The E30 Build A journey to get an old E30 ready for track


Getting married gets in the way of cars

So getting married tends to put a huge dent in any progress, both in time and money.

May 15th was the big day and three months later, I'm finally back to looking for parts to complete the radiator install.

I need to buy:

  1. Rubber stops that hold the radiator
  2. New pusher fan.  Puller + shroud won't fit anymore
  3. Hoses.
  4. Specialty hardware from Marshalls Hardware down the street to securely fasten the radiator and also to plug the hoses that use to go to the heater core in the cabin.

All in the all, I'm guessing the most expensive will be the hoses.

Hopefully we'll be getting the parts soon and finish up the radiator so we can go ahead and ordering a new oil cooler and getting the oil system tied up.

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Out goes the oil cooler and the oil.

Part of the radiator fitting means we have great access to the area where the oil cooler is and the fittings.

We quickly just undid the two large inlet/outlet bolts, unscrewed the mounts from the oil cooler and out came the oil cooler.

Don't forget to drain the oil.

Right now the motor is now "dry" and the very old oil has been put out in jugs for recycling.  We'll be buying another aftermarket oil cooler and reattaching them to the OEM position and bolts.

Again, we'll probably be turning to Summit Racing for some reasonable replacements for the oil cooler.

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Radiator Fitting, Part 1 of 2

We bought the following items from Summit Racing.

  • SUM-380152. Radiator Cap
  • SUM-380425. Universal Aluminum Racing Radiator
  • EAR-984004ERL.  Overflow hose 1/4 ID to 1/8 NPT adapter

As seen below the summit racing one is a LOT bigger and a LOT lighter.   This is not a straight drop in and I believe, not many aftermarkets are.  Total price for the parts, roughly $180.

Here's a comparison in frontal view:

Front view of radiator

Here's a comparison in thickness:

Thickness comparison

So what did we do to get it to fit...

Well you need to do the following:

  • Cut a small section of the hood out on the driver side using a Dremel and fiber reinforced cutting wheels ($10 bucks for a pack of 5).
  • Cut out notches on the bottom edge of the radiator to drop the radiator lower.
  • Cut the inlet pipe back (it's very long) and run a thin JB Weld bead to keep the hose from sliding off.
  • Remove the power steering (it's a race car after all).

It's really not that bad.

Here's where we cut on the hood:

Hood cut

Here's the inlet pipe chop.  You have to do this cause even though the inlet will fit in the empty space where the power steering is, the hose will interfere with the alternator.  That grey line is a small bead of JB Weld to replace the little bump on the portion that gets chopped.

Inlet Pipe Chop

Last bit of modifications is the lower lip of the radiator facing out.  Summit has quite a large lip so we cut a section off down about 1/2-3/4 inch to drop the radiator more.  We are going to keep the BMW's OEM radiator rubber bumpers and shave them down a bit too.  Don't notch it flush with the radiator core, you need a little edge to keep the radiator from sliding off the rubber bumpers.

Radiator Notching

Don't forget to remove the power steering! Save the two banjo bolts that connect to the power steering pump and bring them to a specialty hardware shop to get the right matching plugs.

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Getting to the Radiator, Part 2

Out goes the coolant

Drip drip drip.  To access the AC Condensor requires us to remove the radiator so out goes the coolant from the lower drain plug.  It helps to drain the radiator if you uncap the radiator.  Sounds like common sense but we totally forgot about it.

*** Don't pour the radiator stuff down the storm drain cause it all ends up in the ocean where you swim, your dog craps, and where I surf.  Can it in old milk jugs or whatever and go recycle it.   ***

Loosen up all the hose camps, pop the inlet and outlet hoses, remove the wire harnesses to the aux fan (et al.), and then remove the retaining screws and out the radiator comes.  The AC condensor is sitting right in front and it easily comes up after you decouple the lines ( we just hacksawed the AC hoses but an adjustable wrench makes quick work of the big brass nuts ).

Out goes the radiator

That leaves us with a nice void after you remove the radiator and the AC condensor.   Overall once the bumper was out we were able to take out the radiator and condenser in about 2 hours (we took some time to bag the parts, take some photos, and overall inspect the area).  We are currently looking at some new lightweight, high-capacity radiators to replace the OEM one.

  • UUC (very, very expensive)
  • Mishimoto (good reviews and forerunner).  This is looking to be about $240 for a replacement.
  • EBay China Knockoffs (honestly looks a lot like a lot of them out there without the brand).

