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artur1808
artur1808 Reader
10/15/18 8:21 p.m.

As some of you may remember, last year as I was about to start building a Civic for stage rally, I came across a good deal on a mk2 Jetta that was already mostly rally-ready and purchased it. Ran a couple of events, learned a ton, but ultimately I decided to make the switch back to rear wheel drive. 

I went back and forth about what to build for a while, but decided that an e30 might be my best option. Especially after seeing some of the builds on here. I had 3 main criteria:

1. Coupe, for ease of ingress/egress

2. Little to no rust if possible

3. "i" or "is" model for the 6 cylinder

So I joined a few groups on facebook and stalked craigslist for a few weeks, until I found this one. It is not without faults, but I got it for a good price, and it came with some spare parts that I figure might be useful. 

This is a 1987 325is Coupe. It checked all of my boxes. It is a coupe, despite purchasing it in Cleveland it has shockingly little rust, and it has the correct engine/transmission combination, and a 3.73 LSD. Even came in a color I like. 

However, it has a few issues that will need addressed. The first, and most obvious one is this:

Even though this is a rally car and doesn't need to look particularly nice, this will need to be addressed in some way. I've never done any major body work, but I recently purchased a welder and have plenty of grinding discs, so I guess its time to learn. I had the previous owner take the car in to have the alignment checked before I bought it and it didn't raise any major red flags. Seems that the outer panel took the brunt of the impact, and the subframe mounting points were spared. 

Aside from the body damage, the car seems to have a "lumpy" idle. I haven't had much time to dig real deep into it, but I did a quick compression test and all cylinders came back between 155-165. I suspect a vacuum leak, but we'll see. If any e30 gurus on the forum have any suggestions on where to look, I'm all ears. 

The overall plan is to get this car ready for stage rally over the next 1.5 years or so. Ideally I'd like to run 100 Acre Wood Rally in 2020, which is traditionally run in March. Until then, I'll be working on the car to repair existing issues and slowly prep for stage rally. All the while re-learning how to drive RWD at local rallycross events. 

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
10/29/18 9:01 a.m.

It's been a busy few weeks with LSPR and selling my daily driver and getting a new daily/tow vehicle, but work has officially started on the e30!

 

I've been trying to sell off some parts to recoup some of my cost, and one of the first things to go was the window regulators. Since removing those left me without windows, I decided to bite the bullet and just swap the glass with polycarbonate. Bought a 4x8 sheet of lexan from Home Depot and got to work. Since most sanctioning bodies seem to require that you can demonstrate escape from the vehicle in the case of doors being stuck, the lexan on the doors is held in with a couple of 1/4" pins that can easily be pulled out, allowing the window to either fall into the door or be pushed out. 

I also picked up a set of used gravel tires and 15" wheels to use for rallycross. As soon as I tried to put on aftermarket wheels without hubcentric rings, I went straight to researching lug studs. I went with the Motorsports Hardware 78mm kit and so far have found the quality to be great. Time will tell how well they hold up, but I don't have any reason to doubt them. 

As my rockauto orders have started rolling in, I decided to throw in some new plugs because the old ones were pretty nasty. I'm a little concerned about the difference in electrode height, but the bosch plugs I ordered seem to be the recommended ones for this engine. Perhaps a previous owner swapped in the wrong plugs somewhere along the road. 

 

So nothing terribly exciting yet, but I have registered for a rallycross this coming weekend so I've got some work to do to get everything prepped. 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
10/29/18 3:25 p.m.

Nice! Welcome to the club. :)

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you on the whole coupe vs. sedan thing for rally, though....lol. Nobody seems to have any problem getting in our out of our sedan - even one-time passengers at rallycrosses. Unless you're a really big guy., perhaps., IDK. I'm 6' tall.  The main downside to the coupe is you essentially lose the entire back seat area for any function whatsoever once it's caged. Can't throw your helmets back there for those 50-mile transits (remember, race seats don't tilt forward to access the back), or put a gear bag back there. Or stick stuff back there to go to rallycross. WIth a coupe you're gonna have to use the trunk for everything.  We put a lot of gear in the backseat just for weight balance and convenience. 

Plenty of people do it, but other e30 guys who have coupe rally cars have often said to me "wish I did a sedan" for those reasons. Dan Downey  may tell you otherwise, IDK.  Coupes do look cooler ;)

A couple other thoughts that are probably stating the obvious to someone who has already rallied, but I'll say them just in case..

1. WRT to the pins....not sure how you have them secured, but I'd try to set up some kind of latch over the pin. IMO vibration definitely can work them loose and make them fall out. We have basically the same setup on our track e30, but we decided to stay with standard power windows mostly for the codriver's convenience factor at timing controls and how easily Lexan gets scratched on a rally car. 

