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MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 9:45 a.m.

Hey all you GRM'ers wanted to invite you guys into my garage, so I have some way to keep track of the work I'm doing with the fleet. I'd also love to have more people to bounce ideas off of and just make sure I don't do anything TOO stupid, like buy three old BMW's. I've been tinkering with my own cars since I got my license, but it’s largely been the basic maintenance stuff.

I would not consider myself a great wrench. My tool set is minimal and I tend to work slowly, and I am deathly afraid of wiring projects. Wiring diagrams tend to make my head go soft. I’m also pretty terrible at remembering to take pictures. I’m hoping this thread gives me a reason to do better.

To give you guys a better idea of what you are dealing with, I’ll provide a brief breakdown of the cars I’ve had in my past. Unfortunately, I took almost no pictures from this time, so you'll just have to Google if you need a mental image.

  • 2001 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP - white, 4-door, HUD, and way too much power for a 16 year old. Not exactly sure what my parents were thinking with this one. It was honestly way too nice for a first car, but we got it for a steal form one of my fathers coworkers who was moving across country.The inevitable happened when I took an icy turn too quickly and wheel met curb very abruptly. Limped the car around for another 6 months after putting it back together, but the shunt had done some damage to the transmission. Moved on to the next one.

  • 2003 Hyundai Accent GL - pewter, 4-door, automatic. Punishment for the automotive sins I had committed against my Grand Prix. The good - it was light and somewhat tossable, good MPG, reliable transportation. The bad - it was slow, especially when coming from a supercharged 3800. Disliked the car enough that I very shortly began looking for cars to replace it.

  • 1983 Porsche 928S - Black on wine interior, automatic. Yep, you read that right. I bought a Porsche in high school. Not just any Porsche, no no, I got the front engined, water cooled, 7 foot timing belt, gray wiring harness, gentleman of means Porsche, for $2,500. The car was a beautiful disaster. I replaced the timing belt, water pump, oil pan gasket, master cylinder, a front caliper, and it still needed everything. Even with all its flaws, I absolutely adored the car. The way the doors shut, the way the muffler delete allowed the 16V V8 to burble, the steering, the brakes. It was a revelation for me.Unfortunately, reality caught up to me as a college student when the transmission decided it had had enough of my shenanigans. I left it to sit on my parents driveway for too long and they ended up calling a wrecker to pick it up. Definitely one of the sadder moments in my car history.

  • 1993 BMW 325i - blue, 4-door, automatic. This car didn’t last long since it was rear ended on the highway 3 months after I bought it.

  • 2003 Honda S2000 - Silverstone metallic, black interior. I had been working throughout my college days and when the 325 went smoosh I decided I wanted a sports car. Looked at a bunch of stuff but with 57,xxx miles this car was barely broken in and was a steal, since I bought it in the middle of January. In one of my rarer moments of vehicular restraint, I refrained from modifying the S2000 for most of my six and a half years of ownership. I replaced the soft top when it decided to stop keeping the rain out, and I added oil when it needed it. And it needed it. ALOT.

That brings us basically up to speed with what came in the past. Up next are the cars currently in the fleet

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 10:12 a.m.

Back in 2014, the S2000 was feeling a little small for what I anticipated my future had in store for me. My wife and I just brought home our Irish Wolfhound pup, and kids were on the horizon. Space was needed. Rear wheel drive was necessary. And my German "engineering" itch needed to be scratched.

E39 tourings, that's a wagon for all you normal people, were the first target of my interest. I wasn't the biggest fan of the non-Mtech front end on the E39 and was even less of a fan of the electrical issues that are more common to the platform, so I decided I should go with something older, simpler, and better looking in my estimation.

In entered the dynamically inferior E34. A car that perfectly straddles the line between classic and modern BMW, had plenty of space for all of my needs, and was something I could tinker with as time went on.

I ended up finding this car on the East coast.

1992 525it, which makes it one of the earlier production North American spec cars. Black with black interior, desirable to E34 touring guys. 181,XXX miles on the non-Vanos M50 when I picked it up and the car was in surprisingly good shape. Owned by a younger enthusiast who was moving on to a lovely Calypso red E34 M5. I flew into JFK and the seller was nice enough to pick me up and take me to his house. Car checked out and I proceeded to drive the 900 miles home. The car didn't miss a beat.