Did I mention the oil cooler is partially taco'ed because it looks like it ran into something low hanging and got a bit bent.  This is a candidate for replacement so we're going to look into alternatives (go entirely with Mishimoto and perhaps take care of the oil cooler while area is very accessible).

The radiator void

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Getting to the Radiator, Part 1

Removing the bumper is simpler than it looks, as long as you know where to look.

The fascia (the large plastic air dam below the bumper) is held in to a thin metal rail by three plastic hangers and a two bolts on the left and right.  The hardest to get to are the plastic hangers and to be honest, most of our had broken off from the previous owners running into curbs etc.

Bumper points

Metal rail, Bumper attachment point, one of the broken plastic hangers (left to right, clockwise)

Once the fascia is removed, you can access the bolts to remove the steel bumper.

With the bumper and lower fascia removed you'll be able to access the oil cooler and easily access the lower radiator hoses etc.  This will help get better working room when removing and reinstalling a new radiator.

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And of course, I forgot about the exhaust.

So here's a recap of what we've done (and it's not much).

  1. Car is up on blocks
  2. Yanked the shift linkage out.  Parts are in house, just not installed (post to come when we install it)
  3. AC Compressor is out.

And here's what I kinda forgot to mention:

  1. Exhaust had to be pulled out to reach the drive shaft to displace that just to get to the shift linkage properly.
  2. And in the process of yanking the exhaust, we yanked the headers.

Yeah, a lot of removal, not a lot of installation thus far and I think that's ok in my books (it's an old car and it needs the open heart surgery).

I figure I'll give a little blurb on the exhaust removal and it's pretty simple.

  1. PB Blast is your friend
  2. Your friend under the car instead of you
  3. Angle socket adapters
  4. Long socket extensions

That's about it.  It takes a few hours of blasting off rusted parts and everything should just nicely fall out.  We found some serious rust damage on the flanges, nuts, hangers, muffler body, you name it so if you haven't checked, it's properly rusted.  One of the flanges literally broke in half in our hands.  I always figured there was an exhaust leak ( I could hear the whistle ) and just looking at the exhaust after it was pulled out, confirmed my suspicions.  This whole thing needs replacement.

Paul Poore supplies the SpecE30 race exhausts for this car @ a nicely affordable price of $200 last I checked.  From our standpoint, this exhaust system is perfect.  Cheap, spec legal, dead simple, and looks like it's not too bad to install.  It's not street legal though so don't go zipping around with one of these.  The race exhaust will end right where the headers used to connect past the cats.

After Xmas, I think we'll be giving Paul a ring and ordering us an exhaust to put on.

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Out comes the AC compressor

We don't need an AC compressor or heater for a track car so out it goes.

As pictured here, we've just hacksawed through the belt and that brass nut is BIG.  So big that it's really, really hard to get to without a very big wrench (a very expensive 20-30 dollar big wrench).  Being cheap, after we got the AC purged (not much left after 20 some years), we just hacksawed through the tubing instead of trying to break all the nuts free, broke some free some bolts and viola, it was out.

AC Compressor Before Removal

AC Compressor Before Removal

The compressor is quite heavy, I'd say at least 15-20 lbs.   Once out we knew that the next step was to get the bumper off, pull out the radiator, yank the condenser out, then remove the remaining lines and start working toward the firewall to get to the heater.

One thing we learned so far is:

  1. PB Blaster works.  No joke.  This is the stuff to get those stubborn bolts free.  I wouldn't let my skin contact it considering the miracles it does so I always wore some gloves when wrenching around.  It worked wonders breaking free the drive shaft.
  2. Damn this car is old.
  3. Oops, need to remove the exhaust too, what a rust bucket that's become.
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Shift Linkage

Here's a large photo of the shift linkage with the drive shaft displaced.

Shift Linkage

Shift Linkage


  1. This is the shift linkage.
  2. This is the spline which is why we had to disconnect the guibo/flex disc from the transmission shaft (not the other way around).
  3. This is a piece of webbing holding the drive shaft and tied up through the hole where the shift lever goes.

The selector cup that attaches to the transmission is held in place by a pin that is held in place by a thick round band.  You need to move that off the groves to allow the pin to slide out.  The BMW Red Book Manual (that everyone has) says to knock the pin out from the top. Well they are wrong.

The shift console blocks the pin.  So we temporarily

  1. Reconnected the linkage
  2. Shifted to FIRST GEAR
  3. Used a small allen wrench to knock the pin down.
  4. Voila, shift rod is now detached.

