Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Red Coupe - Thawing out

Research and more research...this is how you efficiently get goals checked off any to-do list. Oh and money too, but that goes without saying. During all this information gathering under snowfall on the east coast, I sourced some more euro goodies for whenever I got around to refreshing the exterior, from Abrahams Motorsport. These parts are more of a long term reward I'll install once the car is closer to where I want it to be...short of a full respray, but that's another story.

I ended up finding a small, little known shop called Euromotive to take care of things I didn't want to take on (or couldn't) for the car; it's run by a couple of ex-dealer mechanic brothers who decided to go solo. They're awesome guys, as well as BMW experienced technicians and thankfully just 10 minutes up the road. After buying a nice stash of Mehle oil filters soon after acquiring this car, I started paying them visits with odd jobs here and there. The rear subframe bushing job I had them do was not odd at all; rather very large. While I had the rear subframe bushings replaced, I had the control arm eccentrics replaced along with the diff bushing. They swapped the diff fluid out along with trans and other service points over the first couple weeks which had the car feeling great in more ways than one. Part of the shift linkage needed the exhaust removed to replace, so this was addressed as well. With these repairs the driving experience was getting better and better and driving 500+ miles a week makes you real familiar with a new car, quick. I was running @ 60mph on 95S in 3-5" of slush, mid storm this past Feb, with complete confidence. I have a new respect for RWD cars with LSDs and skinny yet chunky snow tires.

Getting the parts that are a bit too pricey to buy brand new, from people on the various e30 specific forums around the net, took getting used to. What a pain in the ass. This is the first time I really had to do this for a car of mine, which was a major adjustment. It was kind of like slowing down with people on the highway that can't drive normally when it starts to rain; instead of going around them you play it conservative and stick with the pack. Knowing the benefit of savings and value helped me through it, so I just kept plugging away with inquiries until I found some good sellers I could keep going back to for other stuff down the line. I then started going about getting my black interior together; I intially had a hard time trying to source an entire black leather or vinyl interior, because of the size and shipping cost, so I got what I could; black arm rests and map pockets.

Taking care of the the bigger issues, as I stated before, I needed to see my speed at night. One cold day in March I decided to take my cluster out for the first time to see why it didn't light up as well as why my speedometer needle bounced around on bumps. The burnt out light was quite simple to replace but diagnosing the speedo problem I wasn't so sure about; according to DIY wisdom, my problem was either due to the speedo unit's circuit board or the wheel speed sensor on the diff. Unfortunately I didn't find out about the sensor option until I had gotten my rear subframe bushings replaced...but thankfully it was a job that could be completed later without removing anything from the rear subframe.

Likewise, before becoming aware of the sensor solution, I tore through the cluster like a man possessed; soldering (for the first time) where I thought the circuits needed it...but it turned out the speedo didn't need anything at all ha. I had Euromotive install my new sensor and refurbish some faulty sensor wiring from a previous owners adventure to fix the needle bouncing issue. Thankfully I didn't fuk anything up.

At the end of March I got a phone call from ECS saying my coilovers arrived from overseas; finally I could get the car setup properly. I put my new tires on my stockies and took the winter wheels off the car. I bought new strut bearings and front hubs/wheel bearings for the install to be a refresher as well as an upgrade. The PO took care of the rest of the front end not too many miles ago which helped a good deal. I also got new dust caps (which turned into a fitment nightmare) and new HD rear strut mounts. Once I had all my schwag together I swung down to my buddy Tims' family shop and went to work with him and my buddy Ethan (who went through the install of these same coils last year). While I had everything off the car I sanded down my dust shields and sprayed them matte black with rustoleum. Everything was going as smooth as it could be until it was time to test drive the car after my alignment. I drove the car over and over again and still had a horribly vibrating steering wheel. After much head-scratching during the early morning hours with Tim it turned out the 10mm hub-centric spacers I had, in a box in my garage until I grabbed them for this coil install, were severely warped. How they got warped is beyond me as they had little miles on them and were made from aluminum, but I got it home with the rear spacers up front and used my H&R spacer stash to resolve the aesthetic issue as quickly as possible.

Around the same time I was trying my hardest to source factory shadowline trim from an e30 318is. Unfortunately no one wants to risk shipping the metal strips as they bend easy and the only people selling it are on the westcoast for some god forsaken reason. Buying the trim new would cost about $440 (I didn't have) so I ended up taking 220 grit and paint to my factory chrome trim with Ethan who had done this for his own project last year. His experience was invaluable because the outcome was great. I was finally getting to where I wanted to be exterior-wise, and at the same time my small fixes and repairs to the interior were taking shape. Out of everything for me, the hardest thing I had to do for this old car is clean it. Once a warm weekend day in April reared it's head I went to work. I took a nice microfiber mitt and quality wax-free soap to the exterior and once I was done drying everything off the real work began: a tooth brush, warm soapy water, interior cleaning spray, microfiber cloths, vinyl cleaner, old cotton t-shirts, Stoner glass cleaner and about 5 hours continuing into Sunday morning before I headed out to work. I regret not taking pics of the before, but you'll get what you need to know from the after.

I think my favorite interior mod was sourcing the window switch 'circuit breaker' button with the decal still intact, used. Things are warming up.

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