I want Empathy when I Buy Parts, Dammit

The local BMW dealer parts counter guy seems to be a nice man, but … sad. I can guess why. Day after day, he deals with the following two sorts of dialog, many times a day:

“Hey, I’m looking for an alternator for a 1984 BMW 318i.”
“What’s the VIN?”
“I don’t know. I don’t have it with me. I’m at work. The car’s at home.”
“I need the VIN to look up the parts.”
“Seriously?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I don’t have it.”
… and it doesn’t get better after that.

Assuming the person does have the VIN, the next conversation goes something like this:

“How much for the alternator?”
“$514.34.”
“Say, what?”
“$514.34.”
“For the alternator?!”
“Yes.”
“Wow! The entire car cost me maybe $2K and that had a working alternator. That’s crazy.”
… and it doesn’t get better after that.

Aftermarket prices are often better, and sometimes not by much. Sometimes, when I heard the price, I thought “Forget that,” or some less-polite variant.

Seems to me that whoever comes up with these prices has no idea of the basic viability of someone who’s not made of money, trying to keep their E30 going. There seems to be a basic disconnect when the parts prices are so high that a customer reacts with incredulity. Basically, the vendor and the customer don’t relate to each other. They’re are not on the same page. There’s no empathy.

* * *

BMW parts prices can suck, but there’s a parallel to that: software.

How often have you used software that sucks, because regardless of how technically cool it might be, it sucks for you because it doesn’t work for you? Whoever made it didn’t empathize. As to whatever your situation was, they didn’t “get it.”

There is a better way. In the software industry, it’s called “Eat your own dog food.” Wikipedia defines it as: Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company (usually, a computer software company) uses its own product to demonstrate the quality and capabilities of the product.”

It’s a great idea.

That might be the best reason to buy your used parts from my little company. What’s in it for you? You’re understood. That’s it. We also drive old E30s and we’re trying to keep them going, with a tight budget. We empathize.

My little used parts business is not the world’s smartest when it comes to E30 cars. We haven’t been in business the longest. We don’t have massive depths of technical insight. We don’t have a huge inventory. We often mis-estimate the time it’ll take to get a part into inventory.

But, dammit, we relate.  We own a sad fleet of several floundering E30 cars, and we struggle to keep them going on a tight budget that includes wondering how we’re gonna pay the rent this month. We get personally stranded when a main fuel pump dies, and we have to walk home and figure out what’s wrong, how to remove the bad part without causing a fire, and how to replace it without paying three figures.

This struggle makes us relate to customers who struggle, just like us.

We need to buy food, pay the rent and somehow keep viable, as transportation, an almost- 30-year old car that most people have given up on, long ago.

We tenaciously refuse to let these cars die. We make plans, we find money, and we pull through — so that we can keep driving these magnificent pieces of engineering, even if the dash lights don’t work and the heater fan is broken. At some point the way we’d open the hood on one of the company E30 cars was to stab the front of the car just so, with a Philips screwdriver. But, dammit, we kept it going until we could figure out a better way. We’re still in the game. We’re fighting and if driving the car one more day is victory, then we’re winning.

If you like that mindset, buy your stuff from 3seriesparts.com because you’re dealing with someone who “gets” you.

A Sample Rush Shipment, True Story

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This is the story of a used BMW 325i cylinder head that’s on its way from Reno, NV to Pittsburgh, PA … right now. It shows how enthused the little team at 3serieparts.com can be.

True story. And, a happy ending.

Our customer needed the part but wanted it faster than a week from now, which is the USPS deal. So, we shopped around and found that FedEx Ground gets it there a day earlier at close to the same price. We offered to eat the extra shipping.

The customer, a nice man, approved the deal and paid the Paypal invoice. I got the head loaded onto the back seat of my van. I like the back-seat loading premise because I don’t wanna damage the valves or oil bar by putting the head down on a hard surface, see.

