Dec 13, 2017

Project M3/4/5

I don't need a new M2 or an Alfa Guila Quadrifoglio, right?.   I mean who needs those pieces of crap? Screw those cars.

After all the M3/4/5 is a more real car.
1. it has real rack and pinion, not electronic steering trying to feel real.
2. it has one handling mode only and no switch.  It on all the damn time so if your Starbucks sloshes around, get a towel.
3. it has no power memory seats.  It doesn't remember my seat position because I don't let the wife drive the damn thing.  I leave the toilet seat up intentionally sometimes too.
4. it has a real manual transmission, but more importantly...  You can place paddle shifters anywhere you like, but they won't help your testicles grow back.
5. it has no infotainment.  It's my right as an american to be offended by much less.  So yep, I'm offended by infotainment.

Just look at them,  hideous right?
Join the Fans of Sedans Group on facebook  FACEBOOK E36 SEDAN GROUP

My mission is the make my $10,000 BMW E36 M3 believably cool even by today's standards.  Call it self actualization, call it conceit.  Shit, call it retail therapy; I don't car.  (Care intentionally misspelled to be cute)

Seems starting with the "Best handling car at any price" by Car and Driver, is a good start. Nevertheless,  the E36 is certainly at the bottom of its market, which is good for me because I too am at the bottom of my market.   
You can get a 90K mile example like this for $10-16K as of this writing.

Issue 1 handling dynamics

It's not hard to say a car handles good when they are small and tight like this one.  I can't make it smaller, but I can make it tighter.  Everyone likes tighter.

The current rage about the recent BMW M1 and M2 has a lot to do with its size.  Handling dynamics are inextricably tied to size and weight.  Look at the cars we all love.  Lotus Elise,  Mazda MX5,  Mini-Coopers, and even Shelby Cobras were tiny little cars.  So we are back to small because it's nothing new, it was cool now because it was cool then.

Pikes Peak, Colorado

I'm not running a physics class here's the bottom line on "tightness":  stiff chassis = great handling.  Sedans are more rigid than coupes, just look around at the track and you'll figure it out.   Furthermore, my example is a sedan without the popular folding rear seats, hence the most rigid M3 you'll ever find.  I rule!

That said to get a 20yr old car up to snuff I think a few little things are still in order.  So a quick romp through Craigslist and eBay and I've scrounged the following

Brace: Minimal impact perhaps, but it's pretty.
 I don't like have carbon engine covers.
Why? because carbon fiber is simply lipstick for a motor.

Chassis brace from a convertible is an OEM stiffening solution 
Bigger sway bars,  is that chassis stiffening?  "Sure" said me.

Issue 2 Restoration

You can't make this sucker new, but you can make it shiny.

Appearance of a new car, and  feel of a new car is hard to beat. Starting with a super detailed cleaning, you'll identify many depressing items on any used car.  These broken bits and pieces are a big part of  that makes old cars old.   While the M3 5-speed sedan isn't  terribly common,  each individual part is very common.  So in this world of free information its really easy to source these things once identified, even if  stupid.  Log into Facebook and ask the people with nothing better to do to help you.

Clean the crap out of it,  I mean remove the interior, the rubber trim and scrub.
Nobody wants to find a 15 year old ham sandwich under his seat, so clean well.

Teeth whitening for cars.  Best if you ask your father-in-law to do this for you.

 You never see your own tail lights unless you are thrown from the car.
So I will not buy euro-tail lights, LED or any or other shiny crap. 

I prefer factory radios but I painted this to match the interior and its iPhone friendly too.
No wires were cut, and the BMW factory radio failed 3 times before I gave up on OEM.
I emailed Duplicor for instructions on how to paint shiny plastic bits. good guys.

Okay, I pimped out my pedals, sorry but these Chinese pedals rock.
New M3 Floormats are a must.  $100 gets a new set from anyone

Holding a nasty old  wheel or knob is like borrowing someone's old underwear.\
Brand new 3 spoke steering wheel swapped in was complicated, but I'm smart.
Shift knob is the same deal, brand new. 

I may buy a whole new interior leather, but that will wait till after the kid stops dropping cookies everywhere.
For now it looks pretty good actually, but I did spend a day treating the leather and obsessing over every stitch.


Yep, even if those hidden seat tracks are cracked, you've got to replace em.
Late at night, it will wake you just knowing they are cracked.  You'll go to hell.

Other items clearly not worth a screen shot include BMW badges, various small screw covers, trim pieces,  clunky switches etc etc.  Tracking them all down w/out paying retail takes a bit of time, but that's how you make an old car young again.  If you want to look like The Rock, you gotta get up  at 4am each day, same with car restoration.  

Squeak patrol:  I don't tolerate that shit.   I find and destroy them, and luckly the M3 is well made, so they are few and easily rectified when identified.   Sunroof is boring and not pictured here, but I rebuild some of it and quieted that crap down.  Some pastic bits here and there benefited from Dynamat (it only takes a piece about the size of a quarter to make a huge improvement).  Heater fan is showing signs of imminent failure, it will wait till I pull the dash over winter.

