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

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We need to feed high pressure cooling air to the backing plates, and that air comes from the front of the car. Since the customer did not want to switch to the E46 M3 nose - which has better brake inlet options - we re-used the OEM inlets in the lower grill.

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Again, the OEM setup has some brake ducting, but it just dumps air into the inner fender. We wanted to keep the forward inlet sections that seal to the front nose but re-route into hoses that run along the front swaybar. Above you can see where a "bite" was taken out of the OEM outlet, which puts cooling area "near" the hub area. As the tire turns it cuts off that supply, so we needed a re-route ahead of that point.

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The smooth plastic rectangular duct work from the factory also incorporates some of the inner fender liner. These are actually very well made, but the original bits from this car were long smashed and/or missing. So a pair of new ducts was purchased from BMW. These molded plastic parts have rubber flaps at the front to better seal to the bumper cover's rectangular openings.

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About a third of the back sections of these new ducts were cut off, then some aluminum oval tubing sections were fabricated, shaped, and riveted into the rectangular ducts at the rear - pointing them away from the fender liner and tire.

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The pictures above show the modified front inlet duct work installed, and the diverted section that normally cools the alternator (which seems a bit silly) was blocked off to force all of the air into the brakes. The 3" high temp hose was slid over the rear...

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The hoses were secured with 3" worm gear clamps and the brake cooling was complete. Doesn't look impressive externally, since the front inlets are stock, but it definitely pushes some air through the rotors and keeps the brakes and front hubs cooler. This front duct work was so customized it is not likely that we will make production "inlet duct kit", but maybe some E46 owners will see what we did and make their own home brew versions.


The Forgestar F14 17x10" wheels and tires + the HARD Motorsport flares really wake up the look of this car, and the added grip will definitely be felt on track. We got a final weight with all of the work completed and were pretty happy with the results.
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The before and after pictures say a lot there. This car is now 344 pounds lighter yet is still street legal, emissions complaint, has functional air conditioning and heat, lights and wipers, and all of the factory glass. The wheels are all 2" wider than stock, suspension is much firmer, brakes are bigger and cooled, oiling system upgraded, and tons of deferred maintenance has been completed.

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Jon cut a little vinyl per the customer's request and Brad got it all cleaned up. I'm happy with the finished results, as we took a rather plebeian 328i and turned it into a lighter, more nimble, better stopping track car that can still be street driven.


The customer has since wrapped the roof (which hides the carbon delete panel fairly well), added the factory undertray bits, plus a few other upgrades. This 328i has already seen several weekends of track use and the owner loves it. He can drive to the track with cold air blowing and the windows rolled up, then get there and let 'er rip. This ended up with more of a dedicated track car interior than what we had on our 330, and made for more of a "dual purpose" build than even our red car as well (we've now stopped street driving our TT4 car).


Earlier in 2017 I picked up a "problem child" E46 coupe from a former customer who was just tired of dealing with maintenance issues. We used to be his shop of preference back in 2011-13, but when our shop moved from North to South Plano the distance just got too great and he stopped coming to us for service. He ended up getting the run around from a "normal repair shop", the type of place where they mark up the parts 500% and charge way too much for service work. Repairs bills with $800 starter replacements started wearing him down.

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That kind of repair bill terrorism sucks, and I felt bad for the guy. When this car was under our care we took good care of it, and even upgraded the stock wheels to 17x8.5" D-Force wheels, replaced the A-, B-, and C-pillar interior panels, and did all sorts of maintenance. We have since steered away from doing "basic maintenance work", because unless you are willing to rip people off its a tough business to make money in. Now we do more track prep, suspension, chassis, safety, and fabrication work - which still doesn't make any money, but at least it is fun! :D

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So back in the spring he called me and said he wanted to unload it. His kid had kind of driven the car hard and it wasn't nearly as pretty as it was when we last saw it, 3 years earlier. It ran very rough, had a bent wheel, and needed many repairs. I bought it and hauled to the shop to get it cleaned up and running better.

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Facebook just reminded me today that eight years ago I bought my first E46 (actually two on the same day). At this point I've stopped counting the E46 cars that have "followed me home", but they always leave our care in better shape then when we got them. That silver 328i above was transformed, and even Jack Daniels left cleaner and better running than before. Well this black 325 was barely running with a massive intake leak, plus that bent wheel. I figured this one would be an easy fix. Of course I was wrong!


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The M54 family of engines has a "dual tract" intake manifold, with a "DISA" valve after the throttle body. This valve switches between a long and even longer set of runners on the intake manifold. These valves are notorious for sticking and worse - falling apart and being ingested inside the engine. This one was literally falling apart, and luckily hadn't been eaten yet. It was leaking badly at the mount on the manifold, which is why it ran so poorly.

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We learned that the M54B30 DISA valve we had from another 330 motor doesn't fit the smaller 2.5L M54B25, so it was time to rebuild the original DISA unit in this car. Like always I ordered the repair/upgrade kit from German Auto Solutions (I am not a dealer nor do I have any affiliation with them), shown above. This replaces a bunch of janky plastic parts with stronger, machined parts made from better materials for about $75. These are the features right from their website:

  • The plastic flapper valve has been replaced with a black anodized & stress relieved 6061-T6 aluminum flapper valve that is twice as strong and many times less brittle than the stock part it replaces.
  • The plastic crank lever has been replaced with a black anodized 6061-T6 aluminum bell crank lever that is four times stronger than the stock part it replaces.
  • The flapper valve and lever lock together on a precision machined hex shaped taper & are screwed together, instead of just snapped together like the original design. Locking the parts together prevents any possible movement and wear between the two pieces, the #1 cause of failure in the stock design.
  • The parts are securely locked together by a custom, light weight, titanium pivot screw that's held captive from outside the housing. The titanium pivot screw also replaces the stock steel pin of the original design. Since the pin is part of the pivot screw, and the pivot screw is held captive from outside the DISA housing, there is no longer a possibility of a steel pin coming loose and getting sucked into the engine

We do this upgrade on virtually all M54 cars we build to race or to street drive. For $75 in parts you can prevent catastrophic engine failure, and in this case make the car run 1000 times better. This should be on the list for ALL E46 CARS PURCHASED.

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These new parts + an upgraded Viton O-ring (also from GAS) were installed into the old DISA valve then it went back into the intake. And it ran smooth as glass! The wheel was repaired and looks as good as new, too. Still had some leaks to fix...


I want to make this slushbox equipped E46 coupe into a nice, reliable, smooth riding commuter car for my wife. Her commute is pretty crappy and has a lot of stop and go traffic, so the automatic might be a nice change from her normal manually shifted cars. So to keep it simple we're NOT upgrading the brakes, suspension, or engine beyond new stock parts.

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This engine has the normal leaks and the first place we often look is the valve cover gasket. Sure enough this rubber gasket had turned into a brick, cracked, and was leaking badly.

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With a new gasket, spark plugs and some engine bay pressure washing once it was buttoned up the engine was now leaking much less. We're keeping an eye on the now clean engine looking for additional leaks to tackle, but for now its a whole lot better. Some vacuum lines were also replaced at the same time.


The old battery was a massive lead acid unit, which was very old and was not holding a charge. This poor car sat at our shop for 2 months waiting for a break in the schedule and was driven out of the shop and back in every day, so that didn't help the battery's life. This new Bosch unit is the same size as the OEM battery and tips the scales at 47.2 pounds!

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The suspension was pretty tired, not necessarily from the miles (160K) but the age and use (it was 100% part of a daily driver grind). So new OEM replacement control arms, LCA bushings, inner and outer tie rods, swabar end links, top mounts and drivetrain mounts were ordered. The old ball joints and bushings on the control arms were hammered, but the new bits fix all of that. Normally I will always go to Powerflex 2-piece LCA bushings at the very least, but this time I went with stock. Should ride smooth like butter!

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The stock motor mounts (see old vs new, above left) and strut top mounts (also old vs new, above right) were both worn and "shrunken" over time. This is what happens to rubber after 13+ years - and we went back with stock bits on these parts as well. Rare for me, but we have ZERO delusions of this car ever seeing track use.

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The rear brakes looked fine but the front rotors and pads were done, so those got replaced with Centric Premium rotors and Centric branded ceramic "ultra-quiet" something-or-other pads.


Brad pressure washed the aluminum chassis brace (which was covered in oil) and then wrapped up the front suspension repairs. This shot is without the plastic front undertray installed (its still intact on this car). We took the car home after this round of work and... the transmission started slipping badly after about 30 miles of driving. First automatic E46 I've ever bought and of course its bad! Since I have a low mileage GM E46 trans laying around, of course this car has the ZF automatic - which has outrageous rebuild prices ($2000-4000, ha!) I will talk about that issue and subsequent repairs next time.

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You made it through the work on the silver 328 and the stock black 325 above, so now we finally get to talk about the red 330! Last time we covered a ton of work to the front of the car - new bumper beam, M3 bumper cover, inlet ducts, brake backing plates, splitter, air dam and tire walls. We took it to MSR-Houston and.... had a massive aero imbalance. All front df, no back aero, not hard to imagine, right? What would fix this aero imbalance - nothing less than a massive rear wing.

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We were out of points for TTD mods, thanks to the re-write of the base classing in 2016, otherwise we would have done this full aero build TWO YEARS AGO and been much faster this whole time. Since TTD goes away next year, we were way ahead of the season long 2017 regional TTD championship back in June, and since no TT cars got points at MSR-H due to timer issues, we had a lock on the regional TTD class championship. So we decided to test the waters in next year's class early - TT4.

There were a few small repairs and updates needed but the bulk of this work was all about the rear wing.


We started out by replacing the front windshield, which had a massive crack in it on the passenger side, which was growing.

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Since we no longer had plans to ever street drive this car we could get the less costly, thinner glass windshield without the "Rain Sensor". $130 installed, no more crack, no more pitting, perfect.


The wobble on the top of the radiator on this 330 (which has allowed the coolant reservoir to rock back into the power steering pulley) was finally traced (by looking at some other E46 models) to some missing upper rubber bushings that were never on this car when we bought it. These screw down into the top of the stock radiator and keep it in place. The spots they would be are now where we have the pins mounted for the AeroCatch latches for the hood, so we cannot just add those rubber knobs back.


So I asked Aaron to make these aluminum brackets (just inboard of the hood pins, above) that bolt to the radiator support and "capture" the trailing edge of the top of the Mishimoto and keep it from moving. Some rubber pads keep the aluminum bracket from wearing through the radiator - we'd see how this worked at NOLA. I brought a spare coolant reservoir with us just in case.


We had read the TT4 aero rules very carefully a few weeks earlier and had ordered an AJ Hartman Aero carbon fiber wing element to fit the limit of the class - which can be as wide as "the maximum width of the car" and placed "no more than 8 inches above the roof line".

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There are no other wing element or mounting limitations. We measured the stock bodied 2003 325Ci Coupe width at 69" at the rear fender lips (we have to ignore the side mirrors), then ordered the 14" chord wing at 68-1/2" wide, to have a bit of margin for measuring error. Now it was time to make uprights using the basic shape and height of the E46 Chainsaw Massacre build's wing.

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Ryan had fabricated the uprights for the M3 by hand, and it took a big chunk of time to make all of those interior cuts. This time I asked Aaron to make the set for my 330, and we worked with Jason to simplify the trunk mounting points and removed the extended lower bumper beam section. We moved the wing forward a hair but kept the same basic height. The first mock-up were made in fiber board, shown above.

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After I sketched what I wanted changed from the mock-up he was able to get that into CAD, make some CNC plasma cut uprights, and incorporated a slot-and-key feature I wanted with some load spreading mounting plates. These four slotted mounting plates self-jigged into the keys of the uprights to make fabrication easier and more repeatable.

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This worked perfectly and the mounting plates were tack welded to the uprights on the car. These were then removed and finish TIG welded on the bench, with a good bit of heat. The mounting holes were countersunk and flush mounted hardware was used to secure them to the trunk from the inside.

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This was all designed in up front but to verify legality we moved the wing to maximum Angle of Attack (AoA) before stall (12°) and using a level from the rear of the wing and an 8" tall box on the top of the roof, we were within the limit of the rules. We set the AoA to 6° based on some calculations and speculations as to the effective downforce of the front splitter. We could dial the rear wing to balance the front at the track soon.


The wide angle lens makes this wing look much bigger than the car, but it is in fact 1/2" narrower than the stock fender lips, and well within the limits of the class. The end plates were direct copies of the somewhat subdued units from the V8 M3, and also well within the limits of TT4 class rules.