I figured with something this big and heavy, better for FedEx to package it up. So, I left Fallon at about 3:30 p.m. because that’s 60 miles east of where the closest FedEx Office is, in Reno. The FedEx cutoff there is 5:30 p.m. A few mishaps later, I’m a few steps away from the FedEx Office front door on California Avenue, balancing the cylinder head on my shoulder as I totter towards the door. A sprightly looking guy in his late 30s or so (who likes to wear shorts and bobby socks even though there’s snow on the ground) gets to the door right before I do and whizzes through it and vanishes.

I was kind of hoping for something more chivalrous, not least since it’s a “pull” door and I need both hands to keep this 47-pound aluminum and steel thing from falling.

Eventually a lady inside the office notices me and opens the door. Yay!

I get in line behind Mr. Burden which (hard to believe, and oh the irony) is the last name that he later announces to the FedEx employee.

You CAN’T make this stuff up. That’s really his name. So, behind this man is a chick with a 47-pound cylinder head balanced on her shoulder, and he just stands around blandly. Granted, I’m an androgynous-looking chick — but still.

Please give me a synonym for this heavy weight. Six letters, starts with “b.” Preceding adjective is “heavy.”

Mr. Burden calmly looks at the cylinder head on my shoulder and asks if that’s a camshaft. No, it’s not, I reply with the sort of calm that makes me finally conclude that I’m the female version of Gandalf the Grey. Mr. Burden looks bland and stands around some more.

The FedEx employees behind the counter all seem to have been dipped in cold molasses. Or, maybe time goes by more slowly when you’re balancing a cylinder head on your shoulder.

Personally, if I could reprogram Mr. Burden to be more charming, he’d notice the tall blonde chick carrying the cylinder head, and opened the door to let her through first. Some sympathetic comments might have been nice too.

I finally get to the front of the line after Mr. Burden picks up his order and pays. I finally ease the part onto the counter. It makes a smudge. The FedEx employee explains that they can’t package grimy stuff. I think back at the half-dozen or so cans of engine cleaner I’ve doused the thing with, and I explain to the FedEx employee that it’s not grimy, it’s clean. As I say this, the BMW emblem shines so brightly from the casting that I almost expect it to make a little “zing” sound and make cartoon style sparkles like you see in dishwasher soap commercials. The employee next identifies some little puddles where oil leaked from some or other weird internal orifice and now lies visible in some indentations in the casting. He explains it’s hazardous even if it’s that small a quantity.

I’ve seen Castaway where the FedEx plane blows up, so I’m sympathetic, but still, wow.

I leave. Back in the van, I call my assistant and ask her to explain the situation to the customer and ask him if he wants a refund or if he still wants the part even though it’s going to be delayed by the extra day. I figured it’d take an extra day to get it all extra-super-clean.

To send the part a day late and pay more for it to arrive as originally planned is the sort of thing I used to do, which is why I’m as broke as I am currently. So, no more.

Meanwhile, I do some time math. It’s 5 p.m. I decide to try to make the deadline even if I have to pack the thing myself.

I rush to Autozone and explain the situation to a sharp-thinking employee who goes into the back room and finds some ultra-super-absorbent stuff that they officially no longer carry but he had one massive roll of it left in the back room. I buy that, and some Simple Green. The van becomes my mobile parts washer as I douse the cylinder head with Simple Green and rotate it many times, and then clean its crevices out with this weird super-absorbent cloth stuff. Wow, is it clean. The last time it was this clean, the person who saw it had Bratwurst and Sauerkraut to eat for dinner. It’s 5:20 p.m.

I rush to U-Haul and grab a huge roll of bubble wrap and a tape gun off the shelf, and start wrapping up the part right in front of the register. A puzzled employee looks on and I convince him to go find me a box. He does. Soon, the now-very-well-packaged part is ready to go. It’s 5:55 p.m.

I rush to the other FedEx office in Reno, hoping I’ll never again see the location on California Street. There’s a FedEx truck parked at the loading area. I explain to the driver that if he’ll wait for my shipment, I’ll be so happy that I’ll blubber. He looks a little puzzled but I rush in and head to the counter, where my arms finally can’t manage the weight any more. I say “help” right as it starts to fall, and the FedEx employee steps forward and saves the day. I get the shipment processed and the employee decides it’ll make the cut-off. Now, all I need to do is pay.

