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mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/11/21 11:00 p.m.

Hi everyone!

I've been a reader of Grassroots Motorsports for a while and recently fell into the rabbit hole known as this forum. Too much good stuff and I am now considering buying a Bridgeport mill and swapping a motorcycle engine into a small British sports car. Help???

Anyway, I'm going to try to commit to actually sticking to a build thread for once. This will be the build of my 1995 M3, which over the last ~18 months I've built from an almost-fully-stock daily driver to a logbooked racecar.  Spoiler: the project is complete and as of today (Aug 11) I've done 5 successful track days in the car. You can see up-to-date pics on my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michael_slevin/ 

Background: I've had a few E36s, most notable of which is this, my 1993 325is:

 

 

This was my daily-driver-turned-track-car (we've all been there). It was a ton of fun, with overfenders, a gutted interior, rebuilt cammed S52, bolt in rollbar, Ground Control coilovers, and yes, those are BBS RE686 from the factory E46 WTCC cars. The long story short is that the car had some issues, I wasn't confident in it, and as I was going faster and faster on track, my level of safety wasn't scaling with it. After just a single session at Laguna Seca with braking issues, I went home and decided it was time to build a new car.

In January 2020, I bought this M3 from a friend. 

The car is a 1995 M3, 5spd, black on black, Vaders, slicktop (yeah I'm a spec guy), no options, ~225k miles. It had KW V3 coilovers, a bluetooth headunit, and a subwoofer in the trunk that wasn't bolted down to anything. It was perfect! I did catch some flak from some fanatics about cutting up such a nice car, but it had a good life, and now I'm giving it a new one.

I drove the car around for about two weeks. In that time I replaced a corded tire, a completely destroyed RSM, and a VCG that was absolutely pissing oil. It was so nice to drive that I almost decided against cutting it up, but thankfully I persisted...

 

February 8th, 2020. The beginning of the end for both of these cars in their current form (and also the beginnings of a global pandemic but let's keep things positive!).

It was very nice for 225,000+ miles! I invited a few friends over and we, along with my dad (who played a huge part in this project), made it less nice very quickly.

 

How many images can I put in one post? Can I double post? What's the etiquette here?

 

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/11/21 11:38 p.m.

Just to clarify- I have about 1500 pictures of this build so far, so I'll be just pulling out some highlights. If anyone really wants to see all of them, I can probably figure out some kind of public photo album.

 

Onwards with the teardown! A lot of this stuff comes out pretty easily.

My dad and my friend Paul talking "engine removal strategy". At one point Paul asked me, "Want me to pull the engine?". I said "sure, just pull it out really quick". Within 30 mins he had taken the thing from running to ready to be pulled. It was impressive and kind of scary. Of course, none of the engine harness was labeled, but all can be forgiven in time. smiley

 

There's a LOT of wiring in an E36. I think people (including myself) forget that these weren't super raw stripped down sports cars, they were fast luxury coupes with heated seats and surround sound. 

Even right now I can feel how nasty and sticky all the wiring was. BMW wraps a lot of their wiring in fabric tape, which degrades over time and leaves sticky residue everywhere. It really makes removing the harness, or any kind of semi-major wiring repairs, kind of annoying.

There's me, your humble narrator, pulling the dash! This was a big moment. As you can tell, behind the dash is a warzone of harnesses and sub-harnesses and HVAC. 

Next was the heater core which was a HUGE PITA! Here's a tip: if you have to replace a heater core in one of these cars, just sell the car and buy a new one. Pulling the core took and long time with a lot of curse words and smashed fingers.

This was the end of day 1, around midnight. I was posting items for sale as we tore them out, and someone had requested the full carpet. It was in really nice condition, and apparently it's difficult to find good quality black coupe carpets. The problem was that he wanted it uncut, in one piece. After he had agreed to my kinda-high price and put a deposit down, we spent the time to take the carpet out carefully. It was worth it in the end $$$$.

 

The next morning, it was like an E36 bomb had gone off in the driveway. 

 

A full E36 M3 coupe chassis harness lays threateningly next to my old car. It's your turn next!

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 12:10 a.m.

Less than 36 hours after we started, the entire interior is out. Time to start removing sound deadening. Ugh.

 

Honestly the sound deadening wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. A combination of scraping, hammering, heat, and dry ice was the trick. The dry ice was the biggest help. Here's the tip: buy pellet dry iced (from a welding supply shop, no idea why they have it) and mix it with rubbing alcohol into a slurry. Let it soak, and scrape that stuff off!

 

After a long evening of removal, we have a not-very-exciting cardboard box of sound deadening.

Progress in the trunk and passenger compartment. I don't know why the steering wheel was in the trunk.

 

The sound deadening leaves behind a sticky residue a lot of the time. We tried a whole bunch of different products, but I found that the best method was to use Goof Off (or Goo Gone? Can't remember) "Pro Adhesive Remover Gel". Spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe it off. The gel can leave its own residue which is a pain, but any basic solvent removes that.

 

Time to pull the S50!! Another careful removal, as I already had a buyer lined up for the motor. My preferred method here is to pull off the front end- the whole thing unbolts and there are 2 small spot welds on the frame horns that you need to drill out. 

 

Up.......

And out!!! Ignore all the spilled fluid...that was uh...someone else.

