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jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/15/20 11:12 a.m.

Like a good story, this one started many moons ago.  Many, many moons.  I was a young buck and started to catch pieces of this new thing called "drifting." I gathered all of my pennies and dimes and looked for a cheap manual rwd car that would be powerful enough to drift and reliable enough for me to drive to and from the track.  I ended up with a 96 sn95, which was probably the single worst car I could have bought to accomplish my goal.   After a year of suffering with that underpowered, no-turn-radius yet glorious-sounding animal, I bought a grey-market s13 and retired the GT to daily driver status.   

After a few years of driving it around and liking it as a daily, it began to not want to pass smog. It did, but just barely, so I decided to sell it, but told my new wife that I had every intention of replacing it soon.   Well, a bit of marriage advice, replace it first.

As time passed, any mention of getting another car was met with increasing skepticism.  I was okay with this, but still yearned for a cool little car to drive around instead of my truck.

About that time, I came up with the idea of starting a drift school that would piggyback on the stunt driving school I had worked at for a decade.  I would only do it for friends, and it might help promote my young career.  First things first, I need to get a car!  I figured I'd get another s13 to complement mine, but I figured I might as well get something street legal that I could drive around when I wanted to.  The s13's are too weak stock, and there are no smog-legal options I know of to remedy that so I broadened the search net.  We had started our family so I figured while i was at it, I should find a 4-door in case I wanted to haul the kid(s).  There weren't too many 4-door, rwd manuals that weren't $$$ but I heard that there was a short-run on e36 sedans and, knowing that they drift pretty well, I looked for one of those.


Found one on a forum in San Franscisco, and ended up working out a deal with the guy that seemed perfect. He was going to drive to San Diego in a few weeks and could just fly home.  So that's what happened.

I'll forego the frustrating part where he never showed up and didn't answer his phone because he decided to drive down to san diego instead and figured he would drop it off on his way home.  It was also missing a bunch of stuff he said it came with ("Couldn't find that..." "those wouldn't fit." "uhhhhh....." ) including the title.   In retrospect, I should never have taken the car, but in spite of him being a somewhat less-than-honest guy about several things, he did mail the title and I became the clear and complete owner of a 98 m3 sedan.  

Shortly after getting the car I did some hard thinking about doing a drift school and decided that I would have to charge my friends way too much to make it worth my time. Luckily all I had done to advance in that direction was buy the car, and it was then that I remembered that I still had to replace my old mustang.   Problem solved!

I drove the car a lot for the first few months, loving that I actually owned a fabled ///M car.   But over time, i drive it increasingly sparingly as it ended up being easier to just jump in our 05 prius that got 50 mpg and wasn't blocked in down our single-lane driveway.

Then I had a problem that should have been simple but ended up really being an ordeal that continues to perplex me.  The alternator went out, and it took me a while to find one that would work. There are two different styles of mount on the bottom and either can work, but I wanted the style that came on the car. After visiting about 4 different auto parts stores, I located one that worked.

At the same time, it wouldn't pass smog and seemed to be the cats. I was smelling a rotten egg smell from the right rear of the car. Weird, as the exhaust is on the left, but that sulfur smell is indicative of bad cats I was informed. A friend lived about 40 minutes away and had just pulled the motor out of his e36 coupe to make room for a LS.   He said I could have his exhaust, so I took the m3 with the new alternator over there to get them.   

I got to his house and the smell was powerful. I popped the trunk and saw the battery steaming. And smelling. Like horrible, very rotten eggs.  Hmmmm....  This seems like a situation that could get really bad really fast.   I borrowed his multimeter and reluctantly fired up the car.  16 volts.


I loaded up the cats, no longer sure that mine were bad . I figured mine still are likely bad based on the smog numbers and hoped they would fit but not sure as his was a 2-door and mine was a 4-.   I then decided to drive it home instead of a tow because I take dumb, unnecessary risks sometimes.

I got home without incident and promptly removed the alternator.   I then put the car on stands and it sat for a month or two while I swapped out the exhaust and fought with autozone about the alternator and the damage. The battery seemed fine but the stereo no longer worked.  

I ended up getting the car back together after a while and triple checked the charging voltage.  After driving for a little while, I also discovered that my little OBC (on-board computer) no longer showed any functions that required a speed input (max speed, range, miles per gallon, etc) and that my cruise control had stopped working.  

