Our favorite one-eared Brazilian recently happened upon three, no-strings-attached, late 80’s Alfa Romeo Milanos for the price of a church potluck paper-plate-full-of-spaghetti on craigslist. The previous owner intended that they all power-up like a Power Rangers Megazord, but unforeseen circumstances derailed that plan like a hyperblast from a Rita Repulsa villain. We thought it would be fun to test our tetanus inoculations and bring you a diary entry about our day, so we apologize in afterthought for the too-rad-for-you Mighty Morphin’ reference, and apologize in advance for the non-E30 related content this week.
A.M. had little intention of fighting intergalactic crime with these heaps of overcooked Italian fare from the start, so a full-blown group effort from the core RYE30 Racing team and free-agents Eric Rood, Kevin C., and Michael “Spuds” Spadaro, got all three to their respective foster homes after some matter of paleontological digging, proper PPE, and lots of all-purpose Italian seasoned language.
Milano #1 “The Blue One” (It’s certainly not number one because it’s the best)
Sadly, it’s not full of manicotti, drenched in sun-dried tomato sauce. But it certainly looks like it’s been microwaved at Olive Garden. This one has some fun bolt-ons, like Sperry (or at least Sperry-esque) exhaust manifolds, but it has the worst body by a fettuccine noodle length. The rust has consumed nearly all of the metal below the rear seats and trunk. So much so that it was almost impossible to lift the car with the floor jack we brought to service the wheels if they were too flattened, which of course, they were. The interior is as much of a bio-hazard as “The Black One”. We’ll spare you the horror of showing you those pictures. It will serve the rest of its short life as a parts car for the other two and then eventually be scrapped.
Milano #2 “The Black One” (“Black Don’t Crack” after all)
After a valiant effort to jump it was all for nought, we called the tow truck. And while it cleaned up better than a stainless steel saucepan after rinsing out the last of the marinara, Kevin’s journey with this car has been a bit of a pain. Check out his Instagram below for updates.
Milano #3 “The Red One” (The museum-quality patina makes you feel like you’re at an exhibit on “The 80’s”)
A.M. already has an Alfa Romeo Spider project that he’s nearly 18 months into, so this curse will be getting passed on to his brother. Free of mold, as far as we can tell, it has the coolest interior with its timely dash and classic Recaro seats. It runs for a few moments at a time with the power of starting fluid and we theorize that it has the potential to move and stop under its own power.
Altogether, they’re bitchin’ cars. Transaxles and quintessentially square aesthetics will give that impression. It would have been a lot of fun to turn them into Radwood entries, but we like to live within the means of our time, money, and sanity here at RYE30 Racing. Instead, we did what we thought was best for the cars; put one down to end its suffering and force the other two on suckers who are nearly as gluttonous for punishment as we are. We look forward to seeing what the red and black one’s turn into and hope that it’s not spaghetti noodles at the hands of a metal-scrapping heavy-duty shredder.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us here on the blog, Instagram @rye30racing, and Facebook @rye30racing. If you’ve read this far and you reside in the United States, give us a follow on Instagram and then DM us an address and we’ll send you two free 4″ RYE30Racing stickers! We appreciate your support! See a picture of the stickers below.
We’ll be racing plenty over the summer so we can bring you more high quality content like you read above. Our partnership with Diagonalt is still new and exciting, like that of a new romantic relationship, so check out Diagonalt.com for classic BMW prints and coasters (16% off using code “RYE30” at checkout) and calendars for the new year.
Kelsey Stephens and Calvin Cooper are the squishy internals of the Cooper Autoworks M50-powered E30. Calvin pilots while Kelsey preaches from the pulpit of The Peaceful Pace Notes. We pulled a notepad out of our public radio tote bagto ask Kelsey the tough questions.
RYE30 Racing: Tell us about the E30! Could you give us a timeline from acquiring it to where you two are with it now?
Kelsey Stephens: The E30 started life in 1991 as a diamond-black 318is. 23 years later it was saved from landing in the salvage yard by Jesse Yuvali who turned it into a rally car. After a roll cage, engine swap, and historic inspired livery the little BMW made its stage rally debut in 2014.
In July of 2015, Calvin and I went on our first date. We hit it off over our love of cars. The next year in 2016 I wanted to take Calvin to see a stage rally for the first time. The rally in the 100 Acre Wood happens near my hometown. Calvin has been passionate about BMW’s since he was in tech school but we didn’t expect to see any at a stage rally. As we walked past countless blue Subaru’s suddenly the little M-striped E30 appeared. If it wasn’t love at first sight for Calvin then it was love at first straight-6. No other car sounded quite as incredible as the S50 as it flew past slinging gravel. We came home and immediately began dreaming of building a rally car of our own.
The next year Jesse posted that he was looking for crew for the 100 Acre Wood Rally. I volunteered us to help as part of his team since Calvin has so much awesome BMW knowledge. Working as crew we got to learn about the sport from Jesse who had so much rally experience. We started competing in Time Speed Distance events and rallycross with the SCCA hoping to get us closer to our stage rally dreams. In November of that year Jesse had a new project car and decided to sell the E30. We were over the moon to be able to purchase the very same rally car that had helped us fall in love with the sport from someone who taught us so much. Jesse had competed in 9 rallies with the car with various engine and suspension setups. February 2018 the car arrived, leaving us less than a month to prepare for our first stage rally the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood! Since novice rules did not allow us to run with a 3.0L engine the car had to be swapped to an M50. We did 3 events that year with the goal of learning and finishing each event.
