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Vorshlag BMW E46 - Daily Driven Track Car Project (aka: non-M E46 BMW track builds)

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Special TrackJunkies Intro - Nov 17, 2017: We have moved a couple of our build threads over here in 2017 and I have seen that TJ has some of the best feedback of any of the car forums currently in existence. After the recent "forum purge" that came form the rise of Facebook groups, the Photobucket scam, and other changes that have dwindled participation in automotive forums, I am looking for places to "talk about cars". At the urging of a few members here I'm porting our "E46 Daily Driven Track Car" project thread here.




I try not to be too "sales-y" and my primary goal is to share technical tips and lessons learned in our various exploits working on, driving, and competing in various car models. For a competition car we do the unthinkable - we share shock settings, spring rates, and even tire pressures we run (#500psi). The hope is that people get inspired and buy these cars and build on what we've learned (and many people have told me that in the past 2 years they have done just that).


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I bought my first two E46 models (above) on the same day almost exactly 7 years ago (which Facebook just reminded me of last week) and I have owned about a dozen more since then. These cars tend to follow me home - and I'm buying yet another this weekend! A lot of what I have learned the hard way is being shared in this thread. If you have one or might buy one of these E46 cars you might learn something from my mistakes.


Why should you care? Well globally BMW made FOUR MILLION of these E46 chassis cars in the late 1990s and 2000s. This means that the "non-M" E46 coupe and sedans with the straight 6 engines (325/328/330) are getting VERY affordable. The SpecE46 series is growing like crazy, these are still popular in some SCCA autocross classes, and we're even seeing some success in NASA TT classes - not to mention fun HPDE builds, which are abundant. So with one of these you can make something handle as well as a Miata, have a better p-to-w ratio, produce lower lap times, and end up with a car that has much more room inside (and a real roof over your head) than those itty bitty convertibles for about the same money.




We started with a different car in this build (325 Coupe) but moved to this 330 Coupe shortly after kicking the project off in 2015. There are lots of updates in this thread showing the progression from a stock 330 which struggled in TTD class, to a TTD winner, and onto the TT4 class car we have currently (below). The 330 we have been racing still has much of the interior, roll up windows, and working air con - but that might change soon.




We also cover a number of other E46 non-M cars that we have worked on, built for customers, and are still seeing every week. We cover pure street cars, dual purpose cars, and track-only builds in this thread. And like I said, we're adding more of these to our "fleet" all the time, and I've learned something new on each one we've purchased and worked on.


Today I will port over the 66 posts from August 2015 up until Nov 2017, and then update this TrackJunkies thread in real time as we continue along with E46 builds....


Thanks for reading,

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Project Introduction August 31st, 2015: This forum build thread covers the repairs and track prep on my wife Amy's "new" 2002 BMW E46 coupe, which we purchased August 20, 2015. This car will get track prep towards a NASA TT class (which I will discuss in more detail in a future post), but initially we will be doing some maintenance and repairs to get this car inspected and reliable, to let her "daily" in this little Bimmer. No, we're not just automatically sticking an LS1 V8 in the car (unless the engine is terminal, and maybe not even then). She wanted an inexpensive "cash car" to drive to work, and I wanted a car to test some new parts out with on track, so maybe this one will fit both needs.

The real question is: Can we make a daily driven BMW competitive regionally in NASA Time Trial?

In this thread we will also cover some tips on "How to buy an E46" and also show the "Common Things that Break" on these cars and illustrate the fixes. If you ever wanted to own a BMW E46 this might be a useful read. I'm showing the basic costs and hours spent on this build as we go, since we log everything into MyShopAssist, the service logging and customer interface software we use on all tasks and all jobs here at Vorshlag.

Cross-posting this to these forums:


I'm posting this little build thread on a number of forums, and some of you will be chomping at the bit to talk trash or point out past mistakes on an E46 330 build I did back in 2009. Yes, I made some mistakes on that build and was very frustrated with the oil pump drive issues that this car suffered. No, I didn't listen to several people who warned me that what I was doing (revving the M54 engine too high, not welding the oil pump nut, etc) were going to cause problems. Some of you folks were right, I admit that, and I unwisely ignored freely given internet advice.

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Before you crap up this thread with old history and personal attacks, please read the next few posts - where I will address the oil pump issues, harmonic balancer problems that car had (that we didn't know about until much later), and give my updated advice on the M54 "minimum oil system prep" to folks, learned from these mistakes (in my 2nd round of posts). That 330 was built 6 years ago, in my home garage, and I have learned a lot since then. Vorshlag has gone through a lot of growth in that period, with a lot of new employees added to our staff, new capabilities added to our shop, dozens of car builds under out belts, and hundreds of cars worked on since then.

As always, in this build thread I will share the good and the bad, as well as track all hours and dollars spent. I might make mistakes, but we will always try to learn from them. I will still admit that I don't know everything about the E46 chassis. We work on a variety of cars, and not just BMWs. I will specifically ask for help in this thread on a few areas where others know more. So again, please read the next few posts before you chime in with your advice - your comments might already be addressed fully. Thank you for your patience.


This is a tough question to answer. First, let me talk about Amy - I'm damned lucky and have a wife who not only puts up with my racing addiction, but she's a racer herself. I met her at a race, so I guess that's how you do it. She's won 3 Solo Nationals Championships, is a licensed NASA Time Trial Competitor and race winner, and we both love to enjoy many forms of motorsports. We spend 25-30 weekends a year doing autocross, HPDE and TT, and I will get her in the W2W Endurance E46 next year with us, some how.

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These are two more E46 cars I've owned. The 323i sedan (left) was just a daily. The 330Ci coupe (right) became an autocross/track car

She daily drove the red E46 4 door 323i (above) for about a year, but it was very stock and thus remained very boring. She decided in 2013 that she wanted a "big comfy BMW", so we looked for then found her a clean 2001 740iL. She really liked that 7, but we probably only had passengers in the back seat a half dozen times in 2 years of ownership. Its just the two of us most of the time in any given vehicle, so the gigantic-ness of the long wheelbase 7 series was a waste. Even though we did a lot of repairs, restoration and little upgrades to that 740 at our shop, we don't really make anything unique for the E38 chassis... so it was useless as a "business promotional tool" or test bed for Vorshlag.

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We just sold both of Amy's previous cars, the 740iL and the TT3 Mustang, and she gets this E46 as her replacement?!

Why does she need a car? Well back in July we sold Amy's 2011 Mustang GT, which she and I raced in NASA TT3 and other classes the past five years. That car was her daily driver from 2010 until 2013, when we got the 2001 BMW 740iL (2013-15) for her to drive back and forth to work. We also sold that E38 a few weeks ago, and had a few bucks left from that sale to spend on her next daily driver.

But one thing kept nagging me: We have been sharing race cars for years, she and I, and if I've learned one thing about that, it is that sharing a race car sucks. You get half the seat time at a track weekend, or you end up putting twice the laps on a car during a given day (running in 2 different run groups), which is very hard on the car. It never gets a chance to cool off or any down time to make tuning changes or repairs without being rushed. Amy and I shared the TT3 Mustang and then we built the TTC Corvette (1992 LT1 Corvette, Project #DangerZone) early in 2015, and we finally had them both at the track... for one NASA weekend this year. But it was nice, since we didn't have to share!

Separate but equal: having his and hers race cars is ideal, so we don't double-up on a single car on a race weekend!

So when it was time to move the 7 series on down the road we discussed a half dozen options for her next daily driver, which I was hoping to ALSO use for some new parts development and rack up some more racing wins for Vorshlag. Every car we own has to "do work" for Vorshlag, and having a daily driver that could at the very least test new parts was part of the deal. We looked for a clean E30, which would be "retro cool" after a lot of restoration and mods, but clean E30s are going for big $. Then we looked at E36s, but we have done that chassis many times in the past, and they are getting a bit long in the tooth.

She said she wanted a BRZ or FR-S, and I worked up a wicked NASA TTC track build that she was on board with, until she saw the budget. No monthly financing payments was a requirement for this next car, and even used these are still $15-18K cars (oldest is 2013 model). It had to be a cheap cash car. We thought about Subarus (too kooky), Miatas (she daily drove one before - too slow, too small), even some domestics... but nothing had the bang-per-buck aspect of the E46 right now, at this moment.

We had some money stashed away after selling the 740, so I looked for a clean 330 for $4-5K. Nope, they don't exist unless it has 200K+ miles and an automatic. Craigslist searching (yuck), AutoTrader (pretty much all dealers), and other sources. But being a small business owner, cash flow comes and goes, and one day "poof" the cash from the 740 was used for something for the biz - paying taxes, payroll, vendors - something. So my budget was slashed and the E46 choices at this new price range started to look pretty sketchy.

This is our cheap, 197K mile 2002 325Ci project car. Yes, we know, the Foose wheels are Fooking ugly! They will be gone soon

I put a call out on Facebook, and once again was rewarded with a diamond in the rough. A friend that worked at a used car dealer had a lead: 2002 325Ci, 5-speed, 197K miles, $1800. It needed more work than they wanted to invest, so they were willing to let it go cheap to someone who could fix it. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

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This E46 we just bought is a bit rough around the edges (read below for description of problems) but since we bought it well I'm confident we can fix whatever is wrong with it. I test drove and checked the car out personally and couldn't see any frame damage, rust (Texas car all its life), it had a clear title, and it didn't run like it had a head gasket or oiling system problem (both potential "gotchas" on these cars). Everything else that could be wrong I'm not afraid to fix. Vorshlag has serviced 100's BMWs over the years and we are well versed in most of the problems and fixes of the E46, as well as performance upgrades that help these cars perform better on track and in autocross.


whiskey dent: Dents or scratches on a vehicle due to drinking and driving or hitting an object with your vehicle while intoxicated.

The car has a lot of "whiskey dents", small dings and bumps on the body that don't effect the function of the car, just make it a bit ugly (see the two pics above). It also had a light front end hit and another rear tap, but we will fix those issues as we go. Nothing that prevents it from being a good daily driver. The project name "Jack Daniels" comes from the Whiskey Dents, obviously. No, I don't condone drinking and driving - not hardly - but the name fits. ;)

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These cars can get light quickly. This car lost 434 pounds in 2 hours (interior removal) and still has all the factory glass and steel!

We like the E46 chassis, and have four of these in the shop right now. The silver E46 1999 328i 5-spd sedan above was purchased a few months back for an "employee owned shop endurance race car" project, and we already knocked a bunch of weight out of the car. This E46 328i was also well under $2K, also from a good Facebook friend lead, who had a tough-to-sell car, so it had some miles and needed some TLC. We can easily get weight out of one when we make it a real race car, as shown above. The door panels, carpets and seats on these cars are HEAVY! But this car needs to keep some of the interior, because its going to double-duty...


"Do as I say, not as I do." ;) Normally, I warn customers that taking their daily driver and making it ALSO work as their track car is a TERRIBLE idea. It always involves huge compromises that make it a less comfortable daily driver, a heavy/slow/less competitive race car, or both. But this is what SO many people want to do - I'd say half our customers do this! - so why don't we try this "dual purpose build" for once and document what works and what doesn't? Can we win a TT race, or even set a track record, in a REAL DEAL, full interior, air conditioned, daily driven street car? We did it with two BMWs before (below), but that was several years ago - when NASA Time Trial wasn't nearly as competitive as it is today.

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We took both the E46 330 and E36 M3 above to NASA TT wins and a track record each - when both were daily driven at the time

This 2002 325Ci will be both Amy's daily driver (she has a mild 8 mile commute, all on secondary roads with lots of stop lights) and we will use will try to make it a competitive NASA Time Trial build and let her go have some fun in TT. The goal is to make it reliable and fast, allowing her to have as much seat time as possible. We're already building a new "shop car" E46 V8 for me for 2016 (TT1), plus the Endurance car E46 for the shop employees (1999 328i for WRL), and this E46 (TTE or TTD?), so we will have three shop E46 race cars in 2016, if everything goes to plan (when does it ever?!).

Due to other expenses in owning a growing business, and two other race cars already designated as "shop cars", this 325 is being built on a very small budget. Not "$2000 total" like the GRM E30 we built before, but more like the TTC '92 Corvette we ran this year and has it's own Forum Build Thread. I've had customers and even people in the motorsports industry remark that those two "budget builds" (GRM E30 + Dangerzone) were some of the favorite we've done, more so than our more wild builds, so who knows? Those of you who dig that sort of thing might enjoy the build-up.

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The Wikipedia entry for the E46 is rather lacking in production numbers, but if you dig a little there were almost 4 million of this 4th generation of the 3 series builtin the 1999-2006 model years, with about 800K making it to the USA. So these cars are abundant and are becoming VERY affordable. They came in many forms, ranging from the 4-door sedan (the most common), a 2 door coupe (my favorite), a 3 door hatch back (which we never got in the USA), and the 5 door estate wagon (rare here). There were convertibles, an M3 model (coupe and convertible only), and engines were 1.8L inline fours to 3.2L straight sixes, with all U.S. spec E46s cars getting a straight six (2.5L, 2.8L, 3.0L or 3.2L in the M3). I'm ignoring the E46 M3 from here on out, as it is very different and shares little with the non-M E46.

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The Achilles heal of the E46 M54 motors are the exhaust manifolds (left), but the mid-length tube headers (right) always throw CELs

I've owned several E46 models, coupes and sedans, and generally liked them - even if I didn't particular care for the M54/M52tu six cylinder engines used in the 323/325/328/330 "non-M" E46 models. There are some quirks to these power plants, like the chain driven oil pump drive that is fairly unreliable in racing without some upgrades. The engine balancer is known to slip or fail, which can cause big problems, and this limits engine revs. The exhaust manifolds are terribly inefficient and place the catalyst very near the cylinder head - and tampering with the location of the cats for performance upgrades in the exhaust alwaysthrows CEL codes.

These are the "non-M" E46 six cylinders we got in the USA, and I have highlighted the engine in our 325Ci project car in yellow

Not to mention the power output of the M54 is fairly mundane, making from 172 to 225 hp on the E46. The US-spec cars (323, 328, 325 and 330) got engines from 2.5L (323 and 325), 2.8L (328 model) and 3.0L (330). The power outputs are shown above. The chassis itself is more rigid than the E36 3-series it replaced, but it gained a tick of weight so the BMW engineers put a lot more aluminum in this one: the front control arms, rear upper arms, and engine block are aluminum.

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Left: Our flared 2001 E46 330 Coupe on 18x10s and 285/30/18 tires. Right: Our 1997 E36 M3 on 18x10s and 265/35/18s

The weights we've seen for E46 sedans and Coupes that we've owned were all around 3150 pounds, with low fuel and the spare tire + other "trunk junk" removed. That's how people race them so that's how we weigh them. That number isn't that much heavier (100-50 pounds) than an E36 of the same flavor, and the E46 is bigger in every dimension (wheelbase, length and width). The E46 has a more modern look than the E36 2-series, but I have to admit the E36 has a somewhat timeless look.

This 325Ci will get new wheels pretty soon to replace the chrome Foose wheels it came with. When buying a pre-owned car we often have to look past the "initial ugly" or weird mods done by previous owners, and this car had some really ugly wheels on it. They won't be here for long - we're testing some new fitments now and will post the results in the next post to this thread.


Some of what we're sharing in this thread is How To Buy An E46 (non-M). There are a lot of things to look for, and some things you just expect to have to fix unless the car has a really good set of maintenance documents. Cooling systems, leak repairs, suspension clunks, worn brakes, and the "old car stuff" that happens over 10-17+ years of use in all elements.

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Trust me on this one - stick with the stick! The interior shot and the transmission above were from our 2001 330Ci

Obviously if you want to have fun you should AVOID the automatic transmission cars. The slushbox saps a lot of power and ALL the fun out of an E46, but there are a lot of them out there. Don't think "well I will just swap it to a 5-speed later", because that's a giant pain in the ass to do correctly. Just buy the right car, one already equipped with the manual transmission.

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The 5-speed manual (some later 330's got a 6-speed, but don't pay a premium for that box) is pretty dang good, and generally reliable. The clutches have a finite life, as do all of the myriad bushings in the linkages and shifter. I already know we need to refresh all of the shifter parts on this car, but if you go with a solid metal shift handle and especially a lighter flywheel, be ready for some added "buzz" audible in the interior. We'll use some of our Vorshlag competition motor and transmission mounts on this one, too, to really up the NVH factor. ;)

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If you can even find a sub-100K mile E46 325/328/330, that has been taken care of, expect to pay some $ for these nowadays. There are going to be plenty of examples of 200K mile cars, and those will very likely have the same of maladies of this coupe. But we're not going to let this one go to the crusher just yet - I think we can fix all that ails this car.


One of the first things you will see on high mileage BMWs is engine oil leaks. They will leak from all sorts of places, but almost always the oil pan and valve cover.

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Left: Jack Daniels has a lot of leaks, so we have some work to do. Right: The valve cover gasket repair is pretty straightforward ('01 330Ci)

The gaskets get hard and brittle over time, then start to leak. The gasket parts aren't expensive to buy, and the valve cover gasket service on the top end is fairly easy to do at home with basic tools. Order spark plugs at the same time, as these have to come off to do the valve cover work. And make sure to get all 15 seals for every valve cover bolt. The oil pan gasket service is a REAL pain, though, and I'll show what it takes to do in a future installment on this 325Ci. When you do the oil pan gasket repair, you might want to think about: welding the oil pump driveshaft nut, replacing the oil pump/driveshaft/sprocket, and maybe even adding an oil pan baffle kit - if you plan on tracking the car, like we will.

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We swapped in new seals for the dual VANOS on the 2001 330Ci (above) and it fixed some issues on that car

The VANOS units on the camshafts (variable valve timing controllers) tend to be "done" after 100-150K miles. There are seal kits (above right) and they are serviceable, but be careful. Don't forget that the VANOS bolts are LEFT hand thread. Swapping in rebuilt VANOS units is much trickier, and requires special tools and fixtures. Look for DIY write-ups online for this. There are several suppliers for seal kits and rebuilt VANOS units (Dr. Vanos is the more famous option). When the VANOS units are bad the variable cam timing doesn't work, and the motor feels more sluggish than normal.

Power steering lines also leak. Radiator necks crack and leak. Water pumps leak. Coolant overflow tanks crack and leak. We tend to see these parts fail regularly at 80-100K intervals. Plus all of the bushings, and the shocks are usually shot. There are underlying reasons why all of these things fail and why they are linked together, which we will cover in a future installment. If you continue reading below you will see that we already tackled some of these "common repairs" in the first week of ownership, but others repairs will be addressed in future posts.


When I test drove this car it was leaking coolant from more than one spot, and the electric cooling fan wasn't working. They had the radiator cap loose and told me to keep the test drive short. It was at a dealership who had a mechanic on staff, but it looked like they threw their hands up and just wanted to dump the car. I drove it around for a couple of minutes and it felt "OK" to me. No working cooling fan means no Air Conditioning and no chance I could drive it home in traffic. It didn't look like it had a blown head gasket so I took a gamble, bought the car, and towed it to the shop with our enclosed trailer...

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I was nervous about the AC and cooling system - would this be an easy fix or not?? So the day I bought the car I had Olof do an typical "track inspection" to the car and make a list of visible issues. It was a long list.

- Thoroughly inspect car (top to bottom, front to back)
- Diagnose fan problem; won't run with direct power
- Lubed upper radiator hose; now system will pressurize but leak slowly
- Can hear audible sound engine bay (exhaust leak? air pump bad?)
- Perform compression test. Looks good.
- Scanned CEL : Cyl 3 misfire. Cleared code.
- New code appeared. P0365: Camshaft Position Sensor B Circuit (Bank 1)

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Pressure testing the cooling system showed a myriad of leaks (above)

It took 2.08 hours to do the inspections, fan test, cooling system pressure check (leaks everywhere!), and engine compression test - all of the work listed above. The compression test was good, which let me know we probably did NOT have a bad head gasket. The coolant system had leaks from the water pump, upper hose junction at the radiator neck, and the coolant reservoir, but the radiator hoses themselves looked new.

The radiator hoses are normally an instant repair item, as the "quick connect" ends on the E46 get stuck over time and can easily break trying to disconnect them. Olof soaked the junctions with WD40 before taking them off and they popped free easily, and looked perfect inside and at the ends (O-ring). No massive corrosion or deposits. The electric cooling fan was tested off the car; even though it looked pretty new, when fed 12V power at the right ports it wouldn't work. So maybe all of the cooling/AC issues really were just a bad fan and a couple of leaks? Could we get that lucky???

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We ordered a new OEM radiator (which might be replaced later with a larger capacity all-aluminum unit), coolant reservoir/cap/sensor, electric fan, water pump, and plastic thermostat housing + thermostat. Shopped around a bit, so it took a couple of days to get the parts in. It was around $400 retail in parts. When they had all arrived, Olof drained the coolant, quickly removed the old parts, cleaned up the mounting surface on the block for the pump, and swapped in the new bits. It was exactly 7 days after buying the car when he did the work, and it took him an additional 2.52 hours to replace the entire cooling system, start to finish. And luckily these parts fixed ALL of the cooling issues, and the AC now worked perfectly. So my gamble paid off.

- R&R radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat, and coolant (mostly water)
- All old gaskets are damaged from corrosion of aluminum and coolant
- Add coolant and water mix
- Pressure test cooling system (no leaks)
- Test drive and verify fan turns on, AC works, engine runs fine

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While he was removing the parts and before the new bits went in I sprayed the entire engine bay down with WD40. We let it soak while at lunch and Olof wiped all the surfaces down when we got back. This stuff is harmless to almost every material and will loosen gunk and grime, and it worked like a charm. Normally I'd pressure wash the engine bay but this car didn't need it - the dealership had done that, apparently (not the previous owner, who had really let a lot of things go). Just had some old gunk stuck to an otherwise clean-ish engine bay. The WD40 + wipe down made it look pretty darned good...

Engine bay now looks good, but did you notice the wires holding the headlights in place? And the cloudy lenses?

Now the 325 has a brand new cooling system (doesn't leak a drop of coolant) and the engine bay is pretty darned clean - doesn't look like it has 197K miles now. I love clean engine bays, and we will get the car up on all fours and power wash underneath the entire chassis soon. A clean chassis shows any leaks perfectly, and I'm sure there are plenty left to track down (engine oil, etc). But the emergency stuff - a bum cooling system - was fixed, which was a good first step.

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Now that the cooling system works we could concentrate on the last few "emergency" repairs and turn the car over to Amy to start daily driving (so she can point out what else is broken). We already know the suspension is pretty much shot; It needs lots of suspension bushings, a rear subframe reinforcement/subframe and bushings, new dampers, the top mounts are shot, etc. But one thing that was broken that couldn't be ignored were the power window switches... 3 of the 4 switches were busted. Did that mean the window regulators were also broken? Another gamble...

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Both the left and ride side window switches (above left) had one or more broken "tabs", so the windows wouldn't go up or down. Luckily the "endurance car" ('99 328i) is getting all of the OEM door and rear glass replaced (with fixed Lexan), so I borrowed that car's console mounted window switches (below left) temporarily to test and see if this 325's window regulators even worked. This is a super easy job: pop the leather shift boot up (see above right), then unscrew two Phillips screws at the back, and the shift cover comes out for easy access.

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The E46 sedan has the same passenger side window switch, which popped right into the slot in the shift cover and plugged into the wiring harness. Both the right side door and rear quarter glass power action worked, whew. The driver's side switch also plugged in and everything again worked, but the "child lock" button for the rear window control lock-outs (not included on the Coupe) makes the switch housing too long to fit the slot on the Coupe's shifter cover (below right).

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Left: The switches are held in "hook" at one end and snap into the other end. Right: The left side Sedan window switch is too long

As you can see (below) the replacement window switches aren't expensive, and this is a super common thing to be broken on an E46 - the little individual window switch "paddles" snap and break off. I found some under the seat when we swapped that out (below).

After I tested that the two door windows and two rear quarter windows worked with the borrowed E46 Sedan window switches, we ordered the correct switch for the driver's side for an E46 Coupe. There's a third variation for the Convertible as well. Confused yet? Welcome to German cars. :)

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The correct part (BMW p/n: 61316902175) showed up a few hours later from our BMW dealer. I then popped the cover out again and swapped in the correct switch, for a completed job with the right parts. This is a 5-10 minute job at most, and we spent less than $45 to fix it. Easy.


This car was a Premium car, with Harmon Kardon stereo and power leather seats on both sides - when new this was a high end car, but time takes it's toll. Both front seats were both torn/worn/ripped at a couple of leather seams, and the fore-aft power actuator on the driver's seat was broken. Luckily the seat was stuck where it fit my driving position (so Olof and I could do our initial test drives to prove the cooling system repairs) but it didn't fit Amy, so she couldn't drive it.

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The worst part of Jack Daniel's interior are the shift handle (see pic above), front seats (torn) and the steering wheel cover (worn).

Long term plans include installing two fixed back racing seats with a driver's side slider, and make it fit Amy's driving position perfectly. The seating position really makes or breaks a track car for her. With too many unknowns left to check on this car before we go dumping expensive racing seats into it, for the short term I once again borrowed parts from the Endurance car car. The power front drivers seat from the 99 328i Sedan was pretty ugly but the power actuators all worked, so I just had hoped it would fit the Coupe...

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Reduce. Recycle. Re-use. We're keeping it green on Jack Daniels by "borrowing" the front seat from the 328i

The stock seats in the Sedan were in pretty rough shape but I just wanted something functional to use temporarily until I could either find some NICE black leather factory E46 seats or until I could convince Amy to just let me install some of the dozen or so racing seats sitting in our lobby... She's thinking "daily driver" while I'm always thinking "race car", heh.

Since the 325's driver's side power seat was dead, the seat was "stuck" in a weird spot. This made access to the old seat's 4 mounting bolts tricky. The front bolts were easy to get out but the rears were half covered up, but Olof fought it and got it unbolted, then we tossed the dead seat out back. The recyclers grabbed it before I had a chance to weigh it, but its one heavy mug. We will weigh the Sedan's power seat when we take it out next time.

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Oh there was some nasty junk hidden under that seat (retch!)... sticky coins, a dirty comb, fossilized french fries, plus all sorts of crumbs and soda spills. Olof got all of the left side carpets vacuumed and shampoo'd quickly and it looked 100 times better. The other side was strangely clean and Amy vacuumed that side out a few days later, when I cleaned all of the leather, vinyl and plastics on the weekend.

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The 328i Sedan seat is ugly (grey) but the power functions works, so its being used for now

The '99 328i Sedan driver's power seat bolted in easily enough. The plug for the seat was correct and everything worked, but its now throwing a "seat belt" code, so there must be a wiring difference internally. It does not have the "tilt forward and up" back seat access feature of the Coupe's front seats, but oh well. The ugly gray leather Sedan seat will work for now, as all power functions operate, but its temporary. We will get race seats in here...

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These are the Cobra seats and Momo wheel we used in the '01 330Ci, and they are what we will likely use in this 325Ci... soon?

All told this seat swap and half carpet clean-up took about 0.5 hours and cost $0 in parts (borrowed seat).


If you've read one of my many build posts you know its wrapping up when you see that subtitle. I like to give clues to what mods we have in store next time. Here are the highlights.

This 325Ci needs new headlights to pass inspection, as the original units were both damaged in a light front end hit at some point. The housings are all busted up, the lenses are cloudy, and they are held in with bailing wire. I have done a LOT of looking (there are a lot of variations between the Coupe/Sedan/M3, with pre-facelift and post-facelift for the coupe and sedan) and found some ~$200/pair OEM looking halogen projector style light assemblies, which I have on order. Will get those in the car pretty soon, then try to chase down the last CEL (Cam Sensor is a common flaw on the M54) so it will hopefully pass inspection.

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Ryan made custom full length headers for this LS3 V8 in a tick over two days... why not make a better E46 header than what eBay sells?

After that we need to tackle the exhaust, as the rear muffler hanger is gone and it has a good exhaust leak behind one catalyst in one manifold assembly. I really DO NOT want to buy $800+ worth of factory style replacement manifolds/catalysts, so we might fabricate something there. I'm most definitely NOT buying the crappy eBay header for this car, like the blue 330Ci got (two sets were purchased for that car, to get something that fit). Should we make a new, proper full length header for the M54? Is there a market for this, when the $100 eBay junk has been the standard for some time? I'm going to do a business case for this and see - it wouldn't be that hard to make, with our in-house fabricators.

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Once we determine the header solution, the after-header exhaust will be custom made from 3" stainless tubing and Magnaflow mufflers and cats, when it gets replaced. We've done a system like this before (blue '01 330Ci syste, shown above) but since then we had a development break-through and have picked up BIG numbers while becoming quieter. There's a muffler from Magnaflow that made that happen, along with an unusual routing. We could see if that worked on this car, with the full length header. Very tempting, and it could make for a new product - which is why I pushed Amy towards another E46 in the first place. This car has to DO WORK FOR VORSHLAG.  

