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BigD HalfDork
12/12/13 11:20 a.m.

This car is an expression (or victim?) of my need to challenge myself with doing things I don't know how to do, not sure if I can, but that I find really cool.


The car started out as an 87 eta. The summer of the year I met my wife, we decided to move from Toronto to Vancouver. At the time I had an E34 M5 and I was getting really tired of modifying a street car for dual duty because it was becoming not very good for the street and always being compromised on the track. I was going to bring it with me out West but I ended up selling it. For a few months, I was really happy to be free of it. We were living on the North shore, with Grouse Mountain out of one window, the Pacific ocean out of the other and driving to work through a rain forest (Stanley Park). I turned into an outdoor person for roughly 3 months. Then gradually, I started hurting for playing with cars and the other stuff was a pile of dirt, some water and trees again.

The trouble was that in Vancouver, everything car related was drastically more expensive than what I was used to. The only reasonably priced cars were Ontario immigrants and were well on their way to being fully recycled. I was never an E30 guy as I liked bigger cars but I figured for a toy car it should be small and RWD. I looked at 240sxes, E30s, front engined Porkers but there was nothing good that was affordable. The closest I came was a friend who knew a mechanic, who had a 928 automatic surrendered by a customer he would sell relatively cheap but it was still expensive and not since the 190hp 500 cube Caddy was there so much futility out of so much potential. Then I came across this car. The owner was a teenager who got the car as a handmedown from his father who was the original owner. But the car wouldn't move under its own power and they didn't care to fix it so it just sat in his driveway. 

I talked him into a straight up trade for my 20D Canon and got a uhaul flat top to drag it home. Thankfully the driveway was fairly steep so we were able to get it up on the trailer fairly easily.

When I first rolled it down into our underground spot next to my 4Runner.

From a bit of diagnosing, it was clear that something was up with the clutch. The car ran fine but wouldn't go into gear when running, but would go fine when off.

I'd never done a clutch job before but how hard could it be? I bought some essential tools and picked a long weekend just in case. 

The case turned out to be that I couldn't get the transmission off. I got as far as taking it off but the Bentley didn't mention anything about removing the starter so I figured it would slide off with the transmission. The transmission seemed loose and would move a little bit but it seemed like it was stuck on something spring-loaded. I started fearing that the clutch was somehow fused to the input shaft. The starter being a nut and bolt job was something I was happy to avoid removing but finally gave up and pulled it. And the transmission came free. It turned out that the starter was holding the transmission in place via the flywheel tin shield.

I got summoned by the super to explain myself. I said I was just changing the oil but being a BMW it required dropping the exhaust and having the car up on stands. I was basically told not to work on it anymore. It turns out that the reason I had such poor lighting while I was working is that the previous occupant of my parking space had wrenched on his car, which caught fire, burning among other things, the overhead lights. After I learned that I had more sympathy towards the concerns of the other residents.

Next step was track upgrades, doing the usual stuff with poly bushings, koni yellows + H&R race. Getting this stuff across the border was a major brown flag moment with the tax people but I shouldn't reveal any self-incriminating details. All's well that ends well.

The real difficulty was in the fact that I was no longer able to work on the car in the underground, even under the guise of an oil change. Plus I needed power for the compressor. Trouble is, in Vancouver, you have to be a millionaire to have a garage and even then, it's usually just a roof on 4 posts. I had to go up as far as the CFO of my company. She had a single car deal where she kept her 356 and agreed to let me have it for a weekend.

I was doing pretty well until I got to the subframe bushings. I'd never done those before and I knew people used fire to get them out but I didn't realize you literally had to melt them out, I thought it was more like heating a stuck fastener. They were going but slowly. My wife was holding the subframe for me but not quite at the right angle I needed and I was brewing a lot of bile inside, from being tired and running out of time. I finally boiled over and yelled HERE HOLD IT LIKE THIS, and grabbed the heated metal with my bare hand. Upon peeling the sizzling flesh off, my bile was gone, replaced with a bucket of humility with a sprinkle of shut the berkeley up. It was quite enjoyable because I kept a wet rag on the trunk of the car so when my hand would feel like it's on fire every minute or two, I could rest it on the rag and it would be pure bliss.

My wife got to daily the car for a while as she worked close to our house and I had just taught her how to drive manual with it and she wanted to practice.

