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Thread: BMW E21 Racer

  1. #1
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    BMW E21 Racer

    I've been into old BMW's for many years now, but while M3's and 635's are definitely cool, the real interest for me has always been in the E28 and E21. I bought an M535i and did my first track days with it then decided I wanted a fulltime track car and that it had to be an E21. I'd never owned one before, never even driven one, but that didn't matter. E21 it is. There were a few false starts and difficult times, but I eventually ended up with a great starting point - a 323i with a later model 2.5L motor and coilovers. I did two track days in that spec and loved it, so started down the road of going full race spec.

    Most of the work at this stage has been based on safety and consistency, with a full cage, better seat and big brakes being the main items, as well as the little things like bushes, fuel lines, brake lines etc getting done along the way. The initial plans involved heaps of go fast bits, but that would have left me sitting in the garage for much, much longer than I really wanted to. I'm not in it to win trophies, it's about having fun and getting out there and just doing it.

    First race meet is at the Lakeside Tribute this weekend and I'll be running in the QLD Touring Car Championship. Goals are to finish all the races and drive it back onto the trailer with all the bits where they were when we started, but we should be able to have some fun along the way. It's a pretty diverse field so it should make for an entertaining way to get started! If you're going to be there that weekend, feel free to come say gday in the pits, as this is all pretty new to me and while I'm confident and excited, I'll always appreciate experienced advice and constructive criticism. Can't wait to be out there!

    It first looked like this:


    And now looks at least a little more like a racecar:










    Been a long journey with plenty of hiccups along the way, but it feels great to finally be where we are. Cheers!
    Leo

    (better pics to come when someone with superior snapper skills to mine points a thing at it)
    Last edited by leothedrummer; 10-08-17 at 05:57 PM. Reason: Corrected photos

  2. #2
    TJzone TJ's Avatar
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    Best of luck for the weekend
    #teamtremolo
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    And i'd still fuck Betty....

  3. #3
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    Cool little car. Have fun on the weekend. I admire anyone out there having a go.

  4. #4
    Registered User I'm DJ!'s Avatar
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    In. I remember chasing one of these in an etype, had him on the straights but it was amazing in the corners and under brakes!
    DJ's don't need sigs

  5. #5
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Thanks TJ, mph, DJ.

    Have a full day of practice, a qualifying session and then 4 races ahead of me. Feeling great about it all, as long as we don't have any little niggles with the car (which is always possible in racing I guess!). Goal is to learn the car, be consistent and walk away feeling like I did the best I could regardless of the result.

    DJ - I'm looking forward to seeing how it performs against the rest of the field I'm with. Running in QTCC group B, which is a minimum 61 second lap at Lakeside. Mostly Commodores and E30 BMW's, but with a few other cool entries like a Datsun 1600, RX7, Alfa GTV, etc. I should be better in the corners than some cars, but not others, so in theory it should make for some pretty good racing.

    Quote Originally Posted by mph View Post
    I admire anyone out there having a go.
    For ages I was sure that I wasn't going to go racing until I knew I was going to be competitive, thinking "Whats the point in doing it if you're just making up the numbers?". But then I saw the guys that are out there every meet and having a blast no matter what end of the field they're at and realized those are the blokes with the right idea, that I want to be like. I won't win any trophies, set any lap records or bother any podiums...but the grin on my face will be just as big as anyone else will ever have...

  6. #6
    Registered User Rascasse's Avatar
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    Good story to date and right attitude toward it all.

    It's better and alot more fun being out there amongst it on track 'making up numbers' as you put, then waiting to complete your ideal build.

    Good luck for the weekend!

  7. #7
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rascasse View Post
    Good story to date and right attitude toward it all.

    It's better and alot more fun being out there amongst it on track 'making up numbers' as you put, then waiting to complete your ideal build.

    Good luck for the weekend!
    Thanks and yes, absolutely. It very easily could have turned into one of those perpetual builds that is never finished - I don't have the hands on skills or money to do too much at any one time so it easily could have been left sitting for even longer than it already has...

  8. #8
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    Great stuff, sensible approach.

    Looking forward to the story as it unfolds.

  9. #9
    Little engine that could. itsnotagsr's Avatar
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    Had one of these as a first car because I couldn't afford an E30 like the cool kids. Seem to be rare as rocking horse poo these days.
    "If you can make black marks on a straight from the time you turn out of a corner until the braking point of the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." - Mark Donahue Penske Porsche 917

    "In Japan we no give fark for Subaru" - Trust Japan Technical Director
    (TM - AVENGE)

    "You can never have enough power. I remember when we had Group B cars... THEN we had enough power!"
    Juha Kankkunen - Rally of Argentina '02

  10. #10
    Registered User Milkman Don's Avatar
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    I'm a nut for e21s, have had several road going ones and a heap of parts ones over the years. Shame now they becoming hard to find and people actually want money for them.

