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.


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!


New Exhaust!

So it's been about 7 years since this exhaust has been on the car. It's loud and aggressive.  So now that the car has gotten painted the wife has now complained about it being too loud. I actually mentioned it years ago but maybe because it was shabby looking she didn't mind as much. Lol.  It's currently got a Ireland Engineering street header to a flex pipe to a glass pack as a resonator to a 4 inch rear muffler.  Anyway I drove in to Orange County muffler and told them I wanted it a little quieter but still with some attitude. He suggested a 6" round Flowmaster muffler to replace the 4" round Flowmaster that was on the car. He was also going to route the pipes to line the exhaust to the cutout on the body and then a nice polished stainless tip on the end for a nice visual effect. I also had the muffler mount replaced for a nicer looking one. The last one was put on as a quick fix because the stock muffler mount broke and the muffler was hanging. The 6 inch muffler should give it a deeper sound as well as reducing the overall volume. Win win!  

The results:

Visually it's a HUGE improvement. The exhaust hanger was replaced with a much nicer one. The exhaust tip is perfectly centered and positioned in the exhaust cutout. The polished tip comes out to the edge of the bumper. 

Sonically it's quieter. That's for sure. Almost stealth quiet. It's a deeper growl but quiet and smooth.  I'm not sure I like the volume. I will drive it for a few weeks and see if it gets a little louder.  The cabin noise is quieter and because. The exhaust smell coming into the car is gone!  I think the fact that the exhaust tip sticks farther out, just past the bumper means that exhaust isn't coming into the trunk and back into the car.  Here are some pics of  the process and a video with clips of both exhaust systems.


Today was the dawn of a new day!!!


Ok so the car has been disappointing lately. Engine wasn’t running great because of the tune. I personally wasn’t great at tuning it but I was determined to understand it. Then the rear end. The differential grinding and when that got replaced the scraping noise from the rear of the car became more apparent. Then there was the coolant leak that turned out to be the water pump. So it’s been an eventful month or so. All of this while I wanted to get the car ready for paint. So today was a great day for the car. With some help from the guys on the BMW 2002 FAQ I was able to get the car timed and the adjust the carb. The car runs great now. I would say about 85% there and I know there is some power still there I can probably squeeze out of it with a little fine tuning. Then my buddy Le Tran from 2002 Garage Werks figured out the scraping in the rear end in minutes. Seems like the main nut on the rear hub worked its way loose. And that was causing an intermittent scraping and grinding. He tightened that up and BAM all the rear end noises were now gone!  With a new differential and half shafts as well as a rebuilt diff hanger with poly bushings the drivetrain is amazing and free from noises. I felt so good about the car I washed her and did a nice interior detail. Now I have the pedal box to rebuild as well as the tie rods and ball joints to replace on the front end but the car is now smooth and silent and runs great. 👍🏾



Tuning….some success!

Now that I have the 123/Tune distributor installed and working flawlessly I have gone back and started adjusting and dialing the car in. A few things that bothered me up to now was the choke operation, a stumble at high rpm shifts and the lumpy idle.

1. Choke Operation

When cold the choke would kick in and it would rev to 2000 RPM. It would then stay there for a LONG time. It also would sometimes jump up to maybe 4000 rpm suddenly upon start then kick down when you stepped on the gas. I disengaged the electric choke the. Tuned the car once warm and then re engaged the choke and started to adjust it. Took a few mornings because it had to be cold when adjusting but the result is very nice. It’s set to turn off a little fast. I may adjust it just a tad more but it’s so much better!


2. Lumpy Idle

This one was related to the fuel mixture on the carb.  In trying to eliminate my stumble on high rpm shifts I played around with the fuel mixture on the carb and that lead to a lumpy idle.  So after installing a new distributor, carb and fuel pump I lost 90% of the stumble and so the carb adjustment was much easier to dial in and it resulted in a smoother idle as well as a better performing car.


3. Stumble on high RPM shifts.

This one drove me CRAZY.  I started with trying to tune the carb. No luck.  Then timing.  Nope.  Then replaced the carb itself.  Now it got better, but it was still there.  Replaced the distributor and BAM!  It’s almost gone.  Adjusted the float level on the carb and it got even better.  Now its only noticeable when I really step on it and when its cold.  I think I need to adjust the float level even more.  That may be the glue that makes it all work.


What I need to finalize a tune on the car is a few hours with the timing light and some patience.  This will allow me to fine tune the choke operation.  Fine tune the idle mixture on the carburetor and maybe fine tune the float level.