But, the company credit card is maxxed out from buying the unexpected supplies. Dammit. I recall an ancient FedEx account number that I got, way back in the 1990s. I write that on the paperwork. It’s still active. Yay! I call my assistant to email the client “we DID make the cut-off after all.”

And, that’s how hard I worked to try to get this customer his part, on time. The story reminds me of the Avis slogan “we try harder.” I think the story shows that, at 3seriesparts.com we try pretty darn hard, too.

E30 Taillights

So far, we have come across three types of E30 taillights. The obvious two differences are between the through-1987 vs. 1988-and-on cars — though the E30 convertible kept the earlier type of taillight throughout its production run, which ended in 1993.

As far as we can tell, all taillights use three 21 Watt light bulbs on each side, and one 10 Watt light bulb.

The units consist of a colored plastic lens with an integral backing plate that has holes in it for the light bulbs.  Another backing plate, that BMW calls “Covering Cap,” contains the integrated wiring and the light bulbs, and the entire covering cap fits onto the lens unit from behind.  Thoughtfully designed, this fitment uses hand-tightening fasteners so you don’t need a screwdriver to change out your rear light bulbs.

The earlier units come in two styles as to the covering cap.  One style has its 10 Watt light bulb mounted sideways next to a white-opaque window that helps illuminates the inside of the trunk when the light bulb is activated.

As far as we can tell, the earlier-style covering caps are identical between the driver side and the passenger side; the later-style covering caps are different as to the driver side vs. the passenger side.

E30 Types of Rear Parcel Shelf Speakers

So far, I’ve come across two types of E30 rear parcel shelf speakers, that I’ll designate as “plain” and “premium.”

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The plain ones are just a cone-shaped unit with a frame and a black mesh cover, and most of it is below the parcel shelf.

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The premium ones are mounted in a box that sticks up above the parcel shelf, and consist of a main speaker (that looks similar to the plain-style speaker) and a smaller “tweeter” speaker unit. Each of the two speakers has a removable black mesh cover. The larger of the two mesh covers has “BMW Sound System” integrated on it with white letters.  Even though each side (passenger side and driver side) has two speakers (integrated into one box), there is just one pair of connectors to the car’s wiring system, for each box.

The speaker wires that connect the car’s wiring to the speaker have two spade connectors, each of which has a different size so that they can’t be connected the wrong way around.

The passenger side speaker wiring on the car is blue, and the driver side speaker wiring on the car is yellow.  Each pair of wires is twisted, presumably to counteract the effect in which parallel current-bearing wires can generate secondary electrical effects in each other.

I have plugged premium speakers into a car that came with plain speakers, and they worked fine. So, the car’s wiring seems to accommodate both types without any change needed.

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Cars equipped with the premium speakers have a different style of rear parcel shelf, because the premium speaker require larger holes.

1987 BMW E30 325 Muffler Installation

Yesterday, I installed a replacement muffler on my beloved 1987 BMW 325. As I recall the work is slightly different on earlier models, and on the 325i models too.

The replacement muffler I was installing was not new, but it was an original BMW part as implied by the BMW stamp on the main muffler box. It seemed to be in good condition (and subsequently proved to be).

IMAG6446

I did this work alone, and without the car jacked or hoisted up in the air.

The first step was to get the muffler raised up. Doing so on either end would be problematic, so I attached the center hanger first. A 13 mm bolt goes into the body to keep it in position.

With the muffler basically hanging at the approximately right height, I tried getting the front part connected and that didn’t work for me. I realized this would be easier to do once the rear clamps are on, so that’s what I focused on next.

The clamps consist of two sets, one more forward and one more rearward. Side to side, they are approximately mirror images. The donut-shaped hanger will eventually have the little thicker section separating the top and bottom, but to get it on, I had to rotate it. It was difficult for me to get the hanger onto the car and then onto the clamp too, but with lots of patience I managed. I did some prying with a screwdriver or two but in the end, what made it work best was to have the hanger rotated just barely enough to get in. In retrospect I should have done this without the muffler already in position.

