Stealth: Titled but not Fully Baked

Now with headlights

At the end of week three I managed to patch together the broken headlight carrier, install a new headlight and re-aim the beams. I managed to save $50 by repairing the broken carrier. The black wheels look slick. Today I installed the new passenger seat (not pictured) I found on bimmerforums for that $50 I didn’t spend on the headlight carrier.

All-in-all the project is proceeding well, if more slowly than planned. I’m finding each little project takes about twice as much time as I think it should. That’s what happens when you have a 20 year old car I suppose. (Next year it’s “Historic”.) I have to work more on the family/garage balance thing. Too bad I have to go to work. Or sleep….

In Maryland, you have to pass the safety inspection before you can register a car. I got the car titled this week and got a 30-day registration to get it passed inspection. Looking at the inspection list, I think only the non-functioning speedo/odometer is holding me up now. My goal is to get the car ready in more or less stock configuration in time for the next CCA driver’s school 1 August. I think it’s doable.

side view

Stealth: Out with the Old

Dent Repaired

I’m at the end of the second week of this project and have made some significant progress with only a few (unpleasant) surprises. I secured the battery in the trunk (no brick required) and patched the hole in the fender well from the inside — I still have to finish it off on the outside. I removed the excess trim from the trunk and the electric antenna. That was about 10 lbs. of weight. I replaced all of the light bulbs.


From the interior, I removed the backseats, back seatbelts, stereo, four speakers, some speaker wire, and the center console. Total of about 40 lbs. I also removed one of the two front seats, but I plan to replace that. I fixed and reattached the glove box, removed the annoying key chime, and fitted a new UUC shift knob. I installed a new steering wheel cover. The rotten shift boot is still waiting to be replaced. I relocated the window switches to the dash and found out the reverse light has been disconnected and is on a separate switch now. Now sure why.

Under the hood, I removed the cruise control servo (the brains are long gone); replaced the air cleaner with a K&N cone filter; removed the AC compressor, condensor, evaporator and associated hardware (weight savings alone 25 lbs. fore of the front axle). I replaced the blower resistor and the coil; new oil and coolant caps. I replaced all of the fuses and found a new fuse box cover. I replaced the leaky power steering fluid reservoir and both leaky low-pressure hoses. I cleaned up much of the mess associated with those leaks as well.

More than I bargained for

The dented right front fender proved to be a bit more complicated than I estimated. I knew I had to fix the front turn signal and replace a headlight, but once I got everything apart, I found the damage was more extensive, but not structural. I removed and replaced the fender liner. Removed the bumper and fixed the turn signal. I removed the air-dam and replaced the fog lamps with blanks (saving a couple of pounds at the very front). Once I removed the grille I found the headlamp carrier was broken. (That’s the one piece on back-order that’s stopping me from registering the car.) I straightened out the interior supporting members so I could rehang the fender. I decided to just pound out the fender and hit it with some paint. It is actually the best painted part of the car now (which says less about the quality of my painting and more about the sorry state of the paint job as a whole).


Since I had the whole front end opened up, I removed the AC and associated parts including the auxiliary fan (which I plan to eventually replace). The fan alone weighs about 5 lbs. Eventually I plan to remove the fan from the engine and run just with an electric fan, but not now. I had Safelight put in a new windshield as well.

As I was waiting for the paint to dry on the fender, I replaced the rotors and brake pads. I have stainless steel brake lines, but don’t have a pressure bleeder so I’ll leave that up to someone else to install. I also installed studs from Turner Motorsports. I bought new Falken Ziex 912s (195/60R14) to go on the stock 14 inch basked weaves. I looked at getting the wheels refinished, but at $40-$50 per wheel for sand blasting alone, I decided instead to just blast them with some paint myself. The photos show the car riding on snow tires as the paint on the wheels hasn’t dried yet.