At first it was some basic maintenance and doing wagon things.  Hauling my 125cc Birel M32



Hauling mulch with room to spare.


The car needed brakes, fluids, filters, and some rear strut mounts. But as anyone who knows this era of BMW will tell you, the transmission was a lurking question mark that needed to be addressed. I started planning a five speed swap well before the transmission started giving signs that it was ready for the scrap heap.

In the meantime, one of the SLS shocks bit the dust, so I converted the rear over to Koni shocks and H&R sport springs. Pro-tip H&R has a specific part number for the E34 touring (PN#29889-1), but those are special order so sedan springs should work fine, right? About this time is when the transmission decided it had done enough, with roughly 189K miles I really couldn’t fault it.

When it comes to doing a 5 speed swap for this generation of five series, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. I chose the wrong way. The right way is to find all the swap components in a package deal, some guys on the forum do this, or get a donor car and piece it together yourself. I chose the bad, i.e. expensive, route of piecing everything together from different sources. My only defense was that this car was technically still my daily driver and I didn’t exactly have the luxury of waiting for the right donor or “swap kit” to show up. The swap itself is relatively straight forward. Drop the exhaust, pull the driveshaft, pull the transmission, remove the flywheel, install new flywheel/clutch/pressure plate, install 5 speed, swap in manual pedals, install a longer driveshaft, install exhaust, install manual relay, drive. I did do an additional step of replacing the open 4.10 differential with a 3.23 LSD from an M3.

The much lighter and shorter ZF310z.

The swap instantly transformed the car into something that I never want to sell. The car is so much more engaging to drive and more responsive. Very easy to heel toe, light enough clutch that traffic isn’t a pain and I even saw an increase in MPG. This really started to wet my appetite for more mods. I quickly picked up a matching set of Koni Sports for the front of the car, and installed them with the H&R sports that had been sitting in my basement.

Definitely made a huge difference to the look of the car.


Before: Would you like a rid in my German tractor?


After: Not settled here but MUCH better than before, and not too low.

rdcyclist Reader
2/12/19 10:20 a.m.

Cool idea. I've got a similar situation with my dead Audi's; currently the ratio of live to dead is 1:5.

I've got the same problem with takin' pitchers of the cars. When I'm working I tend to forget to document stuff so all I can do is talk about them.

I look forward to your updates...

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 10:36 a.m.

And now time for a brief BMW interlude. About this time I found out that my daughter was on the way. The E34 was seeming like a less than ideal car for strapping a car seat into, sure it would work, but the safety concerns loomed over my head. I also ended up scoring a new job which meant trading in my train commute for a driving one. At 80 miles round trip I thought it best to look at something new.

Ended up getting a 2017 VW GTI SE with a DSG, that kept Mrs. MTechnically happy and the car was a great all rounder, barring the fact that the OEM Bridgestones are junk, imho. I put some serious miles on the car, roughly 25K in the first year, and that was with the car sitting at the dealer for 6 weeks.

More on that later, but with the GTI filling in as the daily driver the E34 was freed up to be a bit more of a project. It should be said at this point that the goal of this car has always been to maintain its ability to cover long distances in comfort with just a little bit of handling prowess. I want this car to be able to go cross country at a moments notice, ride in comfort on the highway, and not make you wish you had brought something else when things get twisty.

The Koni and H&R setup had certainly cut down on the roll and dive of the past, but what more could be done? The car had been clunking at the rear under load for some months now. Almost certainly the rear subframe bushings had seen the light and walked in. Now, I knew that I wanted to address the rear subframe bushings. That was a simple task and Powerflex offered a set for just over $100. But you know...you’re going to be dropping the subframe in order to replace those bushings, so it only makes sense to replace the differential bushings too, right? And since you’re already have those bushings out you might as well do the RTAB’s as well, right? And since you’ve got the trailing arms out you might as well have camber and toe adjusters welded in, right? And since you’ve just had the subframe welded you had better get it powder coated, right? Right? The while your in there rabbit hole was deep and dark and jumped in feet first.


