Monday, April 30, 2007

Step 4 - Look What Followed Me Home

My engine and arrived to day [4/25/2007]. I thought it would be funny to use the BMW to pick it up from the terminal instead of my pathfinder. (I put the hitch on for hauling canoes and bikes). The engine is from a 2002 Camaro SS 6 speed MT with 18,000 miles on it. I am glad to see after about 2 years of research and planning the project is starting to look serious.

Oh in the one pict you can see the custom headers for the project hanging on the Garage wall.

I plan to pull the existing BMW motor sometime in June or July. I'm still using the car to cart my kids to school. I'll wait until their school gets out then I'll switch back to driving my RX-7, powered by a Nissan V-6, while I work on the BMW.

Until then, I will spend my time collecting a few more parts I need, I'll figure out where all the wires go, send the PCM off for reprogramming and test assemble a few things to the motor. I am hoping to get a lot prepared so once swap begins it will go reasonably quickly.

More Pictures of the engine.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Step 3 - Buy Conversion Parts

While still looking for the right LS1 engine the project made progress by buying a big box of parts from John Carps LS1-E36 that crashed. I'm hoping this will speed up my project. However I may remake the motor mounts as they are solid steel and I'd prefer something with some compliance since I'm building a street car.

Purchased items include:
  • Exhaust
  • Radiator
  • Trans and engine mounts
  • Misc Parts
Realizing I needed the modified oil pan that John had sold with the engine I contacted the buyer of the engine and offered to buy the pan. Since the engine was going into a Rx-7 conversion the pan was sold to me for just a little more than a used oil pan + shipping. What a deal.
While continuing my search for an LS1 engine and information on LS1's I found an add for headders for a LS1 BMW swap. Turns out they were the headers from John's car and they were up forsale for a good price. With a little luck I was able to grab those as well.

Some of the parts spent months hanging on the garage wall.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Step 2 - Fixing it up.

One of the first thing done was to sort out an electrical problem that didn't power the front windows when the key was on and the doors closed. Then to pass safety inspection the RH side mirror, 2 rear tires and a worn ball joint were replaced. The mechanical fan had broken and had been removed by the previous owner so I installed an electric fan. Figured I could use that after the motor was swapped out too.

The smell was removed from the car. The bulk of the smell was coming from a tar like substance in the trunk. Looked like something was spilled that was absorbed into the sound deadening material in the trunk. I also repaired the power locks and a number of other small items. When looking under the car one day I noticed one of the rear lower control arms was bent. Looked as though it had been that way for quite some time. So 2 new lower control arms were installed.

I figured the best way to find all the gremlins would be to drive the car. It did run and drive after all so why not. Can't drive without music so I replaced the head unit with an Alpine something. It had iPod controls thats what I cared about. Oh and added an iPod. I also installed 6 1/2 in mid bass speakers in the kick panel. Yes cutting is required but they fit behind the factory trim so no one would know. I also installed some after-market tweeters in the factory tweeter holes and a 10" sub and amp was mounted behind the the rear seat.

With school starting (I drop my kids off at school on the way to work) the BMW was pressed into service. All and all the car was pretty nice to drive. The inside looked pretty worn though so I replaced the worn stock seats with some nice looking leather E46 sport seats I bought of e-bay. Oh yah they are heated too. I've enjoyed that. Now my kids want a heated back seat too. Maybe someday.


After driving the BMW awhile one day the end of the thermostat hosing broke off. I've read Bimmerforums that this was common. However when I took the thermostat housing off I found that the end had indeed been broken off then GLUED BACK ON! What the.... An aluminum thermostat housing doesn't cost very much. Why would anyone glue the broken housing back together. An aluminum housing was installed with new gaskets and new thermostat. Car went back to the road again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Step 1 - Aquire a BMW

Step #1 in doing an engine swap on a BMW was to acquire a BMW 3 series. This sounded easy but living in RURAL Virginia there aren't too many E36's near by to choose from. I watched for about a year for one to be reasonably close to me for a decent price. After barely missing out on what was probably the pefect car only 40 miles away I became frustrated and was about to give up on the idea. Instead I bought a car sight unseen of e-bay for $1600 just to get the project started. The car was 1993 BMW 325i with 200,000 miles and in need of some help.

I had never asked the mileage on the car or if it ran prior to me buying it. The owners excitedly showed me that it ran when I went to pick it up. Sadly the way it ran was probably the best feature of the car. Closer inspection showed that the car must have been run thu a wire fence leaving it with scratches on both sides and small dents in the doors on both sides. It was also missing one side mirror.
The leather seats were cracked from age.

What can't be seen in the photos is how the car smelled... Since the car did run i thought I'd try to drive it the 1.5 hours back home. In less than a 1/4 mile I was pushing all the window buttons trying to get the windows down with no luck. I was thinking if I can't get the windows down I'll tow it because it just due to the smell. I turned the fan on full blast and stopped at the first gas station. As I filled the car I found the windows only went down with a door open. Odd. Have to look at that later. But hey it ran and driveing it was more fun then towing it.

About halfway home the car attracted the attention of a local police officer who noticed it didn't have plates. He suggested that we should put it on the dolly and tow it home. Well.....it was more like put it on the dolly or it isn't leaving. Hey, Not a problem. That's why I brought the dolly in the first place....see it's on. Ok? He didn't write me any tickets so it's all good. I climbed up in my old Pathfinder, the same pathfinder that towed my Rx-7 project home (another story). And to my surprise it towed the BMW easily. Even through the blue ridge mountains.

All in all we made it home safe. And hey. Even with the worn shocks and a short drive I could tell this was going to be a fun car to drive.