Moving to TT4 means we would be massively overweight with the power we currently have (210 whp avg, or 216 whp peak) for TTD - hell, we were 30 whp down for TTD, but had no more points for upgrades in that class. Until we do something drastic we could at least ditch some weight. 115 pounds of ballast in the trunk was easy, but after that would start to get more difficult.

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I have been wanting to ditch the stock steering wheel and airbag for some time, and now that there's no more street use it is appropriate to upgrade this. The weights above aren't super high but removing an explosive device from in front of my face is always a win.

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For this car I chose a Sparco L360 (Ring) Steering Wheel, which has a black suede cover and comes in 330mm diameter. Sparco's hub adapters are hit or miss and for the E46 I prefer the MOMO 6-bolt Steering wheel hub adapter, part #2012. This allows any 6-bolt 70mm PCD steering wheel to bolt to the E46 steering column AND keep the horn. Even though it doesn't see street use, having a functional horn has kept my cars from being backed into on grid more than once. Keep the horn!

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There are airbags in each side door, so those two 1.6 pound "potential bombs" were also removed. I lost some pictures, including getting the 13.3 pound weights of the OEM door panels, with speakers. We were replacing the panels with low profile, thermoplastic formed racing door panels from HARD Motorsport (3.0 pounds each).

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Mounting these is done with rivnuts added to the door, then what look like 3D printed plastic stand-offs screwed into those threaded holes. Then the door panels is fitted a bit and bolted in place.

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Brad traced the custom mounting panels from the V8 M3 to make another set for the driver's door on this 330. This panel mounts the factory power mirror controls, so those can still work. This bolts in place of the little tweeter speaker.


There is a mount for a pull strap which passes through a slot in the door panel. The passenger door kept the little speaker in place for now, but we might go back and make a blanking plate for that side later. We briefly thought about yanking ALL of the carpet and foam backing, which probably still adds 70 pounds to the car, but I decided to hold back - for now.


So last time I pointed out that "anything can be called a canard" since the NASA ST/TT rules do not define what a canard is. So the "tire wall" we built last time, which absolutely does not create downforce, was called a canard... which isn't allowed in TT4. Instead of forcing the issue with a protest against myself at NOLA we looked at this a little harder, Jason and I read the air dam rules and figured we could easily make that taller here and cover up all of the tire wall extension at the somewhat incomplete fender flare. This would have less aero drag and be completely legal. This is what we call a "win-win".

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A small bracket was added at the base of the outer edges of the splitter and then a piece of plastic "race roll" was riveted in place, covering the tire wall and looking nothing like a canard. It's all covered up by a 100% legal air dam extension.

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I also asked Aaron to trace a line showing the "projected outline" of the legal M3 bumper cover, which the TT4 rules reference 2 times in the aero rule section. This way its easy to see where the 4" splitter extension was measured from.



With 1/2 tank of fuel the car now sits at 2942 pounds (as shown above) and 3154 pounds with driver, gear and helmet. We had the car sitting at 3290 pounds with driver and the same fuel load for the previous NASA event (on a 3285 pound minimum), so the ballast removed from the trunk and the weight savings in the interior lost 136 pounds from our previous TTD setup. Still, we were VERY heavy for TT4 - minimum weight for our current power (210 whp avg) would be 2520 pounds with driver, which we could not hope to get to without MASSIVE amounts of cutting and carbon composites. This meant we were a staggering 634 pounds overweight for TT4 at the next event... not a good deficit to try to overcome. Of course we will be adding power and not trying to find 634 pounds of weight loss for our future TT4 build, so you can also say we were down 90 whp. I felt this deficit was so insurmountable that we'd be lucky to avoid LAST PLACE in class, and we had 5 signed up for NOLA.

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Wow, 634 pounds overweight is massive, and as we loaded up and my head hung pretty low. Jon cut some vinyl and replace the "D" letters with "4" numbers. The 2-piece ramps plus the flip down door on the trailer made loading pretty easy, just as long you approach the end of the ramp carefully. Its still easier to load than the TT3 Mustang, that's for sure!

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I'm sharing the TT4 classing sheet above with optimistic weight numbers of 2600 pounds - I could have put 2542 minimum, but inflated them a hair for "margin", hehe.... Who cares since the car is 600+ pounds heavier than that! Same goes for power - I claimed 215 whp avg, when its really 210 avg. Not that we will get dyno'd, but I always try to leave some margin for error on the stated numbers.


We also kept the two sets of 17x10" wheels mounted with 245/40/17 Hoosier R7 tires we had leftover from previous events, even though we could have run a 275mm max width tire and more aggressive A7 compound for TT4. I didn't want to blow the $$ on new tires for one event when we were THIS OVERWEIGHT. I thought briefly about running a "slower class" like TTC (we'd still be hundreds of pounds heavy), but I really wanted to run a NASA event against the fastest TT4 cars in our area as-is. And for reasons that would later prove to be true, I feel that the TTC class cars are faster than their TT4 counter parts.

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NASA @ NOLA, OCT 27-29, 2017

We have not raced at NOLA Motorsports Park in 4 years, but we had a lot of fun the last time we ran with NASA here. We were eager to get back and Amy and I both planned to drive the 330 this weekend. It was SO MUCH FUN - we are both glad we went and vowed to make at least one NOLA event per year in the future!


We completed this round of "TT4 prep" on Wednesday so we got on the road Thursday morning to make the 512 mile trek from north Dallas down to New Orleans to run at our final NASA weekend of 2017. We spent the entire day driving the 9-1/2 hours through Texas and Louisiana, got caught in some traffic around Baton Rouge, then rolled into NOLA right at dark. We unhooked the trailer, found a parts store to sell us DEF fluid for the diesel truck, went to the hotel, then found a local watering hole to get some good Cajun food.


Friday was an absolutely beautiful Fall weather day in the deep south. Sunny, light breeze, 70-80°F all day, just perfect. We arrived on time for the 8:30 drivers meeting for the test event we signed up for, where we hoped to re-learn this track we have only raced at once back in 2013. I was startled to see that the TT3 track record we set on the 2.75 mile course 4 years ago still hasn't been toppled (1:50.525), but I figured it would surely fall this weekend (it didn't).

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The test day was run by the track itself and cost a whopping $250, which is relatively high for this area (our last test day at MSR-Houston cost $75), but they do put on a good show and the track had nearly every corner station manned. They separated the entrants into 3 groups: W2W Race cars, Advanced + Intermediate HPDE, and Beginner HPDE. Since we don't have a full cage in this car that meant I would go out in the Adv/Int HPDE group. There would be five sessions for each group during the day and I ended up running four of them. There was no riders, coaches, or instructors allowed in the cars, plus Amy could not take a session in my place - $250 per person per day. Bummer, but I would be able to ride along with Amy on Saturday for some coaching.


We unloaded the BMW and set the tire pressures (27 psi cold) on the silver wheel set, which had the older scrubbed set of R7s mounted. We were planning to run this set Friday and switch to the gold wheels (fresher tires) for Sat-Sunday.

It was good to do this test day, being that I hadn't driven this track in 4 years. It slowly came back to me and I was able to adjust my lines to work with this "momentum car" vs the more powerful setup of the Mustang. We stayed with our existing shock settings, and the 6° AoA wing setting felt damn near perfect. We adjusted tire pressures and got them all about 32-33 psi hot, with a 1 psi bias for the fronts. This course is CW so most of the corners are right handers, which meant the right side tires needed higher initial pressures when cold.


There were some bumps that had formed since the last time I ran here which were noticeable in 3 corners: T5, T6, and T7 all have a pretty big dip in them - but good dampers make these non-issues. There's some "gator teeth" curbing that you drive over in a few spots (which you will hear in my in-car video), and some FIA inside curbing that you can drive over if you enter the corners at the right angle. There is also a concrete wall along the pit straight that you need to avoid (more on that below!) and some armco out near some corner stations that seem to be magnetic as well. Our group on Friday could pass on any of the 5 straight sections of track parallel to the pit straight.

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We figured out on this Friday test day that the M3 cluster's fuel gauge is "problematic". In my second session the car was fuel starving at "3/4 tank" gauge levels, which I knew was not right. So I went to the fuel pumps and... put nearly 3/4 of tank of fuel in the car? So it was reading high. After I filled it up it showed "Empty", WTF? So now I cannot trust the fuel gauge and we just started filling up after each session. We were using 3.0 gallons per 20 minute session, and I ran every lap of four sessions that day.

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The range of cars that show up in HPDE are all over the map, from commuters on street tires to Corvettes on Hoosiers to other TT racers testing. There were only about 20 cars in our Adv HPDE test group so traffic wasn't too bad and we quickly figured out that our little 330 was one of the faster cars running, so I started gridding as the first or second car out. The aero was really working. As my courage increased, so did my speeds through the high speed esses!

The exit of T16 was pretty different from 4 years earlier, as they had paved a huge swath of run off area that used to be grass. They put a bunch of gator teeth in this area to discourage people from tracking out there but they told us that was all within track limits up to the concrete wall. One S2000 found his way into that wall Friday, destroying the whole right side of the car - but they beat the fenders out and he ran Saturday and Sunday anyway. I started using more and more gator teeth on track out and kept finding time... but it was a dangerous game to play.

Lap times started in the 1:59 range and at the end of the day I was squeaking into the 1:57 range, still about 7 seconds slower than my old TT3 times, ugh. There weren't any published times all day Friday so I had no idea what any of my competition was running - just going off times from my AiM Solo, but those were pretty accurate 4 years ago (always within 0.1 sec of the AMB loop).


We wrapped up the last session and swapped to the gold wheel set (above) to get the car ready for TT on Saturday. Some weather was supposed to move in and drop some wind/cold/rain overnight, but many of the Texas racers were camping out at the track in tents and trailers.

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After swapping tires we noticed that they were wearing extremely well. The last set that wore badly was an old set from our TTC Corvette, which had some shoulder wear that was worsened on the 330. Lots of tire klag inside the wheel but otherwise this set is good for more testing. After we had the car prepped for Saturday we went to our hotel, got cleaned up, then met my nephew and niece (who both live in N.O.) at a French restaurant for a great dinner - and I got to meet my grand nephew for the first time. Cute kid.


We arrived at the track early for instructor's meeting, driver's meeting, and then a TT meeting. It rained pretty hard Friday night and was still wet and sprinkling on grid as we went out for our first TT session. We had a large number of TT cars but only about half of the folks made it to grid for the "TT Warm Up" session, and while I debated going I ended up driving the whole session. This "Warm-Up" would not count towards results (and being wet it wouldn't matter for times) but it would set the grid for the next session, so I went out on the bald R7s.


Turns out that this wet session was a total blast and I had one of the quicker times of the session, running a 2:06 lap, which was about 9 seconds slower than my best times Friday in the dry but the quickest TT4 time (again, wet times don't mean much). What's weirder than entering a corner at 115+ mph flat on the floor in the dry is doing the same thing in the wet! One of the guys who I passed in this session said the rear wing was throwing up a rooster tail of water 40' in the air, "I couldn't see a damn thing - but you left me pretty fast anyway!" I ran the whole session and vacuumed the track a bit. ;)

That wet session put me 3rd on grid for the dry-ish "TT Session 1", and I assumed we would fall way down the grid throughout the day - but that never really happened. The weather for this session was COLD (temps started in the 45°F range), with high winds that would just cut through and made you shiver. Amy waited until after lunch to go out in the 330 with the HPDE 3/4 group ("Its too cold!") but I was on track for every TT session that day. Throughout the day the track was drying out except in a few stubborn corners, so times were dropping.

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During that first dry TT session, my times immediately dipped into the high 1:56s, and the third TT session I ran a 1:56.599. And while I was hoping to not finish last, somehow I as shown in 2nd place? I only knew one of the TT4 guys, Dysen Pham (S2000), who is always the fastest TT4 car at NASA Texas events - and he comes to NOLA a lot and is fast here. There were also three BMW M3s in class, including an E36 with an S54 swap that held the track record.

In the 3rd session, "TT session 2", Dysen ran a 1:56.231 time but spun off track, hit some armco, broke his steering rack and had to come in on the flat bed. Since he did spin off track his times would be DSQ'd for that session. I ran a tick slower but the Race Hero readout and NASA results weren't posting right for the rest of the day - due to a wifi issue in the tower. That meant after the 2nd session we were completely in the dark. Frustrating, but I knew my AiM times at least. I figured one of the M3s would swoop in and destroy both of our times at some point.

