Lemons E30 Build Part One… Starting the Adventure
This is a diversion from most of what I’ve publicly written about in the past. As all of my professional writing now resides at work with ForgeRock, I’m pivoting my blog to share more stories that fit firmly in the “life” category.
For those who know me well, you already understand that the only thing that rivals my obsession for technology is my passion for cars. And, for the last year or so, I’ve been building a race car with a gaggle of friends. Our primary objective is to race in the 24 hours of Lemons and ChumpCar series. This post is just a start at documenting all the work we’ve done, and there will be much more to follow.
It all started over an innocuous dinner with Adam and Julien at Don Ramon’s, where we all got very
merry excited to build and race a $500.00 car. Within days, Chris and Julien procured a $500.00 1987 325e in San Jose and dragged it to Chris’s yard in Brisbane- all while Adam and I were at work.
According to the seller, the 325e “just” needed a new clutch master cylinder (a ~$30.00 part). Apart from that, the engine started and ran well. Suitably lemon-y. They were kind enough to even include the part.
We set to work trying to fix the clutch master cylinder, ordering a new one and, in the end, building a custom actuator in an attempt to get the right actuation on the rod…
This is discovering the shear load of this part….
In the end, it turned out that it wasn’t the clutch master cylinder that was the problem. It was the throwout bearing, which means (at the very least) dropping the gearbox.
We did further research into the “e” part of 325e. While we had been running on the assumption that this was a higher capacity motor that with an “i” head could become a 2.7 “i,” we learned the reality: that only works for 1988 “Super ETAs”, unless you swap the pistons:
the stock 325e pistons will not work with the 325i head because of the different design; the 325i has a domed cylinder chamber to match the domed pistons while the eta has a flat cylinder chamber to match the flat pistons. Throw the flat 325e pistons into a 325i head and you have a mismatch that causes a lower compression ratio, and this for this procedure, lowering is a bad thing.
We considered that we could always turbo the engine (i head plus e block). However, the cheapest eBay kits are ~$550.00, and turbos are notoriously bad for endurance races, so we decided that wasn’t a great idea.
Our conclusion: get an i motor. And, since we wanted an LSD, see if we can find an i car with one, or an IS car that had one as standard.
After many fruitless Craigslist searches, we finally found a lead. We booked a U-Haul dolly…
and a headed off on a trip to Watsonville, to follow up on this:
It ended up being your typical mis-description: no title, $600 in back fees, missing interior, missing MAF, only ran on starter spray, etc, etc. But after I sunk four hours of my time renting a horrible tow dolly and driving all that way to look at it, we decided to look at the bright side. It was an IS, appeared to have a running engine, manual transmission, 15″ alloy wheels, and the all-important LSD.
Just $450.00, and it was ours.
Now to get it to the garage. Since it was missing the steering wheel, I foolishly decided to tow it with the rear wheels on the ground… what could possibly go wrong if it was in neutral???
Well, lots. Especially if a previous owner had tried to disassemble the driveline (this hadn’t been communicated to me), and then the car throws its driveshaft on the freeway…
Here I am trying (unsuccessfully) to remove the driveshaft, on the ground, at a gas station in San Jose somewhere. That failed, so clearly it had to have its front wheels on the ground. That meant switching it with just my wife and me to roll it off, and then back onto the dolly in the other direction… Not fun! And did I mention that it’s hot in the summer in San Jose? Really hot.
Back on the dolly, but with a new problem to fix. We had to stop the front wheels from turning!
After a quick trip to Harbor Freight, some new tie down straps plus vice grips yielded a non-snaking, towed vehicle.
It was a long day of eventful towing before we delivered our IS parts car to Ash’s house in Pacifica. Here it sits alongside the parts’ future home: a registered and titleable 325e.
A big thanks to my wife, Kelly, for A LOT of patience that day…
Next up, we start the teardown…