2021 Project Planning

Big projects coming up: 5-speed swap, Supersprint exhaust, rear suspension bushings, and floor cleaning and paint. I’ll cover the actual project in a later post but jot down my planning here.

“I don’t want the labor pains, I just want the baby!”

I have so much going on project-wise that I don’t feel like doing any of it. It’s like loving the ocean but dreading the waves. I have an M54 3.0 rebuild for my E46 wagon, plus general upkeep on that. My wife’s SUV needs some work. My 1948 Willys Jeep needs everything. And this was the summer I said I would make the yard look nice (didn’t happen). And I keep dreaming up other car projects. I’m good at the dreaming just not getting it done. “I don’t want the labor pains, I just want the baby!” – Al Pacino in Ocean’s 13.

But the 323i needs some work. It’s been a couple of years since any major work was done. I rebuilt the whole front suspension in 2018 and the engine swap in 2016. It’s due for something. And if we can suffocate Covid for good maybe I can fulfill my goal of driving the 323i on Tail of the Dragon and attending The Vintage in 2022. [Edit: The Vintage is back to it’s Spring date so that’s not happening this year.]

Back when I worked for Turner I bought a full Supersprint exhaust – headers, mid section, and their loud-spec Race mufflers. And they’ve been sitting in my garage rafters since. I think I’m at a point where I want to hear that system! Prep: O2 sensor bungs welded to the headers for my O2 sensor and wideband sensor. And I’d like to preserve the look of the stainless as much as possible so I’m going to look into a high-temp clear coat.

My car came with a correct Getrag 245 5-speed transmission. But I never got to drive it because the original engine needed a rebuild. Once the E30 engine was in I was able to drive the car…. And the transmission dumped all its fluid and I lost 4th gear (maybe others). Luckily the M20 Getrags are not worth much so I was able to buy another one cheap. Prep: clean and service next transmission, inspect 5-speed driveshaft and rubber guibo. Confirm the flanges of the transmission and driveshaft are the same.

Trunk painting done in 2016.

With the car high up on jack stands with the transmission, driveshaft, and exhaust removed this would be an ideal time to clean and paint the underside of the floors. And treat or repair any rust. From memory the floors are in good shape so minimal patch work will be needed. And even though it’s a separate job wouldn’t the rear/trunk floor look great finished at the same time? That will involve dropping the gas tanks and the rear subframe.

I have a spare set of tanks that I can restore and treat to be ready for install. Dropping tanks is not as bad as it sounds. Prep: treat and coat gas tanks ahead of time and get new rubber hose.

The subframe also needs to come down. I have a spare one of those too but no trailing arms. That also means the parking brake cables have to be disconnected and maybe even the calipers. The diff also has to come down. And the fuel pump, filter, and brackets. This may be more than I want to do but it still should be done. I can overhaul the trailing arm and diff bushings too. Prep: order all bushings, decide on caliper rebuilds, new fuel filter and hoses, and plan for any other parts or work that may come up.

M54 block ready for its beating hearts.

All of the planning for this has to be concurrent with my M54 rebuild. And to avoid working in the dead of winter in an un-heated garage I’m not opposed to cutting the 2021 season short to get started earlier. The 323 may end up on stands as soon as the new M54 completes its break-in. Damn, I’d better get off the couch….

January, 2022: I never got to the M54 swap. The Covid supply chain broke for me and I was left waiting for parts when the temps nose-dived. The E46 swap will have to wait until March or April. The 323 failed to start (again) so I had to push it into the (un-heated) garage, where it currently shares space with the fresh M54. I have three projects going but a garage that is only sufficient for one.

April, 2022: With the 323 electrics sketchy I’ve continued driving the E46. I’ve actually sorted out some things with it and it drives better than ever. The 323 is now up on jack stands.

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