The nuts for the bracket are special 13 mm nuts, three of which are accessible via a normal 1/2″ socket and one of which required the smaller 1/4″ socket to get in there. Had I removed the tire, the space constraint would have not existed.

With the clamps tightened fairly well, but not all the way, the muffler was in position well enough to approach the front of the connection. The relevant nuts and bolts age well by general standards but still, 25 years is a long time so I replaced the nuts, bolts and gasket with new ones.

IMAG6448

The nuts are at the forward end of the bolt-and-nut combination, and they’re 12 mm whereas the bolt heads are 13 mm. I had some issues getting the gasket in position so it might need to be positioned just so before being put into its final location. From then on, tightening the three bolts and nuts was easy.

With the knowledge that the muffler was now in the right position, I went back to the rear of the car and finished tightening the clamps.

I started the car and it sounded nice, and ran, very nicely.

Power Steering Blues

Power steering blues … I relate personally, and I gather many people do.

A friend of mine used to pour so much power steering fluid into her car that the price started to be a financial problem even if she could ignore that the leak was so massive that she was dripping power steering fluid all out over the roads while driving. She finally handed over the car to a junkyard for almost nothing, and the power steering leak was the main reason.

My own 735i has a massive power steering leak. I’ve just been ignoring it and driving it with the power steering inoperative. I gather many folks do that. Can you relate? It’s certainly good exercise.

But, having just spent literally all night messing with a problem on an E30 with the M20 engine, I’m now very familiar with that general geography of the car. The power steering pump, which is often the problem, seems to be a big, messy, black hunk of oil.

It’s intimidating, isn’t it?

And yet, on the E30 3-series with the M20 engine (the 325, 325e and 325i models) this part is relatively easy to access, and to remove and replace.

The pump is at the extreme bottom of the driver’s side of the engine compartment, and working from the bottom, it’s a relatively simple process to remove it. A key tip is to loosen the lines before loosening the bolts that attach the unit. If you have 12 mm, 13 mm and 19 mm wrenches, you’re off to a good start.

I sell good used original BMW power steering pumps, and I will refund your money and shipping if the part doesn’t work right when installed. You’re taking a chance on a unit that might have a year’s worth of life remaining, or another twenty years. I price the part so that the risk tends to be worth taking.

Sadly, the pump isn’t the only place that can leak. The steering rack can, too … and that’s a much bigger project.

Selling 3-Series E30 Parts Means Buying 5-Series E28 Cars

E28, photo from Wikipedia, courtesy of “Bmw2002monkey”

The E30 is a 3-series. The E28 is a 5-series.  These are BMW internal production codes for a particular body style.

This article explains why, even though we’re focused on selling 3-series parts, we have this weekend added 5-series support to our parts database.

To quote Wikipedia: “The ‘baby six’ engine found in the 520i, 525e and 528e models is known as the M20, a 12-valve SOHC inline six-cylinder design … 2.7 L in the 325e and 528e models.” and “This engine is known as the ‘ETA’ engine. “

So, with the exception of the 1988 model, which is internally different, the 528e has essentially the same engine as the 325 and the 325e.

The 528e is more pricey to repair and maintain, so its desirability is slowly but surely decreasing. Whereas the E30 has a large group of people who are determined to keep their cars on the road and are encouraged by the car’s relative simplicity, the E28 doesn’t have as strong a following in that respect.  We are seeing symptoms of this first-hand. The junkyards seem to have a proportionately large volume of E28 cars relative to E30 cars, even though there are more of the latter around.

So, as of yesterday, our business model includes buying E28 cars with the M20 engine, because these engines (and actually, the transmissions  too) as well as related parts can be sold to E30 owners.

Used Michelin TRX tires or Alternate Rims for BMWs

As I have pieced together the story based on hearsay, the Michelin company offered to the market a cool new tire technology that addresses a major problem with performance tires: sidewall distortion under heavy cornering (in other words, the tire tread points elsewhere than where you’re directing the wheel).