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In the 4th and final TT session I was maybe sitting in 2nd or 3rd, wasn't really sure at that point, but I wanted to try to catch Dysen's time. I was pushing the car VERY hard, driving through the small puddles at the apexes of a few turns, using all the road and even a bit of curbing, but just couldn't find the time. The predictive lap timer showed a 1:55.8 lap more than once but I could never nail it down. I pushed hard for all 6 laps in this final Saturday session and on the VERY LAST LAP TT took all day I managed to get down to what I saw as a 1:56.3 lap on my AiM SOLO. I knew that wasn't faster than Dysen's best lap in his DSQ session - but what about his fastest lap from the previous one?

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I came into the pits after that session exhausted - I had ridden with my HPDE1 student in 3 sessions, took him for a ride in a HPDE4 session, rode in one session with Amy, and drove every lap on all four of my TT sessions that day (9 sessions). The cold weather sapped our energy as well.

We cleaned up, locked up but left the car out for the night with the windows up, then went to the awards banquet. They had some crazy good bar-b-q served up from a food truck outside and we went into the massive clubhouse to hear official results - which for once would be a total mystery. Did we finish 3rd? 2nd? Worse? Nobody knew.


Once we got our food we went upstairs in the clubhouse for the awards. The race director was reading off the TT results and lap times, and apparently he was looking at the wrong column (2nd best times). He read them in the right finish order, so there was some confusion. When he read off Dysen as 2nd and me as first for TT4, I was in shock - mostly because the times he read off were not our best. Turns out the official times had us a tenth of a second apart, with my 1:56.347 lap taking the win out of 5 in class vs Dysen's 1:56.441. That meant 2 Hoosiers, woo! I was loving that luck, but figured Sunday would be the inevitable TT4 blood bath. The S2000 mafia that swarms these events is pretty industrious and they tend to fix all manner of issues quickly. There was also rumor of a V6 swapped S2000 showing up to run TT4 on Sunday that Dysen would co-drive.

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Amy drove two sessions that day and had a blast, and the car did great. We had battery issues on the vidcam but did get my best lap Saturday, just none of my Sunday laps. I also had some issues with the shifter, on both up and down-shifts, that ruined a few of my best laps. We will address both of these things next season.


After sleeping for ten hours the night before (tired!) we woke up early, packed up the hotel room, and headed out Sunday morning to the track. The day started out a little warmer and the sun was out. More drivers and instructors meetings, then I worked on getting my student a check ride (he was more than ready for solo).

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It was still 47°F in our first session but the wind was down so it wasn't painfully cold. Most importantly the track was completely dry now and times started to drop. I was gridded P5 so I didn't have much traffic to deal with, which was a nice change. I was behind the two fast TTC cars and could keep them in sight. And while they both ultimately ran better times than TT4, you have to remember - TTC allows many things that TT4 does not, and these "dyno reclass" builds are going to be a thing of the past next year as TTC goes away. They have been fast all year, no doubt about it, but we will see if these TTC cars get faster - and by how much - next year when they all move to TT4 or TT5.

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That day I ran the first session hard and found a 1:55.975. Dysen's co-drive in the "S3200" (see above) never materialized - they had all sorts of issues on that car - but the owner did enter, ran at least one session, and made some 2:00 laps on street tires. Another M3 came in second but 3 of our entrants from Saturday dropped out, so we only had 3 cars in TT4 with times on the results sheet Sunday (so no Hoosier payouts).

I went out in the next session looking to run a lower 1:55 lap (a predictive 1:55.8 time popped up earlier) and I started getting greedy with the exit "gators" on T16. I would take it wider and wider out of this last turn before the pit straight to try to gain a tenth, but it wasn't working. I ran a string of 1:56.0 laps then I took T16 exit a bit too wide and clipped the tire wall with the side mirror - BANG! Damn thing popped right off the door mount, hanging from the wires, but did zero damage elsewhere on the car. Whew! I got lucky. I held the dangling mirror in my hand for the next lap of shame and came in...


Amy had seen and heard the whole thing from the bleachers at the exit of T16 - and she was none too pleased that I almost joined the "Wall of Champions" that had claimed other cars this weekend. I clipped the mirror wires, tossed the busted mirror into the trailer, then went right back out to take my nephew for a few laps in the next DE session. After that the car was all Amy's, and she did take another session that day, running her best lap of a 2:01.0 before we called it a day.

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By this point we had "found the time we were gonna find" and the ambient temps were climbing, while other TT cars slowed down or dropped out due to mechanical issues. One of the remaining TTC S2000s clipped another bit of armco and busted a wheel bearing. Another TTC S2000 broke their trans. Amy had dropped 10 seconds from her Saturday morning times and I found 2 seconds from my best Friday test time. My brush with the tire wall was enough of a warning to "not push my luck", plus we had an 8+ hour tow home and work the next day.

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We stuck around to watch the Blitz race group's last points race for the year, where our customer Jamie wrapped up first place the NASA Texas ST3 Championship - in his rookie year - which was pretty cool. He had "hit a gator" during the first race on Saturday and tore up the front end - but still finished the race. A bunch of us patched it up before the next race, which he went on to win and as well as the points race on Sunday (the car is at our shop now getting fixed up, better and prettier than before).


We watched the Race Hero live timing app on our way back to Dallas and the 3rd and 4th TT sessions on Sunday didn't throw us any curve balls, so we won on Sunday as well. With only 3 in class there were not contingency payouts from Hoosier, but just winning the 2 tires Saturday was a nice change. The Sunday win had half the class out, but it was still another win - which meant we went 10 for 10 TT first place finishes this season (8 in TTD and 2 in TT4).


Overall this was a great race weekend but there were some exceptions. Running with the NASA Texas group for 11 years now I have gotten used to things being done a certain way. Here are some of the things that jumped out at us.

The bad: There were a lot of incidents in various race groups, and some of the extractions took longer than they anticipated, which led to some delays. We had a lot of 20-30 minute delays sitting on grid after a 3 minute warning in TT. So the schedule was hit or miss. There was also some small level of disorganization - probably due the large number of Texas region folks that came to this "dual region" event. All of the W2W racers were jammed into two groups so they complained of traffic, but that's not my group. Long drive down on some fairly crappy roads, but it was all still well worth the trip.

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The good: The food at the banquet was excellent, and the clubhouse, track, and facilities were top notch. Everyone from NOLA was friendly and welcoming. There were autocrosses going on both days on parking lots within the facility, and some of the TT folks did some karting Saturday night, too. We had no traffic problems on track in TT this weekend, due to gridding so well Saturday and the car just being faster.


Our 330 was sitting from 3rd to 6th on grid all weekend, which was a nice change. We beat the ST4 track record time but I was 1.2 sec off the TT4 record time, but we did outpace the car and driver that set that record earlier this year. Dysen had run a 1:51.2 in TTB last year but seemed to have slowed down in TT4 trim (just like I think how some of the other "letter class" cars might slow down in "number class" trim). Compared to the TT3 record our TT4 time was too far back, and the TTC record was smashed this weekend, but comparing to C isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. Jamie set the ST3 track record in his last lap of his last race, where he found a bunch of time in the high speed esses (his car has aero).


The 330 definitely picked up a good bit of time with the added aero, which makes me think that next year we might be more competitive - with less weight, more tire and a lot more power. We shall see - I'm excited to to find out!


I've got a track test scheduled at MSR-Cresson for this car in about a week, so we'll see how much time the car picked up at our regular test track from our last set of laps there, again on the 245mm R7 tires. We have a major round of "power upgrades" scheduled for our winter break, and the preliminary 2018 NASA Texas Schedule is posted:
  • January 27-28 – Season Opener – MSR Houston
  • March 10-11 – March Madness – MSR Cresson
  • May 4-6 - NASA at COTA!
  • June 9-10 – Summer Shootout – Hallett
  • September 13-16 - NASA National Championship - COTA!
  • October 27-29 – Crossover event at NOLA Motorsports Park

There might be another event or two added in the next month, too. Hopefully we will have completed the TT4 power mods by then, but there's not much of a break before 2018 season starts. We're back at it before you know it!

Until next time,

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Hey Terry - How are TTC guy's faster than TT4? Seems like it should be the other way around.  Your minimum weight is 2600lbs in TT4? Also, I told you about those wide exits leading to the tire wall :-( 

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Finally made it through this thread, thanks for sharing!  Really enjoy the insights, as well as the background into the NASA TT regulations as I would eventually like to get into that.  Any chance of posting the builds on the Corvette and the FR-S?

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Hey Terry - How are TTC guy's faster than TT4? Seems like it should be the other way around.  Your minimum weight is 2600lbs in TT4? Also, I told you about those wide exits leading to the tire wall :-( 


Well we have some REALLY fast TTC drivers in our region. There seemed to be a big bump in TTC performance with the dyno-reclass of the S2000. I cannot explain it better than that, sorry.




And 2600 pounds was really just a "Safe" weight number - our real minimum weight for TT4 in this car was 2539 pounds with 12.09:1 weight-to-power limit and 210 whp average (see above). I just wrote 2600 on the window as it was way lower than we were at the time (3175 with driver and minimal fuel) and still above the theoretical minimum.


Finally made it through this thread, thanks for sharing!  Really enjoy the insights, as well as the background into the NASA TT regulations as I would eventually like to get into that.  Any chance of posting the builds on the Corvette and the FR-S?




The C4 Corvette was built for TTC class, which just went away - and that car will be sold soon (hopefully) for W2W/WRL use. We have been working on it here to get it ready for its new role. Its a fairly short thread, so I guess we can add that one.




Or did you mean my C6 development thread / race car build? That was launched just back in July. We've been working on that quietly behind the scenes as well. Goals of "around 2600 pounds" and "over 900 hp", so it should be a fun track build. :) Weight above is with the full transaxle, torque tube, heavy OEM wheels and brakes.




The BRZ/FR-S development thread (which encompasses our current FR-S) spans back all the way to 2013, but I will put it on the list to port over soon.

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Well we have some REALLY fast TTC drivers in our region. There seemed to be a big bump in TTC performance with the dyno-reclass of the S2000. I cannot explain it better than that, sorry.




And 2600 pounds was really just a "Safe" weight number - our real minimum weight for TT4 in this car was 2539 pounds with 12.09:1 weight-to-power limit and 210 whp average (see above). I just wrote 2600 on the window as it was way lower than we were at the time (3175 with driver and minimal fuel) and still above the theoretical minimum.





The C4 Corvette was built for TTC class, which just went away - and that car will be sold soon (hopefully) for W2W/WRL use. We have been working on it here to get it ready for its new role. Its a fairly short thread, so I guess we can add that one.




Or did you mean my C6 development thread / race car build? That was launched just back in July. We've been working on that quietly behind the scenes as well. Goals of "around 2600 pounds" and "over 900 hp", so it should be a fun track build. :) Weight above is with the full transaxle, torque tube, heavy OEM wheels and brakes.




The BRZ/FR-S development thread (which encompasses our current FR-S) spans back all the way to 2013, but I will put it on the list to port over soon.


I made my way over to your site and forums and found the build threads for the Corvette and FR-S, really curious to see updates on the FR-S especially, but really enjoyed those as well.  Keep up the good work! 

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I made my way over to your site and forums and found the build threads for the Corvette and FR-S, really curious to see updates on the FR-S especially, but really enjoyed those as well.  Keep up the good work! 


I've been writing an update on the FR-S over the past holiday weekend, testing a new suspension (below) on the 86 on Jan 13th at MSR-C with Apex.




Will publish it before then. Might port that 86 development thread here, too.

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Project update for October 15th, 2018: Somehow 11 months zoomed by without an update to this E46 BMW development thread. I kept meaning to post something, but things were moving pretty fast this year, and lots of things kept me from writing this until now. Some rules changes enacted because of our latest modifications ruined our 2018 TT4 plans for our red 330.

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So far 2018 has been a busy and tough year, for me and the business, but some long term plans appear to be heading towards the goals we set. We bought land, built a brand new shop, moved the business in a short period. I also bought a new for development + NASA TT (the 2018 Mustang GT, shown above), but also bought some more E46 chassis as well. New equipment at the new shop gives us some more capabilities, and we had some staff changes.


