My E30 Project Is Way Nicer Than I Deserve

Aside from a handful of minor things, it’s a supremely pleasant place to spend time.

bmw e30 318i project
Brian Silvestro

In case you missed it, I bought another project car. More specifically, another project BMW. It’s an E30 318i sedan in red with all of the right goodies (a manual transmission and a limited-slip differential). After buying the car last weekend, I finally got it registered for the road, and I’m beginning to realize just how nice it is... by my standards, anyway.

What Do You Mean by “Nice?”

bmw e30 318i project
Everything in this picture works like it should. Luxury!
Brian Silvestro

When I say nice, I don’t mean Bring a Trailer nice. I can’t afford Bring a Trailer nice. For me, "nice" means this E30 is actually a running, driving car. There are no issues that, if ignored, would knock it out of commission. It runs well, doesn’t overheat, and goes into every gear. In an hour-long drive around New York City, it worked great, with very few hiccups.

Because the paint still shines brightly (on most panels), one might mistake it from a distance for a car that’s in great condition. People were actually complimenting me on the street, something I’m not used to with any of my cars.

The interior is another high point. Everything from the radio to the gauge cluster to the climate control works like it’s supposed to. This hasn’t been the case with previous E30s of mine. There are no rips in the seats and the carpet is all there. Even the power windows work! It’s all way more than I deserve.

So What’s Not So Nice?

bmw e30 318i project
Here’s where it idles when it finally figures out how to idle.
Brian Silvestro

Right now the car’s biggest problem is an intermittent idle issue just after startup. Fire up the car and it struggles to idle, catching itself over and over again so it doesn’t stall. Give it some revs and it goes away... sometimes. If it doesn’t, I have to hold the throttle open ever so slightly to keep it idling normally, until the engine warms up and everything works fine. It’s likely a vacuum leak somewhere at or near the intake. I’ll have to troubleshoot and start replacing stuff to get the engine to 100 percent.

The other issue is a lack of license plate lights. The holes for the lights are rusted out, so I have to figure out a way to get new ones in there to pass New York state inspection. I only have 10 days to do that before the car is no longer road legal. A proper fix requires welding, and I’m not very good at welding. So I predict zip ties in my future.

lThe suspension feels fine going over bumps, but that noise from the rear I mentioned in my last post about this car isn’t very fun to listen to. I know there’s at least one strut bolt that needs to be tightened, but I’m going to go around the rear and tighten every bolt I can find to eliminate any play. If the sound persists, I’ll start replacing stuff.

So What’s Next?

My M3 project has been sitting still a bit more than I’d like, so I’m going to park this 318i for a few weeks to see what else I can get done on that car. After that, I’ll tackle the lighting and idle stuff for this car, along with a handful of basic maintenance items. Stay tuned.

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