Here’s the better version of the story, from Wikipedia:

The Michelin TRX is a radial tire introduced by the Michelin Group in 1975. Its introduction as the first “low profile” tire marked an advance in tire technology.

Tension was more evenly distributed in TRX tires, affording better directional stability and more precise steering, as compared to contemporary tires.

TRX tires require the use of wheels that were specially mated to the tires; standard tires do not fit TRX wheels.

TRX tires were available either as standard or optional equipment on certain models of European makes such as BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Citroen, Peugeot, Ford, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Renault, and SAAB. They were also available on certain models of the Ford Mustang and Mercury Capri during the 1980s.

In due course tire technology caught up with the TRX line, and TRX tires are now produced only as special-order replacements for vehicles which were originally fitted with them.

Keeping in mind that “tyre” tends to be the British usage and “tire” tends to be the North American usage, here is some more information from the Michelin website:

The first “low profile” tyre
The invention of the TRX by MICHELIN in 1975 permitted a more even distribution of tension in the whole tyre casing, which is where the name of TR standing for Tension Répartie (“distributed tension”) comes from. The TRX won renown in Formula 1 racing with Renault and Prost and in the world rally championship on the Audi Quattro, 205 Turbo 16 and R5 Turbo.

The result of extensive research…
For the first time, the tyre and its rim complemented one another perfectly, working as a single unit. The rim underwent a fundamental transformation, the essential characteristic of which was a flatter, lower flange. This new design of the rim and tyre bead resulted in a gradual curvature of the casing, without the “S” shaped flexing inherent in traditional designs.

…for real directional control
Thanks to this innovative construction, the TRX tyre offers better directional stability and makes a great contribution to the active safety of the vehicle, thanks to its exceptional handling close to the limit, especially when cornering.
– remarkable grip thanks to the ideal distribution of pressure in the contact patch.
– excellent comfort due to the increased useful flexing zone
– New look to the tyre/wheel assembly and the heavily sculpted tread pattern.

The Era of Car Safety.
The 70’s saw the dawn of increased awareness of the importance of vehicle safety. In many countries it became compulsory to wear seat belts and speed limits were introduced on main roads and motorways.
For the tyre, this led to improvements in grip, more precise steering, increased stability and better levels of comfort, thus avoiding excessive driver fatigue on long journeys.

This decade witnessed the advent of high performance vehicles capable of covering hundreds of miles in one go, with exceptional levels of safety and comfort, such as the BMW 7 series (1977), 5 and 3 series which followed the same trend, CX 2400 GTI (1977), 604 (1975), R30…
Sports cars also benefited from this progress. Examples were the Ferrari 308 GTS and GTB (1977) and 512 BB (1976), Alpine A310 V6 (1976), Renault 5 Turbo (1979), M 635 (1984), 205 Turbo16 (1985)…

All these cars (and many others) had the Michelin TRX fitted as original equipment, and still can today, with a tyre true to that era, but manufactured using today’s techniques and materials.

Many tire  manufacturers have addressed this problem with ever-narrower (and in my opinion, odd-looking)  sidewalls on tires, and with a resultant decrease in ride quality because there is less space in which to deflect bumps.  Perhaps Michelin had a better idea all along, with the TRX.

I have seen TRX tires and rims on mostly the 6-series of the mid-to-late 1980s though I’ve also seen them on 5-series and 7-series cars of that vintage. Visually, I consider the rims and tires to be very pretty.

Structurally, the tire was equally unusual in that it only fitted on 5-lug BMW alloy rims specifically made for this tire.  More problematic to owners, in the long run: such rims could take only the Michelin TRX tire.

