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!!
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.
Took the car to Ken Black at Vintage BMW Racing to have him replace the wheel studs. Should be simple and straightforward right? WRONG!
So the axle bolts on the rear and the hubs came off easily. Too easily. The drivers side was fine. Tight, no play, splines on the stub axle looked good as well as the teeth on the hub. The passengers side though…that was bad. The teeth on the hub were mangled. In fact they were smooth and completely worn away in some spots and the splines on the stub axle were worn. Lots of play when moving the hub on the axle. On top of that I had a brake cylinder leak.
So Ken had a used stub axle and hub in great shape that he put on the car. Stub Axle failure is NOT a good thing. If it fails the hub will detach from the car and the wheel with it, leaving the 02 scraping the pavement in a shower of sparks on the rear subframe and bodywork. You are lucky if thats all that happens. There are some very dramatic photos and stories of stub axle failures on the web.
After Ken and Tom had the stub axle replaced they pounded the old studs out of the old hubs and installed the longer ones to accommodate the spacers for the wheels. The did the wheel bearings and replaced the leaky brake cylinder. Bled the brakes and buttoned the car up. Everything felt great. I got home and decided to do another final test fit so I can order the appropriate spacers.
I jacked the car up, removed the old BBS wheel, put 8 washers on each stud (about 15mm), bolted the new wheel onto the car, lowered the car onto the ground and it looked good. I decided to put the center cap on just to check everything and guess what….it hit the longer studs and wouldn’t lock!!
So now I’m scratching my head. Hundreds spent on refinishing the wheels, installing longer studs, redrilling, polishing and now the center caps won’t fit! So I did a few things. I put another washer on the hubs to give the locking mechanism a tad more space simulating a bigger spacer so now it’s about 18mm. Then I grabbed the trusty dremel tool and removed some plastic around the cap locking mechanism. I ground it down just enough to be able to lock the cap on the wheel. Phew.
So I decided on a 9mm spacer in the front and a 17mm spacer in the rear. If the rear is too aggressive, I’ll go with a 15mm and maybe use a cutting wheel and cut the studs down a bit. I think they are 80mm long. 65mm would probably be perfect.
So the story ends well, but it sure took a long time to get there! With 40+ year old cars, its #nevereasy!
Things are moving along on the car! The motor rebuild has made driving the car a blast. I am driving around like a menace and I love it!!
Last year I had 3 major things on my list and tons of minor things. The major things were:
- Paint and bodywork
- Bottom end motor rebuild
- 5 speed upgrade
I’m happy to say that numbers 1 and 2 have been completed! Now I have a new list of things to get done in no particular order.
- Headliner repair:
The shop in Mexico replaced the headliner when the paint was done. It was coming unglued in a few spots. I will either take it back to Mexico and have it fixed or get some upholstery contact cement and fix it myself. Leaning toward the latter option.
Front End alignment:The front tires are wearing unevenly. Before I install the new wheels I wanna get an alignment.
- Rear wheel studs:
This will allow me to put spacers on for the 15″ BBS rims. Which brings us to number 3…
- BBS 15″ install!
This has been a 2 year process! Redrill, polished lips, painted centers. Lightweight, 11 pounds a wheel!
- Ireland front spoiler:
I had this painted with the car. It’s just gotta be installed. I have been waiting for the BBS wheels to be installed to do this. I feel the polished lips on the BBS will be a better match to go with the spoiler.
- Chrome belt line trim:
I have the chrome trim in a roll and it’s ready to be installed.
- Sunroof Seals:
I have the rear sunroof seal, just need the front seal and then need to install them.
- Re-seat the rear window:
The rear window needs to be reseated. Just bought a factory BMW seal to replace the URO seal that popped out.
- Bumper rechrome:
Because the paint came out so good, the bumpers now show their flaws. Having them rechromed will go a loooong way in the overall appearance of the car.
- Coco floor mats, pedal pads:
This literally will finish off the interior. I’m torn over the color of Coco mats to get but I already have the new pedal pads. Just need to put them on. I have a new drivers side floor carpet section so that will be new as well.
- Carb adjustment or dual carb install:
I’m gonna set the float level and see if that fixes the flat spot. If not maybe install a larger fuel needle. If that doesn’t solve the problem maybe it’s time to put those DCOE 40s that are on the shelf.
Engine bay and wiring clean up:A lot of wires and ugly stuff in the engine bay. a good engine steam clean as well as cleaning up the wiring and removing extra wires from the smog equipment. The plan is to get the engine bay to match the outside of the car.
Gauge Cluster rebuild:My needles shake and my odometer and trip meter do not work. I also want to possibly do a custom color around the gauges where the factory faux wood grain is. I also want to use yellow LEDs for the lights to match the Nakamich radio and VDO gauges.
