Ah yes, that time again. It’s not my M3 if it doesn’t involve rebuilding the Vanos at some point.
Yet another issue that was discovered on the car was that there were signs of oil leaking from the bottom of the vanos solenoid cover. This is a clear indicator that the solenoid seals are beyond their useful life.
I can’t make this stuff up, I really can’t. I found out why the Vanos isn’t working, and it’s not what I was thinking…
I did it again, swapped a perfectly good and nice to drive car for something that needs buckets of work. Some say I’m a sucker for punishment, others may say I do it for the posts. Me, well, I say why not both?
Related Project Links
I put the Schnellwagon up for sale a couple of weeks ago to see if I would get any bites on it. Despite it being a very nice car to drive, and very fast, I just didn’t really find it that fun, as the only fun you could have was to go fast, and I can’t risk my license like that.
I had heaps of interest, and a couple of offers of different swaps for the wagon. One of them was for a nice looking E30 325i, but unfortunately the seller decided to just keep wasting my time until I pulled out of the deal (it’s a long story). The other was for this car.
It’s a 1996 BMW 328i, but not your normal 328i. This one has had a full M3 conversion, so is very similar to my old silver M3 mechanically.
This car had won awards at a couple of shows over there, for being so well presented. When he moved over here, he decided to bring his beloved M3 with him. Unfortunately for whatever reason, he wasn’t able to register his M3 here in NZ (front impact and emissions laws come to mind), so ended up buying a complete Boston Green Metallic NZ New 328i, stripping it, and transplanting the complete M3 over to this shell. Everything from the Vader seats, the full engine and driveline, suspension, and brakes, to the wiring harnesses, were swapped over. There are a couple of parts that couldn’t be transferred over, like the rear subframe mount reinforcements in the floor, and the original dash cluster had an issue so was replaced with another M3 cluster (so the KM no longer match to either the donor car, or the shell).
Both cars being 1996, obviously everything is just a bolt in job, especially when you have a whole car to pinch bits from. It’s a very comprehensive conversion, and for the most part it looks like a real M3.
The previous owner also carried out some pretty serious work recently, like a new head gasket, timing chain/tension and having the head cleaned up. Unfortunately as easy as it would have been to do the Vanos at this point, they didn’t. More on that later.
We did the swap yesterday, after he took a very long drive down to Wellington from Auckland, and drove back in the wagon (what a different return trip that must’ve been for him and his family, bringing an old E36 coupe down and heading back in the comfort of an E91 wagon!).
Unfortunately not everything is right with the car. There was a few things I expected, or he mentioned, but I’m constantly finding more and more issues the longer I look at the car that I wasn’t made aware of. We did come to a deal that worked for both of us, and should give me enough headroom to get the car back into shape without sinking under mounds of parts bills.
The biggest issues I have noted so far, is that the clutch bites right at the floor (and even then the pedal is bent off to the left, and hits the dead pedal), and the Vanos is as dead as a dead thing and its running VERY flat down low. The idle is also rough with a misfire, so I’ll need to do some digging into that, maybe linked to Vanos?
Other smaller issues (and all ones discovered after I had taken ownership), but still not cheap to fix
The good first
Good condition interior (except steering wheel where all the leather has been removed)
Tidy exterior (and Boston Green is a stunning colour!)
Smooth gearbox and quiet engine (other than some Vanos noise)
Head gasket and timing chain recently done, with head professionally cleaned up
So far the issues identified are
Vanos is dead. No power below 4000rpm, and can hear the usual grumble/rattle. (Kinda fixed)
Starter doesn’t always engage first time (free spins and engages when key is released, and then will start next try) (Fixed)
Passengers window only goes up about an inch at a time (Seems to have fixed itself for now)
Ignition barrel sometimes free spins (Fixed)
Airbag light stays on a long time before going out. Codes for passenger occupancy sensor (Fixed)
Shifter bushings well and truly gone (Fixed)
A high idle (Fixed)
A vacuum leak (Fixed)
Headlight low beam not working on one side (since fixed. Fuse)
Oil cap hemorrhaging oil (Fixed)
All exterior rubber seals badly perished
Driveshaft coupling cracked and falling to bits (Fixed)
Clutch bites at the floor and the clutch pedal is offset/twisted to the left (Fixed)
Washer bottle sensor failed (Fixed. Sensor upside down)
No ext. temp sensor connected (Fixed. Grabbed one from Pick A Part)
Gearbox selector shaft seal leaking (Fixed)
Hose clamps missing or loose on fuel lines under car (Fixed)
Front LH tire losing pressure (Fixed)
20″ wheels rub on all four guards (Also Fixed)
Muffler hangers loose (Fixed)
Throttle stop badly adjusted so no WOT (Fixed)
Worn out and perished throttle cable (Fixed)
Aux fan not working (Fixed, fuse)
One real surprise I stumbled upon today was that the cluster in the car, is the actual cluster from the donor M3. The reason for this surprise was that the seller claimed in a phone call that the car didn’t have the M3 cluster (it had the 328i cluster installed) because the original M3 cluster had a “backlight issue and was hard to see at night, so it was sold”, but he managed to source another genuine M3 cluster from a friend, albeit with higher KM (He claimed the M3 had about 220,000km on it, the original 328i about 190,000km and the “sourced” cluster, 299,000km). Imagine my surprise when I was playing around in the BMW INPA diagnostic software and found the VIN the cluster was originally coded to when new…. and it matched the VIN of the donor Daytona M3. Some twisting of the truth going on there…
At the end of the day it’s all stuff I can deal with, and should lead to some good posts, but bit of a pain to have to fix all this before I can get to the good stuff…. mods.
