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E30 Model Preference

Discussion in 'E30 (1984-1993)' started by michaelfl, Nov 21, 2010.

    michaelfl guest

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    Hello all, I'm new here, and I've been trying to get my hands on a 5-speed E30 for the past month or so now (living in Chicago has only made that process that much longer). Which models do you prefer? I'm looking to replace calipers and rotors, suspension, possibly add a body kit, and minimal engine work to make it a bit of a beginner's track car. Is anyone opposed to the "e" models, if so, what about the "es" models?

    Also, is having four doors as opposed to two heavier?
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    eam3

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    We've had two 2 door model ('86 325e and '90 325is) and two 4 door models ('87 325 and '88 325). Loved them all but the difference in engine performance from the 'e' models to the 'i' is significant but the best advice is definitely drive them both, see which one suits you better. I still regret selling my 325is to this day :(.
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    MGarrison

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    Yes, 'e' vs. 'i' is a substantial engine-performance difference. The 325is might offer more in the fun-to-drive arena (comparatively), if you enjoy running up through the gears to the 'is 6400 rpm redline vs. the 5k redline of the 325e or 325es or 325.

    You can look up the specs I'm sure, but I don't think the 4 door has too much of a weight difference from the 2-door. The doors on the 2-door coupes are longer (& heavier) allowing a larger door opening for ingress/egress. However, that can be a disadvantage if parked in a space with little room to get in or out on the sides. If you're tall (or happen to have long legs), and have to keep the seat moved back in a 4-door, you'll find yourself brushing past the B-pillar everytime you get in and out of the car. That might be a reason to go for a 2-door, the B-pillar is set further aft.

    The 325es, in the U.S., was offered in 85 & 86. If I recall correctly, the '85 would not have had ABS brakes, and ABS was made standard across the BMW line in the U.S. for 1986. The front spoiler in the 'es models was unique to that particular model (and, as far as I know, is no longer made, or available anywhere, new); the spoiler lacks the lower oil-cooler opening as seen on the similarly-spoilered '87 & '88 325is (for which spoilers are also NLA).

    The 325es, again as best I recall, should have a trunk lip spoiler (painted to match), electric mirrors, manual sport seats, a solid rear-differential hanger bushing, the U.S. version of the E30 'sport' suspension, with model-specific shocks and springs, and possibly I think the front door-pillar speakers, 2-way rear speakers, and the on-board computer (OBC) instead of just a clock. Presumably they also have solid-rubber control-arm bushings. I think the 'es had the typical 'bottlecap' wheels, probably 14x6, and the 325is had 14x6.5 BBS 'basketweave' wheels. However, if you're looking to modify an E-30 for track usage, none of that is particularly pertinent; you'd be changing most of that anyway, although the sport seats are more bolstered than the stock equivalents for holding you in place while cornering.
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    Brian A

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    1991 318i

    If you like to rev, also keep a lookout for the 1991 318i. They have the M42 engine which was developed for the Z3. Red line is over 7,000 rpm. They are refered to by some as an "M3 Lite" since they had less weight and less power (2,600 lbs and 140 hp). They are a little gutless for big tracks like Laguna Seca, but any stock E30 won't accelerate up hills as fast as modern high powered cars.
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    az3579

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    I personally don't see myself ever recommending a 4-banger E30. They're gutless in general, not just on tracks, either.

    Aim for the 325i/is if you can.
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    granthr

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    I agree with Brian A not to totally disregard the 91 318i/is. They are a great car and well balanced. I would also agree that if you go the six cylinder route to go for an 'i" model. It is much more fun in spirited driving. The eta motor is great and has lots of torque, but feels breathless at higher rpm, think diesel motor, because that is how it behaves.

