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Last Post 12 May 2017 03:51 PM by  Fair
Vorshlag 2002 BMW E46 325Ci - Daily/Track Car - Project Jack Daniels
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11 Sep 2015 12:37 PM
    Project Introduction August 31st, 2015: This forum build thread covers the repairs and track prep on my wife Amy's "new" 2002 BMW E46 coupe, which we purchased August 20, 2015. This car will get track prep towards a NASA TT class (which I will discuss in more detail in a future post), but initially we will be doing some maintenance and repairs to get this car inspected and reliable, to let her "daily" in this little Bimmer. No, we're not just automatically sticking an LS1 V8 in the car (unless the engine is terminal, and maybe not even then). She wanted an inexpensive "cash car" to drive to work, and I wanted a car to test some new parts out with on track, so maybe this one will fit both needs.

    The real question is: Can we make a daily driven BMW competitive regionally in NASA Time Trial?

    In this thread we will also cover some tips on "How to buy an E46" and also show the "Common Things that Break" on these cars and illustrate the fixes. If you ever wanted to own a BMW E46 this might be a useful read. I'm showing the basic costs and hours spent on this build as we go, since we log everything into MyShopAssist, the service logging and customer interface software we use on all tasks and all jobs here at Vorshlag.

    Cross-posting this to these forums:
    • Bimmerforums: http://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?2213638-Vorshlag-2002-BMW-E46-325Ci-Daily-Track-Car-Project-Jack-Daniels
    • Corner-Carvers: http://forums.corner-carvers.com/showthread.php?p=1083785#post1083785
    • Vorshlag Forums: http://www.vorshlag.com/forums/showthread.php?t=8400
    • SCCA Forums: http://www.sccaforums.com/forums/aft/447611
    • S197Forums: http://www.s197forum.com/forum/showthread.php?p=2260978#post2260978


    I'm posting this little build thread on a number of forums, and some of you will be chomping at the bit to talk trash or point out past mistakes on an E46 330 build I did back in 2009. Yes, I made some mistakes on that build and was very frustrated with the oil pump drive issues that this car suffered. No, I didn't listen to several people who warned me that what I was doing (revving the M54 engine too high, not welding the oil pump nut, etc) were going to cause problems. Some of you folks were right, I admit that, and I unwisely ignored freely given internet advice.

    Before you crap up this thread with old history and personal attacks, please read the next few posts - where I will address the oil pump issues, harmonic balancer problems that car had (that we didn't know about until much later), and give my updated advice on the M54 "minimum oil system prep" to folks, learned from these mistakes (in my 2nd round of posts). That 330 was built 6 years ago, in my home garage, and I have learned a lot since then. Vorshlag has gone through a lot of growth in that period, with a lot of new employees added to our staff, new capabilities added to our shop, dozens of car builds under out belts, and hundreds of cars worked on since then.

    As always, in this build thread I will share the good and the bad, as well as track all hours and dollars spent. I might make mistakes, but we will always try to learn from them. I will still admit that I don't know everything about the E46 chassis. We work on a variety of cars, and not just BMWs. I will specifically ask for help in this thread on a few areas where others know more. So again, please read the next few posts before you chime in with your advice - your comments might already be addressed fully. Thank you for your patience.


    This is a tough question to answer. First, let me talk about Amy - I'm damned lucky and have a wife who not only puts up with my racing addiction, but she's a racer herself. I met her at a race, so I guess that's how you do it. She's won 3 Solo Nationals Championships, is a licensed NASA Time Trial Competitor and race winner, and we both love to enjoy many forms of motorsports. We spend 25-30 weekends a year doing autocross, HPDE and TT, and I will get her in the W2W Endurance E46 next year with us, some how.

    These are two more E46 cars I've owned. The 323i sedan (left) was just a daily. The 330Ci coupe (right) became an autocross/track car

    She daily drove the red E46 4 door 323i (above) for about a year, but it was very stock and thus remained very boring. She decided in 2013 that she wanted a "big comfy BMW", so we looked for then found her a clean 2001 740iL. She really liked that 7, but we probably only had passengers in the back seat a half dozen times in 2 years of ownership. Its just the two of us most of the time in any given vehicle, so the gigantic-ness of the long wheelbase 7 series was a waste. Even though we did a lot of repairs, restoration and little upgrades to that 740 at our shop, we don't really make anything unique for the E38 chassis... so it was useless as a "business promotional tool" or test bed for Vorshlag.

    We just sold both of Amy's previous cars, the 740iL and the TT3 Mustang, and she gets this E46 as her replacement?!

    Why does she need a car? Well back in July we sold Amy's 2011 Mustang GT, which she and I raced in NASA TT3 and other classes the past five years. That car was her daily driver from 2010 until 2013, when we got the 2001 BMW 740iL (2013-15) for her to drive back and forth to work. We also sold that E38 a few weeks ago, and had a few bucks left from that sale to spend on her next daily driver.

    But one thing kept nagging me: We have been sharing race cars for years, she and I, and if I've learned one thing about that, it is that sharing a race car sucks. You get half the seat time at a track weekend, or you end up putting twice the laps on a car during a given day (running in 2 different run groups), which is very hard on the car. It never gets a chance to cool off or any down time to make tuning changes or repairs without being rushed. Amy and I shared the TT3 Mustang and then we built the TTC Corvette (1992 LT1 Corvette, Project #DangerZone) early in 2015, and we finally had them both at the track... for one NASA weekend this year. But it was nice, since we didn't have to share!

    Separate but equal: having his and hers race cars is ideal, so we don't double-up on a single car on a race weekend!

    So when it was time to move the 7 series on down the road we discussed a half dozen options for her next daily driver, which I was hoping to ALSO use for some new parts development and rack up some more racing wins for Vorshlag. Every car we own has to "do work" for Vorshlag, and having a daily driver that could at the very least test new parts was part of the deal. We looked for a clean E30, which would be "retro cool" after a lot of restoration and mods, but clean E30s are going for big $. Then we looked at E36s, but we have done that chassis many times in the past, and they are getting a bit long in the tooth.

    She said she wanted a BRZ or FR-S, and I worked up a wicked NASA TTC track build that she was on board with, until she saw the budget. No monthly financing payments was a requirement for this next car, and even used these are still $15-18K cars (oldest is 2013 model). It had to be a cheap cash car. We thought about Subarus (too kooky), Miatas (she daily drove one before - too slow, too small), even some domestics... but nothing had the bang-per-buck aspect of the E46 right now, at this moment.

    We had some money stashed away after selling the 740, so I looked for a clean 330 for $4-5K. Nope, they don't exist unless it has 200K+ miles and an automatic. Craigslist searching (yuck), AutoTrader (pretty much all dealers), and other sources. But being a small business owner, cash flow comes and goes, and one day "poof" the cash from the 740 was used for something for the biz - paying taxes, payroll, vendors - something. So my budget was slashed and the E46 choices at this new price range started to look pretty sketchy.

    This is our cheap, 197K mile 2002 325Ci project car. Yes, we know, the Foose wheels are Fooking ugly! They will be gone soon

    I put a call out on Facebook, and once again was rewarded with a diamond in the rough. A friend that worked at a used car dealer had a lead: 2002 325Ci, 5-speed, 197K miles, $1800. It needed more work than they wanted to invest, so they were willing to let it go cheap to someone who could fix it. Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

    This E46 we just bought is a bit rough around the edges (read below for description of problems) but since we bought it well I'm confident we can fix whatever is wrong with it. I test drove and checked the car out personally and couldn't see any frame damage, rust (Texas car all its life), it had a clear title, and it didn't run like it had a head gasket or oiling system problem (both potential "gotchas" on these cars). Everything else that could be wrong I'm not afraid to fix. Vorshlag has serviced 100's BMWs over the years and we are well versed in most of the problems and fixes of the E46, as well as performance upgrades that help these cars perform better on track and in autocross.

    whiskey dent: Dents or scratches on a vehicle due to drinking and driving or hitting an object with your vehicle while intoxicated.
    The car has a lot of "whiskey dents", small dings and bumps on the body that don't effect the function of the car, just make it a bit ugly (see the two pics above). It also had a light front end hit and another rear tap, but we will fix those issues as we go. Nothing that prevents it from being a good daily driver. The project name "Jack Daniels" comes from the Whiskey Dents, obviously. No, I don't condone drinking and driving - not hardly - but the name fits.

    These cars can get light quickly. This car lost 434 pounds in 2 hours (interior removal) and still has all the factory glass and steel!

    We like the E46 chassis, and have four of these in the shop right now. The silver E46 1999 328i 5-spd sedan above was purchased a few months back for an "employee owned shop endurance race car" project, and we already knocked a bunch of weight out of the car. This E46 328i was also well under $2K, also from a good Facebook friend lead, who had a tough-to-sell car, so it had some miles and needed some TLC. We can easily get weight out of one when we make it a real race car, as shown above. The door panels, carpets and seats on these cars are HEAVY! But this car needs to keep some of the interior, because its going to double-duty...


    "Do as I say, not as I do." Normally, I warn customers that taking their daily driver and making it ALSO work as their track car is a TERRIBLE idea. It always involves huge compromises that make it a less comfortable daily driver, a heavy/slow/less competitive race car, or both. But this is what SO many people want to do - I'd say half our customers do this! - so why don't we try this "dual purpose build" for once and document what works and what doesn't? Can we win a TT race, or even set a track record, in a REAL DEAL, full interior, air conditioned, daily driven street car? We did it with two BMWs before (below), but that was several years ago - when NASA Time Trial wasn't nearly as competitive as it is today.

    We took both the E46 330 and E36 M3 above to NASA TT wins and a track record each - when both were daily driven at the time

    This 2002 325Ci will be both Amy's daily driver (she has a mild 8 mile commute, all on secondary roads with lots of stop lights) and we will use will try to make it a competitive NASA Time Trial build and let her go have some fun in TT. The goal is to make it reliable and fast, allowing her to have as much seat time as possible. We're already building a new "shop car" E46 V8 for me for 2016 (TT1), plus the Endurance car E46 for the shop employees (1999 328i for WRL), and this E46 (TTE or TTD?), so we will have three shop E46 race cars in 2016, if everything goes to plan (when does it ever?!).

    Due to other expenses in owning a growing business, and two other race cars already designated as "shop cars", this 325 is being built on a very small budget. Not "$2000 total" like the GRM E30 we built before, but more like the TTC '92 Corvette we ran this year and has it's own Forum Build Thread. I've had customers and even people in the motorsports industry remark that those two "budget builds" (GRM E30 + Dangerzone) were some of the favorite we've done, more so than our more wild builds, so who knows? Those of you who dig that sort of thing might enjoy the build-up.

    continued below
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    11 Sep 2015 12:52 PM
    continued from above


    The Wikipedia entry for the E46 is rather lacking in production numbers, but if you dig a little there were almost 4 million of this 4th generation of the 3 series built in the 1999-2006 model years, with about 800K making it to the USA. So these cars are abundant and are becoming VERY affordable. They came in many forms, ranging from the 4-door sedan (the most common), a 2 door coupe (my favorite), a 3 door hatch back (which we never got in the USA), and the 5 door estate wagon (rare here). There were convertibles, an M3 model (coupe and convertible only), and engines were 1.8L inline fours to 3.2L straight sixes, with all U.S. spec E46s cars getting a straight six (2.5L, 2.8L, 3.0L or 3.2L in the M3). I'm ignoring the E46 M3 from here on out, as it is very different and shares little with the non-M E46.

    The Achilles heal of the E46 M54 motors are the exhaust manifolds (left), but the mid-length tube headers (right) always throw CELs

    I've owned several E46 models, coupes and sedans, and generally liked them - even if I didn't particular care for the M54/M52tu six cylinder engines used in the 323/325/328/330 "non-M" E46 models. There are some quirks to these power plants, like the chain driven oil pump drive that is fairly unreliable in racing without some upgrades. The engine balancer is known to slip or fail, which can cause big problems, and this limits engine revs. The exhaust manifolds are terribly inefficient and place the catalyst very near the cylinder head - and tampering with the location of the cats for performance upgrades in the exhaust always throws CEL codes.

    These are the "non-M" E46 six cylinders we got in the USA, and I have highlighted the engine in our 325Ci project car in yellow

    Not to mention the power output of the M54 is fairly mundane, making from 172 to 225 hp on the E46. The US-spec cars (323, 328, 325 and 330) got engines from 2.5L (323 and 325), 2.8L (328 model) and 3.0L (330). The power outputs are shown above. The chassis itself is more rigid than the E36 3-series it replaced, but it gained a tick of weight so the BMW engineers put a lot more aluminum in this one: the front control arms, rear upper arms, and engine block are aluminum.

    Left: Our flared 2001 E46 330 Coupe on 18x10s and 285/30/18 tires. Right: Our 1997 E36 M3 on 18x10s and 265/35/18s

    The weights we've seen for E46 sedans and Coupes that we've owned were all around 3150 pounds, with low fuel and the spare tire + other "trunk junk" removed. That's how people race them so that's how we weigh them. That number isn't that much heavier (100-50 pounds) than an E36 of the same flavor, and the E46 is bigger in every dimension (wheelbase, length and width). The E46 has a more modern look than the E36 2-series, but I have to admit the E36 has a somewhat timeless look.

    This 325Ci will get new wheels pretty soon to replace the chrome Foose wheels it came with. When buying a pre-owned car we often have to look past the "initial ugly" or weird mods done by previous owners, and this car had some really ugly wheels on it. They won't be here for long - we're testing some new fitments now and will post the results in the next post to this thread.


    Some of what we're sharing in this thread is How To Buy An E46 (non-M). There are a lot of things to look for, and some things you just expect to have to fix unless the car has a really good set of maintenance documents. Cooling systems, leak repairs, suspension clunks, worn brakes, and the "old car stuff" that happens over 10-17+ years of use in all elements.

    Trust me on this one - stick with the stick! The interior shot and the transmission above were from our 2001 330Ci

    Obviously if you want to have fun you should AVOID the automatic transmission cars. The slushbox saps a lot of power and ALL the fun out of an E46, but there are a lot of them out there. Don't think "well I will just swap it to a 5-speed later", because that's a giant pain in the ass to do correctly. Just buy the right car, one already equipped with the manual transmission.

    The 5-speed manual (some later 330's got a 6-speed, but don't pay a premium for that box) is pretty dang good, and generally reliable. The clutches have a finite life, as do all of the myriad bushings in the linkages and shifter. I already know we need to refresh all of the shifter parts on this car, but if you go with a solid metal shift handle and especially a lighter flywheel, be ready for some added "buzz" audible in the interior. We'll use some of our Vorshlag competition motor and transmission mounts on this one, too, to really up the NVH factor.

    If you can even find a sub-100K mile E46 325/328/330, that has been taken care of, expect to pay some $ for these nowadays. There are going to be plenty of examples of 200K mile cars, and those will very likely have the same of maladies of this coupe. But we're not going to let this one go to the crusher just yet - I think we can fix all that ails this car.


    One of the first things you will see on high mileage BMWs is engine oil leaks. They will leak from all sorts of places, but almost always the oil pan and valve cover.

    Left: Jack Daniels has a lot of leaks, so we have some work to do. Right: The valve cover gasket repair is pretty straightforward ('01 330Ci)

    The gaskets get hard and brittle over time, then start to leak. The gasket parts aren't expensive to buy, and the valve cover gasket service on the top end is fairly easy to do at home with basic tools. Order spark plugs at the same time, as these have to come off to do the valve cover work. And make sure to get all 15 seals for every valve cover bolt. The oil pan gasket service is a REAL pain, though, and I'll show what it takes to do in a future installment on this 325Ci. When you do the oil pan gasket repair, you might want to think about: welding the oil pump driveshaft nut, replacing the oil pump/driveshaft/sprocket, and maybe even adding an oil pan baffle kit - if you plan on tracking the car, like we will.

    We swapped in new seals for the dual VANOS on the 2001 330Ci (above) and it fixed some issues on that car

    The VANOS units on the camshafts (variable valve timing controllers) tend to be "done" after 100-150K miles. There are seal kits (above right) and they are serviceable, but be careful. Don't forget that the VANOS bolts are LEFT hand thread. Swapping in rebuilt VANOS units is much trickier, and requires special tools and fixtures. Look for DIY write-ups online for this. There are several suppliers for seal kits and rebuilt VANOS units (Dr. Vanos is the more famous option). When the VANOS units are bad the variable cam timing doesn't work, and the motor feels more sluggish than normal.

    Power steering lines also leak. Radiator necks crack and leak. Water pumps leak. Coolant overflow tanks crack and leak. We tend to see these parts fail regularly at 80-100K intervals. Plus all of the bushings, and the shocks are usually shot. There are underlying reasons why all of these things fail and why they are linked together, which we will cover in a future installment. If you continue reading below you will see that we already tackled some of these "common repairs" in the first week of ownership, but others repairs will be addressed in future posts.


    When I test drove this car it was leaking coolant from more than one spot, and the electric cooling fan wasn't working. They had the radiator cap loose and told me to keep the test drive short. It was at a dealership who had a mechanic on staff, but it looked like they threw their hands up and just wanted to dump the car. I drove it around for a couple of minutes and it felt "OK" to me. No working cooling fan means no Air Conditioning and no chance I could drive it home in traffic. It didn't look like it had a blown head gasket so I took a gamble, bought the car, and towed it to the shop with our enclosed trailer...

    I was nervous about the AC and cooling system - would this be an easy fix or not?? So the day I bought the car I had Olof do an typical "track inspection" to the car and make a list of visible issues. It was a long list.

    - Thoroughly inspect car (top to bottom, front to back)
    - Diagnose fan problem; won't run with direct power
    - Lubed upper radiator hose; now system will pressurize but leak slowly
    - Can hear audible sound engine bay (exhaust leak? air pump bad?)
    - Perform compression test. Looks good.
    - Scanned CEL : Cyl 3 misfire. Cleared code.
    - New code appeared. P0365: Camshaft Position Sensor B Circuit (Bank 1)

    Pressure testing the cooling system showed a myriad of leaks (above)

    It took 2.08 hours to do the inspections, fan test, cooling system pressure check (leaks everywhere!), and engine compression test - all of the work listed above. The compression test was good, which let me know we probably did NOT have a bad head gasket. The coolant system had leaks from the water pump, upper hose junction at the radiator neck, and the coolant reservoir, but the radiator hoses themselves looked new.

    The radiator hoses are normally an instant repair item, as the "quick connect" ends on the E46 get stuck over time and can easily break trying to disconnect them. Olof soaked the junctions with WD40 before taking them off and they popped free easily, and looked perfect inside and at the ends (O-ring). No massive corrosion or deposits. The electric cooling fan was tested off the car; even though it looked pretty new, when fed 12V power at the right ports it wouldn't work. So maybe all of the cooling/AC issues really were just a bad fan and a couple of leaks? Could we get that lucky???

    We ordered a new OEM radiator (which might be replaced later with a larger capacity all-aluminum unit), coolant reservoir/cap/sensor, electric fan, water pump, and plastic thermostat housing + thermostat. Shopped around a bit, so it took a couple of days to get the parts in. It was around $400 retail in parts. When they had all arrived, Olof drained the coolant, quickly removed the old parts, cleaned up the mounting surface on the block for the pump, and swapped in the new bits. It was exactly 7 days after buying the car when he did the work, and it took him an additional 2.52 hours to replace the entire cooling system, start to finish. And luckily these parts fixed ALL of the cooling issues, and the AC now worked perfectly. So my gamble paid off.

    - R&R radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat, and coolant (mostly water)
    - All old gaskets are damaged from corrosion of aluminum and coolant
    - Add coolant and water mix
    - Pressure test cooling system (no leaks)
    - Test drive and verify fan turns on, AC works, engine runs fine

    While he was removing the parts and before the new bits went in I sprayed the entire engine bay down with WD40. We let it soak while at lunch and Olof wiped all the surfaces down when we got back. This stuff is harmless to almost every material and will loosen gunk and grime, and it worked like a charm. Normally I'd pressure wash the engine bay but this car didn't need it - the dealership had done that, apparently (not the previous owner, who had really let a lot of things go). Just had some old gunk stuck to an otherwise clean-ish engine bay. The WD40 + wipe down made it look pretty darned good...

    Engine bay now looks good, but did you notice the wires holding the headlights in place? And the cloudy lenses?

    Now the 325 has a brand new cooling system (doesn't leak a drop of coolant) and the engine bay is pretty darned clean - doesn't look like it has 197K miles now. I love clean engine bays, and we will get the car up on all fours and power wash underneath the entire chassis soon. A clean chassis shows any leaks perfectly, and I'm sure there are plenty left to track down (engine oil, etc). But the emergency stuff - a bum cooling system - was fixed, which was a good first step.

    continued below
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    11 Sep 2015 12:53 PM
    continued from above


    Now that the cooling system works we could concentrate on the last few "emergency" repairs and turn the car over to Amy to start daily driving (so she can point out what else is broken). We already know the suspension is pretty much shot; It needs lots of suspension bushings, a rear subframe reinforcement/subframe and bushings, new dampers, the top mounts are shot, etc. But one thing that was broken that couldn't be ignored were the power window switches... 3 of the 4 switches were busted. Did that mean the window regulators were also broken? Another gamble...

    Both the left and ride side window switches (above left) had one or more broken "tabs", so the windows wouldn't go up or down. Luckily the "endurance car" ('99 328i) is getting all of the OEM door and rear glass replaced (with fixed Lexan), so I borrowed that car's console mounted window switches (below left) temporarily to test and see if this 325's window regulators even worked. This is a super easy job: pop the leather shift boot up (see above right), then unscrew two Phillips screws at the back, and the shift cover comes out for easy access.

    The E46 sedan has the same passenger side window switch, which popped right into the slot in the shift cover and plugged into the wiring harness. Both the right side door and rear quarter glass power action worked, whew. The driver's side switch also plugged in and everything again worked, but the "child lock" button for the rear window control lock-outs (not included on the Coupe) makes the switch housing too long to fit the slot on the Coupe's shifter cover (below right).

    Left: The switches are held in "hook" at one end and snap into the other end. Right: The left side Sedan window switch is too long

    As you can see (below) the replacement window switches aren't expensive, and this is a super common thing to be broken on an E46 - the little individual window switch "paddles" snap and break off. I found some under the seat when we swapped that out (below).

    After I tested that the two door windows and two rear quarter windows worked with the borrowed E46 Sedan window switches, we ordered the correct switch for the driver's side for an E46 Coupe. There's a third variation for the Convertible as well. Confused yet? Welcome to German cars.

    The correct part (BMW p/n: 61316902175) showed up a few hours later from our BMW dealer. I then popped the cover out again and swapped in the correct switch, for a completed job with the right parts. This is a 5-10 minute job at most, and we spent less than $45 to fix it. Easy.


    This car was a Premium car, with Harmon Kardon stereo and power leather seats on both sides - when new this was a high end car, but time takes it's toll. Both front seats were both torn/worn/ripped at a couple of leather seams, and the fore-aft power actuator on the driver's seat was broken. Luckily the seat was stuck where it fit my driving position (so Olof and I could do our initial test drives to prove the cooling system repairs) but it didn't fit Amy, so she couldn't drive it.

    The worst part of Jack Daniel's interior are the shift handle (see pic above), front seats (torn) and the steering wheel cover (worn).

    Long term plans include installing two fixed back racing seats with a driver's side slider, and make it fit Amy's driving position perfectly. The seating position really makes or breaks a track car for her. With too many unknowns left to check on this car before we go dumping expensive racing seats into it, for the short term I once again borrowed parts from the Endurance car car. The power front drivers seat from the 99 328i Sedan was pretty ugly but the power actuators all worked, so I just had hoped it would fit the Coupe...

    Reduce. Recycle. Re-use. We're keeping it green on Jack Daniels by "borrowing" the front seat from the 328i

    The stock seats in the Sedan were in pretty rough shape but I just wanted something functional to use temporarily until I could either find some NICE black leather factory E46 seats or until I could convince Amy to just let me install some of the dozen or so racing seats sitting in our lobby... She's thinking "daily driver" while I'm always thinking "race car", heh.

    Since the 325's driver's side power seat was dead, the seat was "stuck" in a weird spot. This made access to the old seat's 4 mounting bolts tricky. The front bolts were easy to get out but the rears were half covered up, but Olof fought it and got it unbolted, then we tossed the dead seat out back. The recyclers grabbed it before I had a chance to weigh it, but its one heavy mug. We will weigh the Sedan's power seat when we take it out next time.

    Oh there was some nasty junk hidden under that seat (retch!)... sticky coins, a dirty comb, fossilized french fries, plus all sorts of crumbs and soda spills. Olof got all of the left side carpets vacuumed and shampoo'd quickly and it looked 100 times better. The other side was strangely clean and Amy vacuumed that side out a few days later, when I cleaned all of the leather, vinyl and plastics on the weekend.

    The 328i Sedan seat is ugly (grey) but the power functions works, so its being used for now

    The '99 328i Sedan driver's power seat bolted in easily enough. The plug for the seat was correct and everything worked, but its now throwing a "seat belt" code, so there must be a wiring difference internally. It does not have the "tilt forward and up" back seat access feature of the Coupe's front seats, but oh well. The ugly gray leather Sedan seat will work for now, as all power functions operate, but its temporary. We will get race seats in here...

    These are the Cobra seats and Momo wheel we used in the '01 330Ci, and they are what we will likely use in this 325Ci... soon?

    All told this seat swap and half carpet clean-up took about 0.5 hours and cost $0 in parts (borrowed seat).


    If you've read one of my many build posts you know its wrapping up when you see that subtitle. I like to give clues to what mods we have in store next time. Here are the highlights.

    This 325Ci needs new headlights to pass inspection, as the original units were both damaged in a light front end hit at some point. The housings are all busted up, the lenses are cloudy, and they are held in with bailing wire. I have done a LOT of looking (there are a lot of variations between the Coupe/Sedan/M3, with pre-facelift and post-facelift for the coupe and sedan) and found some ~$200/pair OEM looking halogen projector style light assemblies, which I have on order. Will get those in the car pretty soon, then try to chase down the last CEL (Cam Sensor is a common flaw on the M54) so it will hopefully pass inspection.

    Ryan made custom full length headers for this LS3 V8 in a tick over two days... why not make a better E46 header than what eBay sells?

    After that we need to tackle the exhaust, as the rear muffler hanger is gone and it has a good exhaust leak behind one catalyst in one manifold assembly. I really DO NOT want to buy $800+ worth of factory style replacement manifolds/catalysts, so we might fabricate something there. I'm most definitely NOT buying the crappy eBay header for this car, like the blue 330Ci got (two sets were purchased for that car, to get something that fit). Should we make a new, proper full length header for the M54? Is there a market for this, when the $100 eBay junk has been the standard for some time? I'm going to do a business case for this and see - it wouldn't be that hard to make, with our in-house fabricators.

    Once we determine the header solution, the after-header exhaust will be custom made from 3" stainless tubing and Magnaflow mufflers and cats, when it gets replaced. We've done a system like this before (blue '01 330Ci syste, shown above) but since then we had a development break-through and have picked up BIG numbers while becoming quieter. There's a muffler from Magnaflow that made that happen, along with an unusual routing. We could see if that worked on this car, with the full length header. Very tempting, and it could make for a new product - which is why I pushed Amy towards another E46 in the first place. This car has to DO WORK FOR VORSHLAG.

    One possible track setup is this 18x10" wheel + 265/35/18, which we did to the '01 330Ci (pre-flares)

    Replacing the wheels and tires are a VERY high priority, and as I mentioned above I hate the Foose wheels with a passion, and after Amy's first long test drive one of the tires got really low on air pressure. I'm looking at 17x9.5" Forgestar F14s for street wheel set first (see below), with a better offset made exclusively for the E46 non-M - with no spacers needed. We have done 18x9 and even 18x10 (above) before, but they all needed spacers and the 10's needed LOTS of fender rolling and camber to fit. Even then we were limited to 265s on the rear, until we flared the 330. We'll tackle something similar for track use (depending on which class we go to, which might limit tire choices/mod points). This car has a base NASA TT class of TTF, so we still have a lot of "mod points" to play with in TTD or TTE.

    The various body dings and scratches will all be addressed in good time. This 325 also needs a new front bumper cover, hood, and rear bumper cover - and we will see if we have class points to do M3 bits for the front and rear. The old brakes are also shot. Depending on NASA classing points, we might steal parts off of my white 2001 330Ci in the shop and use them on this car: the hood, bumper covers, even the larger 330 brakes would take only a few hours to swap over. We'll see how the class build shakes out - there's a couple of ways we can go for a TTE or even TTD build.

    This was a weight we took with low fuel but the full sized spare, jack and other trunk junk were still in place

    Last but not least, no build thread of mine would be complete without the initial weighing! We were in a hurry so we didn't take out the spare wheel/tire or the jack. This porker came in at 3256 pounds, but considering the trunk junk and what these Foose anchors weigh, I shouldn't be surprised. We will knock the weight down by around 200 pounds, I can assure you of that. (base classing: BMW 325 ('01-'06) (2.5L184 hp) = TTF**, min wt 3197 pounds w/ driver) This 325Ci one will be kept for a while, and Amy is already driving it to work, so we will have some fun with this one. Check back next time to see a few more repairs and hopefully some upgrades!


    As a former mechanical engineer and project manager before I started Vorshlag, I used spreadsheets every day. Some habits die hard. When I was writing the second set of posts for this forum build I went ahead and broke down the costs and hours spent on each round of work. These are normal street prices for the parts we used, in the brands we prefer, but I supposed you can hunt long enough and find a better deal. The hours are logged in our MSA system and are accurate.

    In this little spreadsheet you can see hours spent, the actual cost I paid for the car (with Tax), and the approximate prices for the parts used in this First Round of mods. I will do this for each round of mods and keep a running tally for the total dollars spent - so you readers can see what the real costs are for owning a high mileage E46 Coupe, as well as prep costs for a NASA TT build.

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    Veteran Member

    11 Sep 2015 12:53 PM
    Project Update for September 8th, 2015: We just had a few hours to tackle some additional work on Amy's daily driver and soon-to-be track prepped E46. The shop crew finished a few more repairs, did one of the first upgrades, and are inching closer to being able to switch from "fix mode" to "upgrade mode". This was supposed to be a "quick update" but then I started planning the NASA TT build, and things got complicated. Why? Because little changes done now could alter the end classing down the road. Read below to see what we tackled in this update.

    At this point I had already fixed a leaking tire by stealing two of the E46 sedan wheels/tires

    The complete cooling system replacement from the first round of repairs has been working great and there have been no coolant leaks or other issues with any of these parts, which is great news. But we aren't out of the woods yet. Amy and I have driven this E46 a half dozen times, and from that we know there are still a number of problems that need to be fixed before we can really call this one "safe to daily drive", much less pass state inspection.

    The original headlights are really busted up and don't work (one was unplugged, the rest of the bulbs were burned out), the turn signals don't work up front, we found that the horn doesn't work (and I use a horn like a NYC taxi cab driver), the exhaust leak seemed to be getting worse, there was a terrible "shimmy" at highway speeds, and one of the tires kept leaking down. I couldn't stand looking at the flippin' Foose wheels any longer, too, so we found a temporary wheel and tire solution that fixed a couple of problems.


    We knew there was a leak in one of the factory exhaust manifolds but it seemed to be getting louder. I drove the E46 to work a couple of times and it was beyond my level of acceptable annoyance, so I went looking for a replacement set. Problem is these manifolds also include the catalyst, and each one (there is a pair) are $300-450/each new. No way was I spending $900 on new exhaust manifolds that looked and performed as poorly as the OEM units did!

    The right flange could be wiggled more than an inch once it was detached at the rear. Straight busted!

    I really wanted to just get the car inspected, then get a baseline dyno pull done on the stock manifolds/stock exhaust, then try some proper racing headers. We actually have a couple of things we want to test first, but I'll get to that later. So I went looking for some used M54 manifolds, and the guys at Clown Shoe Motorsports had a pair they sold me cheap ($100 = scrap value). Thanks guys!

    Left: Old exhaust manifolds were oily and one was broken in half. Right: New exhaust gasket set

    After I had picked those up Steve order the gaskets, and we put the E46 back onto our shop schedule on Friday, September 4th. Olof got the car on the lift and when he pulled the aft portion of the exhaust system off, he came and got me from my office. He showed me how busted one of the manifolds really was and we laughed pretty loudly. Check the video below to see what I mean...

    Click above for a short video walk-around during this round of repairs

    So yea, the rear manifold was broken at the junction to the catalyst, and the only thing that was keeping the rear section of the manifold from falling out of the car was the heat shield. Good grief, that's bad. Of course the manifolds were also covered in oil, as this engine still has a wicked valve cover leak. We'll tackle ALL of the oil leaks at once, next time. I have a reason why we're waiting.

    The replacement manifold set (above) was far from new, and had almost as many miles (190K), but they came off a similar car that was NOT throwing a CEL - which is a good sign. Olof got these installed with new exhaust gaskets at the cylinder head and the rear exhaust, plus added a new rear exhaust hanger we picked up from BMW. Now the car had a working, factory stock exhaust with no leaks. Yay.

    4.58 hours were spent on this exhaust job, but some of the studs and nuts fought coming off - even when soaked in penetrant. 197,000 miles of use means these parts have seen a lot of heat cycles. Getting the manifolds out of the engine bay requires securing the engine at the top (hanging it from a bar), removing the passenger side motor mount and stand, removing the entire exhaust system, then fighting with the little fiddly nuts and exhaust studs on the cylinder head. Olof removed all of those studs (to be able to clean the exhaust gasket surface properly) and cleaned them up off the car, as they were pretty crusty. Should have just ordered replacement studs and nuts, oh well. At the time of this writing I hadn't driven the car yet... hopefully these used manifolds don't suck.

    Exhaust system repaired with replacement factory E46 manifolds + new rear exhaust hanger


    Both the guibo and the center bearing on the stock 2-piece driveshaft needed some attention, and with the exhaust off it was much easier to get to these parts this time around. Olof had noted the cracks in the "flex disc" that attaches the driveshaft to the transmission last time, and now was a good time to fix that.

    These are a common failure item and virtually all BMWs have to replace these over time. As you can see below, the old unit had a lot of cracks in it, but I've seen much worse. They tend to crack, then fibers start to come apart and they slowly explode over long enough time period. It is usually very visible to any mechanic that is looking under the car before it lets go. This is a $35-60 part to buy new.

    Another strange thing that he found when he was looking at the driveshaft was aft of the center support bearing. Someone had replaced the center bearing recently (another common wear item on all BMWs), as it looked new. But whoever did the work somehow left a threaded cap for the rear section of the driveshaft loose? This needed to be lock-tited and tightened to reduce the chance of it coming apart and tearing the threads of the shaft up.

    Left: You can see the threaded cap that is loose in this picture. Right: It has been secured, loctite added, and a stripe paint marked

    Olof got both the Guibo replaced and the center bearing screw-on cap re-attached in .59 hours, which was quicker than normal because the exhaust was already out of the way for the manifold work.


    This M54B25 has variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves. This means it needs two separate cam position sensors. As I mentioned in the first post, this car kept throwing a Check Engine Light (CEL), which turned out to be the position sensor on the exhaust camshaft. This is a ~$40 part that takes very little time to replace.

    Steve sourced a new Meyle cam position sensor (above left) and then Olof took .28 hours to replace it (above right). We will see if that's the last of the CEL problems on this car. The E46 is known for having some tricky to diagnose CEL issues, so I'm not holding my breath just yet. As long as it stays off long enough to pass inspection, we're good for now.


    In our first round of repairs we noted that the headlights were all jacked up (technical term). The lenses were cloudy, the housings were busted up, the mounting tabs were broken off, and they didn't work at all. This car had obviously been in a light front end collision and the headlights took the brunt of the damage. The hood is also tweaked and front bumper cover is beat up - both need to be replaced eventually.

    Since most of the pictures I took last time were from my cell phone (aka: #potatocam), the crappiness of the headlights is hard to see. But trust me - they were smashed up and the lenses were cloudy, so they had to be replaced.

    Click on the images above to see how cloudy the lenses were, and the right pic has a "new vs old" shot that really shows the difference

    The old headlights are shown above, and after the bailing wires attaching them to the chassis (?!) were cut, they were easily removed. The corner lights were literally falling out and had been held in with tape. What a mess - these were just junk. Yes, you can buy new replacement clear lenses, and even replacement parts for some of the busted black plastic on the housings, but its easier and cheaper to just replace the entire assembly.

    These replacements still have protective packing film stuck onto the headlight lenses

    There are tons of OEM replacement options from the normal suppliers (Depo, Hella, etc), but I wanted something better here. Time for a slight upgrade, instead of just a boring "stock replacement" repair. I researched this a bit and found the correct pair of projector style housings shown above. And I bought them from my least favorite source - FleaBay - and they are made in Taiwan. To avoid the known reliability issues with cheap Chinese Xenon lights, I went with the basic halogen bulb assemblies.

    Left: Olof needed to brush up on his Cantonese to read these instructions. Right: Some small crash damage made headlight install tricky

    This pair has internal projector lenses for the (outer) low beams, and "angle eye" LED halo rings around both the high and low beam bulbs. The internal housings (the area behind the lenses and bulbs) often come in "chrome" as well as the factory style "black", but I kept it simple and went with black (the chrome was too blingy for my taste). This kit came with matching parking/turn signal housings, which have a smoked clear lens, not orange tinted lenses like some early E46 OEM options.

    There are a ridiculous number of factory E46 headlight options (see above), with changes for Coupes and Sedans based on their pre- and post-facelifts (2004 for Coupe, 2002 for Sedan, the M3 was never facelifted), plus the E46 Compact (the 3-door hatchback, which we never got in the USA). Some came with Halogens others Xenons, some models had projector lights others did not, and they came with and without headlight washers. The shape of the headlight assemblies dips into the front fenders and bumper covers as well. The facelift extended out back with unique bumper covers and taillights as well. Since the 2001-06 BMW 325 is all on the same base classing line for NASA TT, we could do the facelifted fenders, hood, lights, and all of that and be legal - if we cared. Luckily we don't. If it doesn't make an impact on daily driver use or track times, we aren't doing it. If you care about this stuff, this video shows an early E46 Sedan/Wagon with the details to do the full "Facelift" upgrade.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Sep 2015 12:54 PM
    continued from above

    this 2001 330Ci had factory projector headlights and clear lenses

    My old blue 2001 E46 330 Coupe (above) was a Canadian car, and it came with a KPH speedometer and factory projector style lights and headlight washers, whereas this 2002 325 Coupe had regular non-projector lights and no headlight washers - and these are both pre-facelifted Coupes only one model year apart. There are lots of OEM headlight variations, and I don't know when all the changes were. Throw in the aftermarket headlight options, and you can lose hours chasing down all of the options, costs, reviews, and sources.

    There was extra wiring required to power the halos, which we used a fuse tap to power from an "ignition on" source. While we were first testing the lights one of the LEDs on the LF headlight halo burned out, but hey, that's Taiwan parts for ya.

    The rest of the install was fairly painless, and the low and high beam connectors plugged right into the original harness. There were some fitment problems but we traced that down to front end crash damage. Upon closer inspection (see below) it appears that the radiator support is tweaked on both sides, especially the Left Front. So that headlight mounting hole isn't used for now. We will order a new bolt-in upper radiator support soon and put that in, but since the whole damned front end has to come off to get to all the bolts for this brace, we will wait until the new harmonic balancer is here, which needs lots of access to remove it (read more about that below).

    Again, these new Taiwan special angel-eye projector style headlights came with new bulbs and corner lights, ready to bolt in, for $210 delivered. Hard to beat that price, and with regular OEM headlight replacements at $240-600/pair, non-projector, and without new corner lights... I went with the cheaper Taiwan specials. I might regret this in short order - one LED burned out in the first minute of use - so I will follow up here about long term use results.

    The RF headlight "lower trim panel" (above right) was also shattered in the front end hit, so we had to track one of those down. The LF trim piece was fine (above left) Again, lots of options due to the many changes in headlight shapes and headlight washers. A new RF trim piece was ordered from BMW and the unpainted part was about $35. We will repaint this piece body color and install BOTH lower trim pieces AFTER we figure out what to do with replacing the torn up front bumper cover (M3 vs 325Ci bits) and/or front fenders (M3 or leave stock). The bumper cover is sufficiently misaligned that the new headlights and lower trim pieces don't fit together, at the moment.

    In full daylight you can see the front end damage - it still needs a new bumper cover, lower headlight trim and side marker light

    All told Olof spent 2.94 hours replacing these headlights, wiring in the halos, and repairing the shredded horn system wiring. It would have been a much quicker install if these had been just plain jane OEM replacement lights (no halo wiring) and if the front end wasn't tweaked like it is.


    This wasn't at all what I had envisioned for the final street wheel and tire set, but a giant bolt sticking through one of the 325 Coupe's tires forced a quick if temporary wheel and tire upgrade. And those Foose wheels... wow, they were ugly. Glad those are off the car.

    Once again I went to the shop Endurance race car E46 sedan to "borrow" some parts, namely the wheels and tires. When we bought this 1999 328i from a fellow racer in Austin it had the original 17x7" 7 spoke "style 44" cast aluminum wheels, which were in decent shape. The tires were all 245/40/17 sized rubber in the Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec model. The rear Dunlops were B-A-L-D but the fronts had some tread left (the shoulders were worn off). The owner of that car autocrossed it in Street class and these tires were the go-to option back then. 245mm is about all you'd want on a 7" wide wheel, and the compound was good.