 

Pushed the car onto the driveway to pressure wash the very dirty engine bay. I used a spill mat underneath to try to catch most of the grime. Storm drains flow to the Bay, gotta keep things clean!!

 

Next up was glass. The side windows just unbolt and come out easily. Door glass will be addressed at a later date, but at this point the doors are unbolted and are off the car.

Pulling glass is on my list of things that I "probably should pay for, but wanted to try it myself". I was able to pull the front AND rear windshields by myself, which TBH I was surprised by. Thank you Harbor Freight for making windshield removal tools that are juuuuust good enough. It helped to use a large suction cup to tie the cutting wire to, feed it around the windshield, and then pull it through. The rear I don't think I even used the wire, just the cutting tool.

The front windshield was already cracked and got worse when pulled, but the rear windshield came out undamaged, which was nice as I was planning on putting it back in (plans changed later on).

 

My dad, carefully cutting out all of the old glue, because he likes to do things properly. I do too, sometimes.

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 12:44 a.m.

When viewing this picture, please image hours of cutting and grinding sounds and being covered in metal dust.

 

We decided to cut pretty much everything out of the car that we didn't need, which was everything?

This is my grinder. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

The seat arrived, just in time for us to load up and take the car to get caged! At this point its February 18th. About 10 days after we started.

 

Random pic of of the interior of my old E36. Not sure why this was in the album, but here you go.

Last shot of the car at home without a cage!

Loaded up! The car was so easy to push onto the trailer, it was hilarious. In this state it must be 1500lbs?

The car is unloaded at the cage shop, Marcus Fry Enterprises in Redwood City, and we immediately start to have bad ideas....

A few days later, the first critical component of the build arrives: a lightly-used AiM MXL2. When I started this build I knew the interior should be focused around a digital dash, with few other distractions. Hard to explain just how excited I was (and still am) about this. This exact dash has been in my mind for years, I was so happy to finally have one!

 

Next up: gratuitous cage build pictures. This part is important:

My real goal was to build a new car that was as safe as possible, which included a full rollcage. When I was planning the build, I knew that if I had all this safety equipment, I might as well build the car to compete in a specific class, and I decided on NASA ST4. It's quite popular in my region (NorCal). The cage was built to meet all NASA CCR and ST4 requirements, while being as safe and strong as possible. That inclues subframe tie-ins, front shock tower connectors, etc. 

There was a lot of consideration put into the cage design for my size too. I'm 6'6" and rougly 300lbs- nothing is easy for me, especially fitting into caged racecars.

Very slick AiM dash mount

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 1:23 a.m.

Next up: paint! I have to preface this section with this: the paint on the car was in worse condition than it looks. Lots of scratches and clear coat failure. Because of that, and the fact that the plan is to wrap the car at some point, I decided to not do a very good job masking the car. I will live to regret this. Oh well.

LET'S DO IT!

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My paint of choice. Over a year later: it's just okay. The finish isn't shiny which is nice, but it isn't as durable as I'd hoped. The nice thing is that it's cheap and is available in spray cans and quarts/gallons. If I had to do this job again, I'd have a shop paint the car. I did call around for quotes, but no one local wanted to do it, I don't think any of them understood what I was asking for.

 

Cleanup and prep

It begins!!

 

Fist coat done. We ended up doing 3ish coats total.

Painted the AiM dash mount red for some ~flair~

Day 2 of paint. A hard lesson learned: wear more PPE. I ended day 1 covered in a fine layer of white paint.

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Painting the engine bay to match the interior for extra racecar points. The tops of the shock towers are masked off because of some cracks we only found after the cage was done. I wanted them repaired and didn't want to have to grind through new paint to weld them up and install the reinforcement plates.

 

Shortly after paint was done, we started pulling out the engine from the 325is. Goodnight, sweet prince!

When we swapped it, this engine only had about 500 miles on it. I had built it the year before. Engine specs:

OBD1 swapped S52, fully rebuilt, mostly stock with coated bearings, all new timing chains, etc. Schrick 264/256 cams, 3.5" MAF, 21.5# injectors, SuperSprint longtube headers. Nothing too fancy.

Hovercar mode. Sitting next to my daily driver, my unicorn wagon. 2003 325iT 5spd, RWD, sport package. No it isn't for sale!

 

Had to make some bad memes along the way

Here we goooooo. We can pull these pretty fast at this point. Ignore the hammers on the ground. ;)

Donor and recipient

Fixing a small but embarrassing issue...a sensor wire trapped between the block and the bellhousing. Note the mask, it's already mid May at this point. Doing this build thread all at once is making me forget to keep everyone updated on the timeline. The cage took a while, and I'm living in Oakland at this point while the cars are in Sunnyvale. Finding time to work on it wasn't easy.

Check out those headers! Yeeeeeeow! I love those things. I had them ceramic coated and polished, so they looked really good when I initially installed them.

 

 

The motor is in! Unfortunately it will be quite a while until it runs again.

Slippery
Slippery UberDork
8/12/21 5:40 a.m.

Good to see you here. I followed this build on IG. 

There is no limit to how many pics you can put on each post. 

Go_Gators (Forum Supporter)
Go_Gators (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
8/12/21 5:49 a.m.

awesome! look forward to the rest.

Lof8 - Andy
Lof8 - Andy SuperDork
8/12/21 6:47 a.m.

I like a good e36 build.  Keep it coming!

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/12/21 11:30 a.m.

awesome

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 12:20 p.m.