My red 330 "Fireball" coupe (above) went through some cosmetic changes over the 2017 winter. This car won the NASA Texas Regional TTD championship for 2017 (by a huge margin), and we had moved to TT4 late in the season. While paint work was underway last winter, a big batch of rules changes came down that made all of our TT4 prep work illegal. Since I have to change up my personal cars regularly, to be able to develop new parts, the red 330 was sold this past Spring. I already miss that car...

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Left: Widebody/carbon door/carbon roof E46 coupe I bought (V8 build). Right: My slick top 2001 330Ci (SE46 build)

Do not fret - we have a half dozen new E46 chassis coming in for various work, and some of those will be complete race cars we build for future customers. Long ago this forum thread outgrew our initial TTD E46 build (Jack Daniels) and since then we have shown various E46 BMWs that we have built, worked on, or raced. Some new E46s have been purchased this year, including the widebody E46 coupe shown above left, which already has carbon doors + roof and a big set of flares on it already. We have some nasty plans for that, plus other plans fpr the slick top white 330 Coupe, and possibly a Z4 (which has E46 bones) as well.



Let's pick up where the red 330 left off, 3 weeks after the wins at NOLA in late October 2017. The car was working well so on a cold and WINDY Saturday member day, Amy and I took the car to MSR. We had just swapped out the OEM mirrors for some cheap E36 M3 style side mirrors, to replace the one I busted at NOLA (read about that work below). That was the only change from the last round of work.

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Event pics:

My hope was to reset our best lap in this car on the 1.7 mile MSR-C CCW course. I had ran a best of a 1:23.789 back in March at the NASA event, in TTD trim, with zero aero. That day had nearly perfect conditions, and I had two days / 8 sessions to set that best lap of the weekend (and set the TTD record). We hadn't run at MSR since March, and never here with the TT4 aero. This is a track that normally responds well to aero downforce so I had high hopes.


I went out early and had a relatively clear track. But it was very windy - and I think that was what was upsetting the car in some corners, badly. There were head winds, tail winds, but mostly cross winds. This made the car a real bear to drive and it felt like the "full tilt aero" wasn't helping me that day. Unpredictable, changed through the corners, etc. Bitterly cold with the winds, too.

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I went out in the first session and drove 11 laps, but only ran a best of a 1:24.079. Track temps were good, I wasn't fighting traffic, had no excuses other than the cross winds. The tires were fairly fresh, and I felt like I pushed the car to the limits, but I was just a hair slower than the March times. With the high winds Aero was a detriment that day. Other folks in race cars said the same thing that day. I watched my video and didn't see any major mistakes, just wasn't that fast.

The inside front tire is off the ground here - and there's a lot of bodyroll

There might have been some impact on loading of the chassis from downforce, it just wasn't consistent on each corner, because of wind direction. As you can see above, the inside front tire above was off the ground in Big Bend, possibly due to DF loads. If we had stuck with this car much longer we would need to increase spring rates a good bit. We saw similar amounts of "chassis compression" at NOLA as well, right after adding the aero. Adding wings and splitters usually requires spring rates to go up by 25-50% or more - with dedicated track testing trying new spring rates.


Amy went out in the next session in the 330. I kind of hogged the car for many NASA events this year, and she didn't even make any laps in it at NOLA. As a "team" entry she could have, but we were focusing hard on securing a 100% win record for the year and resetting all of the TTD track records for the 2017 season - which we did. She more than deserved some track time today, and I wasn't sure if there was much more in the car with me driving.

She went out and ran a 1:29.070 after driving for 13 laps. She had fun, but was further off my pace than usual. She hasn't driven a car with real aero since 2015, and the windy conditions gave her fits. It usually only takes a single coaching session with her to get her times within 1-2 seconds of me, or closer. With only 1 session under her belt, she was happy with her times.

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At this point I was super frustrated with my times. The wind wasn't letting up and was going to be there all day. A customer and friend, Scottish Joe, was there with his 2017 Corvette C7 Grand Sport. I hadn't driven his C7 here since August 2016, where I ran a
on the OEM MPSS tires. On this day he was on some 300 treadwear Continental street tires, so I suspected it would be slower than the Michelins it came with stock. Joe asked me to go out and set a lap to benchmark by, so Amy hopped in and we went out for 5 laps.

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The extra horsepower this LT1 V8 produces was downright addictive. Just horsing around I put in a best lap of 1:22.322. Sure, it was a hair slower than when I ran it a year earlier on better tires. This car was 1.7 seconds faster than my 330 race car with aero, in stock form and on not ideal street tires, with a passenger. And it was just super easy to do. Horsepower just makes every car better.


Going faster in a bone stock LT1 Corvette that weighed 500 pounds more, on street tires, made me much less enthusiastic about this M54 powered BMW. As it turned out, this was the last time I ever drove this 330 on track. Its a little sad to end my time with a car on windy, cold test day that didn't pan out like I had hoped. :(


Let's skip over to one of the least impressive E46 cars we have in the fleet - our black 325Ci Daily Driver automatic that my wife has been driving for the last year. ;)


In the last post we showed a lot of suspension, gasket, wheel, battery, and DISA valve repairs on this car. Shortly after getting it back on the road the transmission started slipping. This car has the ZF automatic - which has outrageous rebuild prices ($4000!), which was more than the car was worth. What to do? There were some Check Engine Light (CEL) codes but we couldn't read them with our OBDII scanner.


Step one was to try the easy fix - fresh transmission fluid and a transmission filter. Sometimes a bunch of funky fluid and a clogged filter will cause the trans to shift funny.

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Brad dropped the pan and drained the fluid. Looked like old fluid, maybe original. Pulled off the older filter and rounded up a new one.

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The transmission pan was cleaned, a fresh gasket went on, and the new filter installed. A case of Motul ATF VI synthetic fluid was added, the car started and the fluid level was checked. Time for a test drive.


Still slipping, badly. Hmm, not good. CEL was back, and again we couldn't read them. This isn't really our area of expertise, so we took the car to a friends BMW repair shop nearby. Michael from Eurauto hooked up to his fancy BMW code checking computer. Code 049 and 053 above had to do with the transmission.

After talking to Michael and another BMW repair shop owner, it was time for a transmission replacement. The rebuild costs were sky high - I even called a friend with an Eagle Transmission franchise. There was no affordable way to rebuild this ZF automatic. Repairs that cost more than the car is worth - this is the ugly part of German cars ownership sometimes...


I started calling around and a correct E46 ZF auto pullout was found from a friend who owned a BMW repair shop. I horse traded some parts for this used trans, shown below. In hindsight maybe we should have done a little more work and converted this car to the 5-speed manual, but such is life...

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We cleaned that up (pressure washed), swapped over a wiring harness from our car's trans (that was busted on this unit), and the torque converter as well (our car's looked to be in better shape). Here are the technician notes from MyShopAssist on this work:

MSA: R&R Transmission  - Technician: Aaron  - Time: 7.23 hours
Filter Swap + R&R Transmission - 11/6/2017  

-Change fluid and filter in original trans
-No change, still throwing codes and slipping
-M12-1.75 x 75MM hardware needed (stripped/stuck), Qty:2
-Chase M12x1.75 tapped holes in block
-Power wash replacement pullout trans
-Repair loom on P/N safety switch/gear indicator on pullout trans
-Swap existing convertor into pullout transmission
-Install new transmission mounts
-Snug oil pan bolts (small leak present)
-Rear main seal dry, do not R&R
-Add new filter, pan gasket, fill with fluid, test drive

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Of course nothing is ever easy. Some knuklehead had buggered two holes in the block - probably the shop that did the $800 starter replacement for the previous owner. Since there was still a known oil leak (small), I asked Aaron to check the rear main seal and replace it, if that's where the oil leak was coming from. We had already changed all of the leaky top end engine gaskets in the last round of work. As you can see from his MyShopAssist notes above the rear main was dry - so its gotta be the oil pan gasket. The leak isn't huge, just annoying.

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Yet another new trans filter and another case of Motul ATF fluid went into this used transmission.

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A new driveshaft bushing (guibo) was installed when the driveshaft went on, and Aaron wrapped up this trans swap. The under tray was cleaned up and reinstalled. Fingers were crossed and I took it for another test drive - which was better, but not 100% better. It still throws some codes but the trans is functional. As long as you don't abuse it, it won't slip. For now.

This is why I hate doing "junkyard swaps" with used parts - its the same work as putting in a new part, but sometimes the replacement used part is not 100% right. This is part of the fun of owning older German cars...

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continued from above


Since the E46 was driving better, I went ahead and asked Brad a couple of days later to do a few clean-up tasks, to make this car look a little nicer. He spent about 3 hours to knock out the following.

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The headlights looked great, the leather was conditioned inside, carpets were vacuumed and the car was washed. Amy has been driving the car for the last 11 months. The transmission works, but there are still some other issues with it. It drives fine, and gets her to and from work, which for now is good enough. But we have more work to tackle...  


One of my least favorite things on E46 BMWs are the factory cup holders. They suck, and are made for itty bitty cups, or small European soda cans. ;) After time the spring clips that hold the dual cup holder insert into the center console wear out, and the spring loaded tabs inside the cup holders that gently squeeze the tiny little cans wear out. So if you have a teenie tiny can in there, corner hard enough, the can flies out. Or the whole cupholder assembly pops out of the center console, along with whatever was in there. Both situations are irritating.

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This car had a very worn out set of cup holders, and they kept falling out when cornering with a drink in place. Not cool. so I ordered a new OEM setup and popped them in place. But it was still pretty much worthless unless you had an 8 oz can or small drink cup.


But to hold American size cups - like this Yeti-ish insulated stainless cup - we needed something bigger.

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This "Swigzy" cup holder "extender" works great. The bottom section can fit into the tiny E46 cup holder openings, then you can rotate the upper section and these ribs extend out and lock it into place. The upper portion can hold a giant cup - or your wallet,phone, etc. Very handy.


A few weeks into daily driving Amy ran over a massive pothole and bruised a tire and bent another wheel. It was really a big "heave" in a concrete seam she ran over, but luckily the rest of the new suspension took the hit like a champ.

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I ordered two new tires (245/40/17 Firestone Firehawk 200 TW) and had that wheel straightened and refinished.


These tires work really well, and in fact some endurance road racers have started using these for competition events. The Firestones were cost effective, ride nicely, and have great grip. The new stock suspension parts have made this into a very nice riding, decently handling little coupe.

Dilemma - so the 2nd ZF auto trans is slowly dying, and you have to baby it to keep it from slipping. The CELs won't go away because they are tied to the slipping trans. this car also has a lingering "ground problem" in the lighting circuit, so the headlights/tail lights/brake lights are all dim. Gotta chase that bad ground. I have too much time invested in this for a slow, slipping trans, CEL lit car we can't drive at night because of the lights. :(



Like I stated in the intro, we won the TTD class for 2017 with this car, scoring a perfect 800 points (with drops) for the class. We won every NASA event and even an SCCA Club Trial in this car this year. For NASA we set the TTD track record at MSR-C (both days), set new TTD track records for both the CW and CCW course at Hallett, set the record at TWS (both days), we went to MSR-Houston but it was a wash out (after the track was flooded during Hurricane Harvey), and then - since we had the TTD season wrapped up - we switched to TT4 for the last NASA Texas event of the year at NOLA (and won both days). We won TTD class by the largest TT class win, 645 points, and never lost a single event. It was a perfect season!


What I had planned over the winter for this car was fairly monumental... I wanted to make this car a real TT4 car, built to the limit of the power-to-weight rules, max aero, go to a wider tire, and more.

We were already deep into a radical stroker M54 engine build, had planned a custom "average power" tune with a stand alone EFI system to keep the car in TT4. I got wheels and tires to upgrade to 275/40/17 Hoosiers. Found a dry sump oiling system for an S54, which we could retrofit to the M54. And of course started on a complete re-spray of the car using the same Hellrot Red.

The reality is that TT4 rules changed enough to prevent almost all of this for happening. Once much of our car was made illegal for TT4 we "pushed" on some of this work, other than the re-paint. Let's cover some of this...


The "nail in the coffin" to further TT4 prep on this 330 was the significant rules changes that were made to ST4/TT4 at the very end of 2017, after only 1 season of this class being in existence. We will cover what changed, and how it affected our car.


Apparently seeing our car's aero in TT4 prompted some changes to: wing endplate rules, splitter measuring rules, wing placement rules, and more. This was "not what they intended" when they wrote the limited aero rules for TT4. Even if we were deemed legal for the NOLA event, they told us that none of this would be legal for 2018.