    I found this $10 set of 7 aftermarket "carbon fibre" Roundels, including the four 68mm center caps

    So I figured we could put these on the front temporarily until we decided what to do about the permanent street and race sets of wheels. But upon closer examination the remaining rear tires on the Foose wheels were 18" diameter, dry rotted, and some nasty "Nexen" (?!) brand. And they were mounted to these hideous Foose eye sores. Amy liked the Style 44s well enough so we went ahead and bought 4 new Dunlops in 245/40/17 and we will use those on this car - temporarily. They WILL go back on the Endurance race car and will likely be used on the initial track shake-down events for the team. Thanks to UPS never delivering on time, these were not here by the time I published this update (4 days late and counting, UPS).

    I still want to go with a 17x9.5" Forgestar F14 for the street wheel sets, and either another set of those or 18x9.5" wheels for the final Hoosier set for TT... but we are still working out the final TT letter class build plan. The time it takes to have a set of Forgestars custom built (4-6+ weeks) is longer than we can wait for now, so these Sedan wheels will work in the short term - and remove the ugliest part of Jack Daniels, the Foostasticly chrome blingstars. Check our clearance page to see these things for sale, if you have incredibly bad taste.


    The original rear lateral lower control arms were likely bent by some wrecker driver (they reach under the car to hook their chains and these arms seem like an easy, if stupid, place to tie down a car), which is a common occurrence on BMW E36 and E46 cars. I thought briefly about an adjustable, tubular lower lateral arm, which we have used in the past on other E46 builds... but the TT mod points (+4) were just not worth it. So the bent lower arms needed to be replaced with OEM parts.

    I learned a lot this past year with our TTC prepped 1992 Corvette, and when the TT rules say you can replace a suspension part with a new "stock replacement" part, it really means it needs to be the exact same part, brand, and part number as the factory installed. So I had Steve do some searching and he found the correct Lemforder (the original manufacturer for most BMW suspension parts) rear lower lateral control arms for about $45 each, shown below.

    These control arms went in relatively painlessly and Olof knocked it out in .95 hours. We could have saved $90 and stolen the 2001 330 Coupe's original lateral arms, as they are identical, but with the new parts so cheap it was worth it to get the new arms. There's a bushing on the inboard side that does wear, so these new arms will refresh that. Trying to re-use old, used parts almost always turns out to be a bad idea.


    One of the things we fought with on our 2001 BMW 330 Coupe back in 2009-10, and which more than a few snarky internet expert types like to keep bringing up over and over and over, were oil pump and high RPM reliability issues. Let me say this one more time: I made a mistake, ignored sound advice, and paid the price. Others clearly knew more about the frailty of the M54 engines' oil pump drive, so shame on me.

    I still stand by the comment I have made many times: "The M54 has a terrible oil pump design", because it is the truth. We were also revving the stock M54B30 engine to over 7500 rpm (after a local tuner raised the redline for us), in an effort to minimize shifting to 3rd gear on typical autocross courses. Also a mistake. And we were doing this (unknowingly) with a "slipped" OEM harmonic balancer the entire time, along with a flywheel that was half the weight of the stock unit. I also knew better than to not tack weld the oil pump nut in place, but was lazy and didn't do it either.

    The chain driven oil pump drive shaft retaining nut can fall off or the shaft can shear clean through, both of which makes the oil pump stop working

    All of those mistakes - which were 100% on me - made for an epic fail. Yes, I killed the oil pump drive on that M54 - twice - which quickly wiped out the rod bearings both times. If you need to send some more "I told ya so's", just PM me, and but please don't crap up this thread with more of that. I won't make those same mistakes again. The first oil pump setup on my old 330 was bone stock, with the nut just screwed onto the oil pump drive shaft at the factory (the nut came loose). The second failure was after we replaced the oil pump + shaft and had tack welded the nut in place (it sheared the shaft off). Both of those failures caused the chain driven oil pump to stop working, and the clack-clack-clack of the bottom end knocks started very quickly.

    After those two failures with the original M54 engine, we sourced a stock, low mileage 2005 BMW 330 M54 engine (which itself had a slipped balancer at only 54K miles) and swapped that in before we sold the car. We also lowered the rev limit back to the stock 6500 rpm level, added a brand new OEM harmonic balancer, and a VAC heavy duty oil pump driveshaft and sprocket when it was going in, and tack welded nut to that as well - which is probably why its still intact to this day.

    This is what I consider to be the minimum track prep for an M54 engine: new balancer + VAC oil pump drive + tack weld the nut to the shaft. That 330 Coupe has been running smoothly since this replacement motor + new harmonic balancer + VAC oil pump drive work was done in 2011, and has been tracked several times a month by the new owner since we sold it in early 2013. Zero engine issues.

    Lesson learned: M54 oil pump drives are problematic, and high RPMs tend to kill them earlier than normal.

    We also learned, a bit too late, that the OEM harmonic balancer is a ticking time bomb. These regularly fail with track use or even normal street use. They are easy to inspect if you know what to look for, so I'm hoping that some of you see this and go check your factory balancers and look for the same issues. Click on the image below for a higher rez picture, which shows what I'm talking about. You can also look at the crank pulley when the engine is running and sometimes see the wobble they get when the outer damper portion has slipped relative to the crank.

    As predicted, the original M54 harmonic balancer (behind the front drive pulley) on this 325Ci has slipped. You can see above that the outer steel ring has shifted and the rubber isolater is poking its head out. After seeing too many of these failures, and reading too many horror stories, I'm convinced that ALL of the M54 engines do this.

    The solution? Typically, when you build a car for any higher than stock RPM use or extended track abuse you just buy a quality SFI rated aftermarket harmonic balancer. For some reason (low volume) the aftermarket has not embraced this engine platform yet, or the problematic OEM balancer for the M54/S54 engines, and there is but a single supplier of aftermarket SFI balancers. They can and do charge whatever they want, in this case $949 for the ATI balancer (+$99 add-on for the AC pulley).

    Dropping $1048 on a harmonic balancer is kind of nuts, and still causes sticker shock to me even after losing two bottom ends on a previous M54. That amount could pay for a complete, replacement 3.0L M54B30 engine. I'm used to paying $250-300 for a quality SFI rated harmonic balancer for domestic V8s that make 3-4 times the power. It boggles my mind how expensive this ATI unit is, but they make so few of them it probably isn't a big money maker. Being a manufacturer myself, I understand production costs, and super low production numbers can impact costs dramatically.

    A new OEM replacement balancer is $180-440/each new, which is still a bit tough to swallow. But the unit on this 325Ci has obviously failed, and we have to do something before we take it on track, where it will see higher RPMs for extended periods. These are not fun to install and require special tools to do so, without damaging the crank. Be wary of doing this as a DIY job.

    When we replace the oil pan gasket we will also add the VAC oil pan baffle kit, as shown above

    The leaking oil pan gasket leads me to my next upgrade planned - a new oil pump, an upgraded VAC oil pump drive/welded nut, and adding a VAC oil pan baffle kit. These are super important for these M54 motors, and we have done these baffle installs for customers in the years since I had my "bad experiences" with my first M54 powered BMW. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I won't make the same mistakes again, and we will go overboard on oil system upgrades on this car.

    Stuff like this make up my least favorite parts of owning an E46, but it is just part of the "BMW experience", heh. I've heard it said that since "Germans make cuckoo clocks" that making things overly complicated (like this crazy chain driven oil pump drive) is just part of their culture.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Sep 2015 12:54 PM
    continued from above

    What is still strange to me is how well the S52 (above left) engine did in our 1997 M3. We ran it in at least 100+ autocrosses, often with 3 drivers per day (me, Amy, and the previous car's owner) and always touching the 7500 RPM redline, for over 6 years. All that was done was a welded stock oil pump nut to the shaft. That's it. Stock balancer, stock 100K+ mile engine, and it was tracked several times during that period as well. It has the same, goofy chain driven oil pump as the M54, too. Maybe the E36 M3 engine just had some better mojo than the non-M E46 engine? Again, I think these oil pump issues were more "old balancer failure" related than just "oil pump drive" or "too many RPMs" related. But I'm not taking any chances....


    I have been alluding to prepping this car for a NASA Time Trial class, and there are a number of choices we can make now that effect the build down the road. Do we want a "BIG" tire with no aero, or a narrower tire with aero added? Our 2001 330Ci was built around a 285 tire and stock aero, and it did all right - but that was back in 2010. And the work required to fit those tires (flares) was extensive...

    Do we want to stick with the 325's M54B25 engine or go to the more powerful M54B30 from the 330? What about the larger 330 brakes? We can convert this car to a real 330 fairly easily - we have a 330 in the shop that could donate the front and rear brakes, the engine is an easy internet search + a day of labor to swap, etc. But the engine swap is not likely to happen, because it would require more parts to be swapped to be considered a "base trim level" 330, and would require a new initial base classing. So let's ignore that for now and just think "E46 325".

    There are a lot of ways to build a given car for a specific NASA TT class, and you can change mods down the road if you want to try a different setup and stay classed the same. Let's take a quick look at how NASA Time Trial "Letter Classes" work, because this might be new to some of you. First, you look up your car's "Initial Base Classing" starting on page 19 of the NASA TT rules. I have that broken down for the E36 and E46 BMW models in the chart below.

    The TT rules have one giant listing for all cars that have ever been given an initial base class. If you look at the list of BMWs, they are sorted very poorly, so I took out the basic E36 and E46, M and non-M cars, resorted them, and created the graphic above. That means our 325Ci is classed in TTF with two stars (**).

    Next we make a list of the modifications we want to do and tally up the points assigned to each mod, also shown in the TT rules, starting on page 29. We use a custom spreadsheet that we have created and it automatically sums all of the "mod" and "base" points. There are also a lot of "zero point mods", which are upgrades or changes allowed across all classes without any mod points. Camber plates, lightweight flywheels, upgraded brake pads, upgraded motor and transmission mounts, etc. Those are all listed on page 35 of the 2015 TT rules, and we will utilize many of these "free mods" for sure.

    Next we look at the total points and see if we have "bumped up a class", which is explained below. Since we're starting with 14 penalty points in TTF, that means we only have 5 points left to stay in TTF, which isn't a lot. We will obviously be modding this car beyond that, and go to at least TTE class if not TTD for the final build.

    8.3 Up-Classing System (TTB-TTF only)

    Modifications and Point Assessments: If a car accrues 20 or more points it will be bumped up in Class. There is no limit—a car with a high level of modifications might move up several Classes.

    20 thru 39 points - Up ONE Class
    40 thru 59 points - Up TWO Classes
    60 thru 79 points - Up THREE Classes
    80 thru 99 points - Up FOUR Classes
    100 thru 119 points - Up FIVE Classes

    One (1) asterisk * on a base class assignment denotes a 7 point initial assessment, and two (2) asterisks ** denotes a 14 point initial assessment that is added to the total number of Modification Points to determine the final competition class.
    We usually do this a little backwards when starting a new build. The first thing I do for any car we might prep for NASA TT is look at the base classing, base minimum weight, any penalty points (* = -7, ** = -14), and the base tires and power-to-weight ratios of the initial and final classes. I figure out what final class I want to be in, then figure out what mods I can do for the points allowed. These TT classing calculations involve many variables, and we usually make a dozen or more calculations to get to our initial "class build-up".

    I think the final build will end up in TTD, so that means 59 points worth of mods. Then take out the initial two star (**) penalty of -14 points, so we have either 5 points of mods we can use and stay in TTE or 45 points worth of mods for TTD. That's a pretty good number, and we should be able to do all of the suspension, tire, exhaust, cold air, and aero mods we want for that and stay in TTD with a reasonably competitive car. I guess that's what we shall see!

    We have made a pair of detailed build plans, and which one we choose will depend on the results of the early upgrades, which are in both plans. We have to know "where we will end up" because so many items that need to be repaired have to be done with either stock parts or upgraded parts depending on the final points tally, and hence the final TT class build. Here's our initial TT running points tally with the current Dunlop 245mm street tire package (Not what we have planned for the final TTD setup, but its just an example of what we've done and what points the car has accrued).

    With up to 19 points we could have stayed in TTF, 20-39 points is TTE, 40-59 points is TTD. 23 points now = TTE legal

    If you look at the initial classing of the 325 vs 330, the 325Ci has a better (aka: lower) base class (TTF**) than a base trim level 330Ci in (TTE) as well as a lower minimum weight (3197 pounds for the E46 325, 3285 pounds for the E46 330) but not really if you look at it's base class "base tire size" (TTF = 215mm, TTE = 235mm). Both the 330 and 325 would likely end up in the same class no matter how you build them, and the 325 Coupe will have one single, solitary point advantage over the 330, if we build them the same way. And still strapped with a smaller displacement engine (184 hp vs 225 hp), all due to the TTF** base classing. So we have some number crunching to do, to see if we should stick with the 197K mile 2.5L inline-6 and small 325 brakes or "base upclass" and make this car into a 330Ci, with the larger brakes, more powerful motor, and TTE starting class's larger starting tire size (235mm).

    There are also some year-to-year upgrades that we will try to find - like the points free 1996 model brake upgrade we did on our TTC 92 Corvette, since they lump all 1992-96 LT1 Corvettes into the same base class. Again, we are using a 2002 325Ci, which is lumped in with all 2001-06 325 BMWs. So we can mix and match major parts from the Base Trim Level 325i or 325Ci models for any of those 6 years, for no points. Or if we upclass this to a 330, we can use the BTM parts from those year 330Ci or 330i cars. I doubt there's a super secret ringer part within the 2001-06 325 or 330, but we shall see (haven't found it yet).

    330 brakes are a cheap upgrade for the 325, but they cost +2 mod points (the same as a real BBK)

    The big question is do we want to make this a small tire/aero build or a larger tire/stock aero build. I know the big tire build worked before, but we've learned a lot about aero since 2009, too. I need to figure out how many points the M3 bumper is going to cost me. The 330 ZHP has no base class, so using the ZHP bumper or 235hp engine is verboten, without taking points. I will talk a LOT more about bumpers next time - I wrote a lot about that already, but this post got too long.


    Just like I (retroactively) did in Round 1 of posts and work to this car, I have tallied the costs for this second round of mods and repairs. I am beginning to regret buying a car with so many problems, dents and miles, but I suppose that's the case with any used BMW you buy that has problems.

    Virtually all E46 cars you are going to find will need much of this work, especially the guibo, cooling system and worn bushings here and there. We've still just scratched the surface of needed repairs, and there are many leaks to fix, bushings to replace, and tuning issues to work through. I have yet to even test drive the car after the cam sensor and manifold replacement, so who knows if those even worked?


    There's plenty of other parts to fix: old transmission shifter feels as loose as you could imagine, the motor and trans mounts are shot, the rear diff bushings are clunking, the front strut mounts are gone, the sunroof is stuck, and it badly needs new front lower control arms and LCA bushings. Not to mention the rear subframe bushings + chassis repair it will surely need at the mounting points. Pretty much all of those "Repairs" will be taken care of during the track upgrade preparations.

    So Round 3 will have some more exciting "Race parts" instead of these boring "old car problems". I wrote a bunch more but I will save it for next time, as it has to do with classing choices and such. There are a few parts I am going to order now that will dramatically change our path forward with this project, so tune in next time. Much bench racing to do... which is half the fun of building a TT car.

    Until next time,
    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    23 Oct 2015 10:34 AM
    Project Update for October 22nd, 2015: Our shop schedule has been full as post season demand hit, but Olof had one free spot for half a day this week while parts were incoming for several jobs. That's the perfect time to work on a shop car, and this time it was old Jack Daniels. Which was good, because a front wheel was about to fall off. We replaced the front suspension wear parts, got a good baseline dyno pull, planned out more of the TTD build, upgraded the front brakes to 330 bits, put new tires on the car, and ordered the upgraded front bumper cover. Read on for more.

    You Get What You Pay For

    When we were looking at E46 candidates to buy we (aka: my wife) chose the cheapest one, and that isn't always the smartest plan. This car was rough and needed a LOT of work, and it keeps snowballing. Whoever owned this car "drove it hard and put it away wet". The dirty and dinged up chassis said a lot about how they cared for the car. They hit every pothole on the road for 200K miles, ignored leaks and noises, and let this car really go downhill. We can and will fix everything, of course, mostly because I'm stubborn - but it wasn't the right car to start with, I'm sure of that now.

    Sadly this is how it looks AFTER some repairs and new headlights

    So if you learn anything reading this, it should be the obvious: never buy the cheapest, roughest candidate for a car you are looking at. We should have purchased a 330 and we should have found one with fewer miles and/or in better condition. Something taken care of by an enthusiast who can avoid curbs and potholes. In the end we'll spend as much in repairs and fixes to get this 200K mile 325Ci to function as well as one with less miles and less damage, but oh well. Live and learn.

    Also, the cheapest part is rarely the best option in the long run. The $200 headlights burned out one of the LEDs in the first 30 seconds of use. I knew better and "went cheap" anyway. Driving home one night in front of Amy in the 325 I saw her side by with another E46 that had aftermarket projector headlights with the same halo lights. The other car's owner did NOT cheap out and his lights were 3x brighter and didn't burn out the LEDs in the halos. "You get what you pay for."

    First Drive After Exhaust Repair + 2nd Cam Sensor + New Tires

    So in my September 8th update I hadn't driven the car after the badly leaking exhaust manifolds and gaskets were replaced. Well my test drive didn't go so well - I made it about 500 feet and the car died when the clutch went in at a stop sign. It threw a CEL and ran like crap from then on. I had to keep the engine running every time I stopped in traffic and the engine ran like it had lost 100 horsepower.

    Our guys ordered the Intake cam position sensor (intake and exhaust cams both have separate sensors, since this is a dual VANOS engine), because that's what the CEL said again (Code P0365). I brought it back in the next day (9/9/15) and Olof swapped that one out in less than 15 minutes.

    After that replacement the engine cleared up and ran remarkably well - like it had all ~185 hp back from the factory. The CEL came back again, of course, because German cars hate me for all the crimes I have committed against them. Its the same code - Cam Sensor Bank 1 - but we'll track it down eventually. At least it runs better now.

    The day after my September post, the new set of 245/40/17 Dunlops also arrived. The car would at least be on new, full tread, fresh rubber. We had a lot of tires show up that day and the 245s for Jack Daniels surprisingly weren't the smallest!

    That 225mm set of Rival-S tires at the far right in the tire picture above were for a dedicated track Miata we were building for a customer to run in TTE (above). This was a bone stock car we stripped, caged, prepped and got ready for track abuse in a 17 day period, and it has performed very well on track so far. I need to write-up that build in its own project forum thread, as it was really slick.

    Anyway, I've always noted how a new set of tires seems to ride better than an old set. Maybe its psychological, but this definitely improved the ride. Olof got the 245 Dunlops mounted to the Type44 E46 sedan wheels and balanced them like all of our track customers' wheels - securing the stick-on weights with aluminum tape.

    Of course we were going from 18" wheels and tires to 17" wheels and tires, so the sidewall increased a tick. That always improves ride - and sometimes handling - and it definitely looked better off of those hideous chrome wheels. I was so happy with the change that I washed this car at home, for the first time. At this angle and light level (above) you can't see all of the dents, dings and scratches.

    While Olof was mounting the new Dunlops I stole one of the wheels and put it on our digital scale in the Order Build Room. Wow, that 17x7" wheels is stupid heavy at 26.5 pounds bare, but that's to be expected on almost any OEM wheel. We could easily loose 8-10 pounds per corner in wheel weight with an aftermarket 17x9.5" wheel. I will weigh those when they arrive and verify the numbers, but I expect 40 pounds to drop off the total weight with a 2.5" wider wheel upgrade.

    Brief Test Drive + Baseline Dyno Pull

    I have a couple of brief videos that I shot with the #potatocam on my phone, and the first one below shows this E46 being driven on a private test track in Mexico. During that drive I talk about some remaining issues - the worn shifter, the thumping noises from a front wheel bearing that is about to fail, and show a brief acceleration test. I also predict the chassis dyno numbers that this little 2.5L would make with 198,000 on the clock...

    In-car video from private test track - hear wheel bearings, see the shifter, acceleration pull

    As you can clearly hear, the wheel bearing is getting to be very audible, and they get this loud right before they take a dump. This car has "ones of days" left on the road before it is replaced and Amy is aware that this is a part about to fail. She is avoiding highway speeds until we can sneak the car onto our shop schedule and get that and many other parts replaced in the front end (see more on that below).

    The second video for this round includes the baseline dyno pull performed at True Street Motorsports in McKinney, Texas. After scheduling the appointment about a week in advance, I went up there when they opened on Oct 1st and we strapped the E46 down on their DynoJet chassis dyno.

    First Sean did a pull in 5th gear, which is 1:1 and technically the right way to do it. But it was taking a LONG time and wheel speeds were getting up there around "ludicrous speed", so that pull was aborted a tick early. He immediately made a 2nd pull in 4th gear. That worked better and wheel speeds weren't as berserk this time, so he took it to the 6500 rpm redline for that pull.

    It actually made more than I predicted at 161.63 whp and 149.0 wtq. I was a bit surprised, but wasn't that far off in my "butt dyno" estimations of 150 whp. After 2 pulls I was ready to take this car off their dyno and get to work, so we unstrapped, I paid my bill and off I went.

    Another Headlight Replacement?

    OK this is a little embarrassing. After the new headlights and turn signal corner lights were all replaced, I noted in my last post that they didn't fit very well. This is because the entire front core support is bent and the mounting holes for the headlights are all mis-aligned. I told Olof not to worry about it and to secure the headlights in temporarily, until a new core support parts arrived.

    The corner lights normally snap in place against the headlights. Of course the clips didn't line up well because the headlights are all in there janky, and eventually one of the corner lights popped off during Amy's drive home one night, smashed off the road surface, and bounced off into a ditch. It was dark and she couldn't find it, so that was lost.

    I ordered another E46 corner light made by light manufacturer Depo, which was $15 shipped to my door. I thought I had ordered the correct "smoked" color to match the other side - the picture online showed it smoked - but it arrived "clear".

    This was replaced in under a minute but it didn't match the other side at all. So that was a $15 mistake, but it works as a turn signal/light for now. For the short term I taped the light in place until the correct smoked unit arrives. This car just gets better and better...

    At the same time I researched the replacement core support part. The RealOEM price is $330, but the cheap fleaBay price was $54 shipped. How do they sell stuff this cheaply? Oh yea, its made in a sweatshop and the quality is poor. Well it arrived and it looked pretty good, and we even installed it on a race car E46 M3 chassis we are building for a customer (below). I took it along with that chassis to my paint guru, Shiloh at Heritage Collision Center - who does all of our paint and body work - and they said it fit perfectly.

    The new front core support was delivered with this E46M3 chassis to the body shop - and it fit great

    Sometimes these dead simple import parts do work, but at $54 I figured if it didn't I'd just toss it in the recycle pile and chalk that one up to experience. Since this $54 import core support worked on the other E46, I ordered another (for our car) and this will go on #JackDaniels when it's apart for the engine's harmonic balancer replacement. The radiator and a lot of other parts have to come out of the way to replace the OEM balancer, so we'll just snatch the whole front of the car off and replace the core support + front bumper cover + balancer all at the same time. Look for this in my next post.

    Front Suspension Repairs + 330 Big Brake Upgrade

    We had been amassing parts for an upcoming break in our shop schedule to get some of the biggest problems fixed on this E46 - such as the wheel bearings, bushings, and control arms - as well as an upgrade to larger 330 disc brakes front and rear.

    On October 21st we finally had a window of time and I brought Amy's E46 in for some front end work. We had a lot more parts on hand than we had time to install, so some of the bits shown in the big pile above (rear wheel bearings, 330 rear brake rotors/calipers/pads, valve cover gasket, oil filter gasket, and more) will be done next time.

    Olof got the car up on the 2-post and started yanking off the old front Lower Control Arms, LCA bushings, hubs, and brakes.

    The spindles were inspected but they looked fine.

    Everything else removed was nasty, worn and read for the scrap pile.

    He used a 2-jaw puller to separate the LCA bushings from the control arms, but normally I just pull these off by hand. The OEM bushings on an E46 are absolute crap when new, and after 200K miles they are literally falling apart. The RF LCA bushing was already 100% separated and allowed a lot of movement between the bushing retainer and the control arm, under braking. Every bump on the road made an audible THUMP! so I couldn't wait to drive the car after these were new and improved.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
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    23 Oct 2015 10:59 AM
    continued from above

    The original LCA "lollipop" housings had the old remnants pressed out and in went 2-piece Powerflex polyurethane "race" bushings. These have an inner and outer liner which rotate against each other, and if properly greased they are silent yet remove virtually all bushing deflection under bump, braking, and cornering loads.

    Olof added a threaded grease zerk to the lollipop housing and modified the outer bushing, which should give us squeak free use. Per our procedures he also torqued the mounting bolts to factory spec and paint marked the bolts in red.

    The new OEM replacement E46 non-M, non-ZHP, base trim model control arms went on next. The old ball joints (two per arm) were all sorts of shot, so that will tighten up the slop and reduce more noises.

    Next up were new wheel hubs, which were badly needed. The old bearings was falling apart and very near a "total failure". Then 1" larger Centric Premium OEM replacement brake rotors from a 2001-06 330 were installed, as well as OEM replacement rebuilt Centric calipers and mounting bridges. In went some Centric Ceramic street pads, which are quiet and dust free - but we will swap in proper Carbotech pads for track use.

    I showed more detail on the size differences between 323/325 rotors and the larger 330 rotors in my last post. These are going to be a +2 point upgrade, until and if we convert the car to a 330, at which point we will get those 2 points back. For now, we'll take the 1" larger rotors and the +2 point hit.

    We didn't have time to install the rear wheel bearings, rear rotors, calipers or pads. The front brakes were shot, as were the wheel bearings, so only those were replaced. To help the car pass inspection Olof managed to get the horns working as well. He stole a pair off of a 2001 330Ci race car chassis in the shop, as the original 325Ci horns were junk. How do you break a pair of horns? The previous owner managed to!

    During the cooling system swap Olof had swapped in a good, used OEM aluminum undertray from my old blue 2001 330Ci. As you can see (above left) it has a good bit of oil residue on it from gasket leaks at the engine - which we will tackle next time. The steering rack boot on the RF (above right) is also trashed, so we will replace those + inner/outer tie rods next time as well.

    We are planning on MCS TT2 coilovers, Vorshlag camber plates, and Vorshlag spherical RSMs in the next round as well. Just gotta save my pennies and get the shocks ordered. This round of mods will cost us +5 points and put us squarely in TTD, but that's for another day.

    Driving the car yesterday after the front end parts were replaced was a nice change. ALL of the wheel bearing noises were gone. ALL of the front suspension "clunks and thumps" were gone. Amy drove it home and she commented that it rode like a new car. The brakes were smooth and silent, the horn worked, so its almost ready for state inspection.

    The next two sections are talking about planned upgrades we will do in the near future...


    The factory sunroof is busted on this car and stuck in the "almost closed" position. It hasn't leaked any water in but its just dead weight in the car right now, since it won't retract or close completely. Luckily one of the many things we can do in the "No Points Modifications" rules section within NASA TT/PT classes is a sunroof delete.

    Why do this? Three reasons.

    1. The sunroof in an E46 weighs about 33 pounds, and its weight up at the highest point of the chassis.
    2. With a factory sunroof, the headliner sits about 1-2" lower, which makes headroom tight for me*
    3. The sunroof motor is busted on this car, and the glass roof panel is sitting just slightly open...

    * Yes, while this car is being built primarily for my wife Amy, who is 5'7" tall, she and I are on a registered NASA team. That means either of us can drive the same TT entry if we register as a team, which we always do. We often enter multiple cars (pay multiple entry fees) as a team, too. So either driver can drive any car paid for and entered as a team. So I might drive this car.

    From previous experience, I don't well fit in an an OEM sunroof equipped E46 (or virtually any car with a factory sunroof) with a helmet on. You can see that in the images above, from our blue 2001 330Ci. I ran with the sunroof open on that car early on, but the edge of the glass panel is just about in the middle of my helmet, so I had to "slouch" down in the car, lean the seat back, etc.

    I managed to fit with a 1-piece racing seat, but only when it was bolted directly to the floor (inches lower than the stock seat). When she and I both drive a car it needs a seat slider, which adds about an inch of height to the seat (and makes it easier for Amy to see out of the car). Then my head is in the sunroof/headliner again. The only SCCA class-legal fix on our old car was a complete factory roof swap. That was a giant PITA!

    Pictures of the E46 roof swap: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Instructions/BMW-E46-Roof-Swap/

    Getting the old headliner, interior panels (A-, B-, C-pillars), and the sunroof cassette out was the easy part - and for Project #JackDaniels we will have to do this same steps shown above. To make the sunroof swap legal for SCCA we had these additional steps: spend a couple thousand on a new exterior roof panel and headliner (both imported/shipped from Germany), add the extra roof cross bow, and finish the install exactly like BMW built it from the factory. This work meant we had to remove the front and rear glass, drill out every spot weld around the roof perimeter, count the number of spot welds, and use the same number of welds at the same locations to attach the new roof panel. I did this job myself, and it was a bear.

    This 325 is NOT being built around SCCA Solo rules and we can just use a relatively painless-to-install "sunroof delete panel". For BMWCCA road racing, it has to be metal, but NASA don't care - so we will use a fiberglass or carbon fiber sunroof delete panel - like these options from s2r tuning (see above). This panel is a lot nicer than the eBay crap we used to have to settle for. It has a proper flange & mounting holes.

    Once the panel is in place a new "no-sunroof" headliner from BMW (~$400) finishes off the interior and gives you the extra 2" of headroom. We will likely recover or replace the A-, B- and C-pillar trim at the same time, since its all falling apart. After we source the non-sunroof headliner, then we can paint or wrap the s2r panel we already have, then do the swap. Will show that next time.


    As I mentioned before (first image in this post) the front bumper cover is pretty beat up. It is functional but just plain ugly, and will have to be replaced at some point. Since we are thinking of NASA TT-letter class legal upgrades we have to keep those rules in mind. We could upgrade this 325Ci to 330 ZHP (M-Tech II) or E46 M3 front bumper cover, but either one would cost "points" in NASA TT letter classes. Anything other than the plain old E46 325 cover is "mod points", which we need to keep an eye on.

    Various E46 front bumper cover pictures shown side by side

    Why does an OEM cover from another E46 model cost points? These cars are classed as the Base Trim Models (323, 325, 328, and 330, all separately). The 330 ZHP is not even the BTM model of the 330 entry, and of course the E46 M3 is a different model altogether. There could be and likely are aerodynamic differences between the "base model" 325 front cover and these other two options, shown above.

    Both the ZHP and M3 bumper covers have a longer bottom section, which is considered an "air dam" when you compare it to the "BTM" 325/330 bumper cover. Either bumper cover upgrade would be at least +3 points - see the NASA TT rule 8.3.G (see below). The ZHP has little forward facing lower spats, which could even be considered canards (+2) and/or a splitter (+3). The M3 CSL front end (not shown) could take the same hits for canard and splitter upgrades as well.

    1) Add, replace, or modify front fascia and/or air dam +3 (except as provided for in I.c.3), I.f.3), I.h.14) of the No-Points Modification list) The air dam must be vertical (5° tolerance) and must not protrude from the side of the vehicle or it will be assessed an additional +3 points. Additional points must be assessed below for any component of the added, replaced, or modified fascia or air dam that performs the functions of G.2) and G.3) below.
    Don't laugh - I've seen a base S2000 upgrade to the factory S2000CR front bumper cover and get +11 points thrown at them (+3 air dam, +2 canards, +3 splitter, and +3 for added width). It retroactively cost the owner several NASA wins and track records when this ruling came down, which was all the way from the top. So we need to be smart and decide which way we want to go on this car - either a wide tire setup or a narrower tire (245mm) + alternate aero mods - before we change the front bumper cover, front fenders, etc. Decisions, decisions.

    From what I can see the entire model run of the E46 M3 shares headlights with the pre-facelifted 2000-03 325/330 Coupe, so we will go with the E46 M3 front bumper cover. The M3 front bumper is also a better basis for brake cooling and splitter addition, if we "go for aero".

    We might add M3 front fenders as well. Do they fit? Yes they do. We did the M3 front fender upgrade (but not front end) on our blue 330 Coupe (above left), which fit 285mm front tires. Initially we ran the blue 330 with the unmodified M3 front fenders, which were more-or-less a bolt-on (we used the M3 fender liners, which are longer, to line up with the outer fender lip). It took a little tweaking to get the 330 front bumper cover to line up, but we made it look seamless (above right). The M3 bumper cover fits even better when used with the M3 front fenders, as you would expect.

    To make these legal as "flares" for the SCCA class we raced in with that car back then (also needed for zero-point TT-Letter legality), we had to make them look like an E46 Coupe fender "with flares added". To do this I covered up the M3's unique "side vents" on the upper section of the fenders, so it would be considered a "fender flare" change. Alternatively we could just cut the outer M3 flare portion off and graft that to the 325 fenders (its just more work).

    More pictures of the E46 fender rolling and M3 fender conversion here: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Instructions/BMW-E46-fender-rolling/

    The M3 front fender flares allowed the E46 non-M to swallow 285mm front tires on 18x10" wheels. We used that size for NASA TTD later in its life and it worked well, and we could do the same on the 325Ci here... but the tire size bump from a base 215mm tire (+70mm of tire = +19 points) eats up a LOT of our class modification points, and pretty much precludes any aero work. And, well, as much as I like "big tires on everything" we have lately had great luck with adding "all the downforces!", too.

    Full aero upgrade or massive tire upgrade? That's the big question

    Its an expensive thing to "just do both and test", of course. Adding massive tires will take extensive body mods. Adding a splitter/airdam + rear wing will also take a lot of time and money. Which will work better? We will have to see....

    What's Next?

    First off, here's the tally of parts and hours from Round 3 of upgrades and mods.

    Good grief how have I already spent $4622 on this car already?!? There's a number of additional replacement parts and plans we have for the 325 but I need to see if it makes sense to continue with a 325 vs a 330. There are plans to build a custom exhaust header that we have been acquiring parts to build, the rear subframe needs reinforcement and repair (0 point mod), the rear subframe and differential both need firmer poly bushings (already acquired), but all of that takes time.

    One safety upgrade we have in mind is the seats + harnesses + a 4-point roll bar. The two Cobra seats above were used in a previous project, so those will go in the E46 when the timing works with our shop. The driver's side needs a slider and custom brackets to fit Amy and me both. We will likely wait until the roll bar is built before installing these, to get them all to line up together.

    The old steering wheel is nasty and has a massive hole in the leather cover. Getting a steering wheel "re-wrapped" is an expensive affair ($375+) and all of the places found only have patterns for the E46 M3 wheel. So an easier solution would be to take this E46 M3 steering wheel above and slip that onto the column of #JackDaniels. The wheel rim is a different shape and has a slightly different airbag, but the steering wheel controls are identical and the leather cover is perfect. Maybe it will just bolt right up? I've seen it on the interwebs so it must be true.

    We still have plenty of safety, reliability, and car prep tasks before this car takes to the track, but hopefully before the end of 2015 we can take the 325 onto a road course and get some initial lap times. Fingers crossed...

    Thanks for reading,
    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    17 Nov 2015 05:42 PM
    Project Update for November 17th, 2015: It has been an interesting few weeks and this E46 Daily Driver / NASA TT project has made a dramatic turn.... for the better! We've switched horses mid-stream, as it were: there's a shiny Hellrot red 2001 330Ci now in our driveway and the little gray 325Ci is getting replaced.

    Why the chassis change? For one, the 330 ends up being classed in NASA TT better than the 325 - I will explain that below in excruciating detail. Secondly, this 330 is cleaner and has more power than the 325 ever will. We have already started some initial repairs on the 330 and we are finishing up a few loose ends on the 325 before it gets sold. All of this is covered in this post, and at the end I will discuss some changes to the NASA TT rules for 2016 that effect TT1/2/3, but which will probably impact the TT-letter classes in a year or two.

    Sadly, the red car doesn't even have a name yet.


    Remember this same section from last time? How I was expressing regret over purchasing JackDaniels, our little 325Ci here? As we dug into this chassis it was a little more worn and a little rougher than I had hoped for.

    Sure, we've fixed almost everything having to do with the brakes and suspension, but look at how much $ was sunk into repairs. My "Round 3" of repairs tally (see above) for the 325Ci takes the total spent on parts and chassis to a staggering $4622 - and we still have a few items to wrap up before it will be sold (I'm not selling a broken car). Yea, I cannot hope to even get $4600 for this (not to mention the 18.5 hours we spent doing the work) so I'm going to lose my shirt selling the 325. See why it would have made sense to buy a $3000-5000 car in better shape now?

    Why did we buy this car, with as many miles and worn bits as it had? I have explained that before in this thread, but basically it was the lowest priced E46 5-speed coupe available after we sold my wife's 740iL. While we could have waited, during those weeks or months of looking she would have been daily driving the F350 dually, which was all kinds of bad idea. But this decision was still short-sighted, and maybe you folks can learn from our mistake here.

    Going from the M54B25 to the M54B30 made for a 25% increase in power, stock for stock

    The repairs on JackDaniels have spanned 3 months and we're almost done with them, but its still a 325 and not a 330. The 325 has a 2.5L six and the 330 has a 3.0L six - which has a 41 hp stock rated increase over the smaller motor. That's a 25% power increase! There are also numerous other differences, like the bigger brakes, a higher (yet better) base classing in NASA TT/PT, and some other small differences.

    I had talked about converting the 325 to a 330, but upon closer examination it looked like more work than it would be worth - plus there are some unknowns that could make for "Protest Bait" at NASA events. Right after purchasing this 325 I had quietly been searching for a cleaner, lower mileage 330 5-speed, hopefully a coupe, and hopefully something painted Hellrot red.

    Damn if if this exact set of "wants" didn't pop up in my local Craigslist searches a couple of weeks ago! Amy and I went and looked at this car on a rainy day and test drove it, and the 25% power increase over the 325 was very apparent. The body was straighter, the paint was in better shape, and the interior was nicer. It wasn't perfect - the brakes were worn, it had some suspension clunks I could hear in the test drive, and of course it flashed a CEL within seconds of starting it up - E46s love to light up that Check Engine Light!

    I had a friend run the VIN while we discussed the purchase and that showed not one but two insurance claims in its past, both apparently front end hits (with one of them also tagging the rear bumper cover, which has also been repainted). The damage and repairs were very apparent, and not bad work for the most part. The frame rails were straight and the unibody had no damage, just superficial stuff. Most of its life was in Texas (not a rust belt state), so that's good. The two wrecks and the odometer's 160K miles logged impacted the price, but snagging this 2001 330Ci 5-spd for $3500 made it all worth it.

    This red E46 isn't perfect, but overall it clean and in nice shape, especially considering what we paid for it. The exterior, interior, wheels and power are a big step up from what we started with on the 325. It was also the only 330 5-spd coupe I've found for under $6000 in many weeks of looking locally. Sure, there are often deals 5 states away, but this car was only 8 minutes away, so going to look at it didn't gobble up hours of driving.

    Upon closer examination I saw something during the negotiations with the seller: this E46 also needs a front core support assembly. I detailed in a previous post where I found them for $54 shipped, so another is on order. This one is torn more than bent, probably happened during the recent front end hit (hooked a trailer hitch on a truck or something), and you can see the issue in the image above. The hood is straight, the headlights work and are even aimed well, which is all good.

    The 330 has super dark "limo tint" on all of the windows, even a big strip along the top of the windshield. Not only is this illegal, it is so dark you cannot drive the car at night with the side windows up, so that's all coming off. Track Cars should not have tinted windows - anything that limits your 360° visibility on track is unnecessarily dangerous.

    The interior is nice enough except for the A-, B- and C-pillar covers and headliner). The sunroof is - you guessed it - also broken. We will use the S2R Tuning sourced fiberglass E46 sunroof delete panel on this car, to gain headroom and to remove that 33 pounds up top. The stock black leather power seats are in nicer shape than the 325's, so those will go into JackDaniels before it sells (and the pair of COBRA race seats into this 330). The 330's factory steering wheel and shifter will also be swapped into the 325, too.

    I might even swap the 5-spoke wheels from the 330 to the 325 to help it sell. These are factory 17x7.5" front, 17x8.5" rear and are in excellent shape. Whatever we don't plan to keep on the red car long term and would help sell the 325 gets swapped.


    Some small issues made this 330 "slow to sell" and also helped me push the seller's numbers down $1000 from the asking price (they wanted $4500). I pointed out the front end damage and the VIN history to the seller, noted the CEL, and discussed the suspension clunks and bent rear control arms that I could see. We got a decent deal but didn't exactly steal the car - as it had a few things we needed to repair straight away.

    I've said it before but I will say it again - tow truck drivers are the worst. Why do they always want to put their tie-down hooks right in the middle of BMW rear lateral control arms?? These arms cannot take any fore-aft forces, especially hooked right in the middle, as they are made for lateral suspension loading only. When these guys strap chains on these arms they get bent quickly, like this...

    Another new pair of OEM replacement Lemforder lateral arms were sourced and Olof once again installed these onto the red 330, just like he did on the 325. It is bound to happen on a used E46, but at least they aren't expensive.

    The bent arms probably tweaked the rear alignment, no? The inboard lower bushings are replaced when you do these arms, by the way. To replace these you have to remove the inner mounting bolts. To gain access for this you have to unbolt the differential housing and move it out of the way a bit (see below).