    As mentioned above the 'is" model of all the above engined cars above will have the nicer accessories on them, but you will pay more for an "is" model. So if this is going to be a track rat then I would save the money and go for a regular car. Besides I hate to see nice E30s turned into track rats. :(

    Now if you want a really light car and are going to be doing an engine swap anyway, pick an 84 or 85 318i. They have the lightest body of the e30s, they had less metal in them. My 84 weights about 2,360. You will need to upgrade the brakes, for the rear this means getting trailing arms from a six cylinder car. I got a whole rear sub frame from a 325i auto for $100 and turned around and sold the open 4:10 diff for $50. So parts aren't too expensive.

    I think the most important thing to look for is a car that is as rust free as possible. Might be tough in your area. Mechanicals are easy to fix compared to rust. Happy hunting.
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    CRKrieger

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    FWIW, if you're going to the bother to build a 'track rat', it's a fairly simple matter to do an 'e to i' conversion on an eta car. The heads are interchangeable and you swap out the computers. I wouldn't look askance at a good 'e' or 'es' for that reason.

    michaelfl guest

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    As mentioned above the 'is" model of all the above engined cars above will have the nicer accessories on them, but you will pay more for an "is" model. So if this is going to be a track rat then I would save the money and go for a regular car. Besides I hate to see nice E30s turned into track rats. :(

    Please don't get the wrong impression. I don't at all intend to make the car I purchase a full-out, thoroughbred "track rat" as you describe. But rather, a sportier 325is, or 325i (from what you've all said, I think I'd prefer a six-er) that keeps its original appearance intact. I think it's fair to say the word "bodykits" are sacrilege here, and I don't think that's a problem. After all, what other enthusiast group other than the BMW CCA would keep classic BMWs alive and well.

    And by "sportier", I simply mean to imply all of the trappings I mentioned at the beginning of this thread. If anything, I may install some M3 front and rear bumpers plus some M3 sideskirts. But when I post images of her when it's all said and done, I will never put some gaudy 18-inch "rims" on her, that much is sure.

    A rollcage is debatable. I plan to take out the rear seats, and install new front seats. But I don't mean to frighten you by the thought of an E30 "trackrat". I want it to be fast, yet more importantly, like any BMW, civilized.
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    MGarrison

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    Not entirely true - on shorter or tighter courses, a track-prepped, M42-powered, 318is can really come into it's own. I could only eventually catch a chipped & suspensioned 318is of a club racer/instructor friend of mine due to a straight-line horsepower advantage and gaining a little at a time on the main straight (Putnam Park). In turns all I could do was keep up. He's definitely quick in it - if you keep the revs and momentum up, you can make a 318is fly quite well!
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    az3579

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    Doesn't change the fact that it's gutless.
    Sure, with a decent driver you could beat cars with much more power - ask me I how know. But, eventually, like me, you'll get tired of rocking your body back and forth on the straight screaming "GO!" at the top of your lungs while others pass you by (or wait impatiently behind you), either literally or figuratively (for me it was almost literally), only to catch up to them in the corner and get held up making your well-earned pass useless. Then, you'll probably just end up doing an S50 swap anyway. :D
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    CRKrieger

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    If you'll recall, my friend, BMW was the last manufacturer to win a Formula 1 championship with a stock block engine - and it was that M10 engine. There are ways to get remarkable power out of a 4-cylinder. The original M3 was a variant of the same 4-cylinder. For a late 318, there's always turbocharging, which is surprisingly affordable if comparing to swapping an entire engine.

    I didn't mean to imply a totally stripped out 'track rat'. I refer to my daily driver E28 that way, too. Still, my point is the same. If you find a decent 325 with the eta engine in it, don't pass it by. The conversion to 'i' specification is pretty simple and you end up with, effectively, a 327i since the eta is 2.7 liters whether it's in a 325 or a 528e.

    I think I'd pass on the M3 side skirts in favor of the 325ix skirts and flares (or something else aftermarket). I think you'll find that the M3 skirts are configured for the M3's unique flared fenders.

    michaelfl guest

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    First of all, I don't think I want to have to do much of any engine work (other than air and oil filters, and muffler upgrades).