    They handle surprisingly well with the short wheelbase, they can get taily and bite from it too. I prefer non power steering and it works on such a light car. Won't be the fastest but will be quite nimble.

    What have you done for braking?
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux Forg View Post
    I agree with Rdyno

  11. #11
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    I've heard all the stories about E21's and wild oversteer but l haven't had any troubles with it myself. We'll see how it all goes come raceday but I wouldn't say I'm intimidated by it or worried at all, despite having multiple people carry on as if I'd signed my own death warrant for not buying an E30.

    Front brakes are VT Commodore discs and calipers and standard 323i discs on the rear with E30 calipers. Seems to work much better than the standard setup.

  12. #12
    Little engine that could. itsnotagsr's Avatar
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    I had a pretty big tank lapper incident when on my Ps (20 years ago). Scared the shit out of me and luckily only damaged a control arm. Might have been the Chinese Pirelli 6000 copies on the "big" 13" alloys though. At least the chrome dress rings didn't fall off (again).
    "If you can make black marks on a straight from the time you turn out of a corner until the braking point of the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." - Mark Donahue Penske Porsche 917

    "In Japan we no give fark for Subaru" - Trust Japan Technical Director
    (TM - AVENGE)

    "You can never have enough power. I remember when we had Group B cars... THEN we had enough power!"
    Juha Kankkunen - Rally of Argentina '02

  13. #13
    Moderator Cal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leothedrummer View Post
    Running in QTCC group B, which is a minimum 61 second lap at Lakeside.
    Good group that and 61 seconds at Lakeside isn't exactly fucking about.

    Good luck.
    The most dangerous risk of all - the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. - Randy Komisar.

  14. #14
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Interesting start to the weekend for sure!

    I hate rushing things, so planned for heaaaps of preparation time. Wanted the car all done mid-late last year to do at least 2-3 sprint days before racing. Was told "Car is pretty much finished, just been sent off for some final details, you should have it in a fortnight" in about June last year....finally got it back last Friday.....but that's ok, we'll make do with what we've got!

    Practice starts well, car seems good, hand timed it to a 65 flat which is a good starting point given that I haven't really driven the car properly yet! Then we get a misfire under load during the next session. Hmm. Start going through the list, everything seems fine, accidentally found out that it definitely was not low on fuel, spark plugs are ok....battery. Battery isn't charging, alternator is dead. There are worse things that could happen! Organized another alternator which I'm about to go pick up, confirmed this was the issue by running a different battery in it...ran like a dream, then got worse over the session and eventually died again.

    So didn't really get any proper practice in today thanks to spending most of my seat time trying to figure out if it the car actually works or not, but if we get this new alternator in tomorrow and that's the end of our problems, I'll be a very happy man. (But this is racing, so I would not at all be surprised if something else comes bites us along the way...just hoping it isn't too painful!)

    Edit: And the forecast says rain, which will certainly make things very exciting!
    Last edited by leothedrummer; 17-03-17 at 05:37 PM.

  15. #15
    Retired dsm2002's Avatar
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    Looks good. Hope you can get some good racing on the weekend

  16. #16
    Registered User lightyear's Avatar
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    You need this kit.

    NA8B 89KW- P.I. 1:50.1, WNTN1:38.0, SDWN 1:27.6, WKFLD 1:10.4
    NB8B 181KW- P.I 1:43.8, WNTN 1:32.9, SDWN 1:22.0, BDFD 1:05.3
    VP 293KW- P.I 1:46.0 WNTN 1:33.5

  17. #17
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    A few pictures from when it was moving!







    Quote Originally Posted by lightyear View Post
    You need this kit.
    I don't have enough turbos for that

    Will this one be ok instead?

    Last edited by leothedrummer; 10-08-17 at 06:00 PM. Reason: Corrected photos

  18. #18
    needs boost... morerevsm3's Avatar
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    I prefer that one actually, yours looks great too
    E36 M3 12.92 @ 108.64mph, N/A 3.0L

  19. #19
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Weekend over before we even got to turn an official lap. Got a replacement alternator in this morning but something was still off with the motor. Been through everything I can do myself with no obvious issues found, so it's probably something requiring a little more attention from a real mechanic. I don't have the money to throw endless parts at this thing, so decided to play it safe and take it home, rather than risk doing even more serious damage.

    So that's an unfortunate false start to it all. I am bitterly disappointed, especially given the way that I thought I had done everything right in regards to preparation (only for things to still be left until the very last minute...I really can't stand relying on other people), but there's nothing to gain by getting upset or angry. Shit happens and it did, eyes forward and we'll do better next time.

