Time For Some Fun: Alexotics Project Car Round Two.

Two summers ago I introduced the world to my first resto project - a mouldy, faded, rusty, torn apart red on beige 1990 BMW E30 325i Convertible. She was magnificent. Err... she was not. But in my mind, I refused to see her in her current state and instead imagined her the way she looked when she left the showroom at the hands of her proud first owner.



I then documented the restoration process here, here and here, which unfortunately was cut short due to my relocating to Toronto. But nonetheless, in one month's time from time of purchase to time of sale, I managed to give the old girl a paint and bodywork refresher in unison with a good interior scrub. I then sold it to my neighbour who had watched me put countless evenings of manual labour in it. Sure I made a bit of a profit, but my neighbour basically got my manual labour for pennies on the dollar. Smart man.

Fast forward to August of 2013 when I began looking for another project. From way out of my price range Porsche 911 SC's to crummy 60's mustangs, I considered all corners of the enthusiast spectrum. But as my search evolved, I had suddenly developed an urge to take my next project racing. And I'm talking $500 at most Craigslist-find Chump car racing for which the only requirement is that it's got 4 wheels on the bottom and a roof on top. Actually, I've seen convertible Chump racers, so not necessarily the Formula 1 of the West Coast.

ChumpCar can get a little out of hand sometimes - like this creative Miata E30 combo.
The rules of Chump car are simple. Your car can only cost $500, perhaps more if you can sell some parts and bring it back down to $500, and it'll need the required safety equipment consisting of a roll cage, racing seats with harness, kill switch, and ideally a fuel cell. My personal requirements then were: stick shift, rear-wheel drive, coupe, and for it to have some racing pedigree. Since I'm a fan of the late 80's German DTM cars, and since the Mercedes 190E's have 4 doors, my choice was simple - it had to be another E30.

SpecE30 is a step up from ChumpCar.
Adding to the E30's case is that I've been following up on the SpecE30 series that races 1987-1991 M20 engined (325i or 325is) E30s in the States. The regulations are a bit tighter than Chump, but from what I gather it's the absolute funnest place to be if you have an E30 in the garage. There's a minimum weight requirement, safety equipment has to be to NASA certified spec, drivers need a racing license, and all cars race on DOT approved Toyo tires. So this would be a step up from track days or Chump. Nevertheless, reaching this series is the overall goal.

Now I'll have you know that here in Vancouver, BC there are more BMW E30 'Wanted' ads than there are 'For Sale' ads. This means that for every E30 listings that pops up, there'll be 9 buyers lined up on the un-expecting seller's yard come Saturday morning. Each one of them hoping that an old lady will open the door looking to sell her noisy old BMW 3-Series something or other for pennies. Since going to these boxing matches is a waste of time, I've resorted to the following two strategies. 1) Look for mis-catagorized for sale ads, and 2) never stop placing friendly notes on local E30's windshields. The latter hasn't yet paid off, but the former sure has. After going for a very positive test drive that ticked all the right boxes, I can now call myself the (near) owner of a 1987 E30 325is with a 5-speed and more racing pedigree than you can wave a stick at. At it's time, it was the forerunner of the mighty, legendary, cult-status E30 M3, a car that'll cost your $30,000+ to park in your garage. The bonus of course is that the 325is has that lovely in-line 6 that the E30 misses. Sure it doesn't rev as lively but it sure drives a lot smoother.

Hello, gorgeous - say hi to the Alexotics readers.
So, here we are. Pending a mechanical inspection tomorrow it'll be mind. It'll be my second E30 that I've owned and the 3rd that I've regularly driven. I'm beyond excited to park it in the garage, (sorry GTI, you'll be out in the rain for a while I'm afraid) and roll up my sleeves. Here's what I have in mind during the Vancouver rain season:
  • Assemble two or three friends to begin thinking out the budget and logistics for a racing team
  • Inspect and upgrade the car's vitals including diff and tranny fluids
  • Pray for no undiscovered rust or fuel/water pump issues
  • Re-install and clean up (sand and paint) the M tech bodykit, especially the front 'is' bumper
  • Look for Bride or Recaro racing seats to replace the very aged current stock Recaros
  • Consider my options regarding short shifters and OEM BMW shifters
  • Grab some quotes on roll cages, suspension, and fuel cells
  • Get my racing license through SCCA, HPDE, or a competition school
As you can perhaps tell form the list above, I'm hesitant to start ripping the 325is up with the aim of making it lighter. It's a special little car that deserves respect. And only when I'm completely convinced that we'll start racing, that's when I'll change mindset from restoring her to showroom, to restoring her to race-spec.

Aged to perfection.
I hope you'll have as much following what'll happen in the next few months as I'll have figuring out how to make it happen. Thank for reading the blog on this rainy Sunday evening and make to sure to check back on a weekly basis.

Alexander.