Project Aubergine: First Impressions

Project Aubergine

I seem to be on a permanent vintage kick (not complaining) and finally pulled the trigger on my dream E36 M3 combo—Technoviolet on Mulberry. It’s a May 1998 build car with 230,000 miles, but my previous BMW experience never let me think that mileage was an issue. Getting it onto a lift at e-Fab Motorsports confirmed everything I thought about the car—it was super clean and looked like the previous owners (at least a couple of them) looked after the car properly.

Project Aubergine: On the Lift

I’ve also never been very good at documenting my cars’ progress—a strange thing given that I do so much automotive coverage for my career. But honestly, my cars have been so much more of a personal experience than one I felt obligated to share online. Anyway, this time I vowed to do it differently and at least attempt to be thorough during this very long-term project. The first phase? Make right the wrongs.

Project Aubergine: M3 Badge

Upon closer inspection, the rear badge was definitely in the wrong spot, which made me think that the car was in a minor accident at some point. The newer rear roundel and cracked rear trunk trim were further evidence of that, but everything seemed to align as it should. Nevertheless, it’s attention to detail stuff that sets a proper build apart from a shoestring budget one and things like this (however small) need to be fixed in due time.

Project Aubergine: Trunk Trim

Project Aubergine: First Shipment

Project Aubergine: Worn Front Emblem

My initial parts order was modest—two new BMW roundels, a ZHP shift knob, and a factory x-brace. The front roundel wore the patina of a car with over 200,000 miles, so I figured it was time to replace it. The old shift knob was horrid—something of a UUC-style shifter that had been worn down and felt loose to the touch. It had to go. Even though my shifter bushings need a refresh of their own, the weighted ZHP knob was so much more satisfying to run through the gears.

Project Aubergine: Old Shift Knob

Project Aubergine: ZHP Knob Installed

When I went to buy the car, the previous owner pointed out that one of the license plate bulbs was out after admitting that he cracked the trunk trim from pulling on it to lift it open. While waiting for another shipment of maintenance items, I ordered up some new LEDs to replace the halogen bulbs—some for the interior (white, dim halogens), trunk (burnt out), and the aforementioned license plate lights. To my dismay, the right side wouldn’t illuminate even with the new bulb in either orientation. I plugged the connector into the functional left side to ensure it wasn’t the housing and sure enough, it lit right up. Great…electrical issue. My eyes immediately darted towards the trunk loom (common E36 problem) and I discovered a giant mess.

Project Aubergine: Trunk Loom Wiring

Before things got completely out of hand, the car went to e-Fab Motorsports where a whole new loom was wired in. It looks even better than factory with a little peace of mind to boot.

Project Aubergine: Work in Progress

Project Aubergine: New Trunk Loom Wiring

Project Aubergine: New Trunk Loom Wiring

The previous owner also was proud to boast that the car didn’t have any rust, despite being a Midwest car. I suppose everyone has different tolerances and definitions of “none” but there were small sections of surface rust that I found upon closer inspection, namely on the trunk body trim and on the front grille. Neither are huge deal breakers, and I’m fortunate to have one of the best shops in the business (A&L Autobody) a short drive away to remedy the situation soon enough.

Project Aubergine: Trunk

Project Aubergine: Grille Surround

A missing lens on the driver’s side front foglight rounded out most of the noticeable cosmetic blemishes. I was tempted to order new fogs, but with how quickly these either fall out or get damaged, I sourced an OEM used replacement for cheap.

Project Aubergine: Cracked Foglight

Project Aubergine: Clean Engine Bay

The engine was one of the cleanest I’ve seen and was a testament to how much stress the previous owner put on cleanliness. However on a drive home, a dreaded check engine light illuminated and I found out this care was skin deep—I pulled no less than eleven codes off my Peake reader, all of which indicated either O2 sensor adaptation limits, misfire, or ignition coil faults. Turns out, there were three massive rips in the intake boot which was causing everything to go out of whack. Luckily enough, plans were already set to address the long-standing oil leaks—the oil pan and valve cover gaskets—both of which I wanted to take care of before installing a new x-brace under there. A new boot and spark plugs were procured as first steps to remedy the issue. The photo below shows exactly how long the oil had been seeping, followed by an after shot of how it looked cleaned up (thanks Eric at e-Fab):

Project Aubergine: Before & After

Project Aubergine: 4-Door Friend

A friend recently bought a Techno Violet M3 of his own—this one an automatic sedan. I actually almost bought this car also, but wanted to hold out for something with heated/fold-down seats, manual, and either Mulberry or Magma interior.

Project Aubergine: At e-Fab Motorsport

All in all, it was a good first pass and anyone who sees the car is shocked at its condition—especially given the mileage. A handful of items have started to arrive in restoring the car to its former glory, so stay tuned—there are many more chapters ahead!

Maintenance / Modifications Performed (through 12/16/2015):

• OEM Hood Emblem
• OEM Trunk Emblem
• OEM Oil Pan Gasket
• OEM Valve Cover Gasket
• NKG Spark Plugs
• OEM Intake Boot
• LED Dome/Trunk/License Plate Light Conversion
• OEM X-Brace
• OEM ZHP Weighted Shift Knob
• New trunk loom wiring

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