    And about your second point. That's definitely worth noting. Is the same true for front and rear M3 E30 bumpers as well?

    superdave2002 guest

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    What MGarrison said.....

    I'm in the four cylinder camp.
    I had the pleasure of of racing a K-stock m42 318is at Mid-Ohio. (possibly the same car that MGarrison made reference to.) WHAT A HOOT! Started on the tail with a gaggle of prepared 02s and finished on the tail with a gaggle of prepared 02s. In between it was draft and dice for thirty minutes. The car's nimble, forgiving, and does everything you ask it to do.
    But it won't keep up with a B-mod E30.
    I also had a two hour stint in an I-prepared 325is at Gingerman. Not as much fun. That car didn't have the nimble "Throw It In" feel that the 318 had.
    The downside is that the m42 318is is not that common, and the motor is not cheep to rebuild, or modify.
    Yes, I'm a four-banger fool. I've been contemplating what to do when my s14 gets real tired.$$$$$ I think I could give an s50 vert. a real run with an m10 twelve pounder.:p
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    bcweir

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    I'll second that opinion on the M10

    It may not have a 16v head like the M42, but it still has a few advantages:

    A) It's bone simple to work on
    B) The blocks are dirt cheap and all over the place
    C) It will rev its little heart out for you - 6250 rpm redline with the stock steel valve retainers, or go all the way up to 8000 with the titanium race-spec retainers.
    D) It's such a tough little engine you'd pretty much have to shoot it to kill the blasted thing!

    Get the 2.0L block, retrofit the E30 fuel injection and electronics, have a ball. The pre-80 and post-83 to 1987 engines have the fuel injection holes in the head, while the 80-83 put them in the intake manifold. Turbo 2002 parts will also swap in for between 130 - 180hp.

    Thousands of possibilities with that little M10 engine. BMW was able to wring 1100 hp out of that plucky four-pot. Don't let the tiny displacement fool you.

    It doesn't have many weaknesses, but the two that come to mind are these:

    You have to stay on top of the valve adjustment intervals to keep it happy, and it absolutely, positively has very little tolerance for vaccuum leaks. It likes things airtight in the vaccuum department. Leaky vaccuum hoses will bring out some nasty mood swings when it comes to idle quality.

    And whatever you do, please don't back it up behind one of those old-school three-speed automatic transmissions. Those will literally suck the life out of that little engine. A four speed manual or five-speed manual is truly the only way to give the M10 the respect it deserves.

    Metric Mechanic also supports this engine if you don't mind shelling out the big bucks to make that little engine into something scary.
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    az3579

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    Brian, CR:
    Are you ignoring the fact that he doesn't want to do engine work to it to make it have some kick? Stock, the M10 is as gutless as me pulling the bare shell with it strapped to my back.

    Who on earth would someone want to spend money making an inferior engine produce the same or slightly more power as the big boy M20? It's far easier to get the best engine of the available engines.

    Also, you can't reference the 1100hp race engine because more money was spent to develop that than a house (or a few houses) cost(s). I seriously doubt he's willing to go that far, in which case the fact that the race engine was practically an M10 is irrelevant.


    Let's face it; at the end of the day, if you were offered a 318i and a 325i, you will pick the 325i regardless of what you think of the 4-banger. If you don't plan on doing anything to the engine, you cannot deny this fact.



    As for the M3 bumpers; they will not look right on the car without the fenders.
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    bcweir

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    Why not let HIM choose what's best? It IS HIS car (and his money) after all.

    The M20 does have two primary disadvantages:

    a) it weighs MORE than the M10 does, especially along with the requisite accessories. Even if you figure in the added weight of a turbocharging system (if so desired), you're still going to come out ahead with the M10.

    b) a key difference between the M10 and the M20 is that the M10 uses a timing chain, and the M20 uses a timing belt. That timing belt needs to be changed out religiously -- or else. Or else what, you may ask? The M20 is an interference engine, which means that the opening and closing of the valves are designed to overlap one another. Skip a tooth on a worn drivebelt or have the belt itself snap, and at minimum, you're replacing the head -- if you're that lucky. At worst, you're looking at a new M20 engine -- that's if karma really wants to shove a foot where the sun doesn't shine.

