Project 325iS, part one (and a half)

As I’ve mentioned here, the original 3 – the E21 was my first BMW crush. When the E30 hit the market, it became even more intense. I loved the square, minimal lines, and the new level of interior ergonomics and functionality. And the thought of a six, wow a six-cylinder in that little car!

A couple of years had passed, and they had forgotten the kid who couldn’t afford an E21, so the test drive of a new 325e in Hellrot, with sunroof and black leather interior, was mighty enticing. This time I was ready and able to pull the trigger, but the salesman let it slip that the upcoming fall would bring an “I” version of this car with a lot more power. So, I left the money in the bank and waited. I was driving a Saab 900 that was paid for, so why not?

A quick test drive of the new iS on a sunny February morning confirmed that this was the car of my dreams. “It might be six weeks before we get another red one,” the salesman told me. The only thing on the lot was white and silver. Ugh. This didn’t seem terribly cool at the time, so I put $500 down and got on the waiting list for a red one. “We’ve got one red ES left, and we can make you a great deal..” Once you’ve sampled more power, it’s tough to go back. Again, it was not meant to be.

That Thursday evening, working late in the darkroom, making prints, the phone call came. “Dude, I have the car for you…” It was my pal Stevie, who ran the body shop in town that did most of the work for the two Porsche dealers. “I’ve got this client that needs money, bad. I bet you could pick up his 944 for a song.”

It’s a story for another day, and besides, this is a BMW site, right? Needless to say, the following weekend, I was the proud owner of a 9-month-old, Guards Red, Porsche 944 with every possible option. The three series was left waiting at the altar.

21st Century Schizoid BMW Man

With work progressing on Gumby, our Laguna Green 91 convertible, my thoughts still went back to that red iS that almost was. And then the phone call came – well, in this case, my friend Angela pinging me on Facebook Messenger. She and her husband Josh are good friends who actually bought my Boxster a couple of years earlier. Really good friends. Once on a visit, I noticed they had a black iS in the garage. Of course, I said, “if you’re ever going to sell that thing…” which always has a weird way of working out.

Angela’s message said, “Hey, know anyone that wants our E30? We’re buying something a little more modern.” In this case, a slightly used M4. While Josh had lofty hopes for their son Luke inheriting the car dude tradition (the jury is still out on that, Luke’s a pretty cool kid), at this point in time, “he doesn’t like the square car.” Kids.

Luke’s loss is my gain. A quick trip to Bandon, Oregon (about 250 miles from where I live) is arranged, and as it works out, I’m able to tag along with Josh in the M4, as he’s returning from a business trip and the M4 is parked here in Portland anyway. Sometimes, the car Gods are just on your side – it’s even a sunny day.

After an uneventful trip out to the Oregon coast, I jump back in the E30 and head right back from where I came. The car runs great, but it’s pretty dirty – inside and out. Upon returning home, I realize that a couple of years on the Oregon coast haven’t been terribly good to the car and make a mental note to replace everything under the hood, the brakes, suspension, and exhaust. But hey – I’ve got a 325iS, and it’s a somewhat rare black with grey leather interior.

The project begins in earnest

Kevin, the dent man, comes over to straighten things up a bit, and I do a quick rattle can job on a new trunk spoiler, replacing the dogged out one affixed there now, hanging by one nut. A quick sand, prime, and respray of the trunk panel along with the spoiler works way better than I expect, and thanks to a little wet sanding with 1000 and then 2000 grit paper, it shines up nicely. Now I need to work the similar magic on the sunroof panel this summer.

 A bit of TLC, body filler, and a lot of patience shapes up the old spoiler on the top, and it’s ready for a fresh coat of Bronzit so it can be affixed to Lumpy. We try to recycle as much as possible!

A solid weekend of pulling the seats out and some significant cleaning yields big rewards. The dash is uncracked, and everything else works as it should. It cleans up well enough for a few good drives to take place. But there’s definitely a leak in the head gasket around the block, though no coolant is present in the oil, so I know I’m on borrowed time. Winter’s on the horizon, so we decide to leave a sleeping dog lie for a little while.

Beginning of the new year, I’ve got a bit more cash and Austin (at Autobahn Motorsport) has a little more time, so we get the project rolling. He’s going to do a top-end refresh, replace the suspension bits, exhaust, and replace all the things under the hood that the salt has ravaged. And, we’re going to replace those unsightly diving board bumpers with a set of later model bumpers. Thank goodness this is an 88 model.

Close to the edge

With the engine out, the project is now a reality, and Austin is making quick progress. In our next segment, we’ll chat more about the in-depth of the rebuild and see just how much more than we both bargained for it will take to finish the project. Both of us have high enthusiasm, and somehow, when you see that engine come out on the hoist, you know you’re close to the top of the mountain. I’m really looking forward to driving this one!