For a long time, I've wanted to get my hands on a 3-Series BMW. The E46 chassis is considered by many to be the epitome of the BMW 3-series. But I like cheap project cars, that I'm not afraid to break... so I can fix it and break it again another day. So I had to wait until the E46 cars got cheap enough.
Last week, I found a beat-up E46 on Facebook Marketplace for a really good price. So I jumped on it. Now I'm the proud owner of a 2001 BMW 330i. If I played my cards right, it should be a diamond in the rough. If not, then it's just rough. I guess we'll see. Anyway, here are some photos from the ad:
I also made a quick YouTube video about it. The idea is to make a video series documenting the build process... and hopefully some racing after I get it fixed up.
I'm still debating that. On the one hand, I'd love to do an LS swap (like a 4.8 or 5.3). But the Vortec 4200 (DOHC straight 6) looks interesting too. Either way, the car will probably get a GM drivetrain. And I have a MegaSquirt + WBO2 setup to put on it.
In related news, I also found a front fender at the salvage yard. All the left front fenders were mangled, to some degree. This one was the least damaged. It'll work.
I've been chasing down a high / rough idle condition with the engine. But I think I got it figured out. This engine has a weird vacuum system. For example, it doesn't have a PCV valve. So if the valve cover doesn't seal completely, it will cause a vacuum leak. That's crazy!
To add insult to injury, the previous owner of the car decided to "delete" a bunch of the valve cover bolts. They tried to make up for it by gooping up the valve cover gasket with silicone. It didn't work. I got a new valve cover gasket set, and snagged some valve cover bolts from the junkyard. Then I wiped the slate clean, so to speak, and did it the right way.
I also had to replace the power steering pulley, because it was damaged. And I replaced the gauge cluster, because it went MIA. I'll cover all this stuff in a new video, on Friday.
I started doing some minor mods to the BMW. For example, I upgraded the fuel pump, and installed new injectors. Those were actually parts leftover from the Fiero project. The BMW engine is rated for 228 HP. But the fuel pump can support 350-375 HP. That will give me some headroom for engine upgrades.
Installing GM injectors on the BMW engine was pretty easy. I should have the video ready by tomorrow.
Unfortunately, I'm back doing rehab work on the engine. It developed a lifter tick, and the tick quickly got worse. I think it has a collapsed lifter. I did a compression check, and cylinder #4 has low compression. So the bad lifter is probably there.
Also, this engine is full of sludge. I got a look at it when I replaced the valve cover gasket, and it wasn't pretty.
Yep. I let it idle for awhile with a couple quarts of diesel fuel mixed in the oil, before I started the work. I figured that would soften up the sludge. I'll do the same, after I finish the work, to clean out any left over gunk.
Side note: Cylinder 4 did in fact have a collapsed lifter, on the intake side. So I ordered a new one.
Yeah, I plan to keep this car for a long time. To put things in perspective, I kept the Fiero for over 20 years. And this car replaces the Fiero. IMO, the BMW e46 chassis is a great basis for a fun weekend car. I went into this knowing it's a distressed vehicle. It's a little more distressed than I bargained for, but that's not the car's fault.
That said, the chassis and suspension are in pretty good shape. There's very little rust. All the ball joints and tie rods are good. The transmission shifts fine. The brakes are good. etc.
So basically, the main concern is the engine. It has been neglected, for sure. But I don't see any signs of major internal damage. No rod knock. No metal shavings in the oil. No oil in the coolant, or vice versa. But the amount of sludge in there is concerning. I'm going to drop the oil pan, and see what the bottom end looks like. If it's as disgusting as the top end, I'm just going to pull the engine and overhaul it.
I made a video about the sludge, and the lifter ticks, and stuff:
Part 2 will cover dropping the pan, pulling the timing cover, and finding a nasty surprise. Stay tuned!
[This message has been edited by Blacktree (edited 09-12-2020).]
