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Blue Chunder: E46 318Ci / VQ37VHR Swap

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After being out of the car scene for some time, I've decided to throw my hat back in the ring and create something fun to build and ultimately fun to drive. A user friendly budget would be a bonus but we'll see how that one pans out !! This will just be a fun street car so the aim is to have a mix of comfort, performance and looks.

The car:

A NZ new 2000 BMW 318Ci with 4 speed auto. Quite tidy generally with only a handful of the expected BMW "things that don't work no more" to resolve at a later date. Being under powered will hopefully mean no cracking around the subframe and minimal hard driving time etc on the body.

The engine:

A Nissan VQ37VHR from a 2009 Skyline 370GT automatic. 125k on it give or take so hopefully plenty of life left in it. Factory spec at 243kW which should be a solid upgrade over the cars stock 77 !! No plans for anything engine wise at the moment, must get mobile and legal first.

Progress so far:

The car is sitting with front end off, engine and driveline are out, rear interior and fuel tank etc removed. Have cleaned the underside to a reasonable standard and have welded in the CMP RACP reinforcement kit.

Have cleaned and painted the 330 rear end components ready for reinstallation along with installing Powerflex bushes in most locations.

Have created a rig to fire up and run the VQ37 on the ground which was a success and a lot of fun ... had the Nissan anti-theft (NATS) removed via UpRev and an ARC license installed at the same time. This was to validate that I can run the motor prior to install and working out the wiring later on when its more difficult. You can check the video here:

Next Steps:

REALLY keen to get the rear end back together so something is finished !! Will need to complete the welding in of the RACP to frame rails in the boot before the LVV certifier comes to check out my work. Once that's done I can get ready to stitch weld some other trouble areas then underseal and paint it all real pretty before installing the backend.

Once the back end is together and looking slick I can finally turn attention to the pointy end and see if the engine is going to play nice. There will be a lot of work involved and a few options to investigate ... current thinking is it will be a custom oil pan and cross member at least. Steering rack may also be an issue.

Some Pics To This Point:

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Nice choice on the engine. I really rate these highly in terms of performance and how it feels when driving. Super excited that its going into an e46 but its gonna have a lot of torque so need to make sure the chassis/rear subframe area is well reinforced.

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Excellent project Dave - watching with a keen interest. 

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Not a whole lot of progress to report, completed the welding in of the top side RACP to frame rail plates. Tricky welding the 3mm plate to ~1mm ... I'd describe it as 'functional' :D

Next up I will remove the fuel and brake lines to clean the underbody ready for some fresh paint, in parallel I might drop the front subframe and test the engine / trans fit.

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I am super keen to see this come together. Will be following.

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Some more progress over the last few days ... dropped the front subframe and suspension while I wait for the certifier to come and check the reinforcement welding. Can't wait for water restrictions to be over so I can water blast this stuff !!

Before removing the subframe I used my laser level to record positions of the steering rack (recording on the garage wall) for height and fore/aft as this is the major area of concern. Also I have locations done previously for the bottom of subframe etc.

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Now a milestone piece of work ... putting the engine and trans into the hole !!! The good news is that there will be no more fabrication needed than what I expected ... a new subframe for sure and then the real fun of either making a new wet sump or if I come into some money a dry sump setup !? (over capitilising I know !!) ... will just have to see whats possible / practical to get the steering rack into the right / factory location. Will investigate all options to get things to hang together at this point. Will need some customisation around the cabin air intake tray thing also as the motor sits very high. This is positioned so the bonnet can close also without some weird top fuel bulge :D

TLDR: There is hope but its not going to be easy, or cheap. Should I have done a LS or 2J or something instead, probably :P

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So according to my laser measurements and some emails the engine will fit and actually be able to be dropped a little if I go for a Dailey Engineering dry sump pan which is less than an inch thick. This will also mean I can use the stock cross member and steering rack fitment which would be a massive bonus.

I'll start drafting something to Santa now ...

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So it turns out the dry sump would be absolutely perfect ... on a left hand drive :P Just enough interference with the steering rack input shaft to be a no-go. Will turn the attention back to a custom wet sump.