One of the best things about this car not being a “real” M3, is that unlike my old “real” one, I can mod this car without feeling like I’m messing with something special. So all the mods I wanted to do to my old one, I’m going to try to do to this car.
They would look awesome on a 5 or 7 Series, but the 3 Series, especially the E36 is just a bit small for them.
I need to get them off the car to check width and offset, and then they will be for sale. I’m going to try to get some nice 17 or 18 inch BBS or OEM M3 wheels instead.
Anyway, so the car is a 1996 BMW 328i with full M3 swap. This means 3L Straight 6 engine mated to a lovely ZF 5 speed gearbox and mechanical LSD. Its got all the usual M3 features, like full Onboard Computer, rear blind, Motorsport suspension, bigger brakes, and Napa leather interior with Vader seats.
The previous owner also had a full sound setup in the boot with two amps, a capacitor, two big subwoofers and some awesome tartan fabric. The OG 00s flip up touch screen headunit will be going though, I have a nice single din JVC unit to go in that has Bluetooth and all the usual bits.
It’s a good car under it all, and good bones. I just need to do some work and unleash the beast that I know is hiding in there.
Oh and yes, there will be more Vanos posts soon. Hopefully it goes better than last time!
Some more current photos
The Torneo was gone and I had money burning a hole in my pocket. In my travels, I came across a few good looking cars, but the one that really stood out was a certain E39 BMW at a dealer in Lower Hutt.
I went and took a look. The dealer wasn’t that great to deal with, initially treating me like scum and acting like I was too poor to afford the car so was reluctant to let me test drive it. When I did drive it though, I was very impressed. It was solid, it was smooth, it was comfortable. It was typically BMW. Not the fastest car on the lot, sure, but it was in decent shape.
I roll back and talk to the dealer, he isn’t impressed when I say I want the car but it needs a new warrant on it. He starts to argue that the warrant is current, but I don’t care, I want a new one. He quickly changed his tune when I pulled a wad of hundreds out of my pocket and said I would put a deposit down now and the rest when I pick it up with its new warrant. Still, being a smarmy prick he proceeds to agree but claim “it won’t fail on anything anyway”.
Well, it failed and needed a few little things, including a puncture repair for the new warrant. It got sorted but still had some issues, but the dealer wasn’t having a ball of it. I ended up taking the car, but won’t touch that dealer again with a barge pole.
It was an OK spec Japanese import. Had my favourite interior, the half alcantara grey. It was Motorsport spec, so had the lower suspension, bodykit, alloys and sports seats and steering wheel. No parking sensors or metal interior trim though, just weirdly out of place woodgrain. I did grow to like the wood. It also had the tiny retro 4:3 display in the dash, which when I got the car was dead. Only showed a white screen. Sourced a replacement and it was easy to fit, giving me back control of the system.
I eventually upgraded to the newer wide screen 16:9 display, but never got around to doing the control units to make the image fit properly.
This was the first car I rebuilt a vanos unit on. When I got the car it had a terrible valve cover leak, and the vanos would cause it to have a really rough and unstable idle on a cold start, and would be undrivable for a minute or two when cold. I purchased the bits from Beisan Systems and followed their instructions. Wasn’t too hard to do, and didn’t need any special tools.
After that was rebuilt it idled and drove great. certainly gained some power back too. No more cold start issues which was a huge bonus.
The E39 is a favourite for me, one of the best looking BMWs and a car I would like to own again. I would need a bigger engine though, as the 525i/523i (mine was labelled a 525i but was actually a 523i with a similar engine to my E36 and future E46) was not powerful enough in this chassis, making it feel too heavy and labouring up hills. An M5 would be ultimate, but they’re out of my price range for a few years yet.
The lack of power was one of the main reason I sold this, it just wants enough.
Update 8/3/20 – This car is currently on the road with Reg/WOF.
So, the parts arrived today, all the way from Germany. Woot.
Since the vanos unit was done, I moved onto the anti-rattle kit.