2019, we decided to run our first full season to contend for a championship in the car. We decided to run under the number 723 which is the anniversary of that first date. This was such a big undertaking for us being such a small grassroots team. The season taught us so much. The car and rally community did more for us than we ever could have imagined. As driver and co-driver Calvin and I both achieved championship wins in East Open 2 Wheel Drive which was incredible. As I type Calvin is in our shop working on an engine upgrade from the M50, we will be sharing more of that as we work out sponsorships. He had better hurry though our next event is coming up mid March! Last season we put our tired old K-sport suspension to bed by hitting a jump at over 76 mph. The landing bent a few things and when we arrived at the finish we decided the car (and our spines) had earned some real rally suspension. We now run Samsonas 3-way adjustable rally suspension. The majority of the upgrades to the car are to strengthen it to withstand the abuse and keep us safe.
RYE30 Racing: Did you see yourself in motorsports when you were younger? Did you have any influences that you could say motivated you?
Kelsey: My mom was a diesel mechanic in the National Guard and my dad was an engineer in the Navy. I assumed everyone’s folks made them do basic maintenance on the family cars. I didn’t realize I had a real interest. In 2012, I went to the 100 Acre Wood Rally near my hometown with folks I knew. I signed up to volunteer, they handed me a clip board, and let me help inspect cars. I was 20 years old and I saw women in race suits for the first time. Seeing women as drivers and co-drivers was so inspiring! That was when I really started having motorsports dreams.
RYE30 Racing: You’re the navigator in the Cooper Autoworks E30. When do you feel you’ll be ready to take the wheel?
Kelsey: There are professional co-drivers who are highly respected in the sport because co-driving is key to a driver’s success. Some folks co-drive that do wish to drive one day, but many others know that the silly seat is where they belong. When Calvin and I started, I dreamed of driving the car. After getting to know my role as a co-driver and completing 13 rallies, I have never felt more confident and successful. I would love to try driving an event at least once because it would be fun, but also I think it could help me be an even better co-driver. The excitement of racing down gravel stage roads in these beautiful forests can often feel like a dance. Calling notes is almost like music because the timing has to be just right so the driver can process them and not get confused. You have to be in sync. As for getting behind the wheel, I currently drive in rallycross and if our schedule allows I’ll start doing track days this year when we have time.
RYE30 Racing:Ideally, everyone you’ve encountered in motorsports culture has treated you as a competent and motivated peer, whose impression of you on first-sight is unprejudiced by preconception of gender. Has that been the case for you?
Kelsey: I honestly feel that once we are in the car we are all equals. I feel that age, experience, and confidence has helped me become more respected. Occasionally, I meet someone who has the assumption I just came along because my boyfriend drug me. After a few minutes talking with them and pointing out all the other women who came to compete in what is one of the toughest forms of motorsports in the world, I can usually turn those assumptions around. If anyone has hateful comments, I remind myself I am too busy trying to make a positive impact. I don’t have time to deal with hateful people and move along.
If you are a woman in motorsports, remember you never know who might be looking up to you as an example. The first time I was approached by a couple of young girls to sign autographs and answer questions about women in racing, it was a real wakeup call. I realized these girls would be watching me and my actions and behaviors had the potential to shape their image of motorsports as a whole and potentially their place in it. Just as those women I saw shaped my view at my first rally.
RYE30 Racing: I hate to say it, but the RYE30 crew may be outliers as far as believing women have as deserved a role in motorsports as any man. In researching for this interview, we’ve come to realize that some people view female drivers as gimmicks or marketing ploys. And frankly, we’re quite upset about that. What would you say to a female driver who might be discouraged when they hear something like that?
Kelsey: You can find plenty of women who genuinely kicked booty all throughout history if you go searching. One of the reasons I love rally so much is because women have historically been involved in the sport at all levels. Perhaps this makes me out of touch with other forms of motorsports because rally is its own bubble. From my perspective, I believe attitudes are changing. One of the best things you can do is surround yourself with the people who believe in you. Focus on your own goals and the work you are putting in to achieve them. Stay confident, motivated, and passionate. If some folks choose to be negative about your motorsports journey, remember that is their decision and do your best not to let it affect you. Set a positive example of what being a woman in motorsports means to you. As I stated above, you never know who is looking up to you as the example or who might relate to the way YOU drive.
RYE30 Racing: How can we get more women into the seats of racecars and what can the average person do to support that effort?
Kelsey: Here in the US as the sport of stage rally grows so does its inclusion of women. In 2019 the number of women registered as competitors with the American Rally Association surpassed 100 which was a growth of 62% in one year. Of the 30 championship winning drivers and codrivers 9 were Ladies, including myself. What an honor to be surrounded by so many amazing women!
If someone seems genuinely interested in motorsports, support them. If you hear people saying things or behaving in a way to make others uncomfortable, find a way to call out those actions. Support others with your words and actions and set a good example of how motorsports enthusiasts should behave. Don’t underestimate anyone who wants to be involved or has an interest.
Kelsey represents a woefully underrepresented and highly underestimated segment of the racing community. Sponsors and teams will often dispose of women the same way the rest of society does and it’s deliberately detrimental to the progress of 51% of the world’s population. Don’t let women and girls like Kelsey just be statistics by supporting them in any way you can. Take Kelsey’s suggestions to the racetrack, and you’ll have the opportunity to make the sport better. Take Kelsey’s suggestions to heart, and you’ll make lives better.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us here on the blog, Instagram @rye30racing, and Facebook @rye30racing.