    Quote Originally Posted by morerevsm3 View Post
    I prefer that one actually, yours looks great too
    Thanks, and so do I

  20. #20
    Registered User 333pg333's Avatar
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    Bad luck but nice story so far. Good way to start and wish I'd done similar. Best of luck for the future.

  21. #21
    needs boost... morerevsm3's Avatar
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    if it is motronic 1.3 (E30 325i ecu) pay careful attention to injector loom plug under the manifold, most common cause of running issues with them, can be a miss, or behave like a rev limiter at ~ 5500rpm
    E36 M3 12.92 @ 108.64mph, N/A 3.0L

  22. #22
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Was fun while it lasted! Looking forward to figuring out what happens next.

    The few laps that I got were encouraging. It's rather slow in a straight line as expected (it's a stock motor) but feels nice enough to drive. Just need to get consistent under brakes and get some proper lines sorted and we'll be all good in that area!


  23. #23
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Holy hell, what a rollercoaster. You wouldn't be able to accurately capture the range of emotions in a hollywood movie, everyone would say it's unrealistic.

    Our problem from last time out was a spun bearing. The motor was completely standard with who knows how many k's or in what condition it was in. The original plan had been get the car prepped (cage, brakes, safety gear, etc) and do some track days to iron out the bugs before going racing this year. In June 2016 I was told "You'll have it in 2 weeks". March 2017, I pick it up the week of the first race meeting. Turns out that motor couldn't handle the workload a shat itself on the Friday practice. Would've been great to have found that out earlier, but that's alright. Throughout this journey, I've tasted plenty of disappointment, but I've haven't been angry or mad at anyone and I don't want to be - I just have to keep trying my best.

    The plan moving forward becomes put in another motor. There was talk of going 24v, or building a stroker, but common sense prevailed as I call for reliability over anything else. So we end up with a stock 2.5L with new bearings, stronger conrod bolts, oil scraper and sump baffles and an aluminium radiator that is nice and fat. And this time I make sure the oil pressure and water temperature gauges are connecting (apparently there was time last time...). Motor goes in, everything seems to be ok, but now it won't start. We have no fuel and no spark. This is Tuesday. An auto electrician comes and fiddles with it, apparently the wiring harness had turn to dust after 37 years of service so they did some things and make other things work. This is good. But now it's Wednesday of the next week and there's a race meeting that weekend. There's a part of me that says I should just sit things out and take my time...but I've come this far and it hurts to be so close. So today, we had practice for the Lakeside Classic.

    I had Thursday off work and tried to be extremely careful and methodical with my preparation and packing. I wanted to take my time, get things right, no rushing, just relax. Good idea, but we'll come back to this shortly. We get to the track this morning, everything is lovely. I start the car, roll it off the trailer, start and stop it a couple of times while stuffing around trying to find my spot. We unpack, check over the car, wishing we knew what we were doing. Best plan I can come up with is look at all the things we think might break or go wrong (hoses, oil, fuel lines, etc) and then look at them again after driving and see if anything has changed. Wouldn't know what to do if something had changed though...we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    After looking at all the things, it's time to take the car for it's noise check. I get halfway there and notice that the tacho isn't reading. Strange. Maybe it'll work if I switch the car off and then.....it won't start. There's power, the ignition works. But the starter doesn't kick. WTF? We come up with a theory - the tiny little lithium battery we used was started half a dozen times and only run for a minute at most. It's probably flat. A quick test with a jump pack and we confirm, flat battery. Stupid little fancy battery...off to Repco for a big sucker. New battery is in and we're back in business.

    Back at the track we run into another driver and tell the story so far. "Are you sure the alternator is charging?", he asks. Well, why wouldn't it be? It's a new alternator and there was a sparky working on the car just 3 days ago.....right? A quick phone call....turns out that no, the sparky never thought to check the alternator. "Do you have a charge light for the alternator connected?" A charge light, fucks that? Because we definitely don't have any other lights on the dash. "Oh, well it needs one of those....otherwise it won't charge". Fuck. You're kidding, right? We load the car onto the trailer and start driving, calling every auto electrician in the area. We finally come across a guy that says "Can you be here now?" 3 minutes later. Sparky takes one look under the bonnet and goes "That's a Bosch". Yeah, and? "Bosch alternators excite when you rev them". ... ... We connect a volt meter, no charge. Give the engine a kick....it's now charging. Motherfucker.

    We thank the nice man and then head back to the track, but not before we blow a tyre on the trailer while backing out of the car park. Oops. Spare on and away we go. Back to the track again, time to go and do my noise check, sign on, pay for the practice day and we're finally ready to hit the track. I'll just get my back and put on my.......race suit which is still at home. You idiot. I can only shake my head and laugh. My slow, careful and 'thorough' planning and packing and I had missed one of the most obvious of all. To home and back again, with a racesuit this time. And now, finally, actually for real, we can do some driving.