We only did what anyone building to the limit of a class would do - built to the extent of the rules. Can we help it if the rules didn't describe what was desired? It's not like we exploited loopholes or poorly written rules. We maximized the splitter, endplates, and wing placement for what was written. They didn't like that. So right away, none of our aero would be legal for 2018. It would all have to be redone, from scratch. After ONE RACE! I was less than thrilled.

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The other rule change that caught us out was the "standardized tire measuring tools" introduced for 2018 - a bit of a radical move that caught out a lot of racers. No longer would the tire size stamped on the sidewall matter - you would have to measure your mounted wheel and tires with some standard tire checking tools...

This was done to reign in some tire makers that produced sizes that were wider than the numbers indicated, and to prevent racers from "stretching" a tire on a wider wheel to get more tread on the ground. If you have followed other builds we have done over the years, you might know that I am NOT a fan of skinny tires, but these rules changes were made to "keep costs low" and to prevent racers from using wider tires. The TTD build was always difficult for me, just having to use a 245mm marked tire...


Of course for both our TTC Corvette and the TTD E46 builds we had done BOTH of those things to exploit tire rules: we picked the widest 245mm tire Hoosier makes (the 245/40/17 R7) and put them on 17x10" wheels for this TTD build. And we had just gotten a second set of 17x10" wheels made for the 2018 season, to have a set as "scrubs" and the "stickers" ready for when we needed more performance.

I had planned on stepping up to 275mm tires for 2018, which on paper are "legal" for TT4 - but there's no way to mount them and fit within the class limit 282mm wheel checking tool (I bought a complete set of these tools late in 2017 to figure this out - too late). So I've got sticker 275s that I bought, and a 2nd set of 17x10 wheels for them now. Yay.


So now we had built a car for a class that no longer existed - at least not with any of the mods legal for 2017 done to it. The reasoning was to allow the "Letter" classes to be gone for good in 2017, so the "new for 2017" ST4/TT4 classes needed to line up better with the new for 2018 classes ST5/TT5 as well as and 2019's ST6/TT6 classes.

I get why they made the changes, it just didn't make me very happy to prep for a class late in 2017 and have exactly ONE RACE in this class before major changes came down the pipe. To be TT4 legal we would have to completely remake the end plates, radically alter the wing's fore-aft placement (brand new uprights), the front splitter would have to be completely remade and get much smaller and we would have to get new wheels to make even the 245s legal, forget about the 275mms I bought.

This car was already WAY down on power for TT4 in 2017 (we were even down for TTD), and without a radical M54 engine build I'd still be down on power for 2018 PLUS we would have to make all new aero that would make less downforce. And no  additional tire over TTD, and in fact less tire with narrower wheels I'd have to buy. So we would have to spend a lot of time and money to go slower. I already had the car at the painter's while all of these rules changes were coming down, very late in 2017, and I was unsure of what to do...


I had hoped that my partners at the engine shop I am a part of would be more excited about developing BMW M54 or S54 engines - after initially being on board with these plans, I had rounded up heads and engine cores for development work, a complete dry sump oiling system, bought some rods to test with, paid for a test crank to check maximum stroke, paid for some tooling, etc.

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There is untapped potential there in the aluminum block M54 (215 hp stock) market. A few overpriced, underwhelming options existed for rebuilding an M54, but most folks just tossed them in the scrap pile and put in junkyard pullouts when they had a problem. We had a test crank made with a different stroke on each cylinder, then a forged aftermarket rod and piston we ordered that we tested in each bore. We had a pretty remarkable stroker combination that we were on the trail of... problem as it was going to be expensive. And the M54 intake, cams, valves, and ports all needed major upgrades to keep up with the added displacement. And the factory EFI was likely unable to support the programming. It was quickly turning into a very pricey unicorn kind of build. Would anyone else ever buy one? All of the development costs were on me.

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So I rounded up an S54, above. These have a heavier iron block but the block is taller, so we could add even more displacement. The S54 cylinder head can support more power (333 hp stock), but it would still need porting, valves, cams, and more. I got the dry sump setup for the S54, and we had lofty goals in mind. But my partners were much more interested in working on LS engines, late model Hemi, Viper V10s and Ford V8s. Can't really blame them, though. There is SO much more potential in any of those pushrod V8 engines than any BMW anything... dollar for dollar we could make a LOT more power with an LS V8 than an expensive, high compression, high revving BMW inline 6.

With TT4 now out of sight for my car for 2018, I scrapped both the M54 and S54 stroker engine projects for now.


After the November track test I was not "feeling it", and 2018 was looking like we might be further off the pace with the revised TT4 class rules, but at least the car would look good! ;)


I always intended for this car to look good - to represent Vorshlag well - but we had thrown a lot of changes at the body in 2017. We now had a raw carbon hood, 4 black flares, a bare aluminum splitter, a raw carbon sunroof, unpainted E46 M3 nose, black plastic race roll air dam and tire fairings, and raw carbon wing with bare aluminum endplates and uprights. It was time to get everything painted or coated.

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I found these E36 M3 style side mirrors that fit an E46, purchased those. The plan was to replace the OEM units after I had popped off the driver's mirror when I touched the wall at NOLA. Bonus: the two mirrors dropped 3.4 pounds from the stock power mirrors, and they produce considerably less drag.

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The new mirrors worked out well, but the eBay quality showed when it came to mounting. A bit of work was needed to install them (one of the mounting holes wasn't there), and of course we lost the remote power mirror adjustment. One of the front lower control arms was knocking again, so a Lemforder replacement was ordered and installed, too.


We were not expecting the major aero/rules changes, so the car was already torn apart and being painted when the rules changes came down very late in 2017. Normally we'd try to make the late January 2018 event that kicks off the NASA Texas calendar each year, but with the new rules making all of our aero work illegal for TT4, I told Heritage Collision to not hurry the paint work.


When I picked the car up in early February 2018 the paint made the car look AMAZING in every way. I was still unsure of what to do with the car, but at this point I had to do something since we had invested so much into it at this point. TT4 was out, and a build for TT1/2/3 would take even more radical aero and likely (if I was smart) an LS V8 swap.

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While I was deciding what to do with the 330, I had the guys clean up the tubular bumper beam/splitter strut mount and shoot it with silver paint, then reinstall that.

continued below

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continued from above

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We had the entire front splitter powder coated in semi-gloss black. Much stronger than paint so they don't look like hammered crap after every event's worth of tire klag and bug hits on the leading edges.

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By this point I knew this car was looking very good, and I had Jon make me a "FOR SALE" graphic for the windshield. I figured I'd take it to some event soon and somebody would see it and maybe want to buy it? My intuition has been wrong before, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

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The endplates were already painted and the wing uprights and splitter were already powder coated when the rules changes were announced, so to change them now would cost not only the additional labor to re-make them but I would lose out on the powder coating and painting costs as well.


We even had Heritage paint the raw carbon fiber wing, and with the painted aluminum endplates and black uprights the back of the car was looking just as good as the front.


By now I knew the car was looking pretty good, and selling this would help pay for the new car I just bought and the building that was under construction...


At this point we left the decals on the panels that weren't painted - the doors and fenders. Everything else got painted in matching Hellrot Red - the nose, hood, mirrors, sunroof panel, wing, endplates, and flares.

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I was wondering if someone would buy this as a dedicated HPDE car that they could maybe drive a little on the street (the aero is the main factor here). I knew from previous builds that keeping the A/C, roll up windows, lights/signals, and some of the interior wasn't hurting us as far as potential buyers were concerned.


Seeing this was making me have second thoughts... the paint popped, the interior looked great, but I kept saying to myself - how does a super clean dual-purpose car help us further the business? I couldn't find a class that it fit into without major changes and compromises. I was stuck.

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The interior cleaned up nicely, as you can see. The front carpets were vacuumed, the seats spiffed up, and it all looked great.

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Painting carbon wings body color is kind of a new thing, and after seeing what it looked like on our car, it's my new thing! Tired of seeing raw carbon blister or get cloudy from UV damage? Painting the carbon cures all of that.


After a couple of days of waxing, cleaning, polishing, and even detailing the engine bay, Brad took the time to shoot some really good pics of the car. I was thinking of where to list it for sale at this point. Bring a Trailer? eBay? HPDE Facebook groups?


One of our customers, who had an exotic car in our shop for some custom work, saw the freshly painted and detailed 330 in the Spring of 2018. He asked how much I'd take for the car, and I threw out and number, and he said "Done".

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Of course it is never that easy, and we ended up doing a bit of custom work for him to complete the sale. On the interior he asked for new A-pillar coverings, as the originals had fallen apart and we tossed them a while ago. And with the headliner out, the interior light (above the rear view mirror) was held on with zip ties. So we made this aluminum bracket to finish that off, and keep the lights functional.

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Due to some variables out of my control, our "Daily Driven Track Car" here wasn't driven on the road after we did the custom header/exhaust. So it had no cat, until now. A Magnaflow high flow metal matrix catalyst was added.

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The buyer was no fan of the gold 17x10" wheels, so we swapped on the silver set with identical specs and R7 tires. I still have the gold 17x10" wheels for sale...


He asked us to remove all of the decals except for the number/letter board on the doors, which we did. Then Brad waxed the rest of the panels where the decals were removed. It looked a little naked, but I have to admit it looked really clean with the all red body now...

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The owner sent a buddy down to pick up the car with a U-haul trailer, and after loading it a couple of times, then flipping it backwards, we were able to fit it onto this short trailer. I loaned them some padded Mac's Tie Downs for the wheels to secure it and off the car went. It has since been seen blasting around COTA, and last I heard - since he wanted more power - an S54 swap was underway. Sounds like fun!


If you remember back we bought this car in 2015, and it was kind of a hood rat car. It had every window tinted with at least one layer of tint. It had a salvage title and all sorts of little problems that are associated with that, which we fixed. We put it together and tested a number of different things for this chassis, and it competed well in NASA TTD competition in 2016 and again 2017, winning regional titles both years.

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We tested three distinctly different suspensions (PSS9, PSS9 with custom springs, MCS RR2 with real springs), but kept the 17x10" wheel/245mm Hoosier R7 tires on each iteration, giving us some good data. Other than some of our very first races in NASA in 2016, it won every time out and usually set the track record for the class. We competed with this car in 13 race weekends, including 11 with NASA and 2 with SCCA Club Trials.

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We weren't quite doing the MSR-Cresson 1.7 testing in stages like we do now with our other builds (like my S550 Mustang and our FR-S), as we didn't get a "baseline stock" time on the OEM suspension and didn't go back to that track after every round of mods. But we did make some headway with the lap times, dropping almost 4 seconds there starting with the PSS9 setup to the MCS RR2 setup, on the same tires. Not bad. And there was time left with the aero setup - just didn't get to run it here with good conditions.

Lap Times at MSR-C 1.7 CCW

  • 1:27.604 - NASA at MSR-C, March 12, 2016
  • 1:24.566 - SCCA Club Trials at MSR 1.7 CW, May 7, 2017
  • - NASA at MSR-C, March 11-12, 2017

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The attitude of the car changed a lot from the earliest events (above left) to the later MCS setup (above right), before we even got into aero. I'm more than a little disappointed that we had to endure a sudden point penalty for this chassis right as we got underway, as we could have run full aero in TTD class before the * was added to this chassis - and that would have made the 2016-17 TTD seasons a LOT more fun. Still, for what the class allowed, I'm happy with the results and some of those TTD records will stand forever, as the class has been ended at the end of the 2018 season.


In early November 2017 a buddy called and said he knew of a widebody E46 coupe for sale. It supposedly had a full Flossman body kit installed, like the one shown below. It also had ultra-light carbon doors, a carbon roof panel, and came with an E46 M3 rear subframe. This is what this body kit looks like, when done right:

This is NOT the car I purchased, but rather a good example of what this body kit looks like on an E46 Coupe

That could hold some serious tire. So I went to go see it. It was buried in a storage unit under a mountain of parts. That made it hard to see all of the details, but the price seemed appropriate for what it had. I could tell the front nose needed a lot of work, and the floor had been modified for a side exhaust (not my favorite mod), but it looked like it was all there.

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Once I had picked up the rolling chassis I could see it had some work that needed to be re-done. Super tall tires from a 5 series were rubbing the "undertray" (which we will cut off and replace with a splitter), so it was hard to steer. But it does have the real carbon doors, and some good bodywork on the flare install. Probably going to have to swap in the floor from a donor car to fix the side exhaust stuff, oh well.

