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Budget E36 Compact gravel car

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I'm attempting to build a E36 compact into a budget gravel rally car. I had an AW11 Mr2 'sort-of' track-car previously, but it was hardly used due to track day costs and I thought it was time to move on to something a bit different.

I've never rallied before, I've always wanted to, I just didn't think i have the balls to. Time to find out! 

The plan is to start by doing grasskhanas and autocrosses, and once I get a cage in start doing gravel sprints. Car will mostly be stock (at the start at least) to get the hang of things and grow confidence in a slow car.

Picked up an automatic 1999 318Ti for under $1k, and all it needed for a WoF was some tyres, a few bulbs, and to clear the ABS light.



About a week after I got it, it was already time to try it out on grass, by doing the HCMC grasskhana in Massey.
The ABS light came back on just before the event (looks like pump motor/electronics), so conveniently the ASC and ABS were disabled during the event. Even though it was still auto with a single spinner, I had a blast throwing it around the dirt. Looks like the project is a go.




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First item on the list is to make the thing manual. 

I bought a crashed '96 318is from Turners with a relatively low mileage motor. In the LTSA system it was listed as a 1.8 and being a NZ new car I thought it had the early motor. A little research later on though has proven that it's a M44B19 - not really a problem as I'm out to have a bit of fun right now, and not win any class honours. Later I'll think whether to downsize to 1.8 or go for a 6 cylinder...

Donor car:


Removed the engine, gearbox, all locks and electronics needed to convert the compact, and sold (or still selling) as much as I can to recover some funds.


Refreshed the lower mileage motor and the gearbox with some new oil seals while they're out. 


At the same time started stripping the compact out. I'm still using the compact, as the Mrs needs the daily once a week, so keeping it driveable is important for now. 

I took the carpets out, and replaced the half-leather seats with cloth seats out of the coupe for now (seems I slide around a little less in them).


Kind of lucky I took the carpet out when I did, as a few days later we had the heavy rains and found my car turned into a fish tank on the driver's side:


I tried sitting inside while the wife hosed the exterior but as expected nothing came through. I'll have to have a good look when I remove the engine if there's any damaged seals in the engine bay anywhere. Anyone have ideas of common places where it could be entering?

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On Easter Friday, I made the decision to get the manual conversion done during the long weekend, so the car went into the garage. ...and it's still there 2 weeks later. Family time and life in general got in the way as usual, and just haven't had the time to get it done. I've been tinkering a bit in the evenings, so the engine and transmission is ready to come out (everything is disconnected, just need to lift the thing out).


I absolutely love how the whole front basically unbolts. This was a pleasant surprise when I started working on these cars.

I might actually get around to pulling it out tonight. List of things to do before the 'new' motor and gearbox go in:

- Find the water leak!
- Manual pedal box and clutch line install
- Remove A/C

That's probably about it for now. 

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Managed to get a few hours in the garage on ANZAC Day.

Got the engine out and started tidying up engine bay - clean oil/dust/leaves, remove sound deadening (but leave heat shields). I'm not bothering de-looming at this stage. Oh man, is the auto trans heavy compared to the manual gearbox!



Pleasant surprise from BMW: no firewall drilling required for the clutch master cylinder and supply hose. 58feeda4c31d0_4.plugs.jpg.9ef75ed026b04bbdd66b0d4ff8c782f5.jpg

2 is definitely better than 1, right?


Managed to mount the pedals before I got called out of the garage for the day.


Lots more to do... 


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Got some time in the garage in the last week, as well as this weekend, so managed to place the engine and gearbox back in the car, assembled as much as I needed for the crucial first start.


Manual shifter looks right at home :D 



Spent most of today figuring out why it's not cranking. 
I had initially planned to keep the auto ECU in place for the first start to ensure engine runs, and then swap to the manual ECU, replace the EWS box, ignition barrel and locks.
Unfortunately, it was a no go. I couldn't be bothered bypassing the auto park/neutral switch, so just went ahead and switched over to the manual ECU, plugged in the ignition chip receiver with key, and then realised that the donor car had EWS II while the compact has EWS 3D.

A little googling later, found a wiring diagram and switched all the EWS wires over to the right terminals in the plug, spliced some together, slightly cut the plug to fit and cranked again.


This time - success! Sort of.
Car was cranking but not starting. I could smell fuel so I pulled a plug wire and checked for spark - got spark. 