On inspection, as internet forums say, there is pretty much complete disintegration of all the bushing, rubber, etc. in the linkage.  Also, because the selector cup that receives the shift linkage has a plastic insert, there is some good oval wear.  There is a SIGNIFICANT amount of play which probably is why the shifter was so sloppy.

At a minimum, the shift selector cup, all the bushings/o-rings will need replacement.

I just got a quote today from the BMW dealership parts and everything excluding a new shifter rod will run up about $80.

There's a couple options we're looking at.

  • UUC shift replacement (expensive) and doesn't include linkage so there's some OEM parts still.
  • Stay OEM (cheapest at $80 bucks)
  • Go OEM linkage but replace with a Z3 shifter.
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Building blocks.

Blocks in ConstructionRhino Ramps weren't cutting it so it was time to make some serious wood blocks to put the car up on.   These blocks would hold the wheels about 9 inches off the ground.

Materials consisted of:

  1. 5 2x10x8' plank
  2. 1 2x12x8' plank
  3. 1 2x3x8' strip
  4. Box of 3" stainless steel, square drive screws.

The blocks consisted of a series of 2' sections stack on top and held together using some stainless steel 3 inch screws.   The 2x3 was cut up to make little chocks for the tires; two strips per block for a total of eight pieces.

Originally the plan was to have 5 2x10x2' sections with a 2x12x2' foot base for a total of six sections.  This proved to be too much and we couldn't get the car high enough so a section was removed taking it down to 5 sections tall.

With the car already on the rhino ramps we used a block of wood between a racing jack and the diff to lift the rear up.  Once the rear wheels were off the ground we used a smaller jack to compress the rear shock so the tire would lift high enough to slide the block under.    Once both rear blocks were in place the main jack was lowered and moved to the front cross brace for lifting the front end.

The front was then subsequently lifted off the ground till the rhino ramps could be removed and the wood blocks inserted.  Note, you can't really compress the front wheels so you need a tall jack to get the car high enough to slide the blocks in.  The jack we used was a friend's Sears 2-ton low-profile racing jack.

After that was done the car was lowered on some solid foundation.

Took us about 1.5 hours to build the blocks and another 30-40 minutes to get the car off the ramps onto the blocks.

The Final Product

The Final Product

I guess a question is "why not jack stands?"  Because we felt if we were putting torque on bolts and potentially shifting the car around, we didn't feel safe that the car was floating above tera firma on some stands.  Also find a suitable location that would safely hold the pressure/weight on a single joint was unnerving.

Total cost =$~50 bucks.

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A quick summary of the beginning.

Originally, the intent was to replace the shift linkage components because they are pretty worn (still OEM parts in there) and ended up having to remove a lot of stuff, exhaust, etc. to get some good access to the components mostly because the drive shaft was in the way.

  1. We rolled the car up on rhino ramps to get access.  These things are great btw.  I use them for oil changes, etc all the time.  The clearance on the front and behind the front wheel is decent.  The problem is by the time you shimmy yourself to the transmission area, you got about 1-2 inches maybe of chest to chassis clearance.  Really not much room but enough to work.  Later we would have to build blocks and get the car all the way up.
  2. On inspection, the shift linkage was blocked by the drive shaft, so we needed to detach the drive shaft and move it aside.
  3. Well... that meant the exhaust from the manifolds to the cat back had to be removed, along with the exhaust heat shield the runs down the center.
  4. The cat back was rusted with several holes.  The flange broke in half from the rust and some bolts that originally should've been a 14mm, rusted down to a 13mm.
  5. The drive shaft had to be detached by unbolting the guibo flex coupler between the transmission output shaft and the drive shaft.  Note, there are 3 bolts to detach.  You should detach the 3 bolts that attach the flex coupler to the transmission, not the 3 bolts that attach the drive shaft to the flex coupler.
  6. You need to drop the center bearing out to wiggle the drive shaft off the transmission output shaft spline.  DON'T LEAVE THE SHAFT DANGLING!  After we disconnected the drive shaft, we used rope to secure the shaft while detached and also reattached the center bearing.
  7. Now we have access to the shift linkage...

The side effect of replacing the shift linkage ended up with a bunch of new revelations:

  1. What to do with the exhaust (really rusted)?
  2. What to do with the cat piping from the manifolds/headers?
  3. Those transmission mounts are shot.
  4. The linkage needs work.
  5. We need to get the car up on blocks.

More to follow.

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September 2014
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