Driving The Car

    Well covered in other resources.


  • Rust

    No California car should have rust. If it does then don’t buy it. Rust is well covered in the link at the top of this guide.

  • Color

    Avoid custom paint jobs, unusual colours (like green or blue) — unless the car is absolutely immaculate and requires no body work whatsoever. Replacement body parts will require painting and if it was a custom job the car may have overspray or fitment issues from poor re-assembly. If you have an apline white e30 and need a new fender you can go to the junkers and get one for $100, but if it’s alpine green you will have a very hard time finding a donor car that color. Only go for an usual color if it’s a BMW original paint job and immaculate. Or you absolutely love it. The community tends to frown on non-BMW colors. People notice but maybe you don’t care. My car is not a BMW color but it gets loads of compliments so there is always an exception. However, my car’s custom paint has been a load of trouble for the exact reasons I mention above.

  • Body

    Scratches and chips can be touched up but expect anything else to cost $1500 minimum to fix, unless you can replace the part entirely (see previous note about colours.) Almost all exterior trim can be found cheap. Brand new kidneys are $40, light grills are $130 new / euro style or $15 from the Pick n Pull. Door bumper rails are more rare / expensive unless you get them from the Pick n Pull (but it may take a while to collect a complete set of the same quality).

  • Lights

    Make sure all the lights work, if any lights have been “smoked” consider that they may be illegal in your area and need to be replaced. Or the quality of the painting might simply suck. Tail lights run $50-200 for a pair depending on quality, cracks. See next section on “interior” for the reason why I think lights are important.


Note: If you don’t care about the car’s interior then you can ignore this section. However, the interior says a lot about how a car was cared for: If the owner didn’t bother to replace a $2 light bulb they probably didn’t do any of the major repairs either.

  • Dash

    Probably the single most important interior item when evaluating a car. If it’s cracked you should consider that a show stopper if you care about the interior at all. If it has velcro adhesives all over it then that can be removed using peanut butter and Goo Gone (clean very thoroughly afterwards and do not let it get on the underside of the dash or into cracks). You can buy a near-mint dash for $150 but it takes two people 8 hours to swap. It is very, very difficult – BMW installs the dash before installing the front windshield and they never intended it to be replaced otherwise. I’ve done it. I would not do it again, it is no small task.

  • Carpet

    Really bad carpet (where not covered by mats) is another show stopper. It can’t be replaced without removing the dash. You may be able to clean it depending what is on it.

  • Sunroof

    Replacing any of the sunroof parts is brutally hard, so avoid leaking or broken sunroofs.

    Seat Belts

    Working front buckles (especially front driver and passenger) are hard to find at the junkers so check them before buying, not a show stopper but something you’ll have to fix. Could be $170 new, $50 used. Rear buckles are $15 used.

  • Console

    The shifter console is hard to find in good condition, though easier for the coupe than sedan. Expect to spend $80-100 for a good condition shifter console. Not a show stopper, just consider replacement cost. Used ash trays in good condition are $25 each, though can be replaced entirely with VDO guages or a custom cup holder. A brand new OEM e-brake console is only $35 but isn’t covered in exactly the same vinyl as the original.

  • Seats

    Decent comfort seats run $50-$400, so torn seats are not an issue. passenger seats are more common than driver seats.

  • Windows, Door & Locks

    Make sure door handles and windows work, those are difficult items to replace. Problems with those circuits can be troublesome to diagnose.

  • Trim & Switches

    Can be found cheap, not an issue. Switches are $9 and trim is $6 / foot but may be hard to find mint.

  • November 13, 2012 guide