This is where the project hit a plateau for about 6 months. I was living in Oakland at the time and having the car an hour away and a full-time job meant I rarely had time to work on the car. Hoping to fix that, If found and rented some warehouse space in West Oakland. This turned out to be kind of convenient, but kind of not. It was a small piece of a huge warehouse, and loading the car in and out was a huge pain. It was kind of a hackerspace/artspace with lots of Burning Man people. Everyone there was really nice and helpful, but for a varitey of reasons I never got over there to work on the car. The pandemic was partially to blame, as well as becoming insanely busy at work. The progress slows down here massively, and I only have about 30 photos for a 6 month period. In the end it was nice to have a dedicated, relatively large space to myself, and I did get some fun stories out of it.

It all started on a bad note, as on the day we were meant to tow the car from my parent's house to Oakland, my Yukon XL was stolen, used to rob a liquor store, and then ditched and burnt to the ground. I have a video somewhere of the thing basically exploding. Thankfully it was all covered by insurance, but my favorite hat was in there. Still bummed about that one.

Got the car moved into the warehouse. Again, it was an interesting place. Friendly people though!

As I made slow progress on the car, more parts were arriving. Cartek solid state isolator and another one of my dream parts- a CAE shifter. This was meant to be a budget build, but that didn't really work out.

Getting the car into the air to pull all the suspension off of it. 

Brakes are off. I was going to swap in the 330Ci setup I had on the last car, but I decided that a stock M3 setup would be simpler, and I'll likely put a BBK on the car at some point. The KW V3s that were on the car were in decent condition, I think they had about 15,000 miles on them. I had planned to actually keep those on the car, and once the car was running, slowly add better suspension, brakes, aero, power, etc. I thought about it a lot and decided to just do everything all at once. With my last E36 I struggled with the fact that something on the car changed between every track day, so I never got super comfortable in the car. There's no one to blame but myself there, but in this case I decided to avoid that happening again. Build a fast car, and learn to drive it.

I really wanted to not use any used parts on the car- again, because of issues with the last car. New Bimmerworld brake lines helped address that.

Starting to mock up power controls and fire suppression. I'm using an AutoRodControls ARC-8000 relay board and switch panel, and an ESS AFFF suppression system. I moved these things around a lot before deciding on the final positions. Bending the aluminum lines was kinda fun, much easier than brake lines.

We had left the rear parcel shelf unpainted, and I painted it matte black to avoid glare (it looks shiny here, just because its fresh paint).

Using all of my imagination to try and see how the interior will come together. The steering column is in, but I ended up having all kinds of issues with it. That went in and out countless times, with rebuilds and swaps and adjustments and everything. More details later.

 

Subframe out for a full refresh.

Subframe explosion!!

Starting to figure out how to wire this thing. Historically I've been not-great at wiring, so I decided to make myself better and force myself to rewire the whole car. This car has none of the original chassis harness in it except for fuel pump pigtails. I learned a LOT, wasted a lot of material, and I think things turned out alright in the end.

Thinking about controls mounting.

 

To be honest, this was a pretty low point for me. The car has been sitting for months, I'm barely looking at it. More than a few times I strongly considered selling the project or putting it in storage long term. Sitting in the car with some things mocked up really helped me focus on the vision and it got me excited enough to keep working on it.

 

More parts arriving, one in a very large, long box, possibly related to one of our forum supporters??

 

And the most expensive bundle of wires I've ever bought. Any guesses as to what this is for?

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 5:13 p.m.

You guessed correctly! The car is getting a Mk60 ABS system from a late model E46 M3. This is near motorsport-grade ABS, which can be run fully standalone in almost any vehicle. Some quick details:

  • Mk60 module from a late model E46 M3
  • E46 M3 master cylinder and reservoir
  • Z3M S54 brake booster. This is the "missing link", and allows you to use the standard E36 M3 pedal with the E46 master cylinder. There are other options, but this is the most bolt-on solution.
  • Standalone Mk60 harness from 3DM Motorsport (pictured above)
  • 2x pressure sensors in the master cylinder
  • 4x wheel speed sensors from an E46 M3. These bolt up to the E36 no problem.
  • Some kind of bracket to hold the module
  • Adapter lines from master -> module and module -> body hard lines

This early model E36 originally had a 3-channel Mk20 ABS system, which means there's only a single pressure line to the rear of the car, which then splits. I took the rear line from the orange car and ran it back with the original one on the M3. Bent the lines in the back and added some couplers, and that's solved.

You can see my early mockups and V1 of my bracket below. It's important to keep the module on rubber isolators to reduce vibrations.

 

Fast forward: October 2020, I've moved to Berkeley and finally have a garage where I can work on the car! Time to move out of the warehouse.

You can see that I've made some small progress on wiring, with the killswitch and main battery cables run at this point. This pic makes the amount of overspray really obvious, too. Oh well.

 

Thank you to my friend Max for helping me move the car with his X5 and very nice Futura trailer. It kneels! No ramps! Frickin magic. There was some drama when we were moving the car, including me having a very stern yet polite conversation with a guy who seemed like all he wanted to do was stab me. Thankfully a small bribe resolved the situation. Good times.

Eagle has landed! The car is home. This is my garage, its narrow but quite long, there's probably another 10ft in front of the car right now, with a full workbench area. Good enough for me. Also note just how dusty the car was after sitting in the warehouse. Partially from just sitting, partially because that warehouse was insanely dusty for some reason.