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One possible track setup is this 18x10" wheel + 265/35/18, which we did to the '01 330Ci (pre-flares)

Replacing the wheels and tires are a VERY high priority, and as I mentioned above I hate the Foose wheels with a passion, and after Amy's first long test drive one of the tires got really low on air pressure. I'm looking at 17x9.5" Forgestar F14s for street wheel set first (see below), with a better offset made exclusively for the E46 non-M - with no spacers needed. We have done 18x9 and even 18x10 (above) before, but they all needed spacers and the 10's needed LOTS of fender rolling and camber to fit. Even then we were limited to 265s on the rear, until we flared the 330. We'll tackle something similar for track use (depending on which class we go to, which might limit tire choices/mod points). This car has a base NASA TT class of TTF, so we still have a lot of "mod points" to play with in TTD or TTE.


The various body dings and scratches will all be addressed in good time. This 325 also needs a new front bumper cover, hood, and rear bumper cover - and we will see if we have class points to do M3 bits for the front and rear. The old brakes are also shot. Depending on NASA classing points, we might steal parts off of my white 2001 330Ci in the shop and use them on this car: the hood, bumper covers, even the larger 330 brakes would take only a few hours to swap over. We'll see how the class build shakes out - there's a couple of ways we can go for a TTE or even TTD build.

This was a weight we took with low fuel but the full sized spare, jack and other trunk junk were still in place

Last but not least, no build thread of mine would be complete without the initial weighing! We were in a hurry so we didn't take out the spare wheel/tire or the jack. This porker came in at 3256 pounds, but considering the trunk junk and what these Foose anchors weigh, I shouldn't be surprised. We will knock the weight down by around 200 pounds, I can assure you of that. (base classing: BMW 325 ('01-'06) (2.5L184 hp) = TTF**, min wt 3197 pounds w/ driver) This 325Ci one will be kept for a while, and Amy is already driving it to work, so we will have some fun with this one. Check back next time to see a few more repairs and hopefully some upgrades!


As a former mechanical engineer and project manager before I started Vorshlag, I used spreadsheets every day. Some habits die hard. When I was writing the second set of posts for this forum build I went ahead and broke down the costs and hours spent on each round of work. These are normal street prices for the parts we used, in the brands we prefer, but I supposed you can hunt long enough and find a better deal. The hours are logged in our MSA system and are accurate.


In this little spreadsheet you can see hours spent, the actual cost I paid for the car (with Tax), and the approximate prices for the parts used in this First Round of mods. I will do this for each round of mods and keep a running tally for the total dollars spent - so you readers can see what the real costs are for owning a high mileage E46 Coupe, as well as prep costs for a NASA TT build.


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Project Update for September 8th, 2015: We just had a few hours to tackle some additional work on Amy's daily driver and soon-to-be track prepped E46. The shop crew finished a few more repairs, did one of the first upgrades, and are inching closer to being able to switch from "fix mode" to "upgrade mode". This was supposed to be a "quick update" but then I started planning the NASA TT build, and things got complicated. Why? Because little changes done now could alter the end classing down the road. Read below to see what we tackled in this update.

At this point I had already fixed a leaking tire by stealing two of the E46 sedan wheels/tires

The complete cooling system replacement from the first round of repairs has been working great and there have been no coolant leaks or other issues with any of these parts, which is great news. But we aren't out of the woods yet. Amy and I have driven this E46 a half dozen times, and from that we know there are still a number of problems that need to be fixed before we can really call this one "safe to daily drive", much less pass state inspection.

The original headlights are really busted up and don't work (one was unplugged, the rest of the bulbs were burned out), the turn signals don't work up front, we found that the horn doesn't work (and I use a horn like a NYC taxi cab driver), the exhaust leak seemed to be getting worse, there was a terrible "shimmy" at highway speeds, and one of the tires kept leaking down. I couldn't stand looking at the flippin' Foose wheels any longer, too, so we found a temporary wheel and tire solution that fixed a couple of problems.


We knew there was a leak in one of the factory exhaust manifolds but it seemed to be getting louder. I drove the E46 to work a couple of times and it was beyond my level of acceptable annoyance, so I went looking for a replacement set. Problem is these manifolds also include the catalyst, and each one (there is a pair) are $300-450/each new. No way was I spending $900 on new exhaust manifolds that looked and performed as poorly as the OEM units did!

The right flange could be wiggled more than an inch once it was detached at the rear. Straight busted!

I really wanted to just get the car inspected, then get a baseline dyno pull done on the stock manifolds/stock exhaust, then try some proper racing headers. We actually have a couple of things we want to test first, but I'll get to that later. So I went looking for some used M54 manifolds, and the guys at Clown Shoe Motorsports had a pair they sold me cheap ($100 = scrap value). Thanks guys!

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Left: Old exhaust manifolds were oily and one was broken in half. Right: New exhaust gasket set

After I had picked those up Steve order the gaskets, and we put the E46 back onto our shop schedule on Friday, September 4th. Olof got the car on the lift and when he pulled the aft portion of the exhaust system off, he came and got me from my office. He showed me how busted one of the manifolds really was and we laughed pretty loudly. Check the video below to see what I mean...

Click above for a short video walk-around during this round of repairs

So yea, the rear manifold was broken at the junction to the catalyst, and the only thing that was keeping the rear section of the manifold from falling out of the car was the heat shield. Good grief, that's bad. Of course the manifolds were also covered in oil, as this engine still has a wicked valve cover leak. We'll tackle ALL of the oil leaks at once, next time. I have a reason why we're waiting.


The replacement manifold set (above) was far from new, and had almost as many miles (190K), but they came off a similar car that was NOT throwing a CEL - which is a good sign. Olof got these installed with new exhaust gaskets at the cylinder head and the rear exhaust, plus added a new rear exhaust hanger we picked up from BMW. Now the car had a working, factory stock exhaust with no leaks. Yay.

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4.58 hours were spent on this exhaust job, but some of the studs and nuts fought coming off - even when soaked in penetrant. 197,000 miles of use means these parts have seen a lot of heat cycles. Getting the manifolds out of the engine bay requires securing the engine at the top (hanging it from a bar), removing the passenger side motor mount and stand, removing the entire exhaust system, then fighting with the little fiddly nuts and exhaust studs on the cylinder head. Olof removed all of those studs (to be able to clean the exhaust gasket surface properly) and cleaned them up off the car, as they were pretty crusty. Should have just ordered replacement studs and nuts, oh well. At the time of this writing I hadn't driven the car yet... hopefully these used manifolds don't suck.

Exhaust system repaired with replacement factory E46 manifolds + new rear exhaust hanger


Both the guibo and the center bearing on the stock 2-piece driveshaft needed some attention, and with the exhaust off it was much easier to get to these parts this time around. Olof had noted the cracks in the "flex disc" that attaches the driveshaft to the transmission last time, and now was a good time to fix that.

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These are a common failure item and virtually all BMWs have to replace these over time. As you can see below, the old unit had a lot of cracks in it, but I've seen much worse. They tend to crack, then fibers start to come apart and they slowly explode over long enough time period. It is usually very visible to any mechanic that is looking under the car before it lets go. This is a $35-60 part to buy new.


Another strange thing that he found when he was looking at the driveshaft was aft of the center support bearing. Someone had replaced the center bearing recently (another common wear item on all BMWs), as it looked new. But whoever did the work somehow left a threaded cap for the rear section of the driveshaft loose? This needed to be lock-tited and tightened to reduce the chance of it coming apart and tearing the threads of the shaft up.

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Left: You can see the threaded cap that is loose in this picture. Right: It has been secured, loctite added, and a stripe paint marked

Olof got both the Guibo replaced and the center bearing screw-on cap re-attached in .59 hours, which was quicker than normal because the exhaust was already out of the way for the manifold work.


This M54B25 has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves. This means it needs two separate cam position sensors. As I mentioned in the first post, this car kept throwing a Check Engine Light (CEL), which turned out to be the position sensor on the exhaust camshaft. This is a ~$40 part that takes very little time to replace.

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Steve sourced a new Meyle cam position sensor (above left) and then Olof took .28 hours to replace it (above right). We will see if that's the last of the CEL problems on this car. The E46 is known for having some tricky to diagnose CEL issues, so I'm not holding my breath just yet. As long as it stays off long enough to pass inspection, we're good for now.


In our first round of repairs we noted that the headlights were all jacked up (technical term). The lenses were cloudy, the housings were busted up, the mounting tabs were broken off, and they didn't work at all. This car had obviously been in a light front end collision and the headlights took the brunt of the damage. The hood is also tweaked and front bumper cover is beat up - both need to be replaced eventually.

Since most of the pictures I took last time were from my cell phone (aka: #potatocam), the crappiness of the headlights is hard to see. But trust me - they were smashed up and the lenses were cloudy, so they had to be replaced.

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Click on the images above to see how cloudy the lenses were, and the right pic has a "new vs old" shot that really shows the difference

The old headlights are shown above, and after the bailing wires attaching them to the chassis (?!) were cut, they were easily removed. The corner lights were literally falling out and had been held in with tape. What a mess - these were just junk. Yes, you can buy new replacement clear lenses, and even replacement parts for some of the busted black plastic on the housings, but its easier and cheaper to just replace the entire assembly.

These replacements still have protective packing film stuck onto the headlight lenses

There are tons of OEM replacement options from the normal suppliers (Depo, Hella, etc), but I wanted something better here. Time for a slight upgrade, instead of just a boring "stock replacement" repair. I researched this a bit and found the correct pair of projector style housings shown above. And I bought them from my least favorite source - FleaBay - and they are made in Taiwan. To avoid the known reliability issues with cheap Chinese Xenon lights, I went with the basic halogen bulb assemblies.

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Left: Olof needed to brush up on his Cantonese to read these instructions. Right: Some small crash damage made headlight install tricky

This pair has internal projector lenses for the (outer) low beams, and "angle eye" LED halo rings around both the high and low beam bulbs. The internal housings (the area behind the lenses and bulbs) often come in "chrome" as well as the factory style "black", but I kept it simple and went with black (the chrome was too blingy for my taste). This kit came with matching parking/turn signal housings, which have a smoked clear lens, not orange tinted lenses like some early E46 OEM options.


There are a ridiculous number of factory E46 headlight options (see above), with changes for Coupes and Sedans based on their pre- and post-facelifts (2004 for Coupe, 2002 for Sedan, the M3 was never facelifted), plus the E46 Compact (the 3-door hatchback, which we never got in the USA). Some came with Halogens others Xenons, some models had projector lights others did not, and they came with and without headlight washers. The shape of the headlight assemblies dips into the front fenders and bumper covers as well. The facelift extended out back with unique bumper covers and taillights as well. Since the 2001-06 BMW 325 is all on the same base classing line for NASA TT, we could do the facelifted fenders, hood, lights, and all of that and be legal - if we cared. Luckily we don't. If it doesn't make an impact on daily driver use or track times, we aren't doing it. If you care about this stuff, this

shows an early E46 Sedan/Wagon with the details to do the full "Facelift" upgrade.

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this 2001 330Ci had factory projector headlights and clear lenses

My old blue 2001 E46 330 Coupe (above) was a Canadian car, and it came with a KPH speedometer and factory projector style lights and headlight washers, whereas this 2002 325 Coupe had regular non-projector lights and no headlight washers - and these are both pre-facelifted Coupes only one model year apart. There are lots of OEM headlight variations, and I don't know when all the changes were. Throw in the aftermarket headlight options, and you can lose hours chasing down all of the options, costs, reviews, and sources.

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There was extra wiring required to power the halos, which we used a fuse tap to power from an "ignition on" source. While we were first testing the lights one of the LEDs on the LF headlight halo burned out, but hey, that's Taiwan parts for ya.

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The rest of the install was fairly painless, and the low and high beam connectors plugged right into the original harness. There were some fitment problems but we traced that down to front end crash damage. Upon closer inspection (see below) it appears that the radiator support is tweaked on both sides, especially the Left Front. So that headlight mounting hole isn't used for now. We will order a new bolt-in upper radiator support soon and put that in, but since the whole damned front end has to come off to get to all the bolts for this brace, we will wait until the new harmonic balancer is here, which needs lots of access to remove it (read more about that below).

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Again, these new Taiwan special angel-eye projector style headlights came with new bulbs and corner lights, ready to bolt in, for $210 delivered. Hard to beat that price, and with regular OEM headlight replacements at $240-600/pair, non-projector, and without new corner lights... I went with the cheaper Taiwan specials. I might regret this in short order - one LED burned out in the first minute of use - so I will follow up here about long term use results.

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The RF headlight "lower trim panel" (above right) was also shattered in the front end hit, so we had to track one of those down. The LF trim piece was fine (above left) Again, lots of options due to the many changes in headlight shapes and headlight washers. A new RF trim piece was ordered from BMW and the unpainted part was about $35. We will repaint this piece body color and install BOTH lower trim pieces AFTER we figure out what to do with replacing the torn up front bumper cover (M3 vs 325Ci bits) and/or front fenders (M3 or leave stock). The bumper cover is sufficiently misaligned that the new headlights and lower trim pieces don't fit together, at the moment.

In full daylight you can see the front end damage - it still needs a new bumper cover, lower headlight trim and side marker light

All told Olof spent 2.94 hours replacing these headlights, wiring in the halos, and repairing the shredded horn system wiring. It would have been a much quicker install if these had been just plain jane OEM replacement lights (no halo wiring) and if the front end wasn't tweaked like it is.


This wasn't at all what I had envisioned for the final street wheel and tire set, but a giant bolt sticking through one of the 325 Coupe's tires forced a quick if temporary wheel and tire upgrade. And those Foose wheels... wow, they were ugly. Glad those are off the car.


Once again I went to the shop Endurance race car E46 sedan to "borrow" some parts, namely the wheels and tires. When we bought this 1999 328i from a fellow racer in Austin it had the original 17x7" 7 spoke "style 44" cast aluminum wheels, which were in decent shape. The tires were all 245/40/17 sized rubber in the Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec model. The rear Dunlops were B-A-L-D but the fronts had some tread left (the shoulders were worn off). The owner of that car autocrossed it in Street class and these tires were the go-to option back then. 245mm is about all you'd want on a 7" wide wheel, and the compound was good.

I found this $10 set of 7 aftermarket "carbon fibre" Roundels, including the four 68mm center caps

So I figured we could put these on the front temporarily until we decided what to do about the permanent street and race sets of wheels. But upon closer examination the remaining rear tires on the Foose wheels were 18" diameter, dry rotted, and some nasty "Nexen" (?!) brand. And they were mounted to these hideous Foose eye sores. Amy liked the Style 44s well enough so we went ahead and bought 4 new Dunlops in 245/40/17 and we will use those on this car - temporarily. They WILL go back on the Endurance race car and will likely be used on the initial track shake-down events for the team. Thanks to UPS never delivering on time, these were not here by the time I published this update (4 days late and counting, UPS).

I still want to go with a 17x9.5" Forgestar F14 for the street wheel sets, and either another set of those or 18x9.5" wheels for the final Hoosier set for TT... but we are still working out the final TT letter class build plan. The time it takes to have a set of Forgestars custom built (4-6+ weeks) is longer than we can wait for now, so these Sedan wheels will work in the short term - and remove the ugliest part of Jack Daniels, the Foostasticly chrome blingstars. Check our clearance page to see these things for sale, if you have incredibly bad taste. ;)


The original rear lateral lower control arms were likely bent by some wrecker driver (they reach under the car to hook their chains and these arms seem like an easy, if stupid, place to tie down a car), which is a common occurrence on BMW E36 and E46 cars. I thought briefly about an adjustable, tubular lower lateral arm, which we have used in the past on other E46 builds... but the TT mod points (+4) were just not worth it. So the bent lower arms needed to be replaced with OEM parts.

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I learned a lot this past year with our TTC prepped 1992 Corvette, and when the TT rules say you can replace a suspension part with a new "stock replacement" part, it really means it needs to be the exact same part, brand, and part number as the factory installed. So I had Steve do some searching and he found the correct Lemforder (the original manufacturer for most BMW suspension parts) rear lower lateral control arms for about $45 each, shown below.

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These control arms went in relatively painlessly and Olof knocked it out in .95 hours. We could have saved $90 and stolen the 2001 330 Coupe's original lateral arms, as they are identical, but with the new parts so cheap it was worth it to get the new arms. There's a bushing on the inboard side that does wear, so these new arms will refresh that. Trying to re-use old, used parts almost always turns out to be a bad idea.


One of the things we fought with on our 2001 BMW 330 Coupe back in 2009-10, and which more than a few snarky internet expert types like to keep bringing up over and over and over, were oil pump and high RPM reliability issues. Let me say this one more time: I made a mistake, ignored sound advice, and paid the price. Others clearly knew more about the frailty of the M54 engines' oil pump drive, so shame on me.

I still stand by the comment I have made many times: "The M54 has a terrible oil pump design", because it is the truth. We were also revving the stock M54B30 engine to over 7500 rpm (after a local tuner raised the redline for us), in an effort to minimize shifting to 3rd gear on typical autocross courses. Also a mistake. And we were doing this (unknowingly) with a "slipped" OEM harmonic balancer the entire time, along with a flywheel that was half the weight of the stock unit. I also knew better than to not tack weld the oil pump nut in place, but was lazy and didn't do it either.

The chain driven oil pump drive shaft retaining nut can fall off or the shaft can shear clean through, both of which makes the oil pump stop working

All of those mistakes - which were 100% on me - made for an epic fail. Yes, I killed the oil pump drive on that M54 - twice - which quickly wiped out the rod bearings both times. If you need to send some more "I told ya so's", just PM me, and but please don't crap up this thread with more of that. I won't make those same mistakes again. The first oil pump setup on my old 330 was bone stock, with the nut just screwed onto the oil pump drive shaft at the factory (the nut came loose). The second failure was after we replaced the oil pump + shaft and had tack welded the nut in place (it sheared the shaft off). Both of those failures caused the chain driven oil pump to stop working, and the clack-clack-clack of the bottom end knocks started very quickly.

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After those two failures with the original M54 engine, we sourced a stock, low mileage 2005 BMW 330 M54 engine (which itself had a slipped balancer at only 54K miles) and swapped that in before we sold the car. We also lowered the rev limit back to the stock 6500 rpm level, added a brand new OEM harmonic balancer, and a VAC heavy duty oil pump driveshaft and sprocket when it was going in, and tack welded nut to that as well - which is probably why its still intact to this day.

This is what I consider to be the minimum track prep for an M54 engine: new balancer + VAC oil pump drive + tack weld the nut to the shaft. That 330 Coupe has been running smoothly since this replacement motor + new harmonic balancer + VAC oil pump drive work was done in 2011, and has been tracked several times a month by the new owner since we sold it in early 2013. Zero engine issues.

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Lesson learned: M54 oil pump drives are problematic, and high RPMs tend to kill them earlier than normal.

We also learned, a bit too late, that the OEM harmonic balancer is a ticking time bomb. These regularly fail with track use or even normal street use. They are easy to inspect if you know what to look for, so I'm hoping that some of you see this and go check your factory balancers and look for the same issues. Click on the image below for a higher rez picture, which shows what I'm talking about. You can also look at the crank pulley when the engine is running and sometimes see the wobble they get when the outer damper portion has slipped relative to the crank.


As predicted, the original M54 harmonic balancer (behind the front drive pulley) on this 325Ci has slipped. You can see above that the outer steel ring has shifted and the rubber isolater is poking its head out. After seeing too many of these failures, and reading too many horror stories, I'm convinced that ALL of the M54 engines do this.


The solution? Typically, when you build a car for any higher than stock RPM use or extended track abuse you just buy a quality SFI rated aftermarket harmonic balancer. For some reason (low volume) the aftermarket has not embraced this engine platform yet, or the problematic OEM balancer for the M54/S54 engines, and there is but a single supplier of aftermarket SFI balancers. They can and do charge whatever they want, in this case $949 for the ATI balancer (+$99 add-on for the AC pulley).

Dropping $1048 on a harmonic balancer is kind of nuts, and still causes sticker shock to me even after losing two bottom ends on a previous M54. That amount could pay for a complete, replacement 3.0L M54B30 engine. I'm used to paying $250-300 for a quality SFI rated harmonic balancer for domestic V8s that make 3-4 times the power. It boggles my mind how expensive this ATI unit is, but they make so few of them it probably isn't a big money maker. Being a manufacturer myself, I understand production costs, and super low production numbers can impact costs dramatically.

A new OEM replacement balancer is $180-440/each new, which is still a bit tough to swallow. But the unit on this 325Ci has obviously failed, and we have to do something before we take it on track, where it will see higher RPMs for extended periods. These are not fun to install and require special tools to do so, without damaging the crank. Be wary of doing this as a DIY job.

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When we replace the oil pan gasket we will also add the VAC oil pan baffle kit, as shown above

The leaking oil pan gasket leads me to my next upgrade planned - a new oil pump, an upgraded VAC oil pump drive/welded nut, and adding a VAC oil pan baffle kit. These are super important for these M54 motors, and we have done these baffle installs for customers in the years since I had my "bad experiences" with my first M54 powered BMW. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I won't make the same mistakes again, and we will go overboard on oil system upgrades on this car.

Stuff like this make up my least favorite parts of owning an E46, but it is just part of the "BMW experience", heh. I've heard it said that since "Germans make cuckoo clocks" that making things overly complicated (like this crazy chain driven oil pump drive) is just part of their culture. :D

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What is still strange to me is how well the S52 (above left) engine did in our 1997 M3. We ran it in at least 100+ autocrosses, often with 3 drivers per day (me, Amy, and the previous car's owner) and always touching the 7500 RPM redline, for over 6 years. All that was done was a welded stock oil pump nut to the shaft. That's it. Stock balancer, stock 100K+ mile engine, and it was tracked several times during that period as well. It has the same, goofy chain driven oil pump as the M54, too. Maybe the E36 M3 engine just had some better mojo than the non-M E46 engine? Again, I think these oil pump issues were more "old balancer failure" related than just "oil pump drive" or "too many RPMs" related. But I'm not taking any chances....


I have been alluding to prepping this car for a NASA Time Trial class, and there are a number of choices we can make now that effect the build down the road. Do we want a "BIG" tire with no aero, or a narrower tire with aero added? Our 2001 330Ci was built around a 285 tire and stock aero, and it did all right - but that was back in 2010. And the work required to fit those tires (flares) was extensive...

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Do we want to stick with the 325's M54B25 engine or go to the more powerful M54B30 from the 330? What about the larger 330 brakes? We can convert this car to a real 330 fairly easily - we have a 330 in the shop that could donate the front and rear brakes, the engine is an easy internet search + a day of labor to swap, etc. But the engine swap is not likely to happen, because it would require more parts to be swapped to be considered a "base trim level" 330, and would require a new initial base classing. So let's ignore that for now and just think "E46 325".

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There are a lot of ways to build a given car for a specific NASA TT class, and you can change mods down the road if you want to try a different setup and stay classed the same. Let's take a quick look at how NASA Time Trial "Letter Classes" work, because this might be new to some of you. First, you look up your car's "Initial Base Classing" starting on page 19 of the NASA TT rules. I have that broken down for the E36 and E46 BMW models in the chart below.


The TT rules have one giant listing for all cars that have ever been given an initial base class. If you look at the list of BMWs, they are sorted very poorly, so I took out the basic E36 and E46, M and non-M cars, resorted them, and created the graphic above. That means our 325Ci is classed in TTF with two stars (**).

Next we make a list of the modifications we want to do and tally up the points assigned to each mod, also shown in the TT rules, starting on page 29. We use a custom spreadsheet that we have created and it automatically sums all of the "mod" and "base" points. There are also a lot of "zero point mods", which are upgrades or changes allowed across all classes without any mod points. Camber plates, lightweight flywheels, upgraded brake pads, upgraded motor and transmission mounts, etc. Those are all listed on page 35 of the 2015 TT rules, and we will utilize many of these "free mods" for sure.

Next we look at the total points and see if we have "bumped up a class", which is explained below. Since we're starting with 14 penalty points in TTF, that means we only have 5 points left to stay in TTF, which isn't a lot. We will obviously be modding this car beyond that, and go to at least TTE class if not TTD for the final build.


8.3 Up-Classing System (TTB-TTF only)

Modifications and Point Assessments: If a car accrues 20 or more points it will be bumped up in Class. There is no limit—a car with a high level of modifications might move up several Classes.

20 thru 39 points - Up ONE Class
40 thru 59 points - Up TWO Classes
60 thru 79 points - Up THREE Classes
80 thru 99 points - Up FOUR Classes
100 thru 119 points - Up FIVE Classes

One (1) asterisk * on a base class assignment denotes a 7 point initial assessment, and two (2) asterisks ** denotes a 14 point initial assessment that is added to the total number of Modification Points to determine the final competition class.

We usually do this a little backwards when starting a new build. The first thing I do for any car we might prep for NASA TT is look at the base classing, base minimum weight, any penalty points (* = -7, ** = -14), and the base tires and power-to-weight ratios of the initial and final classes. I figure out what final class I want to be in, then figure out what mods I can do for the points allowed. These TT classing calculations involve many variables, and we usually make a dozen or more calculations to get to our initial "class build-up".

I think the final build will end up in TTD, so that means 59 points worth of mods. Then take out the initial two star (**) penalty of -14 points, so we have either 5 points of mods we can use and stay in TTE or 45 points worth of mods for TTD. That's a pretty good number, and we should be able to do all of the suspension, tire, exhaust, cold air, and aero mods we want for that and stay in TTD with a reasonably competitive car. I guess that's what we shall see!

We have made a pair of detailed build plans, and which one we choose will depend on the results of the early upgrades, which are in both plans. We have to know "where we will end up" because so many items that need to be repaired have to be done with either stock parts or upgraded parts depending on the final points tally, and hence the final TT class build. Here's our initial TT running points tally with the current Dunlop 245mm street tire package (Not what we have planned for the final TTD setup, but its just an example of what we've done and what points the car has accrued).

With up to 19 points we could have stayed in TTF, 20-39 points is TTE, 40-59 points is TTD. 23 points now = TTE legal

If you look at the initial classing of the 325 vs 330, the 325Ci has a better (aka: lower) base class (TTF**) than a base trim level 330Ci in (TTE) as well as a lower minimum weight (3197 pounds for the E46 325, 3285 pounds for the E46 330) but not really if you look at it's base class "base tire size" (TTF = 215mm, TTE = 235mm). Both the 330 and 325 would likely end up in the same class no matter how you build them, and the 325 Coupe will have one single, solitary point advantage over the 330, if we build them the same way. And still strapped with a smaller displacement engine (184 hp vs 225 hp), all due to the TTF** base classing. So we have some number crunching to do, to see if we should stick with the 197K mile 2.5L inline-6 and small 325 brakes or "base upclass" and make this car into a 330Ci, with the larger brakes, more powerful motor, and TTE starting class's larger starting tire size (235mm).

There are also some year-to-year upgrades that we will try to find - like the points free 1996 model brake upgrade we did on our TTC 92 Corvette, since they lump all 1992-96 LT1 Corvettes into the same base class. Again, we are using a 2002 325Ci, which is lumped in with all 2001-06 325 BMWs. So we can mix and match major parts from the Base Trim Level 325i or 325Ci models for any of those 6 years, for no points. Or if we upclass this to a 330, we can use the BTM parts from those year 330Ci or 330i cars. I doubt there's a super secret ringer part within the 2001-06 325 or 330, but we shall see (haven't found it yet).

330 brakes are a cheap upgrade for the 325, but they cost +2 mod points (the same as a real BBK)

The big question is do we want to make this a small tire/aero build or a larger tire/stock aero build. I know the big tire build worked before, but we've learned a lot about aero since 2009, too. I need to figure out how many points the M3 bumper is going to cost me. The 330 ZHP has no base class, so using the ZHP bumper or 235hp engine is verboten, without taking points. I will talk a LOT more about bumpers next time - I wrote a lot about that already, but this post got too long.


Just like I (retroactively) did in Round 1 of posts and work to this car, I have tallied the costs for this second round of mods and repairs. I am beginning to regret buying a car with so many problems, dents and miles, but I suppose that's the case with any used BMW you buy that has problems.


Virtually all E46 cars you are going to find will need much of this work, especially the guibo, cooling system and worn bushings here and there. We've still just scratched the surface of needed repairs, and there are many leaks to fix, bushings to replace, and tuning issues to work through. I have yet to even test drive the car after the cam sensor and manifold replacement, so who knows if those even worked?


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There's plenty of other parts to fix: old transmission shifter feels as loose as you could imagine, the motor and trans mounts are shot, the rear diff bushings are clunking, the front strut mounts are gone, the sunroof is stuck, and it badly needs new front lower control arms and LCA bushings. Not to mention the rear subframe bushings + chassis repair it will surely need at the mounting points. Pretty much all of those "Repairs" will be taken care of during the track upgrade preparations.

So Round 3 will have some more exciting "Race parts" instead of these boring "old car problems". I wrote a bunch more but I will save it for next time, as it has to do with classing choices and such. There are a few parts I am going to order now that will dramatically change our path forward with this project, so tune in next time. Much bench racing to do... which is half the fun of building a TT car. :)

Until next time,
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Project Update for October 22nd, 2015: Our shop schedule has been full as post season demand hit, but Olof had one free spot for half a day this week while parts were incoming for several jobs. That's the perfect time to work on a shop car, and this time it was old Jack Daniels. Which was good, because a front wheel was about to fall off. We replaced the front suspension wear parts, got a good baseline dyno pull, planned out more of the TTD build, upgraded the front brakes to 330 bits, put new tires on the car, and ordered the upgraded front bumper cover. Read on for more.

