klodkrawler05 Reader
6/11/19 12:24 p.m.

Finding this car started with a Facebook message from a friend, one of those friends that you constantly swap links to bad ideas for sale. 

I had been casually looking for a suitable GRM challenge car since I'd already agreed to make the trek down to Gainsville with xflowgolf this year and taking my own car sounded more fun than watching someone else play with their car.

In this case the ad was one of those "this could be a really good deal or it could be a complete hornets nest" most of the listing photos looked like this:

However this photo piqued my interest, no signs of quarter panel rust. shoddy repair job? diamond in the rough?

The marketplace listing was pretty scant on details.  From the photos I counted at least 3 different wheel diameter/styles on the car.

Checking the buyer's profile out I discovered we had a mutual friend (my brother in law) using that connection I was able to get more info about the car. It ran well but the automatic goes into limp mode, sometimes after 3 miles, sometimes after 300 miles. Often enough it was no longer deemed suitable to drive. It had been parked, battery poached for a different project and with no battery it needed a trailer, hence not running.

The car looked reasonably clean from the terrible photos and I wasn't worried about the transmission limp mode, a manual swap fixes that!

I brought a battery along to fire up the car just to check that it ran and evaluate the motors condition. To my surprise it fired up immediately and purred away without any of the usual valvetrain noise or blown head gasket smoke that I associate with e36's. 

The car was even nice enough to avoid going into limp mode long enough to drive onto the trailer!

with a bit of negotiation I wound up spending $350 and drove away with a clean chassis and these extra 17" BBS looking wheels.

There's not actually still snow in Michigan, but I promised Mrs. Klodkrawler 4 months ago if she conceded to let me buy this car I wouldn't start wrenching on it until I graduated from school. Well, exams are next week, so I thought I should get a build thread started and up to date before I really get going on the project!

DirtyBird222 UberDork
6/11/19 12:36 p.m.

Nice buy! Look forward to see where you go with it. 

AWSX1686 SuperDork
6/11/19 12:45 p.m.

Sweet! Great starting price.

spacecadet HalfDork
6/11/19 3:26 p.m.


I was wondering why you weren't nose in a book. very well carry on. 

looking forward to watching this over the summer

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
6/11/19 5:33 p.m.

Kick ass! I love those wheels 

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
6/11/19 6:44 p.m.

Gastropod and then GLTC? So make it a normal-ish car now and then tear it all apart when you get home?

Lof8 Dork
6/11/19 7:05 p.m.

Nice!  I enjoy a cheap e36 myself!

klodkrawler05 Reader
6/11/19 9:52 p.m.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :

yup that’s exactly the plan! Get as much of the drivetrain sorted as $2k will allow, while keeping it a useful car. Shake down this summer/fall. Then over winter remove the interior, add safety equipment and go racing!


klodkrawler05 Reader
6/13/19 1:39 p.m.

I'm reasonably good at turning wrenches and bolting parts together, but neither I nor my 2 current team mates can weld. That puts crazy challenge appropriate motor swaps out of the question. However we'd still like a bit more power than the 189hp this car left Germany with some 200,000 miles ago.

To that end, Facebook once again came to the rescue! Per Patricks reply in this thread: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/2000-challenge/budget-question-with-parts-lot/154079/page1/

So we now have a $80 S52 donor motor. While fundamentally it's the same engine that's in the car already. We gain variable intake timing, half a point of compression, some more aggressive cams and .7l of displacement. All in that nets roughly 50 more horsepower!

One "small" issue and part of why the whole parts lot was so cheap, the  previous owner began to refresh the car this motor came out of, including installing a lightweight flywheel. Turns out reusing the factory hardware instead of the included hardware isn't a great idea.

Thankfully before the car was ever driven he attempted to turn the motor over by hand to TDC to perform a vanos rebuild and discovered the motor wouldn't turn, investigating the only change (flywheel) lead to discovering the issue.  

I've contemplated simply knocking the edge of the main cap down ever so slightly and then putting a new bearing in and checking the clearance. If that works it would save machining cost and free up budget for other things. On the other hand...if it doesn't work, and the motor spins a bearing on track I'm back to square 1 with 189hp again. So I think we'll sacrifice the budget hit and get a line hone done and all new crank/rod bearings in the name of reliability. 

The machine shop that provided the most reasonable quote mentioned that it would cost extra if the motor needed to be cleaned first. And it definitely does:

About 2 hours alternating back and forth between a stiff wire brush and a air hose gave me a reasonably clean surface, then I ran over it with my wire wheel to get any of the really stubborn stuff. It's not really good enough to paint yet, but it's significantly better, so now I can move onto disassembly (once my vanos tools arrive)

I'm still researching the best/easiest way to clean off the grungy aluminum parts and very open to feedback if someone knows a good way. I've spent entirely too long researching how to build my own hot tank. But that might be overkill?

klodkrawler05 Reader
6/13/19 1:43 p.m.

apologies for the huge pictures, I'm not sure what I did differently this time.

spacecadet HalfDork
6/13/19 1:46 p.m.

In reply to klodkrawler05 :

Pictures look fine on mobile! Seems like the right plan on the motor. Looking forward to watching it move to the next step. 

klodkrawler05 Reader
6/13/19 2:04 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet :

Thanks! I was inspired by your cleanup of Hazmat, I don't think the transformation on the motor will be quite as awesome but, clean parts are more fun to work with anyways.

klodkrawler05 Reader
6/16/19 6:50 p.m.

I've been trying to give myself 1 hour to work on the car every night before bed, it's not a lot but I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of work I can get done in an hour.

Yesterday I got the engine stripped down to a short block, hopefully my next hour I can get the rotating assembly out and ready to head to the machine shop. 

I did break one of the timing chain guides during removal, looks like that will be an unexpected $11-12 hit on the budget.


Today I spent an hour during daylight doing some scrubbing of parts to try out a few cleaners, this home depot branded citrus stuff works reasonably well:

It's not hugely impressive work but I think it will make re-assembly much more enjoyable.

klodkrawler05 Reader
7/16/19 10:27 a.m.

New post exactly one month later! I'm behind where I hoped to be at this point but yesterday I finally dropped the block off to get repaired and the head to get inspected and make sure it's in good shape.

According the machine shop they should be ready to pick up early next week. if that happens, I can begin assembly next week and potentially start working on the swap next weekend!

spacecadet Dork
7/16/19 12:59 p.m.


Glad you're moving forward now.

xflowgolf SuperDork
7/16/19 3:19 p.m.

will be interesting how cheaply a motor can truly be freshened up like that.  machine shop tear down certainly opens a can of potential worms.  Hoping for the best!

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