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Unread 08-31-2015, 06:43 PM
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Default Vorshlag BMW E46 - Daily Driven Track Car Project

Project Introduction August 31st, 2015: This forum build thread covers the repairs and track prep on my wife Amy's "new" 2002 BMW E46 coupe, which we purchased August 20, 2015. This car will get track prep towards a NASA TT class (which I will discuss in more detail in a future post), but initially we will be doing some maintenance and repairs to get this car inspected and reliable, to let her "daily" in this little Bimmer. No, we're not just automatically sticking an LS1 V8 in the car (unless the engine is terminal, and maybe not even then). She wanted an inexpensive "cash car" to drive to work, and I wanted a car to test some new parts out with on track, so maybe this one will fit both needs.

The real question is: Can we make a daily driven BMW competitive regionally in NASA Time Trial?

In this thread we will also cover some tips on "How to buy an E46" and also show the "Common Things that Break" on these cars and illustrate the fixes. If you ever wanted to own a BMW E46 this might be a useful read. I'm showing the basic costs and hours spent on this build as we go, since we log everything into MyShopAssist, the service logging and customer interface software we use on all tasks and all jobs here at Vorshlag.

Cross-posting this to these forums:
PLEASE READ BEFORE RESPONDING

I'm posting this little build thread on a number of forums, and some of you will be chomping at the bit to talk trash or point out past mistakes on an E46 330 build I did back in 2009. Yes, I made some mistakes on that build and was very frustrated with the oil pump drive issues that this car suffered. No, I didn't listen to several people who warned me that what I was doing (revving the M54 engine too high, not welding the oil pump nut, etc) were going to cause problems. Some of you folks were right, I admit that, and I unwisely ignored freely given internet advice.



Before you crap up this thread with old history and personal attacks, please read the next few posts - where I will address the oil pump issues, harmonic balancer problems that car had (that we didn't know about until much later), and give my updated advice on the M54 "minimum oil system prep" to folks, learned from these mistakes (in my 2nd round of posts). That 330 was built 6 years ago, in my home garage, and I have learned a lot since then. Vorshlag has gone through a lot of growth in that period, with a lot of new employees added to our staff, new capabilities added to our shop, dozens of car builds under out belts, and hundreds of cars worked on since then.

As always, in this build thread I will share the good and the bad, as well as track all hours and dollars spent. I might make mistakes, but we will always try to learn from them. I will still admit that I don't know everything about the E46 chassis. We work on a variety of cars, and not just BMWs. I will specifically ask for help in this thread on a few areas where others know more. So again, please read the next few posts before you chime in with your advice - your comments might already be addressed fully. Thank you for your patience.

WHY ANOTHER E46?

This is a tough question to answer. First, let me talk about Amy - I'm damned lucky and have a wife who not only puts up with my racing addiction, but she's a racer herself. I met her at a race, so I guess that's how you do it. She's won 3 Solo Nationals Championships, is a licensed NASA Time Trial Competitor and race winner, and we both love to enjoy many forms of motorsports. We spend 25-30 weekends a year doing autocross, HPDE and TT, and I will get her in the W2W Endurance E46 next year with us, some how.


These are two more E46 cars I've owned. The 323i sedan (left) was just a daily. The 330Ci coupe (right) became an autocross/track car

She daily drove the red E46 4 door 323i (above) for about a year, but it was very stock and thus remained very boring. She decided in 2013 that she wanted a "big comfy BMW", so we looked for then found her a clean 2001 740iL. She really liked that 7, but we probably only had passengers in the back seat a half dozen times in 2 years of ownership. Its just the two of us most of the time in any given vehicle, so the gigantic-ness of the long wheelbase 7 series was a waste. Even though we did a lot of repairs, restoration and little upgrades to that 740 at our shop, we don't really make anything unique for the E38 chassis... so it was useless as a "business promotional tool" or test bed for Vorshlag.


We just sold both of Amy's previous cars, the 740iL and the TT3 Mustang, and she gets this E46 as her replacement?!

Why does she need a car? Well back in July we sold Amy's 2011 Mustang GT, which she and I raced in NASA TT3 and other classes the past five years. That car was her daily driver from 2010 until 2013, when we got the 2001 BMW 740iL (2013-15) for her to drive back and forth to work. We also sold that E38 a few weeks ago, and had a few bucks left from that sale to spend on her next daily driver.

But one thing kept nagging me: We have been sharing race cars for years, she and I, and if I've learned one thing about that, it is that sharing a race car sucks. You get half the seat time at a track weekend, or you end up putting twice the laps on a car during a given day (running in 2 different run groups), which is very hard on the car. It never gets a chance to cool off or any down time to make tuning changes or repairs without being rushed. Amy and I shared the TT3 Mustang and then we built the TTC Corvette (1992 LT1 Corvette, Project #DangerZone) early in 2015, and we finally had them both at the track... for one NASA weekend this year. But it was nice, since we didn't have to share!


Separate but equal: having his and hers race cars is ideal, so we don't double-up on a single car on a race weekend!