We’ll be racing plenty over the summer so we can bring you more high quality content like you read above. Our partnership with Diagonalt is still new and exciting, like that of a new romantic relationship, so check out Diagonalt.com for classic BMW prints and coasters (16% off using code “RYE30” at checkout) and calendars for the new year.
Millenials and Gen Z’ers grew up loving cars in a period of technological transition. Which is to say we know how to rotate the illegally downloaded repair manual PDFs for the era of cars that we consider superior and classic. Whether you grew up on Pole Position, Gran Turismo 2, or Burnout, you’ll have no trouble navigating this list of E30 resources to make you and your car faster, or just get it back on the road. If you’re new to E30s, this is not a comprehensbuyive list by far, but you can use it as a search terminology guide.
Blogs / Vlogs – Follow these folks and get the real dirt (especially from the rally drivers) on what it’s really like to own and race E30s. Caswell Motorsport – Bill raced an E30 in WRC…in 2010! Cooper Autoworks – St. Louis’ers Kelsey and Calvin rally race their M50-powered E30. Restore It – YouTube rehab series focusing on the owner’s E30. Everything Engineering – Interesting E30 M42 build from a UCF engineering student.
Thanks for reading. Check us out on Instagram @RYE30Racing or Facebook @RYE30 Racing. Our coupon code for 16% off classic BMW on diagonalt.com is “RYE30”. They have lots of cool prints, coasters, and calendars!
A group of crows is called a “murder”. Pretty metal. A flock of E30-racing autcrossers is called a “dufus.”Membership in this elite organization is limited to the ranks of those who are most willing to sacrifice their precious time, effort, and dedication to safeguarding the sanctity of the bottom of the timing sheet. Please enjoy these interviews with the three co-conspirators of RYE30 Racing. Michael first answers what the meaning of life is, Andy tells us about being asked to leave, and Duncanalmost cries at the thought of friendship.
Michael Shadle – Weaboo, STI Enthusiast (the car), Lover Michael and I went to high school together. Our time there was almost identical in experience to that of High School Musical. I was Corbin Blue and he was Zach Efron. He drove a 2nd generation Mazda RX-7 and I have struggled to ever since, be as cool. We’ve recently rekindled our automobile romance and teamed up to build and race the E30. Hopefully you’ve got a dry pair of panties to slip into after you read this; he’s in a band. He daily drives a 540 bhp Subaru Impreza STI and his spirit animal is Keiichi Tsuchiya.
RYE30 Racing: Are you an assman? Michael: Yes!
RYE30 Racing: What’s your dream car? Michael: Caterham Super 7.
RYE30 Racing: In what ways do you think you became a better driver last season? Michael: Getting more comfortable with the car.
RYE30 Racing: What’s your favorite motorsports movie? Michael: Rush.
RYE30 Racing: Who did 9/11? Michael: Terrorists (domestic or foreign).
RYE30 Racing: Where can we follow you and the STI? Michael: @shadldrifter on Instagram.
Andy Mullins (“A.M.” for short) – Scientist, Rust Connoisseur, Flat Cap Kind-of-Guy A.M. and I have a memory of our first meeting not unlike the kind of story you would tell your grandchildren. There was coincidence. we’d both driven our Miatas to the same autocross. Despair! My co-driving sister and I pointed out to him that his rim was bent. Awkwardness. He became angry, and then disparately nonchalant. That emotional roller coaster never ended, and 10 years later we’re still best friends. A.M. is a biologist by trade, has the most impressive motorsports resume out of the three of us, and his project-car Alfa Spider is coming along just nicely. Thanks for asking.
RYE30 Racing: Tell me about your time in pit crews? A.M.: Too many individual stories for a short Q&A. We raced SCCA Spec Miata, STL, some endurance racing, and finally GT racing. Won the June Sprints once or twice, don’t remember. Won the Cat Nationals a few times, Blackhawk was easy for us. I have fond memories! Those were some super long weekends, a lot of time spent away from home. The work was physically exhausting but (although the pay was just alright) very rewarding. I used to come home from Road America after a 3+ hour drive a sweaty, tired, dirty mess, but sporting a huge smile on my face. Then I would pass out on the couch and be sore for a week.
Working as a young race mechanic taught me the importance of hard work, commitment, loyalty, and discipline. Those are values that propelled my professional life outside of motorsports in a way I couldn’t even imagine when I first turned a wrench. I am forever grateful to my team.
RYE30 Racing: What was your first automotive event? A.M.: As a participant, or as a viewer? My earliest memory of an automotive/motorsport event as a viewer was in Brazil. We used to have a vacation home in the mountains where they held a yearly hill climb event, they had some Subarus and Indy Cars (it was a Penske, I remember the day-glo orange of the Marlboro hurting in the eyes when hit with the sunlight) parked in the central square. Those are some good memories.
As a participant I’ve first tried karting early on, it was an indoor track with silly little gas powered karts (EV karts weren’t a thing) but structured like K1 speed for corporate events and parties and such. Lost steering coming out of the straight and crashed my kart hard on a column, so hard that I cracked the kart’s frame in half. They kicked me out for the rest of the day, which was probably the smart thing to do.
RYE30 Racing: If I say you name three times in a mirror, what will I see? A.M.: Yourself.
RYE30 Racing: Which do you like better? Karts or cars? A.M.: Karting is the king of motorsports, home of killer machines and athletes. It is an incredibly demanding activity, requiring you to be in top physical shape. Shifters are just impossibly quick, requiring superhuman coordination and brute strength. Laydown karts and superkarts murder people at 110+ MPH in full car tracks.
