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.
Pawel hails from the land of the famous 80’s new wave band a-ha. We get the Norwegian’s “take on”his role as the owner and lead designer of Diagonalt, and its sister design firm Desagn. Our partnership with Diagonalt is a first for us and to celebrate, Pawel has given us his time in the interview below and a discount for our readers.
RYE30 Racing: Your products are simple and modern. I feel like that style is a perfect fit for the subject matter because the classic BMWs you feature speak well for themselves. Can you talk about what might have inspired you to showcase the cars this way?
Well, I love the whole sensation of Bavarian cars. I can’t express myself what this nostalgic emotion does to my soul. I’m just simply, very into it. I think it’s the personalities, the mindset, the lifestyle…I’ve always been attracted to the simplicity and pure function. It kind of came out somehow. I wanted to give something from me to the enthusiasts – as a designer and enthusiast myself. It seems that everybody focuses on the most known models like M3 etc. I wanted to expose the cars that enthusiasts truly admire. The rarity, uniqueness and simple forms with personal touches. Back then, I didn’t know how to express it. One day I’ve noticed one drawing of the E30 – it was something. But I felt I can make it better, and here we are.
RYE30 Racing: It’s easy to make products at home these days by simply outsourcing, or designing and manufacturing them at home with design programs, high-quality printers, and 3D printing technology. How involved are you in the manufacturing of any of the products?
I do as much as I can! To give an example: I prefer to shoot the real cars in the right angles, that I can later work on. I often spend late evenings getting the lines the way I want. It’s all about showing the basics until the car looks complete. I’ve produced a lot of prints at home. I still do, but now just the custom prints. The rest is produced by a print house that I’ve collaborated for a while. It came to that point that I can not afford doing it at home. It took a while to find good materials and processes that I’m happy with. I also have one friend that helps me with the calendars shipment. To be honest, it’s cheaper to outsource bigger orders. In that way, I get more time to deal with promotions, customers, ideas and design of the new products. It’s my pleasure to do so.
RYE30 Racing: We noticed some fashionable displays of your One Model Prints on your Diagonalt homepage. What’s the best way to display your prints and calendars? Thank you! I’m trying to display my products in an honest and tasty kind of way. I think my minimalist side is talking there strong. I’m inspired by Dieter Ram, that once said that products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. He also meant that the product design should, therefore, be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. I would like it if people had that in mind, before displaying my products.
RYE30 Racing: RYE30 Racing has a mandate to practice the Four “R’s” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse) as much as possible in the course of our building and racing. Can you speak to any direct or indirect efforts to be sustainable or use recycled products?
Are we talking about car products? I love to search for used and rare BMW stuff! I like collecting, renovating and reusing old parts. I do also sell them sometimes when I realize that I don’t need them anymore. This mindset translates to Diagonalt. Living nowadays and expressing nostalgic cars end its era couldn’t exist without a good sustainability story behind. All of my papers and materials are carefully selected to meet my imposed needs. Recycling suits my products very well. I think it’s the only way to do it.
RYE30 Racing: Do you have any products in development that you’re excited about offering?
Yes. I have plenty of car models that are not in the store yet. It takes quite a time preparing a good product presentation. You know, there is this thing, when you do things for yourself, you’re never happy and always find something that could be better. I’ve been planning to extend the horizon for stickers too. Everything is set, I just need to make some decisions about the model and color combination – it’s not that easy as it sounds.
RYE30 Racing: I know very little about Norway. What is the car culture like there?
Different. However, I’m focused on the BMW culture and events. We have strong sociality. There is always something happening. Even during the winter. We tend to have fun with the cars on the frozen lakes. It’s the cheapest way of racing cars and brings lots of fun. I think racing cars are popular in Norway. There are many possibilities to do it safely and legally. The best thing is, that enthusiasts help each other a lot. Have you, for example, heard the story behind the renovation of DTM E30 M3 Jägermeister? It’s the perfect example of how shared passion unites and helps people. That’s why I love being into it. It’s not really about the cars – it’s the people and atmosphere that make it worth it.
RYE30 Racing: I browsed your portfolio, Desagn and was very impressed! How long have you been practicing as a professional graphic designer?
Professional – it’s when you first get paid for your work, isn’t it? Then I’ve been doing it for over ten years I think.
RYE30 Racing: What was your first job as a professional?
I can’t remember. Maybe I have too many thoughts about the future in my head. I’ve started sole proprietorship already during my high school and did different, weird projects for people and companies in my hometown.
RYE30 Racing: What would your ideal BMW be?
That would be a perfect condition Henna red BMW E30 M3. Probably with a few racing and personal relishes.
RYE30 Racing: Do you own any BMWs now?
I own only BMW’s. I do have a Zinobber red 2-Door E30 with M42 engine. I’ve always wanted to have a red IS, almost like from the first catalog page – Meer motor, Meer auto, Meer sport. I’ve renovated engine, suspension and every moving part of it. It took me over a year to have it finished. The paint works are not perfect. Probably that’s why I’ve decided to take it on our vacation trips for the last two years. Another one is a 1983 E28 with M10 motor. Bought it cheaply from my friend and rescued from death. It was meant to be my winter car, back when I had the E30 Cabrio M-Technic II. The 5 Series has been with me for about 4-5 years now. We’ve been through a lot together.She brings me the most joy of all the cars that I’ve ever driven. My girl likes it a lot too and she doesn’t allow me to sell it. Funny that I’ve never liked the E28’s until I started to own one. A few months ago I bought the brown E30 320i. Preface 2-doors.Original car in good condition and low mileage. She needs some love, but I guess she will be fine with me. The only thing is that I’m not sure what to do with her yet. And my daily. I’ve been driving classic cars for a long time, every day. But last year we’ve decided to buy a “new” car. The E92 325iA showed up. I said well, why not? It took me about one month and she was transformed as I wanted. It’s so easy to customize “new” cars. You can just go and buy parts, install them and… drive. Very easy compared to the oldies.
RYE30 Racing: Where do you see yourself, and Diagonalt or Desagn in five or ten years?
I hope it grows and I can do it for a living. I recently quit my daily job to start working only with these things. I do have expanding plans and I hope it will go somehow right. It’s still much work to get it all where I want it to be. But I enjoy combining my work and passion to shape my future. The best thing is that I get a lot of opportunities to meet new, fascinating and engaged people.
Check out Pawel’s products and work at Diagonalt.com and Desagn.com, and on Instagram @diagonalt.
We’d like to thank Pawel again for his time! Don’t forget to check out his site diagonalt.com and use our promo code “RYE30” for 16% off everything but calendars (which are our favorite product here at RYE30 Racing). Thanks for reading!
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.
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!