Here is the crusty subframe fresh out of the car.



Yup, these were past it. The center sleeve just fell out and is lying on the ground in the left of this photo.


Easiest way to remove the old bushings. 


Here is the subframe after the Ireland Engineering camber and toe adjusters had been welded in and the subframe was power coated. So clean you could eat off of it!


New E34 M5 spec rear wheel bearings. Not sure if they are higher quality bearings or not but they were pretty close in price, and I had already gone way overboard.

Not only did I do all of the above, but I decided now was a good time for a fancy set of Racing Dynamics sway bars, and why not do a rear brake upgrade while we are at it?

Old rear bar versus the new. 15mm up to 19mm. As close as you can get to the unobtainium 20mm Nurburgring bar from the E34 M5 tourings. Two position adjustment as well as adjustable end links. Replaced the 23mm bar with the 27mm bar from the Racing Dynamics set.


Decided I totally needed to upgrade the rear brakes to the 540i spec. You need wider calipers to account for the 10mm wider ventilated discs.


Indy-Guy UberDork
2/12/19 10:44 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically :

+ 1 on the E34 Touring Love. yes


I've got a '94 M60 5-speed swapped one in the garage, but it's not as nice as yours.  Following along with interest.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 11:00 a.m.

To add a little more insanity to the project, I decided that I was going to take this car on a trip, and not just any trip. I decided that I would be taking this car to Radwood at Hooptiecon 2018. About 4200 miles round trip, and it was in a month. I had the subframe in the car, but I need to reinstall pretty much everything attached.


Here's a decent shot that shows almost all the new stuff under the car. Those hard lines might need addressing in the future though...


Car cleans up pretty goo considering we are over 200K miles and knocking on the door of 30 years old. My advice would be to avoid black cars at all costs. They are NEVER clean.

To spare the suspense I was able to get the car together and cleaned up just in time to drive it for a week before the big event. Lots of hours spent in my mostly unheated garage, but it was worth it when I hit the road. Car was able to hit 450 miles per fill up and I tried my hardest not to stop between fill ups. Did I mention that I drove this distance on my own in two days? First, day was spent getting out of Illinois, storming through Iowa, slogging through Nebraska, and being dead tired by the time I hit Wyoming. Stopped somewhere near Rawlings, WY, just over 1000 miles from home. Woke up to snow after catching 6 hours of sleep. I was pretty desperate to get out of that weather, considering the E34 was wearing Pilot Super Sports. They did surprisingly well, but I was glad when the storm broke outside of Salt Lake City. Utah was uneventful, especially since Bonneville was flooded.

Here is the car after a quick rest stop just over the Nevada border.


Met up with one of the organizers of Radwood in Reno, and we convoyed over the Donner pass and all the way to Petaluma, CA for a dinner with some other folks we knew. The E34 and I had just done 2100 miles in something like 30 hours, with 6 of those hours being alotted to sleep.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 11:05 a.m.

In reply to Indy-Guy :

Got any pictures? I love any and all E34's!  I really do love the E34, especially the wagons. The design just feels more cohesive than the E39 tourings

A buddy of mine has a 530 touring that he's in the middle of swapping. He's doing it the right way and has a donor car. I've still got a lot more planned for this car, but this winter (and daycare payments) has really slowed things down.

Indy-Guy UberDork
2/12/19 11:20 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically :

I too picked mine up from the East side of the country, and had an epic adventure on the way there and back.  My build thread is click here for the Einhorn

Lot's more pics in the thread, but here are a couple:

OjaiM5 New Reader
2/12/19 11:23 a.m.

MTechnically - love you taste in cars.

Here is my e34 525i manual that I bought for $500. Did a pop art theme on it for a while. I love to have fun with cars and not take them too serious. 

Your wagon looks great with the style 5s. Some of my favorite wheels.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 11:37 a.m.

In case you aren't aware Radwood is an 80-90's themed car show that takes some of the fun elements of the Goodwood Festival, like period dress and cool old cars, and applies that to cars you and I can still afford. This Radwood was held in tandem with a 24 Hours of LeMons race at Sonoma Raceway. 

