Prep for Vintage at Saratoga

I have registered for the 2019 Vintage car show at the Saratoga Auto Museum in Saratoga, NY. From my home near Boston this will be the longest road trip I have made with the 323i. But these kinds of road trips and shows is why I bought the car. It’s a shame if the car sits in the garage and doesn’t accumulate mileage. And with the “death rattle” engine noise resolved I feel much more confident in taking the car on an extended trip.

But the car needs a lot of prep for a 400 mile round trip. It runs fine but there are things that should be done and upgrades I want to make. I planned ahead and had fun prepping the car for its first epic drive. My Vintage prep list:

The brake pedal is a little soft. Upon inspection I see one of the caliper dust boots is ripped badly. The calipers also look ratty and could use a thorough cleaning. They look awful with the backdrop of a super clean and painted wheel well.

My original plan was to buy another set of 323i calipers to rebuild myself. I found a pair on eBay and bought OEM seals and boots. But I couldn’t get the pistons to move at all. Not after soaking in PB Blaster for a week and with compressed air. So I sent them to Centric Parts (the parent company of StopTech) for a rebuild. They do a very thorough job with all new seals, boots, pistons, and hardware. I finished those up with new Zimmermann rotors and BimmerWorld stainless brake lines.

Wheels & Tires
I have three sets of wheels for this car: 13″ Alpina-replicas with big balloon tires, 13″ 320iS with worn Yokohamas, and 13″ VIAL. I like the VIALs the most – they are a basketweave design similar to the iS wheels but are wider with a lower offset and larger outer lip. They need a full restoration but I’ll settle for a cosmetic resto of the face for now.

I really like the color of the Nogaro Silver wheels used on E30s. But then decided the Polaris and Nogaro silvers would contrast too much. So I went with a lighter and more metallic silver off-the-shelf from Lowes for the center with a OEM Wurth silver on the lip.

13″ tires are hard to come by but I landed on a set of Federal SS595 185/60R-13 on eBay. They look sporty with a water-friendly tread pattern. It has a wear rating of 460 so these won’t be super sticky but that might be a good thing.

iS Front Spoiler
I actually like the stock front valence and small lip. But the lip has had some unfortunate impacts in the past and is no longer show ready. I always really liked the front spoiler from the 320iS model. It fits in with my 323iS/CSL/Outlaw build theme. I was able to pick one up on eBay. It needs some work which will be a good learning experience and I can get it on before Saratoga.
Link to install: 320iS Front Spoiler Install

Hella Big & Small Headlights
My car has sealed beams from when it was converted from Euro to US spec. They are not great. When I first saw photos of the Hella Big & Small headlights I knew I had to have them on my car. And they are Hella H4 which were great on one of my old E30s.

The Big/Small lights were originally for 316/318 models that did not have high beams. These base models only had large 7″ low beam lights (like a 2002). This was a conversion that kept the 7″ lows and added 4.5″ high beams with the appropriate grilles.

The US conversion headlight wiring is a DISASTER but both headlights, parking signals, and turn signals work so I’m just going to install the Hellas and move on.

Oil Leak
I have had a nagging oil leak since my engine build. It hasn’t been obvious where it’s coming from. There is gritty oil above the exhaust manifolds, all along the passenger side of the block and frame rails, and all over the front of the engine. My best guess is from the front camshaft seal. This is the only seal not replaced in my engine build. I didn’t realize how easy it was to change at the time. Now, replacing it is basically like changing the timing belt. So much has to come off to get access.

Oil Pan Ding & Oil Change
I thought my oil leak was from a small ding under the drain bolt and oil was coming out under pressure. But since there is evidence of oil so far up on the engine this is unlikely. But I have a few drips over time and this small chunk should be addressed. JB Weld should take care of it.

Goes without saying after my front suspension overhaul and new tires.

Nut & Bolt
I’ve got a few hundred miles on my new front suspension and that’s a good time to have a professional look things over. I’ll be bringing it to a local expert to go over my work.

When I removed my non-functional fog lights my right side horn stopped working. I pulled it off and applied 12 volts and it worked. So I think I might have snipped a ground wire or something. A fully functional horn might come in handy.

Wiring / No Start Situation
I have had a no-start situation when the car is hot since taking ownership. I have detailed my work here: E30 M20 No Start Troubleshooting. But it still has me stumped. My next move is to pull apart the steering column and check the wiring behind the ignition switch, as in this post here: At least I have a workaround so this doesn’t concern me too much unless I suspect the chance of a fire.

I’m really excited for this trip. It’s a good test of the car’s condition and capabilities. And I have heard really great things about the Saratoga Auto Museum. In addition to some fine German cars the Museum’s current exhibition is Cars of the Sixties. It’s also located next to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center where the Dave Matthews Band is playing the day of the car show, which is a sweet bonus. It will be an interesting drive along back roads and state highways – without an overdrive 5th gear I’ll be off the Interstates. And that sounds like what the car will like best.


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