Sadly, instead of becoming an industry standard, the TRX ended up being discontinued by Michelin. Owners of the TRX-specific rims had three options:

  1. Buy new TRX tires
  2. Buy used TRX tires
  3. Buy an entirely different set of original BMW rims
  4. Buy an entirely different set of non-original BMW rims

1. Buy new TRX tires

A specialty tire company (Coker) presumably bought the rights to TRX tires from Michelin and now makes them.  Here is a quote from their website:

Standard fit on many performance cars of the ’70s through the early ’90s, these purpose-built Michelin TRX radial tires are available through Coker Tire. The TRX radials from Coker had the bead altered to suit a new rim design, producing a more gradual curvature for directional stability and handling with a comfortable ride. Coker Michelin TRX tires are built in authentic molds for perfect fitment to your wheels. So, if you need to mate your TRX wheels to new tires on your European car from the late ’70s or a Mustang from the ’80s, look to Coker for their Michelin TRX tires.

The BMW 5-series takes a slightly smaller tire size (200/60-390) than the  6-series and 7-series (220 /55-390).

At the time of this writing, the price for the former is $452, and for the latter the price is $514 … per tire.  

2. Buy used TRX tires

As to safety, I have read some strong opinions that tires older than x years should not be driven on.  It could be that the used TRX you might be buying was the original spare in a car that was new in 1986.  It’s unlikely that the tire has aged gracefully.

Could be that you want a set of TRX tires because you’re going to be driving the car only onto a gold course for concourse events.  Could be that you’re going to only be driving it down a country lane at 15 mph on Sunday afternoons.  Could be that you’re planning to drive it at triple-digit speeds down an alley in the freezing rain.   Presumably you’re a mentally competent adult and you can make your own decisions as to how old a tire it makes sense to stress under which conditions.  I’ve personally had a set of used not-that-great tires up to 138 miles per hour on the German Autobahn, but I chose to drive at that speed on those tires for only a short period of time.  You might be more risk-averse, or less so.  It’s your decision.

I’ve done a bit of reading on the subject, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the mainstream news has interviewed someone they consider an expert, who flatly asserted that some of other magic age (6 years, as I recall) is the universal cut-off, and that any tire older than that should never be used.  I can imagine the interviewer nodding thoughtfully while hearing this oversimplification and treating it as wisdom, and perhaps saying some or other endorsing platitude in response.  I wouldn’t be surprised either if some folks have tried to get some or other law passed to that effect.  To his credit, an industry spokesman pointed out that it’s not quite as simple as all that, and that there are many variables to consider.

I leave that decision to the buyer, meaning: I sometimes do come  across used TRX tires and I do buy them and I’m fine with selling them to you.  On a personal note, I happen to drive a mid-80s 6-series BMWs on (presumably old) TRX tires and so far I’ve been fine.  I also own a  mid-80s 535i that I drove on (presumably old) TRX tires for 250 miles that included a winter storm in the Sierra Nevada, and I didn’t have any problems. 

If your choice runs towards buying used TRX tires, I hope you exercise prudence in how you use them, so that buying them is truly better than spending more than $1,800 to $2,000 for  set of new TRX tires.

 3. Buy an entirely different set of original BMW rims

I sometimes come across, and buy, rims for 5-series, 6-series and 7-series cars that are not TRX rims, yet are orginal BMW equipment.

These might be pre-TRX era rims, or post-TRX.  I offer both of these for sale.  With these rims, you get to go to your local tire store and buy industry-standard tires from a variety of brands and at the fraction of the price of a set of new TRX tires.

Based on an entry on the Bimmerfest forum, the technical specs for this wheel, or replacements for it, are:   a 5×120 bolt pattern and a 72.5 center bore.

Keep in mind that these are used rims, and they might have been subjected to their share of curb scapes and potholes.  They are, I hope, good enough and I hope you inspect them well.

4. Buy an entirely different set of non-original BMW rims

With less enthusiasm, I sometimes come across, and buy, rims for 5-series, 6-series and 7-series cars that are neither TRX rims, nor orginal BMW equipment.

As a matter of personal taste, it’s rare that I’ve been able to generate much enthusiasm for the look of non-BMW rims but it could be that you love the aesthetics of some of the rims I offer and it’s also your ticket to independence from needing to keep buying TRX tires.

* * *

It’s ironic to me that I’m offering this in the context of my 3-series parts business, even though it’s not a part for the 3-series cars.  It just happens to be a high-demand item for which I have occasional solutions.