- at service, make sure your crew somehow cleans them gently. If you just take a rag and windex to lexan with mud on them, you'll end up with seriously scratched-up windows really fast, which are annoying to try to look through on turns and stuff and damn near impossible to see through if the sun is shining from that direction. I've replaced our REAR windows three times due to excessive scratching, and that was with the "anti-scratch coated" high-end Lexan. 

2. We use the same MH studs and they've literally lasted about 7 years of rallycross/stage rally. I should probably change new ones in one of these days, but knock on wood we've never broken or stripped any off them (even when we broke two wheels hitting train tracks).  Make SURE you use loctite red on them, though. We've had them work loose on the track car (though never on the rally car, and I use excessive amounts of the red stuff). 

If you're on facebook, tehre are a couple e30 rally groups. The one we started is dirty e-thirties https://www.facebook.com/groups/dirtyethirties/, which has a ton of members from all over the country/world. Join up if you're there!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
10/29/18 3:35 p.m.

Oooh, this should be more fun than your old Jetta.

 

On the rear windows, I wonder if you could make Lexan ones and hinge them for rear cargo access- I agree with Josh that the rear seat of a coupe becomes useless once the cage and seats are in.  Both my rally cars have been hatchbacks and it can still be kind of annoying to reach stuff back there.

ValourUnbound
ValourUnbound New Reader
10/29/18 7:10 p.m.

I know the sedan horse is dead, but while I was at Tour de Forest, I saw Dirtfish use the rear doors to transport crew to refuel. Sure beats walking with two full jerry cans. I then proceeded to use the hatch of the CRX in emulation. It worked pretty well, but there's no way we'd get a second person back there. 

There are also space issues for getting into the backside of the seats. Why would this be necessary? Well, the driver/owner forgot to put the cotter pins back in the seat belts.

That resulted in this:

Could this be prevented with a sedan? Probably.

Anyways, back to the coupe build :)

 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
10/29/18 7:49 p.m.

I vote for keeping the coupe, but using a sawzall to make a Veloster-style suicide door on one side for rear seat access :)

In reality, I second Chris's idea of making the rear windows easy to remove for access to harness bar in particular. 

on the upside, e30 trunk is pretty damn roomy.

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
10/30/18 6:12 a.m.

In regards to the coupe/sedan conversation, I am planning on using halo seats so I think the coupe will actually offer some benefit. If not, oh well. The rear doors rarely functioned on the Jetta so I was used to not having access back there. We just had a big net behind the back seats for jacket/helmet storage. I'm planning on doing the same thing with the e30. Basically go from where the shoulder straps attach to the rear speaker shelf. 

I do like the idea of having the rear windows removable or being able to open them in some way. Might be as simple as a piano hinge and some sort of quick release latches. I'm just concerned about the window sealing with whatever system I come up with. The original plan was to apply some RTV and secure the lexan with a whole bunch of rivets. 

logdog
logdog UltraDork
10/30/18 6:27 a.m.
artur1808 said:

I do like the idea of having the rear windows removable or being able to open them in some way. Might be as simple as a piano hinge and some sort of quick release latches. I'm just concerned about the window sealing with whatever system I come up with. The original plan was to apply some RTV and secure the lexan with a whole bunch of rivets. 

I used a series of small machine bolts on our Champcar to keep the rear lexan removable.  It takes a couple minutes to pop out but faster than drilling rivets.  We dont use any type of seal and I haven't felt we needed one, even racing in the rain.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
10/30/18 6:33 a.m.

Maybe a piano hinge at the front and a couple of quarter turn fasteners at the rear?  The e30 has drip rails, right?  Should cut down on the water intrusion a lot.

Robbie
Robbie UltimaDork
10/30/18 7:20 a.m.

Cool! I remember your jetta and I think we worked a corner together at a rallyx this time last year. If you ever need crew let us know!

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
10/30/18 8:25 a.m.

In reply to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

That's roughly what I was imagining as well. However, I'm nervous that the top and bottom edges will bow out and create an air gap, especially once I get a roof vent and have positive air pressure in the cabin at speed. I think I'll plan on riveting them on for now and re-evaluate down the road. 

 

In reply to Robbie :

Right on! Which venue were we at for rallycross? 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
10/30/18 3:23 p.m.
artur1808 said:

In regards to the coupe/sedan conversation, I am planning on using halo seats so I think the coupe will actually offer some benefit. If not, oh well. The rear doors rarely functioned on the Jetta so I was used to not having access back there. We just had a big net behind the back seats for jacket/helmet storage. I'm planning on doing the same thing with the e30. Basically go from where the shoulder straps attach to the rear speaker shelf. 