    During my test drive, our inspections up on the lift, and during the LCA install, we all noted "worn differential mount bushings". These were clunking away during quick shifts on my test drive, and Olof could put a pry bar on the diff and move it against the bushings a lot. Another very common failing of an older E46.

    Luckily the 325's diff bushings aren't all that bad, so the new Powerflex Race polyurethane differential mount bushings we sourced for that car will go into this 330. We will also take the Powerflex Race subframe bushings allocated for that car and install them on the 330 as well. Now that these lower arms are back to stock and straight we can focus on other immediate fixes.

    The CEL codes pointed to a non-functional air pump, so Brad dug around for a bit to find the issue. Solenoid could be jumped and it would come on, the wiring was good, just wasn't getting a strong signal from the DME. This pump is supposed to come on after start-up and run, injecting air into the manifolds to "light-off" the catalysts.

    Cold start emissions get borked when this doesn't work. Normally just the pump is bad, or the air valve at the manifold, but those seemed to work.

    I took the 330 by briefly to see my friends at Autobahn Service Center in Plano for a second set of eyes to diagnose the CEL issue. They have the right computer equipment to cycle things through the DME and they found that the secondary air pump wasn't cycling. They also noted that one of the idler pulleys was howling, which we also heard. First step was to replace ALL of the idler pulleys, tensioners and both serpentine belts.

    The air pump had 160K miles on it so we went ahead and purchased a new one, just to be safe (this will remain an emissions legal street car, after all). All three rubber bushing mounts for the pump were hard and broken, so there were also replaced. The air hose shown above was badly cracked so it was replaced, as were some of the small vacuum hoses that trigger this system. We are waiting on the vacuum switch that is on the back of the cylinder head to arrive, then it will be installed, hopefully fixing this system and thus the CEL. Then we can get it inspected!

    Like virtually all BMW models that are 14 years old, this one has some seals and gaskets underhood that have hardened, cracked, and are now leaking fluid. There's some oil residue underneath, but not nearly as bad as the 325.

    Next week we will replace the valve cover gaskets and remote oil filter housing gaskets on both E46 cars, to remove the cracked gaskets that each car has and hopefully stop the fluid leaks. The 330 will also get new spark plugs, cabin air filter, and the air pump vacuum switch. I will detail all of the costs for parts and hours spent on the initial 330 repairs in my next update, since we're sort of in the middle of those.

    325 VS 330 - NASA TT CLASSING

    If you have no interest in NASA Time Trial classing, feel free to skip down past this entire section. NASA TT-Letter classing is somewhat complicated and a bit confusing, which is partly how I made the mistake of purchasing the wrong car initially (325) for a TTD build. Initially when we thought about this E46 project I was looking for another E46 330, because we built that model into a TTD and ran it in NASA TT events twice, and set TTD track records at both events. The funniest part was that car wasn't really built for TTD, it was supposed to be an autocross car. It was only accidentally a decent TTD car (but a relatively poor autocross car).

    One thing we did differently on that blue 330 was run all stock aero. That saved a lot of "mod points" for tire width, which we spent almost entirely in 285 mm Hoosier R6 tires. Again, this was really because our autocross set-up was much more dependent on tire width, and the TTD setup was more of an afterthought (all we did was switch from 285 mm Hoosier A6 to 285 mm R6). That car was built back in 2009 and since then I've come to appreciate reducing drag and making downforce a lot more, so we're building the current E46 330 around a 245mm R7 tire and a wing + splitter + vented hood.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    17 Nov 2015 05:44 PM
    continued from above

    This time around we started off with the goal to build a TTD car, so priorities are also different. I will explain "the holy trinity" of road course priorities in a section below.

    One of the two times we ran this autocross car in TTD it was done on 265 street tires, as shown above

    Still, I rushed the purchase of the E46 this time around and we initially settled for the 325 we found for less $$. Impatience costs money because now we are starting over with the "right" E46. I talked briefly about my NASA TT classing concerns with the 325 in my last (September 8th) thread update. It wasn't until after we bought the 325 that I ran all of the TTD classing calculations and permutations, then I figured out the mistake I had made - the 330 is actually classed better for the end goal of TTD than the 325. It has more points to play with AND a lot more power.

    The BMW E36/46 base classing list (from 2015 NASA TT rule set) above might not make it obvious that the 330 is better classed, at first glance. The 325 starts out in TTF** with an assigned 3197 pound minimum weight and the E46 330 starts in TTE with a 3285 minimum. So you'd think that, once you move either car all the way up to TTD, the "lower" base classed 325 has more points to play with and a lower minimum weight, too. The numbers seem to show that, since one build is jumping up TWO classes (59 points worth of mods) and the other only ONE class up (39 points).

    8.3 Up-Classing System (TTB-TTF only)

    Modifications and Point Assessments: If a car accrues 20 or more points it will be bumped up in Class. There is no limit—a car with a high level of modifications might move up several Classes.

    20 thru 39 points - Up ONE Class
    40 thru 59 points - Up TWO Classes
    60 thru 79 points - Up THREE Classes
    80 thru 99 points - Up FOUR Classes
    100 thru 119 points - Up FIVE Classes

    One (1) asterisk * on a base class assignment denotes a 7 point initial assessment, and two (2) asterisks ** denotes a 14 point initial assessment that is added to the total number of Modification Points to determine the final competition class.
    • E46 325, base TTF** jumping to TTD = 45 points (A two class jump yields 59 points, minus 14 base class "penalty points")
    • E46 330, base TTE jumping to TTD = 39 points (39 points yields for a single class jump)
    • This gives an extra 6 points of modifications to get from their respective base classes up to TTD, in favor of the 325...

    So 45 points to work with on mods for the 325 is better than 39 points on the 330, right? Wrong. There are still two differences on the TTF** classed 325 that gobble up points we have to account for. First is that the base tire size is different for each base class - doesn't matter what the factory tire sizes are, it is what the initial base Letter class is assigned with.

    The following tire sizes will be used as the base tire size for each Base Class for all vehicles regardless of their OEM tire size(s) or their Final Competition Class. All vehicles in a given base class may use this tire size (or smaller) without a points assessment:

    TTB: 265mm
    TTC: 255mm
    TTD: 245mm
    TTE: 235mm
    TTF: 215mm
    TTG: 195mm
    TTH: 175mm
    So the E46 330, which has a base class in TTE, starts with a 235mm base tire. The E46 325 is classed in TTF, so it starts with a 215mm tire. I have run the numbers and we think that a 245mm tire is ideal once we end up in TTD (which I will explain later, see "the holy trinity of road course prep"), but that tire size costs points on each car differently.

    Not to mention that not all 245 tires are the same width, but that's not the point here. Let's just look at why the same 245mm width tire for a TTD build costs 6 more points for the E46 325 than the E46 330...

    Tire width points assessed or points credited are determined by the difference between the width of the largest tire on the vehicle and the assigned base tire size as follows:

    Equal to or greater than: 10mm +1, 20mm +4, 30mm +7, 40mm +10, 50mm +13, 60mm +16, 70mm +19, 80mm +22, 90mm +25, 100mm +28, 110mm +31
    • E46 325, 215mm to 245mm needs +30mm in width = 7 points
    • E46 330, 235mm to 245mm needs +10mm in width = 1 point
    • E46 330 in TTD on 245mm tire has a net gain of 6 points
    This takes 6 points away from the E46 325 relative to the E46 330, each with the same end goal TTD class - since it didn't have to burn 6 points going from 215->235 base tire size. So remember: a lower base class doesn't always give you more points. The next advantage is the 330's larger factory brakes...

    Since I've already tracked a 330 with the OEM sized rotors extensively I know that they can work well, and with good pads and cooling I'm fairly certain we can run this TTD build on the 330 brakes. The base e46 330 has larger brakes than even the M3 version of the E36. The smaller E46 325's rotors, however, are fully 1" smaller in diameter than the E46 330 at both ends, which means they might be marginal. We had already upgraded the JackDaniels 325 to use the larger 330 front brakes as a "cheap big brake upgrade", which costs +2 class points (same as going to any BBK). But now with the E46 330 using the same 330 rotors and calipers get's to keep those 2 points because they are the factory Base Trim Level brakes for all 330s.

    So if we add up the relative points advantages from the starting tire size (+6) and now the "free" big brakes (+2), then subtract out the 6 point difference in the 325 and 330 points (45 - 39) to get to TTD, we still have a net gain of 2 points for the 330 over the 325 to get to TTD prep.

    Baseline dyno of the 325 (at left) and my former 2001 330 (at right) with a cheap eBay header

    Then we look at the fact that the E46 330 has a 225hp engine (M54B30) vs the 325's 184 hp engine (M54B25), so that's a gain of 41 hp. The chassis dyno charts above are from our 325 at left and my old blue 2001 BMW 330 at right. The E46 330 dyno'd (my blue 2001 33) had a very crappy eBay header and an even worse tune, but you can still see the relative differences: 211 whp for the 330 and 162 whp for the stock 325 (49 whp diff).

    So the 330 is ahead on points and has a 25% head start on horsepower. Win-Win.... right? And yes, this difference did come with a financial cost, as most 330s are going to sell for more than 325s, like this one did ($3500 for the 330 vs $1800 for the 325, a $1700 bump), but this 330 has fewer miles and fewer problems. And look how much fixing problems has cost on the 325.

    TTB 10.50:1
    TTC 12.00:1
    TTD 14.25:1
    TTE 16.50:1
    TTF 19.50:1

    The last issue had to do with getting the E46 325 to the Power-to-Weight ratio limit (P-to-W) for TTD class (14.25:1 pounds per whp), which is shown above. So we always try to get TT-Letter cars down to their assigned minimum weights (with driver), because that doesn't cost any points. To the E46 325 (3197 pounds) and E46 330 (3285 pounds) would be easy to hit those minimums, but with the M54B25 engine in the 325, there was going to be an epic struggle to get to the class P-to-W limit. Then there is an often overlooked series of adjustments to TT-Letter class P-to-W number from Appendix B....

    This is just a summary - you can click the image above for the FULL list of Appendix B loopholes. There are modifiers for body type (4 door and station wagons), transmission (sequentials take a hit), drivetrain (AWD takes a hit, FWD gets a bonus), even your final competition weight (under 3200 pounds takes a hit, over 3400 pounds gets a bonus).

    And the "weight modifier" portion of Appendix B (see below) reminded me that the 325 run at minimum listed weight of 3197 (3 pounds below 3200) would have to take a -0.05 hit. Obviously it makes sense to run 3 pounds heavier than that minimum to avoid a weight modifier.

    This is why "running lighter than minimum" can hit you THREE ways.... First, with a lighter given weight you have to make less power at the same P-to-W ratio. Then if you run under minimum you have to take points for every 15 pound increment under the listed weight. Thirdly, you take a modifier hit for all weights below 3200 pounds. Yes, even if your car's assigned Minimum Weight is below 3200, you still take the modifier hit. So before you think about running lighter than Base Class number, or any car lighter than 3200 pounds, DO THE MATH.

    Check the published width numbers for various tire options, too!

    This was a somewhat long explanation, but this is why SO many TT-Letter class cars run a 245mm tire - that size or smaller allows them to gain +0.8 in their P-to-W ratio, to allow for more power legally at the same weight. This is how we built our TTC Corvette (which runs on a 245mm Hoosier R7 tire), and it makes a BIG difference (TTC's ratio is 12.0:1 vs the 11.2:1 we run the C4 at). That assumes you can even MEET the revised horsepower goals on the adjusted P-to-W ratio, with the class mod points you have. Let's calculate the modified P-to-W for both TTD E46 BMW models we're looking at.

    E46 TTD build starts with 14.25 (TTD limit) - 0.8 (245 DOT tire modifier) = 13.45:1 P-to-W

    And yes, I understand the Appendix B says "+0.8" and we just subtracted that bonus from the 14.25 number, but NASA writes the rules and does the calculations backwards. Trust me, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, we're doing this right (and will show examples of doing this "the NASA way" below). So with this revised P-to-W limit of 13.45:1 for TTD on a 245mm tire, the two E46 options would need to hit the following wheel horsepower numbers at the base class mandated minimum weights for each:
    • E46 330, 3285 lbs / 13.45 = 244.2 whp max (which we likely can hit with exhaust + CAI + tune on the 3.0L)
    • E46 325, 3197 lbs / 13.45 = 237.7 whp max (doubtful we can hit that in the 2.5L)
    So on paper it is possible for the E46 330 to "max the P-to-W", but the 325 looks doubtful, even at a 6whp lower goal. Why? I don't think the M54B25 engine could ever get to 238 which, which is a 77 whp increase over the stock chassis dyno numbers we tested on the 325) without major internal engine mods, which we don't have the points for. the 330's 244 whp goal is only ~35 whp more than a stock M54B30 makes, which I'm confident we can pull off with extensive exhaust, CAI and tuning mods (but no internal engine mods). We have allocated points in our 330 TTD build for these power changes.

    Maxing out a car's P-to-W ratio (running at the minimum weight listed and max power allowed by the ratio) is pretty important for lap times. So on top of spending points on tires, suspension, and aero you need to also max out power to hit the limit of the adjusted P-to-W for your class. It isn't even possible in TT-Letter classes for some cars - the factory engine's limitations and class points just don't always allow for it.

    For the E46 TTD problem, some might argue to just run the less powerful 325 at a lighter weight, to reach the P-to-W. Main problem with that - going below minimum weight listed for a given car costs points.

    Weight reduction points are based on the actual vehicle minimum competition weight (with driver). Removal and lightening of nonessential parts is permitted unless stated otherwise in the rules. Modification of the OEM frame, sub-frame, and floor pan are not permitted (see 5.2.2) Removal or lightening of engine parts is permitted only as listed elsewhere in the TT rules. The exterior surface of the roof, hood, body panels, and doors must remain their BTM size and shape unless listed otherwise in these rules. If the base weight used for base classing purposes (section 5.2.2) minus minimum competition weight (with driver*) is greater than:

    5 lbs +1, 20 lbs +2, 35 lbs +3, 50 lbs +4, 65 lbs +5, 80 lbs +6, 95 lbs +7, 110 lbs +8, 125 lbs +9, 140 lbs +10, 155 lbs +11, 170 lbs +12, 185 lbs +13, 200 lbs +14, 215 lbs +15, 230 lbs +16, 245 lbs +17, 260 lbs +18, 275 lbs +19, 290 lbs +20, 305 lbs +21, 320 lbs +22, 335 lbs +23, 350 lbs +24, 365 lbs +25, 380 lbs +26, 395 lbs +27, 410 lbs +28, 425 lbs +29, 440 lbs +30, 455 lbs +31, 470 lbs +32, 485 lbs +33, 500 lbs +34, 515 lbs +35, etc…
    So while TT-Letter classes allows pretty liberal weight removal mods without burning "mod points", any time TT-Letter cars are raced BELOW their Base Class stated minimum weight (shown in the base classing list), they have to take POINTS for every 15 pound increment below minimum weights (see chart above). Which means you again miss your P-to-W limit and/or run out of points for proper suspension, aero, power or tire mods.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    17 Nov 2015 05:45 PM
    continued from above

    This is the Catch 22 for most TT-Letter builds... they aren't all equal because only some cars can get to the class P-to-W limits and still have any points left over for adequate tires and other supporting mods.

    In a nutshell THAT is was why our TTC classed 92 LT1 Corvette works so well: first we got the adjusted P-to-W modifier for running a 245mm tire (plus 1 point was gained back because that's 10mm below the TTC class starting tire size of 255mm), which moved the P-to-W from 12.0:1 to 11.2:1... but the Corvette could still hit the P-to-W limit of TTC, even with a bone stock LT1 stock motor. This meant we didn't have to burn class points on exhaust or headers or camshaft swaps or intake mods. We spent ALL of our remaining points on suspension changes (springs at 3 points) and tire compound (R7, 10 points), and it worked out pretty well so far. It is rare that this works this way in TT-Letter classes, which means there is a bias for certain car choices for specific classes, which can limit car model diversity and choices for TT competitors.

    Let's do those P-to-W calcs "the NASA way" for our TTC Corvette:
    • Weight is at or above the listed minimum weight of 3203 pounds from the base classing
    • That 3203 number is also just above the minimum "competition weight" modifier numbers, which start at 3200
    • We chose a 245mm width DOT legal tire (+0.8 bonus)
    • The stock engine made 284 whp peak (highest of 3 pulls)
    • 3203 / 284 = 11.28:1 (P-to-W) + 0.8 for (245 tire modifier) = 12.08:1
    TTC Class "minimum" P-to-W is 12.0:1, which this car is just a hair over. That's what you want to do - aim for the P-to-W limit and find any modifiers you can to help that ratio along the way. Avoid modifiers that hurt, then use your points to run the best tire compound/width and fix any suspension issues, and add aero if you have any points left.

    So long story short DO YOUR HOMEWORK up front when building for a class, make sure to CHECK THE MATH, and PAY MORE MONEY to start with the right car. Lastly, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, so don't expect to save money by starting with a high mileage heap that needs a bunch of repairs vs a cleaner/lower mileage car that costs more up front. I just wish I could follow my own advice, ha!


    The calculations for classing a Letter car was tortuously convoluted. Did you READ all of that crap in the section above?? Look at how much ink was spilled just to explain that a 330 is a better car for TTD than the 325!? The sad thing is I still got it wrong and had to go out and find the right car (330), and I've built a half dozen TT cars for myself and have made worksheets for dozens more for customers, many of which have gone on to be competitive, max point, maxed-out power-to-weight TT Letter cars.

    Here is what we feel are the three most important things to winning in a road course setup, specifically TT-Letter classes:

    1. Power-to-Weight ratio
    2. Power-to-Tire ratio
    3. Weight-to-Tire ratio

    For NASA-Letter classes we have several things that limit tire width, so we have to keep that in mind. Ideally I'd run a wider tire than we are shooting for here in our TTD E46 330 (245mm) or our TTC Corvette (also 245mm), but the 0.8 P-to-W "bonus" for running 245mm or smaller is too good to pass up.

    More tire width will burn up points FAST and we have found that a better tire compound is ultimately more important than running extra tire width, within reason. But if that were not the case, say that TTC became "TT5" (it might someday, read below) and had the ultimate 12:1 P-to-W limit as the lone guiding factor, we'd run more tire width.

    Why? A wider tire can make more laps before overheating, lasts longer (wear), and is easier to drive. On the TTC Corvette with the power it makes we can quickly overheat the rear tires, so we use TT strategies to limit laps in any session to 2-3 laps. Running more laps would likely overheat the tires, they get greasy and fall off, then lap times start to slip.

    We noticed this running 315mm Hoosier A6 tires on our TT3 Mustang, and after lap 1 the lap times would slow down 1-2 seconds for each successive lap. The tires also liked to run best cold, so that meant the first session of the day was almost always ideal. So it boiled down to one "golden lap" in one "golden session" to shoot for the best time each day, which sometimes made it difficult to get the best lap time out of the car (and subsequently, many of our TT3 records are "soft"). Every once in a while the stars would align, however, like the video below shows.This was 2013, Day 2 at a NASA event at NOLA, when we ran the 315mm tire on the TT3 car.

    Day 2, first session, first lap - one shot to get the best conditions

    As I mention in the beginning of the video, I knew it would come down to this ONE lap to nail it. It rarely works that way but somehow in that one lap I manged to match the theoretical best lap that the predictive lap timer showed was possible all weekend. That lap record has stood for 2-1/2 years with 3 different NASA groups running the same NOLA course, even after we made the car much faster in 2014 (wider tire, better aero). Since we didn't have any points or tire modifiers on that TT# classed car (the modifiers all go away above max out at 275mm in width for DOT tires), in 2014 we switched to 335mm front and 345mm rear Hoosier A7 tires (with no penalty), which added enough width and heat capacity so so that best laps could be made on lap 1 or lap 2. With the weight that car was run at (3802, to utilize the maximum "competition weight" modifier) it was still easy to overheat the 345mm tire after lap 2 - and that was the biggest DOT tire Hoosier makes.

    Just like we used in TT3, up through 2014 the DOT Hoosier A6 was still a fairly low point, attainable tire that was commonly used in TT-letter classes to set track records. This made the "first lap strategies" that much more important in TT-Letter. Thankfully, in 2015, NASA rules makers raised the points up for the Hoosier "A" compound (autocross compound), so much so that it becomes prohibitive to use the A6 or newer A7 compounds. Now the go-to tire for TT-Letter is the more reasonable and less "peaky" Hoosier "Road Race" compound, the R6 and newer R7.

    1 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: BFG R1S, Goodyear Eagle RS AC (auto-cross), Hoosier A7, Hoosier Wet DOT (if used in dry conditions—see section 5.6), Hankook Z214 (C90 & C91 compounds only) + 22
    2 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier A6 + 17
    3 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires and those with a UTQG treadwear rating of 40 or less not otherwise listed in these rules: BFG R1, Goodyear Eagle RS, Hankook Z214 (C71, C70, C51, C50), Hoosier R7
    Kumho V710 + 10
    4 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier SM7 +9
    5 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Hoosier R6, Hoosier SM6 (note: Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge EC-Dry tires (225, 245, 275) OK) +8
    6 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires: Toyo Proxes RR, Hankook TD +7
    7 ) The following DOT-approved R-compound tires and those with a UTQG treadwear rating over 40: Maxxis RC-1 (ex. Kumho V700, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup & MPS Cup 2, Nitto NT01, Pirelli PZero Corsa, Toyo R888, Toyo RA-1, Yokahama A048, etc) +6
    6 ) DOT-approved (non-R-compound) tires with a UTQG treadwear rating of 120-200 (examples: Toyo R1R, Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec, Bridgestone Potenza RE070, Kumho Ecsta XS, Yokohama Advan A046 & Neova
    AD08, Hankook R-S3, BFG g-Force Rival) +2
    9 ) Non-DOT-approved racing slicks +30 (of any origin—re-caps and re-treads are not permitted)
    And while there are many other tire models/compound eligible in TT-Letter class, the points they cost and the lap times they can produce just don't seem to be worth the effort. Even the hot "200 treadwear" tires still cost +2, which makes the points not work in their favor compared to a Hoosier R6 (+8 points) or R7 (+10). ALL other tire compounds seem to fall to the wayside when competition gets serious, at least in TTB-TTD. Toyo, Nitto, Maxxis all seem to be hopelessly uncompetitive at the highest levels of NASA TT. The BFG R-1 (+10) is a close contender to the R7, but it has many fewer sizes to choose from and has NO contingency program for NASA TT. The Hoosier contingency program is pretty solid, and is part of why so many racers just ignore all other options - they are fast and you can win 4 tires in a weekend if you have enough competitors in class.

    So once you run the numbers and pick your tire width and compound (which locks in your "tire-to-__" ratios), its now time to maximize the Power-to-Weight ratio. Which is simple.

    1. Minimizing Weight
    2. Maximizing power

    Duh.... right? Ultimately you run the least weight, the most power and the most tire, but that "most of everything" formula isn't allowed in TT-Letter, so we work with what we can maximize. Getting down to the minimum weight published in the Base Class listing is what you strive for (with driver and fuel), as I explained before. Going below that minimum isn't worthwhile due to the points its costs.

    Maximizing power is a matter of both luck and skill. "Luck" in that you picked the right car that has plenty of OEM power, or potential to make power without too much effort. "Skill" in the way you utilize the points to modify the things you can to get to the max power allowed for your adjusted P-to-W.

    That's it. That's the big 3. The rest (aero downforce and brakes and suspension) are smaller gains, but still significant, and on some cars there are deficiencies you need to fix (poor brakes, suspension issues, etc) that will eat up your TT-Letter class points. I could go on but that's enough, so I hope that made sense. This is the strategry we use.


    The TT1/2/3/U (aka: TT#) classes are SO much simpler to build up than TT-Letter. You don't have to worry about NOT doing some upgrade because you ran out of points. Gone are base classings, points for mods and class bumps, the sometimes impossible struggle to max out a car for the classes' power-to-weight limit with no points left for power mods. You also aren't stuck running the minimum base weight - you can do whatever is allowed within the very loose TT# rules to get down to whatever weight you want, so you can always get your TT1, TT2 or TT3 car to the max P-to-W limit. Unless you suck at math or have no budget.

    Time Trial 1 (TT1) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 5.50:1
    Time Trial 2 (TT2) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 8.00:1
    Time Trial 3 (TT3) = “Adjusted Wt/Hp Ratio” equal to, or greater than 9.00:1

    And that list, ultimately, is the main basis for the TT# classes. The P-to-W calculation is 95% of the class rules. Just like the TT-Letter class Appendix B's list of modifiers, TT# has similar modifiers to that ratio, but ultimately P-to-W is your main guide, goal, whatever. You can remove weight to get there, or add power however you want to get there, but your adjusted P-to-W limit is everything.

    That's why our TT3 Mustang worked well - we used some modifiers to get it to 8.8:1 (running it very heavy, over 3801 pounds gained us 0.6!), took the aero penalty for TT3 (0.4 this year), maxed out the P-to-W for TT3, and ran it on the biggest DOT tire Hoosier made (345 Hoosier A7), ran LOTS of aero (to the limit of the rules in several places), kick ass suspension, and brakes that were up to the task. We made it easy enough to drive so a schlub like me could win, then just used some strategies to try to get traffic-free laps. We racked up dozens of wins, set 16 track records this way, and didn't pay for tires in almost 3 years, but always ran on sticker sets (from winnings).

    This is almost the level of dedication we are bringing to TTD with this E46 build. Getting the 330 makes this a MUCH easier task, but there are other cars in TTD that can and do hit the max P-to-W limit. But to me, none do it as easily as the E46 330....


    So that was pretty epic explanation and had ALL of my strategies for maximizing a Time Trial build within NASA. I hope it was worthwhile because it took many seasons to learn these tricks. Remember though, the rules change every year and there are more changes afoot for TT-Letter.

    These tricks also apply to the wheel-to-wheel (W2W) crossover series called Performance Touring (PT) and Super Touring (ST). In case you didn't know, TTC-TTF classes share the same competition rules as PTC-PTF, and TT1/2/3/U are the same as ST1/2/3/U. The only real difference are the W2W safety requirements. We often see PT and ST cars jump to TT for more chances to win, too.

    I have not always seen eye-to-eye with the National TT/ST/PT Director and rules czar Greg G. I grumbled about TT-Letter class rules when we ran our Mustang in TTB (briefly and poorly) and again with all of the Mystery Internet Protest stuff surrounding our TTC build for my 1992 Corvette. Some of the rules in TT-Letter classes just went against basic racer logic.

    This is one of the "dyno tricks" that turbo cars are doing in P-to-W classes

    Well I think in the long run Greg is moving the complicated rules of TT-Letter classes to the more simplified TT# set of rules for all classes. That's what I've gathered from recent NASAforum posts by Greg G, and follow up letters to various competitors that have been shared. For 2016 the TT3 class is also getting an adjustment to the P-to-W starting points plus changing the way power is measured (average vs peak), which takes out some tricks turbo engines could do to make the same peak power for a LONG range of RPMs (see image above). These changes will likely propagate to TT1/TT2 in 2017 and possibly to TT-Letter also, at some point. I really like the proposed changes, so kudos to Greg. It is a bold move but a necessary one.

    ST1/TT1 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 5.50:1
    ST2/TT2 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 8.00:1
    ST3/TT3 = “Adjusted Wt/HP Ratio” equal to, or greater than, 10.00:1

    You can read the new proposals here and look for these changes and the Letter classes in general to phase over to new TT# classes in 2017, 2018 and beyond. I think the next TT-Letter class to go is TTB, which will likely become TT4. This happened already in 2013 when TTA merged with TTS and became TT3, so there is a precedent. Trust me, the TT# rules are SO much easier to understand and take out a LOT of the inherent car model advantages. TT# gives you more choices, more paths to the end goal (P-to-W), without fretting over damned points.


    Please don't take this long explanation of NASA TT and get turned off. It really is worth it, and all of these rules, modifiers, points, and base classings are used to equalize the cars and differentiate the classes. And for the most part they really do work. It only fails when people don't do the math or understand the rules correctly.

    NASA TT has big fields, lots of car diversity, and great contingency payouts

    If you are thinking of buildings a car around NASA TT rules and are getting confused, CALL US. Jason and I here at Vorshlag can help, and we can steer you towards the best modifiers and tires to use for a given car and end class goal. That's really what you need to decide up front: what car you want to start with and what class do you want to end up in? Knowing that + the type of tracks you frequent, we can help guide you through the class points, the modifiers, and calculations within calculations to get towards the right selection of parts for tracks in your area.


    We still have some initial repairs on the 330 to tackle, but they are much less extensive than the 325. And the 325 is getting the some interior and other bits from the red car, plus some other repairs, so it can be sold for a trouble-free daily driver to someone. I will post a CraigsList ad and link it here when its ready, hopefully in a couple of weeks.

    I'm more excited than ever to prep the Hellrot 330 Coupe, as I really like the looks of this car and its better chances at a max P-to-W build. So, what do we call this red thing?

    Thanks for reading,
    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    Veteran Member

    08 Jan 2016 09:28 AM
    Project Update for January 7th, 2016: So the 2016 racing season is almost here and we're thrashing to get the red 330 - which we are going to ALSO call JackDaniels (JD2!) - ready for NASA TTD events. And of course the NASA rules makers had to go and change things with the base classing of the 330, not in our favor. The 325 has been jinxed and has hogged a lot of shop time with repairs, chasing down the many CELs, and that's made less time to race prep the 330. We have done the initial fixes to the 330, however, and I'm been daily driving this. Quite enjoyable in stock form, but its just so "soft and squishy" with all of the BMW bushings and springs in place.

    I'm going to post this update with a progress report on both E46 coupes, with some key items en route for the 330 that won't get here until next week. The first round of race prep will be in my next post, after (hopefully) 2 events in January. Let's get caught up on both cars, but first... The News.


    I must have upset the rules gods last year because both of our TT-Letter builds took a hit in the 2016 rules: this E46 330 "JackDaniels" in TTD lost 7 points, and the C4 Corvette "DangerZone" in TTC gained 57 pounds.

    Normally, late in December of each year NASA will release an updated rule set for Performance Touring, Super Touring, and Time Trial classes - all 3 of these groups use essentially the same set of rules. PTB-PTF wheel to wheel classes equate to TTB-TTF and ST1/2/3/U equate to TT1/2/3/U. Sometimes the rules aren't published until after the first of the year but this time the 2016 NASA TT rules came out on time, with nearly 8 weeks before our January 2016 event.

    The 2015 NASA base classing chart above has been shown in this thread before, which was current for last year and many years previously. It was the same base classing (which had the same 39 mod points for as far back as I can see until 2015) we used back in 2009 to build our blue E46 330, which ran: 18x10" wheels, 285mm tires (+13 back then) and R6 Hoosiers (+10 back then), OS Giken LSD (+3), full coilover suspension with springs (+2) and double adjustable AST4200s (+3), aftermarket bars (+2) and bushings, full exhaust (header, cat & race exhaust, +5), cold air intake (+1) and tuning. Well the base classing changed for 2016, and it hurt this build.

    As you can see in the 2016 base class listing, the E46 328 got reclassed "up" and lost two stars, and E46 330 got a new "star" added. Since the 328 went up a class it gained minimum tire size and actually lost some weight, so that is a wash. But the 330 got boned - each "star" is worth 7 penalty points, so that means we just lost 7 mod points on this 330 build to go from TTE to TTD (from 39 points down to 32). That is huge: 7 mod points is enough to account for a splitter (+3) and rear wing (+4). Or a race header/cat/rear exhaust (+5) and a Big Brake Upgrade (+2). 7 points just suddenly vaporizing on our build plan is a challenge, to be sure.

    I was wondering where did this concern came from - am I being paranoid? Are they after me? Can the CIA read my thoughts?! The E46 330 has had the same base classing for over a decade, so are they coming after me? Well turns out this had something to do with the emerging SpecE46 series, and how those cars would fit in GTS and PTX classes. It still means we have to re-think the entire TTD build plan for this 330. No, going back to the 325 chassis we still have probably isn't a good idea, as we've already done things to that car just to make it sell-able, opposite from TTD prep. Knowing about this point change last year, though, would have probably influenced my decision to "double down" and buy this 330. Damn, this is just a kick in the gut!

    My 2015 spreadsheet for the TTD build on this red E46 330 had the same 39 available mod points as it dod back in 2009, and was a pretty solid plan. We even had points to spare, and were going to do some "fun" mods to use them up! Ahhh.... "fun".

    Here was the red 330's TTD plan with the old 2015 base classing (39 available mod points): Splitter (+3), E46 M3 front bumper cover ("air dam", +2), rear wing (+4), front and rear swaybars (+2), MCS TT2 coilovers & springs (+5), camber plates, 10" wide wheels, 245 mm (+1) Hoosier R7 (+10), poly bushings, racing seats, safety gear, sunroof delete, custom header & lightweight race exhaust (+5), cold air (+1), custom tune, better shifter, lightweight flywheel/clutch, and all that was legal for TTD - and we still had 6 points leftover!

    While I had not planned on Big Brakes with the 330, after some meetings at PRI show in December we had strategic reasons for doing this upgrade on this 330 now - to test a BBK from a new manufacturer we want to work with. So aftermarket 4-piston calipers with 2-piece rotors were added to the list (+2). Again, we had the points to spare and still another 4 more after that. This plan was solid.

    Until the 7 point 2016 rules change for the 330. I had to back to the drawing board and re-plan this build. We have only 32 mod points to play with on this 330 now, but still the same "wants and needs". We can keep the stock swaybars (2) and the 330 brakes (2) and meet the 32 point goal, but there were marketing and performance reasons to modify both. We'll keep looking at the points and post the classing sheets after our first event (which will have a lot of things missing, due to time constraints).

    ROUND 17 of 325Ci REPAIRS

    So many things have been fixed on this car since my last post - and we're still not done. I've stopped counting hours and dollars on the repairs we're doing to get this car sold - because it just hurts to know. Not only have the CEL issues not gone away they seem to be multiplying. We'll fix one round of CELs (and remove obviously crusty/leaking/failed parts) and a new group of 2 or 3 show up. It is maddening.

    One of the "ugly" bits on the 325 were the seats. The leather on both front seats was trashed and the motors on the driver's seat were gone. We have race seats on hand for the red car so we robbed the 330's front seats for the 325, which are in better shape (no rips/tears) and in the matching black.

    That car's driver's seat didn't work right when we got it - the power controls wouldn't move the left seat fore-aft. Brad and Olof took the seat out for a closer look, and lo and behold - one of the power seat motors was MISSING. I stressed about getting the right replacement unit, and there were dozens of BMW part numbers for different year E46 power seat models and different locations in the seat (all expensive), but what the heck? I had the guys yank the motor out of the up-down action, put it in the fore-aft spot, and it worked like a champ. So Amy can finally get the seat close enough to be able to drive in this seat, they look 100% better in the 325, and they put the old 328 gray driver's seat and the raggedy old 325 black passenger seat in the 330 - for now.

    The shifter was so worn out that we replaced it with a Z3 1.9L shift handle, new lower bushing, and new shift knob. The shift knob was cheesy but in better shape the the 325's old knob, and the new piece is shown in the big interior image of the 325, above. A missing corner light was replaced on the front cover at the same time.

    When the worn out shifter was replaced we went back with a Z3 1.9L handle, which shortens the shift throws dramatically by moving the pivot point at the lower mount (see image above - which shows the old 330 shifter and the OEM Z3 "short shifter" part). With a "fresh" handle (not a wobbly noodle), a fresh lower bushing, and a new shift knob ... WOW. That makes a night and day difference driving the car for only about an hour of work. No more missed shifts just driving around on the street, like before.

    As I mentioned in previous posts the 325 was dropping fluids at multiple locations. The pool of oil and coolant below was from a typical overnight parking.

    So the leak fixes were dealt with a couple of months back. Repairs included new valve cover gaskets, spark plugs, and oil filter housing gasket.

    The valve cover gaskets and remote oil filter housing gaskets are super common places for these engines to develop leaks over time.

    The entire cooling system had been replaced already but the remaining leaks were from a pair of plastic coolant lines that went from the head to the firewall/heater core, and specifically the O-rings in the ends.

    The coolant lines break when you remove them, after they are this old, so those were replaced along with the leaky O-rings. After this round of repairs the 325 was finally leak free. The guys covered up all openings then pressure washed the block and oil pan when it was all apart, so its squeaky clean. This way we can see any additional leaks - so far, over a month later, not a drop is visible.

    While all of these systems were apart the cabin filter and engine air filters were replaced, as were the oil filter (Wix) and oil (Mobil1).

    During these leak repairs there were CEL checks being chased as well, trying to get the car inspectable. In Texas they don't care how rough the engine runs or how much fluid it leaks, but if there's a single Check Engine Light it fails. Olof replaced the intake manifold gasket (leaking vacuum), throttle body elbow (cracked), and the fuel filter. He also replaced all of the vacuum lines, vacuum switches, the entire CCV system, cabin filter, air filter, MAF sensor housing, and more. The only thing left is the DISA valve.

    We did some cosmetic fizes to the 325 also. I found the right paint code in the engine bay (Stahlgrau Metallic, #400) and ordered a pre-mixed paint kit that had spray cans of this base color and a clear coat. Brad took the replacement lower headlight trim piece and painted it to match the rest of the car and then we installed those.

    Olof tried to install another set of corner lights, but I not only ordered the wrong color (clear) they were the wrong mounting type, too. There are SO many different corner lights but this 2002 should normally use an '02-03 Coupe replacement style (certain shape and mounting tabs), which can come in clear, orange, or smoked.

    I kept ordering 02-03 coupe lights and they never fit, so I took over and dug further. Turns out we used an E46 coupe 99-01 style headlight kit, which all M3s use. So the headlights didn't have the right slots or tabs to hold the later corner lights... eventually I found the Khoalty website (not amazon or ebay, which are terrible places to shop for lights, as I have found!) that had the RIGHT details listed for the various E46 models: I could choose the year (there were changes for many E46 year models) and body style (coupe/convert, sedan, estate) and color (smoke, clear, orange) and I got the right corner lights... on only my 3rd try! Looks like they have better quality headlights as well. Wish I would have found Khoalty.com sooner!

    Not only do these finally fit the body and headlight styles, they are the right color to match the smoked lens headlights, and they don't need tape to hold them in place. Yea, its the small victories in life like this that are worthwhile.

    We had already replaced and upgraded the front brakes on the 325, which I showed last time. Now that we switched cars for race prep and are making this 325 "ready to sell", I'm making sure it leaves the shop with all maintenance issues addresses. So the rear rotor and brake pads still needed replacement. So we ordered up new rear 325 sized Centric rotors and street pads and those were installed, shown above.

    Last but not least, the front core support was replaced. We could have left the old tweaked unit in there but then the headlights would not have lined up. So I went ahead and had our crew pull the front bumper + cover off and replace the entire structure. Again, these are always black from the factory so it doesn't need to be painted body color, and the $54 replacement structure was already painted black. Sure enough as soon as that straight/new piece was in place the headlights finally fit right, Olof aligned the beams, and driving at night was no longer dangerous.

    Whew, that's a heck of a list of repairs! And sadly there's still a few more little things to fix on this 325 before I feel its ready to sell. Of course the random CEL that keeps changing, but we've run out of old crusty parts to replace (except the DISA valve). Vacuum leaks, coolant leaks, and oil leaks are all 100% done. Honestly the car runs 100% better than it did when we bought it, and I've daily driven in this one when the 330 was being worked on, and its pretty dang nice. Just gotta get that last CEL to get the inspection wrapped up on the 325.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
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    08 Jan 2016 09:33 AM
    continued from above


    Finally we're past of the boring 325 repair pics. This section shows the wheel testing done many weeks ago on the 325, mostly because it was in the shop for repair work and already on the lift. Obviously the race wheels we end up with are for the E46 330, but they are identical when it comes to wheel mounting. The goal was to use the 245 R7 Hoosier we mentioned a while back, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out on the widest possible wheel that fits this E46.

    I've built and raced cars in classes that had a strict "maximum tire width" limit (usually policed by "advertised section width" - the number on the sidewall), like in the SCCA STU classed EVO X above (it was way too heavy at 3600 pounds to be competitive against 3000 pound EVO 8 & 9s!). We have seen gains when taking the max width allowed tire for a class and stretching it out on a "wider than normal" wheel.

    We tend to look at the manufacturer's recommended wheel width range for a given tire and go to the widest wheel shown, or even a little bit more. Hoosier states that am 8-9.5" wide wheel is optimal for this 245/40/17 R7. But another 1/2" of width is even better! For a 245mm tire I'd use up to a 10" wide wheel, which we're going to do once again. I've run 205s on 8.5" wheels, 275s on 11" wheels, and 315s on 12" wide wheels - when race classing tire limits were being built around.

    Technically this NASA TTD build doesn't have a "max limit", but any tire we use wider than 235mm costs us points. A 245mm is +1, a 255mm would be +4, a 265mm would be +7, and on and on. Sure, I know for a fact that we could fit up to a 265mm wide tire on an 18x10" wheel under stock E46 fender contours with just some fender rolling. Been there, done that (see below).

