As is normal for me, I hated to say too much about this until I actually did it, because the dumbness factor is high. In summary: I was working on another project that I hope to get back to soon now that I have this car pretty much functional for its intended purpose. Then, right in the middle of that project on a whim I bought the crappiest old E36 I could find for a learn-to-drift car, and got totally distracted by it for pretty much the next 6-7 months. Result: Got sideways, made smoke, got addicted to recreational drifting. (Oh, also pissed off my wife for having a junker sitting in the driveway, often out of commission)
The car in question is a ’97 328i Automatic, with about 223k miles on what may well be the complete original drivetrain. I bought this thing for $450, and that was probably paying too much. It ran, sort of, when you could convince the aftermarket anti-theft system to let it start, and when you had it jumped just right… But it was a major league death trap. Driving it home from the seller’s house was far more exciting in a not-so-good way/scary than drifting seems to be. I think the main part of the sketchy handling was because the front control arm bushings had very little rubber left in them, and the right rear shock absorber was doing zero absorbing. Everything else was trashed too (including the brakes), but I think those are the things that created the giant “tank slapper” events any time you hit a bump at more than about 40mph.
Here is the beaut when I got it home:
Man those pictures make it look better than it really did. Neither front window worked because the little plastic track runner clips were destroyed, and the driver’s door window mechanism was bent. The interior was absolutely disgusting in terms of being nasty dirty and all torn up. I didn’t see any sense in taking pictures of the gross-ness, and pretty much just started by tearing out anything that disgusted me.
That meant removing the seats, the center console, and most of the carpeting other than some left in the area under the pedals since I was too lazy to make a different floor piece to go under there. It turned out that not too much of the dash had to come out to allow me to extract the aftermarket anti-theft system, so that was nice.
At first I thought the floor was in pretty good shape, but the passenger side rocker panel area is a pretty big mess. Anyway, I got the front windows working so I could remove the packing tape from the front doors that had been stuck on them to keep some of the rain out. Haha… And I began a process of punching drain holes in the lowest parts of the floor so the water that does come in can just run out. This car is for fun, not headaches.
At any rate, that is enough for pics of a partially gutted E36. Next I wanted to be able to actually move the car around, so I bought a new battery for it, and started fabricating up some simple mounts out of scrap angle iron for my kickass eBay seats ($230 for the pair, delivered):
So far I think these ridiculously cheap coilovers are a fantastic bargain! One thing I didn’t like about them very well was how the back of the car felt, so I got out my bin of old coilover springs, fired up the welder and ended up settling on some old 6″ long, 800# Eibach springs on non-adjustable spring locators on the top and bottom. I used the ones that came with the coilovers on the bottom, and then I welded up some for the top out of 1/8″ aluminum plate and aluminum tube I made into a short cone and welded to the plate. Works great! (no rear sway bar)
I ended up breaking one of those original coilovers by dragging a tire across a concrete lip while drifting. I considered this to be completely my fault, and not at all the fault of the coilovers. So I bought a set of the MaXpeedingRods non-adjustable coilovers to play with for replacement parts.
I have found them to be Very nice also!
Before turbos, the car drifted like this with the original automatic transmission, on MaXpeedingRods coilovers, with stock engine power.
For more details about Thad Peterson‘s BMW E36 328i build project, please enter to:Project “Try Out Drifting” (with an old slushbox E36 sedan)