The famous upside down F-body. Kinda wild to see in person.


The E34 parked up with some really interesting and rare cars.


Some Italian car.


Also the engine of this strange Beetle.


I wasn't jealous. Not at all.


Even got to parade the E34 around the track. Slow but still fun!

Overall, it was a great show. But my plans for the evening kinda fizzled out, so I decided to make the trip back. I needed to be home by Monday night, and I thought it would be nice to have the cushion to make stops a little more often. This turned out to be a bad idea. I left the show around 5:30 and hit the Donner pass just as it was getting dark. What I didn't know was that it had already been snowing on the pass for a couple of hours. Once I really start to get some altitude I hit a check point. Nothing without winter tires is allowed to pass without chains. Last I checked, Michelin Pilot Super Sports are not branded with the little snowflake, so it was either chains, wait it out or find another route. I decided to see what was behind Door #1 and bought some chains. 

In case any of you aren't aware, snow chains on a lowered car aren't what I would call the best of ideas. I was still steering with unchained fronts and the going was slow and noisy. It took a solid 2 hours to get over the pass. I was dead tired from white knuckling it over the pass, but I pressed on a little more and stopped near Carlin, NV.

Here was the car the next morning. Absolutely caked in salt. I'd also managed to rub a good amount of paint of the inside of the fender lips and some of the springs thanks to the chains. Remember, snow chains an low cars don't mix. But they had helped me survive the Donner Pass so I was still thankful.

The rest of the trip home was sort of uneventful. I was being chased by a snow storm for the rest of the day until I got most of the way out of Wyoming. Took it a little easier on Monday and was pretty tired of the whole driving thing by the time I made it home.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 11:41 a.m.

In reply to Indy-Guy :

Car looks good! I do love the M Pars even if I'm partial to the throwing stars. Looks like your car could use a little drop in the front, but it still looks the business to me.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 11:43 a.m.

In reply to OjaiM5 :

I love it. I only wish I knew where I could find these $500 manual E34's, that weren't a pile of dust! Seriously, that thing looks way too clean. I am jealous!

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 12:17 p.m.

So now it’s time to take a little break from the E34. You see this isn’t just the E34 525iT build thread, it’s a deep dive into the depths of my insanity. Because one lovely, old, broken BMW was not enough, oh no. We have to go back, back to before the rear subframe project. Back to the closing months of 2017. I was casually browsing Craiglist, really not looking to buy anything, right? Well that may have been the case, if this car didn’t show up.

A 1976 2002. Sort of unloved by some of the '02 guys. If you were really astute you caught the reflection of this car in the E34 earlier.

Now remember I live in the land of salt and ice, I have never ever seen a BMW 2002 in the wild, let alone for sale on Craigslist, anywhere near where I live. I had to go see the car. In certain ways this car was rough.

The interior was almost completely stripped.


There is evidence of a very poor paint job underneath the vinyl wrap that currently protects the car. And there is some rust, of course there is rust, but it was very minimal and the car had some things going for it.


Almost all of the engine accessories had been recently replaced. Hoses, distributor, coil, wires, radiator, alternator, it even has a Weber 32/38.

From the moment I saw the add I knew I wanted to make this a track car so I was willing to overlook the cosmetic issues. It also drove perfectly around the guys neighborhood. So I took a chance and bought the damn thing.

2002maniac Dork
2/12/19 12:38 p.m.

Your touring looks extremely clean!  I had an E34 540i/6 and always wished it was a wagon. 

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 1:02 p.m.

In reply to 2002maniac :

Thanks for the kind words. I assure you that you are seeing the car in it's best light. It has a decent amount of rust that will need to be dealt with at some point. I have one clean rear door replacement, but touring doors in good shape are hard to find.

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 3:42 p.m.