    18x10" wheel with 265/35/18 tire on 2001 BMW 330Ci - with camber and fender rolling only

    Again, sometimes "bigger is better" has drawbacks. Not only does the 245mm tire cost less points than a 255 or 265, we get also get a big P-to-W ratio break (+0.8!) for using 245mm or smaller DOT tires. There's a particular 245 in the Hoosier catalog we like and have used on our TTC Corvette: the Hoosier 245/40/17. This tire comes in a number of compounds from Hoosier, but for competitive reasons we chose the R7 compound (+10 points). The R6 (+8 points) is being phased out, the A6 (+17) compound jumped up a lot of points last year, and the A7 (+22) has a horrendously expensive cost for this compound in TT Letter classes.

    With the skinny E46 sedan wheels removed we snatched a 17x9.5" wheel and 245/40/17 Hoosier R7 off of the C4, which was also in the shop undergoing many updates and upgrades over the winter. The GM (5 x 4.75") and BMW (5 x 120mm) bolt patterns are close enough for test fitting wheels, but in reality you should NEVER swap BMW and GM wheels. The GM 5-lug pattern is really on a 120.65mm bolt circle, and that seemingly small (0.65mm) amount of mismatch can cause REAL problems at highway speeds or road course use - up to even lug bolts or wheel stud failures. For static use test fitting like this, though, there are no worries.

    We worked with different spacers to make this C4 Corvette wheel fit onto the E46 at the front and rear, then measured the inboard and outboard tire clearances. This data was then used to spec a new BMW bolt pattern Forgestar 17x10 wheel and to use this same 245/40/17 R7 tire on the E46 for TTD use. The Corvette's 17x9.5" SSR wheel was a good "mock-up" for the E46 and we found the specs we needed to make it fit with minimal fender rolling work. Its always nice when you can base your wheel/tire combo measurements off of a wheel that is "close" to the final goal.

    If we did our math right we should have a 17x10" wheel that fits the E46 front (with a spacer) and rear (without) correctly, once the coilovers, new ride height and camber plates are installed. The wheel order was placed for Forgestar F14s in 17x10" many weeks ago and we waited....

    As I was almost done writing this update a pallet of wheels arrived. Luckily one of those sets was the 17x10 F14s for Jack Daniels 2! We ordered this set "raw" to save build time and potentially to let us add a unique finish for our shop car.

    We will test fit these later today, and then take 3 sets to our local powder coater, since they are all getting custom colors that Forgestar doesn't normally do. These should be on the car early next week, along with a ton of other upgrades.


    In the last post of this thread the Hellrot red 330 had only received some new rear control arms, idler pulleys and an air pump. It still had a single pair of CELs and I thought there were going to be many leaks to fix. The 325 had been such a nightmare I assumed the 330 would as well.

    Turns out we were really close to getting the CEL light extinguished for good on the 330. All it needed were fresh spark plugs, some fresh vacuum hoses, and a vacuum switch on the back of the cylinder head. Ryan stepped in and removed the cabin filter housing at the back of the engine bay and got access to this tiny little switch.

    Once that part was replaced and new vacuum hoses in place, he bandaged up his cuts (its a shredder back there) and fired up the engine. The old CELs were cleared and Amy drove the car. That was a couple of months ago and the car has been CEL free ever since. The inspection was passed with flying colors and this car is now road legal. I wish the 325 would have been so easy...

    One thing I did one weekend was "de-tint" the car. Since the first night we bought this car, it has been virtually undriveable at night with the windows up. The side windows were SUPER dark, the back window might has well have been painted black, and even the front windshield had some tint on it. When I went to pull the tint off I was prepared for the worst - razor blades, special sprays, heat guns, a steamer... didn't need anything. It all just peeled right off with minimal effort.

    I knew there was a 6" strip of super dark tint on the top of the front windshield but as I peeled this off I found that the ENTIRE front windshield had another layer of tint, which I then removed. All 4 of side windows also had TWO layers of tint, and the back window had two VERY dark layers. I removed it all except for one layer on the rear window, which I might still take out. NOW we can see at night and the car has proper track visibility. Good grief the tint was so janky before!

    After I had this mess all cleaned up I went ahead and got an initial weight on the 330. With virtually no fuel and no trunk junk it weighed in at 3180 pounds. That's only 14 pounds heavier than my blue 2001 330Ci, which was identical to this except it had manual seats (and was weighed with a tick more fuel, as shown).

    With a target TTD race weight of 3285 pounds with driver and fuel we still need to knock out about 125-150 pounds. Between the sunroof delete (-30 pounds), race wheels (larger but lighter), racing seats (probably -40 pounds per side), lightweight flywheel and clutch (-15 pounds) and race header + exhaust (-50+ pounds) I know we can get there. We might even have to add ballast, but that's part of the plan.

    The original seats were already removed from the 330 (to go into the 325 for selling), the carpets cleaned, and I have cleaned up the exterior a little. Really liking the 330 now and I've been daily driving it for a bit. Of course there are still a few repairs to make.

    What I thought were typical top end oil leaks turned out to be some residue from power steering fluid spill and these repairs have been held off for now. The coolant system replacement is waiting on a lot of new E46 330 cooling system parts to be released (almost out) and that will happen soon. The heater isn't working due to a broken center vent/actuator that we'll attack. The ambient air temp sensor is gone and flashing high/low temps. Of course the stock shifter... ugh. Its shot and has to be fixed.

    There are still a number of repairs, reliability upgrades and finally some racing modifications that we're about to make to the 330. See the next section for more details on what's coming up.


    We have quite a list of mods for Round 1 for the red 330.

    • Install new Front LCA + Bushings: We have the same Bilstein OEM replacement control arms we used on the 325 arriving for the 330. It will also receive the same 2-piece LCA bushing upgrade. The front bushings and ball joints are very worn on the 330 and this is noticeable every time I drive it.
    • Install Bilstein PSS Suspension + Camber Plates + RSMs: To test some theories we are going to run the 330 at a few tracks on the new 245 R7 Hoosiers with 2 different shock setups. The baseline will be the affordable Bilstein PSS monotube inverted coilover, and of course we'll use Vorshlag spherical camber plates and rear shock mounts with this. Later we will upgrade to MCS TT2 coilovers and we can test the car at the same tracks.
    • Cobra Seat Install: This I talked about last time and Olof has already built the bracket for the chassis. We were waiting for the side brackets and slider to get here so this will be installed next week.
    • Short Throw Shifter Upgrade: Same details as the 325Ci repairs shown above
    • Install Motor and Transmission Mounts: Gotta keep the drive train locked down or risk a Money Shift! Our Nylon motor and red poly trans mounts are ready to go in.
    • Track Brake Pads + Fresh Rotors: We're going with Carbotech XP12 pads front and rear with Motul RBF600 fluid. We'll look at the caliper temps after these events and figure out if we need to find points for a BBK or just do some brake ducting to keep things safe
    • Rear Subframe Repair + Bushings / Rear Diff Bushings / Replace RTABs: This is a huge task, easily 18 hours, and we're running short on time. The stock diff mount bushings and RTABs are worn out, though, and at least those parts will be done before the two January track events.
    • Install 17x10" Forgestars: See the wheel test fitting on the 325 above. These just arrived

    That's a lot of wrenching planned in the next 10 days time! Yikes.

    Here are our first two events. Amy will be the primary driver in the 330 and I will mostly drive the C4. Since we're "Team Entering" both cars I and might hop in the 330 for some setup laps in the red 330, and possibly even to set a competition time at the NASA TT event.

    So that's the current plan for the 325 and 330. The 325 is almost repaired enough to be sold and the 330 has a path of modifications and development to hopefully get us up on the podium in TTD. Our first two track events in the 330 are looming but "no plan survives contact with the enemy", so I fully expect priorities and plans to change after these two track outings.

    We still have to address the cooling and oiling issues of this engine, there are big goals in mind for the exhaust and aero development, more safety upgrades that must be done, and more. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    11 Feb 2016 04:54 PM
    Project Update for February 11, 2016: We have had a busy few weeks with this "Street Driven Track Car" BMW build, our red 2001 BMW 330 we are calling Fireball. We have upgraded the suspension, done some more repairs, added a race seat, installed bigger 17x10" wheels and Hoosiers, slapped on some decals and finally went racing. The 330 has been driven at two competition events, SCCA Club Trials at MSR-Cresson and NASA Time Trial at MSR-Houston, in back to back weeks.

    We made some changes between the two rack events to address some spring rate deficiencies and have plenty more in store. Lots of internal discussion has led us to change the build plan for TTD again, as the 7 points we lost for 2016 made that necessary. Let's get started.


    I listed a number of performance upgrades we had planned in my last post and our shop schedule freed up considerably in January, so Olof tackled many of these on the red 330.

    Front Lower Control Arms (LCA) on the E46 non-M are an aluminum design with 2 integral ball joints, which aren't serviceable. These joints were worn out so both arms were replaced with OEM replacement units from Febi Bilstein.

    The old front LCA bushings were trashed, which is super common on these BMWs. Instead of the OEM style rubber bushings, which allow a lot of toe change under braking even when new, we installed the 2-piece Powerflex "Race" LCA bushings. All the slop in the front wheels I could feel while driving is now gone. To keep these from eating themselves we installed grease zerks in the "lollipop" housings with holes drilled all the way into the dual bushing junction. A little grease twice a year will keep these lasting forever. We don't install any poly suspension bushings without grease zerks in my shop - I've seen the long term results when you don't (the bushings can wear out in 1-2 years).

    We used the same low cost Shifter Upgrade parts as shown on the 325Ci in a previous installment in this thread. A fresh Z3 1.9L shift handle (shorter throw), new bushings and clips, and all of the slop in the worn out 330 shift lever and old bushings is gone. This makes such a huge difference for so little money. Like most E46 manuals, the shifter doesn't "self center" well (align with the 3-4 gate), but that's inherent to the design. The driveshaft bushing (guibo) was also cracked, so it was replaced while the shifter was being serviced.

    One of the major deficiencies of all modern BMWs are the fluid filled motor mounts and wear prone transmission mounts. The body-mounted shifter is already sloppy enough with a rubber bushing in the middle of the shift handle, but when the motor + transmission are flopping around under engine torque it is easy to have the shifter mis-align during spirited driving or track use.

    As expected, these 162K mile motor mounts came out of the car in pieces, then leaked their goo all over the place. The OEM transmission mounts were cracked and very mushy, so they were removed as well.

    The shifter fix involves not only the freshened shifter parts but also our firmer Motor and Transmission Mounts. I chose the Nylon version of our motor mounts and stiffer red poly version of our trans mounts, and they really make a big difference in throttle response and shift feel. These are the stiffest of two options we offer, and they definitely add significant NVH under 1500 rpms, but the shift feel with the drivetrain locked down is like nothing else. We would have less NVH with our red poly motor mounts and orange poly trans mounts, which are still stiffer than stock but don't have as much buzz at idle.

    To help slow the car down on track we installed all new brake parts, with Carbotech XP12 pads front and rear, Motul RBF600 brake fluid, as well as fresh Centric Premium 330-sized rotors. We also added our 90mm wheel studs, lug nuts, and AP caliper temp strips were applied to the calipers (which we looked at during and after both track events). Even though these brakes worked well as-is we still might burn 2 points for a BBK upgrade in the future.

    Rear Subframe Bushings + Rear Diff Bushings + new RTAB bushings and Limiters was a big chunk of time. The correct rear chassis reinforcement kit wasn't in stock here the day Olof yanked the rear subframe, so just the bushings were added and we took a look at the crack-prone E46 rear floor area where the subframe mounts.

    Of course as soon as the subframe was out and the sheet metal cleaned off, a big 5" long crack was found in the trunk floor near one mount. The percentage of E46 chassis we've seen with cracks in the floor, once the subframe is removed, is nearly 100%. Olof cleaned and TIG welded this crack then primed the area. When the exhaust is out later this season for upgrades we will yank the subframe out once again, weld in the Turner subframe repair kit (the only one that is legal for the E46), and get this area properly reinforced.

    After the stock bushings were removed from the rear subframe, new Powerflex Black Race polyurethane bushings were pressed in. This included 4 subframe bushings and 3 differential bushings (2 in front, one in the rear).

    Getting the stock bushings out is a bit of a job, and beyond the capabilities of many DIYers, due to the special tools required. We have a BMW-specific bushing service kit and massive C-clamp mobile pressing tool, a 30 ton air-hydraulic press, and it still took another custom tool to get some of these out. Most of the BMW bushing tool kits are specific to the M3 cars, but one of the non-M E46 subframe bushing pairs is so different that Olof built this tool. It fits inside a pair of cavities and allows the press to line up better. Cutting or burning these out is the other option, when you don't have the right tools. That is a stinky, messy, time consuming way to do this work.

    In these fixed mounts (diff, subframe) and in single-axis of movement suspension mounts, polyurethane can and does work well in place of the soft rubber the OEMs always use. The front LCA has a bit of a twist and turning angle to it, but the 2-piece poly bushing is a good solution there. The Rear Trailing Arm Bushing (RTAB), however, has a LOT of movement in 2 opposing axis, and going polyurethane here is a bad idea for most end uses. It can add a lot of bind in the rear suspension.

    We used our Z4M Lemforder bushings (that we had Sachs/ZF/Lem bring to the US market outside of the dealership channels, years ago) and our UMHW RTAB Limiters to sandwich this bushing, which allows for enough movement but not excessive toe change out back. The Z4M (above right - with the bigger gap) is the same durometer rubber as the E46 M3 version (shown on the left of that image), but the Z4M unit is made larger so that it is pre-loaded more when it is compressed and installed into the trailing arm. The old stock RTAB bushings were all cracked and shot, of course. You can feel the difference when driving with fresh RTABs.

    I talked about the Cobra Seat Install last time and installing this took a lot of measuring, test fitting, and fabrication - but its done, and fits Amy and I both. Olof started by taking a set of steel OMP side brackets and cutting, drilling, and modifying them to fit this seat with the lowest possible height and still leave room for a slider underneath.

    I don't know who they are making these side brackets to fit, but we've tried all of the brands and they NEVER fit into cars with adult humans without modification. We tend to chop 1-3" of height out of the brackets, drilling new thru-holes lower in the sides and cutting away unused upper portions. Painfully common, otherwise your head is above the roof.

    And by the same reasoning, the "normal" width Cobra seats are also painfully too narrow - we tend to go with the "under 130 pounds only" rule on the regular width, and insist customers test sit in these before we will order this size. The "GT" width (+30 mm wider in the butt) is what fits most adult humans for Cobra seats. I've got a pair of the "regular" (narrow) width Cobra Suzukas I'm stuck with right now, due to a sizing mistake when ordering, ugh. Don't make the same mistake - always test sit in the exact model and size seat you want before ordering. That's why we keep several race seats in our lobby.

    The modified side brackets were fitted to the seat and a custom threaded bung was machined on the lathe, a hole was cut in the bracket, and this was welded to the inboard side down low. This is where the BMW lower seat belt buckle was bolted, which came off the OEM front seat. There's some wiring that goes to this and it also has some sort of crash sensor pre-tensioning tricks. It moves with the seat, just like it did from the factory, for better alignment to your hip.

    The chassis adapter brackets were also laid out and designed, then fabricated from flat steel plate and some square tubing. These are super low profile to keep the seat as low as possible, to fit my torso under the upholstered sunroof headliner with a helmet on. We were trying to lower the seating position about 3 inches, which is tough. The square tubing was added for two anti-submarine mounts. These are threaded ring mounts (G-Force) and have anti-crush sleeves welded into the holes through this tube.

    Many racers and internet experts frown on seat sliders, but it is a necessary evil in many race cars that have more than one driver (we've seen this done in most endurance cars, shy of pro racing). Amy and I have very different heights so the driver's seat needs to be low for me at the rear setting, but taller for her up and closer to the front. This means the seat slides forward and moves up at an angle. We used Cobra dual locking sliders, which are low profile and strong. The sliders bolt to the modified OMP side brackets and the bottom of the sliders bolt to our chassis bracket.

    The Cobra sliders allow for about a foot of fore-aft movement of the seat, and when locked they are solid. After this seat was wrapped up the factory 3-point belt was installed and routed through the lap belt hole in the outside of the Cobra seat. The lower buckle is too rigid to fit through the mating hole on the inside, but there is good belt wrap around the hips with this setup - its safe, and more reasonable than using 6-point belts on the street.

    We don't have shoulder mounting provisions for a real racing harness just yet, so we left the Scroth 6-point belts out for now. I will talk about the upcoming roll bar / roll cage at the very bottom of this post. The lap belts will go into another pair of clip-in G-Force eyelets mounted into either the cage or the floor, depending on how we do that.

    continued below
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    11 Feb 2016 04:54 PM
    continued from above


    So far all of the above upgrades were "zero point" modifications, according to the 2016 NASA TT-Letter rules in section 8.3.I, subsections a through h. This section of rules spans 4 pages and lists dozens of parts and modifications that are allowed in all TT classes without any restriction or classing penalty. The items below, however, do cost "class points", of which we have only 32 points to work with and stay in TTD. Again, each car gets 19 points before its first class jump and 20 per class after that. Our car started TTE*, which meant we had 39 points to get to TTD, minus 7 base class penalty points for the newly added *, so 39 - 7 = 32.

    Obviously Vorshlag is a suspension shop and we cannot overlook this first and most important mod (well, outside of tires). When it came to suspension upgrades there are a number of ways to spend our points. The stock E46 330 springs are super SUPER soft, and of course we will be upping the rate from the stock ~100#/in front springs to something much more appropriate for track use with Hoosiers. We could have hit the "easy button" and just jumped right to MCS TT2 double adjustable coilovers, but I am using this car to test out a few products that we don't already sell, because customers want some lower cost options that we have track proven.

    At Vorshlag we're sort of known as "shock snobs" and have preached the benefits of monotube coilovers for many years. We've worked with too many twin tube shocks and know their limitations all too well. So for this first set of dampers on the E46 we went with the most affordable, quality, inverted monotube on the market - the Bilstein PSS. This kit included the 40mm shaft inverted monotube front struts, inverted rear monotubes, adjusters on the front coilover struts, adjustable rear ride height platforms, four beehive springs, and the springs are all made to bolt in or work with the factory front upper spring perches.

    This is just one of several coilover shock kits Bilstein makes for many different street cars, which include the PSS, PSS9 and PSS10. The PSS is a non-adjustable version that only has height adjustment, no valving adjuster knobs. The PSS9 and PSS10 have a single adjustment knob that controls both rebound and (to a lesser degree) compression, with the older PSS9 style having 9 clicks and the PSS10 has 10. This non-adjustable PSS was thought to probably not be appropriate when it comes timed racing events, but we've seen these work fairly well for street setups and some mild track use. In hindsight we should have started with the adjustable valving PSS10, but I'll get to that after my race write-ups, below.

    The PSS (aka: B14) kit for the non-M E46 BMW is very affordable, with an MSRP price of $1493.08 (including shocks, springs, and ride height platforms) but a current street price of $1080 (TireRack). The adjustable valving version of this kit is similar but has that damping knob, with an MSRP of $2576.50 and a street price currently closer to $1675 (TireRack). I'm not listing our prices or linking to our product pages because some forums I'm posting this thread this is verbotten.

    Bilstein doesn't set a minimum advertised price for their dealers, and they will let anyone resell their stuff, so Amazon, Tire Rack and fleaBay have driven the prices down so low that its nearly impossible for real shops to sell these. For that reason alone I almost skipped this Bilstein step, but they are still a decent shock and we tested them even knowing we will likely never sell many against Billy's eBay page from his Mom's basement.

    To make this basic PSS kit worthwhile on track we tested these with our E46 non-M camber-caster plates and spherical rear shock mounts, shown above. This is why most folks buy Bilsteins from us - we upgrade parts of their kits they don't include. Since we hadn't installed this particular PSS kit on an E46 non-M chassis, Olof did a shock length test we always do.

    This meant he installed a front strut without a spring and tested the total stroke of the strut, then we could calculate optimum ride height and usable bump and rebound travel. Anything can be run too tall or too low, so this type of test helps figure out the "sweet spot" for any given shock. Then the springs were installed and front ride heights set. A fresh set of OEM E46 swaybar endlinks were used but the stock swaybars were kept at both ends - for now.

    The front camber plate was also setup with a bit more positive caster and then a good bit of initial static negative camber was set, based on numbers we've used on other E46 track cars for over a decade. The rear of the PSS kit has a simple ride height adjuster and another beehive spring, plus the rear shock. The Vorshlag rear spherical upper shock mounts (RSMs) bolt onto the shock and these then to the chassis with our top mounted reinforcement plate (to prevent cracks in the tub).

    This is the final ride height that had optimal bump and rebound travel with these shock lengths. The non-stock shocks cost us +3 points, the springs cost +2, and the inverted strut (not factory style) cost us another +1. So a total of 6 points was burned on these dampers. Funny enough, a set of double adjustable non-inverted MCS coilovers and proper springs would only be +5 points total (and clearly have more potential). This is why we call the MCS internal singles and doubles "TT1" and "TT2" - because they work so well in TT-Letter classes. But that's for later - for now we have the PSS kit.

    The crew here set the base camber and toe at both ends, then they corner balanced the car with a driver in the seat, then took the car for a laser alignment to fine tune the final settings. Jason had digitally measured the spring rates of the PSS kit's front and rear springs, which were alarmingly SOFT. This worried me but I figured we could try this out at the SCCA Club Trials event, which was more of a tire test for us. What could go wrong?

    The car rode pretty well on this setup and Amy drove it the very next day out to MSR-Cresson for the first track test. We left the stock swaybars in place and planned to just mount the new wheels and Hoosiers tires at the track.

    The wheels themselves are unlimited and are a "point free" mod, but tire size and compound changes do cost class points, and we've burned 11 total on this 245mm Hoosier R7. Again, our car's TTE initial base class gets assigned a 235mm base tire, and we're going up 10mm from that to 245mm, which costs us +1. The Hoosier R7 compound is +10, and we feel it is well worth it.

    Olof mounted an old set of used 245/40/17 Hoosier R7s (purchased for our TTC classed 1992 Corvette in January of 2015 and used for 2 race weekends already) to the custom spec'd BMW-fitment 17x10" Forgestar F14s I showed briefly in my last post. We specified these based off of previous and current measurements to work on the rear as-is and to fit up front with a 5mm spacer, which would allow for easy tire rotation.

    This is a BIG wheel width change (up from 7.5" wide) and this 245mm tire gets stretched out nicely. Normally I'd use a 265 or even 275mm tire on a 10" wide wheel, but in this case we are working around a tire width points restriction, so we're "tricking" the 245 tire into acting wider that it normally would on an 8" wide wheel. Normally an E46 non-M like this could fit a 245mm tire on an 8" wide wheel with ease, and we've done 255mm tires on 9" wide wheels many times with no need for camber, fender rolling, or other tricks.

    At the final hour before dark on the Friday before the track event we washed the BMW and Jon installed some class letters and numbers and a few other small decals. We were so out of time we barely had time to test the new wheel and tire briefly on each end, gave it the "looks good enough!" approval, then stowed the race wheels and tires into the trailer and re-mounted the stockers for the trip to and from the event. I brought the fender roller just in case, as I had a feeling this 10" wide wheel (a fairly extreme fitment for an E46 non-M) was going to cause some tire rub even with the 245mm tires.

    At this point the 330 was ready for it's first baseline track test. I suspected the spring rates would be lacking, but wouldn't know until we put the Hoosiers on and tested it in anger. On the very same day the 330 work was wrapping up, Brad, Ryan and I were thrashing to finish the Corvette's winter upgrades - new engine wiring harness, later ECM and MAF upgrade, dyno test, Optispark change, and fender mods to clear 18x12" wheels and 335mm front and 345mm rear Hoosiers. Two shop cars getting major updates + customer work made for one very busy week.

    This is the spring rate chart that we made after digitally measuring the included springs that came in this Bilstein PSS kit. You can see how soft the front springs are, but they are fairly linear at an average rate of 156 #/in. This is too similar to the stock BMW rates, which are worthless for competition use. The rear rates are lightly progressive but still very soft, due to the motion ratio of the rear suspension - only about 50% of this 265 #/in average rear spring rate is seen at the wheel (so about 135 #/in wheel avg rate). These soft rates explain why the 330 looked like it was about to roll over at the SCCA Club Trials, below...


    This event was on our schedule for several reasons. First, we wanted to go see another Club Trials event with the Texas Region SCCA. We had run this event in January 2014 where our TT3 Mustang set the quickest time of the event (by 4 seconds). Back then, and even though it was a COLD January event that year and there was a LOT of traffic to deal with, we still had fun and got a few traffic free test laps in. Also, a lot of local racers and friends would be there, and lastly we needed a good test day on track to test the big changes to both the 1992 Corvette and 2001 BMW 330. This would be the first time ever on track for the E46, and the first time the Corvette had been driven since March 2015.

    I'm going to try to cover this event quickly, as it was only a 1 day test and we didn't really care how we "finished". This was really just an HPDE day that they were calling a "Club Trial" competition event. They had transponders and took times, but there weren't any classes, so they used an autocross PAX factor to post "final results" afterwards. We ignored that and just looked at our lap times compared to previous NASA events run on this 1.7 mile CCW course. My previous best in the TT3 car was a 1:18.6 at the 2014 Club Trials and a 1:17.3 at the March 2015 NASA event in the same car.

    Anyway, we got to the track at 6 am, an hour before sunrise, and were working in the dark to have both cars ready before a 7 am driver's meeting. The C4 was unloaded, Amy and I did the wheel swap on the BMW, the AIM Solo lap timers were mounted, and we checked everything else we could under pitch black skies. The driver's meeting took a bit and after we got out, right as the sun was coming up, we were greeted by Brad and Olof from Vorshlag who had come to help. This became an eventful day of "track side car mods" so their assistance was most welcome.

    The SCCA Club Racers had 25 entries spread across 5 run groups and Club Trials had 30 entries jammed into 1 run group. This is a 1.7 mile course and 30 cars spread out across a VAST array of skill and prep levels makes for a crowded track, but again - this was just a test for both cars.

    They initially gridded my old Corvette in P1 and stuck Amy about a 1/4 of the way down the order for the first session. We went out and it was COLD with 40 degree temps and 20 mph winds all day. I could hear all sorts of tire rub on the C4 and fought with that most of the day. Turns out Amy was having similar tire rub issues but she just ignored it.

    She drove the whole session in the 330 with the rear Hoosier tires rubbing the rear fenders badly, sending up plumes of tire smoke, but at least she didn't spin. Amy hasn't had any seat time since April of 2014 and she was really rusty, struggling to learn this car. She didn't trust the brakes or cornering power, but I was so busy testing in the Corvette and trying to not freeze to death I never got a chance to ride right seat to help push her driving.

    As you can see in the image above, the Bilstein PSS coilovers were visually sprung too softly and allowed a TON of body roll, so I knew fairly quickly we'd be doing a spring rate upgrade immediately after this event. That is the result of soft springs, stock swaybars, and a sticky R7 in only 245mm width. What did we expect? The PSS spring rates are nearly stock... we should really be using something around 600 #/in in front and 750 #/in in the rear. On our blue 2001 330 we used 750 front and 900 rear with 285mm A6 Hoosiers and it has a LOT less roll.

    continued below
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    11 Feb 2016 04:55 PM
    continued from above


    Quick side note during the race coverage...

    After the 1st and 2nd track sessions at this Club Trials event, Olof and Brad leapt on the 330 to try to remedy the rear tire rub. Track side fender rolling sucks - this should always be done in the shop! - but parts delays & C4 prep ruined our schedule on the E46 the week before. It was "do it here" to keep from ruining the day (and the tires) or "head home".

    Normally this would have been done at the shop, with the car on the lift and better access to power tools. With decent skills you can do this job in about 3-4 hours for the rear fenders of an E46 and not crack the paint. The goal is to roll the square rear lips flat against the outer sheet metal, then to push the entire fender out for even more room. These pictures are from when I rolled the fenders on my blue 2001 330 back in 2009 to clear 265/35/18 tires on an 18x10" wheel - which is almost the same width as this 17x10" wheel and 245 Hoosier.

    Before you can even start with the fender rolling tool itself you have to grind and cut a bunch of hard epoxy sealer out from the inner lip of the rear fenders. Three layers of sheet metal are joined here and BMW seals it all up with this thick yellow goop that turns to a concrete like consistency. At the track Brad and Olof had to painstakingly cut this stuff out with box cutters, knives and screwdrivers. In the shop it goes faster with cut off wheels and wire wheels on 90° die grinders. It still makes a total mess, even in the shop.

    Once the goop is all cleared out the horizontal lip on the inner rear fenders can be heated up (a pair of 500 watt lights, heat lamps, or a friend with a heat gun), the paint softens up a bit, then you go to town with the fender roller. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made to slowly roll roll roll that lip vertical. Pressure is applied to the bottom of the control arm to push the roller into the arc you want. And it takes more clearance than you think - we like to install the rear wheel and tire, remove the rear springs, and push the tire up all the way to the suspension bump limit of the rear shocks. Then still add a little more... if you can fit your hand in between the tire and the fender at Full Bump then it just might clear. Only hard track testing on the actual competition tire can tell you for sure!

    On the front the procedure is much easier and you can usually roll the E46 fenders in under an hour. The sheet metal is only one layer think, as the fender is a simple stamped piece and not a multi-sheet thick part of the unibody. For just a bit more room I like using a plastic faced hammer on the inner lip then slowly work it up and flat to the outer face. I use a flat faced body dolly on the outside of the fender, wrapped in heavy leather to protect the paint. Of course the paint needs to be warmed up to prevent cracking, but you can never guarantee that. On this day, with Amy driving, she wasn't seeing any front tire rub so we left that end of the car alone.

    OK, back to the Club Trials event. I was having all sorts of trouble on the Corvette, as we had moved from a 245mm R7 to a 345mm A6 Hoosier. This level of grip in no way worked with the rebuilt factory Bilsteins on this C4 and the rear was bouncing all over the place. Still, somehow this session 3 time in the video above was the quickest time of the day at the Club Trials with a 1:23.2.

    This car was not TTC legal with the tires used during this test and would eventually be run in TT2

    We both ran our cars in session 4, where I was gridded P1, but it started to rain before we went out. After a number of passes I got little bursts of clear track, and the rain wasn't much more than a sprinkle. I was gaining confidence in this janky Corvette tire test and taking corners faster, braking less and less for the high speed sweepers like Big Bend and Ricochet. Still, my times were 5+ seconds slower than I ran in the TT3 car 2 years earlier. Everyone was off the pace and both Club Trials and Club Racers alike commented on the lack of grip that day.

    Amy was running 1:33s in the dry, but during the slightly wet session improved to a 1:32 lap time range, so her confidence was getting better. These times seemed nowhere near what I thought this BMW was capable of on these tires. Granted, it had a lot of body roll but damn that's 5 seconds off the TTD record of 01:27.515, set by a BRZ back in 2014. We didn't have a 2nd video camera for her car this weekend so I cannot see how she was driving. She had an AiM Solo lap timer in the car, though, so she had predicative lap timing at her disposal. She complained of a lot of traffic, but we all saw heavy traffic this day.

    Raw time results from session 3 (dry) and session 4 (wet). DangerZone was quickest of the day?

    Ideally I would have driven one session in the 330 to get a feel for the setup myself and see if a "driver change" could improve our times. The weather was getting colder and a rain or snow storm was predicted to hit any minute, so I decided to let her get as much seat time as possible. After 4 sessions the rain and temps started to drop so we packed up the Corvette, swapped tires on the 330, and headed home. There's nothing more exhausting than spending a very cold day shivering in bitter wind chill conditions + driving in 4 sessions with a wonky setup (the Corvette).


    There was only one week between the MSR-Cresson event with SCCA and the season opening NASA race at MSR-Houston. Amy and I have both driven that track and we both needed to score points in our two TT cars to help start the 2016 season off right. We felt like the track side fender rolling the weekend before was probably sufficient and honestly our shop schedule got busy with customer work, so we tried to do as little as possible to both cars that week. I took the C4 for official dyno tests after the event and the 330 got a new set of springs.

    The coilover spring rates we chose for this next segment of the suspension test were fairly conservative at 350 #/in front and 450 #/in rear. Compare that to the PSS rates of 156 #/in front and a progressive spring with an average of 265 #/in rates at the rear. To the front rate went up by a factor of 2.2 and the rear by a factor of 1.8... so nearly double the rates.

    Normally with AST, MCS or Moton adjustable monotube coilovers for an E46 we would start with rates at 450F/550R, then jump to 500F/550R, and even 650F/750R rates for our 3 basic spring kit options. My blue 2001 330 coupe used 750#/in fronts and 900 #/in rears with a 285mm Hoosier R6, as shown above. It cornered much flatter even with a +40mm wider tire of similar compound.

    Usually tire size and compound dictate how far up the spring rate ladder we climb, as well as intended use (dedicated race car vs street car, or somewhere in between). To convert these Bilsteins to regular 60mm coilover springs we swapped the OEM perches on the front camber plates to a pair of our 60mm upper perches. That converts from the goofy tapered spring that came with the PSS kit, which is made for the OEM E46 non-M upper strut mount and upper perch. Out back a pair of 60mm springs got our spring alignment cones, but we managed to keep the Bilstein ride height platforms that came in the PSS kit.

    The only other changes made before the NASA race were adding some decals. Jon made some huge Vorshlag decals but only had time to install one side before we loaded up and headed to MSR-Houston on Friday.

    Jon also added decals for some of the companies who parts we were using on this build like Forgestar, Bilstein, Mishimoto (more on that in my next update), and of course Hoosier (for potential tire contingency).

    NASA AT MSR-HOUSTON (CW) JAN 23-24, 2016

    We took both the Corvette and BMW to this 2016 NASA season opener event at MSR-Houston. We loaded up Friday morning and slogged through 6.5 hours of driving, most of which was burned inside the city limits of Houston dealing with their nightmarish traffic (normally this is a 4 hour drive from Dallas). I was towing the Corvette (which was being moved up to TT2 class) and Amy drove the BMW down, which she said was "bouncy" with the new springs. Hmm...

    Of course when we arrived it was pitch dark and the paddock was packed. We got lucky and found a wedge shaped spot close to grid where we unhooked the trailer and parked the BMW. Amy raced over to tech and managed to get the car inspected for Annual TT Tech and a new Logbook.

    The 330 also weighed 3434 with me in it after one TT session of four that I drove it over the weekend (I drove it in 2 TT sessions Saturday and 2 more on Sunday). That means this car is nearly 150 pounds overweight (class minimum for ths car is 3285 pounds). In TT letter class you don't have to bring a certified dyno sheet if you haven't touched the motor or done any power mods, which we have not on this car - yet. I suspect based on other E46 330s with this 3.0L M54 engine I've dyno'd, plus the dyno we did on the 2.5L engine in the 325Ci, this car probably makes around 180-190 whp.

    Goal Power and Weight for this 330 in TTD:
    3285 pounds / 13.45 ratio = 244.2 whp

    Assuming the car dyno's on the high end at 190 whp, we're still pretty far away from the TTD class limit of 14.25:1 or our modified 13.45:1 ratio we can run at 3285 pounds with the 245 mm tire bonus (+0.8 bonus). So I figured we would be struggling on the straights at this event. And we were.

    8.1.2 Minimum “Adjusted Weight/Power Ratios” for each Class
    TT1 = 5.50:1
    TT2 = 8.00:1 <- where the C4 should be
    TT3 = 10.00:1
    TTB = 10.50:1 <- closer to where the C4 is (11.1:1)
    TTC = 12.00:1
    TTD = 14.25:1 <- where the 330 should be
    TTE = 16.50:1
    TTF = 19.50:1 < - closer to where the 330 is (18.1:1)
    • E46 330: 3434 actual weight / 190 whp guesstimate = 18.1:1 P-to-W
    • C4 Corvette: 3188 actual weight / 288 whp = 11.1:1 P-to-W

    In reality the power to weight ratio of our setup at 3434 pounds was closer to TTF than TTD, which explained why we couldn't keep up with some of the TTE prepped Miatas on straights at this event. We knew this car was under-prepped this time and were just trying to get some points during this season opening weekend for use later in the season (same could be said for the C4, which was closer to TTB's P-to-W than TT2 where we ran it).

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Feb 2016 04:56 PM
    continued from above

    We entered two Team Vorshlag entries, which allows all team members to drive either car during competition. The plan was for Amy to drive the 330 most of the TT sessions and I would hop in if we needed, then I'd drive the C4 in all other TT sessions.

    Well, to put it nicely, Amy was "off her game" all weekend and not competitive in TTD. At the same time my Corvette was a big hot mess at this track (the stock shocks could NOT handle the grip from the 345mm Hoosiers with the bumps of this track), and I only put in one session in the C4 each day, just to get a few points for TT2. Due to these circumstances I ended up taking two TT sessions in the TTD car E46 both days, to try to wring out some times and score points for this Team entry in TTD. This was my first time to drive this 330 on track and I quickly realized how much work we had left to do.

    For whatever reason, Amy was 5-7 seconds per lap off my pace in the E46 - she just didn't feel comfortable with the car or confident in the setup. Strangely, in the TT3 Mustang she was often in the same second as me - a much faster car with much higher grip limits. I did ride along with her in the E46 during an HPDE 3/4 session and coached her from the right seat. In that extremely busy session she dropped 2.5 seconds, when I helped her push the braking zones and pick lines, in even more dense traffic - but then couldn't replicate these times in later sessions. We've got some work to do to get her confidence back, for sure.

    Due to some logistical issues I missed most of the first TT session on Saturday, which is the TT Warm-up. These times don't count for competition but are used to grid cars in the subsequent TT session, then grid is continually adjusted after each session based on the fastest time of the weekend for a given car.

    Moving "up the grid" tends to help drivers get clear track, as theoretically all entrants will be gridded in order of their lap times and thus, nobody impedes anyone else. This does not always work. Let me explain. Let's say you have a guy in a TTE Miata that has maxed out the P-to-W for it's class, is on fresh race tires, and has a really good driver. But ahead of him is say a Porsche Cayman in TTB that is on crap tires, but has a better P-to-W so he can pull away from the TTE Miata on the straights. What happens here? The TTE Miata gets blocked in the turns but doesn't have the beans underhood to pass the Cayman on the straights - especially if the TTB Porsche driver has an ego and won't let the quicker TTE Miata by. This happened continually to the me (and others) when I was driving the E46 all weekend... 40 cars in TT made for some serious traffic.

    Honestly this is the first time I've ever competed in a Time Trial car that was this slow. The only slower track car I've ever built was the E30 318is above, but it was fully 1000 pounds lighter. I've almost always run in cars that were in the top 20% of the grid, and in something with horsepower or that was more fully prepped for the class - all of which makes it easier to get clear track. Having the 330 with only a 18:1 P-to-W was frustrating as HELL when stuck behind cars with much more power but that crawled through turns. I made a couple of late (but still safe) passes under braking to get by some guys, but it shouldn't be this way. Again, I just haven't experienced this as much in the past - it is a real challenge to get a good lap in a slow car.

    Staggering amount of bodyroll with the PSS kit and spring rates doubled. We need bigger sway bars + a lot more spring rate!

    As you can see we still have a LOT of roll in corners, and there was a good bit of dive under braking andheave during the transition from braking-to-turning. This was after nearly doubling the spring rates from the PSS kit. No doubt about it, this car needs a lot more spring rate to deal with the grip generated by these 245 Hoosier R7s.

    Having since driven the car on the street with the upgraded 350F/450R springs we installed, however, the ride quality on the street has suffered considerably with these springs on the non-adjustable PSS Bilsteins. So much so that I don't think we will sell these shocks with upgraded springs - the rebound is just way too low to deal with bumps on these mildly stiffer springs. They worked fine on track, however, and soaked up the many bumps from MSR-Houston's track surface admirably.

    Left: 350F/450R springs and stock bars on E46. Right: Proper springs/shocks/bars on E46 M3 in the same corner

    If I had an unlimited budget I'd test this same PSS shock setup with bigger bars, then swap in the PSS10 adjustables to see if the ride improved with these springs. Then we could try them with more spring rates to see if we can get this pig to corner flatter on this tire. THEN move up to MCS TT2 dampers. But like most of you, I very much have a limited budget so we're not necessarily going to be able to go through all of those iterative test steps.

    Other issues with the 330 were minor. The rear fenders had a bit more rubbing (you can hear it in the in-car video below), especially the left rear on this predominantly right hand turn course. I still need to spend some time in the shop with a fender roller, a hammer and some dollies to get those cleaned up a hair more. The front left fender also had some contact with the tire, which smashed the squared off inner lip a bit, then pulled it down. One more smack could have smashed the fender beyond repair - luckily I saw this, and between sessions I pulled a wheel off and hammered that lip flat in one section. Again, doing this work track side is the wrong way to do this, but I was pushing the car harder than it had been pushed before, and that revealed the additional rub spots.

    Lap times weren't stellar, but we did have a good TTD battle on day 1. There was only one other TTD entrant, the Scion FR-S shown above. He was on BFG R-1 race tires and I'm not sure what else he had modified on the car. After Amy drove the first 2 sessions Saturday she was not getting it done, so I hopped in in session 3 and dropped the times for our Team entry on this car to a 1:52.074. I was gridded behind our class competitor Vinnie in that session, but after a few laps I got around him and he followed me for a lap - where he nearly match my time with a 1:52.085. So we were ahead going into the final Saturday TT session but separated by only .011 seconds!

    Since the Corvette was a hot mess and I was done for the day in that car, Amy opted to let me run the final TT session in the 330, which is shown in the video below. Vinnie ran his best time of the day at a 1:51.889 but I managed to get ONE clear lap in that session and dropped to a 1:50.677. That wasn't enough for a lap record but it was enough for the win and we took it.

