My Tijuana Paintjob: 1 Year Paint Update

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.


Cracked Header Fixed!

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.


New Studs, new stub axle and hub…#nevereasy

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.

Stub Axle failure on a BMW 2002.

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!


April 2017….New list of things to complete! #goals

1976 BMW 2002 in Fjord Blue Bbs

1976 BMW 2002 in Fjord Blue


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:

  1. Paint and bodywork
  2. Bottom end motor rebuild
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Front End alignment:
    The front tires are wearing unevenly.  Before I install the new wheels I wanna get an alignment.
  3. Rear wheel studs:
    This will allow me to put spacers on for the 15″ BBS rims. Which brings us to number 3…
  4. BBS 15″ install!
    This has been a 2 year process! Redrill, polished lips, painted centers. Lightweight, 11 pounds a wheel!
  5. 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.
  6. Chrome belt line trim:
    I have the chrome trim in a roll and it’s ready to be installed.
  7. Sunroof Seals:
    I have the rear sunroof seal, just need the front seal and then need to install them.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Front Bumper Alignment
    I 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!!!




Bottom End Refresh Complete!

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

Pistons have arrived!

BMW Mahle 9.5:1 High Compression 89.47mm Pistons

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!  

High compression "piano top" pistons installed!!


Rings and Bottom End Refresh!

Things are moving right along with the 2002 in terms of getting things done!  Mechanically the only 2 big things that are remaining are the bottom end rebuild and the 5 speed conversion. So it's time to scratch another one off the list.

The car consumes a good amount of oil and spits out a black spray from the exhaust.  If I am stepping on it I get a good amount of smoke.  When we did the top end work a few years back Ken warned me that a tightened up top end would probably expose a weak bottom end.  It did.  Since the top end is solid and a new cam, valvesh, valve seats, etc were all done a few years back I am opting to do just the rings and refresh.  The hope is the cylinder walls and the pistons are in good shape so just replacing the rings and refreshing the existing parts will keep me grinning for a few more years.  In that time I can build my high performance M10 motor.

Ken Blasko at Vintage BMW Racing, who did the top end rebuild a few years back, is doing the work.  The process is:

  • remove head
  • drop oil pan
  • remove pistons
  • hone the cylinders
  • replace rings
  • replace rod bearings
  • shim oil pump
  • reassemble
  • adjust valves
  • tune car

Once this is done the spitting of oil and smoke should stop and should give me a few years before it's time to do a complete rebuild.

When it's time for a full rebuild I have a spare engine that's completely stock from a 76 that I will rebuild.  That will be a wilder build.



Day 54:The Pickup!

The car is finished! Here is a list of the work done by Los Panchos in Tijuana.

  1. Strip the old paint off
  2. Remove all windows, grills, trim and lights 
  3. Fill in holes in the front left from the Euro bumper conversion
  4. Repair dent in driver side front fender
  5. Repair rust on Drivers rear wheel well
  6. Fill holes in A pillar from antenna
  7. Fill holes from side reflectors front and rear
  8. Fill holes in rear from Euro bumper conversion
  9. Remove doors and repair rust on both doors
  10. Remove hood and repair hood support and rust on hood
  11. Repair rust behind passenger side fender
  12. Block sand and straighten every panel
  13. Install new black vinyl perforated headliner
  14. Respray in Fjord Blue
  15. Paint exposed areas of the engine bay
  16. Paint IE Motorsports Zender style air dam
  17. Spray Clear
  18. Reinstall doors and hood and align
  19. Color sand and polish
  20. Replace All window seals with new seals
  21. Reinstall grills, trim and lights

The price of all this work was $2,000.  

I was quoted 30 days for the work.  It took 54.  This isn't all their fault.  They fixed a lot more things than I asked.  They saw things and fixed them.  I also pushed it back about a week because they wanted me to see it and approve the bodywork as well as drop off the air dam to be painted.  I think the key to getting quality work is to be VERY honest with what you want.  Expect to pay a little more than quoted.  I was very specific in what I wanted done to the car.  I used the word perfect repeatedly.  I showed him the wavy 40 year old panels and told him I wanted them straight.  He said it would take an extra week of block sanding and I agreed to pay for the extra work.  Quotes I got for half of this work were between 4k-8k in the US.  So 2-4 times the cost.  This will be worth it IF the quality of the work is good.

Why Los Panchos?

I did lots of research and found a few places in California that would do it for 2-3k. They were cutting lots of corners and said it would be a decent paint job. Lots of people said that labor is labor and I would spend the majority of my budget on labor to straighten the panels. Once all was straight and the prep was done then the paint would be easy to do so look for the place that would do the most amount of prep work. With labor rates in the US for bodywork being $75-$100 per hour you can easily see a weeks worth of prep work can easily cost $4k alone!  In my searches on the Internet for "best places for a cheap paint job" one thing kept coming up. Mexico. It made perfect sense. They have been doing body and paintwork for decades so they are skilled and the labor rate is MUCH cheaper than here in the US. But is it safe?  Who has done it?  More google searches pointed to a number of forums and some of them were air. Oiled Porsche forums. Seems like a lot of these guys got paint jobs from one particular place, Los Panchos. I contacted a few of them and asked about how satisfied they were and if they would go back everyone said they would go back and some already have gone back.  That was promising information. I didn't get ONE negative review of Los Panchos. Wow. I decided to visit a few shops in Tijuana and get estimates. I could look around and see what kind of cars they had in the shop as well as inspect the quality of their work. Los Panchos had a number of law model European cars in for various repairs and all with California plates on them. I would say that 95% of their business is from the US and they have been there for 40 years. Again all good signs. After a few trips and speaking to Ramiro in the phone a number of times I was confident that the car would be safe there and they would do a good job.

