Thethanfoster New Reader
8/17/20 10:10 a.m.

Hello people of the GRM forum, my name is Ethan and I am a senior in high school. My brother (mgfoster) has been consumed by cars as long as I can remember, some of you may know him from the CHZ WGN adventure or the LS swapped van. As I've gotten older, I've been more interested in cars and whats going on in our garage but a project is just never quite as fun until its yours. I've mentioned multiple times that I want a project car but I feel like I don't have the money to put into it. Upon mentioning this to Matthew, we found ourselves an hour and a half from home with an E28 on a trailer behind us in less than 24 hours. What a wild ride. The car was $700 so our expectations were low but it runs, drives, and stops! the paint is a bit rough and there is plenty of fluid leaking from the car but this is what I asked for.

The following morning I woke up and saw the car in all its beauty off the trailer.

In the car were some goodies such as the front center caps that don't fit on because of the bearing dust caps, $2 each to fix that. In the trunk was the muffler, bumper trim, and a head as seen here. 

Upon closer inspection, the head is actually a head from a 528i which is higher revving and lower compression. These heads will sell for anywhere from $500 to $1200 depending on condition. Considering the oil looks milky, I believe that the head is cracked hence why there is an extra one in the trunk. The plan as of now is to put the i head on and hope for the best.

Now it was time for some investigation into the problems that I was aware of.

-The windows, they all mysteriously stopped working and the previous owner could not solve the issue. After doing some forum reading, I read that there is a "breaker" on the right side of the steering column that is often pressed by a drivers knees. Although this was heavily corroded and very sticky, it did pop out and all the windows started working again, easy fix.

-The power headrest, I could hear the motor humming but the headrest didn't move. Apparently this is a very common problem because the cable housing stretches or shrinks over time. The solution was to take the back of the seat off, remove the motor, drop a 1/4 inch piece of a coat hanger into where the cable sits in the motor, reassemble everything. Sure enough, fixed the problem.

-The glove box latch was broken and most people rip or cut it out when this happens because of the difficulty of getting it open, I was set on saving the glove box so I spent about 4 hours finding a way to unlatch it. After some strategic cracks on the top of the glove box and wiggling it loose, I could see two gray clips that I was able to push in with a nail and it fell down, magic. The contents of the glove box was a bit odd, a bag of keys, two for this car and the rest not. Oh well, I never saw a thing. 

-The most glaring issue was the fuel pump, the car would sputter if you tried to accelerate and it would "whirrrrr" pretty loud. There is a low pressure in-tank pump and a high pressure in-line pump, this system works and it seems that many people just replace the pumps but I opted for a more simple system with a single in-tank modern pump. This way, whatever modifications I make to the engine, I wont need to worry about a fuel shortage.

I will update this when the fuel pump is in and fluids are changed, hopefully I will be driving it next post. 

AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter)
AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/17/20 10:20 a.m.

Awesome! I started with an e28 as my first car and I still have it. They are great cars!

iansane (Forum Supporter)
iansane (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/17/20 10:51 a.m.

This looks like a great foundation to start with!

Thethanfoster said:

-The windows, they all mysteriously stopped working and the previous owner could not solve the issue. After doing some forum reading, I read that there is a "breaker" on the right side of the steering column that is often pressed by a drivers knees. Although this was heavily corroded and very sticky, it did pop out and all the windows started working again, easy fix.

I bought an e30 awhile ago that barely ran. When I went to pick it up that breaker was "popped" I clicked it, turn the car on and rolled the windows down while getting the car on the trailer and the owner was mortified. He had no idea how I "fixed" the windows so quickly.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
8/17/20 3:29 p.m.

If  you haven't found it already, is the main web board for these cars - in particular, check out  the Tech FAQ section; it has answers to many of the common e28 issues.  I understand there's also a Facebook group, but I'm not on Facebook so I can't comment on it.

The cylinder head you have may be off a 1988 528e, it's sometimes called a Super Eta - I believe that head is the same thing used on a 325is, and is good upgrade for 1987 and older Eta cars.  Technically, a 528i was a euro only car that had the M30 'big six' engine, so it was a totally different animal.

rustomatic New Reader
8/17/20 3:52 p.m.

Good for you, dude!  From this, you'll get skills that will affect your entire life.  Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing might be up to you.  Chicks dig handy hands backed by a mind that provides purpose.

On a funny note, I think my E28 is the same color.  I still can't figure out what makes these cars attractive, but there's something . . .

Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
8/17/20 4:23 p.m.

E28s are great cars. I have been looking for the right 535is for a while now. 

In reply to stuart in mn :

Super eta is the same as the "is" head casting but uses a different cam and different springs. Look for the 885 stamp to confirm an "325is" head. Also the 7 cam bearing journals. 

Even then, I doubt you will get any more than $500 for it. 



stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
8/17/20 5:14 p.m.

