I never meant to own this many BMW’s
SC300’s and E46 M3 prices have been going up as well as their parts. 1 and 2J’s are insane. I had been wanting to cage a car as well to drive a bit harder but did not want to destroy the SC or M. One of my best friends had a beater 318ti manual he was getting rid of so I decided to buy it from him and cage it. The plan was to do really cheap upgrades to get it trackable.
But then I saw a really cheap automatic 328i M sport convertible on FB. I’ve always wanted an E36 vert with a removable hard top, and I figured it would be easier to cage a convertible.
Both these cars sat for about a year. I had just finished the SC and I was not starting a project until the M3 was finally done. I also needed a break.
After the M3 went up to Baltimore to Tim at Industry Garage I started to drop both trans and pull the pedals.
I was able to use the front portion of the Ti driveshaft to mate up with the rear driveshaft in the 28. I purchased a cheap clutch and new TOB and got them into the 28. In my years of driving I’ve found that full faced disks work better. Plus this car was going to make lik 90 hp so I didn’t need anything too aggressive. I bought knock off Bride seats with sparkle backs to match the titan silber. Sold off the horrible knock off style whatevers and test fit my Equips using Ichiba adapters. I measured how much I would need to cover them up and purchased Click Tunning 50mm overs. I also got an ebay angle kit, E46 lower control, Ebay coilovers, rear lower control arms, arms and Condor offset bushings. It took two goes to weld up the differential. The first time the welds broke likely because I had not cleaned the diff out properly.
As soon as I bought the overs I started seeing complaints about Cliq Tuning messing up orders, taking too long to deliver, or items not showing up at all. Luckily mine came relatively quickly.
I used well nuts to mount the overs and bowed the rears about an extra 15mm.
Got blessed by a homie with titan silber M mirrors. I was just about to cop a set of ebay jawns but these came up just in time. They needed a little paint but I was gassed enough.
Took all the kids out to get new clothes. This shop used to be the truth but management changed and prices went up.
I was amazed at how much angle these little blocks gave. Clearancing BMW’s up front is a bit difficult but I was able to get everything clear. Or so I thought.
At this point I took the car for its first test drive. The alignment was so off and the was shaking like crazy. Turns out the front wheel bearings were completely gone. So I ordered new bearings and got to work on other things in the mean time.
This is where disaster struck. While I was waiting on the bearing to be delivered I had drained the diff to clean out any left over slag and put fresh oil in. Sprayed it out with break cleaner and had a bucket underneath to catch everything. One Sunday, about a week later I woke up early and went down to just do a few things before I went to the gym. I wanted to get the exhaust sorted and was grinding off one of the hangers. I watched in horror one spark take the perfect trajectory into the bucket underneath the diff. I held my breath for what felt 10 seconds waiting to see if the fluid would go up. Then I heard a POOF and flames started licking the bottom of the car. The bucket was plastic so I knew I had to get it from under the car before it melted. I was able to use my foot to get it to the drivers rear wheel and then the bucket melted spreading liquid fire all over the floor. The table on the left side of the garage had much flammable material below and on top. It all went up quickly while I was trapped under the car. The door also on the left side of the garage was blocked by the most concentrated part of the fire. That also happened to be the side where the garage door opener was. The garage filled with the thickest black smoke so quickly I could see nothing but a dim point of light where the bulb was. I couldn’t breathe and I could not see. I could not locate the extinguishers I had near the back of the car so I tried to get to the front of the garage to pull the emergency release and get out the garage door. My tool cart and welder were on the right side of the car so I had to climb over them holding my breath. I made it to the door and reached for the emergency cable. I could not find it. I was choking on the smoke and felt like I was going die. I pictured my body being found burned in the corner of the garage. The first time I really thought I was going to die. As I was about to give up my hand hit the chord and I pulled it and leaned on the garage door to push it up. It took me three tries to get the door up I was so deprived of oxygen. On the third try I fell out the door on my hands and knees as the door came tumbling down onto my back. I paused there gasping for air and spitting up mucus and soot. Then the aerosol cans started exploding. I ran to my car and grabbed an extinguisher. At the side door of the garage I pointed the extinguisher at the base of the fire. The can emptied quickly and I ran to get another. This time I opened the garage door and sprayed under the car which I thought was going to explode as the flames were right near the gas tank. The flames subsided and I looked at the sky seeing the longest blackest cloud that led back to my garage. I heard a neighbor on his patio yell “There’s still fire!” So I ran and got my last extinguisher and emptied it. At this point people were all on their patios watching. No one came to help but someone did offer to call the fire department…after the fire was out. The garage was a mess. Tools, spare parts, manuals, papers. All destroyed. Fire retardant everywhere, oil turned into a sticky mess. Walls blackened with soot. The inside of the car filled with fire retardant. I called a good friend of mine and he came to help me clean up.
“When did this happen?” He asked? “Right before I called you I said.”