I also got sick of cleaning off the tree sap that continually fell on it, so I just left it, knowing we were about to move and that I would just clean it all off at once once we got to our new place.


jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/15/20 11:12 a.m.

I swapped the exhaust (it bolted directly in) and to my dismay, a check engine light came on.   The scanner said that ALL 4 of my new (and not cheap) o2 sensors were bad. What????   I talked to my brother (who is far smarter than I) and told him that I had put the new Bosch sensors in and all was good, then I swapped the mid section and the light came on immediately. All the connections were good; I just couldn't figure it out.   

As soon as I told him I used my awesome new cordless impact wrench on the bolts he said I had made a big boo boo.  The sensors are pretty sensitive and the percussion of the impact slamming those stuck and somewhat rusty bolts off would surely have damaged them.   Apparently ALL of them.   So I had to suck it up and order 4 new ones.   Light off, pass smog, all good.

We moved to our new place and with a crazy work schedule and a lot of house work I left the bmw in the garage.  For the next 4 years I rarely drove it. In fact, smogging every two years showed me that I had driven the car less than 500 miles a year for several years.  Contributing to its abandonment was my obtaining a c6 z06 that I had been spending some time with.  My wife had not-subtly not-even-hinted that we should sell the bmw because it wasn't being used.  I just love the car for some reason. For no good reason.  It's a great little car but I don't even drive it.  How much could I actually like it?

I decided to sell it.   This was the time when craigslist was going to start charging for vehicle listings. So I figured I'd just toss it online right before they implemented the fee to see what kind of interest there was.   A pretty much bone stock m3/4/5 in good shape is actually worth something.   

Pics from the ad:


I got some interest, but nothing serious and by the time the ad expired I had left town on a job and ultimately forgot that I was going to sell it. 

There was a clunk coming from the front and I decided to just go for mass obliteration. New oem Sachs shocks for all four corners, new tie rods, new upper strut bearings, and rebuild kits for all 4 calipers to complement the new lca's that the po had just put on the week before I bought it, about 5k miles previous.

In the meantime, my brother picked up a beautiful hellrot orange/red m3/4/5 and it made me appreciate these cars a little more. Mine had been basically stored on the lift for the last 6 months.  It had a leaky tire that I was tired of filling every 2 days and I didn't like shuffling cars around to get it out, so I had just left it.  In my covid cleanout of the garage, my eyes fell on it and I realized I should sell it to both simplify my life and clear out some space.

I took it down, and after 6 months of collecting dust, I reconnected the charged up battery and the thing fired up  before it had even turned over a full revolution and sat there, idling happily.

I put air in the leaky tire and drove it around.   It was as if I had just driven it yesterday. It ran great, everything worked.  I drove it around for a few days and made the decision to keep it.   I love the z06 but this m3 is so much easier to drive around town - it doesn't scrape the nose at every entryway, it isn't so wide that I have to search for parking spots large enough for an expedition. And it doesn't carry the air of pretentiousness that the vette does. It is also nearly bone stock. I don't need more power out of it or a stiffer chassis - I have a z06 that will affect the earth's rotation when it's on the track.  It has some csl reps, a nice-sounding muffler, tint, glass projector headlights and a non-functioning stereo. Other than that, it's stock.

I had the tire fixed by my buddy who owns ziptire.net (shameless plug) which is a mobile tire service in los angeles. He is a car afficionado, very smart, and a very good driver. Call him if you need anything. 

About this time, the somewhat spotty left rear door lock really went on the fritz and would rarely work instead of just usually. I bought a new actuator and decided to do some other things that had been on my list for a while.   When I bought the suspension stuff, I also bought new windshield cowl trim pieces as mine were broken and butt-ugly. Also new seals for the door handles, a giubo, and the pieces to rebuild the pretty sloppy shifter linkage.

I did the actuator, cowl trim and handle trim.   It made a huge difference in how I viewed the car.   I also learned that my wiindshield wipers were swapped and corrected that. It let the wipers sit a little lower on the glass which had always been an issue.




So that get us up to today.   When I got the car, it was mostly stock. But I had seen evidence that it had been stance-lifed a bit. It had neon light controls in it, some holes on the trunk from a few different spoilers that had been on it, the glass projector lights didn't work properly, and the rear window trim is missing the corner pieces, from where I'm assuming some sort of schnitzer roof spoiler was glued on or something. 

