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Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/4/20 1:41 p.m.

So, after a good bit of hunting for a relatively cheap, fun, stickshift car to drive around while I work on the Infiniti's many small issues, I finally found and bought a 2001 BMW E46 330Ci convertible.

Purchase price: $1500

I've for a while wanted another convertible (I definitely regret having sold the '88 FC3C), and the E46 'verts tick off all of the boxes I was looking for. Overall, this one is pretty clean, looks pretty good, and seems to be in shockingly good mechanical condition. It made the hour-plus drive back from Louisville where I bought it without any issues at all (beyond the cruise not working), and it handles incredibly- its aftermarket suspension goodies likely aiding that (more on that later). 

It's not without its issues- what I've found/know of so far is:

  • LARGE crack in the windshield, though thankfully it starts in the bottom center and runs toward the passenger side so isn't in the driver's main FOV at all
  • Tires are scary- see picture below. Like REALLY scary. 
  • Cruise control doesn't work. Checked the fuse and it's fine, likely culprits are the brake switch and the actual buttons on the wheel. Will likely pull a brake switch if I go up to the junkyard this weekend to see if it helps.
  • Seats aren't the greatest, as seen in the pictures. Not in a huge hurry to fix this, though if I can find some cheap ones in a junkyard that are good I might pull them.
  • Passenger side top drain is clogged- have already looked up how to fix this and will probably try some of the easier ways to resolve it in the next few days.
  • SES light is on- haven't hit it with a scan too yet
  • Airbag light is on. I'm 95% certain that the passenger-side airbag is disconnected given there's a small connector hanging down where the fusebox is on the passenger side. Will have to figure that out eventually.
  • Appears to have a bit of a power steering fluid leak- but given it's mostly where the cap is, I believe it's the seal on the cap
  • Driver's window may not seat quite properly when all the way up, it bangs a bit on hard bumps.

The good stuff:

  • Engine sounds awesome and runs beautifully- night and day from the E36 with the likely blown head gasket I drove last week. Only engine 'mod' I can see is it has a cone intake instead of the normal airbox
  • Clearly has some suspension mods- don't have a picture of them but it appears to have at least yellow Koni shocks and possibly lowering springs. Additionally, it has camber plates on the front end. I think it handles better than anything I've ever driven.
  • Transmission shifts perfectly. 
  • Top works great
  • Has HID lights that a stupid powerful, and appear to have been done well/professionally.

Overall, it looks like it will be a great little car to drive around with the top down. Given I got it for $500 under Challenge budget, it's not impossible that I could take it down if I wanted. I clearly wouldn't be very competitive, but it would still be fun. 


Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/4/20 1:45 p.m.

AWSX1686 UltraDork
3/4/20 2:14 p.m.

Very nice!

I had a 330i ZHP Sedan for a while, and while it had some issues, I did like it, and I actually kinda miss it. I recently got my buddy's automatic 323 e46 sedan for $750. I'm currently keeping an eye out for a wrecked 330 to grab the engine and manual transmission from to swap into the 323. 

Looking forward to see what you do with it. 

BoostedBrandon SuperDork
3/4/20 2:17 p.m.

I would definitely file this under "well bought"

Looks great!

Antihero SuperDork
3/4/20 2:32 p.m.



You weren't kidding in those tires, from the pic they don't even really look like rubber anymore.....I think they are technically "casters" now lol

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
3/4/20 2:45 p.m.


ebelements Reader
3/4/20 3:16 p.m.

Wow, that's an unbelievable deal for $1500!

wae UltraDork
3/4/20 3:23 p.m.

Those are probably the sketchiest tires I've seen on a running car!  For the money, though, I don't think you can beat it!  Nice win!

slowbird Dork
3/4/20 3:38 p.m.

Those hardened pucks of rubber have one good burnout left in 'em. devil

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/4/20 3:39 p.m.

So been hunting for wheels & tires.  

Going to run down to look at these after work: https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/2512274715689123/

Hoping I can get them down a bit- but even if not that's still about $50 less than I can get a set for from the junkyard and will take me a LOT less time to get (though I may still want to hit the junkyard to get some other things, like the seats). Slight potential hiccup is that the fronts have 245/40's on them and the rears 255/40's, and the 330Ci uses 225/45's on the front and 245/40's on the rear- so I'm not sure that the 245's on the front may be too wide and rub. BUT... the seller works at a tire shop, and said that they have others including 225's that they could swap on if they don't fit. 

My research says that the 245's will fit in the front with a stock suspension, but some aftermarket ones might rub... guess we'll have to find out if what's on mine is one of those.

Other interesting finds: Continental 225/45 17 Extreme Contact DR Racing slick tires - $50

Hellooooo autocross tires. Would mean if I took it to the Challenge the drag tires could be my free set...

