Rescuing a parts car: the story of Lumpy

It all began innocently enough.

I needed some parts for my 89 325iS that’s beginning to take shape, and a great potential donor car was just up the I-5 in Seattle. Somehow, don’t we always need more parts? The Bronzit four-door in question had its complete cooling system replaced, a Dinan updated ECU, and all of the suspension refreshed as well. Throw in a set of nice wheels, and it sounds like a great deal for just over $4,000. After exchanging a number of messages and a brief phone conversation, the owner agrees to a final price of $3,800 if the car was as he said, so my good buddy Roy and I jump in the M240 X-Drive, braving the rain to investigate. The trip isn’t as bad with heated seats, Harmon/Kardon sound, and a heated steering wheel. Sometimes, modern cars aren’t so bad after all.

The fellow selling the car is clearly pained to get rid of it, even bringing his 11-year-old son along – bummed out that Dad was selling the E30. “I need a more practical car,” he says in a low tone. The rain makes it tough to really assess the condition of the paint, but I can tell from the Facebook Marketplace pics it’s rough.

The standard/comfort interior is in incredibly good shape, with nary a tear in the front seats. The dash is flawless, and the rear seats almost like brand new. The only glitch is carpet looking as if it were beige at one time and dyed black. (poorly, I might add) But the mats cover it up well enough. A Euro analog clock, M shift knob, and a new vintage SONY head unit are all bonus points. At this point, the owner lets me know that the door locks that he thought were sorted out, begin acting up again. “How about $3,500?” A deal is struck, and a tub of extra E30 stuff (which I still haven’t had time to go through) is loaded into the back seat, along with all the receipts for current work.

A quick 150-mile drive home proves the car solid, but on summer Dunlop tires, Roy notices I am sliding around a bit on the wet pavement. But we make it back uneventfully, and a few days later, when the sun comes back out, we do a once over. Again, I am taken back at what a decent car this is for such little money. Understandable, because the sedans don’t always get as much love in E30 world. Personally, I love em. Now the inception thought burrowing in my head is gaining momentum – I can’t cannibalize this car.

The interior doesn’t need much to clean up, and it’s sporting a new set of E46 convertible mats. The manual sunroof works flawlessly, with heater and windows all working in harmony is another bonus. The prior owner had removed the AC, which doesn’t bother me here in the Pacific Northwest because we rarely need it, and this is a car that begs to be driven with the windows and sunroof open anyway. Fortunately, my really rough convertible parts car has sport seats, which will be getting a full restoration in matching BMW Vinyl by our friends at Beaverton Upholstery. (who did a stellar job on Gumby’s interior last year) We’ll keep you posted, fingers crossed the seat heaters still work!

Dropping by Autobahn Motorsports to check up on the iS’ progress, Austin takes the car for a drive after a cursory look. “This is too nice of a car to part out, man.” The thought crawls further in my head. “The bad news is it’s going to cost more money to do the iS, but now we can do it right and know exactly what we’ve got from the beginning.” It’s only money, right? After a couple rounds of anxiety, the final decision is made to keep the sedan after all. Major props to Austin for putting up with me during this phase of the project, but you know how some cars speak to you? That’s how this car is. It’s like that spunky Jack Russell Terrier that you can’t ignore.

Tire Rack still sells the TR motorsports 15″ wheels, so one more is procured to make up for the one around the front that has a ton of road rash. What’s the chance that the trashed wheel doesn’t have the bad tire with a chunk missing? The E30 gods are clearly smiling upon me. My local crew at Discount Tire mounts a fresh pair of Dunlops, and we move the scraped wheel to the trunk. In the sad event of a flat tire, matching wheels – awesome!

Bad as the paint looks, with it’s scratched and worn clear coat, there are no signs of delamination. A weekend with the buffer, some compound, and a final layer of Hydrosilex restores some shine to what’s left of the paint. Kevin, the patron saint of dent removal from Fix Your Dents, here in Vancouver, WA manages to get the dents in the doors out in spectacular fashion, but can only do so much for the roof.

So the car names itself and shall be called Lumpy going forward. Unfortunately, a quick vanity plate search at the Washington DMV reveals Lumpy is already taken. But, Lumpy 1 is not. The more I drive this car, I can’t just take it apart for parts. So here we go with another E30.

Stay tuned for more adventures.