Unfortunately Karting in America is a terminally-ill sport battling a few issues:
First: Image. Despite the extreme nature of the sport, most American enthusiasts don’t perceive karting positively. The enthusiasts’ exposure is on indoor tracks, low performance yard karts, or casual video games.
Second: Accessibility and culture. There are not many outdoor kart tracks left with an open-model of arrive-and-drive, it’s getting harder and more expensive to find places to race. Most people you race with are hyper competitive, in it to win it no matter the cost. Those are some terrible people to hang out with (rare exception: Some grassroots-level racers and families, vintage karting. Love you, VKA crew) so the all important cultural aspect of any sport is just… Not there.
Third: Retention: Karting has a weak foodhold in the USA as a long-term sport. It’s always been framed as an entry level thing you graduate from, but that spot is now filled by racing sims and autocrossing – both having much, MUCH higher adoption rate, ease of access, and lower entry level/maintenance costs. So people do karting for a little while, then leave to do something else.
Cars are stupid, but at least I can race in more places and drive them on the street, without having to trailer a kart to a track hours away (the nearest autocross lot is less than 10 minutes from my house.) Started on vintage Italian/Swiss karts, [then] got really into vintage Italian cars. When the right opportunity came to own something special, I bailed. You don’t have to look too close to find residues of my past karting life on my current build.
RYE30 Racing: Spell “ICUP”. A.M.: No.
Duncan Millar – Aspiring Cult Leader, Vegetarian, Identifies as an M42 Knowyourmeme.com knows it simply as the “Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man” meme. Imagine a gaggle of Spider dudes pointing at each other and you’ll have the following interview with RYE30’s author, editor, photographer, publicist, fluffer, and sous chef, Duncan Millar.
RYE30 Racing: How long have you been involved in motorsports? Duncan: If I were to put an official date on it, I’d say summer 2009. That was the first time I autocrossed with my ’90 black-and-red rattle-canned Mazda Miata. I was only 20-ish by then but I remember regretting wasting as much time as I had, not racing. It was as inexpensive and accessible at the time as it is now and I wish more people would consider doing it!
RYE30 Racing: Would you consider yourself closer in comparison to Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling? Duncan: I think that’s an easier question to answer than you think. If I were to answer it respective to his looks and his capabilities, I would tell you to consider Ryan Gosling’s filmography. His brooding, like mine, is integral to his method. Blade Runner 2049. Drive. I often find myself staring out a window, reminiscing motionlessly, and let me tell you; I get chills. And not just because it’s February and I have that window open.
RYE30 Racing: Realistically, what would you be racing now if you didn’t have the E30? Unrealistically? Duncan: I think realistically, if I were better with money, we’d be in a Lotus 7 kit car. A LoCost or something similar with a Miata drivetrain. Or we’d be in some sort of spec series like Spec Miata, or taking a more serious dive at LeMons racing. Unrealistically? Pod-racing.
RYE30 Racing: What is your mission with the RYE30 Racing brand? Duncan: Each one of us would love more than anything for this hobby to turn into a career. Procrastination had gotten the better of me in particular and I finally convinced myself that too late was going to be when I took a dirt nap, so I got together with my guys and asked if they wanted to be a part of making RYE30 into something that could hopefully one day become bigger than us, and they were more than willing.
To say tangibly what we want to do with the brand is to say that we want to race. We have the skill base between the three of us to get out on the track and ideally become a traditional race team; drivers, a pit crew, rubber, development, and wins. If we can mold ourselves into something that companies want to throw sponsorship dollars at, that would be the ultimate goal. In the meantime, we want it to be a source of giving back to the community what all three of us have been given from it. Knowledge and bad jokes.
RYE30 Racing: Is that you in the Weinermobile? Duncan: Why, yes it is. A friend of mine’s brother drove it for a year on contract. The experience was the closest to a religious one as I believe I’ll ever get. Fun facts about it: it’s built on a gas-powered GM 6500 series frame, it’s automatic, and it’s loaded with the little weiner-whistles.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us here on the blog, and on Instagram @rye30racing. We’ll be racing plenty over the summer so we can bring you more high quality content like you read above. Our partnership with Diagonalt is still new and exciting like that of a new romantic relationship so check out Diagonalt.com for classic BMW prints and coasters (16% off using code “RYE30” at checkout) and calendars for the new year.
Another lesson in frugality incoming: We picked up an early E36 M42 engine for $250 down in Indy for purposes unknown to use at the time. It was fortuitous however because we ended up using its cylinder head after the dreaded faulty profile gasket fault made itself apparent during a July 2018 autocross. We turned in our bad cylinder head as a core-return at local junkyard where we found a good replacement and now we have a fully unfunctional E36 M42 again to make an example of for you fine fuc…folks.
Step 1: A.B.C. – Always Be Craigslisting – ALWAYS BE CRAIGSLISTING
Engine stands are cheap. Even brand new. We overpaid for our Harbor Freight brand “Central Machinery” stand. Rated at 750 lbs, it’s over-qualified, but for $40 on Craigslist, isn’t as great of a deal as we’d like considering we could get one for under $50 with a coupon and we’d have a warranty.
Step 2: Engine Stands – Assemble
The stand is essentially made up of two parts. The mounting bracket that sits in the head tube, and the stand itself. The stand is made of three parts. The two rectangular sections have the caster wheels and the other houses the mounting bracket. In our example, the two rectangular sections are already bolted together with the included hardware we received. If you’ve misplaced yours or never received any, they’re easy to replace (check your leftover nuts-and-bolts bag or buy new ones) and don’t require a specific thread because they’re slipped through simple through-holes.