I do like the idea of having the rear windows removable or being able to open them in some way. Might be as simple as a piano hinge and some sort of quick release latches. I'm just concerned about the window sealing with whatever system I come up with. The original plan was to apply some RTV and secure the lexan with a whole bunch of rivets. 

will be interesting to see your cage design. In ours, a helmet can't fit through from the front to the back (though maybe that's because one of our cameras is there, I forget). I would definitely suggest to go with plinth boxes in curved corners by the seat base, and not mount to the floor. I assume you've seen my build thread, and that's what we did there and it gives much better main hoop positioning than going to the floor. 

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
10/31/18 8:54 a.m.

Had my (new to me) used gravel tires mounted up on some cheap wheels I found locally yesterday.

 

The previous owner had installed some eibach lowering springs, but gave me the stock springs with the sale so I'm going to start with stock springs for now. I didn't have a ton of time to work on the car yesterday, but I was able to get the rears swapped, including some new Bilstein HD's. 

I was pleasantly surprised at how easily everything came apart and how simple this rear suspension is. Unfortunately the passenger side shock mount is blown out. Since we have a rallycross this weekend (weather permitting-fingers crossed), and the upgraded mounts wont arrive in time, I drilled out a couple of washers and I'm hoping this will survive one day of rallycross:

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/1/18 6:18 a.m.

Had enough time to swap one of the front struts yesterday and thought this comparison between the off-the-shelf Bilstein HD and KYB was amusing:

 

It sounds like plenty of people that rallycross/rally e30's are able to get by with Bilstein HD's, and I think this picture helps illustrate why. 

rothwem
rothwem New Reader
11/1/18 7:14 a.m.

The silly thing about that picture is that you're not really looking at the real shaft, that's the "bottom" of the shock.  If you unscrew the nut at the bottom and take off the yellow part, you'll see a skinny shaft just like the shock on the left.  

The reason bilstein HD's are so durable is that they're a really simple monotube design.  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
11/1/18 7:18 a.m.

In reply to rothwem :

Well yeah, but the difference is that the force from nailing a rut or rock mid corner is trying to bend that big shaft on the HD instead of the tiny one inside the housing.  WAY better for rally shenanigans.

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/1/18 10:08 a.m.

Right, I've always thought this design made more sense in terms of bending load. 

AWSX1686
AWSX1686 SuperDork
11/1/18 10:53 a.m.

Following! I like the pin idea for the front windows. I can't wait to see the updates to the design. 

 

I have an e28 that I am soon going to start getting ready for drifting and challenge car duties. I think Lexan windows will be in my plans too. Going for as lightweight as is cheaply possible.

rothwem
rothwem New Reader
11/1/18 3:42 p.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ said:

In reply to rothwem :

Well yeah, but the difference is that the force from nailing a rut or rock mid corner is trying to bend that big shaft on the HD instead of the tiny one inside the housing.  WAY better for rally shenanigans.

Yeah, I guess that does make sense.  I've always thought it was a heavier and sillier way to make a strut, but having two sets of bushings and burly shock body does seem like a better way to do things.  

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
11/1/18 10:20 p.m.

Yep, inverted strut is substantially stronger. I don't recall hearing any rally e30 guys ever bending one. They will last a few rallies unless you go huge on jumps like Nonack does :)

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/2/18 6:35 a.m.

Welp, unfortunately our rallycross this weekend has been postponed due to flooding at the course. On the bright side, my upgraded rear shock mounts arrived ahead of schedule. Out with the old:

 

And in with the new:

 

elhartspeedshop
elhartspeedshop New Reader
11/2/18 1:57 p.m.

Where did you get that rear mount?  Looks pretty beefy. 

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/2/18 2:17 p.m.
elhartspeedshop said:

Where did you get that rear mount?  Looks pretty beefy. 

https://www.turnermotorsport.com/p-3666-rear-shock-mounts-rsm-hp-aluminumrubber-e30-e36-e46-z3-z4-pair/

A bit pricey, but I figured if I'm going to replace it and it's a known weak point, I only want to do it once. 

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/13/18 1:34 p.m.

This car was originally an automatic, but thankfully the previous owner swapped in a manual. Unfortunately, some of the brackets required to mount the shifter linkage were missing so the shifter was way too loose for comfort. 

I went through the "typical" shifter rebuild process of bushings, washers, clips, etc. on e30's and made a small bracket to mount everything securely. Through a bit of research, I found that a shifter from a BMW X5 is longer on both ends of the pivot than the normal e30 shifter, resulting in a shorter throw, and a shifter that sits higher up. 

 

 

I am in the process of making a new exhaust for the car so I haven't had a chance to take it for a drive yet, but initial reactions rowing through the gears and making car noises in the garage are a night and day difference over what it was before. I'm getting very excited to get this thing back on the ground and go for a quick shakedown drive. 

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
11/13/18 1:37 p.m.

Forgot to include this in the previous post. But in case anyone here is looking to upgrade the shifter in their e30, here is a comparison of the standard e30 shifter (left)  vs. the X5 shifter (right):

 

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