    Cheap Cameras Suck - Quick note about the quality of this video. We have a good Sony vidcam we've used for all of our track videos over the past 4 years. 1080P, Carl Zeiss lens, SD card recording, and it was ~$400 new. Well we haven't brought 2 cars to events often but we would be now, so I looked for a cheap second video camera. And being that our budget was tight in January I only had so much to spend. I'm not a fan of GoPro for a list of reasons, mostly due to the fact that we were a dealer of theirs early on and had to eat 2 cameras that failed out of box. So I got a 1080P knock-off of the GoPro that looked identical for $53, which had hundreds of good reviews on Amazon. What a piece of JUNK this thing was! The video clips stop every 2-1/2 minutes (so I had to stitch each session together from 6-8 parts), the video was pretty poor, and the sound quality was complete crap. "You get what you pay for" still exists.

    The lap in the above video was far from ideal, with driving mistakes and multiple car issues I was driving around. I even had to pass a car during that lap - but this was still the least traffic filled lap of the weekend for me. Again, we had 40 TT entrants spread out over 2.38 miles of track. You can hear the rear tires rubbing in big corners and the car sort of heels over exiting the carousel on my best lap there. This is because with too much cornering force (spikes of 1.5g) the car leans over hard and the rear tire grabs the inside of the rear fenders, which will sort of catches and slings the back end around. So I was trying to go fast but not TOO fast, to avoid this known issue. This was FAR from an ideal setup and we should have spent some time on the lift the week before rolling fenders - but we got busy and couldn't turn away paying customer work.

    Luckily that janky lap was good enough for a 1.2 second win for TTD. We stuck around for the Saturday night NASA party (with good food and Shiner beer!) and gladly took the first place trophy. Not enough cars in class to win any Hoosiers, but these used R7 tires looked like they could last another 3-4 weekends at this rate, if we can get the bodyroll under control. I was noting some outside shoulder wear so we will swap these tires inside-out before the next race weekend, and we still have a sticker set in this size/compound back at the shop (from winnings in the C4).

    Sunday morning was another cold one and there was now some heavy fog to deal with. We ran pretty early and I had to dry the insides of the windshield and rear hatch on the Corvette (no heater sucks), but Amy's 330 has a functional defroster so she was good to go. I ran the Corvette for one session, which was the scariest TT session I've ever driven (25 year old stock shocks + 345 A6 tires don't mix!) where I dropped to an abysmal 1:46.9 in TT2 but Amy was still slow in the 330. I rode right seat with her in an HPDE 3/4 session and coached her for a few laps, where she dropped 2.5 seconds. Mostly just pushing her braking zones, getting on the throttle sooner, things like that. She didn't race much last year and just needs more seat time in this new car before she's back to her usual times (she can and has beaten me before).

    With the same minimal safety requirements as HPDE, there are stark differences in safety gear used in TT cars

    During my only TT session in the C4 for the day, during my fastest lap of the weekend, I came upon a car that had just crashed into the pit wall pretty hard and had to back out and pull off line to avoid the carnage - it happened only seconds before I came around the final "carousel" corner, and there weren't any flags at the preceding station yet. Somehow the driver was unhurt in this car with just stock seats, stock belts, and nothing other than a helmet.

    I could go on and on about how many TT drivers' lack of safety gear and these folks need to set their own safety standards. Who am I to talk? I've run TT in a helmet, T-shirt, shorts, and stock seat belts too many times in the past. I'm trying to do better in my own car (Corvette) but this was a wake-up call to Amy and she wants to move forward with a roll cage, a HANS device of her own, and proper 6-point belts in the 330. See more of my musings at the end of this post about this.

    The NASA officials won't like me posting these pictures, but it doesn't help the sport if we bury our heads in the sand and ignore incidents that we can all learn from. There was also some car-to-car contact in another TT session, which I captured on video (I'm not sharing that video). This stuff shouldn't ever be happening in Time Trial, and its very rare in our region, but I feel that the guilty party was handled properly and I'm going to let it go. Still, it all adds up, and we will definitely be upgrading the safety gear in the red 330.

    Amy was off the pace so I jumped in during TT session 2 and clocked a 1:51.350 to Vinnie's 1:51.686, all of us fighting heavy traffic. TT session 3 got so held up I was slower, with a 1:51.494 to Vinnie's 1:51.568. It was getting late in the day and the temps were dropping, but neither of us had traffic free laps yet. Vinnie was 3 tenths faster than his Saturday times but I was 8 tenths off my pace from the day before.

    We started packing up for the long drive back to Dallas and I let Amy drive in the last TT session while I was loading up the Corvette in the trailer. Many other TT drivers left early and only 14 of the 40 registered TT drives showed up to grid. Sure enough, Vinnie found some traffic free laps and dropped lots of time, to his personal best here at his home track of 1:50.437. That was good enough for the win for Sunday and we congratulated him on that in the paddock, then swapped tires on the 330 and hit the road.

    Left: A long reach/short throw shifter would be nice in our E46. Right: Life priorities look right to me!

    During the 4.5 hour drive back to Dallas the power steering quit working on the 330, which Amy showed me at a fuel stop. There was no fluid leaking so I assumed it was an internal power steering pump failure (it was) and she managed to get home and drive it to work several days the following week without power steering. It was not an issue until you dip below about 5 mph, then you have to CRANK on the steering wheel at parking lot speeds.

    Left: On Saturday the C4 was 6th in TT2, 330 was 1st in TTD. Right: On Sunday the C4 was again 6th in TT2, 330 was 2nd in TTD

    This race weekend was a mixed success. The newly upclassed TT2 Corvette was way off the pace, as the OEM Delco-Bilstein dampers could not deal with the bumps of MSR-Houston, but at least it was reliable and the engine never skipped a beat. The 330 was also a bit off the pace of the TTD track record (1:48.4), but we kind of knew it would be slow with the limited mods we've done so far. With the scales showing +150 pounds over class minimum and about -50hp down on the class P-to-W limit, we have a ways to go to get it on par with more modern TTD entries like the FT86.

    We learned a lot at this event and still had a LOT of fun - seeing friends, the Saturday night party, and both of us getting plenty of seat time in the 330. This car was pretty dead nuts reliable, other than the power steering failure on the way home.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Feb 2016 04:57 PM
    continued from above


    Not much to show here. The power steering pump was ordered Monday morning after the event, but I was being cheap and we ordered the least expensive of 5 options we found for this M54 engine. And as you can see below, the impeller sheered off the driven shaft inside the old pump. The shaft just slid right out, and only the pulley and belt was keeping it from puking out the front.

    After the new "Cardone" brand power steering pump was installed, the new reservoir filled, and the pulley was being bolted on... POP! The cast flange on the pump snapped off as it was being tightened to "finger tight" levels. Junk cheap overseas casting! It was temporarily bolted up with 2 of the 3 pulley bolts, just so it could be driven in and out of the shop until the replacement pump arrived.

    For the replacement's replacement power steering pump I chose to get a name brand that I trusted (AC Delco) - which is what we would always do on customer's car. We will install that later this week, when we have a gap in the shop schedule.

    Being a cheap ass doesn't pay, which is something I learn over and over again on my own purchases. This low end power steering pump + the cheesy $53 GoPro knock-off video camera (which was complete junk) are just two of my latest re-learned examples of this lesson.

    The 325Ci was finally inspected and tagged so it is being cleaned up for sale soon. I'll post the Craigslist link in my next post, hopefully.


    As I've said since the beginning of this project, this E46 is a "street driven track car". This is a huge compromise, but it is what so many people and customers want to do, so we're sticking with this philosophy on this E46 - to see how far we can go with that. Seeing that crashed TT car above, however, made Amy and I both want to ratchet up the schedule for safety upgrades with this car. We currently have a single fixed back Cobra racing seat with a 3-point OEM seat belt - and nothing else. That's just not safe enough.

    Several safety upgrades are planned before Amy takes this car back on track again with these Hoosier grip levels. After tracing my injuries in a 2014 crash to not wearing a HANS, I started wearing one and I want Amy wearing a HANS on track, too. To make a head and neck restraint work you need a real racing seat, real 5/6/7 point harnesses, and something to anchor the shoulder straps to (harness bar, roll bar or roll cage). With as janky as the setup was at MSR-H, I know that even lower powered cars like this TTD BMW can still roll over or smack a wall. Driver fatigue from hanging on without using a real race harness also takes its toll, even with a racing seat. A bolt-in harness bar is just not good enough option for even the Time Trial racing we are doing, so its time to talk roll bar vs roll cage.

    Another 4-point roll bar (like we used in the blue 330), a pair of proper FIA racing seats, good 6-point FIA harnesses, and a HANs device probably make the most sense for a dual-purpose car. That gives some decent rollover protection, a good place to anchor the shoulder harnesses, and keeps tubes away from the driver's head in the front seat area for street use. The E46 above (customer's car) has a 4-point roll bar and racing seat.

    An improperly specified/built roll bar does virtually nothing for safety in a rollover

    But again, after seeing the carnage at MSR-Houston, we're both rethinking things a bit. The problem with a 4-point roll bar, especially pre-built kits we can find, is that the upper tubes don't fit as close to the chassis as a custom built unit. They are often 1-2" away from the headliner, which is itself 1-2" below the actual roof skin. This can pose a risk during a rollover to taller drivers, like me. See how far my helmet is above the top of the roll bar in the Miata above?? That's almost worthless. A bolt-in roll bar kit usually fits like that for tall folks. Not good.

    I also want to set a better example for proper track safety than I have in the past.

    For some racers a full NASA spec, W2W legal roll cage might seem like the only answer. We do a lot of custom roll cage fabrication work here at Vorshlag, so it might also seem logical for this car. That is definitely the way to go on a dedicated race car, but that's not what the car is, remember? Its a combination street/track car. IT will always have working side windows, air conditioning, and be fully street legal.

    I'm normally not a fan of using full 6/8 point roll cages in street driven cars. A roll cage almost always puts a steel tube closer to your head than a normal street car's interior would be. Even with SFI style padding, your head is going to be closer to something very hard and unforgiving without a helmet to protect your noggin. So a 6/8 point fully caged street car is often less safe when driving on the street than with just a 4-point roll cage. It just depends on the size of the car and also the size of the driver.

    There are other considerations to consider. In NASA TTD, this 330 is overweight by 150 pounds, and a 4-point roll bar or 6/8 point cage is going to add 60-100 pounds. Not that I'd use weight as a reason to not add a roll bar or cage, but we need to address this added weight elsewhere. The back seat becomes 100% useless with even a 4-point bar, and we only kept the back seat installed in the blue 2001 330 (shown above) because class SCCA rules required it. NASA TT doesn't care, so since we need to shed some pounds already Amy has agreed to let us take the rear seats out (one of the back seats doesn't latch right and flops down during track session anyway).

    We built this Miata's cage with limited street use in mind. The custom door panels still allow for door window use. Hardtop fits snugly

    The headliner in this 330 is also a mess, and made at a lower height to accommodate the sunroof. We have a sunroof delete panel going in this car so we will likely just leave the headliner out, which gives us even more room to add a taller custom roll bar or cage. Then it was the A-pillar, B-pillar and C-pillar interior panels - which are also beyond saving in this red 330, so those car coming out...

    We won't use removable door bars, but the diagonal routing of the door bar in the caged drag race car above can work

    Somehow we have rationalized our way towards a full 6-point roll cage for this car?? Since Amy is this car's primary occupant for street driving, and she sits considerably lower than I do, it can work safely for street use if we build the cage properly. This means leaving some of these ugly interior panels out and pushing the cage all the way to the roof skin. We'll have to compromise a bit on the door bars, to keep the roll up/down windows, but we will show this during the cage construction in a future update. A fire bottle on a quick release mount will also be added, but don't expect to see center or window nets - this is not that kind of build.


    This update has run long so I'm not going to bore you further with too many long term plans, as they keep changing. Our racing budget for this year has tightened up a bit so Amy and I might both be running the 330 for a while. The Corvette needs major suspension upgrades to deal with the mega-sized tires and those might have to wait a month or three.

    We just finished up a test with a PSS10 kit for a Porsche 996, shown above. The spring rates for this Bilstein kit were 2.8 times stiffer than stock, so that was encouraging. That means we might try the PSS10 kit for this E46 before jumping to MCS coilovers, but it is still a gamble. If not, we will probably try even more spring rate on the existing Bilstein PSS coilovers, knowing the ride comfort will suffer further. I'm also working on getting some swaybars for this build, which are in the new build plan points now that we've ditched the splitter and wing ideas (not enough points with the 2016 classing change). And I will personally roll the fenders more at both ends when we do the spring rate change - these 245s need MOAR ROOM.

    I had assumed the lack of a Limited Slip Diff would have been more of a burden than it was, so that can wait for a bit. Probably notice this more in autocross use - which we will try to do in March with Texas Region SCCA, just for fun. There is a gaggle of Mishimoto parts ready to be installed, which includes every single part they make for the E46 330 - radiator, thermostat, fan/shroud, aluminum reservoir, radiator hoses, cold air intake, and more. We will install a new water pump and thermostat housing with all of this in the near future. Luckily both January track events included cold weather, as we ran this 330 pretty hard, often with 2 drivers. At MSR-Houston we put 6+ sessions a day on the E46 with no cooling issues.

    I'd like to see some real gauges in the 330 - water temp, oil pressure and oil temp - along with the oil pan baffle and upgraded oil pump drive that VAC sells. That's got to happen soon, along with a fresh harmonic damper on the front of the engine. That's the short term critical list, for now. Thanks for reading and we will be back with another update in the coming weeks.

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
    New Member
    New Member

    14 Mar 2016 10:06 PM
    Really liking this build and the details your including in it. I'm looking at getting into a bit of time trials so this sort of thing is helpful. Been doing track days for a few years now and this seems like a logical next step.

    Keep it up! thanks!
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    05 Apr 2016 04:17 PM
    Project Update for April 5th, 2016: It has been 6 weeks since my last update and our "Daily Driven Track Car" BMW has logged more wins at a NASA track weekend. We have massively upgraded the brakes, tweaked a few small things, and have some new dampers heading our way. Read below to find out more.


    Its no secret that we had a good bit of tire rub at the first two track events in this BMW 330. Admittedly we're running a very wide wheel and tire combination for a non-M E46. The E46 M3 can easily swallow 285mm front and 315 mm rear tires but this non-M is pretty much limited to a 255mm tire, without fender mods. And while it seems that fitting a 245mm should be easy, this 245/40/17 Hoosier has 10.3" of section width and we're stretching it out on a 17x10" wheel.

    In previous posts I showed where we had used a fender roller on this car at our first event on this red 330Ci, yet still had significant tire rub at the next. I also showed some pics of the more substantial fender mods we had to do to fit an 18x10" wheel and 265/35/18 tire to our blue 300Ci, above. I finally found some time at the shop on a weekend to use the same "heavy handed" clearance methods on the red car.

    Let me preface this with a warning: I don't recommend these methods if you care about your paint. Our red E46 here has some hail dings and other minor paint issues, so it will likely get some paint rework over the summer from our friends at Heritage Collision (who does all of our paint and body work). That said, it was Hammer Time on our little 330!

    At left you can see the array of hammers and dollies I used to smash the inner fender lips flat + persuade the contours out a bit. These have been trapped in my tool box inside a stuck drawer for months. My tool box has been used and abused by everyone in my shop for a decade and several drawers have been overloaded to the point that a few slides got stuck. My big hammers were buried in one of these stuck drawers, so after removing the tools inside and the drawer above, I had access to the hidden treasure! What a mess. I've finally purchased new slides, just need the time to unload my ENTIRE box and install them.

    The front fender mods were relatively easy. These fronts are single wall, thin gauge, stamped steel fenders that have a 90° inner lip on the wheel arch. This was what I slowly hammered/rolled flat to vertical so that it could no longer "catch" and/or cut a tire. The flattest bodywork dolly I had was wrapped in a towel and used to support the outer fender contours (towel keeps it from scratching the paint). Once the inner lip was flat and flush with the outside edge, I slowly massaged the entire arch contour outboard a bit beyond vertical, for some extra room. This is a BIG 245 tire here...

    The rear fenders take considerably more work to maximize inboard tire room. Not only does the lip need to be hammered flat but the contour of the outer fender needs to move outboard about an inch. The rear fender is part of the unibody, and its made up of 3 layers of sheet metal, so it takes a LOT of hammering. Wore my arms out, and my ears. Protecting the paint is not an option back there, and the final result isn't all that smooth, but it is functional and should clear this tire now at full bump. My painter always fixes my sins.

    And while this looks a bit much with the stock 17x7.5" fronts mounted and nearly 3° of camber (top left), with the 17x10" and wide-ass 245 (top right) its still pretty tight. I was going to be testing it for rub at the next event, both front and rear, and hopefully not cutting the sidewalls anymore. If we could just get rid of some lean...


    Another big change before our March NASA event was upgrading the front brakes. This might seem like a long story to get to the tech write-up for this brake upgrade, but please bear with me. This install was the conclusion of a multi-year search for a Big Brake Supplier for us, and I'm glad we tested this new brand on our red 330.

    We have been on the hunt for a "big brake" supplier to work with for several years, so let me explain how we got here. We supply brake components to a lot of folks - brake pads, rotors, hubs, stainless brake lines, brake cooling backing plates and inlet ducts, brake fluid, even some modest brake caliper upgrade kits - but we only supply what we have tested on our own cars, vetted at the track, and sometimes things we have built in-house. We won't just "sell everything" probably to the determent of our bottom line, but I'd rather sell things I know and trust.

    Picking a brake pad company took us about 3 years of testing all manner of brands and compounds on several of our own cars. Once we had found what we felt was the supplier who had the quality, performance, and cost-per-lap pads we reached out to them to become a dealer. Carbotech was what we have been selling for many years now, and we have great relationships with the key people there - and have worked with them to develop new car model offerings on many occasions (sending them OEM samples, scans, or 3D drawings of pads).

    For reasons I won't get into, the head technical folks left CT and started G-LOC Brakes about 2 months ago, with equivalent compounds and major component suppliers, so we followed the brains behind Carbotech to this new company - because we trust people more than a name. I talk a bit about that in this blog post.

    That's important in our search for a Big Brake supplier, so hang in there. We have looked at and installed all of the major BBK brands - AP, StopTech, Alcon, Brembo, Wilwood, etc - and everything we have seen so far had some shortcoming for us. Some brands have gotten too big and branched out to far too many models to care about small shops like us (trucks, SUVs, everything). Others seem to focus on things like caliper colors and going to the most "GIANT" rotor diameters, often ignoring sound engineering. Not everyone wants or needs to run 18-19" wheels, you know?

    Some were pricey and hard to get. Brembo only wants to deal with Professional Race Teams and wouldn't give us the time of day each time we reached out on the phone or at industry shows. Wilwood has a lot of low end calipers - they are the cheapest for a reason, and you get what you pay for with their products. AP makes some great stuff (see above) and we like the folks at Essex (their U.S. importer) but we are limited to the handful of cars Essex develops, and they won't sell us components like calipers separately - which we want to use to make NEW kits they don't want to bother with. So the search continued.

    My engineer Jason and I went to the 2015 PRI show in Indy last December (an industry show much more focused on racing than SEMA). We are always "interviewing" potential new suppliers. This the third year we were specifically looking for a brake supplier we could work with. We looked at EVERYTHING having to do with brakes at this show - the big names, the no name far east imports (nope!), and the new companies.

    On the last day of the show we ran into Danny Puskar, who we knew from Carbotech (one of the guys we trust, now at G-LOC). His booth was right next to the Powerbrake booth, which is a competition brake supplier based out of South Africa. Danny - someone we trust implicitly about brakes - introduced us to the Powerbrake guys at this show and highly recommended we give their products a closer look.

    After about an hour of discussion with their engineers and looking at their product examples at the show, we didn't get fed any B.S. (a rarity!) and we were impressed with the technology and quality they were bringing to the aftermarket caliper/rotor world. They have been operating in South Africa for a while now and have a lot of European race series and Dakar wins, but this was their very first show in USA, after setting up a North American office in North Carolina earlier in 2015.

    Not only did we appreciate the quality, design and engineering they had in their parts - the South African currency is relatively weak compared to the USD, so their prices were exceptionally good. This was one of those rare "you get more than you pay for" situations. They have their rotor rings cast in Italy and machine all of their 2-piece rotors, calipers and brackets in-house in SA on HAAS CNC machines - the quality is there.

    As an engineer and manufacturer myself I can appreciate the little things they do on their machined parts - the hardened coatings and electroplating finishes they use are more robust than the "pretty colors" many other brake manufacturers flock to. The wear surfaces on the calipers that the pads slide over are hardened steel, there are anti-knock back springs in the piston bores, no rubber "dust seals" to burn up like OEM calipers, and they always put temp strips on the calipers and thermal paint on the rotor rings.

    So we finally ordered our first Powerbrake kit in February to test on our E46, hoping it was worth the "class points" and costs - We would find out at the next NASA race. It wasn't like the OEM 330 brakes were terrible. When fitted with competition pads and Motul RBF600 fluid they seemed pretty good so far. We were originally just going to add brake cooling to those and leave it at that, but with the big class points change in January (we lost 7 points) and our subsequent loss of aero mods (splitter and wing were chucked) we suddenly had a few points to spare. And one of the "missions" of this project was to test and develop new products.

    We won't offer something we haven't tested personally, so this E46 would be our first test bed for the Powerbrake kit. On their recommendation we ordered their front Powerbrake PBL44L X-line 4 piston caliper Big Brake Kit for BMW E46 non-M models. It was built around their 340mm x 34mm (2-piece) rotor, which theoretically should fit inside our 17" Forgestar F14 wheels and hopefully the stock 17" wheels.

    Our shop manager Brad installed this entire front brake kit in 2.4 hours, all while taking these pictures during the install. He only had to trim a corner off of the OEM brake dust shield to clear the massive caliper. Great instructions, included all of the brake lines and hardware, the brackets and calipers bolted on perfectly, and the rotors fit great.

    The difference in the caliper sizes was enormous! Strangely enough, the massive aluminum 4-piston / 4 pad calipers were lighter than the tiny OEM steel single piston units + sliding bracket. The stock 1-piston sliding caliper / bracket / pads weighed in at 14.50 lbs each and the Powerbrake 4-piston caliper (9.80 lbs) with pads and mounting bracket (0.78 lbs), which was a savings of 3.92 pounds per corner.

    The rotors were vastly different in size as well. We talked about the 325 vs 330 rotors back in an earlier post (when we upgraded to 330 front brakes on the original #JackDaniels) but the change to this 340x32mm rotor was even more drastic. The THICKNESS was massive, and even with an aluminum hat they are 21.86 lbs for this 340mm (13.4") diameter rotor assembly. Compare that to the steel 1-piece 330 rotor, which measures in at 325mm (12.8") diameter (and 25mm thick) and 19.84 pounds, for a gain of 2.02 pounds per corner. If my math is right that means we still lose 1.9 pounds per corner with this MASSIVE upgrade in rotor and caliper components.

    Other BBK companies want to move folks to ever larger diameter rotors to get the added heat capacity and rotor cooling. 355mm and 380mm rotors with 6- or even 8-piston calipers are becoming the norm. Powerbrake knows that with more diameter comes more rotational mass, so they will often offer some of their BBKs with slightly smaller diameter rotors, but with thicker rotor rings. This gives the thermal mass needed for track abuse, but at a lower hit to rotational inertia. And they use more 4-piston kits than 6-. When the heat gets too bad for a even their 6-piston (rare) they use a water cooled jacket in their calipers - for events like the Dakar rally. So their engineering is a little more thought out than most, which I like. They also don't offer Bling Daddy powder coating colors for their calipers - just hard anodize grey. No frou frou up in here.

    continued below
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    05 Apr 2016 04:28 PM
    continued from above

    Going from a sliding caliper to a fixed caliper should make for better brake feel and less chance for pad knock-back, and the massive caliper size should make for much more heat resistance. There is more brake torque, more pad area, better rotor cooling, and a lot more thermal mass to this front brake system compared to the stock 330 bits. No more holding back on the brakes for me - I'm a Left Foot Braker that tends to abuse pads and rotors, so the next event was going to be a good test.

    Of course the Forgestar F14 17x10" wheels cleared by a mile (above left), which we tested long before installing this kit. At the last minute before this NASA event we went to go mount the stock wheels and street tires back on... and the 5-spoke 17" 330 wheels didn't fit! It was close but no cigar. Then we tried the hideous Foose 18" wheels and the oddly placed valve stem hit the caliper. WTF? Last we tried the 17x8" wheels off our 328i Sedan, which have been the daily wheels and tires on the 325Ci (JackDaniels) for months. And they fit! (above right) Whew...

    NASA AT MSR-CRESSON (1.7 CCW) MARCH 12-13, 2016

    It rained the entire week before this March NASA race, and we had stiffer springs on hand to replace the 350F/450R Hypercos we had already upgraded to. It came down to the final hours on Friday when the weather looked like it was not going to let up before we made the call to leave the springs alone. Softer springs make a car easier to drive in the wet, so we punted on that upgrade.

    Amy couldn't drive this weekend, as she was going to be out of town for a family emergency. I mentioned to my crew here that I needed someone to fill in for her when our Order Desk Manager Jon started talking a bit of smack, so I surprised him with an offer to drive the red BMW in HPDE, and he took it!

    We did some last minute prep on the 330 and he drove it out to Motorsport Ranch Cresson on Saturday morning. I left the shop at 7:20 pm on Friday night with the TTC classed C4 Corvette in our trailer and slogged through the rain to get to the track. I was unhooking at 9 pm, in the pitch dark, parked in the grass, on a steep hill. There was NOWHERE on pavement to park, as even with the rain looming, over 200 people showed up to run HPDE, TT, and W2W.

    Saturday morning it was still wet and sprinkling, so I drove the BMW in the first TT "Warm Up" session on the 245mm Dunlop Star Spec II street tires, with Jon riding shotgun. I had hoped to show him "the line" (this was his first time driving at MSR-C), but anywhere on the 16+ year old, original track surface that was "the line" was polished smooth. Add in the water and it was like driving on ice, so the trick in the rain here is to NOT drive anywhere near the proper driving line. The marbles is where the grip is, strangely enough.

    Event Photo Gallery: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/NASA-MSR-C-031216/

    After that drift-fest TT warm-up we came in - and realized we forgot to install the AMB transponder on the BMW. No official time, doh! So that meant that I would be gridding in the next TT session at the back, no matter which car I brought to grid. I ran the red 330 again and got a time that looked like it would be good enough for the win for the day (4.5 seconds ahead).

    Due to some confusion at registration it was showing Jon as the TTD driver in the 330, but he ran in HPDE3/4. They fixed it in the final official results for Saturday. Anyway, since the TTD class margin looked safe I handed the BMW over to Jon to drive the rest of the day and hopped into my TTC Corvette (I registered and entered 2 TT cars for Team Vorshlag at this event, just like in January).

    The TTD class only had 2 entrants (3 dropped out late in the week - probably due to the threat of rain) so there was no chance to win Hoosiers in the BMW. We had 6 cars in TTC (we need 5 for Hoosier to pay 2 tires to 1st each day), so I concentrated my driving efforts into that car and class to hopefully get some tires Saturday. The C4 was on a sticker set we won last year, but the 330 was running some pretty "tired" Hoosiers and needed a new pair of shoes!

    This number of cars in class - and the potential to win tires - would influence how many sessions I drove in the TTD 330 on both days. There are only 4 Time Trial run sessions per day (and the 1st one Saturday doesn't count), and there's not enough time allotted to try to drive 2 cars in one session (nor is that allowed), so I had to ration out the sessions between both cars carefully. Ideally I would drive ~2 sessions in each car, win both classes both days, set both TTC and TTD track records, and win 4 tires in TTC. I already set the TT3 track record here back in 2014, so I was watching the guys in that class, too. As we all know, things rarely go to plan!

    You can read more about the results in the TTC Corvette starting here, but I was fairly hopeful that the Corvette could reset the TTC record and take the class win, but that proved to be only half true. While we eventually ran more than 3 seconds quicker than the old TTC record that weekend, the win eluded me on Saturday. Ended up getting P2 by 2 tenths that day. I was fighting some small handling and braking issues in the 25 year old Corvette, and possibly the only thing I needed was more seat time in this all new setup (we had just moved that car down from TT2 to TTC).

    After lunch the rain finally let up and began to dry, so we unloaded the Corvette. The track surface dried off in TT session 3 and I took the C4 out for the first time on Saturday. Due to the transponder mistake in the first TT Warm Up session in the 330, I would be starting at the back of the grid in BOTH cars. This meant I was fighting traffic all day in each entry, which didn't help my chances for getting a clear lap in either.

    Jon was in HPDE3/4 and as the track dried up we swapped on the Hoosiers (right before the 2nd TT session, where I drove the BMW) and he was having a blast. I saw the TT "needle go into the vein" for Jon this weekend! I fought the Corvette the rest of Saturday and placed 2nd in that car and 1st in the TTD BMW. That netted us 2 etched glass trophies at the Saturday night party and dinner, which was cool, but no contingency tires and no new track records. Sunday was a new day, and a new race, so I'd try again in both cars!

    Sunday morning was a bit of a mess and we were a little late to the track. We rushed to the track from the hotel and I made it there just in time to get into the 330, throw some fuel in it, and make it to grid with 1 minute to spare.

    I ran the first TT session in the BMW and again was stuck mired in traffic, clawing my way through the middle of the pack. This was probably the worst session of the day for setting times, as it was cold and foggy again, with just a hint of moisture on the track surface on the first lap.

    Getting a good lap in an underpowered car is actually pretty difficult. This BMW cannot pass even a TTE classed Miata in anger - they have to lift to let me by, or early brake. Luckily that's where this car SHINED all weekend - this car could outbrake ANYTHING! Jon and I both remarked at how effortless the car would take brake abuse, especially from two autocrossers who were using 10/10ths of the brakes on every turn. The grip was good in the car but the bodyroll was still pretty excessive. At least my fender rolling work was worthwhile - we noted zero tire rubbing issues all weekend, even with the excessive suspension travel allowed by the soft-ish springs and stock swaybars.

    Over the weekend we ran the car in back-to-back sessions (TT to HPSE3/4) a total of 3 separate times, with zero time to allow the brakes to cool. I would do my session, come into grid, swap with Jon, and he'd head directly out. That should tax most braking systems, but the Powerbrake bits just laughed at us. Sure, the pads supplied in the kit were noisy and dusty - as all good track pads are - but they never faded once. Not even a little.

    This was in direct contrast to the brakes on my Corvette. This car, which was 100 pounds lighter and running the exact same tire, was cooking the brakes in about 4-5 laps. We're chasing 25 year old rem master cylinders in that car, but the pedal NEVER felt as good as it did in the E46. The differences in pedal modulation and feel, braking power and heat resistance between the two cars was DRASTIC.

    I have spent so many years in competitive motorsports on OEM based calipers that I was just used to the semi-mushy feel and limited thermal capacity of stock style brakes. Sure, good pads, fluid and brake cooling always help, but there are limits. With the BMW that day, nothing could phase the brakes. At least one thing worked well on that car!

    I ran a 1:27.604 in the car Saturday but only managed a 1:27.854 on the first TT session Sunday, which ended up being the only session I ran the 330 that day. I turned the car over to Jon for the rest of the day again and hopped into the Corvette to try to chase down the TTC class leader. Jon put 3 more sessions in the BMW that day and had a lot of fun. I drove right-seat with him in one session Saturday, after the track dried, to show him a few pointers - which he picked up very quickly.

    As you can see the BMW still has LOTS of bodyroll but its a tick less than the first event here back in January, where Amy drove it on the PSS springs at SCCA Club Trials. Kind of regret not bringing those other springs, as we had plenty of dry sessions both days to test that. Probably would have been outside the damping range of these non-adjustable PSS shocks, though.

    I was so rushed on Sunday in the one session I drove TTD that I was over-driving the BMW a bit, which is all too obvious in the picture above. I put two wheels off on that lap but managed to keep it straight (4 wheels off or a spin DSQ's your TT times for the entire session) and scored a good enough time for the TTD win, or so I hoped. I had much bigger issues in the TTC car, putting 4 off in one session and losing the master cylinder completely in the next. That car went into the trailer with a 1:21.90 lap time, but with only a 2nd place finish, no tires, and no track record.

    Since the NASA Texas website was out of date nobody knew what the TTD track record really was. I had thought I had set it the day before, but looking at it more closely a week later I realized the record was missed by a few tenths with my Saturday time. So while I managed to get another 1st in TTD Sunday in that one traffic filled, 2-tires-in-the-dirt session, no track record was set by this car, either. I missed both class track records by about 3 tenths... oh well, you can't buy talent!

    continued below
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    05 Apr 2016 04:29 PM
    continued from above

    I've been searching for a second video camera setup to use in the BMW, but the new gear didn't show up in time for this MSR-C race. Jon brought his GoPro to use, but we were both so busy all weekend that we didn't set it up in the 330 until after I had turned the car over to him on Sunday. So no in-car TT video of my dismal laps in the 330 this time, sorry. The new vidcam will be here in time for TWS, where we should hopefully have a little more "motion control" in the suspension.

    Sunday TT Session 3 in-car video from the TTC C4

    I did make one in-car video from that weekend, in the TTC Corvette, which was considerably faster than our TTD entry. Nothing special here, just showing what this track looks like, one letter class up. With the same driver, the exact same Hoosier 245mm R7 tire and similar weights, and worse brakes, the TTC C4 was nearly 6 seconds a lap quicker than my best TTD lap time. Part of that was me having a little more seat time in the C4, but mostly it came down to SPRING RATE and HORSEPOWER. The C4 is at the class minimum 3260 pounds (it was weighed 12 pounds over in Tech, so 3272) and makes 288 whp (near the class P-to-W limit). The 330 is at 3430 pounds and makes 195 whp (see dyno test below) - which is both 50 whp down and +150 pounds too heavy for TTD class. The C4 also has a massively upgraded 1200# transverse front spring compared to the 350# front coilover springs on the 330.

    Obviously we have to address the lack of power, the extra weight, and the low spring rates (and subsequent damper upgrade) needed to make the E46 more competitive in its class. We're into year 2 of prep on the "Budget TTC Corvette", so it has a bit of a head start. We should realistically have been running 1:23s or better in a max effort TTD car, so we have a lot of work left to do to this BMW. We are taking the prep in deliberate, planned stages, so stay tuned for more upgrades as the season progresses and hopefully we can nudge closer to some TTD track records - eventually.

    During this NASA weekend I was also instructing, and worked with 4 different HPDE1 students. Sometimes that meant sprinting to the grid to meet them in time for their sessions, after getting out of one of the two TT cars. The grid was way back on the unused 1.3 mile road course, due to the lack of paved parking area on the wet grassy areas. Instructing was fun, but made for a hectic weekend and a lot of running around - I need to get a scooter or small track support vehicle, something to get around the paddock in more quickly. All it takes is money, right?

    Official results for Saturday (left) and Sunday (right)

    Overall the weekend was a mixed success. Driving two TT cars + instructing + talking to customers at our ever-busy trailer paddock area makes for a hectic weekend, but it was also a lot of fun. Jon got a check ride for TT and should have his comp license the next time he shows up to a NASA event. I managed two 1st place finishes in TTD (with only one timed TT session each day in this very under-prepped car) and two 2nd places in TTC. No new track records set by our cars, but our old TT3 record here (1:17.2) managed to stay untouched - for now.

    When Jon and I were switching the street tires back onto the 330, we noted that they still had excellent wear across the tread, even with the massive body roll. At least we seem to have the camber, toe and tire pressures dialed in well. Since we didn't win a new set this weekend, I suspect this 6-weekend old set of R7s will be used once again on the 330 at TWS. The front brakes also looked exceptionally good - with virtually no visible pad or rotor wear - and only the first thermal paint band had "turned". That means the rotor had crossed 527° F but had not reached the next band, which is at 860 °F.

    I cannot explain with words how GOOD the brakes felt and performed, but I am now a believer. Glad we took the gamble and tried out this new Powerbrake kit on our car. They also flew in for our annual SCCA Tech day + Open House event (shown above) and their rep talked to 200+ people in our shop that day. After that meet-and-great + our recommendations, we've got a half dozen cars lined up for Powerbrake kits - some of which will be new models we have to measure for them.

    After switching the tires on the BMW we moved the trailer out of the grassy swamp and onto pavement, then loaded the Corvette for the trip home. After instructing in the last 5:20 pm HPDE session, I didn't get out of there until after 6 pm, and that 2 hour tow home made for a another 12 hour day. But compared to my normal work days, this was a breeze.


    We've been pretty slammed in our shop since the NASA event, but I found time on the next weekend to go to a Dyno Day at True Street Motorsports, who tunes all of the LSx and Coyote 5.0 powered cars we build at our shop. They dyno'd JackDaniels earlier this year, shown above.

    This time I took "Fireball", the red 330, and was first in line for their Dyno Day (they did something like 60 cars that day). We set the bar pretty low that day with our baseline stock dyno pull on this 164K mile 330, but we at least had something to go by for this build!

    Sure enough, the car made about what I guessed it would on their DynoJet chassis dyno: 195 whp and 200 wtq. Not bad for a bone stock, 16 year old, 164K mile car rated at 225 hp at the crank. As I wrote last time, running at the class minimum weight of 3285 pounds, and with the +0.8 P-to-W "bonus" for running a 245mm tire, we can make up to 244.2 whp in TTD class. Now the real question is... how do we gain 50 whp without burning too many "class points"??

    Baseline Dyno Video: https://youtu.be/zAk8xZwOkgg

    The underwhelming video above shows parts of the two back-to-back pulls they made on our red BMW. It was done in top gear, revved to 6000 rpm redline, and had a fan blowing over the radiator the whole time. They know how to do NASA certified dyno pulls as they've done them on a half dozen different cars for us. I just wish they had the ability to custom tune the BMW computer.


    I need to wrap this up so let's see what's next. I ordered MCS TT2 internal double monotube coilovers earlier this week so we can finally get those installed with some REAL spring rates before our next event, which is...

    Next few NASA Texas events:
    • April 22-24 – Texas World Speedway
    • May 21-22 NOLA Motorsports Park – Crossover with NOLA
    • June 11-12 – Hallett Motor Racing Circuit

    Of course this is the fourth or fifth "last ever" event at TWS, but I don't have much faith in those claims. We'll hopefully have a better sorted suspension to go along with the brakes and tires - both of which worked damned well. We'll still be down on power but we will address that later in the summer. One of the two Whiteline swaybars is en route to us (the rear, ugh) so we'll have to figure out something for the front.

    We have TWO more E46 chassis we are going to be building soon, one of them with the PSS suspension coming off of this car. I'll show those builds as they happen in future updates. That's enough for this time. Thanks for reading!

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    25 Oct 2016 07:48 PM
    Project Update for October 23, 2016: It has been 6 months since my last update here and we have done a LOT of work to both the red 330Ci (to make it a better race car) and the blue 325Ci (to make it a nicer street car). I will briefly cover the 325Ci updates then jump into the 330 mods. There are two NASA events we have run since the last entry but I only had time to cover the April NASA event this time. Lots more work and another event will be covered in my next update.


    After we purchased the red 2001 330Ci, keeping the blue 325Ci didn't make a lot of sense. But as we have realized many times in the past, it is awful handy to have a "back up" street car for use when a "dual purpose" race/street car is in the shop undergoing updates or repairs. We've been back and forth on keeping or selling Jack Daniels, but either way, I couldn't let it be sold in its current condition.

    We have done a LOT of repair work on this car in the past year, to the point where I can sell this without shame to anyone. All of the leaks, broken parts, and dash lights have been fixed. I had made the worst mistake on this car when buying it - finding an example that needed too many exterior and interior repairs and with an odometer showing nearly 200K miles. No matter how nice we made it, at this point we would be losing money when we went to sell it - due to the mileage and dollars spent.

    To make the sale easier and net the most of our investment back I made the call to fix a lot of little interior and exterior issues. First up were the interior A-pillar coverings, which are almost always trashed on BMWs of this era.

    Some previous owner had tried a half-assed repair by gluing the fabric back to the A-pillar covers, but instead they smeared glue all over the windshield and their dirty paw prints all over the fabric. Looked terrible. Brad got the old A-pillars off, removed all of the glue overspray, and installed gray panels sourced new from BMW.

    He cleaned up the door panels making them look good as new. The broken sunroof was manually wound down and sealed shut, permanently. No more chances of leaks when it rained. The sunroof mechanism ALWAYS breaks on the E46 chassis, given enough time, so at least now it is fully closed.

    The leather rear seats were cleaned and conditioned. The matching black leather front seats (swapped in from the 330) were also cleaned and oiled. The trunk interior was shampoo'd and detailed.

    The factory leather cover was literally falling off the steering wheel, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. I spent too much time investigated the many options to have this wheel replaced or recovered. These ranged from as little as $10 (cheap slip-on cover) to as much as $400 (professionally die cut, stitched and installed leather cover). I briefly thought about a $150 kit that we could custom order and install in the shop, but after reading about horror stories of 10+ hours being burned trying to get it stretched, fitted, and stitched - and potentially still looking like crap - I hesitated.