After those are bolted together you can bolt the mounting bracket section to the wheels. Ours has a nut welded inside the bottom of the tubing to tie it to the wheels. Put the longer bolt through the wheels section and into the bottom of the mounting bracket section. Now you have a completed stand. If you have this stand in particular and you don’t have that bolt, it’s an M12x1.75 and approximately 100mm with a locking washer.
Step 3: Stick it to Me – The Mounting Bracket
The mounting bracket simple slips through the head tube on the mounting bracket section of the stand. Each of the four arms is adjustable. Again, if you don’t have any included hardware, hit up the nuts-and-bolts bag. These M12x1.75s might not be found as easily in your leftovers, so measure the lengths you’ll need and hit the hardware store. With ours we needed four shorter ones (about 3″), four longer ones (about 5″), and four nuts with washers.
With the block on a stable surface and all of the arms loose, mock-up your bracket thusly; bolt the bracket to the block hand-tight and then get the other side with the tube as square to the block as possible so that they are evenly horizontal to each other. Hand tighten those bolts and nuts. After that, tighten the bracket to the block fukentight and then tighten the tube section gutentight.
Put a towel down and grease up the head inside of the head tube. In your best parody of German porn, grab a friend or six and lift the block with the mounting bracket attached, and gently slide the whole thing into the head tube of the stand. Celebrate the event by sliding the swing lever and locking pin into their appropriate holes at the end of the tube. You’ll use those to lock the block in place and swing it around on its axis when necessary.
Word of advice whenever you do so, use two hands! A fully loaded engine is going to be very top or bottom heavy and will leave you in the dust when you try to rotate it. One of these we’ll get around to rebuilding our M42 and hopefully provide you with more scintillating and Pulitzer Prize worthy innuendo.
Blockages are bad if you have high cholesterol or are the case-du-jour in an episode of House. M.D. Our blockage is good though because it means the RYE30 team, doctors’ Cameron, Thirteen, and Cuddy can move onto the next scene and remove the rest of the power steering system.
After shamelessly promoting our blog to the usual Facebook haunts we received some surprisingly constructive criticism on the installation of the PS block. Some suggested that it will be more trouble than it’s worth because of the reduced ability to respond to poor steering decisions or unforeseen road hazards. Another user suggested removing valving from the steering rack to free up the internals and make it almost as easy to wrestle as when it had power steering. But the weather has taken a turn for the worse (or at least that’s our excuse) and we won’t be effecting re-installations or modifications until the spring when we’d rather be racing than fixin’. So for now, we give you Part Two of the removal of the power steering system.
Step 1: Work Smart, not Dumb
If you’re as forward thinking as us, you still have the splash guard installed. But if you’re as masochistic as us, leave it installed while you try to remove these components. Since ours is basically ziptied into place, it would have been just as simple as removing it from the enslavement of the few 10mm nuts in the wheel wells that you still hopefully have.
Step 2: There’s Seems to be a Disconnect
Most of your fluid would have drained out when you disconnected the lines from the rack, but there will undoubtedly be some left in the pump when you disconnect the banjo fitting on the bottom (no need to disconnect the one you’ll see on the side of the pump). Give it a good crank with your 22mm and be ready with your drip pan. Once that’s free, you can noodle the reservoir out through the top of the engine bay.
Step 3: No Daddy, not the Belt
Next, you’ll de-tension the belt two ways. The likelihood is that your power steering system, like ours, has never been serviced. So even if you do start off by loosening the tensioner, it might need some persuasion before the pump swings loose of the belt. Loosen the nut and bolt that allow the pump to pivot on the upper oil pan to give it a little freedom. Then loosen both the locknut and the tensioner nut on the tensioner bracket since they are all going to be removed anyway. Use a prybar or a hammer to convince the pump to dislodge. Ideally, it won’t crash down onto your face like when you’re watching hentai late at night on your cell phone in your bed, but hold it in place with a free hand anyway. Pull the belt away from the crankshaft pulley and wiggle the pump out.
Step 4: Practice Safe Splashing
Reinstall the splashguard, but only after you notice that if you’d removed the pump first, you might have had a lot more space to install the power steering block and not need to part the rack from the subframe. Wipe up your frustrated tears with the same rag you use to soak up the power steering fluid dripping down from the steering rack and go have a cream soda.
Losing weight can be hard. Dieting. Exercising. Gastricly bypass your power steering system to shed pounds by installing a steering rack block and chucking the remaining components. Trust us. We’re MDs. Which of course stands for “Mostly Dumb.”
Our power steering delete block comes from a California manufacturer and retailer of BMW performance parts. The Denny’s coupons we asked for in quid pro quo of a felicitous name-drop are as yet mysteriously missing from our racecar budget coffers, so you’ll have to hit your favorite search engine to find out who it’s from.
It’s design is so simple that you’ll undoubtedly something like “Pshshsh. I coulda made this.” But that doesn’t betray it’s cleverness as a product likely, largely capitalized on by the manufacturer. The bleeder is a simple hex-keyed set screw instead of a more expensive traditional bleeder screw. A single passageway that intersects the banjo bolt holes to allow flow means one long straight through pass in lieu of other more complicated methods of facilitating a bleed. If it’s CNC’d from a pile of bandsaw cut lengths of mid-grade aluminum then there’s little waste lost to that process and the process of rounding the corners and running the through-holes.
At $40 a pop (when they’re not on sale for $25) they’re likely piling mounds of cash into duffle-bags and shipping them to yours, truly as sponsorship dough as we speak. By the time it gets here, we should be done installing the block and onto the removal of the offending power steering components (which will be covered in Part Two).