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Yes, it looks very ugly in its natural multi-color paint right now, and sits up like a 4x4, but I have a vision! ;) The carbon roof panel wasn't installed completely and needed some help to go on all the way, but this post is running long so I will show that work next time. Everyone else at Vorshlag thinks I am crazy for buying this one, but my plan is simple: perform an LS swap, add MCS coilovers, 315 mm Hoosiers, cage it, add some aero, and put this one up for sale when its wrapping up.


Its sad to see the "Fireball" 330 go, but with the TT4 rules changes and other new projects we have underway already we didn't have a place to race it - and the new owner is enjoying the hell out of it.

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As I am wrapping up this post, we might just have two more E46 Coupe chassis I am doing a deal for. So we should be starting a Spec E46 build with one of those two -or- the slick top white 330Ci chassis I already have. One of two new 330s (the running/driving silver one) could provide a major solution for our black 325Ci daily driver, to. I will continue to show all of our E46 related builds and repairs in this thread. Look for a new post soon!

Thanks for reading,


Terry @ Vorshlag

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Project update for July 29th, 2019: Its been more than 3 months since my last post here - 2 months of that was due to an outage with our forum. A server change forced an update to vBulletn, which forced a server upgrade and move, then we had weeks of DNS name change server issues. Finally, in late July we got our forum back up and I'm catching up on project posts. We have had many of our weekly employee team volunteer work nights on the Vorshlag Team endurance E46 build, so I will catch us up to current time in this post.


We already removed all of the carpets, dash, door panels and other useless interior bits in the first week of work back in April 2019.


What we were left with inside was a LOT of floor pan sheet metal covered in this adhesive sound deadening material, which I will refer to henceforth as "tar paper". Its really more complex than that, but tar paper is easier to write. We would fight getting this heavy, sticky, brittle crap out of the BMW for weeks, employing a number of removal techniques. Some here have even called it the Tar Paper Wars. One technique worked better than others...


We did a cage job back in early 2018 on this EVO X, which had a welded 4-point roll bar we had to cut out and got a proper 6 point roll cage installed in it's place. This car still had all of the tar paper installed, which we had to remove since the entire interior and cage would later be painted grey.


The method we used to remove this tar paper was suggested by one of our fab guys at the time, Aaron, who had used it successfully on Japanese cars before. The idea is the dry ice gets the adhesive holding the tar paper to the sheet metal so cold that the adhesive breaks loose, and then the tar paper comes off in whole sheets! I wanted to see this witchcraft in person, so we gave it a go on the EVO.


With a 5 gallon bucket filled with crushed dry ice, isopropyl alcohol was added to make a chunky slurry that looked like a witches caldron. This slurry was carefully poured onto the top of the tar paper (the flat portions), then was allowed to sit and chill a bit, then light percussion with a hammer or scraper was used...


It was like magic. This stuff just popped out in whole sheets! I never would have believed it, but damn, the results were real. In this EVO. This one time...


We had high hopes and bought two 8 pound blocks of dry ice and a butt load of isopropyl alcohol to try this again on our E46 BMW's floors.


At first we tried a twist - putting the dry ice + alcohol slurry into a black trash bag, that could let us re-use the stuff in several sections, as well as the vertical paper applied at the front firewall, transmission tunnel, and back seat shelf around the fuel tank.


Well we gave up quickly on the trash bag, as it did not work at all. We went to straight dry ice + alcohol applied directly to the tar paper, as we did on the EVO. Problem was it was not working well on this car. Not at all.


We tried this method again another work night, with two more blocks of ice and more alcohol. And more "percussive" persuasion. After many hours over two work nights, $100 worth of dry ice and alcohol, we barely had the passenger and driver seat flat floor sections done, and it looks like a 12 year old's patchy beard. This just did not work on this BMW, maybe due to more advanced age or possibly different tar/adhesive materials the Germans used? I give this a solid FAIL rating.


I can NOT recommend this method to be used on a BMW. Not to mention that the alcohol poured out of the many plugged drain holes in the floor and trashed my new polished & coated concrete floors. I was less than happy about this - the alcohol/dry ice method is now banned in my shop.


We were still fighting this battle weeks later, and on the 3rd work night attempt to remove the tar paper, I insisted on trying my old proven method that we have used on dozens of BMWs in the past - a heat gun + scraper.


This worked so much better on this car. With heat applied to a small section of tar paper for a number of seconds, a 1.5" wide putty knife was used as a scraper, and this stuff peeled right off. Not in entire sheets like on the EVO, but in manageable chunks and in a timely manner.


The work went much faster than the dry ice, and no hammering was involved, just gentle scraping. It was like peeling fondant frosting off a wedding cake... came off in long chunks, after the heat nuked the adhesive.


The video above shows this heat technique used on some vertical sections of the transmission tunnel - which would be nearly impossible to do with dry ice, even if it even worked. Like all methods, this still leaves an adhesive residue behind, which we cleaned up on other work nights.


Tim tried a number of adhesive removers, from Acetone, to Goof Off Pro Strength, Brake Parts Cleaner, and finally Mineral Spirits/Paint Thinner. The Goof Off worked well enough, but its $15/gallon. The cheaper $7/gallon Mineral Spirits / Paint Thinner worked the best - just apply liberally to a blue shop paper towel, wipe it onto the adhesive, use some elbow grease, and the brown stuff comes off. Sometimes it took some work with a red ScotchBrite pad soaked in the same stuff as well.


I wouldn't call this adhesive removal step "easy" by any stretch of the imagination - its not a "spray on / wipe off" kind of effort. You gotta get in there, use some pressure, and a lot of heavy duty paper towels and a little ScotchBrite to get it off. Just takes time.


And sure, we could have used some power tools and abrasive discs or wire wheels, but that would have made a giant mess and we would have to prime the floors to prevent them from rusting before the interior is painted (after the cage is installed). I have heard from others that blasting or sanding this stuff only turns it into a fine mist of tar, which re-applies itself to the floorpan and other areas. As well as all over you and your shop. This heated peel + paint thinner method keeps the stock paint/primer clean and intact on the inside. We will just remove the paint near the "mounting feet" of the roll cage.


During some of the April and May work nights, while some of the crew was working on Tar Paper Removal, the rest of us worked on removing dead weight from the chassis. We would much rather overshoot our final weight goals on the light side and ballast up, than have to go back in chasing weight later, after the cage is installed. We also have 5-7 people on any given work night and we cannot all be working on the same area.


Pulling the doors off allowed two of us to work while 3+ people were inside the car peeling tar paper and cutting/cleaning. One of the heaviest single assemblies on a BMW are the doors. These hold the side glass, an electric power window motor + tracks, and high strength steel side impact "crash beams". It is also one of the easiest places to lose weight on a road race car that is getting a roll cage.


After removing the side glass, Evan used the plasma cutter to remove the bulk of the steel inner structure. Then I used the cut off wheel on a die grinder to trim out the hard to reach bits, as well as carefully cut out the side impact structure. This structure is tack welded into places we cannot reach, so it was sliced off at the ends, carefully avoiding damage to the outer door skin. Then the adhesive strip along the middle of the door was sliced with a putty knife and the crash structure peeled away.


I left the front structure in place for the side mirror mounts, and some of the inner structure around the perimeter (to give the door some structure) as well as near the door latch and hinge mounts. This will allow us to still open and close the doors. The final weight was still 29.0 pounds per side, which makes the 8 pound carbon doors on our widebody E46 look that much more attractive. I didn't get a before weight (doh!) on a stock E46 coupe door, but I will make a point to before the next update.


The front and rear glass were removed by a local windshield guy for $50 - he came by one weekend and used some specialized tooling to get these out cleanly. We can re-use the double thick safety glass front windshield (28.2 pounds) but we will replace the 18.9 pound tempered rear glass with Lexan.


There are two "cavities" at the back of the engine bay, made with some sheet metal structures, that seal two the underside of the hood of a BMW E46. These are made to house the brake booster + master cylinder + main power circuits/relays on one side and the ABS system (or sometimes a battery on diesels) on the other side. The bits inside can be switched left to right for different markets, depending on which side the steering wheel is on.


Well we plan on re-wiring the whole car, and the ABS pump and computer will not be in the OEM locations, so we can get rid of the sheet metal structure on both sides. A few minutes with a Saws-All took care of the bulk of the work.


The rest was removed more carefully with a cut off wheel and even a spot weld cutter. The structure shown here on the left (driver's) side of the engine bay was more completely removed, as it makes room for the exhaust on the engine we have planned.


You can see initial work on the "spot weld removal" above at left. The additional structure these pieces provide is negligible when you have a caged race car. Also, about 80% of the the "rear deck" structure (which the back seat uprights connect to) was removed, which was a little over 12 pound when we weighed it. Some classes don't let you remove that type of structure, but all the classes we plan to run will.


This was a good time to stop and power wash the chassis, while it still could be rolled outside. On one of the work nights (during the middle of the "tar paper wars" above) we rolled the E46 outside and pressure washed everything.


Under hood, inside the cabin and trunk, exterior - all the things.


As you can see below, this is with some of the "rear seat" deck structure is removed.


So much nicer working on a car that has the stinky interior removed, grease and other nasty "road funk" washed out.


Something we commonly see on E30, E36 and E46 BMWs is the front strut towers - which are supposed to be flat - get worn over time to have a curved "mushroom" headed shape.


This happens due to a somewhat thin sheet metal used to make the stamping for the strut tower plus the smaller, softer aluminum strut top mount that transfers load into the tower. If you hit enough big potholes over time, to the point of bottoming the suspension, the larger diameter strut tower will deform around the smaller strut top mount. The 3 studs from the top mount will also "splay outwards" like above. The two towers in this car were badly deformed...


The fix is rather low tech - I like using a piece of 2x6" lumber a a 3 pound sledge hammer to flatten the upper portion back into shape. Light rapping downward with this flat edge, walking around and pressing laterally next to around the inner ring. I fixed both towers in about 45 minutes, then we could install a camber plate on that side (during suspension and wheel mockups, which I will show next time).


This video clearly shows the technique on flattening the towers. Of course the front struts need to be out of the car to do this, and there are some tips to keep the towers from deforming again in the video.


We have a lot more work we have done over the last 3 months of weekly work nights to cover, but this update is getting long so I am going to save that for next time.


We have researched, ordered and fitted some big flares, which will work with a wide tire package. We also developed a custom big brake kit (which will test on this car), that fits inside 17" diameter wheels. And of course the engine and transmission have been picked. Yep, swapping in a Mazda Miata 1.6L with a super charger! #ThisIsAnotherLie


The air filter will be mounted as shown above, if that gives you any hint to the real engine we're using. Oh and we have a low cost "home brew" cool suit cooler we will share. Should save $500 or more over buying pre-made bits.

Until next time!

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On 7/30/2019 at 4:46 PM, turbogrill said:

What is the target weight? Would 2500 lbs full of fuel no driver be possible?

Not really possible with the engine and transmission we have planned. We're shooting for 2800# caged, without driver. Will keep weighing along the way...

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Project update for November 29th, 2019: Another long gap since I updated this thread, but we have been busy working on several E46 cars.


This time we have three E46 chassis we are going to touch on. The first is my 2003 325Ci that has been around for two years but was recently sold. The next is our Team Endurance build, the E46 coupe shown above. There has been a lot going on behind the scenes since my July update - as well as a significant delay that was out of our control.


Lastly we will talk about this gorgeous Imola red ZHP 6-spd 330 sedan above, which I bought from a customer recently. It has some little issues and CELs that won't be easy to fix. Our plans have already been effected by how hard the black 325 was to restore and sell. So let's catch up!

2003 BMW 325Ci SOLD

I bought this clean E46 coupe automatic from a customer in May 2017 - a car we had worked on for him in the past, but when we moved our shop he started going elsewhere for repairs.


After a few "random" repair shops milked a lot of repair jobs from him over a few years, it got too expensive to drive and for him to maintain in a perfectly functional, super clean form. This is the fate of many E46 models in 2019 - they have aged a bit now, can become plagued with electrical and sensor issues, inevitably they get some problem that throws a CEL (Check Engine Light), and other lights on the dash start to freak people out.


This car was handed down to one of his college age kids, which did the 325 no favors. It got a bent wheel and delayed maintenance until it just stopped running at one point. I bought it for a good price but if you read the extensive repairs we have detailed here you know I had a lot of time and money in this car. All of the suspension, lots of underhood repairs, the tires and brakes, interior updates, swapped the transmission, etc. It had a CEL that we kept chasing, and I finally threw my hands up.