Items on hold till winter
1. On board computer's clock has gone dark.  I need a new one but refuse to pay for a stupid clock.
2. Heater core (this is cheap but a 10 hour job, so is waiting till winter.
3. Heater fan  makes faint noises, will fail in a year or two.  (address with item 2 above)
4. Keyless entry,  this is an opportunity when car is apart for heater core.

Issue 3 Sporty Feel

I need this M3 to be more sporty than it was and accept its limitations too. While performance is important, it is also a moving target you'll never hit.  A 1988 Porsche 911 frankly cannot compete with a new Accord with V-Tech, but no on argues the Porsche is more sporty.  My goal is not to turn this into something it is not, but rather communicate more with the driver by feel, sound and modest performance changes.  It's not how fast your car is, its how fast it feels. There will always be a minivan  that's faster than your M3, but it won't feel fast because of the Paw Patrol video playing in back.

It's safe to say Dinan upgrades are modest , reliable and over priced.  In the 90's Dinan figured all this out, so I will simply buy every damn thing they ever made for this sucker.  I'm shallow, and you know you are too.

The Dinan badge says "I manage my car money poorly."  That's me, I'll take it

People complain about the value of Dinan shit.  If they can charge more, good for them.  They have built a brand and should benefit from it.   That said, If I can find that same stuff used, good for me.  I have a budget to keep and a Craigslist/eBay strategy to my upgrades. My gut says I've spent about $1250 on $4000 worth of goodies. Spreadsheets and shopping lists bore me and take away space that could be used for sarcasm.

Dinan Exhaust, the exhaust note is huge in your day to day impression of a car.
Dinan does this quite well,  authoritative but not juvenile.  It completes me.
Dinan Full suspension package definitely adds to the sports car feel
An unexpected surprise,the previous owner installed this quite recenty.

Forced induction strikes fear in the hearts of the uninitiated. If properly intercooled and modest in output, a supercharger is quite an easy, reliable improvement w/out much of a down side.  Dinan actually offered supercharging in 1997 and even backed it with a warranty rivaling the BMW warranty to appease the paranoid. But other companies offer more modern approaches. Once you've been blown, you'll understand. 
The little known 10psi Dinan supercharger option.  Intercooled and sexy as hell.
I had to kill a man for this, but he won't be missed.  Look for install notes soon.

For now supercharging is on hold till I read and comprehend the 35 pages of 350 installation steps.  All with not a single photo.   I'm a car guy to the bone, but this is a lot to digest late at night when drunk.  After all that's when I do all my car shit.

I don't buy into power claims from intakes like these.
It does however have an audible benefit to me.

Issue 4 Sporty look.

You cannot deviate too far from a car's original design, or old people will crack jokes about you at cars and coffee.  I will attempt to appear like the coolest stock M3 one could buy back in 1997, and nothing more.

* A factory style spoiler is in the works but cannot yet be pictured.

Coming soonTinted windows
 .The "Storm Trooper" appearance of a white M# benefits from tinting.

 M colors stickers,  I'm ashamed and the wife is going to make me remove them.

Sep 28, 2017

Mental Health

Pikes Peak. 

Some bad shit has transpired.  Don’t worry; I’m not sharing.  Men don’t do that shit.  Men get into their fucking cars and drive.  That's what this man is doing anyway.

I woke up, grabbed Ray Bans, a radar detector, a Mac Book and jumped in the M3 to escape reality

So off I went, on the road to Pikes Peak.   It’s the closest, cool car guy destination  that I know of.  (I've been in Colorado for a few years now, but my focus has not been on cars, but rather my young son).  Someone who will receive the torch of automobilia I hope.  My goal is to waste the whole damn day, if possible.

No guard rails in most places.  I'm a car guy, but damn!  I don't think so. 
I’ve never been up Pikes Peak, but if it’s anything like my drives in Oregon to Mt Saint Helen it should be adequately distracting.    Fresh pavement and turns that require 100% focus to drive the demons from my mind, albeit temporarily. 

I’m rocking out to Pandora in my Kenwood Apple Car play radio.   I prefer factory stereos, but they have broken 3 times in 3 months.   So I bought the most Apple Compatible radio I could find, then asked Duplicor for guidance to paint the shiny/flashy bits to match the interior. They replied in hours with product names and instructions.   I like old school cars w/out electro doodadification, but a man needs to make calls and use his Waze app too.

Climbing the peak allows me to explore my goals for the M3.    I need 0-60  times in under 5 seconds. Probably because that was the Holy Grail when I was a boy.   I’d also like my car to look a bit more stunning w/out looking like a project car.   I prefer my coolness to be subtle, but impactful to people that know what they are seeing.  Automotive esoteric coolness is my mantra.

I don't have the nerves to race, but that doesn't make me less of a car guy. 
 Perhaps autocross is more my speed,   no cliffs to drop down. 