123 Tune Bluetooth distributor install!

The car has been stumbling under hard acceleration at high rpms recently and I was trying to tune that out so when I installed the 123Tune distributor I was comparing it to a good running system. I think mods and so called upgrades nowadays are more about placing a worn part with ANYTHING new makes people feel good. I want real data that the “upgrade” is really an upgrade over a proper running vehicle. I mean if your shocks are bad and you compare them to a new set of average quality “sport shocks” they will probably feel amazing but are they better then just a new set of stock shocks?  Well I won’t have that opportunity because I could never get that stumble out of the car. It moved. Got better or got worse but never went away.  So I have replaced the carb, plugs, coil, cap and rotor and checked everything and still couldn’t get it working better. So it may be the pertronix igniter unit or the distributor itself. The new distributor replaces all of that so let’s go for it!
The install was a piece of cake. I pulled off the valve cover and found Top Dead Center. That’s done by putting the car in fourth gear and pushing it until the mark on the cam just behind the sprocket goes under the guide. Ok. Then I pulled the cap of the distributor. Note where the rotor is pointing. Verified it’s right at the number one cylinder. Also not the position of the rotor because that’s where we want the new rotor to point when we drop the new distributor in. Remove the wires the pertronix were connected to and loosen the bolt holding the distributor and then pull up. And it slid right out!  Nice. Now I slide the new one in. It was a little snug but it slips right in and I made sure the rotor was pointed in the same direction as the previous one. Nice. Now per the 123Tune installation instructions I hooked up the blue wire to ground and the red wire to the red coil wire the old pertronix ignitor was connected to. I did NOT connect the black wire yet. I turned the ignition on and it glowed blue from the side letting me know it was powered on and then rotated to distributor until the green led turned on indicting the static timing was set. Nice!  Turn the ignition off and connect the black wire to the black wire the pertronix was connected to on the coil. Then moved the spark plug wires to the new cap. Then put the cap on the 123Tune distributor. The unit came with a supplied cap and rotor. Nice touch. I then cleaned the wires up and went to start it. It turn d over but didn’t start. Hmmm. Must be the timing is off. And yes it was. I did ALOT of turning of things before I turned it on and I must have turned it about 180 degrees. Anyway rotated it and turned the key and it fired right up and sounded amazing. I did the timing by ear adjustment basically in the middle where it was smoothest at idle. Then took it for an initial test drive.

Initial thoughts:

Wow!  The car is peppy and responsive. It’s getting more spark and using all the air and fuel the big Weber 38 DGES carb us putting into the engine. I stepped on it and it flew up to 6000 RPM and then stumbled. Uh oh. Same problem still?  It then started to stumble all over the place and then it wouldn’t idle and then died. Uh Oh. Popped the hood and twisted the distributor. I must not have tightened it enough. Silly me. It started right up and then again revved right up to 6000 RPM. I was very pleased. The stumble at 6K rpm didn’t seem like the same stumble. More of a rev limiter. I wonder if this has one on it?  So I connected my iPhone via Bluetooth to the distributor and sure enough the rev limiter was set to 6000 RPM. Easy fix!  Moved it up to 7000 with a few taps on the iPhone. I was also able to see the advance curve as well as put in more points and set the advance very specifically. Nice!  The unit came with the curve for the old Tii distributor already programmed. So thats what I’ll start with. It’s nice that there is also a vacuum circuit where the Tii distributor is mechanical advance only no vacuum advance. I think the reason the 02 Hot Rod guys use the Tii distributor is the more aggressive curve but the vacuum function will help with better fuel economy and drive ability. I get the best of both worlds here.


We are talking about a distributor for a 40 year old car and it’s got software???  Yes!!  The nerd in me is loving this part  yes I’m a tech geek…I have a blog about restoring a car and learning how to sail!!  (Shameless plug time, www.cuajota.com ) so having some high tech gadgets that don’t seem out of place are amazing.  I don’t have some crazy nav system or touchscreen audio system because for me that doesn’t fit in.  I do have a nice audio system but other the the door speakers and the radio you wouldn’t know it was there.  So when people pop the hood I want it to look vintage and correct.  Headers, a big carb, and a that legendaryM10 engine.  What some crazy German would have done in 1980 with this car to make it go faster.  The ability to WIRELESSLY connect my phone to the distributor and have access to gauges and monitoring as well as tuning ability is just fantastic.  It’s old school meets new school.  Here are some screenshots of the gauges as well as the advance curve adjustments and vacuum adjustments that can be made.


What can I adjust?

1.Rev Limiter

Its nice to have one.  You can set it for your own protection or if someone else (Valet!) or a kid is driving the car.

2. Immobilizer

Very nice to be able to prevent the car from being started via the phone.

3. Advance curves



Now we are getting into the true benefits of this unit.  You can control the timing advance at any RPM.  Set as many adjustment points and save them into the distributor.  Instant recurve!!  This will allow you to get the absolute most from your engine.

