So as I was saying in the first chapter of this project, the car was a very clean example, especially for the miles. There were definitely signs that at least one the owners tried to cut corners here and there (and maybe was more cosmetically-biased versus mechanically), but nothing that made the car a total dud or couldn’t be fixed with a little know how. At any rate, it was an important reminder that there’s often more than the eyes can see after purchasing a used car of this vintage.
These fairly new front replacement shocks were perfect examples of that. I had never even heard of these shocks before, but after some quick searching, they are pretty bargain basement. I’ll never understand why people skimp on things that can directly impact their car’s safety, but it is what it is and replacing these will make the entire suspension refresh that much sweeter.
One of the most visually-worn items under the car was this brace. Luckily for me, installing the OEM X-Brace got rid of this eyesore and added some much needed rigidity to the chassis. It made me want to cave and order all new bushings and suspension right there and then, but I reminded myself this was a long-term project and the suspension was largely in good shape.
After leaving the car with e-Fab Motorsports to diagnose the plethora of engine codes that came up, a severely torn intake boot was discovered—it was ripped in three different places over the years. I crossed my fingers that replacing it would cure most of my woes and postpone a coil pack replacement.
I scoured Bimmerforums in case there was a good opportunity to snag upgraded parts in light of the engine codes and stumbled upon a slightly used AFE intake—my favorite choice amongst the bunch. I made the guy an offer and soon after, it was on its way. I went back and forth on whether I wanted to bite the bullet on an intake—largely because I had been contemplating a 3.5″ HFM replacement—so I didn’t want to have to buy it twice. Luckily, this intake would adapt to both the standard 3″ intake and the larger 3.5″ variant if I went that route later. As luck would have it, I also found a very good deal on a Porsche 803 3.5″ HFM, so when I’m ready for cams, software, and larger injectors, I’ll already have a few parts ready.
I had forgotten how much I missed the induction noise on these cars—it’s so pronounced and honestly makes me want to find an exhaust that won’t completely overtake its sound.
While the valve cover gasket was being done, we figured it’d be a good time to put in some new plugs. The old ones certainly looked pretty tired and probably contributed to some of the issues I was having.
New plugs were recommended OEM replacements. No need for anything more. Anyone remember when Platinum +4s were all the rage??
Anyway, as it turned out the old valve cover was actually double stacked. Pretty terrible. There were also little bits of the old valve cover just floating around, so Eric at e-Fab took great care in making sure everything was cleaned up properly before putting on the new gasket. Despite this mishap, we couldn’t believe how clean the engine was otherwise—further inspection revealed it was a very clean specimen.
One of the first mods I actually ordered were these Depo projector headlight replacements, though they took awhile to actually arrive. I remember reading about people who were retrofitting the FX-35 projectors into these housings back in the day but have always been weary of doing any of my own electrical work. It turns out that they now make a complete kit with FX-R projectors already fitted, so it was a no-brainer purchase.
Stock output out of the standard E36 headlights was poor to say the least, especially after having owned cars with HIDs for years. The hazy plastic housings certainly didn’t help either. The new units replace the plastic with really nice glass. I opted for the highest usable output versus something more flashy—50W FX-R projectors with 4300K D2S bulbs—after all, I want the car to be relatively OEM+ and these fit the bill nicely.
At first I assumed that the new headlights would go in exactly as the old ones came out, but the new housings are about 33% longer. As a result, I had to remove the front bumper and grille section to get better access for installation—kind of a bummer, but once the units were in, it was very much a plug and play solution.
Before buttoning everything up, I gave the lights a quick test—these were a really cool blue initially, but once they warmed up, they were pure white. I took a quick drive with them and was immediately amazed at how much safer I felt behind the wheel, haha. The light output was (no joke) probably 400% better than OEM, though I definitely have to take some time to adjust them properly since I got quite a few flashes from oncoming traffic. Oops.
All in all, the car is coming together quite nicely, though I have to admit a lot quicker than originally planned haha. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly enjoying the journey and excited for all the new adventures this car will bring.
Maintenance / Modifications Performed (through 12/19/2015):
• 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
• OEM 3.0″ Intake Boot Replacement
• AFE Intake Stage 2 ProDry S
• Depo Headlight Housings with FX-R Projector Retrofit