    If you're the sort of person who's lazy about timing belt replacement, the M20 will likely be a very expensive adoption.

    An M10 timing CHAIN is quite likely going to outlast the engine itself. You couldn't say that about an M20 timing BELT on an M20's BEST day.

    The M20 engine family does offer advantages of its own, but so does the M10. Granted a stock, naturally aspirated M10 won't quite make the hp and torque numbers of a stock M20, but to call it "gutless" is to betray how little you understand the M10.

    The M10 is actually more closely related to the M30, minus two cylinders. Nobody in their right minds would call an M30 (or 2/3 of one) "gutless" by any stretch of the imagination.

    To each his own. I hope he finds something that fulfills what he's looking for.

    On the issue of the bumpers, I agree. M3 front and rear bumpers would technically fit, but would look silly on a non-M E30. On the other hand, "iS" bumpers are pretty sporty looking, and are designed to fit a stock non-M E30.
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    az3579

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    Why is the weight an issue? It's completely irrelevant for his application. If he's looking for a body kit and isn't going to being using it primarily as a track car, I don't see him worrying about the weight. It's not like the E30 is a heavy car anyway.

    Minor inconvenience. It's a 50-60k item, or every 4 years. Do you really think he's gonna be driving it that much where it's going to be a problem? If he was me, driving about 30k a year, then I could see it being a very minor nuisance, but most people don't even drive half of what I do.

    If y
    If you're lazy about any sort of maintenance, you shouldn't be owning a car. Period.

    The point? You keep bringing up the chain vs belt argument, which just doesn't matter on two engines that don't compare. If you were arguing two engines with similar performance characteristics and one had a belt vs. a chain, of course the chain-equipped one would make more sense, but in this case, having to change a timing belt every few years is a very minor thing to put up with for the extra power that you get. Would I turn down an S54 just because it requires a little bit more maintenance, in the form of it eating a little more oil and requiring valve adjustments? Heck no. It'd be well worth it.

    It's a 4-cylinder engine. It has no torque, and not much more power. How you can call it anything else is beyond me. It's great for a daily driver that doesn't get driven hard as the mpg numbers will agree, but that's pretty much all it excels in. It doesn't tick the speed box, nor does it tick the smile-on-your-face box, which is ultimately what matters. Sure, it revs high, but if you can rev beyond 6k rpm and hear the engine sing, yet not be going anywhere, it defeats the purpose.

    Just because it's related, doesn't mean it is. You keep bringing up what the M10 is related to; that's completely irrelevant. It isn't anything other than a 4-pot putting out bad numbers. There won't be any turbo- or super-charging going on here.
    Sure, the M30 was a great engine, but in some applications it put out almost double the power.

    OP,
    What exactly is the purpose of this car going to be?
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    CRKrieger

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    Apparently, you've never understood what Dave Farnsworth, me, and a number of others do:

    It's a lot more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow.

    The M10 and the M42 (which is what was originally suggested) are cars you can be thrashing on the street as well as on the track. On track, these cars teach you to conserve momentum, brake minimally, and refine your cornering techniques in order to do respectable speeds. There's a lot more ability needed to get a 2:48 out of an E30 318 at Road America than to get the same time out of your 'just stomp it down the straights' machine. If you don't believe me, read Farnsworth's comments about the O'Fest autocross (in which he quoted my awards speech) in the latest ROUNDEL. I swear; I've never seen more people having more fun with a car than in that uglified little 318.
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    bcweir

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    You argue the virtues of the M20 while bashing the M10.....


    ..without bothering to ask FIRST what he's going to use the car for?


    <screaming> "OMG!! Botond!! Watch out for that"
    .................................<mellow voice> "...........tree.":D
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    granthr

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    4 pots FTW!!!!! :D

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