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irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 5:26 p.m.

Meet my winter project.

I'm kind of at "major work" stopping point with most of my other project cars with nothing all that interesting going on, and I wanted something to work on for the winter so I'm not bored. So I called up a rallycross friend who has had this thing sitting in his yard for a couple years and we came to an agreement on a 3-digit price for his 1984 318i. This is a true base-model car with the M10, manual transmission, manual windows and sunroof, drum brakes in the rear, etc. IIRC 1984 was the first year the e30 came to the US. This one is a year older than the rally car (if you're looking for that very, very long build, it's here: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/1985-bmw-318-stage-rally-build-1988-porsche-924s-s/40440/page1/ . That build (and others in that thread) are 129 pages long so figured I'd start a new thread for this one.

I have kind of a non-specific plan for this one, and not sure exactly what direction I'll take it, but there are few things I had in mind:

1) It had to be cheap. Really cheap. Even ratty e30s these days are going for a few thousand but the early M10 cars are pretty unloved so I was able to pick this one up for cheap ($700). 

2) The build itself will be on a low budget. Obviously I'll have to buy some new parts (especially things like tires, brake stuff, and bushings), but overall the plan is to get as much stuff secondhand, used, or junkyard as possible to keep the budget down. I'm going to try to document what I spend, just for the hell of it.

3) Those who know me know I always say "I build my cars for specific purposes." The Sequoia is for towing/hauling. The Raider is for off-roading. The Porsche is for long-distance road trips. The rally car is obviously for rally . And the GTI (mostly stock) is just my commuter. I hadn't planned to do another e30, but my general plan for the "purpose" of this one is rally-related, but not competition-related directly. First, it will be a rolling parts car for the rally car. I'll build this with basically all my rally car spares that I already have. Second, it will be a recce car for rally - so the idea is it will drive to rallies along with the tow rig/rally car and be the source for spare parts AND for recce - because using a loaded-up Sequoia for recce, while comfortable, isn't ideal. Third, I'd like to do some "course car" duties at rallies I'm not competing in. Course cars can't be caged, and are used to open the course, run sweep, etc. I've wanted to be able to do that but don't really have a car suitable for it (Porsche too low, GTI too "daily driver"), So the idea is to build this car well enough that it can move quickly (but below competition pace), safely, and reliably on a rally stage. 

4) It will have full interior, air conditioning, etc. Something comfortable enough for me or one of my crew guys to drive it on long hauls to rallies (5-10 hours, usually)

So that's the kinda-sorta plan right now, though TBD what things I'll do to it to make it meet these requirements, but hopefully you'll follow along. 


irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 5:26 p.m.

So upon getting it home, first I had to do some musical chairs with the other cars, since the Rally car is in the garage, I stuck the Porsche in there too for the next couple weeks, though it lives outside under a cover. Eventually this car will probably be in the garage by itself so i have room to work, but we'll see. I live in a safe neighborhood on a cul-de-sac with plenty of driveway and street parking, so leaving cars outside isn't an issue (other than ensuring my wife has good parking for her kid-hauler). 

Time for a wash. This thing is REALLY dirty. Inside and out. Dan used it for a few rallycrosses two seasons ago. Ironically, I actually took this photo of the car back then.  By far the most extreme photo of it that was ever taken :)


And then it sat in his yard for a couple years getting grimy (I know there is a mouse living in it someplace, since I've seen it, but not sure yet where his nest it).  So time for some serious scrubbing.....

The paint it lousy, and it will get painted at some point, but I dislike working on dirty, nasty cars so at least the paint is clean now

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 5:26 p.m.

ok, here's a quick look at what I'm dealing with there. Overall, the body is in decent shape with no huge dents or damage (some smaller areas I should be able to fix). However, it does have the same rust issues my other e30 had originally (and most other old e30s have). The rear corner rockers always rust out on these things. Someone did a fiberglass fix on them so we'll see if that's good enough or if I cut it out and rebuild it in metal. There's also a nice hole in the rear side panel on the driver's side where the side molding attached. This will be some work to fix, but shouldn't be too bad hopefully.