This car was never going to be a good candidate for a race car build, as it was a 325 with a slush box. The AC worked but with a CEL it was virtually unsellable. We cleaned it up extremely well, posted some really nice pics and details on Craigsligt then FB Marketplace... all we got was tire kickers and trash pickers. $1000 and $1500 offers, sight unseen - we never even had one person show up to look at and drive it. Sad.

The car was super clean, and drives great. One of my employees needed a daily so I sold it to him cheap, and lost a bundle on this. But my wife drove it for about a year, so I have to just look at that as "the cost of driving a car". Moral of the story here is: don't buy that "cheap E46" you see for sale, thinking you can fix it up and flip it. This was a 100% Texas car (rust free), straight, super clean inside and out, had D-Force 17x8.5" wheels plus great tires... but with 151K miles and a CEL it was hard to sell. It was sold for half what I had in it. Lesson learned.


Of course this car's HVAC blower motor quit working almost immediately after he bought it, so we fixed that on my dime. Blower motor & blower resister are both a "high failure item". There are detailed links below on both tasks:

Since I was already selling the car at a loss, we tried the less expensive part that potentially had more labor hours first - the resistor.


You can access this behind the glove box, and this trick saved some Brad a lot of time on this task. After about 90 minutes the resistor was replaced and immediately started to work, and has worked ever since.


This should be an easy one, but I re-learned a lesson here. The left front fender was smashed when we got this rolling chassis for a song - not a big deal, as I keep a couple of pairs of front E46 steel fenders in stock to use for metal flare jobs on E36 chassis (for before - when there were not good flare options). But it had been a number of years since I had bought these fenders...


Again, we haven't done a steel E36 flare job like this in years - because there are so many good flares and widebody options for the E36 now. The E46 is no different, as I will show below. But I had forgotten that we utilized E46 non-M SEDAN front fenders for our E36 flare jobs. It came down to the recessed trim section in the sedan fenders was further back and "out of the flare" section. That made the welded steel flare jobs on E36 cars easier. We would cut out the fender flare portion of these E46 fenders then graft them to the E36 (see above right). It was a bunch of work but could turn out nice with a little bodywork and paint.


So when the smashed coupe fender was removed, I grabbed one of these SEDAN fenders, not remembering it wasn't a COUPE front fender. It was on the car for a couple of months - because with the front nose and left side door off it wasn't obvious it was the wrong one. If you look at this fender installed, above right, you will notice the body lines from the A-pillar don't match up - that's all that was visible... So when we test fit the Extreme Dimensions flares (shown further below) it "didn't fit".


Again - a weird mistake, and it would have been immediately evident if the door was installed. Luckily replacement coupe fenders are still cheap for these cars and I found some for $58 shipped. I used to pay closer to $33 for these import fenders from a local Certifit store, but that's a 3 hour round trip in traffic to save maybe $20. This is one of the few things eBay is good for - cheap used parts or import body parts. Probably won't be the last fender we will need on an endurance car, hehe.


We aren't 100% done with this step but I will show some progress. The "M3 style" front bumper cover is an import unit designed for use on a Non-M coupe chassis. This is often used by Spec E46 users, and we will utilize this item for the better grill openings and flatter bottom - which makes adding a splitter easier.


At this point we have the bumper cover mocked up - we needed that for the flare fitment tests. The factory plastic brackets at the tub are holding the receiving "cups" on the bumper cover, with the weight held up by a bucket for now. The cover needs a bumper beam to mount to, with brackets to hold it in place. We plan to have a rolled radiator that is feeding the radiator from the lower grill opening only. to make room for that a tubular bumper beam is a trick we often use to make more room. Here's an example of what we have planned, which we built this year for my wife's LS swapped 86...


We almost always start with our tubing roller (below left), install the appropriate dies, and then pick a piece of 1.50 x .095" wall, 1.75" x .095" wall or 1.75 x .120" wall seamless DOM tubing. We cut this to length and then bend the main curve to match the bumper cover.


On this car we were using a carbon fiber aftermarket nose, which had both a curve and needed two bends to kick in for the portions outside of the radiator. Some folks will stop their tubular bash bar at the frame rails, like most OEM beams do. We have seen car-to-car contact rip bumper covers off, destroy headlights, and more. With our full width bumper beams on other cars we have seen our customers "come out on top" of any contact.

Above left you can see how closely this tubular bumper beam matches the shape of the nose we are using - again, necessitating a couple of bends to kick in outside of the frame rails and under the headlights. This FULL WIDTH beam is much stronger and protective than the "half bumpers" we see some build. The mounting plates are cut on our CNC plasma table then the bar is mocked up underneath the bumper cover to figure out the lengths for the tubing mounts. These are fish mouthed and added to the mounting plates and beam. It is all tacked up on the car but finish TIG welded on the fab bench, above right.


These pictures above show the rolled radiator - its also only fed from the lower grill opening, and mounted way forward and down. This makes venting the hood much more effective, and we will do the same thing on our E46. The upper and lower radiator mounts will be custom made, of course. We may or may not make a duct box to the hood opening behind the radiator, but we will definitely make the lower grill opening ducted to the front side of the radiator and oil cooler.


This is as far as we've gotten. On our next weekly work night we should have this tubular beam welded to the mounting plates at the frame stubs, visible behind the bumper in the pic above. Then we will add twin tow hooks to the font, some simple brackets from the tube to the bumper cover, spec the radiator, and build brackets for the radiator and oil cooler. Much more on this task next time.


We bought this car on very worn OEM struts, springs and "mushroomed" top mounts. After some initial work on one of our 2-post lifts this car was moved to a back corner of the shop for the next phase of work, and the OEM struts were tossed. They were total junk. We needed wheels on the car to test fit the fender flares and for our design work on the Brembo BBK, but the OEM stuff was so long that the ride heights would be totally wack.


Luckily we had an extra Ohlins E46 coilover strut so we found a coilover spring, added a Vorshlag camber plate, and mounted that to the left front. This is not likely our final suspension but close enough for mock-up testing.


One small downside to inverted struts is the spring and body lengths make it harder to fit "the spring above the tire", which limits how far inboard the wheel can fit. Not an issue with most wheel setups on these cars but "We're going to eleven". We need ALL of that room and more. We mounted one of my E46 17x10" Forgestar wheels and 10.2" wide Hoosiers for the next steps.



In my last post I showed how we got the doors down to 29.0 pounds with some serious cutting, gutting, and removal of the window glass and associated mechanisms. We used a variety of cutting tools to get this structure out - including the plasma cutter and some cut off wheels in a pneumatic die grinder. Both methods are loud, noisy, and messy. Plasma cutter is probably the worst way to do this work, as it leaves a super rough edge that we then had to grind or cut away.


We foolishly forgot to weigh the full weight doors with glass so I don't have a good starting point to reference - but this 29.0 pound weight still seemed heavy for a gutted door, to me. Something didn't "feel" right about that weight. A buddy of mine (Andy) owns Clownshoe Motorsports and said his doors were lighter, so I stopped by their shop one Saturday.


I can't show many of the endurance racing secrets he shared with me that day, but we did measure some various tires, and noted the technique he uses to gut doors. They leave more of the upper structure but remove ALL of the lower structure, and much of the door striker bits. So we took our 29.0 pound doors and went to town on our next work night.


Tim and Jason got to work with the Saws-all and it proved to be a more efficient, less messy tool for cutting the door structures. Leaves a much cleaner edge, too. We cut off the ugly edge left by the plasma cutter and then started to work on the metal below the latch plate.


I then used some extreme care with the cut off wheel and took the upper "crash structure" out at the top of the door, on the inside. The slotted, 3D shape shown in the picture above left. We took this out of the passenger door, and it is heavy. All told we found another 2.1 pounds, which isn't a lot. We had already taken the main crash beam, glass, and regulator out of the door. We were starting to hit a big "diminishing return" type of task.


Tim suggested we KEEP the upper structure on the driver's door (shown with a red box around it, above left). He crews for two different pro level road race teams that have driver changes, and he has noticed that they tend to lean on the upper part of the door during stops. So we left that in the left door, and it is only 1.1 pounds heavier at 28.0 lbs (above left). This door was weighed after cutting some of the inner structure out and with the window + regulator removed, but the diagonal "crash beam" in place at 34.7 pounds (above right).


I made sure we weighed the full weight door (above right) on our 2015 Mustang road race project, which is going on a SERIOUS diet and getting an LS swap. 84.2 pounds for a door is extreme, but keep that in mind when you are gutting your door. We might find another pound in these BMW doors, but we have kept structure at the hinges, striker latch, side mirror mount and along the top of the driver's door. Any additional weight removed is going to make the remaining door compromised... I think we are there.

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I teased this last time, and I'm not going to share everything now - because this brake kit is currently untested. We could have just bolted on E46 330 brakes, which are an 1" larger in diameter from the base 325/318/328 brakes, as shown below. We've done this cheap upgrade on a number of 325/328 cars before. But this car is going to be in WRL GTO class (more on that below), with V8 power and 315mm tires... it needs MORE BRAKES.


We started developing this swap kit last June and tested 6 different rotors and a few calipers. I bought a number of rotors, including the E46 M3 325x28mm, the ZCP competition M3 2-piece rotor which is 345x28mm (and $$$), and some other rotors. We mocked up the Powerbrake caliper on a number of these but the prices start ti get extreme if we use that caliper.


We kept coming back to a particular Brembo 4-piston caliper, which we have a lot of experience with. This is not a radial mount Brembo like the Porsche calipers some BBKs are based on. Those Porsche calipers need to be machined and still require a somewhat expensive caliper + core to work.


We attempted to use this with the E46 M3 rotors but the spacing for the Brembo, but with the somewhat "small" diameter 12.8" E46 M3 rotor, the spindle mount spacing just didn't work well for this caliper's mounts. And honestly we wanted a bigger rotor for endurance racing - which is where we see this kit working well, as the E46 is a popular endurance race car chassis. We actually made a bracket to where this Brembo to this M3 rotor but the caliper had to scoot "up" enough that part of the pad sat above the rotor. That's going to make the pads wear poorly so we abandoned this M3 rotor. Shame.


Next we tested a number of larger non-BMW rotors with the same 5x120mm bolt patterns, including this 1-piece 13.6" (345mm) above left and a 1-piece 14.0" (355mm) rotor above right. Even though we would be going to an 18" diameter wheel for our car, we knew many endurance E46 racers wanted to stick with 17" wheels, so we used our 17x10" Forgestar as the "go / no go" gauge for our brake fitment testing. We even tried a 14.5" rotor but it was too tight for safe use inside this 17" wheel.


The best fit for the 4 piston Brembo caliper on the E46 non-M spindle was on the 14.0" diameter rotor (355mm x 32mm), which is a monster. It had the right bolt pattern but we had to slightly re-machine the opening to fit over the BMW hub. Myles used our CNC lathe to make this cut and it worked perfectly. This rotor weighed 24.0 pounds before we machined the hub and chamfer. Very cost effective.


I am not showing our E46 mounting bracket just yet - we made prototype brackets that bolt-on without mods, but they aren't production quality looking yet. Once we get some laps on this brake setup, and if they work as well as they should, we will sell this as a kit (rotor, caliper, bracket and hose). Gives us BIG brakes, affordable calipers and rotors, with a massive pad selection. Fits within some 17" and all 18" wheels. Stay tuned for more.


I teased this last time as the widebody kit had just arrived but we hadn't mocked it up well yet. We needed the bumper cover, left door, a wheel and suspension, and the correct left fender mounted to test flares these completely. All of those other other steps have been completed so now we could finally test fit these bits properly at all 4 corners.

We were excited to try a widebody kit that we could buy for so little. This looked good for both clearance and minimal drag. The aero of a fender or flare matters, especially when you are bombing down the back straight at COTA going 150+ mph. We found out later that the images used by Duraflex on their website are only 3D renderings, and even those are from a competitor.


We got the kit that we ordered (we are a dealer) and the fit and finish was pretty good - we have used a number of items from this brand and quality can be a bit "all over the place", but this was one of the better fitting setups. We spent several weeks rounding up a LF fender, mounting the nose and hood, getting the driver's door on, and mounting the suspension/wheel/tire/brakes - before we could mock these up properly.


These are made to work with the M3 nose and M3 lower skirts, so we had a gap at the bottom where the skirt was supposed to be. But we have some M3 skirts laying around, that won't be a big issue. The fronts and rears both fit surprisingly well. The rear had plenty of tire clearance...