I know nothing about engines but with all that crap in there, wouldn't it make sense to pull it and rebuild it no matter what the oil pan looks like? Spend more now to save more later, maybe? I mean, if you can rebuild it now while most of the parts are still good, it might save you money and a tow bill later if you grenade the motor due to all the crap. Might need a new motor then. Just a thought from someone who doesn't know a cam shaft from a dipstick.
The 2 main places for sludge buildup are the cylinder head and oil pan. That's where the oil tends to pool. So that's where deposits form (for the most part). I already cleaned most of the crud out of the cylinder head. And over the weekend, I dropped the oil pan to clean it.
Surprisingly, I didn't find much sludge in the oil pan. What I did find was lots of plastic debris. It looks like pieces of the timing chain guides. And some of that debris got sucked into the oil pump pickup. Good thing I dropped the pan, because that could have caused catastrophic damage.
The good news is, now the oil pan is nice and clean (inside and out).
The bad news is: the timing cover needs to come off, so I can replace the timing chain guides. I already replaced the upper guide. It can be accessed through the valve cover. It was broken too.
It's pretty scary how close this engine was to oblivion.
My suspicions are confirmed. One of the timing chain guides disintegrated. The debris fell into the oil pan, and clogged the oil pump pickup.
I may have used some PG-13 language...
A couple photos of the carnage.
Those are the two standoffs that hold the one chain guide. When the guide went away, the chain wore into them.
Parts are on order. So now I'm in a holding pattern. In the meantime, lots of stuff had to be removed to get at the timing cover. All of it is covered with grime. So I think I'll take some stuff to the machine shop for a nice hot bath.
Wow, it's been a month since my last post? How time flies...
Anyway, the engine is back in one piece, and the damage is repaired. That rabbit hole was pretty deep. As mentioned above, the timing chain guides broke apart and created a bunch of debris inside the engine. Also, the standoffs for the one guide were damaged. I replaced all that stuff, and re-installed the timing cover.
While I had all that stuff apart, I also decided to fix some other issues. For example, there were some fluid leaks. So I replaced some of the gaskets and seals. Also, the heater hoses were trash, so I replaced them. Plus, the engine was covered in grease and grime. So I gave it a good wash. And I replaced some rotted vacuum hoses.
That said, there is still some valvetrain noise. I'm not sure if that's because of worn lifters, or low oil pressure. The car doesn't have an oil pressure gauge, so I'll have to install one.
Just a quick update: After filming the last video, I took the BMW for a test drive. The engine ran well, didn't overheat or do anything strange. I drove it long enough to get up to operating temperature, and knock the rust off the brakes.
The next day, I started the engine and the valvetrain noise was gone! Well, it was almost gone... just a faint hint of lifter tick. So I think the test drive (or maybe the lifters soaking in hot oil afterward) did something beneficial. The engine is quiet enough that I can now hear one of the idler pulleys sounding a little unhappy. So I ordered a replacement.
There were 2 trouble codes, both related to a lean condition. That was probably caused by some air in the fuel system on first start-up (it has a dead-head fuel system). I cleared the codes, and they haven't come back.
Yesterday I installed the new tensioner pulley. No more grindy noises!
I had a big scare, as I was burping the coolant system. I started the engine, and after a couple minutes coolant started leaking out of the expansion tank. Those things are notorious for bursting. So I immediately assumed the tank had burst. But when I looked closer, I noticed the filler cap was loose. LOL
One issue I need to address, before doing any spirited driving, is the wheel bolts. One of them is broken off. It was like that when I bought the car... probably over-torqued. If they over-torqued one bolt, they probably did the same to the rest. So I can't trust any of the wheel bolts.
I also decided, since I'm replacing all the wheel bolts anyway, I'm going to convert it to wheel studs. That should make my life easier. So, more parts on order...
Good news! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just a few minor things to sort out before I can consider it roadworthy.
First of all, one of the front ball joints is worn out. But the ball joints aren't serviceable. The entire control arm has to be replaced. Thankfully, there are aftermarket control arms available with replaceable ball joints. So I got one. When a ball joint goes bad on the other control arm, I'll do the same for that side.