A quick wipe down with quick detailer fixed that.

 

Remember that rear parcel shelf that I spent all that time masking and painting? Yeah, I decided to cut it out. It's hard to describe just how much of a pain this was. It probably took me 20 hours. If there wasn't a cage in the car it'd be a 2 hour job, but I just couldn't access most of it.

After trying to do it nicely and cut out all the spot welds, I snapped and just hacked it up.

 

~20 hours, 10 cutoff wheels, 3 flapwheels, 10 finger sander belts, 2 spot weld cutters, and a very dusty garage later...

 

We had previously taken out the glass and regulators from the doors, but I spent some time doing some more cutting, trimming, and cleaning to get them as light as possible. Spoiler: these get replaced later so this was kinda wasted time. Anyone need some coupe doors? LMK

 

This is Hugo, my neighbors cat. Very friendly, not very good with a wrench. 

 

Now its the end of October, and I dive headfirst into wiring and controls. This is the chassis harness side of what the engine harness connects to. I ended up only using a couple of these wires. You only need power to 2 pins to run these motors: #8 and #22 I think? Basically ignition power and starter. My goal was to keep it as simple as possible, and I depinned and pulled everything I didn't need.

Pedal assembly is in! My accelerator pedal broke upon removal, so I put in an alunminum adjustable pedal from Hard Motorsport, which came with nice brake and clutch pedal covers.

More interior work, with the fuse block and relay board mounted. At this point I've decided that I don't want any controls in my eyesight while driving part from battery cutoff and fire handle, so the switch panel will go on the cage above my head.

The nice rug in this picture truly saved my knees here. Working on the interior of a caged car is not fun. You'll also notice that the paint doesn't look as sexy as it used to. You're right! Everything got dirty in the warehouse and this appliance epoxy can be hard to clean. Trying not to care that much (and now, in present day, I don't care at all).

 

Some day I'm going to build my own engine harness. These things are super bulky- I considered stripping this down but decided to make life easier and leave it unmodified for now. All the sensor connections aren't actually visible in this pic.

Engine harness octopus attackling the engine bay

 

Mid November 2020 now, spending some time messing around with the AiM dash. 

 

For reference:

Had to make a mount for my Cartek killswitch. I actually had this switch fail randomly, thankfully Pegasus Auto Racing sent me a new one the same day. I can't say enough just how good their customer service is!

 

And the real version!

 

This Harbor Freight finger belt sander quickly became one of my favorite tools. Lifehack of the day: slam it into the vise and you now have a small, cheap bench belt sander. Really really useful!

It's all coming together now! At this point I'm at peak excitement about the project. It was meant to be done in May 2020. Looking back now that timeline was hilariously impossible for me unless I had quit my job and hired 3 people to help me.

 

The motor is assembled and cranking! It just needs the fuel system installed and maybe we can get this thing started.

 

Ever tried installing an E36 fuel tank, on jackstands, by yourself? Don't. It sucks.

cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
8/12/21 5:23 p.m.

Cool project! It's cool to see someone else local on here, too. That warehouse looks suspiciously like one I visited recently to look at a Mercedes 307 D, but it was wayyyyyyy too big of a project for me.

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 5:29 p.m.
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) said:

Cool project! It's cool to see someone else local on here, too. That warehouse looks suspiciously like one I visited recently to look at a Mercedes 307 D, but it was wayyyyyyy too big of a project for me.

There definitely may have been a Mercedes hidden in there. One of the more interesting projects there was the 2002Tii, covered in junk. I tripped over a crate one day, and met the owner the next day. He told me that crate, and a couple others, had S14s in them, either blown up or waiting to be swapped in. surprise

cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
8/12/21 5:34 p.m.

It would have been hard to miss cheeky

Lots of cool stuff hidden away in the East Bay. Hope to see you around at some car stuff!

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/12/21 5:46 p.m.

Woah! Yeah that's the same place! Small world. That van wasn't there when I was, that's super cool. Highly recommend checking out the distillery next door.

Agreed, there are all kinds of good projects/bad ideas around here :) 

adam525i
adam525i Dork
8/12/21 8:35 p.m.

I knew that was a MK60 harness, for about 3 minutes I was thinking about how cool it would be to have that system in my E28. Then I realized it was more of a project then I wanted to take on (even though no more flat spots would be great) and just installed a proportioning valve instead lol.

If you haven't figured it out already 3M cubitron belts are the ticket for those harbor freight finger sanders, they chew through welds like it's butter with them.

Project looks great so far, looking forward to the rest.

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/13/21 12:33 a.m.
adam525i said:

I knew that was a MK60 harness, for about 3 minutes I was thinking about how cool it would be to have that system in my E28. Then I realized it was more of a project then I wanted to take on (even though no more flat spots would be great) and just installed a proportioning valve instead lol.

If you haven't figured it out already 3M cubitron belts are the ticket for those harbor freight finger sanders, they chew through welds like it's butter with them.

Project looks great so far, looking forward to the rest.

Well if you think you ever want to do it, now is the time! The parts needed for the swap have seemingly almost doubled in price in the last year. 
 

I will definitely check out the 3M belts. The HF ones definitely don't last very long.

Glad that everyone enjoys the thread so far! There's lots more to come, as well as some exciting videos coming soon. 

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/13/21 3:43 p.m.