Because the weather is officially “fucking awful” here in the Midwest, we pulled out the trusty tent once again to shield us from the light drizzle. “Rolling around on the ground” was brought to you by “Harbor Freight Creeper” which, surprisingly, is not the guy outside the store’s front door trying to sell you coupon books with sticky pages.
Step 1: Just Lemme Squeeze Past Ya There
In a previously unreleased episode, we installed a Z3 steering rack so your experience with gaining clearance to the banjo bolts might be different. All of the related components for the power steering system are on the driver’s side of the car. You’ll find the banjo bolts you need to disconnect right below the connection of the steering shaft u-joint and the rack.
Getting these two free can be difficult for two main reasons: The clearance between the smaller, higher, 19mm bolt and the motor mount, and the blockading of the 19mm bolt by the 22mm bolt. The simple solution to the blockage was to remove the 22mm first. You can reach this one with a 1/2″ ratchet and a 22mm socket. Get your catch pan ready, because you’re going to recieve everything in the lines and in the reservoir once you let it loose.
As for the 19mm, our solution was to disconnect the rack from the subframe by the two 15mm bolts and scootch it over enough to get our working man’s 19mm combination wrench into the gap and onto the head to bust it free. Be ready to give it a few concussive blows though to knock it free because your steering rack will no longer be rigidly attached to the subframe. While the remaining goo flows, get your block ready.
Step 2: Clean Practices Will Ensure a Tight Screw
Because you’re dealing with an aluminum casted rack housing and a sealing surface, you’ll want to be extra cleanly to avoid stripping when you tighten the banjo bolts and to ensure a tight seal. Wipe any grime away from the rack surface and do your best not to wipe much (but preferably any) icky stuff down into the passageways. Clear the threads of the banjo bolts of any debris with a cloth or a spray like brake cleaner. There’s no need to pre-assemble it as seen above (apart from the loosened bleeder screw), because this is where it gets tricky.
The angle of the rack makes it puzzling to keep the crush washers lined up as you place the assembly. We recommend locating the block on the rack using the 19mm bolt and crush washers, and hand-tightening it in so that’s it’s approximately square. Prep your 22mm bolt by placing one washer on it. Back up the 19mm enough to easily slide the free 22mm washer into the gap between the block and the rack. Lastly, use your 22mm banjo bolt (with installed washer) to fish for the washer as you wiggle everything into place until you’ve hand-tightened the 22mm banjo bolt.
Don’t worry about being able to reach the 19mm. We found during the process of re-installation that there was just enough clearance to tighten the 19mm while the 22mm was in place. Unfortunately, reaching the 19mm with a torque wrench is improbable (impossible in our case) so don’t strip it! Re-secure your steering rack and move onto the next step.
Step Three: All Phasers set to ‘Bleed’
In a cosmically fortuitous turn of comedy, once you have it all screwed, you are now set up to give the courtesy of a reach-around. The official instructions guide you to turn the fully travel the rack back and forth “a couple of times” to “let any excess fluid bleed out”. Once you’re done up top, reach in from around the subframe with your 3/32″ hex key wrench and tighten the bleeder down nice and snug with some manufacturer-recommended thread locker dabbed on the threads (highly recommend by us as well given it’s not-an-actual-bleeder-screw nature).
Check back next Sunday for Part Two where we take perfectly good steering components out and then likely never test drive the car until the spring, where we’ll find that it’s now extremely difficult to wrestle the steering wheel in low speed, short radius turning conditions in the good name of weight reduction.
We have a friend named ‘Josue’ that we call ‘Sway’ for short. We can count on him to not let us down, unlike these sway bar brackets have.
Long term viability was not our strong suit in the early days of turning our once daily-driven sex-mobile into an inbred racehorse. Midwestern winter driving and near-SpecE30 suspension mix like Virgos and Scorpios. Which is to say that astrology is all made-up as it goes along and we shouldn’t have been driving this car in the winter. The parts that took the beating in particular were ones with a thin, eBay quality epoxy coating or none at all. In other words, all of them. Since we took the front ST anti-roll bar out with the fingers-crossed promise that we’d refinish the brackets, we took the opportunity to do just that in between some work on one of our significant-other’s work-and-school-mobile.
If you’re familiar enough with stock E30 suspension, you’ll notice the differences immediately. The original bracket leverages into place inside of the front subframe and then bolts into place to semi-permanently secure the bar. Because the replacement performance part is slightly larger in diameter and experiences higher torsional forces (that’s us making it up as we go), it came with a special bracket assembly that helps brace it flatter against the subframe with a large backing plate and a bracket that bolts into the original bolt hole. It also dual-purposes one of the subframe bolts.
Step 1: Safety First, Second, and Fourth (Third is Lunch)
As with any operation involving swinging phallic equipment attached to something with too much energy, you’ll want protection. Since we’re using our Harbor Freight bench grinder with included Harbor Freight wire wheel, safety glasses, underneath a face shield, behind ballistic glass would have been the wise decision. But for now, all we have are safety glasses. Gloves are generally not advised for using with rotating equipment, but since the actual bracket portion of the bracket assemblies are awkward to hold, we took the risk. Refinishing the other parts of the bracket was easier because of their straight-forward shapes.
Step 2: Stripping – Taking it all Off to Get Us Through Vocational School
Foreseeing difficulty in attacking these with the bench grinder, we took a whack at them with a nylon wheel and a hammer drill. The nylon wheel had been great at removing the surface rust on our cast iron lathe chuck because it removed it briskly and without damage to the chuck itself, but against the thick rust of our unknown-alloy steel brackets it was almost useless.