You Get What You Pay For

When we were looking at E46 candidates to buy we (aka: my wife) chose the cheapest one, and that isn't always the smartest plan. This car was rough and needed a LOT of work, and it keeps snowballing. Whoever owned this car "drove it hard and put it away wet". The dirty and dinged up chassis said a lot about how they cared for the car. They hit every pothole on the road for 200K miles, ignored leaks and noises, and let this car really go downhill. We can and will fix everything, of course, mostly because I'm stubborn - but it wasn't the right car to start with, I'm sure of that now.

Sadly this is how it looks AFTER some repairs and new headlights

So if you learn anything reading this, it should be the obvious: never buy the cheapest, roughest candidate for a car you are looking at. We should have purchased a 330 and we should have found one with fewer miles and/or in better condition. Something taken care of by an enthusiast who can avoid curbs and potholes. In the end we'll spend as much in repairs and fixes to get this 200K mile 325Ci to function as well as one with less miles and less damage, but oh well. Live and learn.


Also, the cheapest part is rarely the best option in the long run. The $200 headlights burned out one of the LEDs in the first 30 seconds of use. I knew better and "went cheap" anyway. Driving home one night in front of Amy in the 325 I saw her side by with another E46 that had aftermarket projector headlights with the same halo lights. The other car's owner did NOT cheap out and his lights were 3x brighter and didn't burn out the LEDs in the halos. "You get what you pay for."

First Drive After Exhaust Repair + 2nd Cam Sensor + New Tires

So in my September 8th update I hadn't driven the car after the badly leaking exhaust manifolds and gaskets were replaced. Well my test drive didn't go so well - I made it about 500 feet and the car died when the clutch went in at a stop sign. It threw a CEL and ran like crap from then on. I had to keep the engine running every time I stopped in traffic and the engine ran like it had lost 100 horsepower.


Our guys ordered the Intake cam position sensor (intake and exhaust cams both have separate sensors, since this is a dual VANOS engine), because that's what the CEL said again (Code P0365). I brought it back in the next day (9/9/15) and Olof swapped that one out in less than 15 minutes.


After that replacement the engine cleared up and ran remarkably well - like it had all ~185 hp back from the factory. The CEL came back again, of course, because German cars hate me for all the crimes I have committed against them. Its the same code - Cam Sensor Bank 1 - but we'll track it down eventually. At least it runs better now.


The day after my September post, the new set of 245/40/17 Dunlops also arrived. The car would at least be on new, full tread, fresh rubber. We had a lot of tires show up that day and the 245s for Jack Daniels surprisingly weren't the smallest!


That 225mm set of Rival-S tires at the far right in the tire picture above were for a dedicated track Miata we were building for a customer to run in TTE (above). This was a bone stock car we stripped, caged, prepped and got ready for track abuse in a 17 day period, and it has performed very well on track so far. I need to write-up that build in its own project forum thread, as it was really slick.

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Anyway, I've always noted how a new set of tires seems to ride better than an old set. Maybe its psychological, but this definitely improved the ride. Olof got the 245 Dunlops mounted to the Type44 E46 sedan wheels and balanced them like all of our track customers' wheels - securing the stick-on weights with aluminum tape.


Of course we were going from 18" wheels and tires to 17" wheels and tires, so the sidewall increased a tick. That always improves ride - and sometimes handling - and it definitely looked better off of those hideous chrome wheels. I was so happy with the change that I washed this car at home, for the first time. At this angle and light level (above) you can't see all of the dents, dings and scratches. ;)


While Olof was mounting the new Dunlops I stole one of the wheels and put it on our digital scale in the Order Build Room. Wow, that 17x7" wheels is stupid heavy at 26.5 pounds bare, but that's to be expected on almost any OEM wheel. We could easily loose 8-10 pounds per corner in wheel weight with an aftermarket 17x9.5" wheel. I will weigh those when they arrive and verify the numbers, but I expect 40 pounds to drop off the total weight with a 2.5" wider wheel upgrade.

Brief Test Drive + Baseline Dyno Pull

I have a couple of brief videos that I shot with the #potatocam on my phone, and the first one below shows this E46 being driven on a private test track in Mexico. During that drive I talk about some remaining issues - the worn shifter, the thumping noises from a front wheel bearing that is about to fail, and show a brief acceleration test. I also predict the chassis dyno numbers that this little 2.5L would make with 198,000 on the clock...

In-car video from private test track - hear wheel bearings, see the shifter, acceleration pull

As you can clearly hear, the wheel bearing is getting to be very audible, and they get this loud right before they take a dump. This car has "ones of days" left on the road before it is replaced and Amy is aware that this is a part about to fail. She is avoiding highway speeds until we can sneak the car onto our shop schedule and get that and many other parts replaced in the front end (see more on that below).


The second video for this round includes the baseline dyno pull performed at True Street Motorsports in McKinney, Texas. After scheduling the appointment about a week in advance, I went up there when they opened on Oct 1st and we strapped the E46 down on their DynoJet chassis dyno.


First Sean did a pull in 5th gear, which is 1:1 and technically the right way to do it. But it was taking a LONG time and wheel speeds were getting up there around "ludicrous speed", so that pull was aborted a tick early. He immediately made a 2nd pull in 4th gear. That worked better and wheel speeds weren't as berserk this time, so he took it to the 6500 rpm redline for that pull.


It actually made more than I predicted at 161.63 whp and 149.0 wtq. I was a bit surprised, but wasn't that far off in my "butt dyno" estimations of 150 whp. After 2 pulls I was ready to take this car off their dyno and get to work, so we unstrapped, I paid my bill and off I went.

Another Headlight Replacement?

OK this is a little embarrassing. After the new headlights and turn signal corner lights were all replaced, I noted in my last post that they didn't fit very well. This is because the entire front core support is bent and the mounting holes for the headlights are all mis-aligned. I told Olof not to worry about it and to secure the headlights in temporarily, until a new core support parts arrived.


The corner lights normally snap in place against the headlights. Of course the clips didn't line up well because the headlights are all in there janky, and eventually one of the corner lights popped off during Amy's drive home one night, smashed off the road surface, and bounced off into a ditch. It was dark and she couldn't find it, so that was lost.


I ordered another E46 corner light made by light manufacturer Depo, which was $15 shipped to my door. I thought I had ordered the correct "smoked" color to match the other side - the picture online showed it smoked - but it arrived "clear".


This was replaced in under a minute but it didn't match the other side at all. So that was a $15 mistake, but it works as a turn signal/light for now. For the short term I taped the light in place until the correct smoked unit arrives. This car just gets better and better...


At the same time I researched the replacement core support part. The RealOEM price is $330, but the cheap fleaBay price was $54 shipped. How do they sell stuff this cheaply? Oh yea, its made in a sweatshop and the quality is poor. Well it arrived and it looked pretty good, and we even installed it on a race car E46 M3 chassis we are building for a customer (below). I took it along with that chassis to my paint guru, Shiloh at Heritage Collision Center - who does all of our paint and body work - and they said it fit perfectly.

The new front core support was delivered with this E46M3 chassis to the body shop - and it fit great

Sometimes these dead simple import parts do work, but at $54 I figured if it didn't I'd just toss it in the recycle pile and chalk that one up to experience. Since this $54 import core support worked on the other E46, I ordered another (for our car) and this will go on #JackDaniels when it's apart for the engine's harmonic balancer replacement. The radiator and a lot of other parts have to come out of the way to replace the OEM balancer, so we'll just snatch the whole front of the car off and replace the core support + front bumper cover + balancer all at the same time. Look for this in my next post.

Front Suspension Repairs + 330 Big Brake Upgrade

We had been amassing parts for an upcoming break in our shop schedule to get some of the biggest problems fixed on this E46 - such as the wheel bearings, bushings, and control arms - as well as an upgrade to larger 330 disc brakes front and rear.


On October 21st we finally had a window of time and I brought Amy's E46 in for some front end work. We had a lot more parts on hand than we had time to install, so some of the bits shown in the big pile above (rear wheel bearings, 330 rear brake rotors/calipers/pads, valve cover gasket, oil filter gasket, and more) will be done next time.


Olof got the car up on the 2-post and started yanking off the old front Lower Control Arms, LCA bushings, hubs, and brakes.


The spindles were inspected but they looked fine.


Everything else removed was nasty, worn and read for the scrap pile.

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He used a 2-jaw puller to separate the LCA bushings from the control arms, but normally I just pull these off by hand. The OEM bushings on an E46 are absolute crap when new, and after 200K miles they are literally falling apart. The RF LCA bushing was already 100% separated and allowed a lot of movement between the bushing retainer and the control arm, under braking. Every bump on the road made an audible THUMP! so I couldn't wait to drive the car after these were new and improved.

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The original LCA "lollipop" housings had the old remnants pressed out and in went 2-piece Powerflex polyurethane "race" bushings. These have an inner and outer liner which rotate against each other, and if properly greased they are silent yet remove virtually all bushing deflection under bump, braking, and cornering loads.


Olof added a threaded grease zerk to the lollipop housing and modified the outer bushing, which should give us squeak free use. Per our procedures he also torqued the mounting bolts to factory spec and paint marked the bolts in red.


The new OEM replacement E46 non-M, non-ZHP, base trim model control arms went on next. The old ball joints (two per arm) were all sorts of shot, so that will tighten up the slop and reduce more noises.


Next up were new wheel hubs, which were badly needed. The old bearings was falling apart and very near a "total failure". Then 1" larger Centric Premium OEM replacement brake rotors from a 2001-06 330 were installed, as well as OEM replacement rebuilt Centric calipers and mounting bridges. In went some Centric Ceramic street pads, which are quiet and dust free - but we will swap in proper Carbotech pads for track use.


I showed more detail on the size differences between 323/325 rotors and the larger 330 rotors in my last post. These are going to be a +2 point upgrade, until and if we convert the car to a 330, at which point we will get those 2 points back. For now, we'll take the 1" larger rotors and the +2 point hit.

We didn't have time to install the rear wheel bearings, rear rotors, calipers or pads. The front brakes were shot, as were the wheel bearings, so only those were replaced. To help the car pass inspection Olof managed to get the horns working as well. He stole a pair off of a 2001 330Ci race car chassis in the shop, as the original 325Ci horns were junk. How do you break a pair of horns? The previous owner managed to! ;)

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During the cooling system swap Olof had swapped in a good, used OEM aluminum undertray from my old blue 2001 330Ci. As you can see (above left) it has a good bit of oil residue on it from gasket leaks at the engine - which we will tackle next time. The steering rack boot on the RF (above right) is also trashed, so we will replace those + inner/outer tie rods next time as well.

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We are planning on MCS TT2 coilovers, Vorshlag camber plates, and Vorshlag spherical RSMs in the next round as well. Just gotta save my pennies and get the shocks ordered. :) This round of mods will cost us +5 points and put us squarely in TTD, but that's for another day.


Driving the car yesterday after the front end parts were replaced was a nice change. ALL of the wheel bearing noises were gone. ALL of the front suspension "clunks and thumps" were gone. Amy drove it home and she commented that it rode like a new car. The brakes were smooth and silent, the horn worked, so its almost ready for state inspection.

The next two sections are talking about planned upgrades we will do in the near future...


The factory sunroof is busted on this car and stuck in the "almost closed" position. It hasn't leaked any water in but its just dead weight in the car right now, since it won't retract or close completely. Luckily one of the many things we can do in the "No Points Modifications" rules section within NASA TT/PT classes is a sunroof delete.


Why do this? Three reasons.

1. The sunroof in an E46 weighs about 33 pounds, and its weight up at the highest point of the chassis.
2. With a factory sunroof, the headliner sits about 1-2" lower, which makes headroom tight for me*
3. The sunroof motor is busted on this car, and the glass roof panel is sitting just slightly open...

* Yes, while this car is being built primarily for my wife Amy, who is 5'7" tall, she and I are on a registered NASA team. That means either of us can drive the same TT entry if we register as a team, which we always do. We often enter multiple cars (pay multiple entry fees) as a team, too. So either driver can drive any car paid for and entered as a team. So I might drive this car.

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From previous experience, I don't well fit in an an OEM sunroof equipped E46 (or virtually any car with a factory sunroof) with a helmet on. You can see that in the images above, from our blue 2001 330Ci. I ran with the sunroof open on that car early on, but the edge of the glass panel is just about in the middle of my helmet, so I had to "slouch" down in the car, lean the seat back, etc.

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I managed to fit with a 1-piece racing seat, but only when it was bolted directly to the floor (inches lower than the stock seat). When she and I both drive a car it needs a seat slider, which adds about an inch of height to the seat (and makes it easier for Amy to see out of the car). Then my head is in the sunroof/headliner again. The only SCCA class-legal fix on our old car was a complete factory roof swap. That was a giant PITA!

Pictures of the E46 roof swap:

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Getting the old headliner, interior panels (A-, B-, C-pillars), and the sunroof cassette out was the easy part - and for Project #JackDaniels we will have to do this same steps shown above. To make the sunroof swap legal for SCCA we had these additional steps: spend a couple thousand on a new exterior roof panel and headliner (both imported/shipped from Germany), add the extra roof cross bow, and finish the install exactly like BMW built it from the factory. This work meant we had to remove the front and rear glass, drill out every spot weld around the roof perimeter, count the number of spot welds, and use the same number of welds at the same locations to attach the new roof panel. I did this job myself, and it was a bear.


This 325 is NOT being built around SCCA Solo rules and we can just use a relatively painless-to-install "sunroof delete panel". For BMWCCA road racing, it has to be metal, but NASA don't care - so we will use a fiberglass or carbon fiber sunroof delete panel - like these options from s2r tuning (see above). This panel is a lot nicer than the eBay crap we used to have to settle for. It has a proper flange & mounting holes.


Once the panel is in place a new "no-sunroof" headliner from BMW (~$400) finishes off the interior and gives you the extra 2" of headroom. We will likely recover or replace the A-, B- and C-pillar trim at the same time, since its all falling apart. After we source the non-sunroof headliner, then we can paint or wrap the s2r panel we already have, then do the swap. Will show that next time.


As I mentioned before (first image in this post) the front bumper cover is pretty beat up. It is functional but just plain ugly, and will have to be replaced at some point. Since we are thinking of NASA TT-letter class legal upgrades we have to keep those rules in mind. We could upgrade this 325Ci to 330 ZHP (M-Tech II) or E46 M3 front bumper cover, but either one would cost "points" in NASA TT letter classes. Anything other than the plain old E46 325 cover is "mod points", which we need to keep an eye on.

Various E46 front bumper cover pictures shown side by side

Why does an OEM cover from another E46 model cost points? These cars are classed as the Base Trim Models (323, 325, 328, and 330, all separately). The 330 ZHP is not even the BTM model of the 330 entry, and of course the E46 M3 is a different model altogether. There could be and likely are aerodynamic differences between the "base model" 325 front cover and these other two options, shown above.

Both the ZHP and M3 bumper covers have a longer bottom section, which is considered an "air dam" when you compare it to the "BTM" 325/330 bumper cover. Either bumper cover upgrade would be at least +3 points - see the NASA TT rule 8.3.G (see below). The ZHP has little forward facing lower spats, which could even be considered canards (+2) and/or a splitter (+3). The M3 CSL front end (not shown) could take the same hits for canard and splitter upgrades as well.


1) Add, replace, or modify front fascia and/or air dam +3 (except as provided for in I.c.3), I.f.3), I.h.14) of the No-Points Modification list) The air dam must be vertical (5° tolerance) and must not protrude from the side of the vehicle or it will be assessed an additional +3 points. Additional points must be assessed below for any component of the added, replaced, or modified fascia or air dam that performs the functions of G.2) and G.3) below.

Don't laugh - I've seen a base S2000 upgrade to the factory S2000CR front bumper cover and get +11 points thrown at them (+3 air dam, +2 canards, +3 splitter, and +3 for added width). It retroactively cost the owner several NASA wins and track records when this ruling came down, which was all the way from the top. So we need to be smart and decide which way we want to go on this car - either a wide tire setup or a narrower tire (245mm) + alternate aero mods - before we change the front bumper cover, front fenders, etc. Decisions, decisions.

From what I can see the entire model run of the E46 M3 shares headlights with the pre-facelifted 2000-03 325/330 Coupe, so we will go with the E46 M3 front bumper cover. The M3 front bumper is also a better basis for brake cooling and splitter addition, if we "go for aero".

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We might add M3 front fenders as well. Do they fit? Yes they do. We did the M3 front fender upgrade (but not front end) on our blue 330 Coupe (above left), which fit 285mm front tires. Initially we ran the blue 330 with the unmodified M3 front fenders, which were more-or-less a bolt-on (we used the M3 fender liners, which are longer, to line up with the outer fender lip). It took a little tweaking to get the 330 front bumper cover to line up, but we made it look seamless (above right). The M3 bumper cover fits even better when used with the M3 front fenders, as you would expect.


To make these legal as "flares" for the SCCA class we raced in with that car back then (also needed for zero-point TT-Letter legality), we had to make them look like an E46 Coupe fender "with flares added". To do this I covered up the M3's unique "side vents" on the upper section of the fenders, so it would be considered a "fender flare" change. Alternatively we could just cut the outer M3 flare portion off and graft that to the 325 fenders (its just more work).

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More pictures of the E46 fender rolling and M3 fender conversion here:


The M3 front fender flares allowed the E46 non-M to swallow 285mm front tires on 18x10" wheels. We used that size for NASA TTD later in its life and it worked well, and we could do the same on the 325Ci here... but the tire size bump from a base 215mm tire (+70mm of tire = +19 points) eats up a LOT of our class modification points, and pretty much precludes any aero work. And, well, as much as I like "big tires on everything" we have lately had great luck with adding "all the downforces!", too.

Full aero upgrade or massive tire upgrade? That's the big question

Its an expensive thing to "just do both and test", of course. Adding massive tires will take extensive body mods. Adding a splitter/airdam + rear wing will also take a lot of time and money. Which will work better? We will have to see....

What's Next?

First off, here's the tally of parts and hours from Round 3 of upgrades and mods.


Good grief how have I already spent $4622 on this car already?!? There's a number of additional replacement parts and plans we have for the 325 but I need to see if it makes sense to continue with a 325 vs a 330. There are plans to build a custom exhaust header that we have been acquiring parts to build, the rear subframe needs reinforcement and repair (0 point mod), the rear subframe and differential both need firmer poly bushings (already acquired), but all of that takes time.


One safety upgrade we have in mind is the seats + harnesses + a 4-point roll bar. The two Cobra seats above were used in a previous project, so those will go in the E46 when the timing works with our shop. The driver's side needs a slider and custom brackets to fit Amy and me both. We will likely wait until the roll bar is built before installing these, to get them all to line up together.


The old steering wheel is nasty and has a massive hole in the leather cover. Getting a steering wheel "re-wrapped" is an expensive affair ($375+) and all of the places found only have patterns for the E46 M3 wheel. So an easier solution would be to take this E46 M3 steering wheel above and slip that onto the column of #JackDaniels. The wheel rim is a different shape and has a slightly different airbag, but the steering wheel controls are identical and the leather cover is perfect. Maybe it will just bolt right up? I've seen it on the interwebs so it must be true.

We still have plenty of safety, reliability, and car prep tasks before this car takes to the track, but hopefully before the end of 2015 we can take the 325 onto a road course and get some initial lap times. Fingers crossed...

Thanks for reading,
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Project Update for November 17th, 2015: It has been an interesting few weeks and this E46 Daily Driver / NASA TT project has made a dramatic turn.... for the better! We've switched horses mid-stream, as it were: there's a shiny Hellrot red 2001 330Ci now in our driveway and the little gray 325Ci is getting replaced.


Why the chassis change? For one, the 330 ends up being classed in NASA TT better than the 325 - I will explain that below in excruciating detail. Secondly, this 330 is cleaner and has more power than the 325 ever will. We have already started some initial repairs on the 330 and we are finishing up a few loose ends on the 325 before it gets sold. All of this is covered in this post, and at the end I will discuss some changes to the NASA TT rules for 2016 that effect TT1/2/3, but which will probably impact the TT-letter classes in a year or two.

Sadly, the red car doesn't even have a name yet.


Remember this same section from last time? How I was expressing regret over purchasing JackDaniels, our little 325Ci here? As we dug into this chassis it was a little more worn and a little rougher than I had hoped for.


Sure, we've fixed almost everything having to do with the brakes and suspension, but look at how much $ was sunk into repairs. My "Round 3" of repairs tally (see above) for the 325Ci takes the total spent on parts and chassis to a staggering $4622 - and we still have a few items to wrap up before it will be sold (I'm not selling a broken car). Yea, I cannot hope to even get $4600 for this (not to mention the 18.5 hours we spent doing the work) so I'm going to lose my shirt selling the 325. See why it would have made sense to buy a $3000-5000 car in better shape now?


Why did we buy this car, with as many miles and worn bits as it had? I have explained that before in this thread, but basically it was the lowest priced E46 5-speed coupe available after we sold my wife's 740iL. While we could have waited, during those weeks or months of looking she would have been daily driving the F350 dually, which was all kinds of bad idea. ;) But this decision was still short-sighted, and maybe you folks can learn from our mistake here.

Going from the M54B25 to the M54B30 made for a 25% increase in power, stock for stock

The repairs on JackDaniels have spanned 3 months and we're almost done with them, but its still a 325 and not a 330. The 325 has a 2.5L six and the 330 has a 3.0L six - which has a 41 hp stock rated increase over the smaller motor. That's a 25% power increase! There are also numerous other differences, like the bigger brakes, a higher (yet better) base classing in NASA TT/PT, and some other small differences.

I had talked about converting the 325 to a 330, but upon closer examination it looked like more work than it would be worth - plus there are some unknowns that could make for "Protest Bait" at NASA events. Right after purchasing this 325 I had quietly been searching for a cleaner, lower mileage 330 5-speed, hopefully a coupe, and hopefully something painted Hellrot red.


Damn if if this exact set of "wants" didn't pop up in my local Craigslist searches a couple of weeks ago! Amy and I went and looked at this car on a rainy day and test drove it, and the 25% power increase over the 325 was very apparent. The body was straighter, the paint was in better shape, and the interior was nicer. It wasn't perfect - the brakes were worn, it had some suspension clunks I could hear in the test drive, and of course it flashed a CEL within seconds of starting it up - E46s love to light up that Check Engine Light!


I had a friend run the VIN while we discussed the purchase and that showed not one but two insurance claims in its past, both apparently front end hits (with one of them also tagging the rear bumper cover, which has also been repainted). The damage and repairs were very apparent, and not bad work for the most part. The frame rails were straight and the unibody had no damage, just superficial stuff. Most of its life was in Texas (not a rust belt state), so that's good. The two wrecks and the odometer's 160K miles logged impacted the price, but snagging this 2001 330Ci 5-spd for $3500 made it all worth it.


This red E46 isn't perfect, but overall it clean and in nice shape, especially considering what we paid for it. The exterior, interior, wheels and power are a big step up from what we started with on the 325. It was also the only 330 5-spd coupe I've found for under $6000 in many weeks of looking locally. Sure, there are often deals 5 states away, but this car was only 8 minutes away, so going to look at it didn't gobble up hours of driving.


Upon closer examination I saw something during the negotiations with the seller: this E46 also needs a front core support assembly. I detailed in a previous post where I found them for $54 shipped, so another is on order. This one is torn more than bent, probably happened during the recent front end hit (hooked a trailer hitch on a truck or something), and you can see the issue in the image above. The hood is straight, the headlights work and are even aimed well, which is all good.


The 330 has super dark "limo tint" on all of the windows, even a big strip along the top of the windshield. Not only is this illegal, it is so dark you cannot drive the car at night with the side windows up, so that's all coming off. Track Cars should not have tinted windows - anything that limits your 360° visibility on track is unnecessarily dangerous.


The interior is nice enough except for the A-, B- and C-pillar covers and headliner). The sunroof is - you guessed it - also broken. We will use the S2R Tuning sourced fiberglass E46 sunroof delete panel on this car, to gain headroom and to remove that 33 pounds up top. The stock black leather power seats are in nicer shape than the 325's, so those will go into JackDaniels before it sells (and the pair of COBRA race seats into this 330). The 330's factory steering wheel and shifter will also be swapped into the 325, too.

DSC_9206-S.jpg DSC_9207-S.jpg

I might even swap the 5-spoke wheels from the 330 to the 325 to help it sell. These are factory 17x7.5" front, 17x8.5" rear and are in excellent shape. Whatever we don't plan to keep on the red car long term and would help sell the 325 gets swapped.


Some small issues made this 330 "slow to sell" and also helped me push the seller's numbers down $1000 from the asking price (they wanted $4500). I pointed out the front end damage and the VIN history to the seller, noted the CEL, and discussed the suspension clunks and bent rear control arms that I could see. We got a decent deal but didn't exactly steal the car - as it had a few things we needed to repair straight away.


I've said it before but I will say it again - tow truck drivers are the worst. Why do they always want to put their tie-down hooks right in the middle of BMW rear lateral control arms?? These arms cannot take any fore-aft forces, especially hooked right in the middle, as they are made for lateral suspension loading only. When these guys strap chains on these arms they get bent quickly, like this...

DSC_9292-S.jpg DSC_9293-S.jpg

Another new pair of OEM replacement Lemforder lateral arms were sourced and Olof once again installed these onto the red 330, just like he did on the 325. It is bound to happen on a used E46, but at least they aren't expensive.


The bent arms probably tweaked the rear alignment, no? The inboard lower bushings are replaced when you do these arms, by the way. To replace these you have to remove the inner mounting bolts. To gain access for this you have to unbolt the differential housing and move it out of the way a bit (see below).


During my test drive, our inspections up on the lift, and during the LCA install, we all noted "worn differential mount bushings". These were clunking away during quick shifts on my test drive, and Olof could put a pry bar on the diff and move it against the bushings a lot. Another very common failing of an older E46.


Luckily the 325's diff bushings aren't all that bad, so the new Powerflex Race polyurethane differential mount bushings we sourced for that car will go into this 330. We will also take the Powerflex Race subframe bushings allocated for that car and install them on the 330 as well. Now that these lower arms are back to stock and straight we can focus on other immediate fixes.


The CEL codes pointed to a non-functional air pump, so Brad dug around for a bit to find the issue. Solenoid could be jumped and it would come on, the wiring was good, just wasn't getting a strong signal from the DME. This pump is supposed to come on after start-up and run, injecting air into the manifolds to "light-off" the catalysts.


Cold start emissions get borked when this doesn't work. Normally just the pump is bad, or the air valve at the manifold, but those seemed to work.


I took the 330 by briefly to see my friends at Autobahn Service Center in Plano for a second set of eyes to diagnose the CEL issue. They have the right computer equipment to cycle things through the DME and they found that the secondary air pump wasn't cycling. They also noted that one of the idler pulleys was howling, which we also heard. First step was to replace ALL of the idler pulleys, tensioners and both serpentine belts.


The air pump had 160K miles on it so we went ahead and purchased a new one, just to be safe (this will remain an emissions legal street car, after all). All three rubber bushing mounts for the pump were hard and broken, so there were also replaced. The air hose shown above was badly cracked so it was replaced, as were some of the small vacuum hoses that trigger this system. We are waiting on the vacuum switch that is on the back of the cylinder head to arrive, then it will be installed, hopefully fixing this system and thus the CEL. Then we can get it inspected!


Like virtually all BMW models that are 14 years old, this one has some seals and gaskets underhood that have hardened, cracked, and are now leaking fluid. There's some oil residue underneath, but not nearly as bad as the 325.


Next week we will replace the valve cover gaskets and remote oil filter housing gaskets on both E46 cars, to remove the cracked gaskets that each car has and hopefully stop the fluid leaks. The 330 will also get new spark plugs, cabin air filter, and the air pump vacuum switch. I will detail all of the costs for parts and hours spent on the initial 330 repairs in my next update, since we're sort of in the middle of those.


If you have no interest in NASA Time Trial classing, feel free to skip down past this entire section. NASA TT-Letter classing is somewhat complicated and a bit confusing, which is partly how I made the mistake of purchasing the wrong car initially (325) for a TTD build. Initially when we thought about this E46 project I was looking for another E46 330, because we built that model into a TTD and ran it in NASA TT events twice, and set TTD track records at both events. The funniest part was that car wasn't really built for TTD, it was supposed to be an autocross car. It was only accidentally a decent TTD car (but a relatively poor autocross car).


One thing we did differently on that blue 330 was run all stock aero. That saved a lot of "mod points" for tire width, which we spent almost entirely in 285 mm Hoosier R6 tires. Again, this was really because our autocross set-up was much more dependent on tire width, and the TTD setup was more of an afterthought (all we did was switch from 285 mm Hoosier A6 to 285 mm R6). That car was built back in 2009 and since then I've come to appreciate reducing drag and making downforce a lot more, so we're building the current E46 330 around a 245mm R7 tire and a wing + splitter + vented hood.