    Time is money and even with a $150 "DIY" custom-cut wheel cover, that had to be stitched on and fitted, I couldn't afford to tie up my crew or myself putting one of these on. The return was too low. So I went with a $21 leather cover that goes over just the outer 3/4 rim of the wheel. They come in a number of colors and diameter ranges, and I got the closest one that matched this car. It looks better than the dilapidated factory cover, for sure, and it went on easily. Does it look factory? No. You still get what you pay for, but at least it wasn't falling off now.

    If you remember why we call this car "Jack Daniels" it was because it had a number of "whiskey dents" on the exterior when we bought it. We were buying it for a race car and had intended to always fix the dings during a paint job down the road. Well our newest tech, Donnie, has a twin brother, Kris, that does PDR work. So when he had a break in his schedule (a rainy day) he popped over to our shop to remove some dents from Jack Daniels. The dents in the left rear fender were fairly significant but they are now GONE.

    He took out 90% of the dents on this car in a day, and the results were quite amazing. The hail dings in the roof and trunk were easy, but I simply couldn't get over how well he removed previous crash damaged to the left rear fender (completely gone) and the huge vertical crease in the driver's door (mostly gone).

    I had always assumed we would have to replace the hood, as the front corner was caved in and the leading edge had a big dent in it. Kris got the dents out of there, too. Amazing.

    There were some scratches along the sides we couldn't do much about, but two chunks of missing paint on the hood now became the biggest focal point on the car. We had some BMW paint code matching spray paint cans on hand to paint the front headlight trim (and later the upper trunk handle) but it wasn't a good match for these two spots on the hood. Even with hours of blending, wet sanding, and clear coat application they just don't match. Probably because the hood had been resprayed in the past in a slightly lighter shade by a hack paint shop. Oh well - at least these spots won't rust.

    The old window tint was purple, bubbled and just terrible. I asked Donnie to remove all of that from the side and rear windows. Then we cleaned up and polished the glass, and the car looked even better. Lastly the rear trunk release handle broke off. It happens all too often on E46 BMWs. Its a plastic / fiberglass piece that bolts to the trunk, but if you pull up on the trunk lid when the trunk release doesn't pop correctly (common) it flexes the threaded holes in the structure. Over enough time it breaks clean off (above right). We purchased a new piece from BMW, painted the exterior with our paint code matched spray can and clear, and bolted it on. Now it looks like as good as new.

    The best upgrade was the wheel and tire swap. Off came that fugly Foose wheels for good. After some musical chairs with wheels on the 330, these split 5-spoke "Coupe wheels" were bolted onto the 325 here. This was because the 17x8 E46 "sedan wheels" we borrowed from the 328i were the only E46 17" wheels that cleared Powerbrakes on the 330. So the 325 benefited with the best looking set of street wheels we had on hand for an E46.

    It was about $500 in PDR repairs and $200 in interior and trunk handle parts from BMW, plus more hours of cleaning and installation than I want to admit. I'm happy with the final results of this final round of "beautification" on the 325Ci. The dents and dings are gone, save one small ding in the passenger door and a hint of the crease in the driver's door, both of which would required the window motor mechanisms to be removed to get access to repair them.

    Now I wouldn't be ashamed to sell this car, and if someone offered me $5,000 for this car... well I'd be losing close to $2000 - we just spent too much on the car, repair parts, updates, and hours on this 200K mile BMW. It drives perfectly now, has up-sized 330 front brakes, we fixed ALL of the issues and dash lights, it has some bushing upgrades to troublesome areas, and the wheel and tires are spot on. The the interior and exterior look loads better than they should for a car of this age and mileage.

    Amy was content to daily drive Jack Daniels and did so all summer, while I pondered the next steps on the 330 and what to do with the 325. Then she got a wild hair and found the 2013 Scion FR-S above for barely five figures. Due to some development needs for other projects that revolve around the BRZ/FR-S (86) chassis, she bought it and now daily drives that instead.

    BUT... there is a pretty aggressive development schedule for this car over the coming winter, including another Powerbrake front big brake install (already installed and shown above), LS3 engine swap, 315mm tires and wide body, and a massive round of suspension products we want to design/build/test/install. That means that good old Jack Daniels might stick around for a few more months until this FR-S is back in one piece.


    I have mentioned this 328i sedan before and it has undergone a lot of work over the summer, but I will talk more about this one when it is complete and ready to sell.

    We have done the full rear subframe reinforcement, Powerflex bushings everywhere, new Febi-Bilstein control arms, Jongbloed wheels, Kirk 4-point roll bar, and brand new racing seats - including this Sparco Circuit II on a slick Cobra locking slider.

    We have also installed a Kirk 4-point roll bar, a pair of new Schroth Profi-II 6-point harnesses, built custom aluminum door panels, and are making a pair of aluminum false floor panels. Then we will replace the cooling system and exhaust. The goal is to make someone a good "track rat" that still had roll-up windows and AC. I will show this in more detail in my next post.


    If you have been reading my build threads over the past 12 years you may have seen the theme in them all - we install a lot of monotube adjustable dampers. We spent a lot of years (2005-2012) using AST and Moton products, then migrated more to Bilstein in 2011 and MCS a year later.

    Bilstein PSS with included (soft) springs

    We knew there would be performance limits that this car would reach on the Bilstein PSS dampers but didn't foresee how much roll and dive the included springs (above) would produce on the "little" 245mm Hoosier R7. It felt like the car was going to bicycle on me, it just had so damn much lean. We ran it like this at the January Club Trials and NASA MSR-H events, and quickly moved to firmer spring rates.

    Bilstein PSS with 350F/450 rear Hyperco spring rates

    When Jon and I both drove the 330 at the NASA event at MSR-Cresson in MArch, with the significantly stiffer springs, it STILL had too much roll. We had hoped the larger diameter Whiteline swaybars would arrive in time to test this modified Bilstein setup with those, to help dial out some of the roll at least. The dive would still be there, though. Unfortunately there was a delay on getting the swaybars that we ordered in January, and they didn't both arrive until September. By then we had put on the MCS doubles.

    I felt that the non-adjustable PSS dampers were at their limit with the upgraded Hyperco springs and the 350#/in front and 450 #/in rear rates. We street drove it on these springs, and while I thought it was too firm, Amy, Jon and Jason felt like it was still more than adequate for street use. So we will indeed offer this PSS kit with this Hyperco spring package (see above) for dual-purpose use (street/track) for a budget minded E46 3 series. This is an alternative to the Motorsports level dampers we us on competition cars.

    continued below
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    25 Oct 2016 07:48 PM
    continued from above

    After 3 events in this car with "limited success" in NASA TTD, it was time to step it up to proper spring rates and Motorsport dampers to tame them. MCS makes four shock kit offerings for the BMW E46, including (what we have named) the: TT1, TT2, RR2 and RR3 offerings. These are names we use to refer to their "1 way non remote" (TT1), 3 way adjustables with Remote Reservoirs (RR3), etc. The nomenclature "TT" came from the fact that NASA Time Trial letter classes penalize remote reservoir shocks, so these "non-remotes" are ideal for Time Trial, hence TT1 and TT2.

    After carefully weighing the costs, class points, and performance potential of this car, we selected the TT2, double adjustables without remotes. Unlike the AST 4200 we helped develop back in 2008, which had a knob on top for rebound and a knob on the bottom for compression, these TT2 dampers have a single "2 step" knob on the top of the dampers. Push the knob down and you adjust Rebound. Press the center pin and the knob pops up, then you can adjust Compression. It is a novel idea and it works very well and there is no "cross talk" between the two settings.

    The crew pulled the entire Vorshlag/Hyperco/Bilstein suspension off and installed that on the E46 328i sedan. That meant we needed to build another set of camber plates, shock mounts, and ride height adjusters. Then they installed the TT2s with Hyperco springs in 600#/in front and 750 #/in rear rates - nearly doubling again the modified rates used on the Bilstein PSS shocks.

    How do we get to these spring rates? It has a lot to do with the tire width and compound used, and of course is based on a decade+ of testing with various BMWs - including previous E46 330 TTD builds (like the blue car below).

    I drove the car on the street a few times on the street tires with the new MCS setup, dialed in the knobs for street use, and it didn't ride half bad. This is about as extreme as I like to go on a daily driven car, but it is live-able with a proper street tire.


    One pre-race ritual that I always insist we always do on our shop race cars is: remove, clean, and inspect a car's race wheels. With the wheels off the car, the inner barrel and spokes can be properly cleaned of tire klag and brake dust, then the inner spokes can be inspected visually for cracks. Once you see a cracked spoke, that wheel is done, and the others from the same set are suspect. Given a long enough timeline ALL ALUMINUM WHEELS FAIL, too.

    You cannot spend your way out of this inescapable fact. Lighter weight aluminum wheels used for racing see higher loads (from both racing tires & brakes) and more impacts (FIA curbs, offs) so they tend to have a shorter lifespan than heavier, OEM aluminum wheels used only on the street. When we brag about losing 5-10 pounds per corner after fitting wider racing wheels, we do so knowing that this will likely shorten the life of the lighter racing wheel vs the heavy/narrower OEM wheels.

    If we didn't care about weight we could use heavier aluminum wheels, or even wheels made of titanium or steel, and see a longer lifespan. These two unusual metal alloys for wheels have higher fatigue or endurance limits than aluminum alloys. In certain cases, titanium and steel can have an infinite endurance limit. These are the only two metals where this applies, and only when the loads never exceed a certain level (the flat line in the graph above). I learned about this curious characteristic of steel and titanium when getting my engineering degree, but you can learn more here.

    Our GRM Challenge E30 V8 car used a steel 15x10" wheel for costs reasons

    OEMs have used steel wheels on automobiles and trucks for nearly 100 years, due to their low costs, ease of manufacture, and very long lifespans. If they are made to resist corrosion, and designed so that the loads stay below their endurance limit, they could last forever. Yes, these metals can be built to withstand an infinite number of cycles.

    Why don't we see more Titanium or Steel racing wheels? Well for one, Titanium is very hard to produce (costly), weld, and even cast. Steel is cheap to produce and welds easily (most steel wheels are welded), but it corrodes badly (has to be 100% painted or plated), and has triple the density of aluminum. Aluminum alloys are lighter and have half the bending strength of steel, so for the same weight wheel they are actually stronger (1/3 the density but 1/2 the bending strength). And aluminum is easy to cast (1300°F melting point vs 2900°F), can be heat treated to improve strength further, and resist corrosion in raw form. Magnesium is even less dense than aluminum, and can have a higher strength-to-weight ratio, but this material is VERY hard to weld and can burn at very high temperatures in a fire. Magnesium can even burn under water...

    I have purchased steel race wheels for exactly one race car in the past 3 decades, and that was done simply for cost reasons. The set of inexpensive 15x10" steel Aero Racing Wheels (chrome plated wheels shown above) came from the world of circle track racers, where there are options for all budget levels.

    This GRM Challenge BMW was also built around a wider and larger diameter, yet lighter, 18x11" CCW 3-piece aluminum wheel

    We built our entire "GRM $2010 Challenge" race car around this $200 set of wheels, but also had a set of proper 18x11" 3-piece aluminum CCW wheels. We put the 18" wheels on for testing and NASA TT use, and then these went on for good after the 2010 and 2011 GRM events were completed. The steelies were heavier but they were made as light as any steel racing wheel gets, and they still bend somewhat easily. If steel wheels are built to last a long time, like most OEM steel wheels, they become pretty heavy.

    Carbon Shelby GT350R 19×11 front wheel ($4,174.93 each) and 19×11.5 rear wheels ($3,536.33 each) ain't cheap!

    And before you say "What about carbon fiber wheels?!" there are several downsides to that material for wheel use. First is cost - the prices above are for an OEM carbon wheel made in large volumes. We recently weighed the carbon wheel and tire combo from a Shelby GT350R, and they were still slightly heavier than our typical S550 Mustang aluminum racing wheel and tire offerings. The costs are more than 10 times as much, too. This 20x10.5" set of carbon GTR wheels is $15,760 and they aren't much lighter, either. So for now, until there is a big shift in material technologies, we're in an aluminum wheel world....

    Does your car have R-compounds or racing slicks? Lots of aero load? Your wheels have a lower lifespan

    We have been using and abusing Forgestar wheels since 2012, as well as D-Force (since 2007), Enkei (since long before that), CCW and other brands. We have beat on the Forgestar wheels mercilessly, using them with big aero and 345mm Hoosier A7 levels of grip, and have only seen 2 failures on Forgestar wheels - once when my wife side-swiped an FIA curb going sideways at 100 mph, and the other when I crashed at 155mph in the Mustang above. In both cases the wheel deformed properly and soaked up large amounts of force before seeing permanent plastic deformation.

    Do you use the curbing? Go off track a lot? Your wheels have a lower lifespan

    The only time we tend to see multiple spoke fractures (aka: complete wheel failure) on any brand of aluminum wheel is when a user woefully ignores the signs of age, abuse and wear on their wheels. We have seen similar failures on virtually any brand of wheel you can name. If you dig deep enough, there is usually a root cause for each failure, too.

    Inspecting your wheels for fatigue cracks keeps you from having a catastrophic wheel failure. This one looks perfect

    Fatigue cracks in spokes always seem to show up before the wheel fails. The signs are still visible AFTER failure, if the wheels are inspected properly. The "age" of a crack is evidenced by the discoloration of corrosion (the thin aluminum oxide layer that forms on raw aluminum exposed to water and oxygen) on the surface of the break. When old cracks are ignored, they propagate over time and lead to complete spoke failure. Once one spoke goes the rest soon follow, sometimes within just minutes of use. I have walked the pits and more than once pointed out a broken wheel spoke to racers in the past - its an easy thing to overlook. A total wheel failure is not a fun thing to see the results of on a race car, either.

    Luckily in 29 years of racing I have not had a wheel failure, but that's probably because I always WASH AND INSPECT MY WHEELS BEFORE EVERY RACE. I have caught fatigue cracks in spokes on several sets of wheels before they failed (not a Forgestar set, yet). I'm also not in the habit of jumping curbs, crashing through the infield, or ignores what these higher impact loads are doing to my wheels.

    Just please take this advice to heart - no matter what wheel brand of wheel you use, please: remove, wash and inspect your race wheels regularly. Just like you inspect the brake pad depth, rotor condition, fluid levels/condition, and the other critical systems on your car before every outing, do the same for your wheels.

    Also please don't be fooled by troll posts, internet pictures with no background, and fanboi hype - NO brand of aluminum race wheels is immune to fatigue limits or crash impacts, and nothing is going to last forever. Clean and inspect your wheels regularly, with your focus on the INSIDE of the wheel spokes, near their junctions to the hubs and barrel. Stay one step ahead of the fatigue life of your wheels, knowing that they have a finite lifespan and are a consumable product on all racing cars. Buying used wheels is a total crap shoot, for this very reason. If you see a crack in any wheel, DESTROY at least one spoke completely and THROW THE WHEEL AWAY, so nobody rummages through your metal recycle pile to re-use a failed wheel.


    OK, I will put my soap box away now. One other small upgrade that was done at the same time as the MCS install was to custom fabricate and aluminum dead pedal shown above. It was needed. Why? We had been bracing ourselves into the seat (no harnesses yet) under braking during the first 3 events and the cracked plastic OEM piece had simply shattered. It was gone, but we still needed a place to push back into the seat.

    Yes, this method of dead pedal "pushback" is a janky as hell, and no replacement for proper 6-point racing harnesses that hold your body into the racing seat under braking properly. Again, we are always strapped for time on our own race cars. "Do what I say, not what I do."

    While I do recommend OEM 3-point retractable seatbelts be used on the street with a fixed back racing seat, you should have 5-, 6- or 7-point FIA approved racing harnesses installed for track use with race seats. But if you are in a pinch and have to use a 3-point OEM belt on a racing seat, please route the belts as shown above (through the lap belt openings). This puts the load of the lap belt onto the hip bones and not higher, digging into your abdomen and the soft bits in an impact.

    This is why 4-point harnesses are no longer allowed in HPDE - they ride up into your gut!

    What we have in our 330 now (3-point OEM belts and racing seats) Its not ideal, but it is better than the stock seats. We will add proper 6-point Schroth harnesses soon, but for now this is the safest alternative. Its a damn sight better on track than the OEM seats, or the 4-point belts I see people try to use - like the image above. Names have been changed to protect the innocent...

    4 point roll bar added to our 99 328i E46 sedan. We will do something more substantial in the 330

    We installed this Kirk 4-point roll bar above into our 1999 E46 328i sedan we are building for a "track rat". That 4-point bar fits well, and makes for a great place to hang harnesses as well as proving rollover protection. Still, I would rather see our crew build something more substantial for our "daily driven track car" E46 330. The time it takes to build a cage (60+ hours) just hasn't been available to tackle this all summer, so we're "riding dirty" with one racing seat and the OEM belts on the 330 for now.

    continued below
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    25 Oct 2016 07:49 PM
    continued from above

    NASA AT TWS (CCW) APRIL 23-24, 2016

    I've raced in 12 events in 8 different cars since my last post in this thread, and its difficult for me to keep track of them all. Normally I take audio notes after each event, plus capture hundreds of pictures and videos that are recorded, edited, sorted, and stored on our smugmug site after each event. So I am going back now to April to cover the NASA event... and my audio notes are missing.

    That means I am gonna wing it 6 months later. This ended up being THE worst finish I've ever had in 11 years of NASA TT racing, so these were not fond memories. We share the good with the bad here, and I learned some lessons that I won't soon forget. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

    Event picture and video gallery: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/NASA-at-TWS-CCW-April-23-24/

    After taking the TTC classed Corvette to the paint shop for a total respray inside and out, both Amy and I had to share driving duties the BMW 330Ci for this NASA race weekend. At least we could use the enclosed trailer to haul the BMW down, instead of Amy driving it the 3+ hours to College Station, TX, on the street tires.

    The weather was nice and we were told this was the "Last Ever" TWS race weekend with NASA, but we had heard that several times before. It seems like this facility might not be getting demolished and turned into hundreds of homes like the track owners keep speculating - they keep opening up event scheduling, 6 months at a time.

    We arrived at the track late on Friday afternoon, which meant all of the paved paddock spaces were long gone. These multiple "last ever" event announcements do bring out the racers, and 250+ HPDE, TT and W2W competitors arrived to try to set the "final" class lap records for this track. We were set to run the 2.9 mile road course Counter Clock Wise (and would do so again in October, when yet another "last ever" date opened up for NASA).

    We parked the trailer "on the beach", a sandy section underneath the 48 year old TWS sign - a sign that looks like at any moment it is going to fall down (time has taken its toll on some of the facilities here). Driving only one car meant I could concentrate more on the TTD E46, but that didn't help much with the times I saw.

    This event had a remarkable turnout overall, and even TTD class had 6 cars entered, most of whom signed up just days before the event. That gave me false hopes of maybe winning some tires in TTD - boy was I wrong!

    Amy running the 330 in HPDE 3/4 group, which was also very crowded

    We had 49 cars run in the TT run group this weekend, which made for some serious traffic on track. I ran first in the Saturday "TT warm up" (where times don't count for anything but grid positioning in the next session) and I was slow as hell. My best time was dead last of all of the TTD cars with a 2:05.824. Vinnie was here in his TTD FR-S and was a full second ahead of me, and several TTD Miatas were in the 2:01 to 2:04 range. This was the beginning of a rough weekend and I gridded up for the first timed TT session in 32nd place. What the hell?!

    Being that far back meant that I fought with traffic all day - as I've said before, its harder to get a clear lap in a slow car. In three sessions I could only find about a second and ended up with a 2:04.743 best after 4 sessions. Maybe this car is just too heavy and under-powered for this FAST track layout like TWS? I thought that I couldn't just "drive my way around" the lack of prep in this car, like we did at the MSR-H and MSR-C NASA events earlier. Didn't happen.

    End of day Saturday TT results - click for higher rez

    By the end of the day I was ranked 5th out of 6 in TTD and my best time was almost 6 seconds back from the class winner, who ran a 1:58.871 in a TTD Miata and smashed the old TTD track record of 2:01.3, set by one of our customer's TTD FR-S the year before. I can honestly say this is the worst beating I've ever taken in 11 years of racing with NASA Time Trial. I began to question the sanity of running this car and continuing development!

    With Amy double-driving the car in HPDE3/4 I didn't have time to really look deeply into any obvious clues to the handling woes, and blamed it all on "lack of horsepower" and a new suspension setup. She was even further off my pace and kept complaining about a lack of grip. I told her that she was wrong, it had to be setup or power related. I adjusted the shock settings but never touched the tire pressures after they had been bled to "what we knew worked" after the first 2 sessions on track. We just kept the fuel level up, checked the oil and brake fluids, and kept the car on track for session after session.

    Amy was pushing it but the body roll was massive - the 330 needed bigger swaybars

    So even with the big upgrade to MCS doubles and doubling the spring rate, I was fighting the car and slower relative to the competition. That should not be! I have re-watched some of my videos and the car was understeering on entry and oversteering on corner exit. Nothing made sense at the time. It was just.... garbage.

    The car felt like it still had too much body roll, and after seeing the great mid-corner pictures taken by MohFlo (that we purchased) it is obvious that we badly did need the upgraded swaybars. But that didn't account for how slow the cornering speeds were or how badly the tires felt. I was missing something.

    With the long front and back straights we were well into 5th gear but still getting passed by everything. I was short-shifting in all gears at 5000 rpms, because we still had not done the necessary SFI balancer and oil pump + oil pan mods that I knew from experience the M54 engine needed. I'll be damned if I scatter this motor while going this slowly. That extra 1000 rpms we were leaving on the table was hurting us, for sure. And we were still 150 pounds overweight for the class minimum, which also slowed us down.

    Sunday was a new race and and I was determined to go faster. The first TT session on Sunday is almost always my fastest session of any NASA weekend and I hoped I will find a second or two and at least get closer to these TTD hot shoes...

    Wrong. While the car was quickest all day in this first Sunday session, my time was a FULL SECOND SLOWER than Saturday's best with a 2:05.752 best. That's what I ran in the warm up, WTH?

    I was disgusted with the car but kept trying to wring more out of it, yet I kept getting slower. My best time in TT session 2 was another two seconds slower, with a 2:07.594, yet I was pushing the car harder. I felt like I was wringing all of the time out, and sliding around like a wild man looking for grip. A quick glance at the front tires showed they still had usable tread life.

    End of day Sunday TT results - click for higher rez

    I was dead last in TTD on Sunday, as one of the Saturday entrants didn't run. After Amy went out and only took a few laps, I told her we had to park this mess and stop driving it, as the car's times were tanking. Bitterly disappointed in the performance. We had no place to jack the car up on all 4s to get a better look, so we put it in the trailer and decided to investigate this issue later.

    We would have to get the car back to the shop to analyze what was slowing the car down the more we drove it. The power felt the same all weekend but the grip just kept falling off, especially at the rear.


    Well duh.... the tires were completely shot!

    These are the rear tires that came off after TWS. Not just worn a bit too far or maybe heat cycled out, but worn into the steel belts. Wow, I really goofed that up. The entire weekend was a waste of time because we violated the cardinal rule of racing: we showed up with junk tires!

    They were worn across the tread pretty solid but moreso on the inside shoulders, which was really hard to see when the wheels are mounted to the car. That's no excuse, and yes I should have looked closer. We were parked on the beach, double-driving the car, and I was swamped with people coming by all weekend, so it was simply overlooked. I messed up.

    This set of tires was new in January 2015, on our C4 Corvette...

    I had neglected to track just how many days of racing we had put on this set of tires. This set had done 2 weekends on the TTC Corvette (pictured above when new) then 4 more weekends on this TTD BMW. But several of those TTD weekends had 2 drivers in the BMW, so let's add them up now.

    NASA at MSR-Houston CW, Jan 17-18, 2015 - TTC Corvette (2 days)
    NASA at MSR-Cresson, March 14-15, 2015 - TTC Corvette (2 days)
    NASA at MSR-Houston (CW) Jan 23-24, 2016 (2 days + 2 drivers)
    Texas Region SCCA Club Trials, MSR-Cresson, Jan 16, 2016 (1 day)
    NASA at MSR-Cresson March 12-13, 2016 - TTD BMW (2 days + 2 drivers)
    NASA at TWS (CCW) April 23-24, 2016 (2 days + 2 drivers)

    That was a total of 19 days of track driving on the same set of R7s??? And probably 60-70 heat cycles. Damn, how did I miss that? That's way beyond what you can expect even the R7 compound Hoosier to last. These 245s were also a tad small for both the weight of the Corvette (3203 pounds) and the BMW (3285 pounds) they were run on, which increases tire wear further.

    Of course we looked at the tires before this event, and they seemed visually to have enough tread depth left. Sure, I was worried that these tires might be getting heat-cycled out, but just didn't want to blow $1,200 for a fresh set before this April TWS weekend. Since so many were signed up I thought "Maybe I could win a set?" for once, ha! Instead we entered two drivers, wasted a weekend's worth of time and expenses only to be frustrated and slow, and scored my biggest loss in 11 years. Maybe I should have spent that $1200.



    I have already run too long on this "brief update". How did it delve all the way into metallurgy?? Who knows. After the April event we skipped both of the next two NASA Texas weekends, including the May NOLA and June Hallett events. Just too damned busy at the shop to get to the required updates this car needed before we raced it again.

    We did a lot of work over the Summer to the red 330 including an entirely new cooling system, repairing some minor leaks and rotted plastics throughout the engine bay. This work definitely avoided a potential disaster on track - some of the old plastic cooling lines were crumbling when removed.

    We also added the much needed ATI balancer ($$) and VAC oil pump drive and oil pan baffle, so we could safely rev the engine past 5000 rpms. The Whiteline swaybars finally showed up and were installed. Then we took over 250 pounds out of the BMW, which was huge. We detail all of that in pictures, of course. And we finally sprung for a fresh set of R7 Hoosiers.

    I'll talk about all of that and our triumphant return in the 330 return to TWS at the October NASA Texas event - where we "flipped the script" on the TTD class. Fresh tires make such a difference, but so does lowering weight, safely adding 1000 revs, and having a better suspension setup. We have a track test event at MSR Cresson scheduled in a couple of weeks (to get a baseline lap on the current setup at our preferred test track, before we add power) and if I get through that before writing the next installment I will include it as well.

    Until next time,
    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    14 Nov 2016 04:55 PM
    Project Update for November 12th, 2016: My last update got a little bloated so I wanted to break it up into two parts. This second half of the update shows what we did to the red '01 330Ci Coupe over the Summer of 2016, which was a lot of little things that added up to some big improvements in performance.

    Once again it went too long so I will cover the return of this car to NASA TTD competition (above) at the Fall 2016 NASA event at Texas World Speedway next time.


    After the April 2016 NASA event we were super busy at the Vorshlag shop and our 330 build got kicked into the corner. It pained me to miss three NASA Texas weekends, including the May NOLA, June Hallett and another MSR-H event. Just too damned busy get to the required updates this car needed before we could race it again. I refused to risk another event and running at a max 5000 rpm because we had the stock engine balancer and no oil system upgrades.

    COOLING SYSTEM UPGRADES - Modern BMWs are known for fragile cooling systems that have to be replaced every 50,000 miles, "or else". What can happen? Some plastic piece usually cracks, you spring a leak, and - if you are not paying attention - you run the car out of coolant, overheat the engine, warp the head, and ruin the engine. I've never done that, but we have run into several BMWs we have owned in the past that "sprung a leak". It was always on a car we neglected to follow the 50K mile cooling system replacement rule.

    Why do these parts only last 50K miles? Its the motor mounts. Yes, that's what we have determined after 15+ years of futzing with dozens of our own and hundreds of customers' Bimmers. The sloppy hydraulic OEM motor mounts and soft rubber trans mounts allow the engines in BMWs to move around a lot. When the hydraulic motor mounts fail (they break in half) the engine can move inches up and down.

    This excessive drivetrain movement PULLS on all of the coolant hoses, thermostat housing neck, radiator necks, power steering hoses, and more. All of those pesky items eventually strain and crack, and these leaks are worsened simply by BMWs insistence on using luxurious hydraulic drivetrain mounts. We've already replaced those nasty things with our own Nylon motor mounts (stiff) and red poly trans mounts (95A durometer) - which radically improved shift feel and throttle response, but ALSO helps saves all of your hoses and cooling system bits.

    Am I saying BMW is imperfect? Yes I am. I love their cars, but some of the engineering choices baffle me. But that's why company's like mine exist - to make BMWs more track worthy, faster, and more robust.

    The radiator above is more typical of what we remove from E46 BMWs, and came out of a customer's 2001 330ci. This was a rare "Northern car" (we don't see many rust belt cars in Texas) with the typical salt road crust on every inch of that car. This radiator above was also bent from some sort of front end impact, and I suspect the original radiator in our red 330Ci was likely damaged at some point, but replaced recently because it was in fairly good shape. The unit above had a leak in the core (green evidence) and the plastic end tanks and necks also have a finite lifespan. I love replacing OEM style aluminum/plastic rads with all aluminum core/tank aftermarket units that have a larger core with no plastic to crack.

    Refreshing the cooling system on our red 330 included a lot of new parts replaced to prevent "old car problem" failures. There were minor leaks and rotted cooling system plastics throughout the engine bay. A BMW E46 uses plastic ends on the radiator hoses, plastic tanks on the radiator, plastic hardlines for the heater core coolant lines, and O-rings in all of these connections and sensor locations.

    Mishimoto Aluminum Radiator for the 1999–2006 BMW E46 323i / 325i / 328i / 330i. 40mm, 2-row core

    At one point I had explored the idea of using BMW E36 water pump, thermostat housing and radiator, to remove the silly "quick connect" radiator hose ends that the E46 has but it was going to complicate parts selections and require a custom radiator, and we wanted to test the new E46 Mishimoto radiator made specifically for the E46 330.

    We started with this all aluminum radiator which is about twice the thickness of the factory plastic/aluminum OEM unit. The factory electric fan and shroud were attached to this Mishimoto unit, which is a bolt-in for the non-M E46 chassis. This red 330 we have was formerly hit in the front end, so its no surprise that many of the plastic bits under the hood are smashed. Enough of the old shroud was intact that it could be re-used.

    Disclaimer: We sell this brand, and have used dozens of these same units in various BMW, Mustang, Mazda, and Subaru builds, including nearly all of our own shop owned cars. We have had good results and so have our customers, but like all "lower cost" radiator options there are some issues reported online. You can say that about just about any brand, though this brand does come with a lifetime warranty. Yes, I know where these are made, but the similarly priced alternatives come from the same part of the world. This brand's E46 model radiator was heavily re-worked and reintroduced recently as two new part numbers, one for the E46 M3 and another for E46 non-M 6-cylinder cars. We have used this exact unit in a customer's E46 330 and will report on the results from this unit in our TTD car, good news or bad.

    The wiring for the fan was all sorts of hacked, with both ends of the factory connector missing and the corner where it mounted on the shroud.... gone. Some fool had used 120V WIRE NUTS to connect the body wiring to the fan wiring on our car, and of course that cannot stay. This is large gauge wire and we needed to fix this right.

    Since we could not find these harness ends from BMW we pulled them from a salvaged E46 wiring harness we had removed from an over-the-top racecar build. Donnie wired in the scavenged BMW connector and it was back in business. You can also see that a new upper radiator support was installed above - the old one was bent from previous crash damage - but these are surprisingly affordable from the aftermarket (sub $90).

    All of the rest of the smashed and missing plastics surrounding the radiator were replaced with new bits from BMW. This included the main front shroud shown above,which routes air from the lower grill opening or the two upper grill openings. The side plastics which seal the radiator to the radiator support were all replaced as well (most were missing). These keep the air flowing through the radiator instead of around it.

    The water pump choice was simple - the Stewart pump costs 3-5 times more than the cheap OEM replacements, but its stainless steel impeller and better design make it the best option.

    When it comes to the thermostat housing the OEM piece is plastic, and you know how I feel about that. There are a dozen aftermarket OEM replacements and some of those are aluminum, so I picked up one of those. As it was being snugged up onto the block, still not even hand tight, the flange snapped right off. Cheap import branded junk bit me again! Even on seemingly simple pieces like a thermostat housing, the cheap brand can still bite you! After that we went with a name brand plastic piece, which worked great. We slipped in a Mishimoto thermostat, too.

    We tried some silicon radiator hoses but they had some fitment issues that we're still working with the manufacturer on. But whatever you do, replace the old plastic and rubber hoses.

    We also replaced both of the heater hose hard lines that run under the intake manifold and go from the block to the firewall (see diagram above). Why? Well we have learned the hard way that these don't age well. Just because its a pain to remove the intake manifold to get to these, doesn't mean they should be ignored.

    People ignore these two plastic lines on the E46 but these should always be replaced when the car has over 100K miles (this one has 163K now!)

    And lucky for us we caught these before they failed. The old hard lines fell apart as they were unbolted from the flanges at the block - the double O-ringed ends were rotted and broke off in the block. They had to be dug out with a pick. This replacement definitely avoided a potential disaster on track. Remember that - the plastic E46 heater hard lines don't last more than 15 years.

    With the intake manifold out of the way for access to these plastic heater hoses Donnie noticed that the starter was only being held on with one bolt and that one was very loose. This is our first time to see this part of the engine on the red 330, but we've seen other signs of hack mechanic work in the past. New hardware installed and we will check more when we do the clutch and flywheel later this winter.

    BALANCER UPGRADE - I try to learn from my past mistakes, and maybe you can learn from mine as well. Something that bit me on the blue 2001 330Ci we raced in 2009-11 relates to the stock M54 balancer.

    Frankly the stock balancers aren't great on most engines and given enough time they will fail. The rubber portion that helps the outer ring damp engine vibrations can slip with age, like the unit on our red 330 below. This can create vibrations that can help the oil pump drive nut vibrate loose and come off. Which is very, very bad.

    Some BMW racers have figured this out and will change the old units out for new OEM units ($400+) regularly. But that's still a questionable part and not a good long term upgrade.

    There is exactly one proper solution: the ATI balancer above. This unit is SFI rated, rebuildable, and sold exclusively by VAC. Its $900 + $100 more for the A/C pulley, which hurts. But you know what? A loss of oil pressure happened THREE TIMES on my former TTD E46, and I'm not making that same mistake again.

    We ordered this ATI balancer with the associated drive pulley in the identical OEM diameter (not an under-driven size), to not run afoul of any pulley diameter changes that we don't have the points budget for in TTD.

    Installing a balancer correctly can be tricky. If done wrong you can rip the threads right out of the end of the crankshaft. Which would be BAD. The best solution we found was to use the ATI balancer installation tool kit shown above (p/n ATI918999) which has various modular, threaded ends for the crank side of the install tool.

    None of the included ends fit the M54 crank snout, so we had to machine a custom threaded end. Just beware of the claims that this kit is "all you need".

    The tool works as a longer bolt with a bearing hub to keep the turning portion of the tool from torquing against the crank as it is installed. Really slick, just wish it came with the BMW thread pitch and diameter we needed.

    Everything that came with the VAC kit was top notch: the balancer, the main pulley and the optional AC pulley. Even the ARP hardware was pro level. I wish we got something better than the OEM crank bolt for $1000, but that's my only quip.

    NEW OIL SELECTION - I have been a synthetic oil user since the late 1980s, back before synthetics were cool. I drove cars tens of thousands of miles during an oil test in the early 1990s while working at TWS in college. We saw the results of oil analysis tests done throughout this multi-month test on multiple cars where we racked up 50K miles on each engine. Synthetics work.

    For a long time I was a faithful synthetic Mobil1 user. For years I have run 15W50 weight Mobil1 in our shop cars and have seen excellent wear over long periods. But our friends at Turbo Lubricants have been sending me test results and data showing the differences in synthetic lubricants. We have been slowly switching all of our cars to Motul engine, transmission and differential fluids. Over the summer we switched the 330 to their new 5W50 Ester based oil. I will report back any differences we notice on this car.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
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    14 Nov 2016 04:55 PM
    continued from above

    OIL PUMP DRIVE UPGRADE - As I mentioned above, the failure of the oil pump drive is bad. So we also added the VAC oil pump drive upgrade kit (below) so we could safely rev the engine past 5000 rpms.

    The oil pump driveshaft issue is detailed in this post my old TTD build thread with the potential for having the drive nut come off or when welded, to shear the shaft clean thru. Both of those failures happened to our old E46's first motor, the first failure being shown below.

    Oil pump nut vibrated loose and came off, eating the first set of rod bearings on our blue 2001 330

    Basically the VAC design has a stronger driveshaft for the oil pump, a stronger bolt for the sprocket to attach to the shaft, and a sprocket with a different opening to mate to the shaft.

    At this point the oil pan had to be dropped so the engine was hung from above by using this cross engine brace. We use this tool a lot, actually. With the engine secured the front lower crossmember could be dropped - it hangs on the struts at full droop and gives you about a foot of access under the oil pan.

    I took the oil pan to be hot tanked, which cleaned it up inside and out. With access to the chain driven oil pump (rolleyes) the old oil pump drive, sprocket and nut were replaced with the VAC bits. We installed those with RED Loctite and torqued to the factory specs. Some people safety wire or even tack weld that in place - we haven't found that necessary.

    OIL PAN BAFFLE - The stock oil pan has very little internal baffling. This is a concern when high lateral and braking g's are possible in the car (forward acceleration is not much threat, yet). With big cornering grip numbers (1.3g) and braking (similar) possible in this TTD prep level, we wanted to do more to keep the oil pump pickup screen submerged in oil at all times.

    The oil pan baffle kit, that we also sourced from VAC, includes a drop-in baffle for the stock pan with several "trap door" mechanisms that are routed in such a way as to keep the oil pump pick-up screen submersed in oil even when under hard braking or lateral acceleration. The details above show what is included.

    Before this kit can be installed you need to have the oil pan off the car, take it somewhere to get it sonic cleaned or "hot tanked", as it must be SPOTLESS inside before TIG welding.

    Then the unit needs to be fitted to the oil pan, then TIG welded in place. This one required a bit of trimming to one of the trap doors to clear the cast oil pan in one tiny corner. We inspected the oil pump pick-up screen and it was clean and intact, so that was not replaced. It fits down inside the round hole in the baffle and should stay submerged in oil, with the trap doors closing under braking and turning loads. I feel a bit better now that this baffle is installed.

    SWAYBARS - The E46 non-M specific swaybars showed up from Whiteline after a bit of a wait (these are made in batches) and were installed by Donnie.

    Left: Whiteline 30mm E46 non-M Adjustable Front Sway Bar. Right: 20 mm Adjustable Rear

    Some might question why we took two points for aftermarket swaybars (changing one or both equals +2 points). The amount of body roll is something we couldn't ignore - after looking at pictures of the car loaded in corners it just had too much lean, even with 600#/in front and 750 #/in rear springs. More spring rate would have helped, but again, this is supposed to be the "Daily Driven Track Car", and more spring rate will make it ride worse. We also appreciate the adjustability.

    We installed the front bar with a pair of new OEM E46 end links, but on the MCS strut (with a lower swaybar mount) we needed a shorter end link. They were touching the control arm with the OEM endlinks installed. I found some old E36 length adjustable/spherical end links laying around that worked well enough. Why did we pick Whiteline bars? For one we are a dealer, but I'm actually ambivalent about swaybar brands - as long as they are bigger than stock and adjustable, I am game. The most important thing is to make sure they are mounted properly.

    What we tend to see is when aftermarket swaybars are added, they come with poly bushings that are too tight. When installed, these tight bushings cause massive binding no matter what brand you start with. So we go to the extra effort of trimming the bushings and fitting it to the swaybar so that it rotates with "pinkie finger effort". Then we drill into the swaybar bushing shells and through the entire bushing, then tap the shells for a grease zerk. Twice yearly grease addition to these bushings keeps them from binding further and squeaking. This way the swaybar car rotate freely within the mounts and the twist of the entire bar is what resists roll, as designed.

    WEIGHT LOSS GAMES - Anyone reading my forum posts for years knows how important losing weight on a car is to me. So THE most important modification to this E46 over the 2016 Summer was where we dropped over 250 pounds out of this car. We had been running the car +150 pounds over minimum weight (3285 pounds is the E46 330 minimum with driver) all year, and that was hurting the car in all vectors - forward acceleration, braking, and later acceleration. We detail all of that in pictures, of course.

    This was done in many small steps, none of which really impacted the daily driver status nor ran afoul of the TTD rules/points. The fold-down back seats, headliner, and rear seat belts/brackets totaled 63.8 pounds.

    Brad found an old abandoned rat's nest under the rear deck cover - gross! The rear deck is now just painted steel, which we could cut out for more weight loss but will hold off for now, until we see where this gets us.

    We wanted to get the car as light as possible for TWS so we ran without the passenger seat, which is shown being weighed above at 64.8 pounds. This is a typical BMW power seat weight, and was actually out of the 325is (we took the identical but nicer condition black leather units from this 330 and swapped them into JackDaniels a while ago). We also removed a lot of junk from the trunk.

    The CD changer didn't work so it was removed, but the radio is still functional so the factory amp was kept intact. The elaborate bracket that held the amp & CD changer was trimmed down considerably, and the factory sub-woofer speaker assembly was removed. The brackets, sub-woofer and rear speakers totaled 10.4 pounds, but the front speakers were left in place and the radio still sounds fine.

    The factory installs a massive trunk mounted battery in the E46 cars, but it is overkill for track and even street use. We went with a 14 pound Odyssey PC680 AGM style battery and an aluminum battery bracket kit sized to fit this unit.

