Suspension looks great, too bad everything else under here is filthy:


September 9, 2012 photos


September 9, 2012 photos


I picked up my e30 at Bavarian Motorsport today. In a word: wow. I’d heard that suspension can improve performance but I had no idea that the effect would be so remarkable. Point form notes:

  • Ride: even though the new Ground Control setup is stiffer than stock it’s very comfortable and suitable for taking the family for a drive. Car handles small pot holes and bumps comfortably, and better than the old supsension. This was a surprise, I was expecting the ride to rattle my teeth. I’ll definitely tighten it up later.
  • Shifting: smoother, faster, more mechanical feeling and less squishy. My shifting has improved by an order of magnitude, even my mechanic commented on it after listening to me take off from the shop. Ramon told me the pros and cons of a short shifter and I’m glad I didn’t go against his advice: this set up is perfect.
  • Power: seems to have more power at the wheels. I’d heard that suspension would improve HP and torque but I had no idea how much or if even true. RPMs seem more stable during shifting too, no idea if that’s in my mind or reality. Might be related to the axle / guibo replacement.
  • Noise: whole car is less noisy, even the muffler is quieter. Might be in my head or a by-product of being closer to the ground and better insulated from noise and vibration around the shifter.

I am extremely happy and while the upgrades were not cheap it will pay for itself in future enjoyment. I might not be able to sleep tonight, I may have to get up early and drive. The plan is to put 100 miles on the suspension this weekend so it can settle and be ready for a front end alignment and new wheels next week. Then a week after that I will be apart from the car again for some body work. I’m going to miss it.

I used to be the kind of person who thought cars were silly. Why would you be into cars? I almost regarded an interest in cars as non-sensical as having an interest in toasters. But now I think that if someone isn’t passionate about cars that they just haven’t driven the right car yet.

September 8, 2012 mechanical, photos

The rear suspension parts my car needs are still on order (probably until next week) so I’m going to pick my car up at the shop and enjoy driving it until they come in. Here’s the highlight of the work that was done:

  • Flex Disc
  • Drive Shaft
  • Transmission Seal
  • Shifter Bushings, Lever, O-Ring
  • Weighted Shift Knob 
  • Subframe Bushings 
  • Differential Mount 
  • Brake Fluid Flush 
  • Coolant Temperature Sensors
  • Temperature Gauge Sending Unit 
  • Ground Control Coil Overs 
  • Front Control Arm Bushings

      I need to source some parts for the next round of repairs:

      • Front Control Arm Mounting Bracket
      • 14.5mm Rear Sway Bar
      • Heat Shield (Above Exhaust, Below Drive Shaft)

      And before it gets rainy I need tires. My new suspension will just make that all the more apparent. Thinking of getting these rims and these tires, and putting my bottlecaps in storage.


September 6, 2012 mechanical

Man oh man oh man I am excited. My mechanic sent me these photos today. Coil overs are officially the nicest part of my car.


September 1, 2012 mechanical, photos

So I was talking with someone about car modifications and he said something that I’d never heard before. Paraphrasing:

A car is designed to perform over a broad range of conditions and driver abilities. When you modify a car to improve performance or handling you trade off something else. In some cases the margin for driver error is reduced.

Philosophically that explains so much — like why it’s so easy to put a Porsche into the ditch and why that’s o.k., or at least the Porsche is functioning (read: failing) as designed. For someone like me, an aspiring track driver with little experience and a noob mechanic, it’s good to keep this in mind when considering upgrades. Even seemingly little modifications like adding a short shifter has a tradeoff: yes the throw is shorter but it takes more force.

August 29, 2012 quotes

My car is fine! My mechanic even had difficulty getting it to overheat: He threw blankets over the engine bay in order to get the engine temperature up to 92C and that was after driving it hard. Aux (electrical backup) fan came on as it should, everything else is working as it should. The coolant overflow I noted was what could / would / should happen if someone opens the reservoir when the system is hot and still under pressure.

Shortly after I got the car the thermostat went, and then the fan clutch went. So I won’t learn what “normal” is until I drive it some more and stop making changes (read: fixes) to it. The e30 thermometer is flaky and prone to bouncing around – it’s a real thermometer so any fluctuations in temperature are represented on the dial. As long as it’s not into the red then the engine should be fine. I might install an aftermarket thermometer so I have some other, more accurate view of what’s going on. We’ll see if I can handle the crazy readings or not.

Thankfully the engine is fine and I can proceed with my other plans with some peace of mind. Since it’s at the shop now I’m going to leave the car there until next monday to have some greatly anticipated upgrades and repairs done. It will feel like a new car when I get it back.

August 28, 2012 status

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.


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:


August 25, 2012 cosmetic

So much for “The Conclusion” of this tale. The story until now:

  • my mechanic replaced water pump, belts, hoses, coolant reservoir cap and radiator in May when I got the car
  • car was running cold in July and getting poor mileage, I replaced thermostat with a cheap one I had (may have been an 88C thermostat)
  • car started overheating so again I replaced thermostat this time with with a Wahler 80C, flushed rad and put in fresh coolant
  • ran fine for a couple days then more overheating. I replaced fan clutch, relay K1 and tested aux fan by jumpering switch

The last repairs were last weekend. On Thursday:

  • suddenly overheats on a short drive and scares the crap out of me with visions of a blown head gasket, temp gauge got over 3/4! – turned the car off immediately.
  • top rad hose is hot, bottom is cold
  • coolant level is high, must be due to expansion I figure
  • left the car on the street for a few hours and went back to get it after it cooled down
  • top rad hose is still warm, bottom rad hose is cold
  • squeeze the hoses, before and after thermostat housing and level in reservoir goes up and down
  • top up my oil (didn’t see any water in it but i’m not sure what I’m looking for in the dark)
  • drive it home

Get home, let it idle. Temperature goes a little over halfway but not to 3/4. Tapping the gauge sometimes made the temperature go back down. Fan is spinning great, chews up a cardboard tube nicely. Turn the car off.

  • squeeze all the hoses and they are super firm, system has pressure I guess
  • take the lid off the coolant reservoir and coolant spills out everywhere. that seems like it means something.
  • coolant level appears to be a little over the cold level mark but under the cap it’s much higher, must be cause by a trapped air bubble

My conclusion is a head gasket problem, hopefully nothing fatal to the engine. I’m going to have it towed to Bavarian Motorsport tomorrow since the problem is beyond my resources to repair as I don’t have a garage. Here’s what I would need to check if I was doing it on my own:

  • coolant leaking into the crankcase (milky emulsion in the oil)
  • “foaming” in the coolant system as exhaust gases are ejected into it
  • coolant leaking into a cylinder (white smoke from the exhaust)
  • coolant leaking from the head 
  • oil leaking into a cylinder
  • oil leaking from the head seam
  • a leak from a cylinder to the cooling system
  • a leak from a cylinder to an oil return passage
  • a leak between cylinders

It will be a few days before my mechanic will be able to get back to me, I’m sure. Fixing this could be expensive so I’m thinking about my options:

  1. have the engine repaired (welded). may not be possible. $unknown
  2. get a new m20 block / head / engine. $200-1500 + labor
  3. perform an engine swap $2000-10,000 + labor

Really, option 3 is the most attractive even though it will financially set back all my other plans for a while. It’d be great to get a 240-300 HP engine in my little car and put a silver lining on all these problems. But it would be really nice if it was something cheaper to fix.


August 25, 2012 mechanical

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.


August 21, 2012 cosmetic

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