His face turned shocked. “You should be dead! How are you so calm?”
I looked around and remembered that feeling of thinking I was going to die. Even now writing this I get shivers just thinking about it.
I was 2 weeks away from my wedding. How tragic that would have been. In the following week I had 2 more brushes with death. A head on collision in my truck with no seat belt on, and the front brakes on my motorcycle locking on in the middle of the highway. I should not be here but I am. The car should not have survived but it did. So I named it Chaka Kahn.
Its at this point I really started to love this car. After my wedding and honeymoon I pulled it out the garage and cleaned it up. I started searching for a hardtop and soon realized not only are they hard to find, but they are significantly more expensive than the car itself.
So I ordered a red top and started to swap it out. The old top was leaking and full of mold from sitting under a tarp under a tree.
This is where I got serious about driving the car. Before this it was a casual, get it done when I get it done project. Its not an M3 but I had always loved the look of the E36 M above all other M3’s. Years ago when I had bought my E46 M on my 20 somethingesth birthday I had actually been on the hunt for a Techno violet M3 with a LTW wing. Getting the top on and the car cleaned up really got me gassed. So I ordered roll cage material and a rep LTW wing.
I do not like gutted cars so I stripped the least amount out that I could and started on the roll cage. A friend of mine had a private drift day for his birthday so I made that my deadline.
I had been overly ambitious with my skill set so as far as I got was the rear section. I was not completely comfortable with drifting a vert without the front section but it was better than nothing. I actually did not sleep the night before the event. My wife came out to the garage and I asked her what time it was. She was leaving for work and it was 6 am. I was completely shocked because I genuinely thought it was around midnight. I had been concentrating so hard the time flew by. I loaded up and stopped to get some breakfast. That’s when the fatigue set in. This was not the first time I had driven the car at speed but the first time drifting it aside from the roundabout near my home. The car was insanely snappy. Faster and more torquey than I ever expected. The auto diff ratio helped with gearing and 3rd gear was pretty comfortable. I immediately sensed some things that needed changed. After about 10 laps I parked and just relaxed being tired from working all night.
I made some alignment adjustments and a homie of mine asked me to come up to a spirit.jp event.
My friend failed to tell me that the event was a competition. All my drift spares were sized for my SC so I fell into the Master class which was 245 and larger tires. This track was much faster than the last and boy was the car sketchy. I still had no e-brake and no front cage. A course worker remarked that it looked like a handful. I did not do great in the competition but did get more used to the car as the day went on. By the end of the day I realized why the car was so twitchy. The biggest reason was the front wheels were grinding on the front LCA’s and cut a channel in the arms. The other major reason was the rear springs. The car was slightly lower in the front making the rear too light. Those two factors made it want to always over rotate. I also could not find gears. In a rush to get on the track I bent up the stock selector rod to work. But it was just good enough to to get it on the road. The trans mounts were blown letting the trans move around meaning gears were in a different position each shift and turn.
I finished up the cage and ordered some springs from a friend of mine who has a massive stash of E36 out in Portland. It was a good opportunity to reconnect and squash some misunderstandings from back in the day.
I added more clearance to the fenders and quarters. Fixed some cracks in the overs, painted the wings and overs, made a pedestal for the hydro, and routed and bled the brakes with new fluid. New double sheer selector rod, new front lip since I boofed the last one on a cone. New trans mounts, new front wheels, and grippy tires. My goal was to win at least one round of the comp series after such a poor showing. (LOL)
Pulling the car out after the cage was very special. I spent a low sum of money compared to most the cars I had done previously, but I was very happy and proud with how this came out. The low price tag definitely had something to do with it.
I had my homie weld up the arms and spaced out the new front wheels to keep away from them. new wheels are 18×8.5 +12 as opposed to 18×10.5-3.
This is where tragedy struck again…
The second round was trouble from the onset. The second turn my radiator exploded. I found a rd at a local shop and picked it up and set to install it. But it turned out to be the wrong rad. So I found another about 30 min from the track. By the time practice was over and qualifying started I had just finished. I didn’t even get time to bleed the coolant. I went out on the wrong tires for qualifying and was still buzzing from anxiousness of trying to hit the deadline. Then the retainer for the shifter broke. I had to hold the shifter up through the lap to keep it from hitting the driveshaft. Somehow I qualified but missed my run while trying to fix the shifter. I missed all of competition. many times my wife told me to just relax. I said myself that I was going to just put the car on the trailer but I pressed on wanting to make the free run after the competition to practice for the next round. I got the shifter rigged, swapped to my Kenda’s and went out for practice. The car felt great and I was able to push harder and harder. I was getting excited about how the car was driving.
But then on the last run….I pushed too hard.
I had a ride along and that was my main concern. I was happy both of us were ok. The worst part was the equips on the back getting destroyed. All the overs stayed in one piece shockingly.