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/4/20 3:52 p.m.

Since I had to put the top up since it was threatening to rain, took a picture of it as well. 

02Pilot SuperDork
3/4/20 4:48 p.m.

Those look like factory sport seats. They are worth recovering if you can do so for less than the purchase price of the car.

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/5/20 8:33 a.m.
02Pilot said:

Those look like factory sport seats. They are worth recovering if you can do so for less than the purchase price of the car.

Yeah, the car came with the ZSP Sport Package (kind of cool note, the car has all the original manuals AND the original window sticker) which included the upgraded seats.

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/5/20 8:33 a.m.

I ended up buying the $200 set of wheels & tires that was nearby. Unfortunately couldn't get the price down, and the tires are mismatched brands- but they should be infinitely better than the ones on the car and should allow me to drive it without fear of the tires disintegrating until I can get some nicer ones.

The plan is to swap them onto the car this evening- I really wanted to try and do it last night, but it was already dark and I wanted to be able to take pictures of the suspension, and the weather was such that I hoped to be able to ride in today instead of driving (I did ride) so there wasn't a huge hurry.

I'm really curious to get the wheels off and see what the shocks/struts look like- if I'm right, there's a good chance that this is what the car has on it along with camber plates.

I've thought about it a good bit, and I'm rethinking whether I want to go up to the junkyard this weekend. The tire situation should be resolved, so there's no critical need for that, and everything else that I could find/get is not remotely necessary for being able to drive the car- it's either appearance improvements or 'nice to have'/fun things, none of which I really need at this point, and I need more to get the garage cleaned up and the Infiniti in and out so I can finally start work on the DMC.


Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/6/20 8:23 p.m.

So, I got the non-scary wheels & tires put on the car and took some pictures along the way of the different mods that are on the car to be able to document them.

Here's under the hood, where you can see the K&N intake and the HID module for the driver's side. The passenger side is hidden between the wiper fluid tank (the car has the winter package so it has the headlight cleaners so I think that's why the wiper fluid tank is so ridiculously large).


Close-up of the intake & HID module. The K&N intake setup is pretty nice, though could be set up even better to pull only cold air. Can also see the camber plates.

Here's the HID module. Interestingly, the driver's side light has two small connectors (the ones with the white wire you can see in the picture above) that are not hooked up to anything, but on the passenger side these are- I'm not sure what these wires are for yet.

Shot of the adjustible camber plates, apparently from SPC. 

Shots of the front struts- Koni Yellow adjustible struts.

Rear shocks & springs

Shots of the rear & front springs- they're Eibach lowering springs. In my searching I found a package that comes with both the Koni Yellows and the Eibach springs, so it wouldn't surprise me if that was what they installed. The springs lower the car by about 1" all around.

I did some googling around, and as near as I can figure between the CAI, HID modules, camber plates, Koni dampers and Eibach springs if you were to buy the aftermarket mods new you would pay more for just those than I did for the whole car. Haven't gotten a chance to figure out whether the car has an aftermarket exhaust on it yet, but it wouldn't wholly surprise me if it did given the other mods.

Interestingly (and quite nicely) the car came with all of its original documentation including the original window sticker from 2001- showing that when it was purchased the sticker price for the car was over $45,000... I got it for less than the tax alone on the original purchase would have been.

I found that one of the yards up in Cinci has a nearly identical car (2001 330CiC) that they've only had in the yard for about a week now, so I'm planning on heading up there to see if it has some of the things that would improve this and to look over the other E46s to see if there's anything useful to be had on them (like strut tower braces, spare tire, etc.).

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
3/8/20 7:10 p.m.

So, the junkyard trip was largely a bust- and I actually hit all three of the ones I know of up in Cinci. The one with the 2001 convertible that had been there for just over a week was completely picked over with almost nothing of remotely any use left on it, which sucked. The only slight good to come out of it was that I have found a shockingly good condition set of replacement front seats- they're in a sedan that someone pulled essentially the ENTIRE charging system out of, so there's not an easy way to power up the car to move the seats such that you can get to the bolts to remove them. I have a plan though- I grabbed one of the car-harness-side connectors that goes into the seat, and plan to wire it up so I can just plug that into the seat and give it power to be able to move it. 

On the good side of things, today was sunny and in the mid-60s so when we went out to go to a dance performance several of the Dancer's company members were in we took the E46 with the top down, and it was glorious. She may give me no small amount of ribbing about having bought it because of having midlife crisis, but she definitely enjoyed riding in it with the top down so I'm counting that as a solid win. The 'new' tires work pretty well despite not being matched, so I think they'll do for a while. 

I was good while at the junkyards and resisted the temptation to pick up any additional wheels- it was tempting to pick up two more of the stock ones to be able to put drag tires on and find another 'donut' front wheel to be able to put drag fronts on, but since I'm still not certain of taking the car to the Challenge or not I don't need to be spending the money- OR taking up the space in the garage while I'm trying to clear crap out of it...