I am now trying to get the car back to stock glory, with a few exceptions.  My neglect of the tree sap was a fatal one.  I did not realize that it shreds paint. Or at least clear coat. The roof is peppered. The hood moreso. the trunk a little.  Perhaps it can be salvaged with some sanding??

My to-do list:

The steeringwheel is ugly but, worse, worn out.   Looking for a nice wheel.   I love alcantara but hear it doesn't wear very well and will quickly deteriorate with use.   jury is out on alcantara, suede or leather

New shift knob and boot.  Probably a ZHP knob. Same thought on alcantara. I'd love it, but will it be worn out after a few thousand miles?

Missing the right side sill plates where you open the door.

rebuild the shifter linkage. I think I have the parts.

install giubo.  I hear the center support bearing can go too, and I should probably replace that at the same time.

Fix saggy headliner.  It just suddenly sagged last week.  ugh. Would love to do alcantara. 

Need new front a-pillar trim pieces.   New ones for coupes or convertibles? about $80 each. Not good. Sedan? $180. each.  

I have a rear spoiler for it but it is missing the brake light in it, which is the biggest reason I'm doing it as I currently have no third brake light.   Anyone have one???

Misc fasteners in the engine bay are missing. I'll make a list of them and get them.

New front wheel well liners.  I'm seeing them super cheap on ebay but have heard they are just that - cheap and many guys just toss them.   Thoughts??

A new front right (i think...) brake duct.  I have the other one.

New front door and trunk seal

New stereo to replace the one that fried.  Along these lines, it had a super nice stereo in it but no amps. I installed amps and a rear sub but was getting a very annoying engine speed-related whine. I checked all of the non-stock stereo wiring and none of the speaker wires are near power wires.  Not sure what the problem is but it is a big reason I haven't had a stereo in it for years.

Try and fix the paint. I've claybarred the whole car and it did nothing to the tree sap spots. I'll post pics of the damage and see if anyone has suggestions for a novice like myself.

A front underpanel, undertray to replace the completely missing stock panel and porkchops.  Turner makes an aluminum one that I'd like. Anyone have one they're not using??

Finally, and this is a big one for me, I want the cruise control and obc working. I never use cc but I don't like stuff not working.  From what I can gather, the vss (on the rear diff??) sends a signal to the gauge cluster for the speedo.  From there, the signal goes to the cruise control and to the obc.  Because the speedo is working, I know the speed sensor is working.   And because both of those things worked before, I know something has broken, vs never been hooked up correctly.

I swapped the gauge cluster for another one with no difference (it was from a parted out car so I don't know if it worked or not, but it wasn't worse), and the same with an obc from another parted out car. No difference.   Doesn't mean that either of the replacements weren't bad, but I just don't know where to look next.   I'm going to see if I can try swapping these  with the ones in my brother's to confirm. But interested to see if anyone else has any other thoughts.


So that gets us to today.   It is a cool little car. Hard to believe this was at the sharp end back in its day compared to cars today. But it gets the job done, has good pedigree and sometimes someone knows what it is.  

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
11/15/20 11:38 a.m.

Or Ratt "back for more"

I'm in

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) Reader
11/15/20 11:48 a.m.

I remember going through something like 5 Autozone alternators in 3 months, back in college days. I don't buy alternators from them anymore.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 SuperDork
11/15/20 12:17 p.m.

I'm big on getting alternators rebuilt locally. 

I had two '95 M3's- after I sold the first I realized it was a mistake, and bought another a year later. Then I sold that a couple years later- still have lots of love for these- a fantastically balanced car. 

-Aluminum undertray- for sure- I purchased the motion motorsports version, but after seeing it in the flesh, it would be pretty easy to just cut one out with an angle grinder or tin snips and .065 aluminum. 

-Brake ducts: good luck in keeping those around. They, like the plastic undertray seem to disappear. 

-Paint: sucks- I had peeling clear on the roof. I didn't fix it, because I was afraid that I'd have to do the whole car.  It only had 65k though (in 2010) so I should have just sucked it up and done it.

-Trim: all those pieces just make the car feel better and new. Headlinder- I DIY'd that one with some imitation alcantara, and it was awesome. 

-Shift linkage: definitely do, but consider replacing the shift lever with the z3 lever for a factory short shift.  

-Steering wheel/shift knob- there is/was a dude who will "rebuild" your stock steering wheel. One of the BMW forums should yield his contact info.