    We picked up this 680 sized bracket for about $125 and I detail the installation of the battery and bracket in this instruction gallery. I did this battery and mount swap at home with simple tools in about 45 minutes. This change lopped about 30 pounds out of the car.

    One of the biggest and most important areas where we removed weight was the retractable power sunroof delete. The BMW E46 sunroof cassette weighs a staggering 72.0 pounds, which was more than I remembered from doing a roof swap on an E46 before.

    We asked AJ Hartman to make us a carbon fiber sunroof delete panel, which he did for us over the summer (and we bought a couple of them). The fit and finish was exceptional and the finished, 100% dry carbon panel weighed in at 1.5 pounds.

    Brad and Donnie installed this unit and it fits perfectly. A thin layer of black RTV went on the perimeter of the panel to seal it to the roof and there were bolt holes to attach it to the factory sunroof mounting holes as well.

    We could have purchased a non-sunroof headliner to replace the old unit, but they are a little spendy. If we can live without back seats, the headliner can be left out as well. Very slick, easy, and water-tight solution to lose 70.5 pounds out of the roof AND gain several inches of headroom.

    With the driver's side Cobra seat mounted very low like we have, the center console flip down arm rest runs into my arm when shifting. We could have just unbolted the arm rest, but I have done these arm-rest delete consoles before and it looks cleaner. This is a BMW option from the factory and still available from a BMW dealer. The plastic console was purchased along with the alternate mounting bracket and it was installed.

    The interior is now "lightened" but all of the interior panels, air bags, and carpet are still there - just the back seat, passenger seat, and headliner are missing. I don't like having the giant opening to the trunk, as this allows a lot of noise into the cabin. We will make a rear bulkhead panel soon, after we decide if we are going to build a full roll cage or just a 4-point roll bar for this car.

    The 2961 pound weight above is with plenty of fuel, so add in my ~200 pound ass and we're at about 3165. This means we are running about (3285 - 3165) 120 pounds under the minimum weight. We can do that legally if we burn some class points, which I will detail next time in my TWS write-up. After rolling the car out for the picture above we noticed that the rear was sitting high - lowering weight alters ride height, duh. So we brought the car in and did a quick ride height check and corner balance. Then it went into the trailer for our tow to TWS.

    FRESH TIRES - Before the October TWS event we finally sprung for a fresh set of R7 Hoosiers.

    Like I said last time, tires are the MOST important expense in racing, but I neglected keeping track of the number of heat cycles and days on this car's last set. Our last two events were run on tires not fit for even HPDE use, and that's on me.

    After all of the changes, weight loss and had a set of sticker R7s mounted on our 17x10" Forgestar wheels. The car was light, the engine more reliable, the cooling system replaced, and the suspension dialed in like never before. We were finally ready for TWS.


    This write-up once again ran long so I will cover the TWS event and discuss the entire season's results next time.

    I will also cover some post-TWS upgrades we did to the 330, including adding a Sparco EVO II passenger seat, installing some new rear bushings, getting an alignment check, and fixing a small failure that happened at the end of the last session at the October NASA event. We also went back to MSR-Cresson for a test day on November 10th where this car dropped a large chunk of lap time since our March event, with the only changes being suspension (MCS coilovers + more spring rate + Whiteline bars) and weight loss. Until next time...

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
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    Veteran Member

    23 Nov 2016 04:59 PM
    Project Update for November 23th, 2016: The last post in this development thread showed our "summer mods" to the red E46 330, which were somewhat extensive. During that phase we replaced and upgraded the entire cooling system (except one part), added an SFI rated balancer, improved the oiling system reliability, added swaybars, fresh tires, and dropped another 250 pounds from this 330. We were finally ready in October to go back to TWS to race with NASA again, hoping to fight back after the drumming we took in April at this same track.

    We will cover that race write-up, the repairs and upgrades we did after that event. Then cover our TTD prep "points budget" for 2017, where we will reveal our continually changing upgrade path for this car. The bulk of these changes are planned for the short winter break we have before our 2017 NASA season starts in late January. We have several track tests planned before then, and we cover the first of those tests where we went back to MSR-Cresson (our main test track in 2016) in November to get an updated lap time with the latest setup, after running here with NASA back in March.


    Before we get to the October race coverage, let's show how we classed the car 130 pounds under minimum weight for this one event - legally. I'm gonna nerd out on the TT rules bit here, so if that bores you, just skip below. Some folks do like reading about the intricacies and interrelated nature of NASA Time Trial rules in our posts, where we try to explain the clearest path to a given build's TT goals. Sometimes you have two do 3 layers of calculations to figure out your car's class limits.

    As I have gone over in this and many other threads, NASA TT-Letter class cars all get a "base classing" which shows which class they start in as well as the minimum weight they are assigned. This weight number has little to do with the actual weights of a car, but is an assigned number for a given model based on where the rules maker thinks it needs to be for competition reasons. And they can change. Every year. Anything printed in the current rules shown in blue text is an update from last year. #FontColorsMatter

    The "Base Trim Model" 01-06 BMW 330 (non-ZHP) has a base class of TTE* and a min weight of 3285 pounds. This means our measured race weight (with fuel, safety gear, and driver) should be no lower than 3285 pounds. Some cars get "weight added" in the classing sheets to slow them down - the FR-Z/BRZ had 100 pounds added to their min weight in 2014, and another 100 pounds in 2015, and our C4 Corvette had weight added in 2016.

    As you can see from our beginning (left) and current (right) weights we have dropped this 2001 BMW 330Ci from 3180 pounds (no driver + virtually no fuel) down to 2960 pounds (no driver + about 10 gallons of fuel). So we have dropped 220 pounds + have about 60 more pounds of fuel on board in the current pic, so really we've dropped closer to 280 pounds out of the car. This is why we post images of weights showing fuel levels.

    Most weight loss modifications are legal in TT-Letter (there are exceptions - subframes, engine components, etc), as long as you account for the final weight below the class minimum in your final declared race weight. Adding the heaviest driver from our Team Vorshlag entries (of the 3 registered this year) bumps that 2960 pound weight above by 210 pounds (me) and gets us to around 3170 pounds minimum race weight. We won't run any less fuel load than what is shown for fear of fuel starving in turns - in some of corners we're seeing over 1.7 g lateral now (in banked corners; see video below).

    Left: The weight box we built into our TTC Corvette. Right: Your car can be weighed after any session, and it often is if you are fast

    To meet the 3285 class minimum weight we should be adding 115 pounds of ballast, which has to be secured a certain way. Normally you add a little bit more weight than absolute minimum, to "be safe" from the scale. I've seen people bounced for being 5 pounds under their stated min weight, which can happen if you don't keep an eye on fuel levels or if the scale is flaky one day (something as simple as the wind can change your car's weight - yes, literally the wind. Seen it happen). In over ten years I've had maybe two sessions DSQ'd after being weighed below my declared weight, but it is rare - we usually run at least 25 pounds over our declared minimum weight, just to be safe.

    NASA allows us to race under the "classed minimum weight" legally, but "running light" hurts your car's competitiveness in THREE ways. First, you have to burn "class mod points" for every increment you declare under the base classed minimum (see chart above). Since we currently had points to spare for TTD class legality we could run at our measured 115 pounds weight under 3285 for only 9 mod points. That's the first way you lose competitiveness running under min weight - the pounds come off at the expense of mod points, and its EXPENSIVE: one point for every 15 pounds. Ouch!

    For much of the 2016 season we declared the assigned 3285 minimum but ran much heavier than that. Our adjusted P-to-W ratio is 13.45:1. I've covered that calculation before: TTD has a P-to-W of 14.25 but we get a -0.8 bonus for running a 245mm tire (see Appendix B chart above showing that).

    At the MSR-H event in January I rolled the 330 across the scales at 3434 pounds, which was 149 pounds over the 3285 minimum. And at the normal 3285 pound min weight we could run as high as 244 whp (3285 / 13.45). That's why I've been saying all year we're 150 pounds over and -50 whp under class max prep (car still makes 195 whp). Doubly screwed.

    We didn't have any power adding mods yet (still stone stock drivetrain from paper air filter to exhaust tip) but we DID drop a lot of weight. We actually had 12 mod points to spare for this upcoming October TWS race weekend, so we went ahead and declared 170 pounds under min weight, which comes to 3115 pounds (+12). That way we we could accidentally run the fuel tank DRY and still be extra safe from the scales.

    The second way you get penalized running under the classed minimum weight is that it affects your ultimate dyno'd horsepower number. The P-to-W ratio is well... a RATIO of Power to Weight, right? So if you are declaring less weight your calculated maximum horsepower number goes down, too. So at 3115 pounds we could not make more than 232 whp (3115 / 13.45), down from 244 at the higher declared minimum weight.

    The third way "running light" can hurt you is when the declared weight falls into the "penalty" area of the Appendix B weight table above. At 3285 pounds the car is in the "safe zone" between 3201 - 3399 pounds (no penalty or bonus). Running over 3400 gets a P-to-W bonus and anything 3200 and below gets a penalty. So at 3115 we should add a 0.15 penalty to our adjusted 13.45 P-to-W rario, or 13.60:1. That means at 3115 pounds the car cannot make more than 229 whp on the dyno. We're still almost 35 whp under that number at 195, so I wasn't worried. Nobody ever gets dyno'd at regional events. Well, almost never.

    So that was the TTD classing sheet we turned in for TWS, above, which has a mistake in it. Totally my fault, but we got no benefit from that. We declared 3115 pound minimum, burning 12 points for that 170 pound drop under the class assigned 3285. And we couldn't make more than 229 whp, which this engine won't get near right now. In a rush (I made this sheet moments before we left for TWS) I forgot about the 3rd P-to-W ratio hit from dropping weight (the .15 penalty from the Appendix B weight chart), but nobody caught it and frankly, we were so far below that adjusted P-to-W limit we were safe. My declared "232 whp" was off by 3 whp (should have been 229).

    But at NASA Nationals you better bet they will catch a mistake like that, so you have to check your weight, points, declared horsepower, final adjusted P-to-W ratio and everything safety related before you go. The rules are tough, but they are all there for a reason. When you are building for the ragged edge of a class you gotta worry about a 3 whp mistake, damn straight.

    NASA AT TWS OCTOBER 15-16, 2016

    As I mentioned last time, we were working on the 330 up until the last minute before heading down to TWS. We had the car so much lighter that the rear ride height had gone up nearly an inch! We brought the car into the shop and quickly reset ride heights, checked camber and toe, then got it loaded into the trailer by 4:45 pm Friday before the race. That meant we hit ALL the traffic heading out of town for the normally 3 hour drive down from Dallas to College Station, TX.

    This is the same course layout (2.9 mile) and direction (CCW) as we ran back in April. This time we had a few changes that we had hoped would make up the 5-6 second lap detriment we had back in April. The upgrades included a FRESH set of 245mm Hoosier R7 tires, Whiteline swaybars front and rear, and that 280 pound weight loss. There were 3 cars signed up in TTD for this event, both Miatas, including one that clobbered me back in April and another driven by a friend who is quick. I was nervous!

    • NASA Results: http://timingscoring.drivenasa.com/NASA_Texas_Region/2016-%20Official%20Results/TWS%20October%202016/
    • Vorshlag photo gallery: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/NASA-at-TWS-October-15-16-2016/

    The TWS track record for TTD here had been smashed and reset in April to a 1:58.871, which was 6 seconds faster than I ran in the 330 at this event (2:04.743). At this point in the season (October, final Texas event) we had pretty much given up on the points chase for the TTD regional championship, but we still wanted to try to win the class here both days, if possible. There were not enough entries in in TTD class (5 needed) to score any Hoosier contingency, so this was all about redemption.

    Amy and I arrived at TWS with the 330 in the trailer on Friday night after the sun went down, so we fumbled around in the pitch dark looking for a place to park. Since the rumors of TWS closing (it isn't) have been going for the past 3 years, the number of entries spikes for these events and we had more than 250 entered for a NASA race weekend here, so the paddock was jam packed by Friday morning. We parked out on "the beach" again under the old TWS sign and unhooked for the night.

    We got back early Saturday morning and I went to my instructors meeting then brought copies of the maps to the TT meeting, where we got an ear full about "playing nice" and avoiding incidents.

    We had 32 cars running TT on Saturday so I gridded early and went out in the TT Warm up and really pushed it, aiming for a good grid position for the next sessions (that count). I managed a 2:00.648 best lap, already 4 seconds quicker than in April, which put me 11th on grid. The original BMW clutch was slipping, so 5th gear was useless, which cost us some time. Luckily we had done the balancer and oiling updates so we could just rev out 4th gear on the front straight. Time for a light weight flywheel and clutch setup!

    I spent a lot of time running back and forth to grid, since I had an HPDE1 student in a 335i. His car was having major tuning issues but we worked on the basics anyway.

    The camber on the loaded front tire looks great but we had a tiny push. Will dial out some front bar

    I went out in TT session 1 and ran a best of 2:00.027, then ran a 2:00.093 in TT session 2. The track temps were going up and times were getting slower, so I skipped the last TT session for the day. We ended up with the TTD win by 3.9 seconds for Saturday.

    The 330 was already 4.7 seconds faster than my best times here in April, but I was still frustrated that I couldn't break the elusive 2:00 barrier, and it was SO close (0.027 sec). As is almost always the case, the first (coolest) session on Sunday is when I usually set my best times, so I would shoot for the 1:59s and hopefully sneak up on the track record the next morning. We stuck around for the Saturday NASA party, ate some food, picked up a trophy for the day's class win, and went and got some rest.

    Sunday session 1 was completely wasted on a "red flag drill" - on the first hot lap they threw red flags at every station and checked to see who blew past more than one station. Its a long story, but in a Saturday TT session there was a car that wrecked and a few TT racers ignored red flags at the nearby corner station, so this Sunday first session was meant as a lesson. I understand that safety is most important, but the golden session was wasted and I was none too happy about it. The best conditions of the weekend were gone.

    I went out again in Sunday TT session 2 and was quickly mired in traffic, only managing a 2:00.302 lap time. The car felt fine but I just couldn't get a clear lap in.

    Costas caught these pics with a little inside-left tire in the air, just for a split second

    In session 3 I asked our Team member Paul Costas to drive the 330, for several reasons. First, I wanted to get his input on the car's setup. He does as much or more testing than I do and has decades of experience on track. Second, I felt like our finish placing was safe for Sunday considering our win margin the day before. Third, seeing another fast driver in the same car always teaches me something. Always. The two of us have co-driven the same track and autocross cars many times before and we are always within tenths of a second of each other, but we do have differing driving styles. I had seemingly hit a wall and wasn't getting the car under the 2:00 lap time and wanted to see if he could.

    Click here for Costas' best lap in TT session 3 Sunday

    He hasn't driven this car before but co-drove in our other TTD prepped 330 back in 2010 (where he won then as well, when I was out of town). He ended up setting the fastest time of the weekend among the Team Vorshlag drivers (putting two tenths on me), getting the Sunday win by a solid 5 seconds. His best was a 1:59.838 and he backed that up with a 1:59.850.

    continued below
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    23 Nov 2016 05:05 PM
    continued from above

    Paul took all 7 laps of the session from green flag to checker, with 5 laps at full speed. For some reason the number of cars on track in that session was very low, so traffic was way down. There was a small coolant leak that slowed him on his last lap - which is shown at the end of the video above. No damage was done and the leak was so small it didn't even leave a trail of water, nor did it lose much fluid. It just caused a loss sudden of pressure and a temp spike, so he shut the motor down and coasted for a cool down lap, when it fired up and ran fine. We put it in the trailer and skipped TT session 4, but the track temps were so high by then there wasn't a chance to go any faster.

    Originally Posted by Costas
    I wanted to say how balanced and easy the car was, how awesome the brakes and dampers were. Just a stupid easy car to go fast in.
    I've watched Paul's laps and mine many times and it came down to Paul using 3rd gear in two corners where I was keeping it in 4th (Turn 6 and Turn 8 both). I had tried those corners in 3rd in some earlier sessions (where I fought traffic) and didn't see an improvement, but he did it more effectively and found 2 tenths. I guess I need to watch out for a tendency to trust predictive lap timing TOO much, especially in early laps when the conditions or traffic are not favorable. The phrase, "there's always going to be someone faster than you" is true.

    Earlier in the weekend Costas had gone out to Turn 10 (slow and flat/no camber) and snapped some pics of the 330 loaded up in this corner. The zoomed in image below shows a lot of detail: we can see tire pressures, dynamic camber, even body roll from this shot.

    I also wanted to show the before and after "lean" pictures of the 330 on the same tires and MCS coilover and spring setup. The image below is at TWS in April in Turn 13 (flat/no camber) BEFORE we added the Whiteline 30 mm front and 20 mm rear swaybars.

    Our car in April with MCS TT2 and 600F/750R spring rates, with the stock swaybars. LOTS of roll.

    Now this image below is AFTER we added the larger Whiteline swaybars. Notice the difference? It can be both seen and felt, and the grip numbers have ticked up slightly higher. Why? Well its because the inside two tires can handle more of the load in a corner when you limit how much bodyroll the car sees.

    In October at TWS Turn 10 with the same MCS setup but Whiteline swaybars. Less roll.

    The images below show some front end damage we noticed between these two TWS events. Some jackass backed into the front end while the 330 was parked behind our shop. We think it was some of our neighbors, who are none too careful where or how they park.

    This car wasn't a cream puff, but dang it this still ticks me off. We've had some words with them and it hasn't happened again. At least it wasn't a customer car.


    Of the 7 weekends that counted for points in NASA Texas in 2016 (14 separate TT races) we ran in 8 days worth and missed 3 weekends (6 events), and there were 4 drops. After missing the string of 3 weekends we quit looking at the end of year points results for TTD class, but that was a bit hasty.
    • MSR Houston January 2016 - Vorshlag finishes 1st & 2nd place
    • MSR Cresson March 2016 - Vorshlag finishes 1st & 1st place
    • TWS April 2016. Vorshlag finishes 6th & 5th place (dismal weekend!)
    • NOLA Region May 2016 - missed
    • Hallett June 2016 - missed
    • MSRH September 2016 - missed
    • TWS October 2016 - Vorshlag finishes 1st & 1st place

    Points are awarded for each TT day as a separate race: 1st gets 100, 2nd gets 90, 3rd gets 85, 4th gets 80, 5th 75, etc.

    Somehow with our strong finishes at both the beginning and end of the season, and out lasting the rest of the TTD entries (14 total cars ran this class over the season), we pulled out a Regional Championship win for 2016 in NASA Texas. This was in no way one of our best seasons in NASA, and in fact included a race weekend with our worst class finishes in all my years of NASA racing. So there was an element of persistence that gave us the season points lead.

    The 330 was still painfully under-prepared for TTD class and we ran 6 of the 8 events at +150 pounds over minimum weight (until Oct TWS) and the whole season -50whp under the maximum dyno'd power allowed. We also didn't have some of the suspension mods completed until the last NASA weekend of the year at TWS (the swaybars). The final 2016 TWS event sealed the TTD class championship for the year, which helped make me want to keep prepping this car for 2017. That and the fact that we don't have the extra manpower to build a faster and just as competitive TT1/TTU car.


    After getting the 330 back to the Vorshlag shop after the TWS event of course I wanted to know what happened to lose coolant pressure in the last lap of Costas' Sunday afternoon stint. There wasn't a DROP of coolant in the trailer from where the 330 sat for a few days, so the leak had to be minor.

    It took some digging but it was - of course - the only piece of the cooling system we didn't replace: the factory plastic coolant reservoir. Due to a number of factors (new thicker radiator + janky busted plastic fan shroud we didn't replace) the plastic tank had rubbed into the power steering pulley. It worked for a half dozen sessions with the new radiator installed but it finally wore through on Costas' last hot lap. Its got a hole barely big enough to see and it just let the pressure sneak out, but once the pressure subsided it leaked no coolant.

    Brad got this swapped in and re-bled the cooling system (100% water + some Redline Water Wetter). Funny thing is, this same thing happened back in December 2011 - where the same style stock plastic tank wore through in the same spot on our blue 330, also after adding an aftermarket radiator with a thicker core. Gotta keep an eye on that reservoir mount, which is somewhat sloppy.

    Fixing this same issue on our blue 2001 BMW 330 back in 2011

    After test fitting an aftermarket aluminum tank that replaces the OEM style (which still needs some work before it fits) we bought a new OEM plastic coolant tank and installed that with a little more care, making sure to secure it as far away from the pulley as possible.

    In the long term we might try to make a custom tank remote mounted elsewhere in the engine bay, like we do for our BMW E36 V8 swaps (shown above) - where we remove the radiator mounted plastic reservoir tank and put a fabricated tank in the passenger rear corner of the engine bay, higher above the engine and well away from the engine. Gives us some much needed room and added height for easier system bleeding mounting the tank remote like this.

    Another thing we noticed was a noise in the rear suspension. We checked this on the lift and there was some slop - we had never replaced the factory upper control arm bushings on this car, which are rubber sealed sphericals in a number of locations. We ordered some OEM replacements and Brad tackled this job.

    Using parts of several elaborate "bushing press" tool kits we have, and a massive C-clamp press that is portable, he pressed the old bushings out of the uprights and in went the Lemforder replacements. Took out some slop and wear on both sides, cleared up the noises, no more dynamic camber loss in these worn out, 165K mile originals.

    The aluminum factory undertray brace ties into the subframe in 8 places. It acts as both a flat undertray (aero benefits) and a brace for the front suspension loads. It was slathered in old oil and muck from the many fluid leaks we fixed in the last round of mods (oil pan, oil filter adapter, intake, etc). I used the pressure washer and got this thing spotless, then Donnie straightened a few bent tabs and reinstalled it.

    The rest of the engine block was cleared of old oil residue as well, thanks to the pressure washer when we did all of the leak repairs. We still need to build a flat aluminum front undertray (+0 points) to tie into the crossmember brace and go up to the lower lip of the front bumper cover. Its almost as if we are driving around with a parachute open under the car right now, ugh. We've been weighing the "splitter vs undertray" ideas for too long - finally made a decision, so this can be built soon.

    Another much needed upgrade was to install a passenger side racing seat. We ran TWS with no right seat and I regretted not being able to take my student on a ride-along in an HPDE4 session, to help with instructing.

    We've been doing a lot of Sparco seats lately so I picked the EVO II for the fixed mount passenger seat to go along with the Cobra Suzuka GT seat on the driver's side. This makes it convenient to let people sit in both seat styles in a car that is usually at our shop. We keep about a dozen racing seats in our lobby, but nothing is better than sitting in a seat in a real car.

    With these little items updated, repaired, or installed we loaded back up for a test at our local club track, Motorsports Ranch Cresson (MSR-C). We ran here back in March but we wanted to go back to "set a new baseline" and see how close we were to the TTD track record, before we do any of our list of Winter Updates (power, aero, safety).


    One thing I've learned over the years is NOTHING tells you the true story like on track testing. We try to test with good tires on the same track configuration every time, so we can more easily chart improvements or changes. In early 2017 we started testing at MSR-C regularly, and we go to this track about every two weeks on a week day, if they are running the 1.7 mile config CCW (they alternate running member days on the 1.3, 3.1, and 1.7 CW).

    We scheduled this test day to get a new bench mark lap in the current "light but powerless" setup on the TTD 330, as well as to test some new parts on our 2013 Scion FR-S "test mule" and to do some shake-down laps in a customer's ST3 prepped 2013 Mustang GT with some new brakes. I ended up driving in 5 sessions in 3 different cars this day, including in two 30 minute sessions back-to-back in 2 cars each. It is quite hectic jumping out of a car after 15 minutes of hard driving, quickly moving video/mic/data logger into another car, then rushing out for the 2nd half of the session.

    On these days we pay per session, so I am trying to squeeze in as much testing for the dollars spent. In hind sight, after this event I am going to stop rushing it and just pay a little more to keep it to driving only one car per session, as I was making driving mistakes and getting pretty overheated jumping from car to car with no break in between. These events require a full race suit, so even at only 75°F I was soaked in sweat after thrashing in 5 stints before lunch.

    Of the three cars I drove, our E46 330 was by far the easiest to drive. It had the most grip, the most neutral setup, and best brake feel, and notched up the 2nd fastest time of the 3 cars tested. The FR-S is still on crap street tires and the ST3 Mustang is on 315mm Hoosiers, so it was quicker.

    Photo and video gallery: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/MSR-Track-Test-111016/

    Here's a listing of lap times I have run at MSR on this same 1.7 mile CCW configuration in a wide variety of cars:
    • https://youtu.be/Cs6AF436ykE - 1:31.90 in a stock 2013 Scion FR-S
    • https://youtu.be/_I4ltM6plFQ - 1:29.630 in the 2013 Scion FR-S with camber and front brake upgrade, at this event
    • https://youtu.be/fpWyzzf-pHk - 1:27.40 in a stock 2016 Focus RS
    • https://youtu.be/4zIW-9T-vb0 - 1:26.212 in the Focus RS on coilovers and camber (which then ran a 1:23.658 on 275 Bridgestones later that day)
    • https://youtu.be/YvCH0aWGt-A - 1:25.075 in our TTD prepped E46 330 (195 whp) at this event
    • https://youtu.be/1_B2u_fOnww - 1:22.63 in the stock 2012 C6 Z06
    • https://youtu.be/athEpfLRH3o - 1:22.56 in the modded 2013 1LE Camaro on Hankook RS-3 tires
    • https://youtu.be/Ga1GoC-H9dM - 1:21.90 in our TTC prepped 1992 Corvette (288 whp)
    • https://youtu.be/6Rpepzil8FI - 1:21.89 in the stock 2017 Corvette C7 Grand Sport
    • https://youtu.be/Q3F2bx45mp8 - 1:21.707 in Jamie's 2013 ST3 prepped Mustang (315 R7) at this event
    • https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/NASA-MSR-030814/i-ZT7bnbx/A - 1:17.250 in our TT3 Prepped 2011 Mustang GT on 335/345 Hoosier A7 (447 whp)

    Back in March with NASA I ran a 1:27.604 best of the weekend and won TTD both days, narrowly missing the track record (by a tenth). I will usually say that at MSR-C lap times under 1:30 are respectable for street cars, running under 1:25 is pretty fast, and under 1:20 is hauling ass. So the 330 at a 1:25.075 is at least getting into the "fast" zone now.

    Click here for the in-car video of our 1:25.075 lap in the 330 at this test event

    Technically this is 2+ seconds faster than the current TTD track record here and we're still 50 whp down. We really hope to have the power added and maybe the aero tricks by March 2017 to get into the 1:22 to 1:23 range and really stomp the old track record (1:27.5) hard.

    continued below
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    23 Nov 2016 05:07 PM
    continued from above


    Time for some bench racing! Assuming no major rules changes happen to TTD for 2017 (HA!), we have an updated yet flexible build plan laid out for our next round of mods to this 330 for TTD. We will hopefully reach "fully prepped" status before too much of the next season has passed us by. We hope.

    A custom long tube header, like this one we built for a customer's tube framed 69 Camaro, is in the works for this 330

    There have been a few emails I've sent among the Vorshlag staff and a few trusted gearheads showing where we are on the build (we have excel spreadsheets for every NASA build we have ever done, dreamed up, or helped customers plan out). We have 12 unused points that we don't want to "just use for weight", as running a TT-letter class car under class minimum gets pretty "points spendy" pretty fast. On top of that, your P-to-W ratio never changes, so even when you spend points to "run light" you have to lower your target horsepower to match the lower weight. This is usually only done when you don't know any better or, like in our case in October, have an under-prepped car in between development phases.

    A high flow, custom stainless steel, mandrel bent exhaust is also in the plan when we add the header

    For 2017 we will ballast back up to 3285 pounds (a 4-point roll bar will make up a chunk of that) and then use the remaining 12 points to take the car to "max prep". I will quickly explain below the points, weights, and power for our car in TTD now and where we are going.

    Base classing: TTE* with 3285 lb minimum. That means we have 12 points (19 - 7) to spend in TTE class.
    Bumping up one class (+20) gives us a total of 32 total mod points for max TTD prep.
    Adjusted Power-to-Weight Goal = 13.45 pounds per hp (we get a 0.8 modifier bonus for 245mm tires)
    Target weight with driver = 3285 pounds (we can ballast up to that easily)
    Target horsepower = 244 whp (we are at 195 whp now)

    Points budget so far:
    • Tires: 245mm size (+1) and Hoosier R7 compound (+10)
    • Suspension: Swaybars (2), MCS 2-way non-remote shocks (3), and coilover springs (2)
    • Brakes: Front "BBK" upgrade (+2)
    • Total points spent: 20

    Winter power upgrades:
    • Custom full length header and full exhaust (+5)
    • Vented hood & cold air intake (+1) and custom tune (+0)
    • Undertray/ belly pan (forward of axle centerline +0)
    • Widen track width (+0) up to 4", and add flares for more tire clearance (+0)
    • Total with winter plans: 26

    All of these modifications had competitive based reasons, and some of them also had marketing reasons. While the swaybars (+2) and BBK (+2) might seem frivolous (testing/marketing vendor parts), after doing some before/after testing we agreed that both mods were worthwhile. And yes, finding 50 whp with exhaust + cold air + tune will be difficult, but I think we can get pretty dang close. The SpecE46 guys run a terrible E36 M3 factory exhaust manifold, a non-optimal "spec" exhaust, and a conservative tune and get to 220-230 whp. Why can't we find 15 more than that with a REAL header design and a custom tune??

    This leaves us with only 6 points (32 - 26) left to spend after we burn the points on exhaust and cold air mods for the winter. The best way to spend those points seems to be aero mods. With the low-ish power goals we know downforce will cost some straight line speed but we hope to make that up in cornering speed and braking improvements. We also have a lot of drag now (no front undertray, front tires poking into air stream, non-vented hood) that we think can be cured with some smart aero tweaks.

    Here are all of the relevant TT-Letter aero mods' points (see page 34):
    • Custom front splitter (+3)
    • Alternate front fascia and/or air dam (+3)
    • Undertray/belly pan forward of axle centerline (+0)
    • Add canards/winglets, includes portions of an added/modified/replaced fascia that provide a downward force (+2)
    • Add or modify side skirts (+2)
    • Custom rear diffuser, under 5" verticals (+2)
    • Rear wing up to 8" above roof (+4)
    • Vented hood (+1, lumped in with cold air)

    Of the list of possible aero mods above, I'd originally planned to do a fascia (+3), rear wing (+4), vented hood (+1 with cold air) and splitter (+3). That was only 10 points above our current build, but with the 7 point classing penalty from January 2016 that wrecked some of our aero plans. Now we have to get very stingy on points.

    The "air dam / fascia change" is out, as 3 points costs too much for so little gained. Shame, as the "Base Trim Model" E46 front end on the car now is a little beat up. I had already purchased an E46 M3 bumper cover for this car in 2015, before the reclassing. I've also seen Greg rule on front facia changes with points for air dam (3), splitter (3), and canards (2) for a total of 8 points for a bumper cover. Too risky.

    Making a worthwhile splitter that only costs +3 point looks nearly impossible, as the bottom of the bumper cover isn't flat. Almost all splitters added in TT-Letter end up taking air dam points (+3) as well, which makes a splitter really cost 6 points - too many, and it would leave us 0 points to balance the rear with any downforce. I have driven a "front biased downforce" car and it was a bit scary at high speeds.

    To help cover the protruding edges of the front tires, the 2015 Camaro Z/28 used add-on "tire walls"

    I think adding some tire walls to cover the front tires - which already poke out past the front fascia quite a bit and will only get worse with more track width - is a good idea. Tire walls are not listed in the aero section of the TT Letter rules, however. Would they be deemed "air dam" points (+3) or part of fender flares (legal for +0)? I think you could argue these vertical panels could be part of a flare (0 points), if shaped flat and vertical they couldn't be judged downforce adding canards... but that's the unknown, and some of the TT aero rules are written so vaguely here that it only begs for a protest. I doubt we will ever see totally crystal clear rules on all of these aero tricks, so we cannot take the chance.

    With only 6 points left, going for a full splitter (+3) and wing (+4) are out, so what about a splitter (+3) & rear diffuser (+2)? That even leaves us a point for wiggle room. But again, can we even make a legal +3 point splitter? Risky.

    The problem with a diffuser is - we would need to cut out the spare tire well out of the trunk to make room for the diffuser. Legal? If you look at the pictures above the trunk floor is pretty flat and all of that is dominated by the spare tire well. I would assume the "points" for a diffuser (+2) would seem to "pay" for that change? And spare tire wells are often sacrificed for fuel cells (+0 points), but that's the only place it is spelled out as legal to remove. Risky.

    My other fear with this plan is that the front splitter (assuming +3) will overpower the rear diffuser (assuming +2), again making the car have an aero imbalance. After driving that scary ass scenario at Miller in 2013 (above), I never want to have that setup on a car again! We cannot afford to build and test every possible aero iteration, and so many of these run the risk of points protest - we need to make some educated guesses, figure out a "protest proof" setup, and then optimize those choices.

    Fender flares need to happen to this car, regardless. We are seeing some tire rub in hard cornering and any time we even touch any curbing. Too risky, we need more room, and flares (+0) would allow us to push the wheels outboard for that +4" track width optimization (+0). We would keep the flares simple - just covering the tops of the tires, no rules pushing there - just like how I flared our blue 330 before.

    Our last and possibly wackiest option is adding multiple, massive canards (+2) up front and a full AJ Hartman Aero rear wing (+4). My fear with this setup is too little front downforce having the rear wing over-powering the canards. Oh well, this is the least "risky" with respect to protests so we might just try that.

    Last but not least - safety upgrades. We have to get some sort of roll-over protection in this car, and a good place to hang shoulder harnesses from. After debating this back and forth between a full cage, bolt-in 4-point roll bar, and a "back half" caged (custom 4-point roll bar welded in) we think we finally have a solution. We will build and install this over the winter, then finally get some real 6-point harnesses installed.


    Whew, that was a monster to write. I better stop while I'm ahead. Well, we did inspect the DME today to see which DME module for BMW-Editor we needed to purchase...

    This is an EFI software tuning system that should allow us to custom tune the M54 engine after we have the custom header, new exhaust and cold air installed. Goal is to make 50 more horses (244 whp) on the dyno to max out TTD, or whatever the new number is after they change the rules (inevitably) in January. If we move to "average" power and the P-to-W doesn't change we can make even more peak power. We'll know in about a month.

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Apr 2017 04:26 PM

    Project Update for April 10, 2017: Its been way too long since my last post, and we have done a good bit of work on the 330 "over the winter break". This work includes building a new custom header and exhaust, a ballast weight mount for the trunk, seat belt added to passenger side, Mishimoto cold air kit, a new aluminum flywheel/clutch/pressure plate, added a fire bottle + quick release mount, then a half cage and harnesses were added.

    DSC_0194-S.jpg DSC_6866-S.jpg

    We also entered the car in two events since the MSR 1.7 test last November 2016: a NASA Time Trial event at MSR-C (1.7 CCW) in early March, then an HPDE event in late March with The Driver's Edge on the 3.1 mile MSR-C course. This update is running too long so I will skip covering these two events for now and just show the fun stuff - the mods!


    A lot has been going on in the months since my last post here, which might explain why I'm so behind in updating our many project build threads. We launched our all new website for Vorshlag (which took months of work), started a 2nd business (engine shop called Horsepower Research) and built out that commercial space + website, had a TV shoot in our Vorshlag shop (Fast-n-Loud episode - where Aaron Kaufman built an E36 LS1 monster using our swap kit, MCS dampers, flares, 18x11" wheels and more), we hosted our annual open house / SCCA tech day event, had employees leave and then added new hires, attended track events in some of our other project cars, my daily driver truck was totaled in a wreck (which benched me from racing for a bit), and much more. I'm also been remodeling my house for months (to put on the market to sell), and of course overseeing regular Vorshlag business. I just need to add a few hobbies to fill up the rest of my free time, ha!

    P1090035-S.jpg B61G2276-S.jpg

    I will try to cover the latest round of mods to the 330 and then show the next phase planned on our #DailyDrivenTrackCar. We've also got some cool parts inbound or already here for the next round of stuff - carbon hood, proper flares, and a giant rear wing!


    Finally... after a year of racing a bone stock powered M54, its TIME FOR MORE HORSEPOWER! Like I tell so many new HPDE drivers, autocrossers, customers and friends: you have to tackle a lot of other things on your track car build before you go looking for horsepower. Most people want to do hp mods FIRST, but it should really towards the BOTTOM of your mod list.

    And after we had spent the time and money to upgrade the suspension, wheels and tires, then the necessary oil pump reliability and balancer mods... THEN it was time to install some go-fast parts. Since we use MyShopAssist for all of our shop tasks - even shop owned cars like this one - I can account for every second of work it takes. I'm going to try to show the hours for the various upgrades on this 330 this time, so you can get an idea of what to expect if you pay a shop or how long to budget for yourself to do this type of work on a similar car.

    Cold Air + Elbow Kit = 1.42 hours

    First up was a cold air kit from Mishimoto. The released one last year specifically made for the E46 330.

    DSC_5087-S.jpg DSC_6331-S.jpg

    Mishimoto sent us one of their first production units, which we test fit on our car last year in order to send them feedback.

    B61G1965_1-S.jpg B61G7816-S.jpg

    The silicone tubing bits before the MAF sensor are one kit (elbow kit, above right) and the post MAF angled tubing, air filter and airbox are the second kit (cold air kit, above left). We listed these under the "engine performance" sub-heading for the E46 chassis.


    Brad put this kit onto our 330 in place of the OEM air box and inlet tube, and elbow from the throttle body to MAF. We didn't do an "after" dyno test or any dyno tuning with this Cold Air mod alone, but you could hear the engine a bit more and the sealed airbox fit the car nicely. Maybe a 5-10 hp bump using my super accurate ButtDyno. :p

    DISA Valve Repair = 2.45 hours

    While the guys were adding all of the Mishimoto intake hose bits I had them rebuild the DISA valve for reliability.

    DSC_5673-S.jpg DSC_5672-S.jpg

    We don't sell this kit but I have linked to videos and websites that do. We did this upgrade based on input from local shop owner Andy from Clownshoe Motorsports, who said he has seen DISA failures on E46s that caused parts to go into the engine. Good advice.


    The DISA valve is a BMW gadget that is mounted to the plenum of the intake manifold on the M52, M52TU, and M54 engines. This valve changes the length of the intake runners to help improve low end torque at low revs (by diverting the intake flow path to longer runner lengths) and higher RPM power (shorter runner lengths). This is a somewhat slick system but this video shows how they fail.


    We bought the DISA upgrade/repair kit from German Auto Solutions. This kit replaces a bunch of plastic parts (that get brittle and fail over time) with CNC machined aluminum and titanium parts. You should also order new O-rings for the valve when you do this upgrade. This DISA upgrade helps prevent leaks, sticking or fluttering valves, and worse - prevents damaged parts from coming loose and being ingested - which will destroy your engine!

    Some might wonder why you don't "just get a new one", but the OEM and aftermarket DISA valves are all still made with the same "low cost plastic" parts, and they will eventually fail. Not to mention a new DISA valve is expensive; this DISA upgrade kit is under $80 but is better than the new $400 replacement units.

    The DISA unit in our car was pretty sloppy and needed the rebuild - so we avoided some issues by doing this. The new bushings included in the kit we got were VERY tight to the shaft, however, so they had to be "massaged" a bit and it took nearly 2.5 hours to do this repair. I suspect it would be less than an hour most times, if the parts had worked together more smoothly.

    Custom Full Length Header Fabrication = 25.86 hours

    I have long said that the OEM exhaust manifold for the M54 engine is one of THE worst designs ever put into a modern automobile. The primary tubes from each port are no more then 5" long, they all turn into a log manifold, which then dumps into a catalytic convertor.

    DSC_7961-S.jpg DSC_7965-S.jpg

    The popular solution (outside of SpecE46, which mandates an OEM E36 M50 manifold) is to use these cheap eBay knockoff headers which run from $100-200. I've also said for a long time that "you get what you pay for".
    DSC_2090-S.jpg Dyno-blue-2001-330-S.jpg

    We went that route on our blue E46 TTD 330 back in 2010 and the results (with a custom tune and a cold air intake) made a dismal 211 whp nd 205 wtq. Advice: DON'T BE FOOLED BY SHINY, SPARKLY PARTS FROM CHINA!


    You can see how different the lengths of the primary tubes are in these cheap headers above. We wanted to make a better designed and more equal length long tube header for the M54. I have been wanting to make this for years and finally have the team in place to be able to do it.

    With the before/after chassis dyno testing on the stock M54 engines, my earlier blue 330Ci with the eBay header + custom exhaust, and this red 330Ci with this custom header + exhaust (stock tune), I can already see that this design has been a fundamental success - and we haven't even done any EFI tuning on the red car yet. Let's take a look at the construction of this header.


    Our head fabricator Ryan built this tri-Y header design using primary lengths, diameters, collector sizes and collector placements that we came up with as a team. I worked with Ryan, our fabricator, and with Jason, our engineer, to come up with this design. Numbers were calculated using some common header design formulas as well as our collective experiences.


    The primaries are 1.625" diameter, the collectors are 2.500" dia and the final merged exhaust pipe is 3.000" dia. We started with mandrel bent 304 stainless steel tubing. The header flange and merge collectors were built to order. Lastly we added O2 bungs for the primary oxygen sensors (but left the secondary sensors and cats off - for now).