So as I mentioned earlier, I had put a solid amount of miles on my MK7 GTI in the first year of ownership. It did all of the commuting things well, but there were cracks starting to form in the relationship between myself and the car. The first nail in the coffin for the GTI were the 6 weeks it was down for a relatively simple repair. Apparently, the supplier for the thermostat housing on the EA888 had some quality control issues, and a year into my ownership my car developed a leak. Not the worst thing in the world, it was covered under warranty, but this really started to make me doubt the car from a long term ownership perspective. Second nail was the size, it’s a modern car so it is a bit monstrous, but with rear facing car seats even 5’0” Mrs. MTechnically was a little smooshed with the kid behind her. Third nail was that I just didn’t find the car all that fun. Maybe it's modern refinement. Maybe it's small turbo 4 cyclinders, maybe its electric power steering. I'm not really sure what it was, but I really didn't enjoy the car at sane public motorway speeds. 

So I started looking for something bigger. Immediately, I looked at E39's, specifically 530/540i's with a manual transmission. But I thought, "MTechnically, you drive a good amount of miles. You probably want something newer and more reliable than an old BMW." Ha, I toyed with the idea of a 2014-2016 Lexus GS350, but I just couldn't get excited over those cars. I even thought about picking up and old LX470 to do off road things and maybe tow the 2002 once that project was really underway. But the fuel mileage didn't make much sense for my commute. Even the much loved V6 Accord just didn't fit the bill. So back to looking at E39's. 

So, I ended up finding this car locally. Remember all the talk of reliability and fuel economy? Yeah, neither did I. 

It's a 2000 M5. Titanium Silver, sport interior with extended leather with 127K miles. I've put about 1000 miles on it at this point and I can safely say this car seems the perfect blend of performance and luxury for me. I really wish it was warmer, so I would feel comfortable pushing the car even a little bit through some turns, but it delivers pretty much what I expected from one of my all time favorite BMW's

A good amount of maintenance had been done to the car over the last 10K miles, a clutch replacement, cam position sensors, thermostat and water pump, fuel pump, and front control arms. PPI came back with little to report; no codes, an incredibly small differential leak, and a similarly minor old leak.

The car was relatively unmodified as well, just a short shifter and a muffler delete. Sure it had the wrong shift knob, some cheesy eBay shifter and parking brake boots, and a slightly sloppy Euro light conversion, but those are rather minor in what seems to be a pretty solid car. 


It's been brutally cold this winter, my garage is not heated, and the M5 is due for an oil change. I took it to an independent mechanic that I trust locally and they did my oil change and a pretty through inspection for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, they confirmed what I had been concerned about since I took delivery of the car. I've had a whine coming from the car on partial throttle above 45MPH. I told them to check into the driveshaft and sure enough the universal joints are borked. Looks like the rear control arms could use a replacement and front struts are on their way out two. Not a huge deal, but the PPI certainly didn't give me the the chance to haggle over such things.

Anyways, I've got a driveshaft on order. I'll be waiting for some warmer weather to deal with the other issues since they aren't critical yet. The things we do for love, eh?

OjaiM5 New Reader
2/12/19 4:51 p.m.

Killer collection. I have never owned a 2002, they must be fun. Had an e30 m3 thoughdevil

MTechnically New Reader
2/12/19 5:52 p.m.

In reply to OjaiM5 :

It is very fun to drive, if a little sketchy given the condition of suspension components currently on the car. I really need to get cracking on the car when spring rolls around. It's pretty much untouched since I bought it. Just drove it around here and there.

akylekoz Dork
2/13/19 5:47 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically :

I tried to give away an E34 rear subframe bushing removal tool last year, you can change the bushings with the subframe in the car.  I still have it.

Someone from the Chicago area bought my 92 525i, I really want to know what happened to that car.  It was a little rough but it came from the factory with a close ratio 5 speed and 3:90 limited slip, I added hotter coils a chip and some adjustable rear control arm bushings.  That car was way more fun that it looked.  

MTechnically New Reader
2/13/19 8:14 a.m.

In reply to akylekoz :

I recall reading about the bushing tool back when I was doing the refresh. From what I remember, it was pretty damn expensive. I knew I wanted to go with poly for the subframe bushings and with all the other work I was doing it just made sense to pull the whole assembly.

