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!”.
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...
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!!
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!!!
This has been a long term project that is near completion. I have posts about the process in previous posts so I won’t go into specifics. I wrapped my refreshed BBS wheels in Hankook Ventus V2 195/50 tires. Since they are ET40 I will need at least a 10mm spacer. This requires longer wheel studs. The front end has longer wheel studs because of the big brake kit. The rear wheel studs are going to be installed by Ken Blasko this weekend and the last step before mounting the new wheel and tires is the spacers. I want to be exact on what spacers I will get so I am going to test fit them. I got a bunch of washers from Home Depot and I put them on the wheels studs and then mount the wheels. When I find the desired fit I measure how many washers were used and thats the spacer I need. The front was easy thats 8-10mm. The rear though had plenty of room. I will probably end up with something like a 15-20mm spacer. This was satisfying and nerve wracking!! Would the wheels fit? Did I miscalculate? Well it looks amazing! The fit is perfect! I will have enough room to truly dial in how I want the wheels to fit inside the fenders. The other upside to all this is weight. The weight of the old wheel and tire combo was about 31 pounds. The weight of the new combo is 28 pounds. That saves 3 pounds a wheel of rotational mass. Thats not insignifigant! That means the car will accelerate faster, turn faster, and stop faster. All very good things. So not only is this a visual upgrade its a performance upgrade! My only things is now I think I want the front end down another inch…coilovers.
BBS RZ 15x6.5 Lightweight
These wheels began their lives on a pretty hot car in its day. An 80's era Mazda RX-7 convertible. They were stock wheels for that car. Mazda had BBS make a pretty special wheel for the car. It was a a 15 inch wheel with a 6.5" width and was a one piece forged design.
One cool thing about it was its weight. 11 pounds a wheel! That's lighter than my 14" whyeels by far. Usually bigger wheels means more weight which means slower braking, turning, and acceleration, but usually a nicer look. In this case, we get all upsides and no downsides, except for maybe a a ride quality reduction because of the thinner sidewalls on the tires to maintain the correct rolling radius.
There are 2 problems though with these wheels:
1. Bolt pattern. The RX-7 uses a 5 hole bolt pattern (5x114.3), the 2002 uses a 4 hole bolt pattern (4x100) so the old bolt holes needed to be filled and the wheels redrilled to fit the BMW. Not all wheels can be redialed because it needs a solid bolt bed. These wheels just happen to be compatible with redrilling.
2. Offset. The offset of the wheels are ET40. The desired offset for 6.5" wheels is ET30. Because they at 6.5" wheels I can probably get away with ET25 wheels and still fit within the wheel wells without rolling the fenders. This will need to be done with 10-15mm spacers. Cheap and easy, but I will need longer wheel studs to accommodate the spacers. I already have longer studs in the front because of the big brake upgrade, so that just leaves the rears to be installed.
Both of those problems are not difficult to overcome but I wanted to let people know they are not a simple bolt on.
Why do that to these wheels instead of just getting BBS wheels that fit a 2002?
Cost and Performance and Uniqueness.
The wheels I got for $200 used. Not a huge market for them because not many people want stock RX-7 wheels. They are forged 1 piece wheels and are very light. Performance will be enhanced. Wider tires, mean more traction and cornering grip. Stiffer sidewalks will give me better cornering. Less weight will make it accelerate, turn and stop faster. Because I will have the lips polished and they are not made for 2002, they will truly be one of a kind in the car. If I go to a car show, no one will have my wheels except me, making the car very unique.
The first step was to have the wheels redrilled. Pro Tire & Wheel in Norwalk did the work. They filled the old holes and drilled new ones. Simple. Cost was $120.
Then it was time to polish the lips. Pro Tire & Wheel also did this and again for $120 I got the wheel lips polished to a shiny chrome like finish. They are now like mirrors! Amazing. These wheels are unique in that they are correct widths for the 02 without flares or modifying the fenders and yet they have a lip and deep dish design. This gives the wheel a very prominent lip and a deep dish look.
Now that the lips have been polished and look amazing it's now time focus painting the centers and getting them ready for tires. So I was searching for a medium metallic grey. The one I used before I think was a tad dark so I wanted same thing lighter. I was off to O'Reillys auto to see what I could get. The lightest medium grey color I could find was a GM color Medium Metallic Grey. Here are some results of the first 2 wheels after a few coats of white primer and a few coats of Medium Metallic Gray and a few coats of clear.
The results are amazing! These wheels look like brand new BBS rims.
BBS with polished lip
OK..so I was going to do the polishing myself because I wanted to do as much as possible. I called a local BMW 2002 guy who sells rims and has offered polished lips in the past if he had any advice on doing it and his advice was...take them somewhere! Have a shop do them and they will be perfect. Ugh. I was a bit disappointed but nevertheless I put them in the back of the car and dropped them off at the shop that redrilled them. The shop is soooo laid back and nonchalant is hilarious. I talked to the owner who said "gimme your number, and put them there next to the garage. I'll cal you in a few days.". That was it. No receipt, no detailed questions. OK. I called back in a few days and he said to come pick them up. I was expecting good...but DAMN! They are PERECT. Wow. I almost didn't recognize them as my wheels! The next step is to paint the centers. I'm still torn on repainting them silver (classic but boring) or a darker grey (more contrast but too much?). I think I'm gonna do grey. If I dont like it, its only paint, I can repaint the centers. Here are a few pics!
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!