The Interaction

We agreed on $1750 to do all the paint and bodywork as well as replace the headliner. He said he would send pictures of the process. I dropped the car off without bumpers and door panels and without the side reflectors or antenna. I knew they would be removing the doors for the rust repair and I wanted to make that easier plus less things there mean less can get damaged. I removed the speakers and door panels. I also wanted to holes from the antenna in the A pillar filled so I remived it and I wanted the reflector holes filled because I wanted to remove the side reflectors. The bumpers were removed as well so I could clean and polish them while the car was gone. It took a few weeks to get pictures and I was very anxious about the car. I spoke to Ramiro every few days and he would update me. He sent me pics a few times and I went and looked at the car a few times. The prep work and the body repair work they did was great. I also stressed how I wanted to the lines of the car to be perfect. They did their best to give me those perfect lines!  I was quoted 4 weeks.  It ended up being 7. I'd rather wait a little longer and get great work than rush it. It also meant that there was more work to do then they initially thought. I was confident that it wasn't just sitting there and they wanted to get it finished to get paid!

The Results

The bodywork is amazing. When I show people the pictures the first thing they comment on is how straight the panels are. All the lines and curves are in place and the wavy 40 year old panels with door dings and inferior bodywork now look like new panels. The rust repair was top notch. Welding in new metal and not just filling it with fiberglass or bondo. Im extremely pleased with the bodywork and prep work.

The Paint

Wow is what I said when I first saw it back together, color sanded and sitting there. Stunning. That's another word. Breathtaking.  The results are beyond my expectations. I thought they would be good. Better than average but this looks like a new car. This looks like a $10k paint job. Easily. The color is spot on. I was worried about the color at first. They did a great job on that. I saw the car before final sanding and polishing. There was just the right amount of metallic in the paint. Sometimes people go overboard and it looks like fingernail polish. Nope they got it just right!  There were a few runs in it and some orange peel but Ramiro assured me that those would all be fixed when then polished and wet sanded the car before I picked it up. He was correct.  The finish is smooth...the shine is brilliant and the depth is amazing.  In the daytime it just beams.  I used to get thumbs ups and smiles before, but now its just stared at and I can see people mouth "Wow".  

The Bad

Its not all perfect.  The bad in all this is as follows.  

They filled in a few too many holes...I'll have to redrill a few holes to mount the bumpers.  Not a big deal.

Glue everywhere.  I had to use goo gone on the seats, dash, windows, shift knob.  It all came off but it was still a bit of work.

Overspray. Yup there is some overspray.  On the interior panels and especially on the trunk lock.

Headliner. In one corner of the sunroof its ripped.  maybe it can be stitched, maybe it'll have to be redone.

Sunroof handle alignment.  This one was an easy fix, unscrew it and put it back on in the correct orientation.

2 Scratches on the rear quarter that will probably polish out.

Not smooth in a few places (A pillars), when it was wet sanded it wasn't done as well in a few spots, still shiny there but not as smooth as the rest of the car. 

Thats about it.  for the bad.  Nothing horrible at all, but like I said, not perfect but for $2,000 I expect to do some work.



I'm happier than a pig in slop!  Happier than a fat kid eating cake!  The car looks amazing.  2 months for a proper paint job with the doors, hood , trunk and windows removed as well as a few weeks worth of bodywork and rust repair is not bad.  The price ended up right at $2,000.  I probably could have haggled, but to me it was a fair price, a VERY fair price.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  I loved the adventure.  The fact that I traveled a number of times to another country was fun.  Would I recommend it for someone else?  Well thats another question.  You have to be comfortable leaving your car in another country.  Comfortable communicating wit someone where English is NOT their first language.  Comfortable walking around Mexico with lots of cash when you pick ups the car.  I was diligent.  I contacted them a few times a week, asked for pictures to be sent and visited the car a few times to monitor the progress.  In my opinion the car came out so good because I was so persistent.  Do I think that dropping the car off and waiting for a phone call would be good?  Probably not.  I also spent an additional $700 in seals so that when the car was put back together new rubber seals would be used.  The seals on the car were probably 40 years old and had been through at least 2 bad resprays.  While the car was gone I also polished the trim and chrome so they would look better when put back on the car.  



BBS Wheel rehab!

Now that the BBS wheels have been redrilled I wanted to fully refurbish them. So that means polishing the lips to a mirror shine. Putting a few coats of paint on the centers and also painting the hex nut on the center caps.  First I start off by polishing the lips and remiv by the clear coat. I used easy off oven cleaner for 5 minutes. Rinsed and let dry. Then started with 200 grit sandpaper. This gave me a raw metal lip. Once that was done I went to 400 wet, 800 wet, 1000 wet, 1500 wet and 2000 wet. This gave me a smooth shiny finish. After that I used a meta polish and drill with a polishing cone. 


49 Days In: Painted!

The car went into the paint booth Friday on day 47!!!  I took a trip down to look at the progress.  Things are getting close!  Headliner installation has begun and is almost finished!    The car will dry and cure, then get we sanded and polished then reassembled.  We are probably looking at a week away from being ready for pickup.  Here are some pics of the car right now.