The rear half underneath looks decent, and no rust in the spare tire well, so that's good.

I already knew a coujple places that woudl DEFINITELY be rusty in the front floors (always under the driver's pedal, of course). But upon further inspection, this one basically doesn't even have front floors. Don't think Dan really realized it - the carpet was so stiff it was basically its own floor. But it's pretty bad. Driver's


I'll know more once I rip the interior out, but will likely just cut them out entirely and weld in some flat sheet metal there. 

The rockers themselves actually look pretty decent from what I can tell, except the rear corners of the front fenders (both sides), whcih you can see in the photo above. I have a pair of spare front fenders (black) in the shed, so I'll probably just swap them out and not deal with repairing these. We'll see once I have them off how much rot there is. 

It has a Red46 skid plate on it and I haven't investigated much under the front end, but not too much there to worry about, in my experience.  Here's the mighty M10. It starts and runs, but won't idle. We'll see what I do with the engine. I may rebuild the M10. I may find an M42 if one pops up cheap. Jim has a couple M20s in his shed as well, but I'd prefer to keep this one 4-cyinder. I miss the lightness and the balance of the smaller engines in this chassis. 

The trunk came with a couple more bottlecaps in it, and overall looks pretty good with all the original panels and stuff.

The interior is VERY dirty, with some torn-up e30 Sport seats and an M-Tech steering wheel (probably the only non-original things on this car..). But overall fairly complete other than the missing glove box and shift knob.

The dash is surprisingly good, with only one crack in it, so that's a big plus. 

Oh, I forgot about this:

apparently a previous owner didn't pay his taxes and it got impounded or something, lol....

Otherwise, interior is ok. Headliner is in good shape, all the rubber seals are in good shape (way better than the rally car, actually), and everything else is "there." It also has manual windows and a manual sunroof (just like the rally car did when I got it). I don't see any particular evidence of any leaks, though that may or may not be the reason for the rusty front floors. The rear floors are actually pretty solid. 



irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 5:27 p.m.

Parts. The only parts it came with were a couple spare bottlecaps, an iS trunk spoiler (which I gave/sold to Dan a couple years ago, ironically), and a pair of new rear Sachs shocks. Obvioulsy, I have a ton of spares here for the rally car, including full backup front rally suspension, a half dozen rear Bilstein HDs, springs, bushings, bearings, and other stuff. A lot of this will get used on this car.

One downside to the early 318, though, is the lightly-built suspecion and brakes. The front struts are thinner and smaller than the e30 325 and really don't have any insert availability anyhow. The front brakes are solid discs and the rear brakes are drums. The rally car had this stuff too and I quickly replaced it with take-off 325 stuff all-around. To that end, actually the day before I bought this car I headed up to see Spencer (some of you may remember him from my rally thread, back in the day). He just 5-lug swapped his S52-powered e30 and had most of the suspension there. So for not much cash I got the rear trailing arms, including disc brakes and calipers, a spare rear subframe, and some chopped front uprights (chopped for ground-control setup, which is fine since I will eventually chop them anyhow to build a spare set of Bilstein Gravel Mk1 suspension for the rally car. For this car, I'll use the rally car's old suspension (basically ground controls with HDs, and also with vented discs.). 

The Porsche is a good parts-hauler:

Cost: $75 (I gave him 150, but the other 75 was for some power tools unrelated to this build). 

Total expenditures to date: $775


So I probably won't do too much on this for a couple weeks. There's a final rallycross of the season this coming weekend, and after that I'll take a few days to clean up the rally car and prep it for winter before I get going on this one (and move it into the garage). 

cmcgregor (Forum Supporter)
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
11/7/21 6:46 p.m.

As a former 1984 318i owner, I'm looking forward to this one. Looks halfway decent for $700 as long as the rust isn't terminal.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 6:52 p.m.
cmcgregor (Forum Supporter) said:

As a former 1984 318i owner, I'm looking forward to this one. Looks halfway decent for $700 as long as the rust isn't terminal.

looks like the main issue area is the front floors, which are substantially worse than on the rally car. I'm better at welding and metal work now than I was then, though, so hopefully shouldn't be too terrible (fingers crossed). 