Custom painted Valve Cover:I bought a custom painted valve cover many years ago. Now it’s starting to show its age. If I clean up the engine bay then the valve cover should be be either repainted or my original one should be painted. I’m thinking a metallic silver with the BMW M color stripes.
123/Tune distributor swap:I got an advance unit of the Bluetooth distributor. It works amazingly well except when it’s hot it loses the ability to change curves. They say it’s a firmware update that needs to happen to fix that. The problem is I have to remove it and send it back to the Netherlands. I hate to do it because it runs so good!! I will have to bite the bullet and put my Tii distributor back in and send it back.
Front Bumper AlignmentI need to get the bumper perfectly aligned. Its not quite perfect now. I have 2 options. 1. Try and lower the center section, or 2. Raise the attachment points on the bumper ends. I may do this after the spoiler is installed just in case that interferes with the bumper end attachment points.
Phew! Thats a huge list! lol. Actually the majority of those things are in process and won’t take long to complete. Stay tuned!!!
Just picked the car up. Ken worked hard on this one! Haha. Nothing is simple when it comes to old cars and their upkeep and repair. Some parts may be 40 years old and you NEVER know what you have until you get into the guts of the job.
The plan was to strip the block down in the car. Pull the pistons out and replace the rings then put it all back together. The things to worry about were the block itself. Whats the condition of the cylinder walls? Luckily the cylinder walls were in good shape. The rod bearings were tired so they needed to be replaced. The surprise was the pistons. The ring landings where the rings fit in were WAY out of spec. The other surprise was the actual pistons in the car were low compression pistons. So I set out on a mission to find a set of 89.47mm high compression pistons that will work in a late model e12 M10 head. There are 3 heads used on the M10 engine. So the pistons have to be matched for the head. They also have to be the correct diameter. 89mm is the stock piston diameter. As it wears, you have it bored out slightly to get a perfect bore and take out just a little material and you replace the pistons with a slightly larger diameter piston. So my block has been bored slightly in its 40 or so year life. The problem with that is as you bore it more and more the cylinder walls get thinner and thinner and this compromises the durability of the engine block. The advantages of boring the cylinders is you increase the engine displacement thus making it more powerful. If I was doing a true rebuild I would have gone up to the next size piston, 90mm. I will also go with a shorter piston and longer rods to increase the stroke, or make it a "stroker".
So finding a 89.47mm high compression piston wasn't exactly an easy task, but I found a set in Kansas City and had them shipped to Ken. They were used so we had to make sure they didn't have the same issues as my pistons. The pistons were within spec so they went into the motor. The oil pump was refreshed. The top end was rebuilt about 2 years ago with new valves, valve stems, cam, rockers and valve springs, so there was nothing needed except a valve adjustment to the top end. Once the engine was complete then Ken gave it a pretty good tune. It was his first time with the 123/Tune distributor and he liked it! He was not only able to give me a pretty good curve but also dialed in vacuum very nicely as well. Sweet! He also replaced the Guibo as well as the bushings in the shift platform. I drove the car and it's got a nice smooth power delivery, the shifter feels like I'm driving a different, much more modern car. In a very good way. Very direct shifting. It was very vague before, now it's very precise. It's got a smooth idle and that flat spot in the midrange is gone. He also replaced my spark plug wires, a soft motor mount, fixed an exhaust stud oil leak, replaced an exhaust gasket, checked the float level and rejetted the Weber 38/38 carburetor.
After just a few hours of driving it, I am very pleased with the outcome. Smooth and pepper are the words that come to mind. I covered the tailpipe with my hand for maybe 20 seconds and there was ZERO oil spray or anything like that coming out of the tailpipe. That's the second of the 3 major things that needed to be done to the car. The last major work to be done is the 5 speed conversion. Before that happens though, I need to reseal the rear window, get a front end alignment, finish the BBS wheel refurb, install the longer rear studs, clean up the engine bay wiring, get the headliner fixed, install the chrome belt line trim, install the air dam,finish the coilovers and maybe rechrome the bumpers. Phew! That will keep me busy!
BMW Mahle 9.5:1 High Compression 89.47mm Pistons
The engine project is moving right along. Pistons arrived and look good. (Thanks Hal!!) Ken has them cleaned up and the motor is being reassembled. The oil pump was refreshed and in a few days hopefully we will be back on the road! The cool thing is the engine should not smoke or spit oil, and I should be pushing out a bit more power. I will probably have to have Ken spend a few hours tuning the car and maybe jetting the Weber 38/38 carb since the engine is putting out a tad more power. In this process Ken is also rebuilding the VERY sloppy shifter as well as replacing the Guibo. So the car should feel great!