The only condition under which I’m willing to sell used tires or rims is if the buyer assumes the risk.

Please contact me to learn what I have in stock and at what price.

 

Becoming a US Hartge Dealer, Maybe

I just wrote to the Hartge company:

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I would like to become a Hartge dealer in the US and I would like to explain why I am so enthused about it and why our two companies might be a good fit.

Ever since 2003, I have managed a small automotive engineering business that focused on 1980s BMWs, the E23, E24, E28 and E30. Our focus on the E30 has a separate business entity named 3Seriesparts.com. Its website is at http://www.3Seriesparts.com and its Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/3SeriesParts.

Our focus is on deeply understanding the cars we work on. For example, we understand that the ZF 4 HP-22 transmission was used on various BMW models but also Volvo, and one of our projects is modifying the transmission from a 7-series Volvo to work for a 1991 BMW 325ic.

From what I have read, at Hartge you also are focused on really understanding the issues as automotive engineers. Often, in the US, people don’t really want to understand what they are selling. They just want to take the order, sell the part and make the money. So, I think that makes our two companies a good fit: we both like to understand, and do a good job.

In the US, the economy is very bad. People with 1980s 5 series, 6 series and 7 series cars are selling them inexpensively so good M30 engines are easy to find. And, on the BMW 3-series, the E30, many people neglect the maintenance and then the camshaft belt snaps and the engine replacement costs more than they can afford. So, my company has access to affordable relatively rust-free E30 bodies and also M30 engines. One of the things I’d love to focus on is to build semi-official sort-of-Hartge H35 cars under your banner as a Hartge dealer, even though I am using used cars and used engines. I plan to make it clear that it’s NOT as good as a Hartge H35 built by you on a new car, but any sort of official recognition and involvement from you would be wonderful.

The US emissions control laws are normally a problem, but if I keep the M30 engine unmodified and I use the same year engine in the same year car, I should be legally OK.

I have personally been working on cars since I was 18, and I used to manage an automobile performance business in California. So, I think I am a good choice personally to be an insightful Hartge dealer.

Just yesterday my team and I removed the engine from a 1987 BMW 535i and it would be wonderful to put it into one of the E30 cars that my little company owns. But, it’s a complex engineering project and you have already solved that problem, and I respect that. I don’t see the logic in my reinventing the process when instead I could work with you and leverage what you did.

In addition to the focus on the E30-M30 aspect, I am also enthused to be a dealer for Hartge products in general since some of the more affluent BMW owners, especially in California (which is just 90 miles west of our office which is in Nevada) are enthused about Hartge products but they don’t know where to go.

That said, we are a very small company with very, very limited finances so whatever I do, I have to be conservative at least for now.

I look forward to working with you.

Regards,

Aquitania Charbury
Manager

M30 engine into an E30 body

My team  just yanked a healthy M30 engine and transmission out of a 1987 BMW 535i, and I have a slew of able-bodied E30s in my yard.

I am soooooooooo tempted to try this M30-into-E30 engine swap but I suspect that the devil is in the details.

Getting a bad left-to-right weight distribution would be an easy mistake to make, and difficult to live with or correct.

Assuming I can get to where the basic engine weight distribution is OK and the engine-to-radiator clearance doesn’t make you wince, the model I’d propose is where someone comes to my office, leaves his / her E30 and paperwork as a deposit and for a small fee, I hand him/her the keys to a M30-engined 5, 6 or 7 series to drive for a couple of days, to take to a mechanic for compression testing, leak-down test, whatever.

We’re close to the Sierra Nevadas and Lake Tahoe, plus there are some relatively deserted desert roads close by so this might be the perfect area to enjoy a car like that.

Once satisfied that the engine and transmission are good, the customer brings back the M30-engined car and my staff swaps that into the customer’s E30 with the customer watching, sipping on a glass of wine, etc.

I’m curious how much folks would offer for an experience like that.  Figure 3 or 4 days total, maybe 5 if things go badly wrong.

We’re just east of Reno, NV.