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) MegaDork
11/7/21 6:53 p.m.

Let me go on record as stating that this is now my new Favorite Build Thread. 

This is the kind of thing that made me fall in love with GRM. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/7/21 7:08 p.m.
Woody (Forum Supportum) said:

Let me go on record as stating that this is now my new Favorite Build Thread. 

This is the kind of thing that made me fall in love with GRM. 

hah....well, I don't think I can really live up to the true challenge-budget creativity (and fabrication skills) of many here. While I plan to keep the budget as low as possible, it probably won't end up "challenge budget" level, since I do want to have some stuff nice/new for the sake of good reliability and safety (e.g. new a/c compressor is like $300, and it will need one). But yeah, I'll try to at least keep it interesting, if not especially groundbreaking :)

Slippery UberDork
11/7/21 7:41 p.m.


artur1808 HalfDork
11/7/21 8:49 p.m.

Sounds like a good plan, I'll definitely be following along

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
11/8/21 8:21 a.m.

I'm just here to harass you about building a matching recce car when we all know you hate recce.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/8/21 9:44 a.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ said:

I'm just here to harass you about building a matching recce car when we all know you hate recce.

I may actually get "JEMBA" on the license plate just to be ironic.

That said I may hate recce less If I don't have to do it in a hulking giant SUV.

95maxrider Reader
11/8/21 10:03 a.m.


irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/8/21 4:52 p.m.

Had a few minutes to check some other things out today and look closer at the floor rust. I can get replacement OEM replica floor panels for about $150 from Europe, but likely will just go with some sheet metal. It's going to be some work, though.

Also, found the mouse nest, thankfully absent of any actual mice. Guess the guy that came with the car went and found the other field mice out in the woods behind my house.

Also saw this. This is the tube for the fuel tank expansion hose and vent. I saw the outside part was rusted away (much like the rally car was when I got it) but looks like water got down inside this one so I'll cut it out and replace with some new tubing when the time comes. It's not structural at all, so should be easy enough.

Better look at the passenger floor. Yuck.

And the Red46 skidplate. My rally skidplate is made by them as well, but about twice as big and made custom just for me. 

Uh...I don't think the AC compressor is supposed to be sitting on it though. Wonder if Dan rallycrossed it like that lol.

Other things to do in the 2 hours of daylight I now have after work, so that's all I checked out for the moment. 

Ironsides Reader
11/8/21 7:17 p.m.

Sub'd! Looking forward to seeing how you tackle the floors, I'll be in a similar boat very soon. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/8/21 7:52 p.m.
Ironsides said:

Sub'd! Looking forward to seeing how you tackle the floors, I'll be in a similar boat very soon. 

I can assure you it won't be in a particularly professional manner lol. The easy button really would be to buy these for $150 each. Once I have everything cut out and have a good idea of how much needs replacing, I'll make a decision.  But, it's a mostly flat panel so should be able to just use sheet metal. :


maschinenbau UltraDork
11/8/21 8:18 p.m.

I recall a certain magazine building that engine into quite the revvy little mill in recent years. Looks like a great start to a project, and will be a nice one to follow.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/8/21 8:42 p.m.
maschinenbau said:

I recall a certain magazine building that engine into quite the revvy little mill in recent years. Looks like a great start to a project, and will be a nice one to follow.

I think you're thinking of the M42, if you mean the GRM 318 build. I've had a few of those in the rally car (which was originally M10 also and now is M50). I really like the M42, and if one pops up locally for cheap, I'll have no problem swapping. I even still have a pair of transmissions that fit the M42 (since they also fit my M50). 

I know a lot of 2002 guys really built M10s up, as they're very strong. But those are usually carb'd or megesquirted, and engine management is probably my weakest area of car stuff. 

Here's the last M42 I built, for an e21 project that I bailed out on (but in retrospect, should have kept)

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/9/21 6:28 p.m.