4. Vacuum

Ok.  I have to admit I don’t know a lot about the vacuum or how to set it so for now I won’t touch it.  From what I understand is that this is used to change the advance based on atmospheric pressure as well as driving conditions.  A mechanical only advance means the curves are set for RPM only so 4000 RPM would be getting mad advance because you may be accelerating.  But what if you are just cruising down the highway at 65 mph?  You would be at maximum advance.  With the vacuum system it would recognize that cruise and retard the timing so you would not be at max advance and would be saving fuel.  There is probably a lot more to it but that’s it in a nutshell.


In conclusion it’s only been a few hours since install but already this may be one of the single best things you can do to improve the performance and driveability of the 2002 especially if it’s a modded engine. I could have probably gotten similar results by sending my old distributor to get rebuilt and have it custom curved. But I wouldn’t have a programmable system or the programmable rev limiter. Plus the custom curving process would not be adjustable.  I’d have to have it recurved every time I did any mods. Now, if I do more engine mods the curve can be adjusted to take advantage of these mods pretty easily!



Xmas from the Netherlands!  123Tune Bluetooth Distributor!!!

This is a VERY cool piece of equipment. It’s a programmable electronic distributor. It replaces the stock distributor and points system which can get wobbly and inaccurate with a highly accurate hotter spark and more efficient system. The cool thing about this is that you can program custom advance curves into it so you can really dial in the best advance curve for your particular engine. Now that in itself is very cool, but now this particular model has a Bluetooth connection so I can use an iPhone or iPad to wirelessly program the advance curves. Without even plugging anything into the car I can simply open an iPhone app, adjust the curves and then download them to the distributor!  Instant tuning!  This unit isn’t available to the market yet but I have been in touch with the manufacturer and got a hold of an advance production unit for evaluation!

Initial thoughts:

Build quality is amazing. This is a very well manufactured piece of equipment. The workmanship is amazing. It’s SOLID!!


Stay tuned for the full install and details!




Tuning….highs and lows…ups and downs!


Now that the new Weber carb is in its now about tuning. I am learning soooo much about how to tune the car it’s mind blowing. Is it rich? Lean? Too much advance? Not enough? Choke adjustments when cold? Throttle plate adjustments?

Im now about 80% there. The car is peppy. Smooth with just one flat spat and just a touch of hesitation. It was too lean and now I think it’s just a bit rich but I think the fine tuning the timing will sort it out and restore the full pep that I’m looking for!


This is so rewarding.  Getting into the meat of how the car runs and feels. In the past I have done minor tune ups and things like that. Now I am directly controlling every aspect of how the car runs.  

My technique now that I have gotten it close is to take a few wrenches and screwdrivers to an isolated location where I can make lots of noise. I haven’t gotten any complaints at home from the early morning noise but the 02 is LOUD with its current exhaust and all the revving and idling in the community I’m sure is annoying to the neighbors. So I found a nice desolate parking lot with a nice low traffic strip of road close by so I can tune and test and retune and retest. Spend an hour thee and I will have tweaked and tuned and this will help me fine tune all the details. For now it runs very good. Except when cold and the choke is operational it has a hesitation. This probably means it’s too lean at idle and an adjustment of the throttle plate should help with that once it warms up the stumble all but disappears. It’s very very slight. So again maybe a tad lean still. One thing I have noticed with the new carb is FAR less smoke. I’m still burning oil but it seems like a much more complete fuel burn in the cylinders. In the back of my mind I am still thinking that just maybe the fuel pump is not working at 100% efficiency and maybe it’s running lean because it’s not pumping enough fuel. The other thing is I didn’t set the height of the float so maybe it’s not working at 100% either. A few things to check. 


Break In Road Trip!


Doing a drive from Newport Beach to Sacramento to visit family. It’s about 450 miles each way. If you are not familiar with the drive its all flat and straight interstate highway except for the Grapevine which is a steep and windy grade of road that is probably alot like the Autobahn. This is part 1. The drive up north.

The car ran absolutely perfect! The power at highway speeds is considerably more than before. It now pulls hard at 80 and keeps going! I didn’t go too far yet as I still wanna keep it below redline for a bit. Before te engine work the car would go up the steep highway at 85 mph but would kinda max out there. Other cars are usually huffing and puffing doing 65 and all the trucks are doing about 35. So 75-85 is actually good. Now after the work the car pulls pas 80 and is still going when I pull off. Wow. I would bet triple digit speeds are easily possible up this steep grade and under load. Impressive. It ran at 80 so perfectly and when I needed the power it was readily available. Very very happy with how it’s running. Temps are perfect. No issues and the oil pressure light used to flicker after freeway runs. Nope not a peep. I really have not found a downside for the 292 cam yet! I really love how this car is running!!