    DSC_6324-S.jpg DSC_6323-S.jpg

    The 304 stainless steel flange was CNC machined for the stock M54 head port shape with 1.625" diameter ports. These are made for a round 1-5/8" dia tube that you have to "oval-ize", which Ryan did using the custom made fixture shown above right. This includes both a mandrel and set of dies he machined here. A section of round tubing is worked into the dies and opened up with the mandrel.


    After the flanges were completed with their short oval-ized tubing sections he began the primary header design using the ICE engine works plastic layout kit (you can see the orange bits above) to get the primary tubes routed and the lengths "as close to equal as makes sense" as they worked their way back to the two 3-into-1 merge 2.5" dia collectors.

    DSC_6384-S.jpg DSC_6386-S.jpg

    These made to order 3-into-1 merge collectors were massively delayed - 5 weeks late - and this delay kept us from making the January NASA race at MSR-Houston. These were well made but they blew their ETA by a lot. I wasn't going to do another NASA TT race with stock power again.

    IMG_6083-S.jpg DSC_6562-S.jpg

    When the primary tubes were cut, fitted, and tack welded the two 3-tube header assemblies they were removed from the car and final TIG welded on the bench. This involved Argon back purging each tube as they were final TIG welded. The 3-to-1 merge collectors are a slip-fit into the primary tubes but each tube is secured with a pair of flanges and bolts to allow them to be removed and tightened (not shown).


    Getting 6 long header tubes packed together on one side of the engine makes it all look a bit busy, but overall I'm very happy with the fit in the car and with the overall shape and lengths. From here we needed to make a new exhaust system that matched the flow of the full length header. Doing a custom header like this is VERY time consuming, and the fact that it only took 26 hours (including about 1.8 hours getting some stubborn exhaust studs/nuts removed) to build shows how having good tools and equipment saves time. We didn't cut any corners, no sloppy welds or hammer fitting things in place.

    Exhaust Fabrication = 19.78 hours

    With the higher flowing header we need a higher flowing exhaust system behind it. Another time consuming but necessary job to make the after-header system match the capabilities of the new custom header. We went for a quiet, high flowing system using a layout we have used on BMWs in the past. Normally I'd quote closer to 15 hours for this job, but in this case there were some aspects of the custom header and how that mated to the collectors that added some time.


    Previous custom exhausts we have built on multiple E46 M3s with the more powerful S54 3.2L engine were built here using 2.75" or 2.5" collectors merged into a 3.5" main exhaust pipe and muffler (see above). We've seen the dyno results of these S54 builds and those results + our calculations and experience drove us to a 2.5" collectors and a 3.0" main exhaust system on this 3.0L M54.

    DSC_6236-S.jpg DSC_6235-S.jpg

    The OEM E46 330 exhaust bits are heavy and restrictive. They do a good job and make the exhaust note almost silent, even with the vacuum controlled flapper in the exhaust (which does almost nothing). After 17 years of use the system looked nearly new - so it was definitely robust.

    DSC_2094-S.jpg DSC_2096.S.jpg

    We weighed the stock bits back in 2010 and we cut out 50% of this weight with the eBay headers and the system I built back then. Problem was it was loud and I didn't want a lot of exhaust noise this time around. We have had good results with a few Magnaflow models in the past few years which we have done before-after exhaust sound tests with and had incredible results - with both power and sound attenuation.


    The case uses a 5"x11" oval shape with a massive 22" case length. On the S54 powered M3s we use the unit above with the 3.5" tube (it also comes in 4.0") but for our little M54 powered 330 we went with the 3.0" tubed version. I know this muffler can cut sound and still make power - but it comes with a higher weight. Since we are already having to add ballast (see below) and its all going to the back, this muffler is as good of a place as any for ballast.

    continued below

    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Apr 2017 04:28 PM

    continued from above


    The Magnaflow stainless muffler is bigger than the OEM unit but still fits in the stock location on the driver's side rear. That was hung first and then the 3" tubing and bends were routed forward. Ryan also added a 3" V-band connection just forward of the rear axle.

    B61G2479-S.jpg B61G2471-S.jpg

    The 2.5" dia tubing sections after of the collectors were run back to about the middle of the car. Here they were merged into a 2-to-1 merge that brought the exhaust up to a single 3" tube. This was routed back to the muffler section aiming for the V-band connector.


    The exhaust tucks up into the tunnel nicely with no loss of ground clearance - even going to much larger tubing diameters. We went for a turn-down aft of the bumper, which I show below in the "sound test" video.

    PDR Repairs

    Donnie's brother Kris stopped by on a rainy day and performed PDR on the 330 in our shop. He spent a few hours and removed about a dozen little hail dings on the trunk, roof, and hood.

    DSC_6316-S.jpg DSC_7010-S.jpg

    It was a little thing but it made the car look a bit better. We've got a lot more work to do in "looks" department for this car, and with a new carbon hood and new fender flares being added soon I have already scheduled time at our painter's shop during the summer break.

    Clutch & Flywheel Upgrade - 4.57 hours

    If you read my October 2016 TWS race write-up you might remember we noticed some clutch slippage in 5th gear. We put off the replacement until we had time to research a better option and then snatch the transmission out of the car to do the repairs. We ran the November test in 4th gear at MSR, but 5th was pretty much useless - and it wasn't going to get any better. With a TWS event scheduled for April we had to tackle this, so back in January we made time to replace the clutch. But what should we use?

    DSC_1991-S.jpg DSC_9940-S.jpg
    Details and pictures from our blue 2001 330Ci raced 2009-11

    Some of you remember my blue 2001 330Ci which we raced 2009-2011 (which has its own build thread) with much less racing success compared to what this red 330 has had already. We built it for SCCA DSP class but raced it a couple of times in NASA TTD, where it still runs today with it's new owner. Right as we added the eBay header + custom exhaust on that car we upgraded the clutch and flywheel to a mish-mash of Sachs OEM clutch parts (made for some other BMW) along with a Fidanza single mass aluminum flywheel, shown above.

    DSC_2032-S.jpg DSC_2042-S.jpg
    Details and pictures from our blue 2001 330Ci raced 2009-11

    The factory M54's clutch and pressure plate (worn) weighed in at 13.6 and the OEM dual mass flywheel weighed 24.8 pounds. The Sachs clutch parts weighed a tick more than stock, but the aluminum flywheel we used then helped that setup drop 12.8 pounds. The Sachs/Fidanza setup worked well and had an OEM like engagement feel - because it was some OEM Sachs clutch and pressure plate. Still, losing flywheel mass is always appreciated and this setup worked for many years without issue. The current owner of this 330 tracks the car 2 times a month and had a clutch failure back in 2016, so he got a good 6+ years of abuse out of the Sachs bits.

    New hotness! ClutchMasters FX350 kit we have installed on our red 330Ci

    Its 2017 and I wanted to find something better than OEM Sachs parts this time. Some other BMW racers had talked me to ClutchMasters products and we have used a number of their clutch and flywheel kits recently with excellent success. Since this E46 was built for us to test new products with before we would consider selling them, I figured I would try the 330 option they make. We picked up this FX350 clutch kit with the optional single-mass aluminum flywheel.

    DSC_6620-S.jpg DSC_6586-S.jpg
    Left: The red car's clutch/pp/flywheel weighs 39.5. Right: FX350 system weighs 26.2

    We re-weighed the stock bits and it came in at 39.5 pounds. We replaced the worn OEM flywheel and clutch/pressure plate parts and replaced them with this 26.2 pound FX350 flywheel and clutch kit, for a loss of 13.3 pounds. And while that's only a fraction of a pound more weight savings than the Sachs/Fidanza setup we used 8 years ago, this FX350 kit is a full clutch/flywheel system engineered together, not some assortment of OEM bits and a flywheel that happened to work with that. This FX350 clutch has more clamping force but not a tremendously firmer clutch pedal effort.

    DSC_6593-S.jpg DSC_6594-S.jpg

    Donnie did the install of this kit. First he started by removing the exhaust covers, driveshaft, trans, and shifter. The clutch and PP were removed, then the stock flywheel. Which looked like crap! You cannot resurface dual mass flywheels so this was scrapped - which we had planned to do anyway. The pilot bearing was checked and it felt loose, so that was pushed out of the crank and replaced.

    DSC_6598-S.jpg DSC_6603-S.jpg

    The rear main seal had a small leak so the rear engine cover was removed and resealed, along with adding a new one-piece rear main seal. I hate fluid leaks on my cars! If I see a drop of anything leaking it really spins me up. This is why I try to keep my engines spotlessly clean on all of my personal vehicles - to spot any leaks.

    DSC_6605-S.jpg DSC_6609-S.jpg

    The ClutchMasters flywheel went in next, with cleaned bolts applied with and Blue LocTite. The clutch and pressure plate went in with an alignment tool and torqued to spec as well. The clutch slave cylinder and engagement arm both looked a bit janky so they were replaced. RBF600 Motul fluid was flushed through the clutch hydraulics, so everything is new in the clutch system.


    I've shown the "rebuilt" shifter we did on this car, which just uses a shorter Z3 shift handle and some new bushings. It shifts "well enough" but I am avoiding the typical aftermarket BMW shifters that I have used on previous builds. Instead I've got my eye on something better, like the CAE shifter. We'll see if that is in the budget, but until then I'm sticking with the upgraded OEM shifter.

    Test Drive: Exhaust + Clutch Sound

    A 3" turn-down was added to the rear of the exhaust to divert sound away - its not made to be JDM-YO! cool looking, but instead serves a purpose. Keeps sound levels low.


    I took the car for a test drive after the header, exhaust, cold air and clutch upgrades were complete. Very happy with the clutch engagement and added power I could feel.


    The exhaust note was also pleasantly quiet. You could "hear" the engine but it wasn't LOUD AS HELL like some race systems are. Much quieter than say... a SpecE46 or a SpecMiata. The video above was me driving around the paddock at MSR in March, trying to show the sounds of the clutch (minimal noise added) and exhaust (ditto). You will see in the track videos what it sounds like at full tilt, but for now this is what its "street sound" is like. Mild, throaty, and very reasonable. That's not by accident.


    I thought about not posting dyno charts until after we have had a chance to get the computer custom tuned, but EVEN WITHOUT tuning this is still good data to share.

    Let's start with the STOCK dyno test on our red 2001 330Ci as well as the FINAL dyno test on our blue 2001 330Ci with the eBay header, exhaust, cold air and a custom tune.

    Left: Red 330 stock dyno test in 2016. Right: Blue 330 dyno test with headers/exhaust/CAI/tune in 2010

    Now some have said that our red 330's stock chassis dyno power number (195 whp) looks a little low, which is probably due to the fact that it had 164K miles when we tested it last year in stock form. The Blue 330Ci's dyno was with a "custom" e-tune, header, exhaust and cold air - where it made 211 whp/205 wtq.

    Yes, there are some SpecE46 cars making more power than that, I know. Those use the M50/52 OEM header + a $600 tune from EPIC + a race exhaust, and it isn't a bad setup. The common SpecE46 cars tend to make 205-225 whp with the full suite of "spec" components, and the higher numbers on that scale tend to be on freshly rebuilt motors, not 164K mile used engines.


    This is the UNTUNED dyno chart for our red E46 330Ci after the header/exhaust/CAI: 216 whp/220 wtq. A solid +5 whp and +15 wtq more than our blue car, with similar parts and tuned. Did I want to see more than that? Sure, but its still on the factory tune with the stock computer. I assure you we will have this tuned and re-dyno'd before my next big thread update, where I hope to see +10 or more whp added. Surprisingly it drives fine like this, just has a bunch of "check engine lights".

    continued below

    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    11 Apr 2017 04:32 PM

    continued from above


    There were a number of small repairs and upgrades that happened either right before or just after the March NASA event but before the TDE track weekend we went to, which I will cover below.

    Ballast Weight Box (2 hours) + Corner Balance (1.5 hours)

    In our last NASA race of 2016 we ran TWS at 3115 lbs declared race weight. We could do that because we had so many unused "mod points" to burn, and our power was well below the class P-to-W limit (244 whp) for the 3285 "base weight" this car is assigned. We used up all 12 mod points to be able to legally run 160 pounds under weight, with driver. In January 2017 after adding the header/exhaust (+5 points) and cold air (+1), and while we had increased power by a bit, we lost 6 of those "weight loss" points, so we have to add some weight back to be legal (80 pounds worth).

    P7B_4949-a-X3-S.jpg DSC_5384-S.jpg

    After the header + CAI we still had 6 unused points for TTD, so we shot for a 3205 pound race weight (80 pounds under, plus a 15 pound buffer shown above at 3220) for the March '17 NASA event at MSR. To get there we had to add 80 pounds of ballast from before (20 in bracket/bolts + 60 in weight plates).

    P7A_6401-S.jpg B61G1994-S.jpg

    We have built ballast weight brackets before on many cars but last year I came up with an idea to utilize a bench press bar and associated weight plates to make for an easier "quick change" ballast system. This idea was first tested on Jamie Beck's ST3 classed Mustang, where he has to add ballast to stay within that class' power-to-weight limit. On that car we added two "stacks" of weights with the ability to fit 250 pounds of ballast in the back quickly.

    Like the race prepped Mustang, our TTD prepped E46 is getting lighter in the rear faster than the front. When we had to add this 80 pounds of ballast we built a similar rear trunk mounted ballast rack - bolted inside the spare tire well. Ryan fabricated this structure using thick walled 1"x2" rectangular tubing, generous mounting flanges, and large bolts to the chassis with reinforced nut heads.

    B61G2754-S.jpg B61G2753-S.jpg

    This time we used only a single square threaded bench press bar post (passing thru and welded to the tubing on both sides) and a single stack of weights. Plates of weight can be added to reach our final race weight goals quickly, and removed for test days and HPDE events to reduce consumable wear. With two locking collars secured to each other on the threaded post, the weights stay tight all weekend. This system passed NASA tech on two cars on multiple occasions, so we're going to keep using it.


    Once we had the weight bracket built, the weights added to hit our 3205 goal (3220 with buffer) and half a tank of fuel (the minimum we can run without fuel starving) the guys corner balanced the car with me in the driver's seat to get our diagonal weights at 50/50. The 52.4% front weight bias is shown in the picture above, which was an improvement of 2 points from before (before ballast). With some fluid changes we were now ready to race with NASA in March!

    Replace Control Arm = 0.79 hours

    During the March NASA event I may have been a little overzealous with some of the curbing on a few laps, which can bite you there. I was trying to reset the TTD track record by enough that it would "stick" for a while (and did - by nearly 4 seconds) so I was using all of the paved curbing on track out (gator teeth style) and even some of the FIA inner curbing (much of which is REALLY tall here). I was also forced off track at the highest speed corner that weekend by driver with a minor lack of situational awareness.

    DSC_0193-S.jpg P7A_8971-S.jpg

    Those two circumstances (high speed off + some curbing) may have led to to a prematurely worn control arm ball joint up front. I started hearing some knocking noises and checked it track side that weekend, but it wasn't bad enough to warrant repair there.

    DSC_6834-S.jpg DSC_6836-S.jpg

    After this March MSR event - like after every track event - I had our crew perform a thorough pre-track inspection. Ryan found some play in the inner mounting ball joint of the LF control arm. I had ordered a less expensive set of Febi/Bilstein control arms when we replaced the original stock arms a year ago, and once again I learned "you get what you pay for". A more costly stock replacement Lemforder arm was installed this time, which is a brand we have had better results with.

    Passenger Seat Belt Added = 1.76 hours

    When we ran the 330 at TWS last year we wanted to run as light as possible, so only one racing seat was installed. We had made brackets for the passenger seat and installed it briefly, but it was left out to conserve weight for that event (running 3115 pounds). After that event it was installed but in in the rush to prep the car for the November test we forgot to add the lower seat belt buckle. We had since thrown the ratty old stock seat and never thought to save the seat belt parts (which are attached to the bottom of the stock seat).

    DSC_6840-S.jpg DSC_6839-S.jpg

    I never noticed that because after we had the 2nd race seat installed I hadn't taken a passenger with me - just doing MSR testing by myself. It wasn't until I tried to take my student at the March '17 NASA event for a ride, and he tried to buckle in, that it was noticed it wasn't there - Doh! So after this event we looked high and low in the shop for a stock E46 lower seat belt buckle, to no avail. A new one was ordered from BMW ($120!) and I had our new fab guy Aaron install it. Which is harder than it might sound.

    IMG_6649-S.jpg IMG_6652-S.jpg

    Running a 3-point OEM belt with racing seats might seem crazy, but for street use it is actually much safer to use retractable OEM belts rather than cinched down 5-7 point racing harnesses. So we will always add the OEM lower buckle from a BMW seat to the chassis bracket or side brackets when we do a racing seat install in a DUAL PURPOSE car like this. Our "Daily Driven Track Car" is the definition of dual purpose.

    IMG_6655-S.jpg IMG_6657-S.jpg

    This was one of Aaron's first fab jobs on one of our shop cars, so I had him remove the driver's side seat to copy the threaded bung Olof had machined and welded to the driver's side OMP steel side bracket a year before. Aaron machined the matching steel bung on the lathe, tapped it for a big M10 bolt, then welded it to the passenger side steel bracket.

    This worked perfectly (correct height and placement) and the upper OEM seat belts now have something to buckle into on the passenger side. The task gobbled up more time than I would charge a customer, but I guess if we had done this when both seats at the same time initially this might have only added about 45 minutes of work or less.


    While using OEM 3-point belts on racing seats is far from ideal for the actual track use portion of this dual purpose car, it does work and passes tech (when the belts are routed through the racing seats correctly). There was just nothing to mount the shoulder harnesses to - up until last week. We had been talking about adding a 4-point roll bar or 6-point roll cage for some time, and have finally have done that (I will show more details next time). But long story short: now we can add real 6-point harnesses to both seats for track use, and keep the 3-point OEM belts in place for street use. The things you have to do on a dual purpose car...

    Fire Bottle & Quick Release added = 1.72 hours

    Speaking of good safety ideas, adding a small fire extinguisher is always a good idea to a track car. We always like to add a 2.5 pound Halon-type fire bottle within easy reach of the driver. These work well to put out small fires - like a grass fire, if you drive off track and have to stop (mechanical), or small electrical fires. Full blown engine fires might need a 10+ pound fire bottle from a corner worker, but little flame ups can be squashed with these smaller 2.5 pound bottles.

    B61G9182-S.jpg B61G9181-S.jpg
    A multi-nozzle Aqueous Foam fire suppression system coupled with a small fire extinguisher is a great combo in a race car.

    Often we will add this little 2.5 pound fire bottle and quick release mount to a race car that also has a full fire system. Why discharge your (required) fire system and fill the car with foam for something that a small Halon style bottle could extinguish?

    B61G9640-S.jpg _DSC7532-S.jpg

    We like to use a Drake billet aluminum quick-release mount, which is an approved fire bottle mount that allows for "quick release" from the chassis. This can mount to a roll bar or flat surface. In this case we put it just under the front edge of the passenger seat, which is easy to reach to from either side, yet out of the way of passenger's legs. Then we mount a 2.5 pound Halon-substitute fire bottle to that Drake mount. Pull the red pin, slides right out, and then you can head to the flames.

    DSC_6849-S.jpg DSC_6850-S.jpg

    On a race car this is easier, as we don't have 2" inch thick padded carpet in the way and we can just bolt the Drake mount to the floor or trans tunnel. But on this BMW I had Aaron make a pair of spacers to bring the mount above the thick OEM carpet. These were made with some custom machined aluminum hex bar, which is threaded at both ends. The lower side bolts to the floor from underneath and passed through small holes in the carpet and foam padding. The upper holes are threaded for the countersunk stainless bolts we use with the Drake mount. Keeps the mount rigid and above the carpet. This is yet another added wrinkle necessary with a dual purpose car vs a race car (which takes 15 minutes to mount to the bare floor).



    If you watched my "exhaust sound" video above you will notice some serious tire rubbing in the rear when going up inclines. In my track videos you will have heard the tires rubbing on some bumps or curbing, too. The 17x10" wheels we're using just have too much width and offset to work with the stock E46 rear fenders and the wide-ish 245mm Hoosiers. The front tires are touching the fenders as well - which is not good.

    DSC_9046-X3-S.jpg IMG_2740-S.jpg

    I have got to do something about adding tire clearance to all four corners, and we've run out of room on the fenders with heavy hammer massaging. It looks terrible with what I've done already, but the tires and fenders are still "touching inappropriately". #SafeSpace I didn't want to go through the trouble + bodywork expense of the modified front/grafted on rear OEM E46 M3 fenders on this car like I did on the blue 330. The E46 M3 front fenders we used before have nearly doubled in price from the dealer, at almost $600 per fender (that's $2400 + fab work + bodywork + paint). There has got to be a more cost effective way to flare this car for these wheels/tires.

    s-l1600-d-S.jpg s-l1600-f-S.jpg

    I searched the forums and that led me to these fleaBay bolt-on "generic" fender flares, which some said they had good results with (but I couldn't find any installed pics). For less than $120 shipped from "Latviaistan" I figured, "how bad could they be?"

    Answer: VERY BAD. These flares don't fit these BMWs at all, as the wheel arch on the flare is much smaller then what the E46 needs. The overall shape is also way off, and would take hours of cutting and notching to make them "fit" around the contours of the fenders. They will also never look good. So I bit the bullet and just ordered HARD Motorsport E46 bolt-on flares, which should be here next week. We will post up the pics of that install next time, which will involve cutting and fab work to clear the tire, but the flares themselves should more or less "bolt on".


    Like I said at the beginning, there have been two track weekends in March 2017 that I need to get pictures and video together for to chronicle here. Just showing work done on mods in this update.


    At the March NASA event we beat the old 1.7 CCW TTD track record to bits, which I will show next time with video in my event write-up. Very happy with the results (1:23s), but with "6 more points of mods" in TTD and more power (from a proper tune) we could go even faster (1:21s is where the record needs to be).


    The long overdue addition of a custom half cage (welded in 4 point roll bar) was completed last week, which I will show next time. The Schroth harnesses are here and those will go in once the roll bar structure is painted. We should see the correct fender flares soon as well, so we can hopefully show that install in a future update. We have another NASA event at TWS in a couple of weeks that we will be hunting for the TTD track record at, as well as a NASA event COTA in May. Then Hallett in June, then the summer break where we will get some paint work done to this car.

    B61G3135-S.jpg B61G3111-S.jpg

    There is also an "extra" AJ Hartman carbon fiber hood (9.5 pounds!) that we ended up with last month from another project, which will go onto our red 330 soon. Hopefully before TWS, but the schedule is pretty jammed up so I don't know if we will get it installed in time. Getting more weight off the front axle and onto the rear axle (as we add ballast) is a continuing goal, and this lightweight hood should improve that further. We're at 52.4% front weight bias now, improved from 54% before, so we're heading in the right direction.

    Until next time,

    Terry Fair - www.vorshlag.com
    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    12 May 2017 03:38 PM
    Project Update for May 11th, 2017: We've done four track events since my last update in here, including one HPDE event, two NASA race weekends where we were chasing TTD track records, and an SCCA Club Trials event - I cover the first 3 in this update. The added power of the CAI + header + exhaust were much appreciated, and you can read about that below. The E46 is getting faster on track, but the "streetable" aspects are starting to diminish, too. That is not shocking news - as a car gets racier, it gets less streetable.

    With proper roll bar and harnesses I could do some right seat coaching with Amy at TWS

    We still haven't had the engine tuned yet (after the custom header/exhaust/CAI), but we have the hardware and software on hand and are working towards that goal. We did tackle the long overdue safety upgrades by building a custom 4-point roll bar / welded half cage. Then Schroth harnesses were added, finally. As I write this the HARD Motorsport flares are being added - will show some of that also.


    Last time I teased a picture of carbon fiber hood built by AJ Hartman that we weighed at 9.5 pounds. We have an extra one we got that will go on this 330 soon, but not in this update. The hood was originally ordered for this E46 M3 shown below.

    This is a customer build we are doing with an E46 M3 chassis, big nasty V8, major aero mods, massive tires, and lots of other go-fast tweaks. You can read more about this in that car's forum build thread here.

    [SIZE="5"]NASA at MSR-C, MARCH 11-12, 2017

    Running our red TTD prepped 330 at MSR-Cresson, once again chasing a track record in March 2017 was a weird case of deva vu. In 2016 we were chasing the TTD record in our red 330 with stock power, overweight, on dead 245mm Hoosiers. But even way back in 2010 we set the (soft) TTD record with our blue 330, also on the wrong tire and with stock power. Here's a quote from that old forum build thread for the blue car:

    [QUOTE]3/24/2010: I set the TTD track record at MSR-C with a dismal 1:29.8 last weekend. ... I'm not proud of that as a "lap record", being that its slower than the TTE record, but it was a good shake-down run on the wrong tires with a slug of a motor. We'll go back and run MSR-C soon with more tire (Hoosier 285s), more power (header + exhaust + VANOS repaired), and see if I can get into the 1:25-ish range. That's what I think the car is capable of at MSR in TTD trim. Won't be able to work on the lap record until 2011, though... and by then it might be in TTC. Oh well. [/QUOTE]

    Left: Blue E46's 2010 TTD record setting setup on 265mm Yokohamas. Right: Same car on 285 Hoosiers was MUCH faster

    Not one week after that 2010 NASA event I had flared the blue car to fit the (then TTD legal) 285mm Hoosier R6 tire, using M3 front fenders and hammered rear fenders. Shortly after we added the CAI, eBay header, and a custom race exhaust. We should have gone back to reset the TTD record in 2011, but by then we had suffered a "number of engine failures" that soured me on the M54 engine and I sold that E46 330. Since then the NASA rules have changed and the E46 330 has both gained weight and lost 7 class points in the base classing, plus the tire rules changed, which makes the old setup on the blue 330 impossible to do in TTD today. Shame, as I really liked the 285s on that car - wider tires really woke it up!

    Our old blue E46 330 is still running on track in 2017 - and it is still quick

    The guy we sold the blue 330 to is still running it 2+ times a month on track, now on 275mm Conti slicks. He's working on getting his TT license and in the pictures above (April @ TWS) he was doing lead-follows with Amy in our 330, with them both running in HPDE4.

    Event photo gallery: https://vorshlag.smugmug.com/Racing-Events/NASA-MSR-C-031117/

    So back to the MSR race weekend: unlike last year's March MSR-C event with NASA, where I could run no quicker than a 1:27.604 on a dying set of Hoosiers, this time the 330 had a fresher set of Hoosier R7s (3 events on them instead of 7!) - and fresh tires can make all the difference in the world. We also had more horsepower (+21 whp), less weight, real MCS coilovers, Whiteline swaybars, and a year's worth of testing to put us closer to our goal of resetting the TTD track record. The old record coming into this 2017 NASA race weekend was a 1:27.5, but like I said in 2010, I felt like it should have always been closer to a 1:25.0. I have been continuously mystified as to why the TTD record was so "soft" here at MSR for the past 7 years.

    We got to Cresson late afternoon on Friday to unhook the trailer, but I was REALLY sick with bad allergies. Violently sneezing, coughing, stopped up, blurry eyes - I had never had an allergy attack this bad. The weather was also wet, unseasonably cold, and with with high winds all weekend. I ended up being sick all weekend, plus was still really sore from the truck wreck I had weeks earlier, which all kept me from driving at 100%. I was also instructing and working with 4 different students, giving three check rides, so super busy that weekend. Friday night I barely slept 2 hours, which put me in worse shape the next morning. All in all this was not one of my best weekends of driving, but it still went pretty well.


    Since it had rained a bit the night before, it was cold and windy Saturday morning. So I went out in the BMW in the "TT Warm-up" session on a green track. I was buried in traffic and only ran a 1:25.5 lap, about a half second slower than my November test (1:25.0, see lap video links below). A TTC classed M3 in front of me the entire session was spraying my car with SHEETS of fuel (he had a busted fuel filler cap) so I came in after getting a good enough time for gridding in the next session. Still running the Sparco EVO II seats with OEM seat belts, which meant I had to brace my upper body, so my injured back was killing me.

    Left: Lots of S2000s ahead and behind me on grid. Right: Jamie's Mustang doing well in ST3

    In the first official TT session an hour later I busted off a 1:24.085, smashing the old TTD track record by 3.4 seconds. The R7 tires were showing their age and taking 4+ laps to come up to temp before they had real grip. After a lot of sliding around they were working better and giving some decent lateral g numbers, but in laps 1-3 they weren't performing.

    I went out in the third session (TT session 2) and ran a similar 1:24.154 to back up that time, but the weather and traffic in the middle of the LARGE field of TT drivers wasn't favorable.

    I ended the day then, skipping the last session, hoping for some traffic free laps in the "golden" first session of Sunday morning. Picked up a trophy for the day but also the 2016 Regional TTD championship trophy at the NASA banquet that night. I was feeling pretty terrible and was just dying to get some sleep at the hotel.


    The day again started off with lousy weather - overcast, windy, and cold with ambient temps of 43°F and wind chill in the 30's. I skipped the 1st session but there were some fast times, and I regretted not going out. I was still gridded fairly well for session 2 and I told myself that if I had times in the 1:23 range, I'd put the car on the trailer and call it a day. We had already smashed the record, and not having a single TTD competitor that weekend made running every session somewhat pointless. I also wanted to save the remaining tire life on this set for another event coming up (HPDE).

    This video shows the new TTD record lap on Sunday

    In session 2 after several laps of getting the tires up to temp I finally ran a 1:23.789 lap, beating the old track record by almost 3.7 seconds and even beat the record I set the day before by a few tenths. You can see from this list of videos/lap times I have run at MSRC how far we've come in this 330:

      [*]https://youtu.be/_I4ltM6plFQ - 1:29.630 in the 2013 Scion FR-S with camber and front brake upgrade
      [*]https://youtu.be/4zIW-9T-vb0 - 1:26.212 in the Focus RS on coilovers and camber (which then ran a 1:23.658 on 275 Bridgestones later that day)
      [*]https://youtu.be/YvCH0aWGt-A - 1:25.075 in our TTD prepped E46 330 (195 whp) on MCS + Hoosiers (Nov 2016 test)
      [*]https://youtu.be/mEZTFzqS7BY - 1:23.789 in our TTD prepped E46 330 (216 whp) on MCS + Hoosiers with power at this event
      [*]https://youtu.be/1_B2u_fOnww - 1:22.63 in the stock 2012 C6 Z06
      [*]https://youtu.be/athEpfLRH3o - 1:22.56 in the modded 2013 1LE Camaro on Hankook RS-3 tires
      [*]https://youtu.be/Ga1GoC-H9dM - 1:21.90 in our TTC prepped 1992 Corvette (288 whp)
      [*]https://youtu.be/6Rpepzil8FI - 1:21.89 in stock 2017 Corvette C7 Grand Sport

    I guess we reset the track record closer to what it should be, but with no other TTD competitors we once again didn't have a chance to win any tires - and we would need a fresh set before NASA @ TWS in April. We still don't have a max prepped TTD car, and with better conditions (and better driving) a full tilt TTD car might inch closer to the 1:22 or even 1:21 range. TTC record was reset by an S2000 by a LOT this same weekend, down to a 1:18.691 (from a 1:21 previous record), which was an eye opener. That was the second quickest TT time of the weekend, behind a 1:17.444 time from a TT3 M3. I have the end of day results posted here as well as in the photo gallery.

    Time Trial Results for both days (each day is a different points event)

    Pros and Cons: Tire rub - all weekend I could feel the tires hitting the edges of the fenders in one corner. Oddly enough the left side tires had contact on this predominantly left hand turn course. It was from a series of bumps on the driving line at the entry of Buzzard Neck (T4) which were causing the suspension to compress on the left side enough to touch. I kept an eye on this all weekend, but its been doing it ever since we installed these 17x10" wheels. I thought I had re-rolled the front and rear enough times to clear but apparently it needs more. Drastic measures required.

    On the plus side the extra power from the header/exhaust/CAI was apparent - and now all I can think is, "I want some more!". The exhaust sound was also pretty tame, which was what we were going for. The video below shows the exhaust sound at normal sub 2500 rpm levels. The new ClutchMasters flywheel and clutch worked great.

    This video shows a short exhaust sound test driving around MSR Cresson

    With class wins both days we had scored 200 more points towards the regional TTD championship, and we were glad to get out of this crazy weather - we hung out inside the trailer during down time the rest of the day, and had the car loaded in the trailer before lunch. I stuck around until the last HPDE run group to instruct then we hit the road. The driving wind and cold just took everything out of us both, Amy never even drove a single lap (she wasn't feeling it, I dunno), and I was sick as a dog all weekend. Glad to put this event in the rear view... but we still celebrated our New First Tack Record in the TTD car.

    [SIZE="5"]TDE at MSR-C 3.1 MARCH 25-26, 2017

    Amy signed us up to The Driver's Edge HPDE event on March 25-26, 2017, two weeks after the NASA event and at the same facility. She was more excited about running this HPDE event on the 3.1 configuration of the same track for some reason than she was at the previous NASA weekend. She really likes the little 1.3 mile course - which has lots of elevation change - and when joined with the 1.7 course becomes the 3.1.

    Lots of Vorshlag customers go to these HPDE events so we were there for support and to see friends. She ran in the yellow group on the 3.1 mile course on Saturday and had a lot of fun in all 4 sessions. Since I wasn't an instructor for this group I couldn't do any right seat coaching, which would have likely helped her find more time - but she was quick for the yellow group.

    We split the 2 day entry so I hopped in the 330 and ran it all day Sunday in the red group. Lots of corners, hard to remember, but its a fun track. We didn't take any in-car video since we were just out having fun.

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    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    12 May 2017 03:45 PM
    continued from above

    I had a "evaluation ride" by one of the Instructors that runs with TDE a lot on Sunday to see if I "have what it takes" to run in the red group and possibly be an instructor with this HPDE organization. He had read the build thread for this car so he was excited to ride along - even if we didn't have harnesses in the car yet (they were installed shortly after).

    I hadn't run the 3.1 mile configuration at MSR-Cresson since 2013 so I was a bit rusty, but managed to run some quick-ish times (2:33.593) in two of my three sessions. The weather was beautiful and we had fun - but the lack of competitive element always leaves me... wanting. Amy had a blast and finally drove the 330 for an entire day. She got more comfortable in this car than ever before, and really liked the brakes, handling and grip. By my last session Sunday the tires were really falling off and I was slowing down. It was time for a new set of Hoosiers...


    After the TDE event the next track on the schedule was TWS with NASA, and I was determined to not run at this track again without a roll bar and real harnesses. This track has a tendency to "eat cars" - each year it seems there are more cars damaged at TWS than at all other road courses in the state of Texas combined.

    Making the decision to build this welded in roll bar involved some internal debate over which of these 3 "rollover protection" options we should use for this car:

    1. Buy a pre-made 4-point roll bar and fit it, weld it together, and bolt it in
    2. Build a custom 4-point roll bar and weld it into the car
    3. Build a full 6-point roll cage that is welded into the car.

    Option 1 wasn't really exciting to me as these bolt-in roll bar kits tend to be made to fit around interior bits (headliner, full interior panels, back seat) which we no longer have in this car. Plus I had done this in the blue 330 before. The compromises of building around the interior keeps the tubing 2-3+ inches below the roofline in a semi-gutted car like ours. The rear downbar mounts (below right) are also "less than ideal" and not fitted well. I get why they do that, but its just a compromise.

    Bolt-in 4-point roll bar kit fitted, welded together, and bolted into our blue E46 330

    Option 2 - a custom, welded 4-point roll bar - would fit better than Option 1, but the time it would take was a bit of an unknown. Why? We don't do this type of "half cage" deal often.

    Option 3 - a full roll cage - didn't fit this car's "daily driven track car" goals, as its almost impossible to make a "safe" roll cage that isn't dangerous on the street. Hitting your head on an upper cage/door bar without a helmet on is risky. We can sometimes pull this off with shorter drivers or larger cars, but for me, in this car... wasn't going to ever be safe. We also know a full cage would eat up 60 hours of "lost billable hours" + $800 in materials, so that's pretty expensive even for a shop owner (we always have a waiting list of customer fab work we can do). So we went with option 2.

    I was still worried about the amount of time a custom 4-point it would eat up, so I kept a close eye on that. And in the end it took about 1/3rd the time (a hair over 20 hours) to completely fabricate and weld in this custom roll bar. Pleasantly surprised, and with the hours and materials added up compared to the cost of a typical 4-point bolt-in bar + install, it comes to about the same price. Due to that realization we are going to do this type of custom 4-point more often rather than the 4-point bolt ins, with fewer compromises.

    The rear carpet section was removed and the floor was cleaned where the steel mounting plates would be welded in. Leaving the factory shoulder belt anchors in the B-pillar was a point of contention, but I wanted to keep the OEM 3-point belts functional for a while longer - in case this car was still street driven (turns out that was a good idea). This kept the main hoop from touching the metal B-pillar structure, so the rear interior panels were also left in place - for now. Using a template from previous E46 cages, Ryan bent up a slightly narrower main hoop out with 1.75" dia x .095" wall DOM tubing. The tubing still fits very tight to the roof - inches closer than the bolt-in rollbar kits made for this chassis.

    Like I pointed out above, one of the main drawbacks from the pre-made roll bar kits is where they mount the rear downbars to the chassis - at the rear sheet metal inner wheel wells, which aren't the strongest location on the E46. I asked Ryan to mount these diagonals to plates welded on top of the formed rear frame rails instead. This might cause some controversy, but its something that makes the most sense to us. Some folks fixate on mounting these rear downbars to the shock towers, or tying into or rear subframe mounts, but we don't feel that either location is ideal for a majority of the roll cage equipped BMWs out there, nor this car. We don't ever plan to use a "coilover rear shock", nor do we see rear subframes ripping out of BMWs when large chassis reinforcement plates are welded in properly.

    Ryan wanted to zip some welds along the cross bar at the base of the main hoop (which are never on bolt-in cages), as they fit tight to the tub here. But no, that wouldn't be TTD legal. If we go to TT1/2/3/4 with this car, however, it might get some additional tie-ins to the chassis at this location and the B-pillar. If we want to turn this roll bar into a roll cage it would require cutting out the body mounts or removing the roof - and the latter is preferred (swapping to a carbon roof in an E46 isn't as hard as I once thought).

    A single diagonal was added into the plane of the main hoop and another diagonal was added from the same junction between the two rear downbars. Two horizontal bars were also added - one at the base of the main hoop and one between the two rear downbars - which are above and beyond a normal bolt-in 4-point roll bar. Everything was TIG welded together other than the plates to the chassis, which were MIG welded to the tub. Much more substantial, and better fitting, than most bolt-in 4-point roll bar kits can offer.

    Once Ryan had finished the fab work, Brad used ScotchBrite on the entire cage and then cleaned it up for paint. Using paper around everything left on the interior he applied two coats of VHT "Roll Bar & Chassis Paint" in semi-flat black.

    With the paint drying overnight we could remove the tape and paper and had a pretty damn good looking, custom fitted roll bar. We had test fit seats into the car before the harness bar was added, and even with the seat slid back for me there was no need to "kick" the harness bar back behind the plane of the main hoop.

    With the roll bar completed Aaron installed the Schroth Profi-II 6-point harnesses into the lap belt (reinforced at floor) and anti-sub (anchored at seat bracket). Then the seats went in and everything was adjusted to fit.

    Hours before we were going to load up the car to go to TWS, the sticker set of Hoosier R7s arrived and were mounted up on our lone set of 17x10" wheels. I'm worried about only having one set of race wheels - which is just asking for trouble - but with a multi-month backlog for existing orders, we will look at other options. There is a plan in place for "the next two sets" of race wheels, which I will talk about in a future post. These 17x10's will become the practice/street set then.

    Right: Corner weight shown with driver and fuel level as shown.

    Veteran Member
    Veteran Member

    12 May 2017 03:51 PM
    I blew the dust from fabrication out of the interior, Aaron vacuumed the remaining bits of carpet (in front of the front seats), and Brad washed the exterior before the 330 was loaded into the trailer Friday before the TWS event in April. The rear carpet section would need extensive trimming to fit around the main hoop and lower cross bar so it was left out. The curtain airbags were also removed, as they would be routed over the main hoop at the roof line, possibly making them dangerous if they were deployed in an accident. We weighed the car and the roll bar added about 50 pounds, so two 25 pound plates of ballast were removed (we also had a full tank of fuel in the car).

    The car is looking better, except for the ratty bumper cover, hammer clearanced rear fenders, and tires touching at all four corners. Gotta work on flares next - but the ones we ordered showed up for the wrong car, so we didn't get them on before TWS. I will show that work soon...

    NASA at TWS, APRIL 22-23, 2017

    With the fresh set of sticker tires, newly added roll bar + harnesses, and a bit more power than when we ran at TWS last October we towed down to College Station on the Friday before the NASA race weekend to unload the trailer. We parked "on the beach" once again and grabbed some dinner at one of the wide variety of local restaurants, then we went to crash at our friend's. the Costas', where I helped wrench on his GT1 Camaro a little. We started with the #JankyStick to point out the less than perfect things on this car.

    Which didn't matter - it still set the fastest lap time for the event that weekend, running in TTU. Paul Costas is an old racer buddy who has co-driven together with me in autocrosses and track cars for nearly three decades. He set the fastest lap time in our TTD E46 last October, finding two tenths where I wasn't looking for time at all. Thousands of laps and hundreds of wins at TWS can do that for ya. He's also an excellent "Setup Coach" and if I had the time and money I suspect he'd help us find more time in this car using his data logging skills, real time tire temp array, and driving tips.

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