I brought the car home and immediately began on my new project. I ordered the suspension, seats, and wheels for the car and took it to the track in late September 2003. The car was great on the track, just a little underpowered compared to the S52 in Steve’s car.
I began my search for a donor motor and finally tracked one down from a shop in Washington State. The motor came out of a 95 M3 with front-end damage and had approximately 60k on it. I received the motor in late October and began to acquire parts for it. I wanted to get he most power possible out of the motor, but focus on reliability. I proceeded to order the performance mods for the motor and started to tear the motor down. The S50’s have a well-known weakness in the pre 10/95-build cars. BMW won’t admit it, but they have weak valve retainers. BMW never officially put out a technical bulletin on this, but the part number in the ETK changes for the 96 and up cars. I chose VAC Motorsports for the headwork and went with their Stage 1 head and opted for the BMW Motorsport dual valve springs.
In Late October 2003, I took the car to David Raye Engineering for the Roll cage. DRE specializes on chassis fabrication and cages for all sorts of cars, primarily Circle Track. DRE had the car for about 2 months and delivered it right before Christmas.
In January, I finally began work on the car. My friend Steve was kind enough to offer the use of his garage for the conversion and I couldn’t pass it up. We began by pulling the M20 and stripping the car. Once the motor was out, I began to clean and prep the engine bay for the conversion. I also began pulling the suspension and subframes off the car in preparation for a full rebuild and bushing replacement.
With the motor in the car and all of the front suspension work done, I moved the car back to my garage in March 2004 to start on the wiring, interior, and the rear suspension. The car became more of a weekend project was not a priority. At the time, I still owned my E36 M3 and was satisfied having that to drive around. I worked on the car on and off all summer long and finally got it to the point where it was driveable in early October 2004.
I drove the car around town to get the bugs worked out and with 17 miles on the car ran into some serious issues. I noticed that there was a fair amount of oil in the coolant and a large amount of oil leaking from the front of the motor where the head meets the block. Feeling extremely frustrated and the lack of freetime due to a new job, I shelved the project for the following spring.
I started on the car in March of 2005 and began by pulling the head off. I replaced the Head gasket and checked for any signs of problems and didn’t find any. I put the motor back together and headed out to put some miles on it. I drove about 20 miles and pulled over to check for any leaks and much to my disappointment, I had oil leaking from the front half of the motor again. I drove the car home and began to investigate the leak. It turns out that it was a 10 cent o-ring that seals the camshaft sensor. All the work over a 10-cent part! After flushing the coolant a couple times over the next month, I realized that the oil in the coolant was the result of oil getting into the water jackets during the tear down phase of my rebuild.
With all of that grief behind me, I continued to work on the car finishing the interior and adding things like the aluminum radiator, lap counting, and the onboard fire system.
In July 2005, after putting some miles on the motor to break it in, I finally got the car to the track. The car ran flawlessly and I put on over 300 track miles running amongst Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, Corvette’s, and even a Carrera GT. The car was a little under-powered compared to the other cars, but it was a blast nonetheless…
I have recently decided to swap almost everything over to an E30 M3 after finding one that I couldn’t pass up. I will be flying out to New Hampshire to pick it up and drive it back to Minnesota in the next few weeks and begin the transformation. Fortunately, I have found a buyer for the 325 and it will be shipped to Massachusetts in the coming weeks where the new owner will drop in a motor of their choice. I will miss this car, but the new owner is extremely enthusiastic and I know it will be in good hands.