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This time around we started off with the goal to build a TTD car, so priorities are also different. I will explain "the holy trinity" of road course priorities in a section below.

One of the two times we ran this autocross car in TTD it was done on 265 street tires, as shown above

Still, I rushed the purchase of the E46 this time around and we initially settled for the 325 we found for less $$. Impatience costs money because now we are starting over with the "right" E46. I talked briefly about my NASA TT classing concerns with the 325 in my last (September 8th) thread update. It wasn't until after we bought the 325 that I ran all of the TTD classing calculations and permutations, then I figured out the mistake I had made - the 330 is actually classed better for the end goal of TTD than the 325. It has more points to play with AND a lot more power.


The BMW E36/46 base classing list (from 2015 NASA TT rule set) above might not make it obvious that the 330 is better classed, at first glance. The 325 starts out in TTF** with an assigned 3197 pound minimum weight and the E46 330 starts in TTE with a 3285 minimum. So you'd think that, once you move either car all the way up to TTD, the "lower" base classed 325 has more points to play with and a lower minimum weight, too. The numbers seem to show that, since one build is jumping up TWO classes (59 points worth of mods) and the other only ONE class up (39 points).


8.3 Up-Classing System (TTB-TTF only)

Modifications and Point Assessments: If a car accrues 20 or more points it will be bumped up in Class. There is no limit—a car with a high level of modifications might move up several Classes.

20 thru 39 points - Up ONE Class
40 thru 59 points - Up TWO Classes
60 thru 79 points - Up THREE Classes
80 thru 99 points - Up FOUR Classes
100 thru 119 points - Up FIVE Classes

One (1) asterisk * on a base class assignment denotes a 7 point initial assessment, and two (2) asterisks ** denotes a 14 point initial assessment that is added to the total number of Modification Points to determine the final competition class.

  • E46 325, base TTF** jumping to TTD = 45 points (A two class jump yields 59 points, minus 14 base class "penalty points")
  • E46 330, base TTE jumping to TTD = 39 points (39 points yields for a single class jump)
  • This gives an extra 6 points of modifications to get from their respective base classes up to TTD, in favor of the 325...

So 45 points to work with on mods for the 325 is better than 39 points on the 330, right? Wrong. There are still two differences on the TTF** classed 325 that gobble up points we have to account for. First is that the base tire size is different for each base class - doesn't matter what the factory tire sizes are, it is what the initial base Letter class is assigned with.


The following tire sizes will be used as the base tire size for each Base Class for all vehicles regardless of their OEM tire size(s) or their Final Competition Class. All vehicles in a given base class may use this tire size (or smaller) without a points assessment:

TTB: 265mm
TTC: 255mm
TTD: 245mm
TTE: 235mm
TTF: 215mm
TTG: 195mm
TTH: 175mm

So the E46 330, which has a base class in TTE, starts with a 235mm base tire. The E46 325 is classed in TTF, so it starts with a 215mm tire. I have run the numbers and we think that a 245mm tire is ideal once we end up in TTD (which I will explain later, see "the holy trinity of road course prep"), but that tire size costs points on each car differently.

DSC_2450-S.jpg DSC_8790-S.jpg

Not to mention that not all 245 tires are the same width, but that's not the point here. Let's just look at why the same 245mm width tire for a TTD build costs 6 more points for the E46 325 than the E46 330...


Tire width points assessed or points credited are determined by the difference between the width of the largest tire on the vehicle and the assigned base tire size as follows:

Equal to or greater than: 10mm +1, 20mm +4, 30mm +7, 40mm +10, 50mm +13, 60mm +16, 70mm +19, 80mm +22, 90mm +25, 100mm +28, 110mm +31

  • E46 325, 215mm to 245mm needs +30mm in width = 7 points
  • E46 330, 235mm to 245mm needs +10mm in width = 1 point
  • E46 330 in TTD on 245mm tire has a net gain of 6 points

This takes 6 points away from the E46 325 relative to the E46 330, each with the same end goal TTD class - since it didn't have to burn 6 points going from 215->235 base tire size. So remember: a lower base class doesn't always give you more points. The next advantage is the 330's larger factory brakes...

DSC_7616-S.jpg e46-325-VS-330-BRAKES-S.jpg

Since I've already tracked a 330 with the OEM sized rotors extensively I know that they can work well, and with good pads and cooling I'm fairly certain we can run this TTD build on the 330 brakes. The base e46 330 has larger brakes than even the M3 version of the E36. The smaller E46 325's rotors, however, are fully 1" smaller in diameter than the E46 330 at both ends, which means they might be marginal. We had already upgraded the JackDaniels 325 to use the larger 330 front brakes as a "cheap big brake upgrade", which costs +2 class points (same as going to any BBK). But now with the E46 330 using the same 330 rotors and calipers get's to keep those 2 points because they are the factory Base Trim Level brakes for all 330s.

So if we add up the relative points advantages from the starting tire size (+6) and now the "free" big brakes (+2), then subtract out the 6 point difference in the 325 and 330 points (45 - 39) to get to TTD, we still have a net gain of 2 points for the 330 over the 325 to get to TTD prep.

baseline-dyno-100115-notes-S.jpg Dyno-blue-2001-330-S.jpg
Baseline dyno of the 325 (at left) and my former 2001 330 (at right) with a cheap eBay header

Then we look at the fact that the E46 330 has a 225hp engine (M54B30) vs the 325's 184 hp engine (M54B25), so that's a gain of 41 hp. The chassis dyno charts above are from our 325 at left and my old blue 2001 BMW 330 at right. The E46 330 dyno'd (my blue 2001 33) had a very crappy eBay header and an even worse tune, but you can still see the relative differences: 211 whp for the 330 and 162 whp for the stock 325 (49 whp diff).

So the 330 is ahead on points and has a 25% head start on horsepower. Win-Win.... right? And yes, this difference did come with a financial cost, as most 330s are going to sell for more than 325s, like this one did ($3500 for the 330 vs $1800 for the 325, a $1700 bump), but this 330 has fewer miles and fewer problems. And look how much fixing problems has cost on the 325.

TTB 10.50:1
TTC 12.00:1
TTD 14.25:1
TTE 16.50:1
TTF 19.50:1

The last issue had to do with getting the E46 325 to the Power-to-Weight ratio limit (P-to-W) for TTD class (14.25:1 pounds per whp), which is shown above. So we always try to get TT-Letter cars down to their assigned minimum weights (with driver), because that doesn't cost any points. To the E46 325 (3197 pounds) and E46 330 (3285 pounds) would be easy to hit those minimums, but with the M54B25 engine in the 325, there was going to be an epic struggle to get to the class P-to-W limit. Then there is an often overlooked series of adjustments to TT-Letter class P-to-W number from Appendix B....


This is just a summary - you can click the image above for the FULL list of Appendix B loopholes. There are modifiers for body type (4 door and station wagons), transmission (sequentials take a hit), drivetrain (AWD takes a hit, FWD gets a bonus), even your final competition weight (under 3200 pounds takes a hit, over 3400 pounds gets a bonus).

And the "weight modifier" portion of Appendix B (see below) reminded me that the 325 run at minimum listed weight of 3197 (3 pounds below 3200) would have to take a -0.05 hit. Obviously it makes sense to run 3 pounds heavier than that minimum to avoid a weight modifier.


This is why "running lighter than minimum" can hit you THREE ways.... First, with a lighter given weight you have to make less power at the same P-to-W ratio. Then if you run under minimum you have to take points for every 15 pound increment under the listed weight. Thirdly, you take a modifier hit for all weights below 3200 pounds. Yes, even if your car's assigned Minimum Weight is below 3200, you still take the modifier hit. So before you think about running lighter than Base Class number, or any car lighter than 3200 pounds, DO THE MATH.

Check the published width numbers for various tire options, too!

This was a somewhat long explanation, but this is why SO many TT-Letter class cars run a 245mm tire - that size or smaller allows them to gain +0.8 in their P-to-W ratio, to allow for more power legally at the same weight. This is how we built our TTC Corvette (which runs on a 245mm Hoosier R7 tire), and it makes a BIG difference (TTC's ratio is 12.0:1 vs the 11.2:1 we run the C4 at). That assumes you can even MEET the revised horsepower goals on the adjusted P-to-W ratio, with the class mod points you have. Let's calculate the modified P-to-W for both TTD E46 BMW models we're looking at.

E46 TTD build starts with 14.25 (TTD limit) - 0.8 (245 DOT tire modifier) = 13.45:1 P-to-W

And yes, I understand the Appendix B says "+0.8" and we just subtracted that bonus from the 14.25 number, but NASA writes the rules and does the calculations backwards. Trust me, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, we're doing this right (and will show examples of doing this "the NASA way" below). So with this revised P-to-W limit of 13.45:1 for TTD on a 245mm tire, the two E46 options would need to hit the following wheel horsepower numbers at the base class mandated minimum weights for each:

  • E46 330, 3285 lbs / 13.45 = 244.2 whp max (which we likely can hit with exhaust + CAI + tune on the 3.0L)
  • E46 325, 3197 lbs / 13.45 = 237.7 whp max (doubtful we can hit that in the 2.5L)

So on paper it is possible for the E46 330 to "max the P-to-W", but the 325 looks doubtful, even at a 6whp lower goal. Why? I don't think the M54B25 engine could ever get to 238 which, which is a 77 whp increase over the stock chassis dyno numbers we tested on the 325) without major internal engine mods, which we don't have the points for. the 330's 244 whp goal is only ~35 whp more than a stock M54B30 makes, which I'm confident we can pull off with extensive exhaust, CAI and tuning mods (but no internal engine mods). We have allocated points in our 330 TTD build for these power changes.

Maxing out a car's P-to-W ratio (running at the minimum weight listed and max power allowed by the ratio) is pretty important for lap times. So on top of spending points on tires, suspension, and aero you need to also max out power to hit the limit of the adjusted P-to-W for your class. It isn't even possible in TT-Letter classes for some cars - the factory engine's limitations and class points just don't always allow for it.

For the E46 TTD problem, some might argue to just run the less powerful 325 at a lighter weight, to reach the P-to-W. Main problem with that - going below minimum weight listed for a given car costs points.


Weight reduction points are based on the actual vehicle minimum competition weight (with driver). Removal and lightening of nonessential parts is permitted unless stated otherwise in the rules. Modification of the OEM frame, sub-frame, and floor pan are not permitted (see 5.2.2) Removal or lightening of engine parts is permitted only as listed elsewhere in the TT rules. The exterior surface of the roof, hood, body panels, and doors must remain their BTM size and shape unless listed otherwise in these rules. If the base weight used for base classing purposes (section 5.2.2) minus minimum competition weight (with driver*) is greater than:

5 lbs +1, 20 lbs +2, 35 lbs +3, 50 lbs +4, 65 lbs +5, 80 lbs +6, 95 lbs +7, 110 lbs +8, 125 lbs +9, 140 lbs +10, 155 lbs +11, 170 lbs +12, 185 lbs +13, 200 lbs +14, 215 lbs +15, 230 lbs +16, 245 lbs +17, 260 lbs +18, 275 lbs +19, 290 lbs +20, 305 lbs +21, 320 lbs +22, 335 lbs +23, 350 lbs +24, 365 lbs +25, 380 lbs +26, 395 lbs +27, 410 lbs +28, 425 lbs +29, 440 lbs +30, 455 lbs +31, 470 lbs +32, 485 lbs +33, 500 lbs +34, 515 lbs +35, etc…

So while TT-Letter classes allows pretty liberal weight removal mods without burning "mod points", any time TT-Letter cars are raced BELOW their Base Class stated minimum weight (shown in the base classing list), they have to take POINTS for every 15 pound increment below minimum weights (see chart above). Which means you again miss your P-to-W limit and/or run out of points for proper suspension, aero, power or tire mods.

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This is the Catch 22 for most TT-Letter builds... they aren't all equal because only some cars can get to the class P-to-W limits and still have any points left over for adequate tires and other supporting mods.


In a nutshell THAT is was why our TTC classed 92 LT1 Corvette works so well: first we got the adjusted P-to-W modifier for running a 245mm tire (plus 1 point was gained back because that's 10mm below the TTC class starting tire size of 255mm), which moved the P-to-W from 12.0:1 to 11.2:1... but the Corvette could still hit the P-to-W limit of TTC, even with a bone stock LT1 stock motor. This meant we didn't have to burn class points on exhaust or headers or camshaft swaps or intake mods. We spent ALL of our remaining points on suspension changes (springs at 3 points) and tire compound (R7, 10 points), and it worked out pretty well so far. It is rare that this works this way in TT-Letter classes, which means there is a bias for certain car choices for specific classes, which can limit car model diversity and choices for TT competitors.

Let's do those P-to-W calcs "the NASA way" for our TTC Corvette:

  • Weight is at or above the listed minimum weight of 3203 pounds from the base classing
  • That 3203 number is also just above the minimum "competition weight" modifier numbers, which start at 3200
  • We chose a 245mm width DOT legal tire (+0.8 bonus)
  • The stock engine made 284 whp peak (highest of 3 pulls)
  • 3203 / 284 = 11.28:1 (P-to-W) + 0.8 for (245 tire modifier) = 12.08:1

TTC Class "minimum" P-to-W is 12.0:1, which this car is just a hair over. That's what you want to do - aim for the P-to-W limit and find any modifiers you can to help that ratio along the way. Avoid modifiers that hurt, then use your points to run the best tire compound/width and fix any suspension issues, and add aero if you have any points left.

So long story short DO YOUR HOMEWORK up front when building for a class, make sure to CHECK THE MATH, and PAY MORE MONEY to start with the right car. Lastly, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, so don't expect to save money by starting with a high mileage heap that needs a bunch of repairs vs a cleaner/lower mileage car that costs more up front. I just wish I could follow my own advice, ha!


The calculations for classing a Letter car was tortuously convoluted. Did you READ all of that crap in the section above?? Look at how much ink was spilled just to explain that a 330 is a better car for TTD than the 325!? The sad thing is I still got it wrong and had to go out and find the right car (330), and I've built a half dozen TT cars for myself and have made worksheets for dozens more for customers, many of which have gone on to be competitive, max point, maxed-out power-to-weight TT Letter cars.

Here is what we feel are the three most important things to winning in a road course setup, specifically TT-Letter classes:

1. Power-to-Weight ratio
2. Power-to-Tire ratio
3. Weight-to-Tire ratio

For NASA-Letter classes we have several things that limit tire width, so we have to keep that in mind. Ideally I'd run a wider tire than we are shooting for here in our TTD E46 330 (245mm) or our TTC Corvette (also 245mm), but the 0.8 P-to-W "bonus" for running 245mm or smaller is too good to pass up.

More tire width will burn up points FAST and we have found that a better tire compound is ultimately more important than running extra tire width, within reason. But if that were not the case, say that TTC became "TT5" (it might someday, read below) and had the ultimate 12:1 P-to-W limit as the lone guiding factor, we'd run more tire width.

Why? A wider tire can make more laps before overheating, lasts longer (wear), and is easier to drive. On the TTC Corvette with the power it makes we can quickly overheat the rear tires, so we use TT strategies to limit laps in any session to 2-3 laps. Running more laps would likely overheat the tires, they get greasy and fall off, then lap times start to slip.

We noticed this running 315mm Hoosier A6 tires on our TT3 Mustang, and after lap 1 the lap times would slow down 1-2 seconds for each successive lap. The tires also liked to run best cold, so that meant the first session of the day was almost always ideal. So it boiled down to one "golden lap" in one "golden session" to shoot for the best time each day, which sometimes made it difficult to get the best lap time out of the car (and subsequently, many of our TT3 records are "soft"). Every once in a while the stars would align, however, like the video below shows.This was 2013, Day 2 at a NASA event at NOLA, when we ran the 315mm tire on the TT3 car.

Day 2, first session, first lap - one shot to get the best conditions

As I mention in the beginning of the video, I knew it would come down to this ONE lap to nail it. It rarely works that way but somehow in that one lap I manged to match the theoretical best lap that the predictive lap timer showed was possible all weekend. That lap record has stood for 2-1/2 years with 3 different NASA groups running the same NOLA course, even after we made the car much faster in 2014 (wider tire, better aero). Since we didn't have any points or tire modifiers on that TT# classed car (the modifiers all go away above max out at 275mm in width for DOT tires), in 2014 we switched to 335mm front and 345mm rear Hoosier A7 tires (with no penalty), which added enough width and heat capacity so so that best laps could be made on lap 1 or lap 2. With the weight that car was run at (3802, to utilize the maximum "competition weight" modifier) it was still easy to overheat the 345mm tire after lap 2 - and that was the biggest DOT tire Hoosier makes.


Just like we used in TT3, up through 2014 the DOT Hoosier A6 was still a fairly low point, attainable tire that was commonly used in TT-letter classes to set track records. This made the "first lap strategies" that much more important in TT-Letter. Thankfully, in 2015, NASA rules makers raised the points up for the Hoosier "A" compound (autocross compound), so much so that it becomes prohibitive to use the A6 or newer A7 compounds. Now the go-to tire for TT-Letter is the more reasonable and less "peaky" Hoosier "Road Race" compound, the R6 and newer R7.


1 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: BFG R1S, Goodyear Eagle RS AC (auto-cross), Hoosier A7, Hoosier Wet DOT (if used in dry conditions—see section 5.6), Hankook Z214 (C90 & C91 compounds only) + 22
2 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier A6 + 17
3 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires and those with a UTQG treadwear rating of 40 or less not otherwise listed in these rules: BFG R1, Goodyear Eagle RS, Hankook Z214 (C71, C70, C51, C50), Hoosier R7
Kumho V710 + 10
4 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier SM7 +9
5 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier R6, Hoosier SM6 (note: Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge EC-Dry tires (225, 245, 275) OK) +8
6 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Toyo Proxes RR, Hankook TD +7
7 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires and those with a UTQG treadwear rating over 40: Maxxis RC-1 (ex. Kumho V700, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup & MPS Cup 2, Nitto NT01, Pirelli PZero Corsa, Toyo R888, Toyo RA-1, Yokahama A048, etc) +6
6 ) DOT-approved (non-R-compound) tires with a UTQG treadwear rating of 120-200 (examples: Toyo R1R, Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec, Bridgestone Potenza RE070, Kumho Ecsta XS, Yokohama Advan A046 & Neova
AD08, Hankook R-S3, BFG g-Force Rival) +2
9 ) Non-DOT-approved racing slicks +30 (of any origin—re-caps and re-treads are not permitted)

And while there are many other tire models/compound eligible in TT-Letter class, the points they cost and the lap times they can produce just don't seem to be worth the effort. Even the hot "200 treadwear" tires still cost +2, which makes the points not work in their favor compared to a Hoosier R6 (+8 points) or R7 (+10). ALL other tire compounds seem to fall to the wayside when competition gets serious, at least in TTB-TTD. Toyo, Nitto, Maxxis all seem to be hopelessly uncompetitive at the highest levels of NASA TT. The BFG R-1 (+10) is a close contender to the R7, but it has many fewer sizes to choose from and has NO contingency program for NASA TT. The Hoosier contingency program is pretty solid, and is part of why so many racers just ignore all other options - they are fast and you can win 4 tires in a weekend if you have enough competitors in class.

So once you run the numbers and pick your tire width and compound (which locks in your "tire-to-__" ratios), its now time to maximize the Power-to-Weight ratio. Which is simple.

1. Minimizing Weight
2. Maximizing power

Duh.... right? Ultimately you run the least weight, the most power and the most tire, but that "most of everything" formula isn't allowed in TT-Letter, so we work with what we can maximize. Getting down to the minimum weight published in the Base Class listing is what you strive for (with driver and fuel), as I explained before. Going below that minimum isn't worthwhile due to the points its costs.

Maximizing power is a matter of both luck and skill. "Luck" in that you picked the right car that has plenty of OEM power, or potential to make power without too much effort. "Skill" in the way you utilize the points to modify the things you can to get to the max power allowed for your adjusted P-to-W.

That's it. That's the big 3. The rest (aero downforce and brakes and suspension) are smaller gains, but still significant, and on some cars there are deficiencies you need to fix (poor brakes, suspension issues, etc) that will eat up your TT-Letter class points. I could go on but that's enough, so I hope that made sense. This is the strategry we use.


The TT1/2/3/U (aka: TT#) classes are SO much simpler to build up than TT-Letter. You don't have to worry about NOT doing some upgrade because you ran out of points. Gone are base classings, points for mods and class bumps, the sometimes impossible struggle to max out a car for the classes' power-to-weight limit with no points left for power mods. You also aren't stuck running the minimum base weight - you can do whatever is allowed within the very loose TT# rules to get down to whatever weight you want, so you can always get your TT1, TT2 or TT3 car to the max P-to-W limit. Unless you suck at math or have no budget.

Time Trial 1 (TT1) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 5.50:1
Time Trial 2 (TT2) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 8.00:1
Time Trial 3 (TT3) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 9.00:1

And that list, ultimately, is the main basis for the TT# classes. The P-to-W calculation is 95% of the class rules. Just like the TT-Letter class Appendix B's list of modifiers, TT# has similar modifiers to that ratio, but ultimately P-to-W is your main guide, goal, whatever. You can remove weight to get there, or add power however you want to get there, but your adjusted P-to-W limit is everything.


That's why our TT3 Mustang worked well - we used some modifiers to get it to 8.8:1 (running it very heavy, over 3801 pounds gained us 0.6!), took the aero penalty for TT3 (0.4 this year), maxed out the P-to-W for TT3, and ran it on the biggest DOT tire Hoosier made (345 Hoosier A7), ran LOTS of aero (to the limit of the rules in several places), kick ass suspension, and brakes that were up to the task. We made it easy enough to drive so a schlub like me could win, then just used some strategies to try to get traffic-free laps. We racked up dozens of wins, set 16 track records this way, and didn't pay for tires in almost 3 years, but always ran on sticker sets (from winnings).

This is almost the level of dedication we are bringing to TTD with this E46 build. Getting the 330 makes this a MUCH easier task, but there are other cars in TTD that can and do hit the max P-to-W limit. But to me, none do it as easily as the E46 330....


So that was pretty epic explanation and had ALL of my strategies for maximizing a Time Trial build within NASA. I hope it was worthwhile because it took many seasons to learn these tricks. Remember though, the rules change every year and there are more changes afoot for TT-Letter.

These tricks also apply to the wheel-to-wheel (W2W) crossover series called Performance Touring (PT) and Super Touring (ST). In case you didn't know, TTC-TTF classes share the same competition rules as PTC-PTF, and TT1/2/3/U are the same as ST1/2/3/U. The only real difference are the W2W safety requirements. We often see PT and ST cars jump to TT for more chances to win, too.

I have not always seen eye-to-eye with the National TT/ST/PT Director and rules czar Greg G. I grumbled about TT-Letter class rules when we ran our Mustang in TTB (briefly and poorly) and again with all of the Mystery Internet Protest stuff surrounding our TTC build for my 1992 Corvette. Some of the rules in TT-Letter classes just went against basic racer logic.

This is one of the "dyno tricks" that turbo cars are doing in P-to-W classes

Well I think in the long run Greg is moving the complicated rules of TT-Letter classes to the more simplified TT# set of rules for all classes. That's what I've gathered from recent NASAforum posts by Greg G, and follow up letters to various competitors that have been shared. For 2016 the TT3 class is also getting an adjustment to the P-to-W starting points plus changing the way power is measured (average vs peak), which takes out some tricks turbo engines could do to make the same peak power for a LONG range of RPMs (see image above). These changes will likely propagate to TT1/TT2 in 2017 and possibly to TT-Letter also, at some point. I really like the proposed changes, so kudos to Greg. It is a bold move but a necessary one.

ST1/TT1 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 5.50:1
ST2/TT2 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 8.00:1
ST3/TT3 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 10.00:1

You can read the new proposals here and look for these changes and the Letter classes in general to phase over to new TT# classes in 2017, 2018 and beyond. I think the next TT-Letter class to go is TTB, which will likely become TT4. This happened already in 2013 when TTA merged with TTS and became TT3, so there is a precedent. Trust me, the TT# rules are SO much easier to understand and take out a LOT of the inherent car model advantages. TT# gives you more choices, more paths to the end goal (P-to-W), without fretting over damned points.


Please don't take this long explanation of NASA TT and get turned off. It really is worth it, and all of these rules, modifiers, points, and base classings are used to equalize the cars and differentiate the classes. And for the most part they really do work. It only fails when people don't do the math or understand the rules correctly.

NASA TT has big fields, lots of car diversity, and great contingency payouts

If you are thinking of buildings a car around NASA TT rules and are getting confused, CALL US. Jason and I here at Vorshlag can help, and we can steer you towards the best modifiers and tires to use for a given car and end class goal. That's really what you need to decide up front: what car you want to start with and what class do you want to end up in? Knowing that + the type of tracks you frequent, we can help guide you through the class points, the modifiers, and calculations within calculations to get towards the right selection of parts for tracks in your area.


We still have some initial repairs on the 330 to tackle, but they are much less extensive than the 325. And the 325 is getting the some interior and other bits from the red car, plus some other repairs, so it can be sold for a trouble-free daily driver to someone. I will post a CraigsList ad and link it here when its ready, hopefully in a couple of weeks.


I'm more excited than ever to prep the Hellrot 330 Coupe, as I really like the looks of this car and its better chances at a max P-to-W build. So, what do we call this red thing?

Thanks for reading,
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Project Update for January 7th, 2016: So the 2016 racing season is almost here and we're thrashing to get the red 330 - which we are going to ALSO call JackDaniels (JD2!) - ready for NASA TTD events. And of course the NASA rules makers had to go and change things with the base classing of the 330, not in our favor. The 325 has been jinxed and has hogged a lot of shop time with repairs, chasing down the many CELs, and that's made less time to race prep the 330. We have done the initial fixes to the 330, however, and I'm been daily driving this. Quite enjoyable in stock form, but its just so "soft and squishy" with all of the BMW bushings and springs in place.

I'm going to post this update with a progress report on both E46 coupes, with some key items en route for the 330 that won't get here until next week. The first round of race prep will be in my next post, after (hopefully) 2 events in January. Let's get caught up on both cars, but first... The News.


I must have upset the rules gods last year because both of our TT-Letter builds took a hit in the 2016 rules: this E46 330 "JackDaniels" in TTD lost 7 points, and the C4 Corvette "DangerZone" in TTC gained 57 pounds.

Normally, late in December of each year NASA will release an updated rule set for Performance Touring, Super Touring, and Time Trial classes - all 3 of these groups use essentially the same set of rules. PTB-PTF wheel to wheel classes equate to TTB-TTF and ST1/2/3/U equate to TT1/2/3/U. Sometimes the rules aren't published until after the first of the year but this time the 2016 NASA TT rules came out on time, with nearly 8 weeks before our January 2016 event.


The 2015 NASA base classing chart above has been shown in this thread before, which was current for last year and many years previously. It was the same base classing (which had the same 39 mod points for as far back as I can see until 2015) we used back in 2009 to build our blue E46 330, which ran: 18x10" wheels, 285mm tires (+13 back then) and R6 Hoosiers (+10 back then), OS Giken LSD (+3), full coilover suspension with springs (+2) and double adjustable AST4200s (+3), aftermarket bars (+2) and bushings, full exhaust (header, cat & race exhaust, +5), cold air intake (+1) and tuning. Well the base classing changed for 2016, and it hurt this build.


As you can see in the 2016 base class listing, the E46 328 got reclassed "up" and lost two stars, and E46 330 got a new "star" added. Since the 328 went up a class it gained minimum tire size and actually lost some weight, so that is a wash. But the 330 got boned - each "star" is worth 7 penalty points, so that means we just lost 7 mod points on this 330 build to go from TTE to TTD (from 39 points down to 32). That is huge: 7 mod points is enough to account for a splitter (+3) and rear wing (+4). Or a race header/cat/rear exhaust (+5) anda Big Brake Upgrade (+2). 7 points just suddenly vaporizing on our build plan is a challenge, to be sure.

I was wondering where did this concern came from - am I being paranoid? Are they after me? Can the CIA read my thoughts?! The E46 330 has had the same base classing for over a decade, so are they coming after me? Well turns out this had something to do with the emerging SpecE46 series, and how those cars would fit in GTS and PTX classes. It still means we have to re-think the entire TTD build plan for this 330. No, going back to the 325 chassis we still have probably isn't a good idea, as we've already done things to that car just to make it sell-able, opposite from TTD prep. Knowing about this point change last year, though, would have probably influenced my decision to "double down" and buy this 330. Damn, this is just a kick in the gut!

My 2015 spreadsheet for the TTD build on this red E46 330 had the same 39 available mod points as it dod back in 2009, and was a pretty solid plan. We even had points to spare, and were going to do some "fun" mods to use them up! Ahhh.... "fun".

