The 5 Speed Swap is complete and the car is back and it's...awwwwwweeeeeeessssssoooooommmmmmmeeeeee! This package is really how the car should be set up. It's like this upgrade has livened the car up and made it so much more fun to drive. The lightweight flywheel has made it accelerate and rev so much more freely. The short shifter is precise yet smooth. Engine revs are nice and low on the highway and the entire package makes the car feel younger and more spry. It’s a classic car with some modern performance touches. The only thing now is to choose a shift knob. This is the last major thing I need to do to the car. The finish line is close! I have done the big three. Motor rebuild/refresh. Paint and bodywork. And now the 5 speed conversion. What’s left? The rear diff that Le Tran put in is leaking so that’s getting swapped out and I am going with a 3.64 LSD. Beyond that everything is cosmetic like the recall seat adapters could be painted again, bumpers rechromed. Maybe hide wires in engine bay. Maybe install those sidedrafts? Ireland sway bars. Offset roll spacers. AM radio hidden antenna. I mean I can start searching for things but the bottom line is we are getting to the bottom of the list! In the meantime I’m enjoying the 5 Speed!
With an old car anytime that you are doing any upgrades there’s always the possibility of mission creep. If you are not familiar with this it starts with the mechanic saying “while we are in there”. Here are some things being done while we are doing the 5 speed...
A common thing on the 2002 is the parking brake mounts break on one side and the parking brake works in a diagonal fashion. The handle also gets loose. So the fix is to resend the support bracket and there is an aftermarket strengthening kit with bolts and washers to fix the sloppy handle.
Another common issue with the 02. The Alternator bushings wear out and at startup the the belt squeaks. New bushings, no belt squeak.
This one isn’t mission creep, it’s just how sometimes used 40 year old parts don’t work out. I bought a used driveshaft that should have been in pretty good shape. When the driveshaft shop got it, they determined it wasn’t in great shape. It was to correct length for the 5 speed but the joints were rough and the ears were pretty beat up. It would cost just as much to rebuild and shorten my driveshaft as it would to repair that one so I am going to return the used one and I had my driveshaft shortened and rebuilt and balanced.
This is a performance upgrade. The idea behind a lightweight flywheel is common among racing. A lighter flywheel allows the engine to rev faster getting to the power and quicker. The downside is sometimes it’s too light for a car driven on the street which results in chatter and noise. Ken had my steel flywheel lightened instead of going for a aluminum flywheel. It’s now 12.5 pounds instead of the stock 18 and not quite as light as a sub 10 pound aluminum flywheel. I get all the advantages but none of the downsides all at about half the price. That’s a win!
All in all a few things to do “while we are in there!”.
So while driving home from work in traffic, I went to downshift from 4th gear to 3rd and to my shock, the shifter wouldn't budge! The transmission was stuck in 4th gear! Stopped the car and after a lot of effort I got the car into reverse then finally got into 1st. Went through the gears and again when I got to 4th, it got stuck. Luckily I was close to home so I limped the rest of the way on 3 forward gears. Yup this 4 speed has given up. So....
Time for that 5 speed install!
My philosophy on building a restomod is, "Drive it like you stole it and if something breaks, upgrade it!"
Years ago my buddy Le Tran was selling an E21 5 speed out of his personal 2002. I bought it so I could have a good Getrag 245 for that transmission swap. I have also been putting parts together for this job. I had the transmission support bracket, a shortened driveshaft, guibo, clutch slave cylinder and 5 speed speedo cable.
Part 1. Prep and Getting the car to Vintage BMW Racing in Long Beach.
I have been planning on Ken Blasko to do the swap and since this was unexpected I had to wait a few days for him to get a free lift in the shop. He needed access to the transmission tunnel so that meant removing the center console and removing the carpet on the transmission tunnel. Once the center console was gone it was time to clean up the rats nest of wires that are behind the center console.
It came time to deliver the car. Kens shop is about 30 miles from me. Should I risk it with 3 forward gears and reverse? What if something else goes? I played it safe. Called AAA for a tow. Since I gave the platinum package or whatever that is I get free towing up to 250 miles. So I loaded up the car with a 5 speed we in the trunk and a driveshaft and various bits in the car and had a flatbed tow it to Long Beach.
Part 2: The delivery
The trip was uneventful and I followed the tow truck in the Audi. What stood out is that this tow truck driver was able to get the car in and off the truck with zero scraping and without additional boards or ramps even for it being so low. When Ken got it he immediately rolled it onto the lift and began inspecting the parts as well as the car. Transmission was first. While I trust Le, it's been sitting for over 5 years and I think it was sitting a few years before I got it. He examined the input and output shafts and was pleased with them. Initial signs are good on this box! Driveshaft. That also checked out very good. He's gonna replace the center support bearing and have it balanced. Seemed the u joints were in pretty good shape. It's also the exact size needed for a 5 speed conversion. Nice again. The car looked good. The diff is spitting out fluid but we knew that. A rebuilt 3.64 LSD is waiting for me at Le's shop, 2002 Garagewerks. I could use a front wheel bearing and the drivers side motor mount support looks like it's starting develop a hairline crack. Other than those things, the car is in GREAT shape!!! Oh and looking at the stance while it was on the flatbed, the front ride height is PERFECT!!