Dubious at best

I’m still hopeful that if the headlight carrier arrives this week, I can get the car inspected and registered to make the next Autocross on the 5th or later in the month on the 20th. With wheel spacers, I should be able to run my MINI autcross wheels. I have replacements for all of the hoses, timing belt, and water pump. I also have a colder thermostat to install at the same time. After that, I think I’ll fix the dubious suspension parts (control arms; tie-rods; bushings; & end-links) before the last track event of the season. That will give me the winter to get the race suspension (springs, shocks, sway bars, camber plates) and roll-cage installed.


Total weight savings so far is about 80 lbs. or just under 3 percent.

F-22 Stealth E30 325is

New Project Car
[Click photo for link to full set of photos on Flickr.]

After months of a low level search of various message boards and Craigslist, I finally found the car I’ve been looking for: a 1989 E30 325is. I finally got to the point where I’m running in the fastest run group on the track and am generally one of the faster cars in the group. With the extra speed came the realization that if I go off the track, I could really mess up my car. Hence the genesis of the idea of a dedicated autocross and track car: The ultimate sleeper car, stripped of anything that doesn’t help it go faster, painted in radar-evading flat black.

I wanted something with about the same power to weight ratio as the MINI, but rear wheel drive (so I can finally graduate from the NCC Instructor Program — besides number of days, I need to do a full lap of oversteer on the skid pad. Tough to do in a front wheel drive car…) I wanted a car that can easily be resold; has lots of cheap parts available; and was relatively inexpensive to run on the track (15 inch wheels mean inexpensive tires; light weight means less expensive brake pads, etc.) I figured on getting a good 325is under $2K; put about $2K into it; sell off all of the parts I take out to reduce weight; and I might break even when I eventually sell it. Worst case is I smack a $4K car; best case is I’m just out the cost of the wear items I would have had to buy for the MINI. Depending on how the engine tests, I may even be able to swap the engine into the convertible, then spend the winter rebuilding the convertible engine for next season in this car. Win win.

So what to do with the car? It’s currently painted in what I like to call, backyard flat black. It didn’t start out that way, but somewhere along the way it picked up a very pad paint job that’s very thick and very oxidized. What I liked about this car was that it had a clean CARFAX report; it was a Florida car for most of it’s life; and all of the body panels match indicating it hadn’t been in any major accidents. The right front fender is a bit messed up, but that appears to be very recent. The engine is very strong and the transmission isn’t a complete pile of goo. I figure it’s a project in about four stages:

Stage 1: Get it registered. I want to keep it street legal so I have to fix up enough to pass the Maryland State Inspection (MSI). Although this program is primarily a jobs program for the shops that inspect vehicles, at least it provides a basic safety baseline. So far, I know I have to replace the windshield, one headlight, and the hole I just found under the battery. We’ll see what else pops up when I drop it off at the local inspection shop. I figure I’ll replace brake pads and rotors all around regardless. You have to know you can stop before you go. Once I get it passed the MSI, I’ll get it dyno’d and weighed to establish a baseline.

Stage 2: Replace known wear items. Since the car sat for several months and I have no repair records, I need to do some preventive maintenance. Replace all of the hoses; flush the cooling and brake systems (stainless steel lines at the same time); replace the timing belt; water pump; thermostat; fan belt; and oil change.

Stage 3: Lose the fat. I’ve actually started some of that as I’m peeling back all of the trim and carpet to see the underlying condition of the chassis, but my intent is to remove anything that isn’t required to go fast. That means trim, carpet, rear seats, rear seatbelts, headliner, sunroof cassette, stereo, speakers, speaker wiring, antennae, center console, etc. I’m hoping I can get 100-150 lbs. out of the car. I want to get to where I can autocross it and take it to the track in August. That should give me a good idea of what the car can do in stock form without any suspension mods.

Stage 4: Improve the suspension and install roll cage. I’m trying to comply with the Spec E30 rules as I mod the car. Not so much because I plan to race, but I’d like to get there eventually. If I stick to one set of rules, it should be easier to sell the car should I need to in the future. By complying with a spec class, it also gives me better way to compare my performance to others over time.