I don't plan to really start doing work on this car for another week or two, but after work (now with reduced daylight :/ ) I'm trying to devote a half-hour or so into "investigating" stuff to get a better idea of what I'll be needing to do. Today: pull the passenger seat and carpet and check out the floor on that side.

So, the back floor isn't too bad. Which is odd because the BACK floors are what were totally trashed on the rally car (not the fronts as much)

There is one spot in the corner but that shouldn't be too hard to deal with, especially if I drop the fuel tank as I'm planning to do. 

The front is.....well, I thought it might be a bit better than the driver's side, but not by much. I'm definitely going to have to cut it all out forward of the front crossmember (where the front of the seat mounts) and all the way to the firewall. The rocker panel on that side is....ok. Just the forward-most 6" or so are shot, but may be able to repair that from the outside once the fender is off, we'll see....

At first I was worried the frame rail under the floor would be rusted out as well, but after vacuuming out everything it looks to be pretty clean inside. I may do some reinforcing of it anyhow since I like to use the rail as a jack stand point, but it seems structurally sound so making a new floor should be mostly a flat sheet turned up at the front end to the firewall and on the door side to the rocker. I may have some stuff out in the shed to cut some "OEM" sheet metal out of (though not OEM German).

I'll probably do this side first since it's easier (driver's side has all the fuel and brake lines that will need to be worked around.

So, that's all for now. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/11/21 5:33 p.m.

Did some rearranging of vehicles today. The rally e30 will eventually go in the left bay for the winter after this weekend, so it's going to be tight quarters working on the new project. 

I did throw the tire-carrying roof rack I built a while back onto the project e30 so I can store stuff on top of it, since it isn't going anywhere soon.

Ripped out the driver's side carpet and as expected, it's substantially worse than the passenger side. Pretty sure the "structure" of the floor was mostly just the OEM undercoating holding it all together.

After ripping most of it out by hand, and with some tin snips, a better Idea of what I'm looking at. Thankfully, the unibody frame rail appears to be structureally sound on this side, as does the reinforced plate that runs down the sides of the transmission tunnel (and supports the transmission via the nifty (and annoying) channel bolts. The rust basically stops at the spot welded seam with the rockers  and it appears the rockers are fairly decent and should be salvageable. 

Also like the passenger side, the rear floor is in good shape and won't need much attention

Incidentally, I had forgotten how teeny the base early 318 brakes and suspension area. The struts are actually like 4mm narrower diameter than other e30s, the front rotors are tiny and solid/not vented. Doesn't really matter since all this crusty stuff will be replaced with 325 stuff anyhow, but it's amusing

Forgot to take a pic, but here you can see I also cut out the main rotted area on the passenger side. I think on that side I'll only have to replace the metal on the ouside of the frame runner, at least that's how it looks at the moment, subject to change. 

iansane HalfDork
11/12/21 9:57 a.m.

Perfect time to lift it a few inches!

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/13/21 8:28 p.m.

Made some progress today cutting out the rot on the driver's side. The floor itself, as noted, shoudln't bee too hard. The main frame rail and the inner frame member (where the slotted transmission mounts are) are rock-solid and nothing more than a bit of surface rust. Nonetheless, most old e30s have the frame rail mushed in a bit from people putting jackstands in the wrong place and this one is no differet, so with the floor off of it, took a BFH and pounded everything flat again. So I'll paint up the inside good before I put the new floor over it.

As to the inner rockers, the only rusty part was really the vertical lip that's part of the OEM floor pan. So I cut all that out and for the most part everything inside it was clean, so I'll just be able to plate back over it with spot welds just like it was done from the factory. The front part (forward of the jack point on the pinch seam) was mashed up pretty good, so I did a good amount of persuading to get the pinch seam aligned with the rest of it behind the jack point. This will be reinforced with some angle iron (same the rally car has) so I can jack anywhere on the pinch seam in the future.