Warning! This post will be full of cool pics of sexy suspension components! Not suitable for children or those who are considering buying new suspension.

 

As I mentioned before, the plan was to use the old KW V3s (great suspension!) for a while to get the car up and running, and then buy some "real suspension" later on. Yeah screw that.

I called up TC Design, a local race shop well-known for their very fast very winning cars, and said "I have an E36, I'm building it for NASA ST4, I'll have this aero and these tires". A few weeks later I showed up with a (large) envelope of cash and picked up a set of components that I never really thought I'd own. For me this is the stuff of dreams.

MCS 2 way remote reservoir dampers with true rear coilover, Eibach springs, Ground Control race camber plates

'95 M3 knuckles (96+ would've been preferred for their higher KPI, but these will be fine for now) with Ground Control bump steer kit and a custom TC Design roll center correction kit.

A WHOLE BOX OF GOOI​​​​​​DIES! Ground Control adjustment tie rod ends, Ground Control monoball RTABs and FCABs, and a variety of OEM joints and bushings. I was almost weeping at this point.

Brand new 96+ LCA with modified outer ball joint. There's a slight geometry difference between the 95s and 96+ LCA, which affects caster.

From what I remember: 95 M3 and non-M LCA, combined with offset FCABs, yield the same caster that 96+ LCA and a centered FCAB do. More caster is more gooder here. In my case, I'll be running the 96+ LCA and an offset FCAB, for all the casters.

Another look at the knuckles.

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A whole workbench full of new suspension parts. I've been a car guy for a long time, and this was really a huge moment for me. I never thought I'd be in a position to be able to own parts like this. A huge thank you to Tony and Joe at TC Design for answering my infinite questions and helping me along the way.

Also dug some old-but-unused CondorSpeedShop polycarbonate side windows out of storage. These include a NACA duct cutout on either side, which I later decided I didn't like and made my own windows (...and then changed my mind again and decided I wanted the ducting).

This is my workshop, almost all of it. Prepped for battle, about to start installing and refreshing suspension components. It isn't a ton of space but I make it work! Its also very messy most of the time lol.

First up, rear trailing arms. These needed new RTABs, wheel bearings, and upper and lower joints. My dad and I bought a HF 12 ton press a few years ago to do subframe bushings on my wagon- it doesn't get used much but when you need it, there's nothing that can replace it. It was invaluable for the next few steps. O'Reilly's tool rental is also super helpful, I have a wheel bearing press kit from HF, and that combined with a variety of kits from O'Reilly made this go somewhat smoothly.

If you don't have a hydraulic press and are doing jobs like this, buy one. If you don't have the means to and are in the Bay Area, message me and you can borrow mine!

 

Some parts of these would've been much easier with two people, just to help balance parts. Here I'm pressing out old wheel bearings.

Rear trailing arm explosion!! I got both of them stripped down to clean up and paint before installing any new parts. Never reinstall dirty parts!!!!! Ever!!!!!!

 

For those following along at home: its currently the end of November in this picture. The goal is to have the car driving by the end of the year.

 

The hard part of getting a lot of these bushings out is just finding the right combinations of dies and receivers. Are those the right terms? You know what I mean. This is a rear upper control arm, I'm pressing out the outer bushing. I'm using a 23mm socket to press, and using some black pipe fittings as a receiver. A few times I just brought parts down to OSH and went through various pipe fittings and found things that'd work. This turned out well, but I ended up basically destroying that threaded fitting. 

 

A closer view of what's going on here. This is "grassroots", right? That means no judgement, right? :) 

Rear suspension components are torn down! You're looking at two rear trailing arms and two upper control arms. The uppers double as spring carriers, which are moot for me now as I'm using a true rear coilover. The lower control arms were junked and are being replaced with some nice Bimmerworld race adjustable LCA.

 

RTA prepped for paint. This doesn't need to be perfect, just better than it was. Wire wheel for any nasty spots, wiped down with acetone, and paint. 

Parts being painted in my high end custom paint shop, AKA on a piece of cardboard in my backyard.

mmm shiny! I used Rustoleum High Performance Enamel for all the components. Comes in a big can, sprays nice, and is very durable. Stays tacky for a while so let it dry for a day or so before attempting to really handle the parts.

 

Knuckles are given the same treatment

 

Here I will give you a tutorial on assembling a knuckle for a 1995 M3. This is also applicable for 1992-1999 non-M models and 96+ M3s.

First step: lay out all your parts.

Second step: put the parts together.

Easy! Let me know if there are questions and I can walk you through the steps again.

This is really the part of the project where things got more expensive than I had planned. The suspension was big money, and doing things like all new wheel bearings aren't cheap either. At this point I realized that I need to do it right the first time, and not hack it together over years like the last car.

 

Moving on to rear trailing arm assembly. This is tricky, so make sure you follow each step carefully.

First, lay out your parts.

 

Second: assemble those parts, and a bunch of parts that weren't in the first picture.

 

Easy!!

It felt good to get these jobs done. For the longest time I thought I just didn't have the skills to do it, but here's something I learned a lot during this build: you shouldn't tell yourself you can't do something until you try it. I just started on the job, and it went relatively smoothly! A few things had to come in and out a few times, antiseize went everywhere, the basics. If I had to, I could do all of this again in probably less than half the time.

These old Powerflex FCABs were a pain in the butt to get out. I probably should've used the press but didn't for some reason.