     Big ass brakes would be nice.   These are cosmetic to me, but I still want them pretty badly.  I’d like bigger Motorsports-Blue calipers to peak out from behind my wheels.  Since I really don’t need better braking, I plan on Porsche 996 brake calipers, adapted to fit my car, then painted to look like late model M3 Brakes.  This should be more hands on than a kit, and hopefully less expensive too.   

 Brembos off a 996 Porsche can be painted to look this good

      Dinan badges are cool to me.   Many Dinan parts are irrelevant if I plan to install a supercharger.  The car already sports Dinan suspension, and Dinan exhaust will come soon.   I’ll buy just enough to warrant a legitimate badge w/out being a charlatan.
Wheels,  I can't drive much longer on my hideous wheels.  I want the coolest wheels BMW offered in the 90’s or I’ll die of plebianism.  Below are my ultimate choice, and they are around in refurb and replica forms. 

I think the plate personifies esotericism, if that’s a word.   It means very little to common folk, but tells BMW guys I’m the less common 4 Door with a 5 Speed.   It's actually plenty damn common, but since it took a while to find one, I’m going to make believe it's rare.  What's being a car guy w/out a little self-deceit?

Lastly, I’m having a love hate relationship with the idea of forced induction.  The blower pictured comes with an ECM tune included that should make it quite drivable.   The appearance in black is quite OEM looking, and I dig that. A Dinan supercharger is an ideal choice too, but they cannot be sourced new;  meaning tuning and rebuilding costs would be additional.  

The VF Superchargers are large blowers moving a pretty small volume.  This means you can get away with lower temps w/out an intercooler and make reasonable power.  Ultimately this will get me going the modest speed improvement I desire.  The price of $ 4,500 puts this on the back burner for a while.   When my son’s older It will be a good project for him to see.


My only competition to the Peak today.  I kicked his ass.

May 31, 2017

Project M3/4/5 week 1

M3 bought sight unseen, arrived home.

Professional Detailer Cameron Crabtree works for chocolate milk.  

I've sprained my shoulder, patting myself on the back for finding this one in such pristine condition. While not the sexiest car I've ever owned, the M3/4/5 (M3, 4 doors, 5 speeds) as they call it is pretty special.   But, hey, no 20 year old car needs nothing.   Plugs, O2 sensors, drips, and hoses all needed minor attention, but didn't amount to much money.  
It didn't take long for the Service Engine Light to come on.
  Just a loose injector wire.   ( i'm leaving  out that it took me 6 hours to figure it out ). 
There is something very rewarding about such a well matched car.    Gearing, weight, torque, sound, steering and shifter-feel all come together well in this car, even after 20yrs.   It's understandable why its handing was legendary in the 90's.  That could have faded with neglect, but this car was not neglected.

The E36 M3 has it where it counts for me.  That's on the road to work, mountain passes and freeway on-ramps. While not powerful at all by today's standards, it's tailored to feel good on the road each day.   Power delivery seems optimized from for the US legal road experience.  I'm not interested in amazing Nürburgring times or over 190mph top speeds.  I'm also not interested in how cool the european models were.
Now it's not all sunshine and roses, It did find tell tail signs of a car parked outside in Seattle for many years.  Mildew and sludge buildup was on the exterior crevices.  Though it doesn't show in the photos, it was unsettling.   It took a 3 day weekend to clean this car right.
Inline 6 is favorite motor of mine, more DIY access than V8 cars.
 Certainly easier to access than my Porsche 911's motor.
I dig the "Storm Trooper" White, color. It's no Carrera, but it does still make me smile when I turn around for another glance after parking.   I'll Tint windows soon, because it's damn hot here in Colorado.   Forged Dinan or BMW Motorsport wheels and a factory spoiler install are also on my mind.  
Cut and Buff via my Griots Garage toy box.
Wax and Plastic treatments courtesy of Meguiars.  
Leather didn't crack over the past 20 years, but it was very thirsty for conditioning.  It will take several more treatments to make this leather happy.   I'll spring for a full interior replacement when the kid stops dropping ice cream and gummi bears everywhere.  Meanwhile I clean weekly w/a leaf blower, that gets those goddam Cheerios out of the crevices.
Manual seats,  less failure prone in a car this age, and  much lighter too.
Back seats that don't fold down make for a slightly stiffer chassis I'm told.
   I like this and don't plan on taking it to Ikea anyway.
To address the mildew and grim I took a nausea pill and got to work by watching my Father-in-law clean.   This Seattle grime is a good reason to get a garage for crying out loud.  A travesty explained in my blog on garage abuse.
Door trim after removing the slimy rubber door seals.
I have many sludge photos , but you get just this one.
This is the rich Seattle soil tucked into just one fender's edge!
Again,  no rust at all..

Cookie crumbs will come later, so he's training here.

 Perhaps childish, but for just $21 I like the little "M"s.    We'll see if the EVER arrive from China