I have been thinking of building a set of coil over for essentially is 1/2". I wanted the front of the car 1/2" lower. The problem is when I had the front lower something sounded horrible under the front end and it felt like something was grinding. When I lowered the car I used Ireland Engineering Stage 2 springs which lower the car a good amount. I wanted a little bit more so I cut 1/2 coil off the front springs and got a pretty good look but functionally it wasn't good because of the grinding and rubbing. So I put the spacers back on top of the struts and raised it about 1/2" and the ride was great. I asked a number of 02 gurus why there was the grinding noise and they were baffled. Since the spacer is essentially raising the body, it's not really changing the suspension geometry that much and there shouldn't be such a drastic difference. Well that was 6 Year’s ago and now before I do the coil overs, I thought I would try to remove the space and see what was grinding. Well I removed the spacer and guess what...NO GRINDING!!!!!! So I now think I have gotten the car to a ride height I am happy with visually as well as functionally. Whats the difference? Well the wheel and tire combo. When I lowered the car initially I was using 14" BBS wheels from an E30 BMW. They were VERY close to rubbing on the inside and some people need spacers on the front to run them so maybe they were the culprit as now I am running 15" BBS wheels and I am using spacers to push them out exactly where I want them which is as far out as possible, but within the fender. This has probably given me some extra clearance between the tire and the strut.
Updated my gauge cluster and wow what a HUGE difference! I was at the SoCal Vintage BMW car show and ran across Bavarian Restoration. They are up north in Richmond but made the trip down south and had a display gauge cluster that they restored. It looked great! It had red needles, the wood grain was removed and the gauge surround area was painted a flat black and the area around the gauges were painted silver and chrome trim rings were inserted as well. They polished the glass and replaced the standard lighting with red LEDs. They also repaired the odometer gears so for the first time since I have owned the car I now have odometer and trip odometer! The results are pretty amazing and are a night and day difference. Here are some pics...
Just an update on the car paint wow it's been just about a year since I got the car back from paint in Tijuana. I'm very happy with the results still. Is it perfect? No, but to get a better paint job probably would have cost 4 times as much. My only REAL complaint is the headliner and they have agreed to redo that. It's just coming undone in one corner.
Here are some pics of the car I just snapped. Nothing special.
So I took the car to Ken at Vintage BMW racing to look at the header and help me diagnose it. We determined it was the number 4 cylinder tube near mounting plate. So on my next day off I removed the header and took it to the muffler shop that’s been doing the work on the car lately OC Muffler I Costa Mesa.
Here is the crack.
Once it was welded and patched the header went back in a hell of a lot easier than it came out and wham! No more noise!! Excellent result! Cost me about $50 for the repair including a new exhaust manifold gasket. This is a temporary fix though. The plan will be to replace the header. This will probably be the Ireland Engineering Alpina style header which is about $500 plus install and any pipe work that may need to be done by the muffler shop.
Nothing new here just part of owning a 41 year old car. It’s just that when it rains it pours lol.
So first I have a rather bad ticking and rattling sound coming from the engine bay. Turns out the sound is a cracked header. So we will see if the answer is to repair or replace.
Then I am experiencing a lot of groans and moans from the transmission. Yup bearings are pretty worn. Replaced the fluid with redline MT90 and it smoothed the shifting considerably but it’s still quite noisy.
Lastly in addition to the transmission noise my leaky diff is making a lot of noise as well. I have topped it off with diff fluid and it got quieter but it’s still leaking and will need to be swapped out.
So time to get some of these things fixed!!
The car has been running great. Problem free. So it's giving me the opportunity to do some little things to make the car more liveable on a day to day basis. This is my second 2002 and neither have had a working windshield washer system. So my plan was originally to get all the factory parts but they are a little unruly looking in the engine bay. Not what I wanted since I'm trying to clean it all up. So I measured and found a great place. Just behind the headlights there is a small area. I found a aftermarket washer bottle designed for a vw bug that was pretty small and has a built in motor. Perfect! Rather than drill I used some industrial velcro and it keeps the bottle in place. I wired the pump to the stock wires for the washer so the stalk on the steering column activates the washers just like it should and I ordered new washer nozzles from the dealer at $20 each and put them in. The kit came with tubing that was perfect and I bought a T connector from Home Depot for $.99.
Empi VW Bug Washer Kit $30
BMW Washer Nozzles $40
Wire, Velcro, T Connector $10
Love it. Its something that I have reached for at times when I have a dirty windshield and realized its never had it. Works like a stock system, yet its got a tiny bottle thats in a nice stealth location.
Video of the Results
Had the chance to pull out the Nikon D700 and shoot a few pics of the car instead of the normal iPhone pics I normally post. In addition to this being the first real pics of the car with the new BBS wheels installed, I also did a quick detail with a new product I'm trying out which is the Mothers Quick Detail spray. I'm VERY impressed with this product. More on that in another update . Enjoy the pics!