New hotness! Here you can see the offset nature of the bushings. These are fully servicable and rebuildable joints.

If anyone wants more info on how I put together my incredibly insightful tutorials:

 

WOW SHINY!!

Need to find a good spot for these reservoirs. I end up just zip tieing them to the core support. Not great...but it works.

 

I don't remember what was happening here or why I pulled the steering rack out but it looks stressful.

 

 

Rear suspension going in.

 

Looks good from this angle, even with the blurry pic! The subframe and diff were taken from the orange car. The subframe and RSB mounts have been reinforced previously, and there are AKG 75D poly mounts everywhere. I didn't bother changing those out, they looked and feel fine.

The diff is a 3.91 LSD that I rebuilt a few years ago, with a 3 clutch upgrade. Poor man's supercharger!  I painted it red for extra horsepower.

 

Next job: brakes! I rebuilt the stock M3 calipers. Cleaned up, new stainless pistons, new seals, brass caliper guides, new stainless braided lines.

 

PFC08 pads front and rear (jesus these are expensive wtf) and Zimmerman blank brake rotors.

 

At this point it's Christmas! I got an ultrasonic cleaner, which meant within 24 hours every small bracket and nut and bolt in the house was shiny and clean.

Before and after 10 min in the ultrasonic, without any wiping!

 

Magic!

 

I got the CAE shifter installed, which took me a while because I mounted it a lot farther back than most people do, just because my seat is so far back.

It took me a while to get the adjustable DSSR (dual shear selector rod) set to the right length.

Nice

 

Other things going on around this time: I got a big box of AiM harnesses, connectors, and sensors. Goddamn this stuff is cool but expensive!

 

I also ordered slightly too much wiring loom from ProWireUSA. At least, at the time I thought it was too much. I've used up most of this now. Another thing I learned along the way here: always order more than you need. Wiring components, materials, bolts- just always order an extra 25%. I absolutely love McMaster-Carr, and at this point there was a delivery of something arriving every few days.

 

So it's Christmas, and the plan was to have the car driving by the end of the year. Will he make it?? Will the car explode??? Tune in next time to find out!

 

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
8/15/21 12:50 a.m.

Again, all of this happened in the past and I'm updating whenever I have time now. If anyone wants to know more about any parts of this, let me know! Happy to spend all my time talking about this project.

 

The answer to "Will he make it??" is no, he won't. The end of the year was very busy with work and Christmas and the global pandemic so the project timeline took a hit again. Oh well!

Its December 31st and I'm working on the Mk60 install. This is now the 4th or so iteration of the bracket, and this is the one that is in the car now. The Mk60 install is relatively straightforward, with the trickiest part being these adapter lines.

 

You need lines to go from the master cylinder for the module- for these I used -3AN adapters and some short stainless braided lines. Flexible and vibration-resistant. You also need adapter lines from the module to the body. All of the lines on the car are M10 flares, but the Mk60 uses two M12 and two M10. Obviously the master also doesn't bolt up to the standard brake lines, so the adapter lines fix that too. These took me a looong time, and I went through a whole bunch of tube and flares. My biggest piece of advice here: buy a nice flare tool. I shelled out about $300 and bought a really nice hydraulic one- it makes the flares fast, easy, and consistent. Just like the hydraulic press, if you want to borrow it, let me know. 

Some unions fit up the adapter lines to the chassis hard lines.

Things get dirty fast in the engine bay.

 

I had a torn boot on one of the axles (passenger side based on my labeling there), so I took it upon myself to reboot it. Not too bad of a job, just messy. The hardest part was the clamp.

BMW uses a specfic type of oetiker clamp that doesn't have the squeezed ears. Maybe it isn't an oetiker clamp? You squeeze the two ends together and there's a tongue piece that locks into tabs that stick up on the other side. Anyone know what I'm talking about? 

Anyway, I could not for the life of me get this clamp on. There's a specific tool to do them, and I didn't have it and couldn't find it. I bought a few new sets of tools and pliers, and modified those and some that I had. No dice. In the end i used a similar sized standard oetiker clamp, with the ears that you squeeze together.

WELL!!!! Let me tell you, that was a BAD MOVE! A little while later, I had the axles all bolted onto the car and the passenger side (the one I rebooted) wouldn't turn. Oh no. It'd turn about 90deg and then CLUNK and stop. Nothing obvious was wrong, so I assumed I had somehow badly messed up the wheel bearing install. I ended up overnighting a new wheel bearing AND hub, at great expense, and got it swapped out. Got it all back together and........same thing. Axle would spin then CLUNK and stop. I climbed under the car again and took another look. 

Turns out that there's very little clearance between the axle boot and the rear trailing arm casting for about 1/4 of the rotation of the axle. I had used this non-OEM clamp, and the ears on the oetiker clamp were protruding too high up and were hitting the rear trailing arm.

UGH!!!!!! 

I took the axle out and hit the ears of the clamp a bunch until it flattened, and reinstalled it. Holding up fine so far. 

-------

The standalone wiring harness for the Mk60 ABS has its own OBD2 connector on it, which is kinda funny to me because the ABS has a more advanced OBD system than the rest of the car does.