In reply to Slippery (Forum Supporter) :

Judging by the individual stacks and the Alpina logo in your picture, that's not your usual 528e... wink

mgfoster Reader
8/18/20 8:06 a.m.

In reply to Slippery (Forum Supporter) :

It has the 885 casting number and the 7 cam journals. Its cool that it's worth money, but we're thinking the head on the car now is cracked, so this will make a nice upgrade anyway. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/18/20 8:35 a.m.
AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter) said:

Awesome! I started with an e28 as my first car and I still have it. They are great cars!

Ditto except I don't still have it. Awesome, awesome cars. 


EDIT: And, yes, definitely use I spent a lot of time there when I had mine. Really helpful site with tons of experience. 

Thethanfoster New Reader
8/18/20 4:37 p.m.

Alright, the fuel pump project started with the disassembly of the current system. There are 6 bolts holding in the in tank pump with 4 holding in the sender. Once the old fuel pump was out, we saw that it was not rigidly attached to anything and that it was not even connected to the positive terminal although that may have come off during disassembly. Here's a picture of the old pump and bracket.


The new fuel pump uses a 5/16 hose and the car steps down to a 5/16 after the high pressure pump, so, we decided to go ahead a make both ends of the supply tube 5/16. We used fittings that were 5/16 on one end and 3/8 on the other. Throwing the 5/16 side in a drill and sanding down the 3/8 side worked great to get a tight fit. Then we cut off the last two barbs and dry fit both of them. We attempted to braze one of the fittings on but it didn't seem to take so we took it out, sanded and cleaned it again and tried with silver solder. It worked much better. After about 20 pressure tests and re-solder attempts, it finally didn't leak and held a seal at 50 psi. 

So, we dropped it back into the tank and bolted everything back down. I pulled out the old 3/8 fuel line and ran a new 5/16 line which is easier said than done. The high pressure pump was held in by pressure and it came right out by pushing after the hoses were disconnected. I put an inline check valve to keep the system pressurized while the car is off. Some people were having problems with long start times because the old pump had an internal check valve while the new one does not. After connecting the hoses and tightening everything down, I changed the oil and topped off the other fluids. 

This oil just might be a sign that there could possibly be something wrong with the head (that project just got moved a bit higher on the list). I started the car and for the first time in my life, something worked perfectly first try. I was very impressed at the ride quality especially considering it's a 34 year old car. It still seems to have some power issues which may be connected with the low idle but for now, I'm satisfied. 

Thethanfoster New Reader
8/25/20 12:45 p.m.

Welp, here we go with update number 3. With the oil being so milky in the last post and the recent discovery of bubbles in the coolant reservoir, we decided to go ahead and take off the head to see what nightmares lie ahead. We started with a nice, oily engine bay. 

After taking off all the hoses and bolts holding the head on, we took the valve cover off... which we could have done a while ago...and avoided a day of work...oh well. Upon taking the valve cover off, we found two head bolts that were finger tight and looked to be backed out quite a bit. 

Of course, we blamed this on the last person to open this up...who doesn't torque head bolts down?! It was pretty clear that there was coolant coming up through those bolts and maybe a few others. Here's a picture of the coolant puddles in the head. 

Well, we made it this far, we might as well take the head off to inspect the head and block for cracks. After taking the head bolts out, it seemed that we were the stupid ones for jumping to conclusions about the last person to work on the head. 

Oh well, the bolts came out enough to get the head off and at least see what were working with. The head seemed to be ok but it hasn't been closely examined. The block however, has a crack between a coolant channel and a bolt. Uh Oh. Well, this is where we currently stand. 

We bought a 2.5 L engine from a 325 i that we plan to swap in. Welp, that is where we are now, Ill keep updating throughout the engine swap. 

rustomatic New Reader
8/25/20 3:46 p.m.

Keep fighting.  The car will undoubtedly fight you back, as my E28 seems to do quite willingly and regularly (mainly repeated fuel leaks at this point--avoid cheap fittings). 

Now that I think about it, when I did the pump in the tank, I had to weld the tubes back in place on the plate, as making the new pump fit required removal of a little bracket that braced the tubes . . . 

Perhaps the thing can just sense that you will make it faster, and then it will feel hurried, which is annoying . . .

Thethanfoster New Reader
10/24/20 8:24 p.m.

Engine Swap!

I should have split this up into a couple posts however, being a high school student seems to get in the way. In any case, getting the engine out was the first step. After removing as much as we could from the engine bay and the trans cross member, we unbolted the motor mounts (to find the passenger motor mount was very very loose) and pulled the engine and transmission from the car.

With the engine out, we found a couple issues

1) the core support on both sides of the car were torn clean off

2) power steering leak from the reservoir 

3) everything was very very dirty

With these in mind, there were many days of cleaning. The core support was an easy fix by welding a plate into the gap.