Our first motorsport attempt with it was an autocross. I'd always hated them but I figured with an E30 it can't be so bad. Of course, it was the one snowfall day of the whole year... and holy E36 M3 Vancouver doesn't berkeley around with their snowfalls...

I'm happy to report I still hate autocrosses but at least my wife had a good time

Next was a track visit with Definitive Driving at Portland International. Pretty neat little track!

Found the S52. Prepping it in our livingroom. This is part of why I married my woman.

I got a lucrative contract offer back in Toronto so we decided we'll move back, I'll save every penny I can and we'll buy a house. Once we settled in I finished the swap. I honestly thought this was all the toy car I'd ever want. The problem was at this time, I didn't realize that it wasn't about the power or any other performance metric. I was doing this because I thought it was cool and wanted to see if I could meet the challenge.

Challenge met

Next challenge, chambered

I never did take it to MoSport but we played with it at the smaller Toronto area tracks, it's a great little car with an S52


Next step...


It's funny, I still have a copy of this post around because I was learning about EFI and turbocharging and guys asked me about my goals. In retrospect, literally NONE of this ended up being true.

E30 to MCoupe

Fuel upgrades:

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:28 a.m.

Oiling upgrades:

11mm main studs (vs 10mm ARP stock):

12mm RB26 head studs (vs 10mm stock):

Head built, supertech valves with oversize intake and inconel exhaust:


Was originally going to be a 35r, after some research, decided that the 40r is a much better match

Engine build took over a year for various reasons, spending money in the mean time:

Manifold completed:

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:36 a.m.

Head porting paid off handsomely. Before:


Finally home!!!

Going deeper into madness, Viper VRL tires

Fikse working on my jewellery:

More oil cooling:

Bling arrived:

Chopping rear double fender:

Getting there... almost ready for exhaust work:

Ready for tuning...

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:41 a.m.

Game time...

900hp E30.. that'll do

It would have done more but the WG wouldn't stay closed at the top anymore and I want to do boost by gear, so I don't want a heavier spring.

Fuel filter to dampen MAP signal:

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:45 a.m.

Yup, it fits

Stop for the go:

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:52 a.m.

Was all set to finally take it back to the track this year open wheel style... checked the headstud torque, all good. Turned the car around to do the other side brakes and it ran like crap. Checked over all support systems, no problem. Then this...

What happened was when we checked the headstud torque, the cams need to be pulled for the 12mm studs. I've never done this before so I handed it off to someone who has and the engine wasn't pulled off TDC for cam reinstall, crunching all 4 cyl 6 valves.

Head went to the machine shop but of course this means I need to do something else in the meantime... oh why not... bye bye dash

Android tablet dash!

210mm diff from an E23 745i, will build it with 4 clutches:

Pretty much back together now. Cams are in, did it myself this time, checked everything 20 times, compression is good, timing is dead on. Will fire it up in a bit to verify that it runs well again and then off to make the fender flares this winter.

bluej GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/12/13 11:56 a.m.

What's the goal? Killer track day toy? Loving it 8)

BigD Reader
12/12/13 11:56 a.m.

Yessir! Also working on aero this winter. Have a dual element wing on order designed by Simon McBeath. The front will be interesting to balance.

TAParker Reader
12/12/13 11:59 a.m.

............awesome build!!!

cdowd Reader
12/12/13 12:28 p.m.

Wow that looks like fun!

ClemSparks PowerDork
12/12/13 1:03 p.m.
BigD wrote: Fuel upgrades:

I approve of your sense of humor, and photography style.

BigD Reader
12/12/13 8:47 p.m.

Haha, thanks guys!

My Chinese plasma cutter off ebay arrived today. I have big plans for this thing. Besides the fenders, I will need it for my rear subframe project, reinforcing a spare one with 1/4" steel, welding plate steel caps instead of the subframe bushings and welding the sleeve into the middle.

We'll see how long till she blows but for 300 shipped brand new, I gotta chance it.

Nitroracer SuperDork
12/15/13 12:46 p.m.

Having just purchased an 87' E30 I plan to go racing with this is an awesome thread to follow. Mine won't be nearly this extreme, but thanks for sharing.

BigD Reader
12/15/13 10:47 p.m.

My pleasure! Hopefully next year, there will be updates from the track, not just the garage!

Datsun310Guy PowerDork
12/16/13 6:46 a.m.

RossD PowerDork
12/16/13 7:37 a.m.