(ignore the relay in there....I guess it fell down from the kick panel and I'll put it back there)

So the "gap" you see there was the only problem area, the jack point itself. I had this same issue on the rally car so I think stuff just gets caught in there and rusts inside-out, since there's a "brace" piece inside the rocker. 

Here's after I cut out the jack point reinforcement (which was all mashed and rusty). The rust forward of that is the fender itself, which I'll be removing and not using. The meal underneath it looks pretty good. 

Then cut it out more and cleaned it up

I actually have a plan to fairly easily fix this area and make it stronger than stock, more on that when I do it (hint: it will use OEM e30 steel)

While doing all this I discovered the fuel return line was rusted at one of the brackets that hold it, and the high-pressure line looks equally bad. I'll replace both of those all the way down since it's pretty easy anyhow.  The brake line running under the car was recently replaced, so it's in good shape.

Also pulled off the fender on this side since it's very rusty at the bottom and I'm not going to use it. The body underneath looks pretty good and I only found one small spot that I'll need to repair (probably don't even need to, but will..). Up at the top left of the photo.

Just for future reference, the fender replacement cost will be......free! When I sold Neil and Eric the '91 shell to build their new rallycross car with, part of the deal was they'd give me all the doors and fenders from their old one (which otherwise was literally cracking in half), as spares for the rally car. So I have a pair of pretty good fenders with almost no rust or damage (but plenty of stickers), and haven't needed rally car spares yet (but will keep the rusty ones off this car just in case). 

One other point of attention is on the frame rail forward of the floor, just above the rear control arm mount. This is a common area of rust in e30s due to the way they framed the inside of the rail that traps any water in there (the rally car was literally completely packed with rusty wet dirt when I fixed it). This also has the unfortunate side effect of rusting the control arm mount bolts so sometimes they're hard to get out or strip the captive nuts. I had to cut through from the inside to fix this on the rally car, but we'll see if that's an issue. In any case, I'll cut out and plate this part of the frame a little later once I pull the entire suspension, which will make access easier.  It's not as bad as it looks in the pic, and is an easy fix.

Last rallycross of the season tomorrow, so after that I'll spend a few days cleaning up the rally car good before I put it away for the winter (hopefully with no new repairs). 









irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/15/21 8:15 p.m.

Had other stuff to do today, but figured I'd get started on the rocker panel repair. As noted, I'm going to try to keep this to minimal budget and maximum recycling of e30 parts. So, for my patch panel, let's recycle the rusty fender (I'm going to also use this fender to repair the rust spot near the rear wheel arch.

After a few new creases, it's about right.

Didn't get an "in progress" photo, but here's with it welded in an mostly ground flush. I'll also reinforce it from behind when I'm working on the inner sills, but the shape and fit turned out decent, considering I did it with .030 wire while on my back, and a bit of bondo will blend it in fine. Not that anyone will ever look closely at this area anyhow. 

So yeah, that was the most exciting post ever, wasn't it? Finishing any sheet metal work seems like an accomplishment since I'm generally pretty lousy at this kind of stuff. Oh well. 

Median New Reader
11/16/21 3:04 p.m.


irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/16/21 6:35 p.m.

While I ironically watch the "sneak peek reveal" of the new Fisker Ocean on Youtube (I have 250 shares of Fisker stock, so it's of direct interest to me), quick recap on this evening's metal work. Let's make a floor for the driver's side.

First the standard cardboard template.


As I noted, I'm trying my best to do things cheap and free, and metal costs money, so let's recycle an old Dodge Raider hood that's been sitting in my shed.


Traced out the cardboard on it, and conveniently it already has a curved edge (front of the hood), perfect for the front lip of the floor curving up to the firewall. And some kinda sloppy plasma cutting....



Then some bending of the side edges to join to the inner rocker and the transmission tunnel area



Then I marked some lines from underneath the car and drilled out holes for plug welds (hopefully got everything aligned right).



So no welding yet, as I still need to plate the inner rockers so I have something to plug weld TO, but I think this floor panel came out pretty decent. I should have enough material in the old hood to do the passenger side as well, since I only need to do half the floor on that side, as far as I can tell. 


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