    I get out on track and I am incredibly relieved as everything seems good. Great even. Oil pressure good, water temperature right where it needs to be, no complaints at all...except for the steering wheel not being on straight, but that's not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things, surely an easy fix. I do half a dozen easy laps and pull in to check over everything. I reach my spot and then shit myself as there is suddenly steam everywhere and the temperature gauge, which was excellent just a minute ago, is now heaps higher than it was before. I've fucked my motor. Unbelievable. Gutted.

    There's no fan at the front, but surely it can't have gone wrong that quick? We open the bonnet for a peek underneath. Hmm. Nothing looks broken, no coolant gushing out, nothing seems out of place. Actually, the cooling system is full of fluid, it hasn't lost a drop. And that's not steam, it's smoke. And it's already gone. Burnoff from oil residue and new gaskets perhaps? I'm still convinced something has gone horribly wrong, but multiple others wander over for a look and then a laugh, as apparently everything is completely fine. I'm thrown back into the car and as soon as I exit the pits, the temperature drops right back down to below where it was before, eventually returning to the same working range. The steering wheel is still 45* off centre, so I come in after 3 laps and that's the end of the day.

    So how are we doing at this point? I really have no idea! Thing is, I've now been spooked by all these major problems that didn't actually turn out to be problems at all. Each time something goes "wrong", I'm expecting the worst, questioning my life choices and all that. So at the end of the day, I felt pretty anxious and stressed...but it also seems that realistically speaking, the car has given us no sign of any real trouble and no reason to expect any. So we might be looking pretty good? So it looks like the car is ok and as soon as I turn a lap tomorrow morning (with the steering wheel on straight), I will be too. Fucking motorracing, hey?



    TL;DR:

    Thought broken car was fixed, wasn't.
    Fixed broken car.
    Thought fixed car was broke, wasn't. I just don't understand alternators.
    Got a flat tyre. Forgot my racesuit.
    Thought unbroken car was broken, wasn't. I just don't understand coolant.
    Drove unbroken car, expecting the worse, things might not be so bad?

  24. #24
    Datsun Enthusiast yeldat71's Avatar
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    Holy shit dude. Will come and see you in the morning.

  25. #25
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Made it to the grid on Saturday, which was an immense relief after the stress and worry from the Friday!

    Each time I hit the track the goal is to see some progression from previous events and it was a successful day out in that regard. Set a new PB in qualifying of a 63.8, putting me p15 of 22 and 2.7 seconds off pole for my first ever race start.

    An electrical problem meant we didn't finish the race, but overall the car performed brilliantly and has given me lots of confidence for the future.

    Very happy with what we achieved and can't wait to be back out there!


  26. #26
    Registered User Rascasse's Avatar
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    Great to see you out amongst it, particularly with the lead-up dramas.

    P.S. Cracking photo!

  27. #27
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Finally got some racing in this weekend!

    Had the car completely re-wired between rounds which took care of our previous electrical issues. Car now has a fuel surge issue that was coming and going (will probably end up with a fuel cell and new pump), but we found a work around and got 3 races in. Was properly in the mix for the first time and had a blast. Best run was in the third race, which was featured both the classes in this series. Got a bit of fright when the leaders caught me when I was in the middle of a battle!












  28. #28
    Registered User Milkman Don's Avatar
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    Looks a good bit of fun mate!

    Been meaning to ask, what have you done with the LCAs. Assuming you still run the stock setup Iím in need of the outer bushes (for swaybar) and ball joints and no one that google tells me does poly ones unless I want to chance an order from Poland.

    Also the swaybar being the caster adjustment have you shimmed/washer to adjust at all?
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux Forg View Post
    I agree with Rdyno

  29. #29
    Registered User leothedrummer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Milkman Don View Post
    Looks a good bit of fun mate!

    Been meaning to ask, what have you done with the LCAs. Assuming you still run the stock setup Iím in need of the outer bushes (for swaybar) and ball joints and no one that google tells me does poly ones unless I want to chance an order from Poland.

    Also the swaybar being the caster adjustment have you shimmed/washer to adjust at all?
    Yeah has been alright!

    I discovered this bloke through some E21 forums: http://eurometric.com/?page_id=69#!/...tegory=5293241

    My car needed a lot of attention in terms of bushes, mounts etc so I went ahead and got the whole kit. It was pricey of course, but seems like good quality stuff and was a massive improvement on the track.

    Haven't touched anything with the swaybar or adjustments yet as to this point it's all been about reliability but work in that area will hopefully come early next year.

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