Here was the red 330's TTD plan with the old 2015 base classing (39 available mod points): Splitter (+3), E46 M3 front bumper cover ("air dam", +2), rear wing (+4), front and rear swaybars (+2), MCS TT2 coilovers & springs (+5), camber plates, 10" wide wheels, 245 mm (+1) Hoosier R7 (+10), poly bushings, racing seats, safety gear, sunroof delete, custom header & lightweight race exhaust (+5), cold air (+1), custom tune, better shifter, lightweight flywheel/clutch, and all that was legal for TTD - and we still had 6 points leftover!

While I had not planned on Big Brakes with the 330, after some meetings at PRI show in December we had strategic reasons for doing this upgrade on this 330 now - to test a BBK from a new manufacturer we want to work with. So aftermarket 4-piston calipers with 2-piece rotors were added to the list (+2). Again, we had the points to spare and still another 4 more after that. This plan was solid.

Until the 7 point 2016 rules change for the 330. I had to back to the drawing board and re-plan this build. We have only 32 mod points to play with on this 330 now, but still the same "wants and needs". We can keep the stock swaybars (2) and the 330 brakes (2) and meet the 32 point goal, but there were marketing and performance reasons to modify both. We'll keep looking at the points and post the classing sheets after our first event (which will have a lot of things missing, due to time constraints).


So many things have been fixed on this car since my last post - and we're still not done. I've stopped counting hours and dollars on the repairs we're doing to get this car sold - because it just hurts to know. Not only have the CEL issues not gone away they seem to be multiplying. We'll fix one round of CELs (and remove obviously crusty/leaking/failed parts) and a new group of 2 or 3 show up. It is maddening.

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One of the "ugly" bits on the 325 were the seats. The leather on both front seats was trashed and the motors on the driver's seat were gone. We have race seats on hand for the red car so we robbed the 330's front seats for the 325, which are in better shape (no rips/tears) and in the matching black.


That car's driver's seat didn't work right when we got it - the power controls wouldn't move the left seat fore-aft. Brad and Olof took the seat out for a closer look, and lo and behold - one of the power seat motors was MISSING. I stressed about getting the right replacement unit, and there were dozens of BMW part numbers for different year E46 power seat models and different locations in the seat (all expensive), but what the heck? I had the guys yank the motor out of the up-down action, put it in the fore-aft spot, and it worked like a champ. So Amy can finally get the seat close enough to be able to drive in this seat, they look 100% better in the 325, and they put the old 328 gray driver's seat and the raggedy old 325 black passenger seat in the 330 - for now.

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The shifter was so worn out that we replaced it with a Z3 1.9L shift handle, new lower bushing, and new shift knob. The shift knob was cheesy but in better shape the the 325's old knob, and the new piece is shown in the big interior image of the 325, above. A missing corner light was replaced on the front cover at the same time.


When the worn out shifter was replaced we went back with a Z3 1.9L handle, which shortens the shift throws dramatically by moving the pivot point at the lower mount (see image above - which shows the old 330 shifter and the OEM Z3 "short shifter" part). With a "fresh" handle (not a wobbly noodle), a fresh lower bushing, and a new shift knob ... WOW. That makes a night and day difference driving the car for only about an hour of work. No more missed shifts just driving around on the street, like before.

As I mentioned in previous posts the 325 was dropping fluids at multiple locations. The pool of oil and coolant below was from a typical overnight parking.

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So the leak fixes were dealt with a couple of months back. Repairs included new valve cover gaskets, spark plugs, and oil filter housing gasket.

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The valve cover gaskets and remote oil filter housing gaskets are super common places for these engines to develop leaks over time.

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The entire cooling system had been replaced already but the remaining leaks were from a pair of plastic coolant lines that went from the head to the firewall/heater core, and specifically the O-rings in the ends.

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The coolant lines break when you remove them, after they are this old, so those were replaced along with the leaky O-rings. After this round of repairs the 325 was finally leak free. The guys covered up all openings then pressure washed the block and oil pan when it was all apart, so its squeaky clean. This way we can see any additional leaks - so far, over a month later, not a drop is visible.


While all of these systems were apart the cabin filter and engine air filters were replaced, as were the oil filter (Wix) and oil (Mobil1).

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During these leak repairs there were CEL checks being chased as well, trying to get the car inspectable. In Texas they don't care how rough the engine runs or how much fluid it leaks, but if there's a single Check Engine Light it fails. Olof replaced the intake manifold gasket (leaking vacuum), throttle body elbow (cracked), and the fuel filter. He also replaced all of the vacuum lines, vacuum switches, the entire CCV system, cabin filter, air filter, MAF sensor housing, and more. The only thing left is the DISA valve.

We did some cosmetic fizes to the 325 also. I found the right paint code in the engine bay (Stahlgrau Metallic, #400) and ordered a pre-mixed paint kit that had spray cans of this base color and a clear coat. Brad took the replacement lower headlight trim piece and painted it to match the rest of the car and then we installed those.

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Olof tried to install another set of corner lights, but I not only ordered the wrong color (clear) they were the wrong mounting type, too. There are SO many different corner lights but this 2002 should normally use an '02-03 Coupe replacement style (certain shape and mounting tabs), which can come in clear, orange, or smoked.

I kept ordering 02-03 coupe lights and they never fit, so I took over and dug further. Turns out we used an E46 coupe 99-01 style headlight kit, which all M3s use. So the headlights didn't have the right slots or tabs to hold the later corner lights... eventually I found the Khoalty website (not amazon or ebay, which are terrible places to shop for lights, as I have found!) that had the RIGHT details listed for the various E46 models: I could choose the year (there were changes for many E46 year models) and body style (coupe/convert, sedan, estate) and color (smoke, clear, orange) and I got the right corner lights... on only my 3rd try! Looks like they have better quality headlights as well. Wish I would have found Khoalty.com sooner!

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Not only do these finally fit the body and headlight styles, they are the right color to match the smoked lens headlights, and they don't need tape to hold them in place. Yea, its the small victories in life like this that are worthwhile. :)


We had already replaced and upgraded the front brakes on the 325, which I showed last time. Now that we switched cars for race prep and are making this 325 "ready to sell", I'm making sure it leaves the shop with all maintenance issues addresses. So the rear rotor and brake pads still needed replacement. So we ordered up new rear 325 sized Centric rotors and street pads and those were installed, shown above.


Last but not least, the front core support was replaced. We could have left the old tweaked unit in there but then the headlights would not have lined up. So I went ahead and had our crew pull the front bumper + cover off and replace the entire structure. Again, these are always black from the factory so it doesn't need to be painted body color, and the $54 replacement structure was already painted black. Sure enough as soon as that straight/new piece was in place the headlights finally fit right, Olof aligned the beams, and driving at night was no longer dangerous.


Whew, that's a heck of a list of repairs! And sadly there's still a few more little things to fix on this 325 before I feel its ready to sell. Of course the random CEL that keeps changing, but we've run out of old crusty parts to replace (except the DISA valve). Vacuum leaks, coolant leaks, and oil leaks are all 100% done. Honestly the car runs 100% better than it did when we bought it, and I've daily driven in this one when the 330 was being worked on, and its pretty dang nice. Just gotta get that last CEL to get the inspection wrapped up on the 325.

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Finally we're past of the boring 325 repair pics. This section shows the wheel testing done many weeks ago on the 325, mostly because it was in the shop for repair work and already on the lift. Obviously the race wheels we end up with are for the E46 330, but they are identical when it comes to wheel mounting. The goal was to use the 245 R7 Hoosier we mentioned a while back, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out on the widest possible wheel that fits this E46.

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I've built and raced cars in classes that had a strict "maximum tire width" limit (usually policed by "advertised section width" - the number on the sidewall), like in the SCCA STU classed EVO X above (it was way too heavy at 3600 pounds to be competitive against 3000 pound EVO 8 & 9s!). We have seen gains when taking the max width allowed tire for a class and stretching it out on a "wider than normal" wheel.

We tend to look at the manufacturer's recommended wheel width range for a given tire and go to the widest wheel shown, or even a little bit more. Hoosier states that am 8-9.5" wide wheel is optimal for this 245/40/17 R7. But another 1/2" of width is even better! :) For a 245mm tire I'd use up to a 10" wide wheel, which we're going to do once again. I've run 205s on 8.5" wheels, 275s on 11" wheels, and 315s on 12" wide wheels - when race classing tire limits were being built around.

Technically this NASA TTD build doesn't have a "max limit", but any tire we use wider than 235mm costs us points. A 245mm is +1, a 255mm would be +4, a 265mm would be +7, and on and on. Sure, I know for a fact that we could fit up to a 265mm wide tire on an 18x10" wheel under stock E46 fender contours with just some fender rolling. Been there, done that (see below).

18x10" wheel with 265/35/18 tire on 2001 BMW 330Ci - with camber and fender rolling only

Again, sometimes "bigger is better" has drawbacks. Not only does the 245mm tire cost less points than a 255 or 265, we get also get a big P-to-W ratio break (+0.8!) for using 245mm or smaller DOT tires. There's a particular 245 in the Hoosier catalog we like and have used on our TTC Corvette: the Hoosier 245/40/17. This tire comes in a number of compounds from Hoosier, but for competitive reasons we chose the R7 compound (+10 points). The R6 (+8 points) is being phased out, the A6 (+17) compound jumped up a lot of points last year, and the A7 (+22) has a horrendously expensive cost for this compound in TT Letter classes.

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With the skinny E46 sedan wheels removed we snatched a 17x9.5" wheel and 245/40/17 Hoosier R7 off of the C4, which was also in the shop undergoing many updates and upgrades over the winter. The GM (5 x 4.75") and BMW (5 x 120mm) bolt patterns are close enough for test fitting wheels, but in reality you should NEVER swap BMW and GM wheels. The GM 5-lug pattern is really on a 120.65mm bolt circle, and that seemingly small (0.65mm) amount of mismatch can cause REAL problems at highway speeds or road course use - up to even lug bolts or wheel stud failures. For static use test fitting like this, though, there are no worries.

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We worked with different spacers to make this C4 Corvette wheel fit onto the E46 at the front and rear, then measured the inboard and outboard tire clearances. This data was then used to spec a new BMW bolt pattern Forgestar 17x10 wheel and to use this same 245/40/17 R7 tire on the E46 for TTD use. The Corvette's 17x9.5" SSR wheel was a good "mock-up" for the E46 and we found the specs we needed to make it fit with minimal fender rolling work. Its always nice when you can base your wheel/tire combo measurements off of a wheel that is "close" to the final goal.

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If we did our math right we should have a 17x10" wheel that fits the E46 front (with a spacer) and rear (without) correctly, once the coilovers, new ride height and camber plates are installed. The wheel order was placed for Forgestar F14s in 17x10" many weeks ago and we waited....


As I was almost done writing this update a pallet of wheels arrived. Luckily one of those sets was the 17x10 F14s for Jack Daniels 2! We ordered this set "raw" to save build time and potentially to let us add a unique finish for our shop car.

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We will test fit these later today, and then take 3 sets to our local powder coater, since they are all getting custom colors that Forgestar doesn't normally do. These should be on the car early next week, along with a ton of other upgrades.


In the last post of this thread the Hellrot red 330 had only received some new rear control arms, idler pulleys and an air pump. It still had a single pair of CELs and I thought there were going to be many leaks to fix. The 325 had been such a nightmare I assumed the 330 would as well.


Turns out we were really close to getting the CEL light extinguished for good on the 330. All it needed were fresh spark plugs, some fresh vacuum hoses, and a vacuum switch on the back of the cylinder head. Ryan stepped in and removed the cabin filter housing at the back of the engine bay and got access to this tiny little switch.

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Once that part was replaced and new vacuum hoses in place, he bandaged up his cuts (its a shredder back there) and fired up the engine. The old CELs were cleared and Amy drove the car. That was a couple of months ago and the car has been CEL free ever since. The inspection was passed with flying colors and this car is now road legal. I wish the 325 would have been so easy...

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One thing I did one weekend was "de-tint" the car. Since the first night we bought this car, it has been virtually undriveable at night with the windows up. The side windows were SUPER dark, the back window might has well have been painted black, and even the front windshield had some tint on it. When I went to pull the tint off I was prepared for the worst - razor blades, special sprays, heat guns, a steamer... didn't need anything. It all just peeled right off with minimal effort.

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I knew there was a 6" strip of super dark tint on the top of the front windshield but as I peeled this off I found that the ENTIRE front windshield had another layer of tint, which I then removed. All 4 of side windows also had TWO layers of tint, and the back window had two VERY dark layers. I removed it all except for one layer on the rear window, which I might still take out. NOW we can see at night and the car has proper track visibility. Good grief the tint was so janky before!


After I had this mess all cleaned up I went ahead and got an initial weight on the 330. With virtually no fuel and no trunk junk it weighed in at 3180 pounds. That's only 14 pounds heavier than my blue 2001 330Ci, which was identical to this except it had manual seats (and was weighed with a tick more fuel, as shown).

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With a target TTD race weight of 3285 pounds with driver and fuel we still need to knock out about 125-150 pounds. Between the sunroof delete (-30 pounds), race wheels (larger but lighter), racing seats (probably -40 pounds per side), lightweight flywheel and clutch (-15 pounds) and race header + exhaust (-50+ pounds) I know we can get there. We might even have to add ballast, but that's part of the plan.

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The original seats were already removed from the 330 (to go into the 325 for selling), the carpets cleaned, and I have cleaned up the exterior a little. Really liking the 330 now and I've been daily driving it for a bit. Of course there are still a few repairs to make.

What I thought were typical top end oil leaks turned out to be some residue from power steering fluid spill and these repairs have been held off for now. The coolant system replacement is waiting on a lot of new E46 330 cooling system parts to be released (almost out) and that will happen soon. The heater isn't working due to a broken center vent/actuator that we'll attack. The ambient air temp sensor is gone and flashing high/low temps. Of course the stock shifter... ugh. Its shot and has to be fixed.

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There are still a number of repairs, reliability upgrades and finally some racing modifications that we're about to make to the 330. See the next section for more details on what's coming up.


We have quite a list of mods for Round 1 for the red 330.

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  • Install new Front LCA + Bushings: We have the same Bilstein OEM replacement control arms we used on the 325 arriving for the 330. It will also receive the same 2-piece LCA bushing upgrade. The front bushings and ball joints are very worn on the 330 and this is noticeable every time I drive it.
  • Install Bilstein PSS Suspension + Camber Plates + RSMs: To test some theories we are going to run the 330 at a few tracks on the new 245 R7 Hoosiers with 2 different shock setups. The baseline will be the affordable Bilstein PSS monotube inverted coilover, and of course we'll use Vorshlag spherical camber plates and rear shock mounts with this. Later we will upgrade to MCS TT2 coilovers and we can test the car at the same tracks.
  • Cobra Seat Install: This I talked about last time and Olof has already built the bracket for the chassis. We were waiting for the side brackets and slider to get here so this will be installed next week.
  • Short Throw Shifter Upgrade: Same details as the 325Ci repairs shown above
  • Install Motor and Transmission Mounts: Gotta keep the drive train locked down or risk a Money Shift! Our Nylon motor and red poly trans mounts are ready to go in.
  • Track Brake Pads + Fresh Rotors: We're going with Carbotech XP12 pads front and rear with Motul RBF600 fluid. We'll look at the caliper temps after these events and figure out if we need to find points for a BBK or just do some brake ducting to keep things safe
  • Rear Subframe Repair + Bushings / Rear Diff Bushings / Replace RTABs: This is a huge task, easily 18 hours, and we're running short on time. The stock diff mount bushings and RTABs are worn out, though, and at least those parts will be done before the two January track events.
  • Install 17x10" Forgestars: See the wheel test fitting on the 325 above. These just arrived

That's a lot of wrenching planned in the next 10 days time! Yikes.


Here are our first two events. Amy will be the primary driver in the 330 and I will mostly drive the C4. Since we're "Team Entering" both cars I and might hop in the 330 for some setup laps in the red 330, and possibly even to set a competition time at the NASA TT event.

So that's the current plan for the 325 and 330. The 325 is almost repaired enough to be sold and the 330 has a path of modifications and development to hopefully get us up on the podium in TTD. Our first two track events in the 330 are looming but "no plan survives contact with the enemy", so I fully expect priorities and plans to change after these two track outings.

We still have to address the cooling and oiling issues of this engine, there are big goals in mind for the exhaust and aero development, more safety upgrades that must be done, and more. Stay tuned to see what happens next!


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Project Update for February 11, 2016: We have had a busy few weeks with this "Street Driven Track Car" BMW build, our red 2001 BMW 330 we are calling Fireball. We have upgraded the suspension, done some more repairs, added a race seat, installed bigger 17x10" wheels and Hoosiers, slapped on some decals and finally went racing. The 330 has been driven at two competition events, SCCA Club Trials at MSR-Cresson and NASA Time Trial at MSR-Houston, in back to back weeks.


We made some changes between the two rack events to address some spring rate deficiencies and have plenty more in store. Lots of internal discussion has led us to change the build plan for TTD again, as the 7 points we lost for 2016 made that necessary. Let's get started.


I listed a number of performance upgrades we had planned in my last post and our shop schedule freed up considerably in January, so Olof tackled many of these on the red 330.

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Front Lower Control Arms (LCA) on the E46 non-M are an aluminum design with 2 integral ball joints, which aren't serviceable. These joints were worn out so both arms were replaced with OEM replacement units from Febi Bilstein.

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The old front LCA bushings were trashed, which is super common on these BMWs. Instead of the OEM style rubber bushings, which allow a lot of toe change under braking even when new, we installed the 2-piece Powerflex "Race" LCA bushings. All the slop in the front wheels I could feel while driving is now gone. To keep these from eating themselves we installed grease zerks in the "lollipop" housings with holes drilled all the way into the dual bushing junction. A little grease twice a year will keep these lasting forever. We don't install any poly suspension bushings without grease zerks in my shop - I've seen the long term results when you don't (the bushings can wear out in 1-2 years).

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We used the same low cost Shifter Upgrade parts as shown on the 325Ci in a previous installment in this thread. A fresh Z3 1.9L shift handle (shorter throw), new bushings and clips, and all of the slop in the worn out 330 shift lever and old bushings is gone. This makes such a huge difference for so little money. Like most E46 manuals, the shifter doesn't "self center" well (align with the 3-4 gate), but that's inherent to the design. The driveshaft bushing (guibo) was also cracked, so it was replaced while the shifter was being serviced.

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One of the major deficiencies of all modern BMWs are the fluid filled motor mounts and wear prone transmission mounts. The body-mounted shifter is already sloppy enough with a rubber bushing in the middle of the shift handle, but when the motor + transmission are flopping around under engine torque it is easy to have the shifter mis-align during spirited driving or track use.

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As expected, these 162K mile motor mounts came out of the car in pieces, then leaked their goo all over the place. The OEM transmission mounts were cracked and very mushy, so they were removed as well.

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The shifter fix involves not only the freshened shifter parts but also our firmer Motor and Transmission Mounts. I chose the Nylon version of our motor mounts and stiffer red poly version of our trans mounts, and they really make a big difference in throttle response and shift feel. These are the stiffest of two options we offer, and they definitely add significant NVH under 1500 rpms, but the shift feel with the drivetrain locked down is like nothing else. We would have less NVH with our red poly motor mounts and orange poly trans mounts, which are still stiffer than stock but don't have as much buzz at idle.

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To help slow the car down on track we installed all new brake parts, with Carbotech XP12 pads front and rear, Motul RBF600 brake fluid, as well as fresh Centric Premium 330-sized rotors. We also added our 90mm wheel studs, lug nuts, and AP caliper temp strips were applied to the calipers (which we looked at during and after both track events). Even though these brakes worked well as-is we still might burn 2 points for a BBK upgrade in the future.

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Rear Subframe Bushings + Rear Diff Bushings + new RTAB bushings and Limiters was a big chunk of time. The correct rear chassis reinforcement kit wasn't in stock here the day Olof yanked the rear subframe, so just the bushings were added and we took a look at the crack-prone E46 rear floor area where the subframe mounts.

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Of course as soon as the subframe was out and the sheet metal cleaned off, a big 5" long crack was found in the trunk floor near one mount. The percentage of E46 chassis we've seen with cracks in the floor, once the subframe is removed, is nearly 100%. Olof cleaned and TIG welded this crack then primed the area. When the exhaust is out later this season for upgrades we will yank the subframe out once again, weld in the Turner subframe repair kit (the only one that is legal for the E46), and get this area properly reinforced.

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After the stock bushings were removed from the rear subframe, new Powerflex Black Race polyurethane bushings were pressed in. This included 4 subframe bushings and 3 differential bushings (2 in front, one in the rear).

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Getting the stock bushings out is a bit of a job, and beyond the capabilities of many DIYers, due to the special tools required. We have a BMW-specific bushing service kit and massive C-clamp mobile pressing tool, a 30 ton air-hydraulic press, and it still took another custom tool to get some of these out. Most of the BMW bushing tool kits are specific to the M3 cars, but one of the non-M E46 subframe bushing pairs is so different that Olof built this tool. It fits inside a pair of cavities and allows the press to line up better. Cutting or burning these out is the other option, when you don't have the right tools. That is a stinky, messy, time consuming way to do this work.

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In these fixed mounts (diff, subframe) and in single-axis of movement suspension mounts, polyurethane can and does work well in place of the soft rubber the OEMs always use. The front LCA has a bit of a twist and turning angle to it, but the 2-piece poly bushing is a good solution there. The Rear Trailing Arm Bushing (RTAB), however, has a LOT of movement in 2 opposing axis, and going polyurethane here is a bad idea for most end uses. It can add a lot of bind in the rear suspension.

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We used our Z4M Lemforder bushings (that we had Sachs/ZF/Lem bring to the US market outside of the dealership channels, years ago) and our UMHW RTAB Limiters to sandwich this bushing, which allows for enough movement but not excessive toe change out back. The Z4M (above right - with the bigger gap) is the same durometer rubber as the E46 M3 version (shown on the left of that image), but the Z4M unit is made larger so that it is pre-loaded more when it is compressed and installed into the trailing arm. The old stock RTAB bushings were all cracked and shot, of course. You can feel the difference when driving with fresh RTABs.

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I talked about the Cobra Seat Install last time and installing this took a lot of measuring, test fitting, and fabrication - but its done, and fits Amy and I both. Olof started by taking a set of steel OMP side brackets and cutting, drilling, and modifying them to fit this seat with the lowest possible height and still leave room for a slider underneath.

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I don't know who they are making these side brackets to fit, but we've tried all of the brands and they NEVER fit into cars with adult humans without modification. We tend to chop 1-3" of height out of the brackets, drilling new thru-holes lower in the sides and cutting away unused upper portions. Painfully common, otherwise your head is above the roof.

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And by the same reasoning, the "normal" width Cobra seats are also painfully too narrow - we tend to go with the "under 130 pounds only" rule on the regular width, and insist customers test sit in these before we will order this size. The "GT" width (+30 mm wider in the butt) is what fits most adult humans for Cobra seats. I've got a pair of the "regular" (narrow) width Cobra Suzukas I'm stuck with right now, due to a sizing mistake when ordering, ugh. Don't make the same mistake - always test sit in the exact model and size seat you want before ordering. That's why we keep several race seats in our lobby.

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The modified side brackets were fitted to the seat and a custom threaded bung was machined on the lathe, a hole was cut in the bracket, and this was welded to the inboard side down low. This is where the BMW lower seat belt buckle was bolted, which came off the OEM front seat. There's some wiring that goes to this and it also has some sort of crash sensor pre-tensioning tricks. It moves with the seat, just like it did from the factory, for better alignment to your hip.

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The chassis adapter brackets were also laid out and designed, then fabricated from flat steel plate and some square tubing. These are super low profile to keep the seat as low as possible, to fit my torso under the upholstered sunroof headliner with a helmet on. We were trying to lower the seating position about 3 inches, which is tough. The square tubing was added for two anti-submarine mounts. These are threaded ring mounts (G-Force) and have anti-crush sleeves welded into the holes through this tube.

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Many racers and internet experts frown on seat sliders, but it is a necessary evil in many race cars that have more than one driver (we've seen this done in most endurance cars, shy of pro racing). Amy and I have very different heights so the driver's seat needs to be low for me at the rear setting, but taller for her up and closer to the front. This means the seat slides forward and moves up at an angle. We used Cobra dual locking sliders, which are low profile and strong. The sliders bolt to the modified OMP side brackets and the bottom of the sliders bolt to our chassis bracket.

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The Cobra sliders allow for about a foot of fore-aft movement of the seat, and when locked they are solid. After this seat was wrapped up the factory 3-point belt was installed and routed through the lap belt hole in the outside of the Cobra seat. The lower buckle is too rigid to fit through the mating hole on the inside, but there is good belt wrap around the hips with this setup - its safe, and more reasonable than using 6-point belts on the street.

We don't have shoulder mounting provisions for a real racing harness just yet, so we left the Scroth 6-point belts out for now. I will talk about the upcoming roll bar / roll cage at the very bottom of this post. The lap belts will go into another pair of clip-in G-Force eyelets mounted into either the cage or the floor, depending on how we do that.

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So far all of the above upgrades were "zero point" modifications, according to the 2016 NASA TT-Letter rules in section 8.3.I, subsections a through h. This section of rules spans 4 pages and lists dozens of parts and modifications that are allowed in all TT classes without any restriction or classing penalty. The items below, however, do cost "class points", of which we have only 32 points to work with and stay in TTD. Again, each car gets 19 points before its first class jump and 20 per class after that. Our car started TTE*, which meant we had 39 points to get to TTD, minus 7 base class penalty points for the newly added *, so 39 - 7 = 32.


Obviously Vorshlag is a suspension shop and we cannot overlook this first and most important mod (well, outside of tires). When it came to suspension upgrades there are a number of ways to spend our points. The stock E46 330 springs are super SUPER soft, and of course we will be upping the rate from the stock ~100#/in front springs to something much more appropriate for track use with Hoosiers. We could have hit the "easy button" and just jumped right to MCS TT2 double adjustable coilovers, but I am using this car to test out a few products that we don't already sell, because customers want some lower cost options that we have track proven.

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At Vorshlag we're sort of known as "shock snobs" and have preached the benefits of monotube coilovers for many years. We've worked with too many twin tube shocks and know their limitations all too well. So for this first set of dampers on the E46 we went with the most affordable, quality, inverted monotube on the market - the Bilstein PSS. This kit included the 40mm shaft inverted monotube front struts, inverted rear monotubes, adjusters on the front coilover struts, adjustable rear ride height platforms, four beehive springs, and the springs are all made to bolt in or work with the factory front upper spring perches.


This is just one of several coilover shock kits Bilstein makes for many different street cars, which include the PSS, PSS9 and PSS10. The PSS is a non-adjustable version that only has height adjustment, no valving adjuster knobs. The PSS9 and PSS10 have a single adjustment knob that controls both rebound and (to a lesser degree) compression, with the older PSS9 style having 9 clicks and the PSS10 has 10. This non-adjustable PSS was thought to probably not be appropriate when it comes timed racing events, but we've seen these work fairly well for street setups and some mild track use. In hindsight we should have started with the adjustable valving PSS10, but I'll get to that after my race write-ups, below.

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The PSS (aka: B14) kit for the non-M E46 BMW is very affordable, with an MSRP price of $1493.08 (including shocks, springs, and ride height platforms) but a current street price of $1080 (TireRack). The adjustable valving version of this kit is similar but has that damping knob, with an MSRP of $2576.50 and a street price currently closer to $1675 (TireRack). I'm not listing our prices or linking to our product pages because some forums I'm posting this thread this is verbotten.  

Bilstein doesn't set a minimum advertised price for their dealers, and they will let anyone resell their stuff, so Amazon, Tire Rack and fleaBay have driven the prices down so low that its nearly impossible for real shops to sell these. For that reason alone I almost skipped this Bilstein step, but they are still a decent shock and we tested them even knowing we will likely never sell many against Billy's eBay page from his Mom's basement.

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To make this basic PSS kit worthwhile on track we tested these with our E46 non-M camber-caster plates and spherical rear shock mounts, shown above. This is why most folks buy Bilsteins from us - we upgrade parts of their kits they don't include. Since we hadn't installed this particular PSS kit on an E46 non-M chassis, Olof did a shock length test we always do.

This meant he installed a front strut without a spring and tested the total stroke of the strut, then we could calculate optimum ride height and usable bump and rebound travel. Anything can be run too tall or too low, so this type of test helps figure out the "sweet spot" for any given shock. Then the springs were installed and front ride heights set. A fresh set of OEM E46 swaybar endlinks were used but the stock swaybars were kept at both ends - for now.

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The front camber plate was also setup with a bit more positive caster and then a good bit of initial static negative camber was set, based on numbers we've used on other E46 track cars for over a decade. The rear of the PSS kit has a simple ride height adjuster and another beehive spring, plus the rear shock. The Vorshlag rear spherical upper shock mounts (RSMs) bolt onto the shock and these then to the chassis with our top mounted reinforcement plate (to prevent cracks in the tub).