Your 525 sounds like it would have been a hoot. I can't imagine a 3.9 paired with my ZF310. It's a non-overdrive box and I turn 3500RPM at 80MPH. Car must have been screaming on the highway

GarageGorilla New Reader
2/13/19 3:22 p.m.

This is a fantastic thread. Very jealous of your E39s.

MTechnically New Reader
2/13/19 3:58 p.m.

In reply to GarageGorilla :

Thank you! Looking forward to digging into the cars once the weather picks up. It's been a particularly cold winter and I haven't touched anything for months. Maybe it's time for a garage renovation? Not sure how that will go over with Mrs. MTechnically...

The E34 still needs a fair few things and the 2002 needs pretty much every bushing and a new set of rubber. Bet you can't guess the date code of the tires that the PO had been driving around on.

MTechnically New Reader
3/14/19 11:36 p.m.

So the weather finally broke here, and after recovering from a nasty case of the flu, I was able to get out into the garage. Definitely not as productive as I could have been, but with the long winter away I've had to remember where I've left everything. The garage is in need of a serious spring cleaning and organizing as well.

In the interim, I did receive the driveshaft for the M5 after having to cancel a placed order when they revealed they didn't actually have any idea when they would be getting the part in stock. Decided to go with Turner Motorsport, since they provide a fully rebuild DS, with a new rear CV, CSB, universal joints (serviceable), and a centering bearing. It does come at a cost though. Here's what a $1000 DS looks like...

I'll be waiting for a Friday that I'm off of work to tackle this job, but it should be coming in a future update.


So on to the other project. The last few times I've driven the E34 I've noticed a bit of crashing over some of the harsher bumps. At first I thought it was just getting reacquainted with the stiffness of the poly subframe, Koni Sport, and H&R Sport combination. Or maybe that the roads have just gotten even more berkeleyed up over this brutal winter. But the last time I was driving it, about a mile from home, I hit a bump and knew something wasn't right. Sound was immediately louder and much more jarring. Got the car into the garage today, disassembled almost the entirety of the rear interior, and quickly discovered the issue.

Kind of a lot of work just to get access to the strut mounts on this car. You could get away with removing less, but I try not to lay on or accidently smear grease on my MINT interior. Pay no attention to the loose door card or dangling window switch in the picture.

Here's the drivers side rear strut mount. Looks to be in good shape. I did replace these no more than 20K miles ago...


And that would be a big fat failure from the passenger side rear mount. Worryingly, the strut has come undone from the mount. I'll be sure to Loctite these down this go around.


Uh yeah, that definitely should not be there.

You can also see that strut is completely disconnected from the bushing here. No bueno. Hoping the threads didn't get damaged on the strut.


Good news is that the PO actually gave me a spare set of these, which I forgot about the first time around.


They appear to be Boge, a good quality part and OEM supplier, so I'll be tossing this in shortly. Trying to decide if I should just do the drivers side to keep them on even mileage.


The other thing I need to look at is the emergency brake. Since the polar vortex the hand brake forces itself up one click and causes a  "Parking Brake On" warning light to come on and a chime every time you take off from a stop. Clever girl, but annoying, so I've got to check both ends of the system. I know the cables are already pretty stretched, so I might just bite the bullet and replace those at this point. That's it for now. 

rustybuckets Reader
3/15/19 6:16 a.m.

Good news is that the PO actually gave me a spare set of these, which I forgot about the first time around.


They appear to be Boge, a good quality part and OEM supplier, so I'll be tossing this in shortly. Trying to decide if I should just do the drivers side to keep them on even mileage.

Even mileage! You're already halfway there so you may as well replace both! Plus it would bother the hell out of me knowing the 2 sides are different lol

akylekoz Dork
3/15/19 7:48 a.m.

In reply to MTechnically :

I don't remember exactly but 70-80 was at least 3k or more.  145mph on the speedo was right around 6500-6800 rpm.  Probably stock tire size and the optimistic BMW speedo.

That car was alot of fun and later in its life I drifted that E36 M3 out of it until all of my spares were bald.   It just loved it and came back for more.

My bushing removal tool is a home made one that looks suspiciously like the expensive tool #J-XXXXXX.

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