To the bench grinder we went. For the brackets, we made sure to get to the insides, outsides, and sides. This would seem obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in this oh, so shiny metal as it appears before your eyes that it’s easy to skip the quality checks before you move onto the next piece. The part wasn’t as difficult as we expected it to be, but it did take some unusual angling to get to all the nooks on the piece. Specifically, on the outside of the bracket where it bends at 90 degrees. A tip for wheeling the smaller components like the washers and the fasteners; place them in a set of locking pliers. For the nuts and bolts, we spun them together with a fair amount of hand-tightness and ran them against the wire wheel without touching the threads. You’ll remove the special coating that accompanies hardened fasteners like these and will make them more difficult to remove the next time you need to (sometimes even with the application of anti-seize materials!).
After about 20 minutes of tiny projectiles to the stomach and a podcast we couldn’t hear over the drone of the bench grinder, everything was looking as if it had been freshly cast in a medieval blacksmiths forging facility. Blacksmithery? Correct us in the comments. Someone. Anyone. Please read our blog! Anyway, on to paint they go.
Step 3: Epoxy Paint Me Like One of Your American Anti-Roll Bar Brackets
Previous projects on our Alfa Romeo Spider left us with more than enough black epoxy paint. We double-fisted each pair of components on some bailing wire and coated each one three times. Normally, we wouldn’t coat the threads of a fastener with paint because it can negatively alter those threads capacities to have torque applied to them. In other words, they won’t tighten no good no more. But since we had the nylon nut already covering the only area of thread that it would ultimately be engaging, we went ahead and painted it with the intention of it being a rust preventative maintenance.
While we let them air dry between each application, it’s important to let them cure for whatever period of time is suggested on the back of the can. Since we won’t be installing them again any time soon, we let them rest on the bench to do the requisite curing, hoping all the while that they spring to life the moment we close the shed door and go on a Toy Store like adventure in the time it takes us to eat, sleep, kiss our loved ones (and pets), and return to the shed for the continued torture of not being inanimate objects that become sentient in the absence of people.
We hope you had a happy holiday season and that you slayed many no matter what belligerent you fought for in the war on Christmas.
We’re taking a holiday break to reflect on all of the parts we should’ve bought ourselves instead of buying gifts for others. This is a short essay we were inspired to write a few years ago when we visited the Giant’s Despair Hill Climb site in Wilkes-Barre, PA while on a job. Enjoy this essay, and enjoy the war on Christmas, no matter what side you’re on.
The height of the climb is a ghost of the yearly event. Just outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, mud and cleared trees on the north edge of the road, where timing officials and spectators have matted the terrain, are adjacent to the permanent finish line spanning the breadth of the two-lane road. Just beyond its peak, a shining building I only caught a glimpse of in passing. A fortune-telling of the dynamics I would experiences as I made the journey down the road and through the town at the bottom of it.
Doing my best not to turn my rental Mazda 6 rotors into french fries, I cruised down the steep decline, taking in the view of the valley as my sinuses rapidly compressed. The first major turn came with plenty of warning that I simply had not headed. A sharp, banked right-hander made me do my best Cousin Eddie ‘woo!’ impression to the audience of empty seats in my sedan.
I won’t bore you with the details of the remaining ride because the obvious gem is the uphill. Tumbling out of the straightaway at the bottom, an officially named “Giant’s Despair” park simultaneously greets you and waves ‘goodbye’ with its brevity. Down through what feels like a landlocked seaside town, you wouldn’t be surprised to see someone taking a wicked pissa outside one of the countless (and windowless) bars. And almost as if the same poet that named the Giant’s Despair had been the city planner, the scenery changes drastically as you pass over onto the other side of the tracks. Porches and abandoned cars in driveways turn to projects and abandoned cars in parking lots. A pair of police cars turn off their emergency lights and disband as I pass through the first major intersection. I imagine the demarcating tracks separate color more than they do class. An unfortunate juxtaposition to the thrill of the nearby hill.
I turned around in the lot of the B’nai B’rith Senior Apartments and dodged potholes that would make a Chicagoan proud, as I made my way back to the starting line. By the time I arrived, it was just after dusk. Into manual mode I went, and up the hill and away from the despair I’d climb. The ascent was fantastic. Quick dips that turned into almost-hairpins and frequent undulations through the straighter portions of the steep grade made me feel like I was escaping feds in a cigar boat.
I reached the top and and book-ended my trip with the shining building; a building I’d come to realize was an adult addiction rehabilitation clinic. I felt the road was not the despairing one, but the region itself. Perhaps in naming it, they’d meant to embrace their trials as a method of coping. If you asked me where to start and end the course, I’d tell you to start at the bottom and work your way to the top as best you can like the rest of us. The finish line is up there somewhere and I hope we both make it.
Cowering behind the steering wheel, you wonder if with all of the abuse you’ve reaped on your engine, will you be held to account when the guillotine (or ‘clutch’ in this metaphor) finally drops?
Beyond the faded paint, and rusted door corners. Beyond the hibernated, storage-unit affair of its interior.
Underneath the makeshift sunshade, used to protect only the most highly sensitive electronic equipment…
…lays a digital tachometer.
A purveyor of the most vital information besides water temperature, engine speed is an essential diagnostic measurement for maintenance and reference for track driving. Our preference is for a digital, as opposed to analog, readout of that information. We found a home-grown LED counter and sweeping shift light combination called the “SL10” on eBay from a French seller (and designer) named rgtracetech883 with a tonne of functionality for it’s size and price. But you can use any you prefer as long as it can read a 5 volt or higher pulse signal and be powered from a 12 volt system.