I installed INPA (a BMW diagnostic tool) on my laptop and got it hooked up to the ABS. Everything looked good! Using INPA you can read and clear codes, view statuses of sensors such as wheel speed and brake pressure, and mostly important, bleed the ABS system. There's a specific bleed procedure you have to go through with this ABS. It isn't hard, but without a single person you need a long extension cable and have to carry the laptop to each corner of the car as you bleed the brakes. TBH, it feels pretty cool to be connecting to my ABS system with a laptop. We're doing real racecar stuff now!

This is the yaw sensor for the ABS. It's a little interesting, as some say its critical, some say you only need it if you're running full traction control, and some say it "helps" the ABS. I had the part and the wiring harness had a plug for it, so in it went. This is on the front of the rear seat shelf. Some say it should be here, some say under the driver seat, some say all kinds of thigs. This is where I put it. Yes the bracket is slightly too narrow but that's just because I measured wrong. Yes- I am an imperfect being, I know it's difficult to believe.

 

This is a very mediocre photo of the first custom sensor I made for the AiM dash. I like to read my coolant temps in the side of the head. In the past I've used an M12x1.5 VDO sendor, but AiM doesn't make a similar size. They make 1/8 NPT and similar, but I don't like using adapters for temperature sensors, as I believe the sensor should be in the flow as much as possible.

For this, I found this site to be incredibly helpful: http://www.eatsleeptinker.com/2015/09/21/custom-oil-temp-sensor-for-aim-mxl/

the TL;DR: use a GM temp sensor, cut up an AiM patch cable, and make your own sensor. This is the sensor I used: https://www.bmotorsports.com/shop/product_info.php/cPath/129_142/products_id/1598

That site also sells the pigtail, which is pictures here. This was pretty simple, but required some precise soldering. The wiring on the AiM cables is quite thin and those bastards are like $70 each. Worked great though! Ballenger also provides data tables for the sensors, which makes creating a custom sensor Race Studio very simple.

I had a set of Aerocatch hood pins to go on, which I had been putting off for a while. After being inspired by a local shop on instagram, I made these hood pin brackets that bolt to the OEM hood latch location. Aerocatch pin location really comes down to personal preference, and I liked mine here. These brackets make the install pretty simple too (but I didn't get around to actually installing the pins for a while longer). Maybe I should remake these out of steel someday. hmm.

 

Status update: January 8th, and its starting to look like a car again. I was trying to find a replacement for the coolant "spider hose" that runs under the intake manifolds on these cars, and you can see here that I tried a variety of hoses, none of which were the right size. I ended up just cutting up the stock hose, and plugging the parts I don't need. That hose handles a few things: coolant return to the expansion tank, coolant to the heater core, and coolant to the throttle body. BMW ran coolant through the TB in these cars to help prevent icing in cold conditions. A good thought, but not really a problem for me, so that got chopped. I obivously don't have a heater core, so that got chopped too.

 

I'm still using a standard full-size battery, which uses a crappy bottom mount bracket that doesn't work well. Some long pieces of allthread, some nuts/washers, and piece of flat steel bar turned into a battery hold down pretty fast. I covered the steel bar in some big heat shrink I had, to keep it nice, to better hold things in place, and to avoid shorts if it were to come into contact with the terminals. I should point out that it isn't fully bolted down in this picture.

In the foreground you can see the big main fuse I've added to the car. Everything is fused on its own, but this is just in case. There is a cover that snaps on over the whole thing, just not pictured here.

 

Earlier I mentioned that I kept the rear windshield in one piece during removal because it was going to go back in. Yeahhhhh changed my mind. I bought a bunch of really nice abrasion resistant 1/8 lexan from McMaster. This was exciting because it was delivered via FedEx freight, though it felt a little silly to have a huge truck on my street for a guy just to unload this little cardboard thing.

In the end I measured wrong and this wasn't big enough for the rear windshield. WHOOPS! I did use it to make some lightweight side windows, so it was a happy accident.

 

Interior progress. Lots of wiring, lots of zip ties. You can see the switch panel mounted overhead.

 

I hope you're hungry because its time for some MEAT!!!!!!!! This is the stickiest tire I've ever driven on. Another big exciting moment when these arrived. Tires mean it'll be driving soon...

Mounted on 17x9.5 APEX Arc8. I love these wheels.

If the back of the car looks like a Suburban, it's because this is a Suburban. I finally found a solid replacement for my Yukon XL (RIP, still miss my hat). 

The new tow rig and crap hauler: 2001 Chevy Suburban 2500 LT 6.0 RWD with barn doors! Dream spec. Yes I'm weird.

That pic was taken at Thunderhill a few weeks ago. In literary terms, that is called foreshadowing.

 

I added a radiator duct, as I had none of the original plastic ducting left. This part is from Kinematic speed, and its very nice. Installs in less than 30 min, is very solid, and fits tight up to the radiator and bumpers. Highly recommended!

 

Gratuitous engine bay pic. Check out that gold foil! You know who else uses gold foil? NASA. Just sayin'.

 

-----

I'll end this post with one of my favorite parts of the car and a piece of unsolicited advice: don't take yourself too seriously. We're all in this for the fun of it, and it's easy to lose sight of that. 

Turbine
Turbine Reader
8/15/21 6:11 p.m.

I've been following this build on Instagram for a while now! Glad to see you over here!

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
11/15/21 1:44 a.m.

And we're back!! Apologies for the long delay. Another spoiler: at this point I've done over a dozen successful track days in the car, including over 250 laps of Sonoma Raceway. OK! Back to the updates...