This is the final ride height that had optimal bump and rebound travel with these shock lengths. The non-stock shocks cost us +3 points, the springs cost +2, and the inverted strut (not factory style) cost us another +1. So a total of 6 points was burned on these dampers. Funny enough, a set of double adjustable non-inverted MCS coilovers and proper springs would only be +5 points total (and clearly have more potential). This is why we call the MCS internal singles and doubles "TT1" and "TT2" - because they work so well in TT-Letter classes. But that's for later - for now we have the PSS kit.

The crew here set the base camber and toe at both ends, then they corner balanced the car with a driver in the seat, then took the car for a laser alignment to fine tune the final settings. Jason had digitally measured the spring rates of the PSS kit's front and rear springs, which were alarmingly SOFT. This worried me but I figured we could try this out at the SCCA Club Trials event, which was more of a tire test for us. What could go wrong?

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The car rode pretty well on this setup and Amy drove it the very next day out to MSR-Cresson for the first track test. We left the stock swaybars in place and planned to just mount the new wheels and Hoosiers tires at the track.


The wheels themselves are unlimited and are a "point free" mod, but tire size and compound changes do cost class points, and we've burned 11 total on this 245mm Hoosier R7. Again, our car's TTE initial base class gets assigned a 235mm base tire, and we're going up 10mm from that to 245mm, which costs us +1. The Hoosier R7 compound is +10, and we feel it is well worth it.

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Olof mounted an old set of used 245/40/17 Hoosier R7s (purchased for our TTC classed 1992 Corvette in January of 2015 and used for 2 race weekends already) to the custom spec'd BMW-fitment 17x10" Forgestar F14s I showed briefly in my last post. We specified these based off of previous and current measurements to work on the rear as-is and to fit up front with a 5mm spacer, which would allow for easy tire rotation.

This is a BIG wheel width change (up from 7.5" wide) and this 245mm tire gets stretched out nicely. Normally I'd use a 265 or even 275mm tire on a 10" wide wheel, but in this case we are working around a tire width points restriction, so we're "tricking" the 245 tire into acting wider that it normally would on an 8" wide wheel. Normally an E46 non-M like this could fit a 245mm tire on an 8" wide wheel with ease, and we've done 255mm tires on 9" wide wheels many times with no need for camber, fender rolling, or other tricks.

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At the final hour before dark on the Friday before the track event we washed the BMW and Jon installed some class letters and numbers and a few other small decals. We were so out of time we barely had time to test the new wheel and tire briefly on each end, gave it the "looks good enough!" approval, then stowed the race wheels and tires into the trailer and re-mounted the stockers for the trip to and from the event. I brought the fender roller just in case, as I had a feeling this 10" wide wheel (a fairly extreme fitment for an E46 non-M) was going to cause some tire rub even with the 245mm tires.

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At this point the 330 was ready for it's first baseline track test. I suspected the spring rates would be lacking, but wouldn't know until we put the Hoosiers on and tested it in anger. On the very same day the 330 work was wrapping up, Brad, Ryan and I were thrashing to finish the Corvette's winter upgrades - new engine wiring harness, later ECM and MAF upgrade, dyno test, Optispark change, and fender mods to clear 18x12" wheels and 335mm front and 345mm rear Hoosiers. Two shop cars getting major updates + customer work made for one very busy week.


This is the spring rate chart that we made after digitally measuring the included springs that came in this Bilstein PSS kit. You can see how soft the front springs are, but they are fairly linear at an average rate of 156 #/in. This is too similar to the stock BMW rates, which are worthless for competition use. The rear rates are lightly progressive but still very soft, due to the motion ratio of the rear suspension - only about 50% of this 265 #/in average rear spring rate is seen at the wheel (so about 135 #/in wheel avg rate). These soft rates explain why the 330 looked like it was about to roll over at the SCCA Club Trials, below...


This event was on our schedule for several reasons. First, we wanted to go see another Club Trials event with the Texas Region SCCA. We had run this event in January 2014 where our TT3 Mustang set the quickest time of the event (by 4 seconds). Back then, and even though it was a COLD January event that year and there was a LOT of traffic to deal with, we still had fun and got a few traffic free test laps in. Also, a lot of local racers and friends would be there, and lastly we needed a good test day on track to test the big changes to both the 1992 Corvette and 2001 BMW 330. This would be the first time ever on track for the E46, and the first time the Corvette had been driven since March 2015.

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I'm going to try to cover this event quickly, as it was only a 1 day test and we didn't really care how we "finished". This was really just an HPDE day that they were calling a "Club Trial" competition event. They had transponders and took times, but there weren't any classes, so they used an autocross PAX factor to post "final results" afterwards. We ignored that and just looked at our lap times compared to previous NASA events run on this 1.7 mile CCW course. My previous best in the TT3 car was a 1:18.6 at the 2014 Club Trials and a 1:17.3 at the March 2015 NASA event in the same car.

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Anyway, we got to the track at 6 am, an hour before sunrise, and were working in the dark to have both cars ready before a 7 am driver's meeting. The C4 was unloaded, Amy and I did the wheel swap on the BMW, the AIM Solo lap timers were mounted, and we checked everything else we could under pitch black skies. The driver's meeting took a bit and after we got out, right as the sun was coming up, we were greeted by Brad and Olof from Vorshlag who had come to help. This became an eventful day of "track side car mods" so their assistance was most welcome.


The SCCA Club Racers had 25 entries spread across 5 run groups and Club Trials had 30 entries jammed into 1 run group. This is a 1.7 mile course and 30 cars spread out across a VAST array of skill and prep levels makes for a crowded track, but again - this was just a test for both cars.

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They initially gridded my old Corvette in P1 and stuck Amy about a 1/4 of the way down the order for the first session. We went out and it was COLD with 40 degree temps and 20 mph winds all day. I could hear all sorts of tire rub on the C4 and fought with that most of the day. Turns out Amy was having similar tire rub issues but she just ignored it.

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She drove the whole session in the 330 with the rear Hoosier tires rubbing the rear fenders badly, sending up plumes of tire smoke, but at least she didn't spin. Amy hasn't had any seat time since April of 2014 and she was really rusty, struggling to learn this car. She didn't trust the brakes or cornering power, but I was so busy testing in the Corvette and trying to not freeze to death I never got a chance to ride right seat to help push her driving.


As you can see in the image above, the Bilstein PSS coilovers were visually sprung too softly and allowed a TON of body roll, so I knew fairly quickly we'd be doing a spring rate upgrade immediately after this event. That is the result of soft springs, stock swaybars, and a sticky R7 in only 245mm width. What did we expect? The PSS spring rates are nearly stock... we should really be using something around 600 #/in in front and 750 #/in in the rear. On our blue 2001 330 we used 750 front and 900 rear with 285mm A6 Hoosiers and it has a LOT less roll.

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Quick side note during the race coverage...

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After the 1st and 2nd track sessions at this Club Trials event, Olof and Brad leapt on the 330 to try to remedy the rear tire rub. Track side fender rolling sucks - this should always be done in the shop! - but parts delays & C4 prep ruined our schedule on the E46 the week before. It was "do it here" to keep from ruining the day (and the tires) or "head home".

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Normally this would have been done at the shop, with the car on the lift and better access to power tools. With decent skills you can do this job in about 3-4 hours for the rear fenders of an E46 and not crack the paint. The goal is to roll the square rear lips flat against the outer sheet metal, then to push the entire fender out for even more room. These pictures are from when I rolled the fenders on my blue 2001 330 back in 2009 to clear 265/35/18 tires on an 18x10" wheel - which is almost the same width as this 17x10" wheel and 245 Hoosier.

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Before you can even start with the fender rolling tool itself you have to grind and cut a bunch of hard epoxy sealer out from the inner lip of the rear fenders. Three layers of sheet metal are joined here and BMW seals it all up with this thick yellow goop that turns to a concrete like consistency. At the track Brad and Olof had to painstakingly cut this stuff out with box cutters, knives and screwdrivers. In the shop it goes faster with cut off wheels and wire wheels on 90° die grinders. It still makes a total mess, even in the shop.

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Once the goop is all cleared out the horizontal lip on the inner rear fenders can be heated up (a pair of 500 watt lights, heat lamps, or a friend with a heat gun), the paint softens up a bit, then you go to town with the fender roller. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made to slowly roll roll roll that lip vertical. Pressure is applied to the bottom of the control arm to push the roller into the arc you want. And it takes more clearance than you think - we like to install the rear wheel and tire, remove the rear springs, and push the tire up all the way to the suspension bump limit of the rear shocks. Then still add a little more... if you can fit your hand in between the tire and the fender at Full Bump then it just might clear. Only hard track testing on the actual competition tire can tell you for sure!

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On the front the procedure is much easier and you can usually roll the E46 fenders in under an hour. The sheet metal is only one layer think, as the fender is a simple stamped piece and not a multi-sheet thick part of the unibody. For just a bit more room I like using a plastic faced hammer on the inner lip then slowly work it up and flat to the outer face. I use a flat faced body dolly on the outside of the fender, wrapped in heavy leather to protect the paint. Of course the paint needs to be warmed up to prevent cracking, but you can never guarantee that. On this day, with Amy driving, she wasn't seeing any front tire rub so we left that end of the car alone.

OK, back to the Club Trials event. I was having all sorts of trouble on the Corvette, as we had moved from a 245mm R7 to a 345mm A6 Hoosier. This level of grip in no way worked with the rebuilt factory Bilsteins on this C4 and the rear was bouncing all over the place. Still, somehow this session 3 time in the video above was the quickest time of the day at the Club Trials with a 1:23.2.

This car was not TTC legal with the tires used during this test and would eventually be run in TT2

We both ran our cars in session 4, where I was gridded P1, but it started to rain before we went out. After a number of passes I got little bursts of clear track, and the rain wasn't much more than a sprinkle. I was gaining confidence in this janky Corvette tire test and taking corners faster, braking less and less for the high speed sweepers like Big Bend and Ricochet. Still, my times were 5+ seconds slower than I ran in the TT3 car 2 years earlier. Everyone was off the pace and both Club Trials and Club Racers alike commented on the lack of grip that day.

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Amy was running 1:33s in the dry, but during the slightly wet session improved to a 1:32 lap time range, so her confidence was getting better. These times seemed nowhere near what I thought this BMW was capable of on these tires. Granted, it had a lot of body roll but damn that's 5 seconds off the TTD record of 01:27.515, set by a BRZ back in 2014. We didn't have a 2nd video camera for her car this weekend so I cannot see how she was driving. She had an AiM Solo lap timer in the car, though, so she had predicative lap timing at her disposal. She complained of a lot of traffic, but we all saw heavy traffic this day.

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Raw time results from session 3 (dry) and session 4 (wet). DangerZone was quickest of the day?

Ideally I would have driven one session in the 330 to get a feel for the setup myself and see if a "driver change" could improve our times. The weather was getting colder and a rain or snow storm was predicted to hit any minute, so I decided to let her get as much seat time as possible. After 4 sessions the rain and temps started to drop so we packed up the Corvette, swapped tires on the 330, and headed home. There's nothing more exhausting than spending a very cold day shivering in bitter wind chill conditions + driving in 4 sessions with a wonky setup (the Corvette).


There was only one week between the MSR-Cresson event with SCCA and the season opening NASA race at MSR-Houston. Amy and I have both driven that track and we both needed to score points in our two TT cars to help start the 2016 season off right. We felt like the track side fender rolling the weekend before was probably sufficient and honestly our shop schedule got busy with customer work, so we tried to do as little as possible to both cars that week. I took the C4 for official dyno tests after the event and the 330 got a new set of springs.

The coilover spring rates we chose for this next segment of the suspension test were fairly conservative at 350 #/in front and 450 #/in rear. Compare that to the PSS rates of 156 #/in front and a progressive spring with an average of 265 #/in rates at the rear. To the front rate went up by a factor of 2.2 and the rear by a factor of 1.8... so nearly double the rates.

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Normally with AST, MCS or Moton adjustable monotube coilovers for an E46 we would start with rates at 450F/550R, then jump to 500F/550R, and even 650F/750R rates for our 3 basic spring kit options. My blue 2001 330 coupe used 750#/in fronts and 900 #/in rears with a 285mm Hoosier R6, as shown above. It cornered much flatter even with a +40mm wider tire of similar compound.

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Usually tire size and compound dictate how far up the spring rate ladder we climb, as well as intended use (dedicated race car vs street car, or somewhere in between). To convert these Bilsteins to regular 60mm coilover springs we swapped the OEM perches on the front camber plates to a pair of our 60mm upper perches. That converts from the goofy tapered spring that came with the PSS kit, which is made for the OEM E46 non-M upper strut mount and upper perch. Out back a pair of 60mm springs got our spring alignment cones, but we managed to keep the Bilstein ride height platforms that came in the PSS kit.

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The only other changes made before the NASA race were adding some decals. Jon made some huge Vorshlag decals but only had time to install one side before we loaded up and headed to MSR-Houston on Friday.


Jon also added decals for some of the companies who parts we were using on this build like Forgestar, Bilstein, Mishimoto (more on that in my next update), and of course Hoosier (for potential tire contingency).


We took both the Corvette and BMW to this 2016 NASA season opener event at MSR-Houston. We loaded up Friday morning and slogged through 6.5 hours of driving, most of which was burned inside the city limits of Houston dealing with their nightmarish traffic (normally this is a 4 hour drive from Dallas). I was towing the Corvette (which was being moved up to TT2 class) and Amy drove the BMW down, which she said was "bouncy" with the new springs. Hmm...

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Of course when we arrived it was pitch dark and the paddock was packed. We got lucky and found a wedge shaped spot close to grid where we unhooked the trailer and parked the BMW. Amy raced over to tech and managed to get the car inspected for Annual TT Tech and a new Logbook.

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The 330 also weighed 3434 with me in it after one TT session of four that I drove it over the weekend (I drove it in 2 TT sessions Saturday and 2 more on Sunday). That means this car is nearly 150 pounds overweight (class minimum for ths car is 3285 pounds). In TT letter class you don't have to bring a certified dyno sheet if you haven't touched the motor or done any power mods, which we have not on this car - yet. I suspect based on other E46 330s with this 3.0L M54 engine I've dyno'd, plus the dyno we did on the 2.5L engine in the 325Ci, this car probably makes around 180-190 whp.

Goal Power and Weight for this 330 in TTD:
3285 pounds / 13.45 ratio = 244.2 whp

Assuming the car dyno's on the high end at 190 whp, we're still pretty far away from the TTD class limit of 14.25:1 or our modified 13.45:1 ratio we can run at 3285 pounds with the 245 mm tire bonus (+0.8 bonus). So I figured we would be struggling on the straights at this event. And we were.

8.1.2 Minimum “Adjusted Weight/Power Ratios” for each Class
TT1 = 5.50:1
TT2 = 8.00:1 <- where the C4 should be
TT3 = 10.00:1
TTB = 10.50:1 <- closer to where the C4 is (11.1:1)
TTC = 12.00:1
TTD = 14.25:1 <- where the 330 should be
TTE = 16.50:1
TTF = 19.50:1 < - closer to where the 330 is (18.1:1)
  • E46 330: 3434 actual weight / 190 whp guesstimate = 18.1:1 P-to-W
  • C4 Corvette: 3188 actual weight / 288 whp = 11.1:1 P-to-W

In reality the power to weight ratio of our setup at 3434 pounds was closer to TTF than TTD, which explained why we couldn't keep up with some of the TTE prepped Miatas on straights at this event. We knew this car was under-prepped this time and were just trying to get some points during this season opening weekend for use later in the season (same could be said for the C4, which was closer to TTB's P-to-W than TT2 where we ran it).

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We entered two Team Vorshlag entries, which allows all team members to drive either car during competition. The plan was for Amy to drive the 330 most of the TT sessions and I would hop in if we needed, then I'd drive the C4 in all other TT sessions.

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Well, to put it nicely, Amy was "off her game" all weekend and not competitive in TTD. At the same time my Corvette was a big hot mess at this track (the stock shocks could NOT handle the grip from the 345mm Hoosiers with the bumps of this track), and I only put in one session in the C4 each day, just to get a few points for TT2. Due to these circumstances I ended up taking two TT sessions in the TTD car E46 both days, to try to wring out some times and score points for this Team entry in TTD. This was my first time to drive this 330 on track and I quickly realized how much work we had left to do.

For whatever reason, Amy was 5-7 seconds per lap off my pace in the E46 - she just didn't feel comfortable with the car or confident in the setup. Strangely, in the TT3 Mustang she was often in the same second as me - a much faster car with much higher grip limits. I did ride along with her in the E46 during an HPDE 3/4 session and coached her from the right seat. In that extremely busy session she dropped 2.5 seconds, when I helped her push the braking zones and pick lines, in even more dense traffic - but then couldn't replicate these times in later sessions. We've got some work to do to get her confidence back, for sure.

Due to some logistical issues I missed most of the first TT session on Saturday, which is the TT Warm-up. These times don't count for competition but are used to grid cars in the subsequent TT session, then grid is continually adjusted after each session based on the fastest time of the weekend for a given car.

Moving "up the grid" tends to help drivers get clear track, as theoretically all entrants will be gridded in order of their lap times and thus, nobody impedes anyone else. This does not always work. Let me explain. Let's say you have a guy in a TTE Miata that has maxed out the P-to-W for it's class, is on fresh race tires, and has a really good driver. But ahead of him is say a Porsche Cayman in TTB that is on crap tires, but has a better P-to-W so he can pull away from the TTE Miata on the straights. What happens here? The TTE Miata gets blocked in the turns but doesn't have the beans underhood to pass the Cayman on the straights - especially if the TTB Porsche driver has an ego and won't let the quicker TTE Miata by. This happened continually to the me (and others) when I was driving the E46 all weekend... 40 cars in TT made for some serious traffic.

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Honestly this is the first time I've ever competed in a Time Trial car that was this slow. The only slower track car I've ever built was the E30 318is above, but it was fully 1000 pounds lighter. I've almost always run in cars that were in the top 20% of the grid, and in something with horsepower or that was more fully prepped for the class - all of which makes it easier to get clear track. Having the 330 with only a 18:1 P-to-W was frustrating as HELL when stuck behind cars with much more power but that crawled through turns. I made a couple of late (but still safe) passes under braking to get by some guys, but it shouldn't be this way. Again, I just haven't experienced this as much in the past - it is a real challenge to get a good lap in a slow car.

Staggering amount of bodyroll with the PSS kit and spring rates doubled. We need bigger sway bars + a lot more spring rate!

As you can see we still have a LOT of roll in corners, and there was a good bit of dive under braking andheave during the transition from braking-to-turning. This was after nearly doubling the spring rates from the PSS kit. No doubt about it, this car needs a lot more spring rate to deal with the grip generated by these 245 Hoosier R7s.

Having since driven the car on the street with the upgraded 350F/450R springs we installed, however, the ride quality on the street has suffered considerably with these springs on the non-adjustable PSS Bilsteins. So much so that I don't think we will sell these shocks with upgraded springs - the rebound is just way too low to deal with bumps on these mildly stiffer springs. They worked fine on track, however, and soaked up the many bumps from MSR-Houston's track surface  admirably.

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Left: 350F/450R springs and stock bars on E46. Right: Proper springs/shocks/bars on E46 M3 in the same corner

If I had an unlimited budget I'd test this same PSS shock setup with bigger bars, then swap in the PSS10 adjustables to see if the ride improved with these springs. Then we could try them with more spring rates to see if we can get this pig to corner flatter on this tire. THEN move up to MCS TT2 dampers. But like most of you, I very much have a limited budget so we're not necessarily going to be able to go through all of those iterative test steps.


Other issues with the 330 were minor. The rear fenders had a bit more rubbing (you can hear it in the in-car video below), especially the left rear on this predominantly right hand turn course. I still need to spend some time in the shop with a fender roller, a hammer and some dollies to get those cleaned up a hair more. The front left fender also had some contact with the tire, which smashed the squared off inner lip a bit, then pulled it down. One more smack could have smashed the fender beyond repair - luckily I saw this, and between sessions I pulled a wheel off and hammered that lip flat in one section. Again, doing this work track side is the wrong way to do this, but I was pushing the car harder than it had been pushed before, and that revealed the additional rub spots.

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Lap times weren't stellar, but we did have a good TTD battle on day 1. There was only one other TTD entrant, the Scion FR-S shown above. He was on BFG R-1 race tires and I'm not sure what else he had modified on the car. After Amy drove the first 2 sessions Saturday she was not getting it done, so I hopped in in session 3 and dropped the times for our Team entry on this car to a 1:52.074. I was gridded behind our class competitor Vinnie in that session, but after a few laps I got around him and he followed me for a lap - where he nearly match my time with a 1:52.085. So we were ahead going into the final Saturday TT session but separated by only .011 seconds!


Since the Corvette was a hot mess and I was done for the day in that car, Amy opted to let me run the final TT session in the 330, which is shown in the

. Vinnie ran his best time of the day at a 1:51.889 but I managed to get ONE clear lap in that session and dropped to a 1:50.677. That wasn't enough for a lap record but it was enough for the win and we took it.

Cheap Cameras Suck - Quick note about the quality of this video. We have a good Sony vidcam we've used for all of our track videos over the past 4 years. 1080P, Carl Zeiss lens, SD card recording, and it was ~$400 new. Well we haven't brought 2 cars to events often but we would be now, so I looked for a cheap second video camera. And being that our budget was tight in January I only had so much to spend. I'm not a fan of GoPro for a list of reasons, mostly due to the fact that we were a dealer of theirs early on and had to eat 2 cameras that failed out of box. So I got a 1080P knock-off of the GoPro that looked identical for $53, which had hundreds of good reviews on Amazon. What a piece of JUNK this thing was! The video clips stop every 2-1/2 minutes (so I had to stitch each session together from 6-8 parts), the video was pretty poor, and the sound quality was complete crap. "You get what you pay for" still exists.

The lap in the above video was far from ideal, with driving mistakes and multiple car issues I was driving around. I even had to pass a car during that lap - but this was still the least traffic filled lap of the weekend for me. Again, we had 40 TT entrants spread out over 2.38 miles of track. You can hear the rear tires rubbing in big corners and the car sort of heels over exiting the carousel on my best lap there. This is because with too much cornering force (spikes of 1.5g) the car leans over hard and the rear tire grabs the inside of the rear fenders, which will sort of catches and slings the back end around. So I was trying to go fast but not TOO fast, to avoid this known issue. This was FAR from an ideal setup and we should have spent some time on the lift the week before rolling fenders - but we got busy and couldn't turn away paying customer work.


Luckily that janky lap was good enough for a 1.2 second win for TTD. We stuck around for the Saturday night NASA party (with good food and Shiner beer!) and gladly took the first place trophy. Not enough cars in class to win any Hoosiers, but these used R7 tires looked like they could last another 3-4 weekends at this rate, if we can get the bodyroll under control. I was noting some outside shoulder wear so we will swap these tires inside-out before the next race weekend, and we still have a sticker set in this size/compound back at the shop (from winnings in the C4).

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Sunday morning was another cold one and there was now some heavy fog to deal with. We ran pretty early and I had to dry the insides of the windshield and rear hatch on the Corvette (no heater sucks), but Amy's 330 has a functional defroster so she was good to go. I ran the Corvette for one session, which was the scariest TT session I've ever driven (25 year old stock shocks + 345 A6 tires don't mix!) where I dropped to an abysmal 1:46.9 in TT2 but Amy was still slow in the 330. I rode right seat with her in an HPDE 3/4 session and coached her for a few laps, where she dropped 2.5 seconds. Mostly just pushing her braking zones, getting on the throttle sooner, things like that. She didn't race much last year and just needs more seat time in this new car before she's back to her usual times (she can and has beaten me before).

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With the same minimal safety requirements as HPDE, there are stark differences in safety gear used in TT cars

During my only TT session in the C4 for the day, during my fastest lap of the weekend, I came upon a car that had just crashed into the pit wall pretty hard and had to back out and pull off line to avoid the carnage - it happened only seconds before I came around the final "carousel" corner, and there weren't any flags at the preceding station yet. Somehow the driver was unhurt in this car with just stock seats, stock belts, and nothing other than a helmet.

I could go on and on about how many TT drivers' lack of safety gear and these folks need to set their own safety standards. Who am I to talk? I've run TT in a helmet, T-shirt, shorts, and stock seat belts too many times in the past. I'm trying to do better in my own car (Corvette) but this was a wake-up call to Amy and she wants to move forward with a roll cage, a HANS device of her own, and proper 6-point belts in the 330. See more of my musings at the end of this post about this.

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The NASA officials won't like me posting these pictures, but it doesn't help the sport if we bury our heads in the sand and ignore incidents that we can all learn from. There was also some car-to-car contact in another TT session, which I captured on video (I'm not sharing that video). This stuff shouldn't ever be happening in Time Trial, and its very rare in our region, but I feel that the guilty party was handled properly and I'm going to let it go. Still, it all adds up, and we will definitely be upgrading the safety gear in the red 330.


Amy was off the pace so I jumped in during TT session 2 and clocked a 1:51.350 to Vinnie's 1:51.686, all of us fighting heavy traffic. TT session 3 got so held up I was slower, with a 1:51.494 to Vinnie's 1:51.568. It was getting late in the day and the temps were dropping, but neither of us had traffic free laps yet. Vinnie was 3 tenths faster than his Saturday times but I was 8 tenths off my pace from the day before.

We started packing up for the long drive back to Dallas and I let Amy drive in the last TT session while I was loading up the Corvette in the trailer. Many other TT drivers left early and only 14 of the 40 registered TT drives showed up to grid. Sure enough, Vinnie found some traffic free laps and dropped lots of time, to his personal best here at his home track of 1:50.437. That was good enough for the win for Sunday and we congratulated him on that in the paddock, then swapped tires on the 330 and hit the road.

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Left: A long reach/short throw shifter would be nice in our E46. Right: Life priorities look right to me!

During the 4.5 hour drive back to Dallas the power steering quit working on the 330, which Amy showed me at a fuel stop. There was no fluid leaking so I assumed it was an internal power steering pump failure (it was) and she managed to get home and drive it to work several days the following week without power steering. It was not an issue until you dip below about 5 mph, then you have to CRANK on the steering wheel at parking lot speeds.

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Left: On Saturday the C4 was 6th in TT2, 330 was 1st in TTD. Right: On Sunday the C4 was again 6th in TT2, 330 was 2nd in TTD

This race weekend was a mixed success. The newly upclassed TT2 Corvette was way off the pace, as the OEM Delco-Bilstein dampers could not deal with the bumps of MSR-Houston, but at least it was reliable and the engine never skipped a beat. The 330 was also a bit off the pace of the TTD track record (1:48.4), but we kind of knew it would be slow with the limited mods we've done so far. With the scales showing +150 pounds over class minimum and about -50hp down on the class P-to-W limit, we have a ways to go to get it on par with more modern TTD entries like the FT86.

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We learned a lot at this event and still had a LOT of fun - seeing friends, the Saturday night party, and both of us getting plenty of seat time in the 330. This car was pretty dead nuts reliable, other than the power steering failure on the way home.

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Not much to show here. The power steering pump was ordered Monday morning after the event, but I was being cheap and we ordered the least expensive of 5 options we found for this M54 engine. And as you can see below, the impeller sheered off the driven shaft inside the old pump. The shaft just slid right out, and only the pulley and belt was keeping it from puking out the front.

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After the new "Cardone" brand power steering pump was installed, the new reservoir filled, and the pulley was being bolted on... POP! The cast flange on the pump snapped off as it was being tightened to "finger tight" levels. Junk cheap overseas casting! It was temporarily bolted up with 2 of the 3 pulley bolts, just so it could be driven in and out of the shop until the replacement pump arrived.

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For the replacement's replacement power steering pump I chose to get a name brand that I trusted (AC Delco) - which is what we would always do on customer's car. We will install that later this week, when we have a gap in the shop schedule.


Being a cheap ass doesn't pay, which is something I learn over and over again on my own purchases. This low end power steering pump + the cheesy $53 GoPro knock-off video camera (which was complete junk) are just two of my latest re-learned examples of this lesson.

The 325Ci was finally inspected and tagged so it is being cleaned up for sale soon. I'll post the Craigslist link in my next post, hopefully.


As I've said since the beginning of this project, this E46 is a "street driven track car". This is a huge compromise, but it is what so many people and customers want to do, so we're sticking with this philosophy on this E46 - to see how far we can go with that. Seeing that crashed TT car above, however, made Amy and I both want to ratchet up the schedule for safety upgrades with this car. We currently have a single fixed back Cobra racing seat with a 3-point OEM seat belt - and nothing else. That's just not safe enough.

Several safety upgrades are planned before Amy takes this car back on track again with these Hoosier grip levels. After tracing my injuries in a 2014 crash to not wearing a HANS, I started wearing one and I want Amy wearing a HANS on track, too. To make a head and neck restraint work you need a real racing seat, real 5/6/7 point harnesses, and something to anchor the shoulder straps to (harness bar, roll bar or roll cage). With as janky as the setup was at MSR-H, I know that even lower powered cars like this TTD BMW can still roll over or smack a wall. Driver fatigue from hanging on without using a real race harness also takes its toll, even with a racing seat. A bolt-in harness bar is just not good enough option for even the Time Trial racing we are doing, so its time to talk roll bar vs roll cage.