Even if you only have a tentative understanding of electricity, this really isn’t that hard! We’ll try not to drone on about theory, but getting you to understand your car (whether it’s an E30 or not) is what we’re here to do, so no promises. In this case, we’re going to try not to bore you with the installation of this simple power/ground/signal tachometer.
Step 1: Unfuck the Cluster
If the first word you think of after “cluster” is “fuck” then you’ve come to the right blog. We pulled this entire dashboard out for what was ostensibly no reason once, and in subsequent efforts, just the cluster at least a dozen times, so a few steps might be missing since we’ve left a few things out to streamline the process. As you’ll see in the picture, the plastic trim panel that hides the manufacturing nether-regions below the cluster has already been removed (and misplaced). After you’ve navigated to a better resource and figured out how to remove the outer-most panel, grab a PH1 screwdriver (or bit, extension, and impact gun) and remove the four screws imprisoning the bezel. Once that’s removed, there would normally be two more screws holding the cluster itself to the ceiling of the dashboard. Pop those out and get to wigglin’.
It’s in there pretty tight. This is normally where we’d say “that’s what she said” but our adjacent German-language erotic Scott Pilgrim fan-fiction blog only comes out once a month and we don’t want to spoil anything for you by going on a tangent. We found that if you pull up on the bottom, and swing it in towards the front of the car, you can use the space inside the dash to point the face at the floor and eject it like a DVD of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Here’s the part where we could just walk you through the details to make it easy for you, but knowledge is power, and power is something you’ll need when you have a 238,000-mile old M42-powered BMW.
Step 2.0: The Basics
The M42 tachometer is aesthetically analog, but is technically digital. It receives a digital signal that gets translated and represented by a sweeping needle across a handsome 6200 RPM redline face. That signal comes in a pulse directly from the computer. That pulse is a beat of 5 volts so-many times per second (where in the off-beat it sends nothing, like turning a light bulb on and off). That beat of so-many pulses-per-second is the hertz frequency or just hertz. So if the computer is sending 5v pulses 20 times per-second, that’s a 20 hz frequency. In the case of the M42 owner specifically, those 20 count, 5v pulses-per-second, represent 800-900 revolutions of the engine per minute.
Step 2.1: All the Right Signal
Now that you’re a little more knowledgeable, it’s time to test that theory on some of the wiring behind the cluster to confirm which wire you’re going to circumcise for the good of your new tachometer signal input. Remove the blue connector and disassemble it as shown in the pictures. Since we’ve already installed ours, you should be able to tell that the black wire is going to be the one sending that 5v, 20hz signal from the computer. Start your engine so you have a frequency to read and place the setting dial of your multimeter in the “Hz” position. With your black wire still attached to the blue connector, you should be able to stab the red lead of your multimeter down into the top of the harness and hopefully contact the bare metal of the wire, and complete the circuit by attaching the black lead to any metal that is attached to the frame of the car. Grounding circuits out to the frame is a concept we won’t go into here because we have to get back to the Planet of the Apes marathon and there simply isn’t time. If at idle, you see “.02 khz” (move the decimal over a few spaces and you’ve got 20 hz) come across the screen then by Jove, you’ve done it! Splice into the black wire and lead your new wire away from the cluster to a location that will let you hook it up to your new tach. Our old tach no longer worked, so we opted to cut it out completely before re-routing it to the top corner of the dashboard on the driver’s side. Turn the engine off for these next steps or you’ll risk turning components of your new tachometer into tiny mushroom clouds.
Step 2.2: POWER!
With the hard part over, and depending on the state of things in your car, you are now tasked with the trial of finding a way to power the damned thing. With most of our HVAC control and radio missing, we had a treasure trove of wires to choose from to give life to the tachometer. Specifically, one that would gain power when we turned the ignition to ON and would invariably lose power when we turned the car off. We determined that by testing the voltages of wires as we turned the ignition ON and OFF. A tedious process, but an effective one. An easier option would have been to defer to a repair manual with an updated wiring diagram, finding a circuit that met our needs, and confirming with our multimeter. Run that power line from its source to your digital tachometer and move on to the next step.
Step 2.3: Don’t forget the little people – Staying Grounded
Remember when we said we didn’t have time to go into series circuitry? We still don’t have the time. Battle for the Planet of the Apes just started and we’ve already missed the crash landing of the spaceship into the Forbidden Zone and we don’t want to miss Taylor’s first meeting with Nova. Oh, Nova. But we will tell you that it’s not like a battery. You don’t have to route the ground cable back to the battery, it can simply be grounded to a nearby bolt, as long as that bolt has an all-metal path back to the frame.
We’ve learned to always anticipate that things will be removed for maintenance or upgrade, so instead of crimping or soldering the tachometer directly to our newfound power, ground, and signal wires, we snapped them together using parts from the same connector kit we used to adapt the oxygen sensor in our exhaust manifold blog entry from last week.
If you haven’t already, go ahead and plug everything in and give it a test! If you see numbers that make more sense than the timeline of the five original Planet of the Apes movies, than you’re now basically an electrician. Go out into the world and remember that it’s not the voltage that’ll kill you, it’s the amperage. Luckily for us, our Hitachi Magic Wand only pulls about 1.5 amps at the most. Don’t ask us how we found that out.
Now get out there and use that new digital tachometer for good by racing your E30!