 

This is what the todo list looked like on January 17th, listing what needed to happen to get the car running and somewhat test-driveable. Some big things, some small things. Lots of messy handwriting.

 

While reinstalling the engine harness I found a semi-broken ground strap on the injectors. Glad I found this, as it was almost concealed within the casing and could've caused some nasty issues down the line. I cut the wire a few inches up and repaired it with a solid crimp and a new ring terminal. 

 

And the moment we've all been waiting for....the first start of the S52 in this car!! It might not show in this short video but I was very excited about this. Checking oil pressure, checking for smoke out the back, give it a quick rev, all good. Here you can also see how large of a human I am, and you can imagine how tricky it is for me to fit into this car. :) 

 

It wasn't perfect. I had some leaks. This is the "spider hose" that runs under the intake manifold, which I've "modified" to remove the heater core and rear head coolant loop. It was leaking, but it turns out that an S50 crank bolt is the perfect size to plug the hose! Yes I did end up changing this out later (for a slightly smaller bolt).

 

Test fitting the wheels. Hmm. Rear fenders are going to need some work.

 

I think we can all agree that this looks pretty frickin sick

 

You know that cool aluminum radiator duct I installed? Yeah well the first time I took the car off the jackstands I dropped it too quickly and the duct landed on the jack handle. It's worse than it looks in the picture. WHOOPS. 

Starting to look like a car again

 

Prepping for the "test drive", I put the old wheels on. Here it's obvious just how bad the alignment was at this point lol. I put very little effort into getting the alignment right as I knew it was all new parts so that may be futile, and it was getting aligned before any real driving anyway.

 

This is me, very tired, after 2 very fully days of thrashing on the car to get it running. It ran, and it drove (up and down the driveway). This was a really happy moment for me, as you can tell by my tired-and-dirty-but-happy face.

 

And the resulting chaos in my small garage. 

 

Just about a week later started my saga of getting the brakes working, feeling good, and NOT LEAKING. This was a "saga" because it took me months of on-and-off leak chasing. At this point, the pedal just didn't feel great, and would slowly sink to the floor once depressed (press -> firm -> slowly sink). I decided to bite the bullet and buy a brand new E46 M3 master cylinder, which I think  was $300-400. Not fun, but I really wanted to get the brakes right on this car.

For whatever reason, I hate brake fluid. With a passion. I hate getting it on me, I hate the feeling of it, I hate how it damages paint. Everything!!! So knowing that, you can understand that this process of swapping masters was a nightmare. I drained all the fluid that I could from the reservoir, which of course was somehow only 75%. I undo the fittings and they immediately start pissing fluid. The master leaks the whole way to the bench. The wooden workbench is now saturated.

 

 

New master ready to go in, but I have to bench bleed the thing. This was attempt #1, with soft hoses running into the reservoir. This worked well until I carried it over to the car and the hoses slipped and dumped fluid all over the engine bay and engine and everything, UGH. You can see in the background what I used for attempt #2: spare brake line and fittings, shaped to fit up and into the reservoir. This worked well enough. After lots of swearing, the new master went in and the pedal feel improved quite a bit. I still have the old one, not sure if they're rebuildable or not.

 

Peekaboo! It's Aerocatch time. Very stressful. I didn't do a great job, but they work.

Ignore the badly mounted nose panel lol

 

Jan 24th. Spent some time refining the door cutouts and I made a "drag" style door handle. Push the big red thing forward to open. It worked really well! Also added some door edge moulding stuff to the sharp edges around the inside of the door.

 

This picture annoys me. Just thinking about the steering column annoys me. I went through about 4 of them in this project. The car originally had an adjustable column, which I wanted to keep, but later decided against it. Here's what I learned: using an OEM steering column, without using all of the OEM mounting brackets and hardware and other stuff can be really hard. It took me a long time to get the right parts, modified correctly, with the right bearings and snap rings and preloads and shims and mounts.

I've fully rebuild my steering column (twice?) and the steering shaft still wobbles a bit. I should've just put a Woodward steering column in it.

 

Front end on! Lookin fast!!!!!

 

I bought way too much polycarbonate from McMaster-Carr and cut some windows. I actually had a set of polycarb windows for the car, but they were thick and had NACA ducts in them, which I didn't want.  They mount with five 3D printed brackets around the outside, and two bolts with rivnuts into the B pillar on the leading edge.

Cutting smooth curves in polycarbonate is hard, ok!!!!!

GasTungstenArc
GasTungstenArc New Reader
11/15/21 7:36 a.m.

Thanks to this forum's rules, I no longer know when somebody is talking about an actual E36 M3.

enginenerd
enginenerd Reader
11/15/21 7:47 a.m.

Man I'm not sure how I missed it earlier but I love this thread (apart from the stolen, bombed out truck sad)

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
11/15/21 10:45 a.m.
GasTungstenArc said:

Thanks to this forum's rules, I no longer know when somebody is talking about an actual E36 M3.

hahaha. Yeah just to be clear this isn't a "E36 M3" racecar, it's an E36 M3 racecar! 

mslevin
mslevin New Reader
11/15/21 10:46 a.m.
enginenerd said:

Man I'm not sure how I missed it earlier but I love this thread (apart from the stolen, bombed out truck sad)

Thanks!! And yeah, that was a real bummer. Finding it the same day was kind of a silver lining, I'd rather have it all over with than me wonder about it for months. 

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