Also, the window regulators in both front doors are seized up. But the motors are fine. So I bought new regulators. These cars never came with hand-crank windows. So it's power windows or nothing. And I plan to delete the A/C system in the near future. So having windows that open is kind of important.
Last but not east, I converted to an electric radiator fan. For some reason, the cars with the automatic transmission were equipped with a clutch fan. But the ones with a manual transmission were equipped with an electric fan. So I snagged a fan from a 3-series with a manual transmission. It dropped right in. Pretty cool.
Last night, I took the BMW to the drag strip. It's about an hour drive from my house. I was a little bit late, and it was pretty busy. So I was only able to get 2 runs before closing time. But the good news is, the car held up fine. I drove it home with no issues. And I got the baseline data I was after. So now, I can start stripping non-essential stuff out of the car.
The track is Orlando Speed World, east of Orlando.
Here's a quick shot of the Bimmer waiting in queue.
I saw some cool cars at the drag strip. Here are a few of them.
Back to the BMW. The track officials let me use the weight scale. The car weighed 3442 pounds, with a quarter tank of gas and me in the driver's seat. I weigh about 155 lb, so the car weighs around 3287 lb (with some fuel in the tank). That's basically stock trim, with the full interior, A/C, spare tire and jack, the tool kit in the trunk lid, etc. I can use this as a baseline to compare against, when I strip out the interior.
I was only able to make 2 runs. The first one was 15.74 @ 88.6 mph. The second one was 15.69 @ 88.9 mph. The car felt pretty sketchy at speed, probably because the struts are shot. The front ends floats around. I'll have to fix that.
In summary, I'm calling this a win. I got the data I was after, and was able to drive the car home. Yeah, it's slow. But we can work on that.
It still needs plenty of work. The shocks and struts are fried. While I'm in there, I'll upgrade some other suspension parts, as well.
Still debating on engine swaps. The LS series V8 is the "no-brainer" option. But I'd also like to try the Vortec 4200. It's a straight-6 like the BMW engine, but is bigger and more powerful. Not sure if it'll fit in the engine bay. Need to find one in a salvage yard and take measurements.
But I think I'll do the drivetrain last. I'd like to sort out the chassis and suspension first, then add more power.
This car tips the scales at 3287 pounds. That's kinda chunky, for my tastes. Time for a weight loss plan.
I decided to pick the low-hanging fruit first. So the spare tire and jack came out. I also pulled out the back seat. The back seat is just held in with clips, so no tools were needed. The back seat won't be going back in, so the seatbelts can be removed as well. Then I pulled out all the sound deadening material under the seat (smells like crayons).
Next, I removed the rear shelf (BMW calls it a package shelf?), along with the headrests and the rear speakers. There was more sound deadening material underneath, so I removed that as well. I also had to remove the C-pillar trim to make room for the rear shelf to come out.
After removing all that stuff, the back seat area looks pretty spartan.
I weighed all the stuff, as I removed it. The numbers are adding up quickly. And I'm just getting started! I'd love to get the car down to 2700-2800 pounds. But that might be too optimistic. We'll see.
Also, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
[This message has been edited by Blacktree (edited 11-28-2020).]
This video covers removal of all the stuff in the backseat area. I'm going to keep a running tab of the weight being removed from the car. It helps to keep me motivated. Plus I can compare it to the weight scale at the track, next time I go racing.
So far, 66.8 pounds of ugly fat removed. More to follow...
I haven't had a chance to install the sunroof delete panel yet. But I was able to strip out most of the interior trim. I also removed the center console, passenger seat, and rear carpet. The original plan was just to remove the passenger seat, to make room for the sunroof cartridge to come out. But things snowballed from there. I was going to remove all that stuff anyway.
I plan on testing the old "one tenth per 100 pounds" rule of thumb, after the weight reduction is complete. I played around with the calculators at the TCI Auto website ( Link: https://www.tciauto.com/racing-calculators ), and the results are interesting. We'll have to see if the real world agrees.