Before :

During :

After :

Its not pretty but the front end is WAY stiffer than it was before, it works!

Next, the head got sent off to the machine shop to get decked.

And the valves got lapped 

The block was mostly good, we scraped the rust out of the cylinders and I rebuilt the oil pump. Inside the oil pump there is a little mesh screen that was completely full (a little section of a zip tie was also in there).

 From here on out it was pretty straight forward, we assembled the head, put the head gasket on, and bolted the head down with the scary amount of torque the bolts require.

At this point, things started to go faster because things got easier. We painted some things and cleaned a LOT.

Add a stage 2 clutch (for future turbo power)

Bolt on the transmission

Drop the assembly in the car!

At this point, it is mostly wiring for the Proteus ecu we will be using. In order to use this ecu, we installed this TMAP in the intake. 

And were using this modified M50 TPS

In addition to this whole project, we decided to check the brakes to make sure they were functional, Im glad we did!

Now with new rotors, pads, and soft lines, I don't have to wonder if the brakes will work when I press them. I also had to custom make one hard line because the old one wouldn't come off

The plan now is to start it for the first time on Monday (when the final parts come), I will update the thread then!

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/24/20 9:11 p.m.

Nice write-up! E28 is a cool car.

HundredDollarCar New Reader
10/26/20 10:40 a.m.

Watching this one.  The M20 six cylinder is such a smooth engine.

NOT A TA SuperDork
10/26/20 10:53 a.m.

Looks like a fun project!


It's Monday! Crank that thing up!  ahahaha

mgfoster Reader
10/30/20 7:40 a.m.

I'll just leave this here....

Thethanfoster New Reader
10/30/20 11:50 a.m.

Well as usual, things didn't go perfectly to plan.

   The first issue we ran into was the fuel pressure regulator was broken. We found this out by noticing fuel spilling out of the throttle body, the vacuum reference that goes into the intake was pumping fuel straight into the manifold. After swapping that out for one we knew worked, we took the spark plugs out and cranked it over to get everything out of the intake.

   Starting fresh, we tried to start again but the starter was cranking very slow, and although the engine was trying to start, it wouldn't catch. So, with a little help from the CHZ WGN ( it started right up. Weirdly enough, the starter has worked great since that jump.

   The next issue was a very, very high idle, about 2200 rpm. This was a bit of a nightmare to trace down as a high idle is either the ICV or a vacuum leak somewhere (because we are using a MAP sensor instead of the AFM). The ICV ended up being the problem even though it seemed to be properly working. After many attempts to get it working, we gave up on that (for now) and blocked it off. We used the throttle adjustment to get a good idle at 800 rpm and now it is running perfectly!

   There is a lot of tuning to be done but it should be driving in a few days! Im looking forward to the first drive!


   Yellow high beams taken from the old CHZ WGN headlights!!!

(i will be adding more pictures later today)

russian Reader
10/30/20 12:15 p.m.

Not a single image of rusEFI Proteus ECU?!

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/2/20 8:31 p.m.

In reply to russian :

hey, I worked hard on that!

Thethanfoster New Reader
11/9/20 9:07 a.m.

This post is dedicated to the Proteus ECU!

Because we put a different engine in the car, we obviously couldn't use the ECU that we had before. The simple answer would be to go track down the factory ECU for this engine but since when do we do things the simple way? We decided to do a standalone ECU since this would make a future turbo easier anyway. I remember my brother putting a standalone in his miata. I remember him soldering a board together from a bare pcb and even after all that work, it wasn’t ever quite perfect. I was very scared of this process because I wanted my beloved E28 to run perfectly.

With the influence of Matthew Kennedy, we used the Proteus board that he developed. This board was manufactured in china and was very easy to deal with! All we had to do was 3d print a case for it and solder on the connectors. The most difficult part of this process was pinning the connectors and dealing with the wiring harness. My brother, who took responsibility for the technical aspect of this project, did an amazing job creating a spreadsheet with the old pin numbers and where they should be in the new connectors. This should work for anyone with an M20 ETA. We had a night of pinning connectors and taping the wiring harness and after doing it already, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I was expecting. The process went quite smoothly! 

Harness taped


Ecu in it's case and connected up

The issues we ran into were manageable

  • Bosch TMAP sensor instead of the stock AFM 

  • M50 TPS instead of stock TPS

  • ICV for some reason did not work although it did move when we took it off the car and tested it. It was previously bypassed so its possible it was simply broken but for now, its blocked off

  • We used a GM igniter that, with a puff of white smoke, stopped working. So, with some help from the people on slack, we used a single LS coil to replace the stock coil and the igniter, still running the distributor.


I am incredibly happy with how it runs and drives, the Proteus was a breeze to set up with very limited issues! Huge thank you to everybody on slack!

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