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Some progress on the rear end however !! Certifier has been and inspected the welding so now I'm free to get the rear back together. Got supplies to do this consisting of light rust killer, wax & grease remover, 2k epoxy primer, 3M polyurethane seam sealer, paintable underseal and a 2k top coat (grey).

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Gave everything a final wire wheel and wipe down then applied the epoxy primer with a brush. You can get it to go on pretty nice but turns into a messy and painful job with the brush upside down. Will investigate spraying the underbody when the time comes ... something I didn't want to have to do 😕

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Just a little more preparatory work so I can tidy up the under body properly ... removed the side skirts, front guard liners and the rear brake + fuel lines. The painting is going to be a bit of a drama as if I want to spray it, its looking like I'll have to do that myself and that involves investing in a fed air respirator as the only mobile painter isn't interested. Might try and roll / brush it still to see how annoying it is.

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 A little more progress over the weekend, the under car welding is now complete !!! Just a little stitch welding behind the spring perches and on the RTA pockets. 2 Coats of epoxy primer on ... just seam sealer and underseal to go then can start the big clean ready for top coats.2020-12-19_15-21-35.jpg.a0795442dd3089659b0b38db05878937.jpg 

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Edited by Cement
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Starting to make some visible progress again !! Got the seam sealer on (3M polyurethane) all of the welded areas along with some aerosol rubberised underseal ... should have gone with a more hard core 2k product or just used more seam sealer but oh well.

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Next up I decided I wanted to water blast the under body and wheel arches before cleaning and painting. I made a dam around the car with some left over PEF rod, timber and a bunch of heavy things so water would be contained and eventually flow out the door. Also adapted the water blaster lance to be a 'sawn off' so it shot straight from the trigger :D Worked well enough all things considered.

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FINALLY could get some paint on the underbody and make things look a little tidier !! Two coats of 2k grey for the under body and black for the arches. Its basically full gloss and not satin as it should have been due to rolling it instead of spraying, easy to clean I guess 👍

The 2k paint was a solvent for the rubberised undercoat so didn't roll over it too much ... time will tell if its ultimately a good combination.

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Prepped and painted the underside now ... can finally start to get some lines reinstalled and the fuel tank / subframe etc in !!

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Such a wicked build - need to slap on a Nismo sticker somewhere once done and blow some minds 🤣

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6 hours ago, Sammo said:

Such a wicked build - need to slap on a Nismo sticker somewhere once done and blow some minds 🤣

Cheers, still a long road ahead to get mobile !! Maybe some Nissan emblem bars sticking out of the side of the BMW one :P

Big milestone today, getting the first item reinstalled on the car !!! (even if it was just fuel and brake lines hah)

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Compared to previous progress things are happening fast now ... final bit of seam welding done in the rear seat, only showing the welds painted with epoxy primer as they don't look great naked :P

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Made a custom socket for the subframe mounting studs so I could avoid trying to locate a cheap 30mm crows foot. Worked a treat !!

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Fuel filler neck, fuel tank and subframe now installed ... will clean the factory wax off the tank which I missed, don't worry :D

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After a week away with the family we're seeing some solid progress ... more cleaning of parts to go back into the rear end.

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Installed more of the rear now with just the guard liners, shocks, brakes and sensors to go .... YAY.

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Edited by Cement
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Visually not too different to the previous but got the shocks in, guard liners painted and installed, calipers on and sensors in place. Currently working on the fuel pump and waiting on a cable gland before I can finish that.

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Fuel pump assembly ready to go back in with a Walbro 255lph and dedicated new wiring. Also added in a temp sensor that the Nissan uses which I've connected to the old pump power pins.

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Its about to get interesting ... engine is up on the stand and oil drained ready to remove the lower oil pan. The approach will be to measure and model the engine where the pan attaches and then install back in the car with trans attached (and subframe reinstalled) but no sump so I can get an idea for the room we have to work with. Then will be able to complete the design of the new wet sump before working on engine mounts and other daunting tasks.

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Oil pan removed, onwards we go !! Found a small piece of gasket material in the lower oil pan which looks like it could be from the infamous VQ oil gallery gasket issue ... looks like we'll be taking that detour at some stage !!

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