Ran over the basics in my head, checked all the plugs on the engine, and had a eureka moment when I thought that maybe my supply/return fuel hoses are backwards.
Switched them over (got a nice splash of fuel in my mouth, mmmm...) and voila! Car runs, sounds very nice without the exhaust lol. Neighbours might not appreciate, so I didn't keep it running for too long.

Can't stop grinning, the worst is over. All that's left is to actually put the car back together, replace the leaking clutch slave (couldn't get one on Saturday) and I may be able to take it for a drive before next weekend! Then I can finally start thinking about the fun stuff...

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Chucked everything together under the bonnet (including the unnecessary plastic bits - they'll come off later again), just enough of the interior to go for a test drive, and completed the first run around the block. Slight idle hunting to sort out - but drives well and is really, really peppy in comparison with the auto. Could also have something to do with the 4.44 diff :lol: Top speed in 2nd is 60kmh! Perfect for gravel.


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Catching up on things which have been done since the last post.

Around May 2017:
Completely stripped out the car (rear seats, carpets, etc) and took everything to the dump:



Installed some rear top strut mount reinforcement plates:


Scored some used rally tyres and bought wheels to fit them to - on a side note, a stripped out compact can fit more wheels/tyres (17 in total!) than an X3 with the rear seats folded down (8 with with room for at most another 4):


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I got asked if I wanted to be a stand-in co-driver for the Maramarua Rallysprint. I wasn't sure how I'd feel in the passenger seat, being thrown around blind corners, but I said "Why not?", because motorsport in the passenger seat is still motorsport.


Had a few good runs in the mighty 316ti, but it was so wet and slippery, that most of the field ended up leaving before the 3rd run - which is where our day ended.
We saw a warning triangle indicating someone got in trouble after the next corner or two, and sure enough came flying around towards a BMW 2002 parked in a tree. Letting off the accelerator resulted in our car understeering into some deep mud, where we got stuck and had to wait until all cars passed so we could get pulled out. We decided to call it a day at this stage.

The 2002 only had a minor dent on the front lower valance, so no biggie either.




The plan for the 316ti is to drop in a M42 so it can stay in the under 1800cc class for now. 

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Cool wee project! Keep up the good work

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Style points (yellow lenses and halos), extra HP (RCIS sticker) and something actually useful on a race-car (wheel stud conversion).




The studs are a little bit long, but they make changing the wheel really easy - just got to get some longer wheel nuts to cover the entirety of the thread at some stage.

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Welded the 4.44 diff:


Made a floor plate so my feet don't have to hover:


Did a few autocrosses at the end of 2017:


Convinced the wife to have a go at the HCMC Christmas autocross too - at first she was worried/scared due to a big, cambered corner in the paddock, but after the first run came back in with a huge grin and then went faster and faster each time:



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Got some mudflap material under the Christmas tree, so now it's starting to at least look serious, if nothing else. Red goes faster, right? 


I also test fitted the rally tyres, to make sure there's enough space.


Did an HCMC autocross in Massey:


Decided I needed a new daily so went for a test drive.


It was nice, but it doesn't make "vroom vroom" noises, so settled on a Z3 for the summer instead.


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Co-drove at the Arcadia Rd rallysprint mid-Feb. Great fun to be had, can't wait to start driving at these types of events.


Also, got my hands on a 4.44 LSD, fitted a Powerflex bush and then fitted it to the compact. It's only a factory 25% lock, but man, driving the car when it's wet is FUNNNNN. It definitely has more grip on take-off than the locker, but is still very predictable when oversteering. Can't wait for the next autocross to give it a proper go! 


Next step will be to remove all the glue from the ceiling, remove the sound deadening, buy some seats and harnesses and get a roll-cage in there.

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Haven't really done much to the car during winter, but finally got a chance to take it out and do some skids.

It was a wet day at the Motorkhana held by HCMC at Waikaraka Park, but it sure helped getting around those cones. The LSD really changed the way the car drives - so much more forward momentum than the locked diff, and getting it sideways and keeping it there was very predictable. 10/10

After the first 2 tests I was surprised to find that I was leading, but made a couple of mistakes on the 3rd course, and then the 4th course suited the faster cars, so ended up 7th overall, with 2nd in class (it's an M44, so it puts me in the 1800cc+ class). Very happy with result 😎


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