Sunday, March 1, 2009

Preparing for the 2009 24 Hours of LeMons.

Because of the success of last year’s first ever, south east event, the LeMons creators are bringing it back! This year there will be two LeMons events at CMP, one in the spring and one in the fall. Since we had such a good time last year we decided to enter again.

We managed to destroy last year’s car in Weird Al’s Second Annual Dirt Track Democross and Firearms Spectacular back in November so we would have to find a replacement. If all goes well, we may be able to enter this same car in the fall event as well.

Because we are BMW E-30 junkies and gluttons for punishment, why not find another one of those we thought? Besides, some of us have lots of parts for these things and we know plenty of people who can help if we need it.

As you will recall from last year’s LeMons write up (see below) , these cars cannot cost more than $500 total, including prep work once you get the car. Safety items are excluded from that cost.

It’s pretty easy to find a “running” example for less than $500 but this means you will be buying an “e” car. These E30’s have 2.7L inline 6 cylinder engines but are built for economy more than performance. They make good low end torque but do not make much power and have a low rev limit. Their cousins, the “i” cars, like our Spec E30 race cars, have a 2.5L inline 6 but they rev higher and make more power. The “i” cars are more valuable and sought after. So we bought an 1986 325e we found for $400. But it has some problems. It has lots of problems. But we can fix it! And we can make it better!

List of problems: It’s old and rusty and has all original parts! Read: original suspension, bushings and mounts. All old and in need of replacing….which we are not replacing. The rust holes in the floor boards are big enough to put your leg completely through. I’m pretty sure the car has its original tires too. You could stick a quarter through the dry rot cracks. Nice. And safe! We will be replacing the tires. This car also runs extremely rich because it has the wrong air flow meter. Oh, and it has the milkshake. The Milkshake, in car terms, means the car has coolant in the oil. This could be due to a blown head gasket, cracked block or cracked head. We have a plan for that.

The good thing about being into this crap is that you find out neat little things along the way. It is widely known in the BMW community that you can mix and match parts from different engines and come up with different configurations. Oh, and we are replacing the open 2.93 rear end with a limited slip 4.10 I have laying around. That should make things interesting.

We decided to take our “e” engine and put all of the high performance bits from an “i” motor on it to make a poor man’s stroker motor.

Think of it this way: your 82-87 325,e,es has the 2.7L 9.0:1 compression M20 and the 87-92 325i,is,ix have the high performance 2.5L 8.5:1 compression M20. Now if you have both an "e" and an "i" then take all of the high performance "i" parts off and bolt them on to the "e" and you will have a high performance, high torque 9.0:1 compression 2.7L M20. So that’s what we did. The one thing we also needed was another wiring harness.

So we have a 1986 e car bottom end, 198X i head and ancillaries and a 1989? wiring harness. All of the mechanical work was easy enough, pull the head from our e car, put on the i head with new gaskets of course, and then it was time for the electrical work…..

Now, we at BeerTech are parts replacers, not real mechanics. This means when it comes to electrical work, count us out. All four of us taught ourselves how to work on cars and have taken zero actual classes on the subject. We’re not even sure how to use a volt meter correctly. This should be fun.

So we splice in the “new” wiring harness and fire the car up. By “fire it up” I mean turn the key and get nothing! Success! Oh wait, that’s not the result we are looking for at all. Great.

I have had the LeMons car for weeks doing odds and end getting it ready. Stripping it down completely, etc. We scheduled a BeerTech weekend for Feb 20-22nd to do most of the work. Swap the rear end, install the cage, seats, harnesses, do the motor swap, brakes and general maintenance while drinking about 6 cases of beer. We worked day and night on this thing for three straight days, got everything done and then it wouldn’t fire. A great ending to a loooong weekend. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the beer.

The race is the first week in April so this means it’s basically up to me from here on out to get the thing running and ready. And I have a ton of other things going on. Rob was nice enough to come down the next weekend and help me out and JP and I were on the phone all week looking for solutions.

Thanks to Jim Levie, BMW guru, we were able to trace the problem to the coil’s ground wire. This wire is shielded to reduce radio interference to the coil. We cut the node off the end of this wire to install a kill switch, which also didn’t work, and when we put the ground back on to the coil the shielding was in contact with the negative post. This prevented the DME from being able to ground and un-ground that connection therefore not sending a start signal to the coil.

I pulled back the shielding and reconnected our ground and the car fired right up! Sweet! Our LeMons car is alive!!! A few more odds and ends and this car is ready to rip it up on track.

We were lucky enough to find $1.59 in change in the car to offset our cost. >>>>>>>

Stay tuned for the race report and the unveiling of this year’s theme!

-Brian Jones BeerTech Racing #380

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