Aaaaaand I just realized I'm a complete berking idiot and TOTALLY forgot about snagging the brake light switch from one of the E46s to see if that's the problem with mine's cruise control not working. BEEEERK. Oh, well. I'm going to be keeping a close eye on the inventories at the different yards in hopes of catching one right as it shows up...

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
6/16/20 11:49 a.m.

Haven't really done anything to the E46 other than driving it around (a lot) since the Infiniti is in the garage, but I finally broke down and made the appointment to have SafeLite replace the windshield. For better or worse they've come back as the most cost-effective way place to do it- I'd have loved to not have that $270 in my budget, but I'm far from confident of being able to do it myself (either getting a replacement one out of a junkyard care in one piece or properly installing it into the car) and unfortunatey not replacing it isn't really an option. That will considerably limit what I have left in the way of budget for performance enhancements, but I wasn't really expecting to be able to do much anyway so if I bring it to the Challenge it will at most have a few more handling enhancements (I probably have the budget to make some chassis stiffening elements) but won't be able to do much of anything enhancing its power.

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
6/23/20 9:17 a.m.

Safelite replaced the windshield on Saturday... the car looks kind of weird to me with a non-cracked windshield, but it does look nice. Hopefully the Infiniti will be back on the ground and mobile in the next few days so I can get the E46 into the garage to try and replace the VANOS seals that make the throttle rather unpredictable at times.

OjaiM5 Reader
6/23/20 10:48 a.m.

I recently had a 330i manual and have to say it is a really well balanced car. Perfect amount of power to have fun with but not die.

Cooling systems and suspension bits always need to be redone after 100,000 but it looks like maybe PO has taken care of some of this on yours. Nice find!

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
6/23/20 11:46 a.m.
OjaiM5 said:

I recently had a 330i manual and have to say it is a really well balanced car. Perfect amount of power to have fun with but not die.

Cooling systems and suspension bits always need to be redone after 100,000 but it looks like maybe PO has taken care of some of this on yours. Nice find!

Thanks! I've been really enjoying and plan on it sticking around for a while- it's rare that I find something that I both really enjoy driving and that my wife doesn't complain about riding in. :P

The suspension is definitely newer, and the PO said they'd done the usual cooling system updates- so once the VANOS is back to behaving normally it should be good for a while.

OjaiM5 Reader
6/23/20 12:29 p.m.

Oh one last thing. To do a huge smokey burnout is pretty difficult. You have to hold down the  dsc for like 5 seconds until two dash light come on to disengage traction control completely. I would do this and then shift from first to  second gear and the car would re-engage the control and smoke the clutch. Also when launching the car if you go too hot it will do the same thing. A little too much override in my opinion, makes for a stinky clutch for a few days. 

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
6/23/20 1:01 p.m.

In reply to OjaiM5 :

When we went out and looked at it KYAllroad disengaged the traction/abs to do a burnout as a test. Ironically, about 1/3 of the time when I fire it up the traction/ABS will be offline and the lights will be on- this has led to some accidental burnouts when I've pushed it a bit harder than planned (and the VANOS has decided to give me more power). 

I suspect unhooking one of the ABS sensors would 'permanently' disable the system for track runs...

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
7/6/20 9:36 a.m.

Got the VANOS back together and the rest of the engine re-assembled yesterday. Hopefully the new VANOS seals will resolve the issue with the inconsistent power band when accelerating and the new valve cover gasket that was put in while doing the VANOS work will eliminate the smoking (the gasket was very definitely in need of replacement, it was pretty much hard plastic instead of the soft rubber it was supposed to be.

Hopefully today I'll be able to finish flushing the coolant system and get it back mobile again to start breaking in the new seals... I'm having to take a bit more time than planned on the flush because I'm pretty certain that the last time it was done it wasn't done with the BMW coolant that was supposed to be used and I don't want any bad reactions between whatever was in there and the real stuff (which annoyingly doesn't come premixed... you'd think even the dealer tech would prefer premixed...). 

trumant (Forum Supporter)
trumant (Forum Supporter) Reader
7/6/20 2:27 p.m.

That's a great point about flushing out the old coolant. I did not do that when I made the switch in my E36, but I was also installing new rad and overflow and when I drained the old coolant, I used both coolant drains on the radiator and the block.

Not sure if the E46 likewise has multiple drains, but might be worth considering using the block drain. I got quite a bit of coolant out that way when I did mine.

Ashyukun (Robert)
Ashyukun (Robert) UberDork
7/6/20 3:46 p.m.

In reply to trumant (Forum Supporter) :

Yeah, I'm going to be using the block drain as well and backflushing it to get as much as possible out.

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