Thank you for sharing your build. Now I can witness how other people spend good money on vehicles without my pocket book begging for mercy!

gamby UltimaDork
12/16/13 4:34 p.m.

This is a top-notch build!!! Wow! Nice to see you sparing very little expense. This thing is going to be a monster!!!

Puzzled by the condom reference tho.

mightymike Reader
12/16/13 4:46 p.m.

Very nice and thanks for sharing...

4cylndrfury MegaDork
12/16/13 5:47 p.m.

android tablet...that's called doing it right!!! Got any details on the install? I've been wanting to do this for a while now (more in a multimedia sense, but spare gauges word be a great added feature). Your dedication is really awesome as well. If you drive half as well as you build (spend? ), you're gonna do great!

BigD Reader
12/17/13 9:11 a.m.

Thanks guys!

gamby wrote: This is a top-notch build!!! Wow! Nice to see you sparing very little expense. This thing is going to be a monster!!! Puzzled by the condom reference tho.

The expense was an easy decision after I realized something. When we moved and I was being overwhelmed with my first house hunt/purchase and all the BS that comes with it, the S52 swap wasn't finished and I had an impulse to just get it out of my hair. My wife unequivocally told me there is NO way I am selling it. She reminded me that the reason I bought it was when I sold my last toy car, I would jones for wrenching like a crackhead. That's when it became clear that it never needs to be finished, it doesn't matter how fast it goes or lap times it sets. I have a deep seeded love of cars that goes as far back as any memory I have and I have a need to challenge myself in converting my imagination into a car. So then it became clear that it's a permanent fixture, so it's not so much about the dollar value of things as much as it is me doing things the way I want.

The condom reference is an ironic size reference. Although when this car hits boost, it's good to wear a jimmy.

4cylndrfury wrote: android tablet...that's called doing it right!!! Got any details on the install? I've been wanting to do this for a while now (more in a multimedia sense, but spare gauges word be a great added feature). Your dedication is really awesome as well. If you drive half as well as you build (spend? ), you're gonna do great!

The ECU I use is VEMS and they've made an android version of their management application. It talks to the ECU over bluetooth.

I'm a student of the game but I'm also conservative, mainly because I'm not in a position to trivialize the value of the cars I drive. So I think that makes me a good but not the fastest driver. That's part of why I wanted to go off the deep end with this phase - if I'm going to drive at 80-90%, then I might as well have that 80-90% be quite silly!

BigD Reader
3/6/14 7:58 a.m.

After being down and out with pneumonia and bronchitis since New Year's eve for a month, I got completely derailed and didn't want to go back to the garage. Last week I decided that unless I schedule garage time, it won't happen. So my phone beeped at me on Sunday that it's time to work on the car and off I went.

Fired up the Chinese plasma cutter and gave it a shot. Granted I've never used any other but I have no idea why I would need to spend 1800 on a Miller. For anyone who is considering a plasma cutter, get one! It's as awesome as you think it is. Makes preparing metal for fabrication as easy as paper and a scalpel.

Broke out the spool gun to make a cradle for the tablet dash out of 1/8x1.5 angle alu. I still haven't got the hang of it, some welds look great, others splash all over the place but it really works! One thing it definitely has on TIG is gaps. I screwed up with one cut and had a solid 1/8" gap. A few passes with the spool gun sealed it up.

Yesterday MY WING ARRIVED!!! Oh boy the wait was worth it.

Because racedieselwagon:

Next to mount it. Uprights will go through the fender tops, putting the wing at roof level, with the leading edge inline with the trunk trailing edge.

Nitroracer SuperDork
3/8/14 4:46 p.m.

That wing is going to look mean once its mounted up.

BigD Reader
3/16/14 11:02 a.m.

F I N A L L Y got around to the fenders. It's surprisingly coming out exactly as I've been envisioning thus far. It's my first time doing anything like this so it might not be like some of the pro-like jobs on here but I'm super satisfied!

crankwalk GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/16/14 4:33 p.m.

I don't know how I missed this thing but WOW. I bet that car is a handful! Great work.

BigD Reader
3/16/14 4:36 p.m.

Thanks! Haven't tried it on the track yet in its current incantation, but barring any catastrophic failures, that is happening this year. I can only attest to the fact that when the turbo spools, it's like nothing I've ever experienced. The power feels limitless like a jet on takeoff.

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