...but the front will only clear a 275mm tire. That's the problem with looking at the drift or stance communities for flare options - they never run a lot of actual tire WIDTH, just going for the stance or a tire that makes lots of smoke.


These flares won't fit over our 18x11" wheels up front, but for a racer or team running a 275mm tire on a 10" wheel, this should be ideal. Interested? We'd sell this whole kit at a loss for $400 shipped - call us at the shop if you want this set. Only mocked up, never drilled or bolted on.


Many of you know that Vorshlag is known for making higher end roll cages in road race cars. But if you have read this post titled "we make roll cages" you might realize that our cages cost a bit of money. Because they take a long time to plan, prep, bend, notch, fit, and weld. 60-75 hours is normal for a car like this.


Spending 75 hours building a cage from scratch - after hours and in our free time - could takes several months to complete. We tried to shortcut this time by ordering a "cage kit" from a reputable shop known for perfect fitting BMW cages. These are pictures of the kit built for our car, remotely, using another E46 coupe chassis to build within.


Back in May the team voted on this option, and then paid for this E46 kit from Hanksville Hot rods. They build their kits inside the same chassis as you ordered - but it took longer than expected to round up an E46 coupe to use. And longer still to complete the kit. Stuff happens.


This was an experiment to see how many hours we could save by ordering a kit and just doing the final welding here. It likely will save a 40+ hours of fab time, once it is complete and in the car, but our 6 month wait to get the kit built did nothing beneficial for our build's timeline. We had hoped to be on track in the Fall of 2019 but we are now pushing into Spring of 2020. We will show more of this kit being installed into our chassis next time, then many things staged behind this will follow.


After the Duraflex kit proved to be too small up front for us we immediately started looking for an option that could clear our 18x11" wheel and 315/30/18 tire we will be using. Since 2017 "Clinched" has been making some stancey widebody kits and flares. They make a series of "universal" flares from thermo-plastic, which are formed on a vacuum table - a technique which we have used in the past.


We had started to see these show up on legit road race and autocross cars with BIG wheels. A buddy had purchased a set of their "Euro" style flares with 100mm (4") widths. They worked to clear a 335mm tire on his Subaru track car (below left) and the same units on this CTS-V road race car looked pretty good. This style is made to be trimmed to fit, then bolted on.


We borrowed this 100mm Euro flare and mocked it up on both ends of our E46 coupe. They have more room than the front Duraflex widebody kit.


This won't be as clean of an install as the E46 specific widebody kit, but it will give us full coverage on the protruding part of each tire, and we can vent behind each tire by trimming the flares short on the back side. We became a Clinched dealer a month ago and ordered a set of flares this week for use on this car. We will show that installation work in a future post.


We have been staying quiet about the engine, but it's Vorshlag - what did you think we'd build? Of course an LS swap is in order for our E46! Look how good an LS V8 fits under the hood of an E46...


An old prototype set of our stainless long tubes was rounded up, we built some mounts, have a brand new transmission which we will test (which I cannot talk about yet), have an E46 M3 rear subframe and diff to use, and more.


Once we agreed upon the class we wanted to run (GTO) then the engine we would use became obvious - an LS V8 engine.


Even running the highest class in WRL (GTO) we are still limited to a fairly tame 9 pound per whp. And unlike NASA ST/TT classes, they calculate with no driver (but full of fuel). We need to know what the car will weigh then figure out how much power we can make...


We haven't done a W2W prepped E46 LS build yet, but we did build a caged E36 with a 427" LS engine and T56 Magnum before. This was our "Alpha" E36 LS build, which we raced from 2006 to 2009. Fully caged, with a fire system, aluminum LS, full exhaust, oil cooler, big radiator, Accusump, heavy 17x11" CCWs, all of the factory glass except the doors (which were gutted), and a single racing seat it tipped the scales at 2508 pounds, without fuel. The E46 chassis is a little bit heavier, plus it will have full aero + driver cooling system - so lets call it 2750 pounds full of fuel and race ready.

2750 lbs / 9.0 = 305 whp

This peak number of just over 300 makes a BMW M54 based engine out of the question. And yes, we could have built a higher strung S54 E46 M3 engine for this car, those aren't exactly inexpensive or known for massive reliability in endurance racing. Costs for an LS are much lower for us, and we are known for LS powered BMWs, which pushed us to an aluminum LS. We could make this with the smallest displacement 4.8L truck engine, or easily with a stock 5.3L. But we are going to "overshoot" our power goals, then dial it back with a using a custom "flat tune" by way of a factory Drive By Wire (DBW) throttle body. You could do the same thing with a physical restrictor in front of the throttle body, too.

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We had just pulled a 5.3L LS based iron block engine from the dead carcass of my old shop truck, a 1999 GMC Sierra 1500, #TruckNorris. This truck was smashed into while I was sitting in traffic by a 1 ton van going 60 mph. Destroyed my truck, bent the frame, shoved me into a parked truck and trailer also stopped in traffic ahead of me. Don't text and drive, kids!


That "LM7" series 5.3L is still an LS based engine, and the "706" castings are a small-valve "cathedral port" aluminum head. This article describes the 706 heads pretty well. They are probably some of the worst performing factory aluminum LS heads out there, but we can still make them work well enough to easily exceed 305 whp - and beyond. This is part of a test...


Erik at Horsepower-Research (HPR, where I am one of the managing partners) is helping us build this car, and will co-drive in endurance races. He disassembled these heads, then we cleaned them up in the aqueous parts washer before running them for about 15 minutes in the Ultrasonic parts cleaner. The flat stone shown above right was used to knock some of the carbon deposits off the block surface, as well as check for flatness. The heads checked out great even after 273K miles of truck use. The ports still had some carbon but the CNC work will take all of that out.


Most of the valvetrain will not be re-used, and the now bare castings have been sent off to a head porter we use for a "single pass" CNC port program. These will be assembled with steel (not titanium) valves, for our fairly modest power goal. HPR is known for BIG displacement LS engines, but these heads will be a test for an LS engine we want to develop for more economical endurance racing use.


The intake manifold we use for cathedral port heads - along with the camshaft - will determine where in the RPM range the engine will make the most power, and can unleash more on top with aftermarket designs like the Fast or MSD. We might cut the hood later, but we wanted to stick with a low profile "car" style LS intake to start with.


We cannot fit the taller Truck style LS intake (above left) under the hood of an E46, but they do make good power even with a smaller 75mm throttle body limitation. The 75mm mechanical throttle body versions of the LS1 and LS6 intakes are a bit snug to the E46 hood, but we made 490 whp on a 427" LS engine (above right) that was in our Alpha E36, back in 2008 - also built by Erik Koenig.


The other low profile cathedral port intake we can use is from the LS2. These use a 90mm DBW (Drive By Wire) throttle body, which is significantly larger than the LS1 or LS6 intakes' 75mm throttle body. The LS2 DBW throttle body setup is also much "shorter" (front to back) than the later LS6 Corvette DBW TB, and the 90mm LS2 style is very cost effective, too. We have seen a good power bump by going to ever larger throttle bodies... there is almost no limit of how big you can go. 102mm is common and we've seen our 468" LS engine pick up power at 105, 108, and even 112mm throttle bodies.

I did a bit of research on the Dorman brand of replacement LS intake manifolds and this 615-901 "LS2" model with a 90mm TB opening was a real bargain. I hadn't seen much online about this new Nylon intake offering from Dorman so I bought one and we took a closer look. It arrived and looked pretty much just like an LS2 intake. This Dorman intake is only $215.99, and its brand new. A lot of the used LS2 intakes we see for sale have cracked bosses because they are all 10-14 years old. Plastic ages...


The Dorman 615-901 intake's casting looked pretty good except for two locations: There was a weird "protrusion" in one corner of the intake port near the cylinder head (above left), plus the throttle body opening had a lot of weird casting flaws and gaps (above right).


I had engine builder Erik take a look and he said he could fix the flaw in each of the 8 intake ports, then we could port then epoxy the small gaps at the throttle body area. At one of our Team work nights he used a long reach porting carbide cutter and smoothed out the protrusion.


We think this was a flaw in the internal casting dies - something shifted, and nobody bothered to fix it. Same goes for the throttle body section of the casting, where it meets the main plenum portion of the manifold. Just not a smooth transition there, lots of casting flash that had to be removed.


The part is even made in the USA, which is weird. Maybe Dorman will have this worked out at some point - just know this LS2 unit might need some work. He was done porting the intake ports and throttle body opening in about 90 minutes, and I cleaned the intake in the parts washer at HPR later that week.


We wanted to start with an aluminum LS block, as these are 80+ pounds lighter than the cheaper iron LS blocks. We could have sourced an aluminum 5.3L truck engine, which has a 3.780" bore. This is as small as any LS engine (4.8L is the same), and restricts the size of the intake and exhaust valves. So we looked for one of the 3.900" bore LS engines (LS1, LS6), which I happened to have. The 4.000" bore LS2 or 4.065" LS3 blocks would be even better, but those are more costly and I had a clean LS6 block I donated to the cause.


The block was equipped with the OEM 6-bolt main caps (they are worthless without mains!) and it was mounted to an engine stand to take those off.


Once you get the bolts out these mains are a bit tricky to remove cleanly. Erik has this custom set of main cap pullers one of his employees made years ago and I used it to pop the mains out out of the block. Each main was stamp marked before removal, of course. The thrust bearing is on the 3rd main, as shown in the middle of the block in the above left pic. The main bolts were kept but will likely be replaced with ARP studs.


We mounted the block to Erik's mill, which he has setup for block work. The goal was to clearance this block for a 4.00" stroke crank, up from the stock 3.622" stroke crank used in the 5.3L or the 5.7L LS6. If you want to do the math, it's easy:

((3.900" bore ^2) x Pi / 4) x 4.000" stroke x 8 cylinders = 382.3" or 6.3L

This extra displacement only makes the engine more reliable at the power level we are targeting - as we can make more torque at lower RPMs with the added displacement. We do this "make it bigger" trick normally to make more total power, which it does. But on any engine, more RPMs = more problems, and on an endurance engine, we can make the same power goal at lower RPMs. We ran his crank clearance program for this LS6 block and a 4.0" stroke, which takes about 45 to 60 minutes. This is to allow the connecting rod to clear the bottom of the block's cylinder casting with the additional stroke.


Next up the block was mounted to the surfacer, and the decks were surfaced the bare minimum to make sure they were perfectly flat and square to the bore centerline. With less than .005" removed the block cleaned up perfectly. There are more steps - line hone, bearing checks cleaning - but I will show more of the shortblock work next time. And we have a second engine, an aluminum 5.3L, that we are setting up as a back-up engine as well.

2004 330i ZHP

Another customer tired of dealing with lots of little issues like CELs reached out to me this month and wanted to unload this Imola Red 6-speed ZHP sedan. It is out of inspection and registration, and the AC is blowing hot, so it's pretty much unsellable in Texas.


This is a one owner Texas car, however, and it has some tasty upgrades. A 3.64 geared limited slip diff, coilover suspension he bought from us over 10 years ago, 18x9" wheels, Michelin Pilot Sports, a Setrab oil cooler, and more.


With 162K miles, the AC system on the fritz, and these CEL issues it isn't worth a lot of money as it sits - and I don't want to fall into another "let's just find the issue and sell it" trap, as the risks of these being easy fixes are nil. We went and drove the car, however, and it is really nice. Super clean inside and out - this was owned by a BMWCCA member who cared for this car - until it became more of a burden than a joy to drive. I brought a trailer to tow it back home, since it had no plates.


Not really sure what we are going to do with this car - we take it to lunch on nice days and it gives me bad ideas. How about a nice daily driver with a 500 whp V8? I bought this E46 M3 rear subframe (and we have a 210mm LSD M3 diff) just in case we move forward with a swap.


That seems to be enough for this time, but we will have much more to show on the next update. We should have some progress to show on the Team Car ...


We have a few 210mm M3 LSDs and it is cheaper to use one of these than convert the medium case 188mm E46 non-M diff. So I donated an E46 M3 rear subframe (not the same one that I bought for the ZHP) for this E46 endurance car. This has had the bushings pressed out and bead blasted - next time we will show the reinforcements we are adding and the new bushings going in.


We will also show the sealed spherical bushing we installed in the RTAB location, which is pretty slick. Also the cage install, electric assist steering column, and more. Lots to do!

Until next time...

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