Another 4-point roll bar (like we used in the blue 330), a pair of proper FIA racing seats, good 6-point FIA harnesses, and a HANs device probably make the most sense for a dual-purpose car. That gives some decent rollover protection, a good place to anchor the shoulder harnesses, and keeps tubes away from the driver's head in the front seat area for street use. The E46 above (customer's car) has a 4-point roll bar and racing seat.

An improperly specified/built roll bar does virtually nothing for safety in a rollover

But again, after seeing the carnage at MSR-Houston, we're both rethinking things a bit. The problem with a 4-point roll bar, especially pre-built kits we can find, is that the upper tubes don't fit as close to the chassis as a custom built unit. They are often 1-2" away from the headliner, which is itself 1-2" below the actual roof skin. This can pose a risk during a rollover to taller drivers, like me. See how far my helmet is above the top of the roll bar in the Miata above?? That's almost worthless. A bolt-in roll bar kit usually fits like that for tall folks. Not good.

I also want to set a better example for proper track safety than I have in the past.

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For some racers a full NASA spec, W2W legal roll cage might seem like the only answer. We do a lot of custom roll cage fabrication work here at Vorshlag, so it might also seem logical for this car. That is definitely the way to go on a dedicated race car, but that's not what the car is, remember? Its a combination street/track car. IT will always have working side windows, air conditioning, and be fully street legal.

I'm normally not a fan of using full 6/8 point roll cages in street driven cars. A roll cage almost always puts a steel tube closer to your head than a normal street car's interior would be. Even with SFI style padding, your head is going to be closer to something very hard and unforgiving without a helmet to protect your noggin. So a 6/8 point fully caged street car is often less safe when driving on the street than with just a 4-point roll cage. It just depends on the size of the car and also the size of the driver.

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There are other considerations to consider. In NASA TTD, this 330 is overweight by 150 pounds, and a 4-point roll bar or 6/8 point cage is going to add 60-100 pounds. Not that I'd use weight as a reason to not add a roll bar or cage, but we need to address this added weight elsewhere. The back seat becomes 100% useless with even a 4-point bar, and we only kept the back seat installed in the blue 2001 330 (shown above) because class SCCA rules required it. NASA TT doesn't care, so since we need to shed some pounds already Amy has agreed to let us take the rear seats out (one of the back seats doesn't latch right and flops down during track session anyway).

We built this Miata's cage with limited street use in mind. The custom door panels still allow for door window use. Hardtop fits snugly

The headliner in this 330 is also a mess, and made at a lower height to accommodate the sunroof. We have a sunroof delete panel going in this car so we will likely just leave the headliner out, which gives us even more room to add a taller custom roll bar or cage. Then it was the A-pillar, B-pillar and C-pillar interior panels - which are also beyond saving in this red 330, so those car coming out...

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We won't use removable door bars, but the diagonal routing of the door bar in the caged drag race car above can work

Somehow we have rationalized our way towards a full 6-point roll cage for this car?? Since Amy is this car's primary occupant for street driving, and she sits considerably lower than I do, it can work safely for street use if we build the cage properly. This means leaving some of these ugly interior panels out and pushing the cage all the way to the roof skin. We'll have to compromise a bit on the door bars, to keep the roll up/down windows, but we will show this during the cage construction in a future update. A fire bottle on a quick release mount will also be added, but don't expect to see center or window nets - this is not that kind of build.


This update has run long so I'm not going to bore you further with too many long term plans, as they keep changing. Our racing budget for this year has tightened up a bit so Amy and I might both be running the 330 for a while. The Corvette needs major suspension upgrades to deal with the mega-sized tires and those might have to wait a month or three.

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We just finished up a test with a PSS10 kit for a Porsche 996, shown above. The spring rates for this Bilstein kit were 2.8 times stiffer than stock, so that was encouraging. That means we might try the PSS10 kit for this E46 before jumping to MCS coilovers, but it is still a gamble. If not, we will probably try even more spring rate on the existing Bilstein PSS coilovers, knowing the ride comfort will suffer further. I'm also working on getting some swaybars for this build, which are in the new build plan points now that we've ditched the splitter and wing ideas (not enough points with the 2016 classing change). And I will personally roll the fenders more at both ends when we do the spring rate change - these 245s need MOAR ROOM.

I had assumed the lack of a Limited Slip Diff would have been more of a burden than it was, so that can wait for a bit. Probably notice this more in autocross use - which we will try to do in March with Texas Region SCCA, just for fun. There is a gaggle of Mishimoto parts ready to be installed, which includes every single part they make for the E46 330 - radiator, thermostat, fan/shroud, aluminum reservoir, radiator hoses, cold air intake, and more. We will install a new water pump and thermostat housing with all of this in the near future. Luckily both January track events included cold weather, as we ran this 330 pretty hard, often with 2 drivers. At MSR-Houston we put 6+ sessions a day on the E46 with no cooling issues.

I'd like to see some real gauges in the 330 - water temp, oil pressure and oil temp - along with the oil pan baffle and upgraded oil pump drive that VAC sells. That's got to happen soon, along with a fresh harmonic damper on the front of the engine. That's the short term critical list, for now. Thanks for reading and we will be back with another update in the coming weeks.


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Project Update for April 5th, 2016: It has been 6 weeks since my last update and our "Daily Driven Track Car" BMW has logged more wins at a NASA track weekend. We have massively upgraded the brakes, tweaked a few small things, and have some new dampers heading our way. Read below to find out more.


Its no secret that we had a good bit of tire rub at the first two track events in this BMW 330. Admittedly we're running a very wide wheel and tire combination for a non-M E46. The E46 M3 can easily swallow 285mm front and 315 mm rear tires but this non-M is pretty much limited to a 255mm tire, without fender mods. And while it seems that fitting a 245mm should be easy, this 245/40/17 Hoosier has 10.3" of section width and we're stretching it out on a 17x10" wheel.

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In previous posts I showed where we had used a fender roller on this car at our first event on this red 330Ci, yet still had significant tire rub at the next. I also showed some pics of the more substantial fender mods we had to do to fit an 18x10" wheel and 265/35/18 tire to our blue 300Ci, above. I finally found some time at the shop on a weekend to use the same "heavy handed" clearance methods on the red car.

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Let me preface this with a warning: I don't recommend these methods if you care about your paint. Our red E46 here has some hail dings and other minor paint issues, so it will likely get some paint rework over the summer from our friends at Heritage Collision (who does all of our paint and body work). That said, it was Hammer Time on our little 330!

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At left you can see the array of hammers and dollies I used to smash the inner fender lips flat + persuade the contours out a bit. These have been trapped in my tool box inside a stuck drawer for months. My tool box has been used and abused by everyone in my shop for a decade and several drawers have been overloaded to the point that a few slides got stuck. My big hammers were buried in one of these stuck drawers, so after removing the tools inside and the drawer above, I had access to the hidden treasure! What a mess. I've finally purchased new slides, just need the time to unload my ENTIRE box and install them.

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The front fender mods were relatively easy. These fronts are single wall, thin gauge, stamped steel fenders that have a 90° inner lip on the wheel arch. This was what I slowly hammered/rolled flat to vertical so that it could no longer "catch" and/or cut a tire. The flattest bodywork dolly I had was wrapped in a towel and used to support the outer fender contours (towel keeps it from scratching the paint). Once the inner lip was flat and flush with the outside edge, I slowly massaged the entire arch contour outboard a bit beyond vertical, for some extra room. This is a BIG 245 tire here...

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The rear fenders take considerably more work to maximize inboard tire room. Not only does the lip need to be hammered flat but the contour of the outer fender needs to move outboard about an inch. The rear fender is part of the unibody, and its made up of 3 layers of sheet metal, so it takes a LOT of hammering. Wore my arms out, and my ears. Protecting the paint is not an option back there, and the final result isn't all that smooth, but it is functional and should clear this tire now at full bump. My painter always fixes my sins.

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And while this looks a bit much with the stock 17x7.5" fronts mounted and nearly 3° of camber (top left), with the 17x10" and wide-ass 245 (top right) its still pretty tight. I was going to be testing it for rub at the next event, both front and rear, and hopefully not cutting the sidewalls anymore. If we could just get rid of some lean...


Another big change before our March NASA event was upgrading the front brakes. This might seem like a long story to get to the tech write-up for this brake upgrade, but please bear with me. This install was the conclusion of a multi-year search for a Big Brake Supplier for us, and I'm glad we tested this new brand on our red 330.

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We have been on the hunt for a "big brake" supplier to work with for several years, so let me explain how we got here. We supply brake components to a lot of folks - brake pads, rotors, hubs, stainless brake lines, brake cooling backing plates and inlet ducts, brake fluid, even some modest brake caliper upgrade kits - but we only supply what we have tested on our own cars, vetted at the track, and sometimes things we have built in-house. We won't just "sell everything" probably to the determent of our bottom line, but I'd rather sell things I know and trust.

Picking a brake pad company took us about 3 years of testing all manner of brands and compounds on several of our own cars. Once we had found what we felt was the supplier who had the quality, performance, and cost-per-lap pads we reached out to them to become a dealer. Carbotech was what we have been selling for many years now, and we have great relationships with the key people there - and have worked with them to develop new car model offerings on many occasions (sending them OEM samples, scans, or 3D drawings of pads).

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For reasons I won't get into, the head technical folks left CT and started G-LOC Brakes about 2 months ago, with equivalent compounds and major component suppliers, so we followed the brains behind Carbotech to this new company - because we trust people more than a name. I talk a bit about that in this blog post.

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That's important in our search for a Big Brake supplier, so hang in there. We have looked at and installed all of the major BBK brands - AP, StopTech, Alcon, Brembo, Wilwood, etc - and everything we have seen so far had some shortcoming for us. Some brands have gotten too big and branched out to far too many models to care about small shops like us (trucks, SUVs, everything). Others seem to focus on things like caliper colors and going to the most "GIANT" rotor diameters, often ignoring sound engineering. Not everyone wants or needs to run 18-19" wheels, you know?

Some were pricey and hard to get. Brembo only wants to deal with Professional Race Teams and wouldn't give us the time of day each time we reached out on the phone or at industry shows. Wilwood has a lot of low end calipers - they are the cheapest for a reason, and you get what you pay for with their products. AP makes some great stuff (see above) and we like the folks at Essex (their U.S. importer) but we are limited to the handful of cars Essex develops, and they won't sell us components like calipers separately - which we want to use to make NEW kits they don't want to bother with. So the search continued.

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My engineer Jason and I went to the 2015 PRI show in Indy last December (an industry show much more focused on racing than SEMA). We are always "interviewing" potential new suppliers. This the third year we were specifically looking for a brake supplier we could work with. We looked at EVERYTHING having to do with brakes at this show - the big names, the no name far east imports (nope!), and the new companies.

On the last day of the show we ran into Danny Puskar, who we knew from Carbotech (one of the guys we trust, now at G-LOC). His booth was right next to the Powerbrake booth, which is a competition brake supplier based out of South Africa. Danny - someone we trust implicitly about brakes - introduced us to the Powerbrake guys at this show and highly recommended we give their products a closer look.

After about an hour of discussion with their engineers and looking at their product examples at the show, we didn't get fed any B.S. (a rarity!) and we were impressed with the technology and quality they were bringing to the aftermarket caliper/rotor world. They have been operating in South Africa for a while now and have a lot of European race series and Dakar wins, but this was their very first show in USA, after setting up a North American office in North Carolina earlier in 2015.

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Not only did we appreciate the quality, design and engineering they had in their parts - the South African currency is relatively weak compared to the USD, so their prices were exceptionally good. This was one of those rare "you get more than you pay for" situations. They have their rotor rings cast in Italy and machine all of their 2-piece rotors, calipers and brackets in-house in SA on HAAS CNC machines - the quality is there.

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As an engineer and manufacturer myself I can appreciate the little things they do on their machined parts - the hardened coatings and electroplating finishes they use are more robust than the "pretty colors" many other brake manufacturers flock to. The wear surfaces on the calipers that the pads slide over are hardened steel, there are anti-knock back springs in the piston bores, no rubber "dust seals" to burn up like OEM calipers, and they always put temp strips on the calipers and thermal paint on the rotor rings.

So we finally ordered our first Powerbrake kit in February to test on our E46, hoping it was worth the "class points" and costs - We would find out at the next NASA race. It wasn't like the OEM 330 brakes were terrible. When fitted with competition pads and Motul RBF600 fluid they seemed pretty good so far. We were originally just going to add brake cooling to those and leave it at that, but with the big class points change in January (we lost 7 points) and our subsequent loss of aero mods (splitter and wing were chucked) we suddenly had a few points to spare. And one of the "missions" of this project was to test and develop new products.


We won't offer something we haven't tested personally, so this E46 would be our first test bed for the Powerbrake kit. On their recommendation we ordered their front Powerbrake PBL44L X-line 4 piston caliper Big Brake Kit for BMW E46 non-M models. It was built around their 340mm x 34mm (2-piece) rotor, which theoretically should fit inside our 17" Forgestar F14 wheels and hopefully the stock 17" wheels.

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Our shop manager Brad installed this entire front brake kit in 2.4 hours, all while taking these pictures during the install. He only had to trim a corner off of the OEM brake dust shield to clear the massive caliper. Great instructions, included all of the brake lines and hardware, the brackets and calipers bolted on perfectly, and the rotors fit great.

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The difference in the caliper sizes was enormous! Strangely enough, the massive aluminum 4-piston / 4 pad calipers were lighter than the tiny OEM steel single piston units + sliding bracket. The stock 1-piston sliding caliper / bracket / pads weighed in at 14.50 lbs each and the Powerbrake 4-piston caliper (9.80 lbs) with pads and mounting bracket (0.78 lbs), which was a savings of 3.92 pounds per corner.

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The rotors were vastly different in size as well. We talked about the 325 vs 330 rotors back in an earlier post (when we upgraded to 330 front brakes on the original #JackDaniels) but the change to this 340x32mm rotor was even more drastic. The THICKNESS was massive, and even with an aluminum hat they are 21.86 lbs for this 340mm (13.4") diameter rotor assembly. Compare that to the steel 1-piece 330 rotor, which measures in at 325mm (12.8") diameter (and 25mm thick) and 19.84 pounds, for a gain of 2.02 pounds per corner. If my math is right that means we still lose 1.9 pounds per corner with this MASSIVE upgrade in rotor and caliper components.

Other BBK companies want to move folks to ever larger diameter rotors to get the added heat capacity and rotor cooling. 355mm and 380mm rotors with 6- or even 8-piston calipers are becoming the norm. Powerbrake knows that with more diameter comes more rotational mass, so they will often offer some of their BBKs with slightly smaller diameter rotors, but with thicker rotor rings. This gives the thermal mass needed for track abuse, but at a lower hit to rotational inertia. And they use more 4-piston kits than 6-. When the heat gets too bad for a even their 6-piston (rare) they use a water cooled jacket in their calipers - for events like the Dakar rally. So their engineering is a little more thought out than most, which I like. They also don't offer Bling Daddy powder coating colors for their calipers - just hard anodize grey. No frou frou up in here.

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Going from a sliding caliper to a fixed caliper should make for better brake feel and less chance for pad knock-back, and the massive caliper size should make for much more heat resistance. There is more brake torque, more pad area, better rotor cooling, and a lot more thermal mass to this front brake system compared to the stock 330 bits. No more holding back on the brakes for me - I'm a Left Foot Braker that tends to abuse pads and rotors, so the next event was going to be a good test.

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Of course the Forgestar F14 17x10" wheels cleared by a mile (above left), which we tested long before installing this kit. At the last minute before this NASA event we went to go mount the stock wheels and street tires back on... and the 5-spoke 17" 330 wheels didn't fit! It was close but no cigar. Then we tried the hideous Foose 18" wheels and the oddly placed valve stem hit the caliper. WTF? Last we tried the 17x8" wheels off our 328i Sedan, which have been the daily wheels and tires on the 325Ci (JackDaniels) for months. And they fit! (above right) Whew...


It rained the entire week before this March NASA race, and we had stiffer springs on hand to replace the 350F/450R Hypercos we had already upgraded to. It came down to the final hours on Friday when the weather looked like it was not going to let up before we made the call to leave the springs alone. Softer springs make a car easier to drive in the wet, so we punted on that upgrade.

Amy couldn't drive this weekend, as she was going to be out of town for a family emergency. I mentioned to my crew here that I needed someone to fill in for her when our Order Desk Manager Jon started talking a bit of smack, so I surprised him with an offer to drive the red BMW in HPDE, and he took it!

We did some last minute prep on the 330 and he drove it out to Motorsport Ranch Cresson on Saturday morning. I left the shop at 7:20 pm on Friday night with the TTC classed C4 Corvette in our trailer and slogged through the rain to get to the track. I was unhooking at 9 pm, in the pitch dark, parked in the grass, on a steep hill. There was NOWHERE on pavement to park, as even with the rain looming, over 200 people showed up to run HPDE, TT, and W2W.

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Saturday morning it was still wet and sprinkling, so I drove the BMW in the first TT "Warm Up" session on the 245mm Dunlop Star Spec II street tires, with Jon riding shotgun. I had hoped to show him "the line" (this was his first time driving at MSR-C), but anywhere on the 16+ year old, original track surface that was "the line" was polished smooth. Add in the water and it was like driving on ice, so the trick in the rain here is to NOT drive anywhere near the proper driving line. The marbles is where the grip is, strangely enough.

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Event Photo Gallery:

After that drift-fest TT warm-up we came in - and realized we forgot to install the AMB transponder on the BMW. No official time, doh! So that meant that I would be gridding in the next TT session at the back, no matter which car I brought to grid. I ran the red 330 again and got a time that looked like it would be good enough for the win for the day (4.5 seconds ahead).


Due to some confusion at registration it was showing Jon as the TTD driver in the 330, but he ran in HPDE3/4. They fixed it in the final official results for Saturday. Anyway, since the TTD class margin looked safe I handed the BMW over to Jon to drive the rest of the day and hopped into my TTC Corvette (I registered and entered 2 TT cars for Team Vorshlag at this event, just like in January).

The TTD class only had 2 entrants (3 dropped out late in the week - probably due to the threat of rain) so there was no chance to win Hoosiers in the BMW. We had 6 cars in TTC (we need 5 for Hoosier to pay 2 tires to 1st each day), so I concentrated my driving efforts into that car and class to hopefully get some tires Saturday. The C4 was on a sticker set we won last year, but the 330 was running some pretty "tired" Hoosiers and needed a new pair of shoes!

This number of cars in class - and the potential to win tires - would influence how many sessions I drove in the TTD 330 on both days. There are only 4 Time Trial run sessions per day (and the 1st one Saturday doesn't count), and there's not enough time allotted to try to drive 2 cars in one session (nor is that allowed), so I had to ration out the sessions between both cars carefully. Ideally I would drive ~2 sessions in each car, win both classes both days, set both TTC and TTD track records, and win 4 tires in TTC. I already set the TT3 track record here back in 2014, so I was watching the guys in that class, too. As we all know, things rarely go to plan!

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You can read more about the results in the TTC Corvette starting here, but I was fairly hopeful that the Corvette could reset the TTC record and take the class win, but that proved to be only half true. While we eventually ran more than 3 seconds quicker than the old TTC record that weekend, the win eluded me on Saturday. Ended up getting P2 by 2 tenths that day. I was fighting some small handling and braking issues in the 25 year old Corvette, and possibly the only thing I needed was more seat time in this all new setup (we had just moved that car down from TT2 to TTC).

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After lunch the rain finally let up and began to dry, so we unloaded the Corvette. The track surface dried off in TT session 3 and I took the C4 out for the first time on Saturday. Due to the transponder mistake in the first TT Warm Up session in the 330, I would be starting at the back of the grid in BOTH cars. This meant I was fighting traffic all day in each entry, which didn't help my chances for getting a clear lap in either.

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Jon was in HPDE3/4 and as the track dried up we swapped on the Hoosiers (right before the 2nd TT session, where I drove the BMW) and he was having a blast. I saw the TT "needle go into the vein" for Jon this weekend! I fought the Corvette the rest of Saturday and placed 2nd in that car and 1st in the TTD BMW. That netted us 2 etched glass trophies at the Saturday night party and dinner, which was cool, but no contingency tires and no new track records. Sunday was a new day, and a new race, so I'd try again in both cars!

Sunday morning was a bit of a mess and we were a little late to the track. We rushed to the track from the hotel and I made it there just in time to get into the 330, throw some fuel in it, and make it to grid with 1 minute to spare.

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I ran the first TT session in the BMW and again was stuck mired in traffic, clawing my way through the middle of the pack. This was probably the worst session of the day for setting times, as it was cold and foggy again, with just a hint of moisture on the track surface on the first lap.

Getting a good lap in an underpowered car is actually pretty difficult. This BMW cannot pass even a TTE classed Miata in anger - they have to lift to let me by, or early brake. Luckily that's where this car SHINED all weekend - this car could outbrake ANYTHING! Jon and I both remarked at how effortless the car would take brake abuse, especially from two autocrossers who were using 10/10ths of the brakes on every turn. The grip was good in the car but the bodyroll was still pretty excessive. At least my fender rolling work was worthwhile - we noted zero tire rubbing issues all weekend, even with the excessive suspension travel allowed by the soft-ish springs and stock swaybars.

Over the weekend we ran the car in back-to-back sessions (TT to HPSE3/4) a total of 3 separate times, with zero time to allow the brakes to cool. I would do my session, come into grid, swap with Jon, and he'd head directly out. That should tax most braking systems, but the Powerbrake bits just laughed at us. Sure, the pads supplied in the kit were noisy and dusty - as all good track pads are - but they never faded once. Not even a little.

This was in direct contrast to the brakes on my Corvette. This car, which was 100 pounds lighter and running the exact same tire, was cooking the brakes in about 4-5 laps. We're chasing 25 year old rem master cylinders in that car, but the pedal NEVER felt as good as it did in the E46. The differences in pedal modulation and feel, braking power and heat resistance between the two cars was DRASTIC.

I have spent so many years in competitive motorsports on OEM based calipers that I was just used to the semi-mushy feel and limited thermal capacity of stock style brakes. Sure, good pads, fluid and brake cooling always help, but there are limits. With the BMW that day, nothing could phase the brakes. At least one thing worked well on that car!

I ran a 1:27.604 in the car Saturday but only managed a 1:27.854 on the first TT session Sunday, which ended up being the only session I ran the 330 that day. I turned the car over to Jon for the rest of the day again and hopped into the Corvette to try to chase down the TTC class leader. Jon put 3 more sessions in the BMW that day and had a lot of fun. I drove right-seat with him in one session Saturday, after the track dried, to show him a few pointers - which he picked up very quickly.

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As you can see the BMW still has LOTS of bodyroll but its a tick less than the first event here back in January, where Amy drove it on the PSS springs at SCCA Club Trials. Kind of regret not bringing those other springs, as we had plenty of dry sessions both days to test that. Probably would have been outside the damping range of these non-adjustable PSS shocks, though.


I was so rushed on Sunday in the one session I drove TTD that I was over-driving the BMW a bit, which is all too obvious in the picture above. I put two wheels off on that lap but managed to keep it straight (4 wheels off or a spin DSQ's your TT times for the entire session) and scored a good enough time for the TTD win, or so I hoped. I had much bigger issues in the TTC car, putting 4 off in one session and losing the master cylinder completely in the next. That car went into the trailer with a 1:21.90 lap time, but with only a 2nd place finish, no tires, and no track record.

Since the NASA Texas website was out of date nobody knew what the TTD track record really was. I had thought I had set it the day before, but looking at it more closely a week later I realized the record was missed by a few tenths with my Saturday time. So while I managed to get another 1st in TTD Sunday in that one traffic filled, 2-tires-in-the-dirt session, no track record was set by this car, either. I missed both class track records by about 3 tenths... oh well, you can't buy talent! :)

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I've been searching for a second video camera setup to use in the BMW, but the new gear didn't show up in time for this MSR-C race. Jon brought his GoPro to use, but we were both so busy all weekend that we didn't set it up in the 330 until after I had turned the car over to him on Sunday. So no in-car TT video of my dismal laps in the 330 this time, sorry. The new vidcam will be here in time for TWS, where we should hopefully have a little more "motion control" in the suspension.

Sunday TT Session 3

I did make one in-car video from that weekend, in the TTC Corvette, which was considerably faster than our TTD entry. Nothing special here, just showing what this track looks like, one letter class up. With the same driver, the exact same Hoosier 245mm R7 tire and similar weights, and worse brakes, the TTC C4 was nearly 6 seconds a lap quicker than my best TTD lap time. Part of that was me having a little more seat time in the C4, but mostly it came down to SPRING RATE and HORSEPOWER. The C4 is at the class minimum 3260 pounds (it was weighed 12 pounds over in Tech, so 3272) and makes 288 whp (near the class P-to-W limit). The 330 is at 3430 pounds and makes 195 whp (see dyno test below) - which is both 50 whp down and +150 pounds too heavy for TTD class. The C4 also has a massively upgraded 1200# transverse front spring compared to the 350# front coilover springs on the 330.

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Obviously we have to address the lack of power, the extra weight, and the low spring rates (and subsequent damper upgrade) needed to make the E46 more competitive in its class. We're into year 2 of prep on the "Budget TTC Corvette", so it has a bit of a head start. We should realistically have been running 1:23s or better in a max effort TTD car, so we have a lot of work left to do to this BMW. We are taking the prep in deliberate, planned stages, so stay tuned for more upgrades as the season progresses and hopefully we can nudge closer to some TTD track records - eventually.

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During this NASA weekend I was also instructing, and worked with 4 different HPDE1 students. Sometimes that meant sprinting to the grid to meet them in time for their sessions, after getting out of one of the two TT cars. The grid was way back on the unused 1.3 mile road course, due to the lack of paved parking area on the wet grassy areas. Instructing was fun, but made for a hectic weekend and a lot of running around - I need to get a scooter or small track support vehicle, something to get around the paddock in more quickly. All it takes is money, right?

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Official results for Saturday (left) and Sunday (right)

Overall the weekend was a mixed success. Driving two TT cars + instructing + talking to customers at our ever-busy trailer paddock area makes for a hectic weekend, but it was also a lot of fun. Jon got a check ride for TT and should have his comp license the next time he shows up to a NASA event. I managed two 1st place finishes in TTD (with only one timed TT session each day in this very under-prepped car) and two 2nd places in TTC. No new track records set by our cars, but our old TT3 record here (1:17.2) managed to stay untouched - for now.

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When Jon and I were switching the street tires back onto the 330, we noted that they still had excellent wear across the tread, even with the massive body roll. At least we seem to have the camber, toe and tire pressures dialed in well. Since we didn't win a new set this weekend, I suspect this 6-weekend old set of R7s will be used once again on the 330 at TWS. The front brakes also looked exceptionally good - with virtually no visible pad or rotor wear - and only the first thermal paint band had "turned". That means the rotor had crossed 527° F but had not reached the next band, which is at 860 °F.

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I cannot explain with words how GOOD the brakes felt and performed, but I am now a believer. Glad we took the gamble and tried out this new Powerbrake kit on our car. They also flew in for our annual SCCA Tech day + Open House event (shown above) and their rep talked to 200+ people in our shop that day. After that meet-and-great + our recommendations, we've got a half dozen cars lined up for Powerbrake kits - some of which will be new models we have to measure for them.

After switching the tires on the BMW we moved the trailer out of the grassy swamp and onto pavement, then loaded the Corvette for the trip home. After instructing in the last 5:20 pm HPDE session, I didn't get out of there until after 6 pm, and that 2 hour tow home made for a another 12 hour day. But compared to my normal work days, this was a breeze. ;)



We've been pretty slammed in our shop since the NASA event, but I found time on the next weekend to go to a Dyno Day at True Street Motorsports, who tunes all of the LSx and Coyote 5.0 powered cars we build at our shop. They dyno'd JackDaniels earlier this year, shown above.

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This time I took "Fireball", the red 330, and was first in line for their Dyno Day (they did something like 60 cars that day). We set the bar pretty low that day with our baseline stock dyno pull on this 164K mile 330, but we at least had something to go by for this build!


Sure enough, the car made about what I guessed it would on their DynoJet chassis dyno: 195 whp and 200 wtq. Not bad for a bone stock, 16 year old, 164K mile car rated at 225 hp at the crank. As I wrote last time, running at the class minimum weight of 3285 pounds, and with the +0.8 P-to-W "bonus" for running a 245mm tire, we can make up to 244.2 whp in TTD class. Now the real question is... how do we gain 50 whp without burning too many "class points"??

Baseline Dyno Video:

The underwhelming video above shows parts of the two back-to-back pulls they made on our red BMW. It was done in top gear, revved to 6000 rpm redline, and had a fan blowing over the radiator the whole time. They know how to do NASA certified dyno pulls as they've done them on a half dozen different cars for us. I just wish they had the ability to custom tune the BMW computer.


I need to wrap this up so let's see what's next. I ordered MCS TT2 internal double monotube coilovers earlier this week so we can finally get those installed with some REAL spring rates before our next event, which is...