I re-bushed the entire suspension (rear was a HUGE PITA) and restored to stock. I'd get the upper shock plates for the rear.  I never liked the spoiler look, glad that both of mine didn't have one from stock. 


There's my wall of text- good choice on keeping it. The more you drive it, the more you love it.

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) said:

I remember going through something like 5 Autozone alternators in 3 months, back in college days. I don't buy alternators from them anymore.

Same. I prefer an armature shop, but they are getting tougher to find. Napa and RockAuto are better than O'AdvanceZone.

docwyte UberDork
11/16/20 8:50 a.m.

I've had a 95 M3 and a 98 M3.  Well also a 02 M3.  They're great cars and the sedans are even better.

Turbine GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/16/20 9:46 a.m.

Beautiful car! When I was shopping for E36 M3's I specifically avoided sedans. I've got serious buyer's remorse now, even though I love my coupe.

-I also lost my undertray after hitting a groundhog on my way home from work one day. It also took out both of my brake ducts. I ended up replacing it with a Motion Motorsports tray, which seemed to really firm up all of the plastic pieces under the front end. I'd probably go with the Turner piece today because I've heard fitment is better, but it wasn't out at the time. 

-My paint (Cosmos) is trash too. Tons of rock chips on the front end. Claybar helped it slightly, but I'll have to get it redone one day.

-My headliner started to sag, so I'm looking to redo it over the winter. My door panels are falling apart too, but that seems to be mostly a coupe/convertible problem

-Shift linkage: I fixed mine with a UUC evo 3 SSK and DSSR. It made a huge difference, and I'm upset I didn't do it sooner. My shifter was totally worn out though. Like 1" or more play in each gear.

-Cooling system. If you don't have service records, or haven't replaced it already, I'd start budgeting for a refresh. The Stewart water pump and MZ3 radiator are good upgrades and worth the money, in my opinion. 


On a side note, my door seals are trashed too. I've got the replacements, but I can't figure out how to get the latch apart, and I'd rather not break it. Any tips?

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/16/20 9:56 a.m.

I know about the cooling system  but somehow mine still seems ok. I just replaced the thermostat which had stuck open and seemed to be oem. 

keeping an eye on it and am expecting to do a thermostat housing, pump and radiator and fan at some point. 

which door seals? The rubber ones around the door opening?  Not sure which latch you're referring to...

is your shifter one that mounts to the body? 

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
11/16/20 10:07 a.m.

Love the sedans 

friend had a dark purple (techno violet) with white Vader seats 


enjoying your thread 

Turbine GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/16/20 10:19 a.m.

In reply to jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) :

The door handle trim that you showed in a few of your pictures. 

Nope! It's a stock style shifter with a modified carrier and shift lever. I thought about a chassis mount for a while, but it would've required stiffer transmission mounts and I didn't want to increase NVH that much. I'd probably replace the selector rod joint too, while you're in there. That's where most of the play was in my shift linkage at least  

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/16/20 10:26 a.m.

The door handle trim pieces are simple to remove but that doesn't mean easy. 

there are these oval plugs in the door jamb behind each handle.  You use a little flat screwdriver to pop them out.  

then use a long hook of some sort (I used a dental pick) to reach in and pull a gold tab towards you.  Kind of tricky to see and do but that's it.  Then the handle cover comes off.   Put the new one on and push the gold tab to lock it in.  

Don't even have to remove the door panels I thought you did which is why I had the parts sitting for years before I installed them. 


I would never do a chassis mount shifter so yours is appealing.  I'll look into them.  And thanks for the heads up on the rod joint.  I'll have to look through my stash to see if I bought one. 

ps what am I looking at in your pics?  I haven't pulled mine apart so it's a little unfamiliar

Turbine GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/16/20 11:11 a.m.

In reply to jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) :

From right to left we've got

1) the stock shifter arm

2) the stock selector rod

3) the stock shift carrier with the Aluminum shift arm bushing from UUC (the stock bushing is nylon/plastic)

4) UUC's double shear selector rod

5) the UUC shifter arm

I was able to replace everything without dropping the exhaust or driveshaft. It was kind of a PITA though. If you're already planning on doing the giubo and CSB, just take care of it while you've got the driveshaft out. 

Thanks for the pointers on those seals! I've had them on the shelf for a few months because I figured I'd have to pull my door panels too lol

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/16/20 2:15 p.m.