So when it was time to move the 7 series on down the road we discussed a half dozen options for her next daily driver, which I was hoping to ALSO use for some new parts development and rack up some more racing wins for Vorshlag. Every car we own has to "do work" for Vorshlag, and having a daily driver that could at the very least test new parts was part of the deal. We looked for a clean E30, which would be "retro cool" after a lot of restoration and mods, but clean E30s are going for big $. Then we looked at E36s, but we have done that chassis many times in the past, and they are getting a bit long in the tooth.

She said she wanted a BRZ or FR-S, and I worked up a wicked NASA TTC track build that she was on board with, until she saw the budget. No monthly financing payments was a requirement for this next car, and even used these are still $15-18K cars (oldest is 2013 model). It had to be a cheap cash car. We thought about Subarus (too kooky), Miatas (she daily drove one before - too slow, too small), even some domestics... but nothing had the bang-per-buck aspect of the E46 right now, at this moment.

We had some money stashed away after selling the 740, so I looked for a clean 330 for $4-5K. Nope, they don't exist unless it has 200K+ miles and an automatic. Craigslist searching (yuck), AutoTrader (pretty much all dealers), and other sources. But being a small business owner, cash flow comes and goes, and one day "poof" the cash from the 740 was used for something for the biz - paying taxes, payroll, vendors - something. So my budget was slashed and the E46 choices at this new price range started to look pretty sketchy.


This is our cheap, 197K mile 2002 325Ci project car. Yes, we know, the Foose wheels are Fooking ugly! They will be gone soon

I put a call out on Facebook, and once again was rewarded with a diamond in the rough. A friend that worked at a used car dealer had a lead: 2002 325Ci, 5-speed, 197K miles, $1800. It needed more work than they wanted to invest, so they were willing to let it go cheap to someone who could fix it. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!



This E46 we just bought is a bit rough around the edges (read below for description of problems) but since we bought it well I'm confident we can fix whatever is wrong with it. I test drove and checked the car out personally and couldn't see any frame damage, rust (Texas car all its life), it had a clear title, and it didn't run like it had a head gasket or oiling system problem (both potential "gotchas" on these cars). Everything else that could be wrong I'm not afraid to fix. Vorshlag has serviced 100's BMWs over the years and we are well versed in most of the problems and fixes of the E46, as well as performance upgrades that help these cars perform better on track and in autocross.

Quote:
whiskey dent: Dents or scratches on a vehicle due to drinking and driving or hitting an object with your vehicle while intoxicated.
The car has a lot of "whiskey dents", small dings and bumps on the body that don't effect the function of the car, just make it a bit ugly (see the two pics above). It also had a light front end hit and another rear tap, but we will fix those issues as we go. Nothing that prevents it from being a good daily driver. The project name "Jack Daniels" comes from the Whiskey Dents, obviously. No, I don't condone drinking and driving - not hardly - but the name fits.


These cars can get light quickly. This car lost 434 pounds in 2 hours (interior removal) and still has all the factory glass and steel!

We like the E46 chassis, and have four of these in the shop right now. The silver E46 1999 328i 5-spd sedan above was purchased a few months back for an "employee owned shop endurance race car" project, and we already knocked a bunch of weight out of the car. This E46 328i was also well under $2K, also from a good Facebook friend lead, who had a tough-to-sell car, so it had some miles and needed some TLC. We can easily get weight out of one when we make it a real race car, as shown above. The door panels, carpets and seats on these cars are HEAVY! But this car needs to keep some of the interior, because its going to double-duty...

DAILY DRIVER + TRACK CAR = COMPROMISES

"Do as I say, not as I do." Normally, I warn customers that taking their daily driver and making it ALSO work as their track car is a TERRIBLE idea. It always involves huge compromises that make it a less comfortable daily driver, a heavy/slow/less competitive race car, or both. But this is what SO many people want to do - I'd say half our customers do this! - so why don't we try this "dual purpose build" for once and document what works and what doesn't? Can we win a TT race, or even set a track record, in a REAL DEAL, full interior, air conditioned, daily driven street car? We did it with two BMWs before (below), but that was several years ago - when NASA Time Trial wasn't nearly as competitive as it is today.


We took both the E46 330 and E36 M3 above to NASA TT wins and a track record each - when both were daily driven at the time

This 2002 325Ci will be both Amy's daily driver (she has a mild 8 mile commute, all on secondary roads with lots of stop lights) and we will use will try to make it a competitive NASA Time Trial build and let her go have some fun in TT. The goal is to make it reliable and fast, allowing her to have as much seat time as possible. We're already building a new "shop car" E46 V8 for me for 2016 (TT1), plus the Endurance car E46 for the shop employees (1999 328i for WRL), and this E46 (TTE or TTD?), so we will have three shop E46 race cars in 2016, if everything goes to plan (when does it ever?!).

Due to other expenses in owning a growing business, and two other race cars already designated as "shop cars", this 325 is being built on a very small budget. Not "$2000 total" like the GRM E30 we built before, but more like the TTC '92 Corvette we ran this year and has it's own Forum Build Thread. I've had customers and even people in the motorsports industry remark that those two "budget builds" (GRM E30 + Dangerzone) were some of the favorite we've done, more so than our more wild builds, so who knows? Those of you who dig that sort of thing might enjoy the build-up.

continued below

Last edited by Fair!; 11-17-2017 at 12:02 PM.
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