Next few NASA Texas events:
  • April 22-24 – Texas World Speedway
  • May 21-22 NOLA Motorsports Park – Crossover with NOLA
  • June 11-12 – Hallett Motor Racing Circuit

Of course this is the fourth or fifth "last ever" event at TWS, but I don't have much faith in those claims. We'll hopefully have a better sorted suspension to go along with the brakes and tires - both of which worked damned well. We'll still be down on power but we will address that later in the summer. One of the two Whiteline swaybars is en route to us (the rear, ugh) so we'll have to figure out something for the front.

We have TWO more E46 chassis we are going to be building soon, one of them with the PSS suspension coming off of this car. I'll show those builds as they happen in future updates. That's enough for this time. Thanks for reading!


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Project Update for October 23, 2016: It has been 6 months since my last update here and we have done a LOT of work to both the red 330Ci (to make it a better race car) and the blue 325Ci (to make it a nicer street car). I will briefly cover the 325Ci updates then jump into the 330 mods. There are two NASA events we have run since the last entry but I only had time to cover the April NASA event this time. Lots more work and another event will be covered in my next update.


After we purchased the red 2001 330Ci, keeping the blue 325Ci didn't make a lot of sense. But as we have realized many times in the past, it is awful handy to have a "back up" street car for use when a "dual purpose" race/street car is in the shop undergoing updates or repairs. We've been back and forth on keeping or selling Jack Daniels, but either way, I couldn't let it be sold in its current condition.


We have done a LOT of repair work on this car in the past year, to the point where I can sell this without shame to anyone. All of the leaks, broken parts, and dash lights have been fixed. I had made the worst mistake on this car when buying it - finding an example that needed too many exterior and interior repairs and with an odometer showing nearly 200K miles. No matter how nice we made it, at this point we would be losing money when we went to sell it - due to the mileage and dollars spent.

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To make the sale easier and net the most of our investment back I made the call to fix a lot of little interior and exterior issues. First up were the interior A-pillar coverings, which are almost always trashed on BMWs of this era.

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Some previous owner had tried a half-assed repair by gluing the fabric back to the A-pillar covers, but instead they smeared glue all over the windshield and their dirty paw prints all over the fabric. Looked terrible. Brad got the old A-pillars off, removed all of the glue overspray, and installed gray panels sourced new from BMW.

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He cleaned up the door panels making them look good as new. The broken sunroof was manually wound down and sealed shut, permanently. No more chances of leaks when it rained. The sunroof mechanism ALWAYS breaks on the E46 chassis, given enough time, so at least now it is fully closed.

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The leather rear seats were cleaned and conditioned. The matching black leather front seats (swapped in from the 330) were also cleaned and oiled. The trunk interior was shampoo'd and detailed.


The factory leather cover was literally falling off the steering wheel, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. I spent too much time investigated the many options to have this wheel replaced or recovered. These ranged from as little as $10 (cheap slip-on cover) to as much as $400 (professionally die cut, stitched and installed leather cover). I briefly thought about a $150 kit that we could custom order and install in the shop, but after reading about horror stories of 10+ hours being burned trying to get it stretched, fitted, and stitched - and potentially still looking like crap - I hesitated.

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Time is money and even with a $150 "DIY" custom-cut wheel cover, that had to be stitched on and fitted, I couldn't afford to tie up my crew or myself putting one of these on. The return was too low. So I went with a $21 leather cover that goes over just the outer 3/4 rim of the wheel. They come in a number of colors and diameter ranges, and I got the closest one that matched this car. It looks better than the dilapidated factory cover, for sure, and it went on easily. Does it look factory? No. You still get what you pay for, but at least it wasn't falling off now.

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If you remember why we call this car "Jack Daniels" it was because it had a number of "whiskey dents" on the exterior when we bought it. We were buying it for a race car and had intended to always fix the dings during a paint job down the road. Well our newest tech, Donnie, has a twin brother, Kris, that does PDR work. So when he had a break in his schedule (a rainy day) he popped over to our shop to remove some dents from Jack Daniels. The dents in the left rear fender were fairly significant but they are now GONE.


He took out 90% of the dents on this car in a day, and the results were quite amazing. The hail dings in the roof and trunk were easy, but I simply couldn't get over how well he removed previous crash damaged to the left rear fender (completely gone) and the huge vertical crease in the driver's door (mostly gone).

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I had always assumed we would have to replace the hood, as the front corner was caved in and the leading edge had a big dent in it. Kris got the dents out of there, too. Amazing.

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There were some scratches along the sides we couldn't do much about, but two chunks of missing paint on the hood now became the biggest focal point on the car. We had some BMW paint code matching spray paint cans on hand to paint the front headlight trim (and later the upper trunk handle) but it wasn't a good match for these two spots on the hood. Even with hours of blending, wet sanding, and clear coat application they just don't match. Probably because the hood had been resprayed in the past in a slightly lighter shade by a hack paint shop. Oh well - at least these spots won't rust.

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The old window tint was purple, bubbled and just terrible. I asked Donnie to remove all of that from the side and rear windows. Then we cleaned up and polished the glass, and the car looked even better. Lastly the rear trunk release handle broke off. It happens all too often on E46 BMWs. Its a plastic / fiberglass piece that bolts to the trunk, but if you pull up on the trunk lid when the trunk release doesn't pop correctly (common) it flexes the threaded holes in the structure. Over enough time it breaks clean off (above right). We purchased a new piece from BMW, painted the exterior with our paint code matched spray can and clear, and bolted it on. Now it looks like as good as new.


The best upgrade was the wheel and tire swap. Off came that fugly Foose wheels for good. After some musical chairs with wheels on the 330, these split 5-spoke "Coupe wheels" were bolted onto the 325 here. This was because the 17x8 E46 "sedan wheels" we borrowed from the 328i were the only E46 17" wheels that cleared Powerbrakes on the 330. So the 325 benefited with the best looking set of street wheels we had on hand for an E46. :)

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It was about $500 in PDR repairs and $200 in interior and trunk handle parts from BMW, plus more hours of cleaning and installation than I want to admit. I'm happy with the final results of this final round of "beautification" on the 325Ci. The dents and dings are gone, save one small ding in the passenger door and a hint of the crease in the driver's door, both of which would required the window motor mechanisms to be removed to get access to repair them.


Now I wouldn't be ashamed to sell this car, and if someone offered me $5,000 for this car... well I'd be losing close to $2000 - we just spent too much on the car, repair parts, updates, and hours on this 200K mile BMW. It drives perfectly now, has up-sized 330 front brakes, we fixed ALL of the issues and dash lights, it has some bushing upgrades to troublesome areas, and the wheel and tires are spot on. The the interior and exterior look loads better than they should for a car of this age and mileage.


Amy was content to daily drive Jack Daniels and did so all summer, while I pondered the next steps on the 330 and what to do with the 325. Then she got a wild hair and found the 2013 Scion FR-S above for barely five figures. Due to some development needs for other projects that revolve around the BRZ/FR-S (86) chassis, she bought it and now daily drives that instead.


BUT... there is a pretty aggressive development schedule for this car over the coming winter, including another Powerbrake front big brake install (already installed and shown above), LS3 engine swap, 315mm tires and wide body, and a massive round of suspension products we want to design/build/test/install. That means that good old Jack Daniels might stick around for a few more months until this FR-S is back in one piece.



I have mentioned this 328i sedan before and it has undergone a lot of work over the summer, but I will talk more about this one when it is complete and ready to sell.

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We have done the full rear subframe reinforcement, Powerflex bushings everywhere, new Febi-Bilstein control arms, Jongbloed wheels, Kirk 4-point roll bar, and brand new racing seats - including this Sparco Circuit II on a slick Cobra locking slider.


We have also installed a Kirk 4-point roll bar, a pair of new Schroth Profi-II 6-point harnesses, built custom aluminum door panels, and are making a pair of aluminum false floor panels. Then we will replace the cooling system and exhaust. The goal is to make someone a good "track rat" that still had roll-up windows and AC. I will show this in more detail in my next post.


If you have been reading my build threads over the past 12 years you may have seen the theme in them all - we install a lot of monotube adjustable dampers. We spent a lot of years (2005-2012) using AST and Moton products, then migrated more to Bilstein in 2011 and MCS a year later.

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Bilstein PSS with included (soft) springs

We knew there would be performance limits that this car would reach on the Bilstein PSS dampers but didn't foresee how much roll and dive the included springs (above) would produce on the "little" 245mm Hoosier R7. It felt like the car was going to bicycle on me, it just had so damn much lean. We ran it like this at the January Club Trials and NASA MSR-H events, and quickly moved to firmer spring rates.

Bilstein PSS with 350F/450 rear Hyperco spring rates

When Jon and I both drove the 330 at the NASA event at MSR-Cresson in MArch, with the significantly stiffer springs, it STILL had too much roll. We had hoped the larger diameter Whiteline swaybars would arrive in time to test this modified Bilstein setup with those, to help dial out some of the roll at least. The dive would still be there, though. Unfortunately there was a delay on getting the swaybars that we ordered in January, and they didn't both arrive until September. By then we had put on the MCS doubles.

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I felt that the non-adjustable PSS dampers were at their limit with the upgraded Hyperco springs and the 350#/in front and 450 #/in rear rates. We street drove it on these springs, and while I thought it was too firm, Amy, Jon and Jason felt like it was still more than adequate for street use. So we will indeed offer this PSS kit with this Hyperco spring package (see above) for dual-purpose use (street/track) for a budget minded E46 3 series. This is an alternative to the Motorsports level dampers we us on competition cars.

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After 3 events in this car with "limited success" in NASA TTD, it was time to step it up to proper spring rates and Motorsport dampers to tame them. MCS makes four shock kit offerings for the BMW E46, including (what we have named) the: TT1, TT2, RR2 and RR3 offerings. These are names we use to refer to their "1 way non remote" (TT1), 3 way adjustables with Remote Reservoirs (RR3), etc. The nomenclature "TT" came from the fact that NASA Time Trial letter classes penalize remote reservoir shocks, so these "non-remotes" are ideal for Time Trial, hence TT1 and TT2.

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After carefully weighing the costs, class points, and performance potential of this car, we selected the TT2, double adjustables without remotes. Unlike the AST 4200 we helped develop back in 2008, which had a knob on top for rebound and a knob on the bottom for compression, these TT2 dampers have a single "2 step" knob on the top of the dampers. Push the knob down and you adjust Rebound. Press the center pin and the knob pops up, then you can adjust Compression. It is a novel idea and it works very well and there is no "cross talk" between the two settings.

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The crew pulled the entire Vorshlag/Hyperco/Bilstein suspension off and installed that on the E46 328i sedan. That meant we needed to build another set of camber plates, shock mounts, and ride height adjusters. Then they installed the TT2s with Hyperco springs in 600#/in front and 750 #/in rear rates - nearly doubling again the modified rates used on the Bilstein PSS shocks.

How do we get to these spring rates? It has a lot to do with the tire width and compound used, and of course is based on a decade+ of testing with various BMWs - including previous E46 330 TTD builds (like the blue car below).


I drove the car on the street a few times on the street tires with the new MCS setup, dialed in the knobs for street use, and it didn't ride half bad. This is about as extreme as I like to go on a daily driven car, but it is live-able with a proper street tire.


One pre-race ritual that I always insist we always do on our shop race cars is: remove, clean, and inspect a car's race wheels. With the wheels off the car, the inner barrel and spokes can be properly cleaned of tire klag and brake dust, then the inner spokes can be inspected visually for cracks. Once you see a cracked spoke, that wheel is done, and the others from the same set are suspect. Given a long enough timeline ALL ALUMINUM WHEELS FAIL, too.

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You cannot spend your way out of this inescapable fact. Lighter weight aluminum wheels used for racing see higher loads (from both racing tires & brakes) and more impacts (FIA curbs, offs) so they tend to have a shorter lifespan than heavier, OEM aluminum wheels used only on the street. When we brag about losing 5-10 pounds per corner after fitting wider racing wheels, we do so knowing that this will likely shorten the life of the lighter racing wheel vs the heavy/narrower OEM wheels.


If we didn't care about weight we could use heavier aluminum wheels, or even wheels made of titanium or steel, and see a longer lifespan. These two unusual metal alloys for wheels have higher fatigue or endurance limits than aluminum alloys. In certain cases, titanium and steel can have an infinite endurance limit. These are the only two metals where this applies, and only when the loads never exceed a certain level (the flat line in the graph above). I learned about this curious characteristic of steel and titanium when getting my engineering degree, but you can learn more here.

Our GRM Challenge E30 V8 car used a steel 15x10" wheel for costs reasons

OEMs have used steel wheels on automobiles and trucks for nearly 100 years, due to their low costs, ease of manufacture, and very long lifespans. If they are made to resist corrosion, and designed so that the loads stay below their endurance limit, they could last forever. Yes, these metals can be built to withstand an infinite number of cycles.

Why don't we see more Titanium or Steel racing wheels? Well for one, Titanium is very hard to produce (costly), weld, and even cast. Steel is cheap to produce and welds easily (most steel wheels are welded), but it corrodes badly (has to be 100% painted or plated), and has triple the density of aluminum. Aluminum alloys are lighter and have half the bending strength of steel, so for the same weight wheel they are actually stronger (1/3 the density but 1/2 the bending strength). And aluminum is easy to cast (1300°F melting point vs 2900°F), can be heat treated to improve strength further, and resist corrosion in raw form. Magnesium is even less dense than aluminum, and can have a higher strength-to-weight ratio, but this material is VERY hard to weld and can burn at very high temperatures in a fire. Magnesium can even burn under water...

I have purchased steel race wheels for exactly one race car in the past 3 decades, and that was done simply for cost reasons. The set of inexpensive 15x10" steel Aero Racing Wheels (chrome plated wheels shown above) came from the world of circle track racers, where there are options for all budget levels.

This GRM Challenge BMW was also built around a wider and larger diameter, yet lighter, 18x11" CCW 3-piece aluminum wheel

We built our entire "GRM $2010 Challenge" race car around this $200 set of wheels, but also had a set of proper 18x11" 3-piece aluminum CCW wheels. We put the 18" wheels on for testing and NASA TT use, and then these went on for good after the 2010 and 2011 GRM events were completed. The steelies were heavier but they were made as light as any steel racing wheel gets, and they still bend somewhat easily. If steel wheels are built to last a long time, like most OEM steel wheels, they become pretty heavy.

Carbon Shelby GT350R 19×11 front wheel ($4,174.93 each) and 19×11.5 rear wheels ($3,536.33 each) ain't cheap!

And before you say "What about carbon fiber wheels?!" there are several downsides to that material for wheel use. First is cost - the prices above are for an OEM carbon wheel made in large volumes. We recently weighed the carbon wheel and tire combo from a Shelby GT350R, and they were still slightlyheavier than our typical S550 Mustang aluminum racing wheel and tire offerings. The costs are more than 10 times as much, too. This 20x10.5" set of carbon GTR wheels is $15,760 and they aren't much lighter, either. So for now, until there is a big shift in material technologies, we're in an aluminum wheel world....

Does your car have R-compounds or racing slicks? Lots of aero load? Your wheels have a lower lifespan

We have been using and abusing Forgestar wheels since 2012, as well as D-Force (since 2007), Enkei (since long before that), CCW and other brands. We have beat on the Forgestar wheels mercilessly, using them with big aero and 345mm Hoosier A7 levels of grip, and have only seen 2 failures on Forgestar wheels - once when my wife side-swiped an FIA curb going sideways at 100 mph, and the other when I crashed at 155mph in the Mustang above. In both cases the wheel deformed properly and soaked up large amounts of force before seeing permanent plastic deformation.

Do you use the curbing? Go off track a lot? Your wheels have a lower lifespan

The only time we tend to see multiple spoke fractures (aka: complete wheel failure) on any brand of aluminum wheel is when a user woefully ignores the signs of age, abuse and wear on their wheels. We have seen similar failures on virtually any brand of wheel you can name. If you dig deep enough, there is usually a root cause for each failure, too.

Inspecting your wheels for fatigue cracks keeps you from having a catastrophic wheel failure. This one looks perfect

Fatigue cracks in spokes always seem to show up before the wheel fails. The signs are still visible AFTER failure, if the wheels are inspected properly. The "age" of a crack is evidenced by the discoloration of corrosion (the thin aluminum oxide layer that forms on raw aluminum exposed to water and oxygen) on the surface of the break. When old cracks are ignored, they propagate over time and lead to complete spoke failure. Once one spoke goes the rest soon follow, sometimes within just minutes of use. I have walked the pits and more than once pointed out a broken wheel spoke to racers in the past - its an easy thing to overlook. A total wheel failure is not a fun thing to see the results of on a race car, either.


Luckily in 29 years of racing I have not had a wheel failure, but that's probably because I always WASH AND INSPECT MY WHEELS BEFORE EVERY RACE.  I have caught fatigue cracks in spokes on several sets of wheels before they failed (not a Forgestar set, yet). I'm also not in the habit of jumping curbs, crashing through the infield, or ignores what these higher impact loads are doing to my wheels.

Just please take this advice to heart - no matter what wheel brand of wheel you use, please: remove, wash and inspect your race wheels regularly. Just like you inspect the brake pad depth, rotor condition, fluid levels/condition, and the other critical systems on your car before every outing, do the same for your wheels.

Also please don't be fooled by troll posts, internet pictures with no background, and fanboi hype - NO brand of aluminum race wheels is immune to fatigue limits or crash impacts, and nothing is going to last forever. Clean and inspect your wheels regularly, with your focus on the INSIDE of the wheel spokes, near their junctions to the hubs and barrel. Stay one step ahead of the fatigue life of your wheels, knowing that they have a finite lifespan and are a consumable product on all racing cars. Buying used wheels is a total crap shoot, for this very reason. If you see a crack in any wheel, DESTROY at least one spoke completely and THROW THE WHEEL AWAY, so nobody rummages through your metal recycle pile to re-use a failed wheel.


OK, I will put my soap box away now. ;) One other small upgrade that was done at the same time as the MCS install was to custom fabricate and aluminum dead pedal shown above. It was needed. Why? We had been bracing ourselves into the seat (no harnesses yet) under braking during the first 3 events and the cracked plastic OEM piece had simply shattered. It was gone, but we still needed a place to push back into the seat.  


Yes, this method of dead pedal "pushback" is a janky as hell, and no replacement for proper 6-point racing harnesses that hold your body into the racing seat under braking properly. Again, we are always strapped for time on our own race cars. "Do what I say, not what I do."


While I do recommend OEM 3-point retractable seatbelts be used on the street with a fixed back racing seat, you should have 5-, 6- or 7-point FIA approved racing harnesses installed for track use with race seats. But if you are in a pinch and have to use a 3-point OEM belt on a racing seat, please route the belts as shown above (through the lap belt openings). This puts the load of the lap belt onto the hip bones and not higher, digging into your abdomen and the soft bits in an impact.

This is why 4-point harnesses are no longer allowed in HPDE - they ride up into your gut!

What we have in our 330 now (3-point OEM belts and racing seats) Its not ideal, but it is better than the stock seats. We will add proper 6-point Schroth harnesses soon, but for now this is the safest alternative. Its a damn sight better on track than the OEM seats, or the 4-point belts I see people try to use - like the image above. Names have been changed to protect the innocent...

4 point roll bar added to our 99 328i E46 sedan. We will do something more substantial in the 330

We installed this Kirk 4-point roll bar above into our 1999 E46 328i sedan we are building for a "track rat". That 4-point bar fits well, and makes for a great place to hang harnesses as well as proving rollover protection. Still, I would rather see our crew build something more substantial for our "daily driven track car" E46 330. The time it takes to build a cage (60+ hours) just hasn't been available to tackle this all summer, so we're "riding dirty" with one racing seat and the OEM belts on the 330 for now.

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NASA AT TWS (CCW) APRIL 23-24, 2016

I've raced in 12 events in 8 different cars since my last post in this thread, and its difficult for me to keep track of them all. Normally I take audio notes after each event, plus capture hundreds of pictures and videos that are recorded, edited, sorted, and stored on our smugmug site after each event. So I am going back now to April to cover the NASA event... and my audio notes are missing.


That means I am gonna wing it 6 months later. This ended up being THE worst finish I've ever had in 11 years of NASA TT racing, so these were not fond memories. We share the good with the bad here, and I learned some lessons that I won't soon forget. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.


Event picture and video gallery:

After taking the TTC classed Corvette to the paint shop for a total respray inside and out, both Amy and I had to share driving duties the BMW 330Ci for this NASA race weekend. At least we could use the enclosed trailer to haul the BMW down, instead of Amy driving it the 3+ hours to College Station, TX, on the street tires.

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The weather was nice and we were told this was the "Last Ever" TWS race weekend with NASA, but we had heard that several times before. It seems like this facility might not be getting demolished and turned into hundreds of homes like the track owners keep speculating - they keep opening up event scheduling, 6 months at a time.

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We arrived at the track late on Friday afternoon, which meant all of the paved paddock spaces were long gone. These multiple "last ever" event announcements do bring out the racers, and 250+ HPDE, TT and W2W competitors arrived to try to set the "final" class lap records for this track. We were set to run the 2.9 mile road course Counter Clock Wise (and would do so again in October, when yet another "last ever" date opened up for NASA).

We parked the trailer "on the beach", a sandy section underneath the 48 year old TWS sign - a sign that looks like at any moment it is going to fall down (time has taken its toll on some of the facilities here). Driving only one car meant I could concentrate more on the TTD E46, but that didn't help much with the times I saw.

This event had a remarkable turnout overall, and even TTD class had 6 cars entered, most of whom signed up just days before the event. That gave me false hopes of maybe winning some tires in TTD - boy was I wrong!

Amy running the 330 in HPDE 3/4 group, which was also very crowded

We had 49 cars run in the TT run group this weekend, which made for some serious traffic on track. I ran first in the Saturday "TT warm up" (where times don't count for anything but grid positioning in the next session) and I was slow as hell. My best time was dead last of all of the TTD cars with a 2:05.824. Vinnie was here in his TTD FR-S and was a full second ahead of me, and several TTD Miatas were in the 2:01 to 2:04 range. This was the beginning of a rough weekend and I gridded up for the first timed TT session in 32nd place. What the hell?!


Being that far back meant that I fought with traffic all day - as I've said before, its harder to get a clear lap in a slow car. In three sessions I could only find about a second and ended up with a 2:04.743 best after 4 sessions. Maybe this car is just too heavy and under-powered for this FAST track layout like TWS? I thought that I couldn't just "drive my way around" the lack of prep in this car, like we did at the MSR-H and MSR-C NASA events earlier. Didn't happen.

End of day Saturday TT results - click for higher rez

By the end of the day I was ranked 5th out of 6 in TTD and my best time was almost 6 seconds back from the class winner, who ran a 1:58.871 in a TTD Miata and smashed the old TTD track record of 2:01.3, set by one of our customer's TTD FR-S the year before. I can honestly say this is the worst beating I've ever taken in 11 years of racing with NASA Time Trial. I began to question the sanity of running this car and continuing development!


With Amy double-driving the car in HPDE3/4 I didn't have time to really look deeply into any obvious clues to the handling woes, and blamed it all on "lack of horsepower" and a new suspension setup. She was even further off my pace and kept complaining about a lack of grip. I told her that she was wrong, it had to be setup or power related. I adjusted the shock settings but never touched the tire pressures after they had been bled to "what we knew worked" after the first 2 sessions on track. We just kept the fuel level up, checked the oil and brake fluids, and kept the car on track for session after session.

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Amy was pushing it but the body roll was massive - the 330 needed bigger swaybars

So even with the big upgrade to MCS doubles and doubling the spring rate, I was fighting the car and slower relative to the competition. That should not be! I have re-watched some of my videos and the car was understeering on entry and oversteering on corner exit. Nothing made sense at the time. It was just.... garbage.


The car felt like it still had too much body roll, and after seeing the great mid-corner pictures taken by MohFlo (that we purchased) it is obvious that we badly did need the upgraded swaybars. But that didn't account for how slow the cornering speeds were or how badly the tires felt. I was missing something.


With the long front and back straights we were well into 5th gear but still getting passed by everything. I was short-shifting in all gears at 5000 rpms, because we still had not done the necessary SFI balancer and oil pump + oil pan mods that I knew from experience the M54 engine needed. I'll be damned if I scatter this motor while going this slowly. That extra 1000 rpms we were leaving on the table was hurting us, for sure. And we were still 150 pounds overweight for the class minimum, which also slowed us down.


Sunday was a new race and and I was determined to go faster. The first TT session on Sunday is almost always my fastest session of any NASA weekend and I hoped I will find a second or two and at least get closer to these TTD hot shoes...

Wrong. While the car was quickest all day in this first Sunday session, my time was a FULL SECOND SLOWER than Saturday's best with a 2:05.752 best. That's what I ran in the warm up, WTH?


I was disgusted with the car but kept trying to wring more out of it, yet I kept getting slower. My best time in TT session 2 was another two seconds slower, with a 2:07.594, yet I was pushing the car harder. I felt like I was wringing all of the time out, and sliding around like a wild man looking for grip. A quick glance at the front tires showed they still had usable tread life.

End of day Sunday TT results - click for higher rez

I was dead last in TTD on Sunday, as one of the Saturday entrants didn't run. After Amy went out and only took a few laps, I told her we had to park this mess and stop driving it, as the car's times were tanking. Bitterly disappointed in the performance. We had no place to jack the car up on all 4s to get a better look, so we put it in the trailer and decided to investigate this issue later.


We would have to get the car back to the shop to analyze what was slowing the car down the more we drove it. The power felt the same all weekend but the grip just kept falling off, especially at the rear.


Well duh.... the tires were completely shot!


These are the rear tires that came off after TWS. Not just worn a bit too far or maybe heat cycled out, but worn into the steel belts. Wow, I really goofed that up. The entire weekend was a waste of time because we violated the cardinal rule of racing: we showed up with junk tires!

They were worn across the tread pretty solid but moreso on the inside shoulders, which was really hard to see when the wheels are mounted to the car. That's no excuse, and yes I should have looked closer. We were parked on the beach, double-driving the car, and I was swamped with people coming by all weekend, so it was simply overlooked. I messed up.

This set of tires was new in January 2015, on our C4 Corvette...

I had neglected to track just how many days of racing we had put on this set of tires. This set had done 2 weekends on the TTC Corvette (pictured above when new) then 4 more weekends on this TTD BMW. But several of those TTD weekends had 2 drivers in the BMW, so let's add them up now.

NASA at MSR-Houston CW, Jan 17-18, 2015 - TTC Corvette (2 days)
NASA at MSR-Cresson, March 14-15, 2015 - TTC Corvette (2 days)
NASA at MSR-Houston (CW) Jan 23-24, 2016 (2 days + 2 drivers)
Texas Region SCCA Club Trials, MSR-Cresson, Jan 16, 2016 (1 day)
NASA at MSR-Cresson March 12-13, 2016 - TTD BMW (2 days + 2 drivers)
NASA at TWS (CCW) April 23-24, 2016 (2 days + 2 drivers)

That was a total of 19 days of track driving on the same set of R7s??? And probably 60-70 heat cycles. Damn, how did I miss that? That's way beyond what you can expect even the R7 compound Hoosier to last. These 245s were also a tad small for both the weight of the Corvette (3203 pounds) and the BMW (3285 pounds) they were run on, which increases tire wear further.


Of course we looked at the tires before this event, and they seemed visually to have enough tread depth left. Sure, I was worried that these tires might be getting heat-cycled out, but just didn't want to blow $1,200 for a fresh set before this April TWS weekend. Since so many were signed up I thought "Maybe I could win a set?" for once, ha! Instead we entered two drivers, wasted a weekend's worth of time and expenses only to be frustrated and slow, and scored my biggest loss in 11 years. Maybe I should have spent that $1200.



I have already run too long on this "brief update". How did it delve all the way into metallurgy?? Who knows. After the April event we skipped both of the next two NASA Texas weekends, including the May NOLA and June Hallett events. Just too damned busy at the shop to get to the required updates this car needed before we raced it again.


We did a lot of work over the Summer to the red 330 including an entirely new cooling system, repairing some minor leaks and rotted plastics throughout the engine bay. This work definitely avoided a potential disaster on track - some of the old plastic cooling lines were crumbling when removed.


We also added the much needed ATI balancer ($$) and VAC oil pump drive and oil pan baffle, so we could safely rev the engine past 5000 rpms. The Whiteline swaybars finally showed up and were installed. Then we took over 250 pounds out of the BMW, which was huge. We detail all of that in pictures, of course. And we finally sprung for a fresh set of R7 Hoosiers.


I'll talk about all of that and our triumphant return in the 330 return to TWS at the October NASA Texas event - where we "flipped the script" on the TTD class. Fresh tires make such a difference, but so does lowering weight, safely adding 1000 revs, and having a better suspension setup. We have a track test event at MSR Cresson scheduled in a couple of weeks (to get a baseline lap on the current setup at our preferred test track, before we add power) and if I get through that before writing the next installment I will include it as well.

Until next time,
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