Gotcha.  You got me looking for shifters now.... I heard about Bear shifters and guys said they liked them better than uuc's but they seem to have disappeared. Kind of like motion motorsports. 

here are a few other pics of the handle gasket replacement.  Give yourself an hour if you really take your time and clean out the gunk behind the piece


mr2s2000elise UltraDork
11/16/20 8:52 p.m.

In reply to jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) :



If you have a good body guy/paint let me know. 


jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/16/20 9:29 p.m.

I've got one I wouldn't rexommend....

mr2s2000elise UltraDork
11/16/20 9:38 p.m.

In reply to jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) :


docwyte UberDork
11/17/20 8:27 a.m.

Your cooling system looks good until it explodes.  It's all plastic, it's always going to look good.  Just replace it all now.  Radiator, fan, fan clutch, thermostat, thermostat housing and water pump.

Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/17/20 8:30 a.m.
docwyte said:

Your cooling system looks good until it explodes.  It's all plastic, it's always going to look good.  Just replace it all now.  Radiator, fan, fan clutch, thermostat, thermostat housing and water pump.

Until it turns brown, then it's almost too late

spandak HalfDork
11/17/20 10:24 a.m.

I have a huge soft spot for these cars

At least swap the water pump. In the 50k I owned my E36 I went through two radiators and a thermostat housing. I swapped the water pump just to be safe but turns out it had been updated to a later design with a stronger impeller and it was fine. It's worth throwing eyes on at least. 
My car eventually deteriorated past the point of recovery. I let it sit and SoCal sun is brutal. Drive it, both you and it will be happier for it

759NRNG (Forum Partidario)
759NRNG (Forum Partidario) UltraDork
11/17/20 10:53 a.m.

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)  I know this is WAY off topic but your avatar  worries me alot ....is there a build thread for this?

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/17/20 11:09 a.m.

In reply to 759NRNG (Forum Partidario) :

Not yet.....  I spent a lot of time getting that about 60% done and then it went into storage.

14 years ago.  

to say I'm nervous to pull it out from the shed in which it is ensconced is an understatement. 

but I haven't forgotten about it. 

jfryjfry (Forum Supporter)
jfryjfry (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/17/20 11:10 a.m.

Yes, I suppose I should replace that stuff.  (Cooling system stuff).
At the very least I'm agonna keep an eye out for a good deal on the pieces....



DjGreggieP Reader
11/17/20 11:53 a.m.

The only tiny tidbit of advice I can offer is the full (end tanks and core) aluminum rads hold up really well and work amazingly efficiently.

I have a used, unknown brand, rad in my e36 (accident damage repair for me, fixing some questionable fabricobble work at the same time) that had been small block swapped, and at highway cruising the coolant temp rarely goes beyond 180*, and even in traffic cruising when temps may creep up, a short blast in open air brings the temp back down in a hurry.

Not sure this helps, but I thought I'd mention it.

jfryjfry (FS)
jfryjfry (FS) Dork
3/13/21 8:35 a.m.

I've amassed a small pile of parts to do a big round of fixing all of the little things on the car.  New guibo, shifter bushings, rtabs, fender liners etc etc   

while on the lift I noticed a small coolant leak and traced it to the thermostat housing.  I had recently replaced the thermostat and reused the oem plastic housing because it was in good shape. 

I hoped it was just a loose bolt. It I could not get a socket on the bolt so I had to take the fan off.  It was easy when I did it just a year or so ago but this time I could not get the nut loose.  It's reverse-threaded I know but it just spun the belt.  So I jammed a rag between the belt and another pulley but then it just spun the pulley itself. 

I finally made a pulley holding tool (two because the first one was too weak) and got it off. 

I had ordered a metal housing in case the problem was that mine had finally cracked.  I used a mirror to investigate and saw no cracks and the bolts were all tight. 

I finally decided to just pull the housing.  I found this:



I believe I just (stupidly) reused the original gasket in addition to the new thermostat and gasket. It looked smushed and I believe it was leaking. 

my brother guessed that the deposits there were probably the result of air reacting with the coolant around the leaks.  

im hoping it isn't a problem in the whole system. I don't remember seeing anything like that when I did the thermostat but definitely would have cleaned it up if I had.
 I ordered some bmw g11 coolant and will drain the rest and replace with new.  

anyone have any thoughts? (Besides to replace everything else with metal....)

more to come

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