Buying a used car can be a bit of a nail-biting experience for anyone. For enthusiasts, though, it’s usually an exciting adventure, especially if it’s something you plan to build. Knowing that most of the things the average “normie” driver would worry about are likely going in the trash pile makes the process much more fun. Since you’re not thinking “oh no, this part is broken,” and instead thinking “oh yay, I can replace this with something better,” you get this whole attitude of creativity rather than restriction. We know a thing or two about that zen moment where there is essentially a blank canvas staring back at you, as we recently picked up an E46 330ci 5spd coupe that is about to be the new Racewagen for season three! This week, we’re looking at the car itself, some of our plans, and how you can take the same kind of approach with your next project build.
First things first, let’s catch up to what’s happened so far. The past two seasons of Racewagen have focused on the MK7 GTI 5-door that Jamie Orr famously took to the tip of South America a few years back in its initial iteration. We took that build and reworked it with a host of new parts specifically designed to handle abuse not on unpaved roads at the bottom of the world but instead to stand up to whatever Ellen could throw at it on the track. Now, Ellen has multiple seasons under her belt and has graduated from a novice to an experienced racing driver, so it’s time to pass the torch to Chris Chatfield and Jay Summers, who will helm this E46 project with Chris Armbruster and Ellen offering guidance.
Now, with a bit of prodding by Armbruster and our good friend and racing instructor, Bill Griffin, we’ve decided to completely switch platforms. The E46 offers a ton of affordable potential and is the exact model needed to eventually take part in one of the best wheel-to-wheel classes on the planet: SpecE46. So, a few months back, we began the search for a perfect candidate to turn into the new and improved Racewagen.
So, that brings us to the present. We picked up this 248k mile 330ci that came from South Carolina as our ideal starting point. It’s been well taken care of for its twenty-year life, but, like all old BMWs, this one will need some wrenching before it sees track time. Fortunately, between our in-house developed parts and the wonderful build partners like Meyle, LIQUI MOLY, Powerflex, and H&R we’ve teamed up with, we’ll be able to quickly breathe some competitive spirit back into this sporty coupe.
To begin, fresh fluids and filters are always a great place to start with any project. If anything else, it at least offers peace of mind that the engine and differential will have exactly what they need to stay lubricated. That’s why we chose to go with LIQUI MOLY gear oil for the diff, along with new ECS drain plugs and washers, of course. For the engine, LIQUI MOLY Mos2 anti-friction additive paired with a fresh refill of their specified oil and a new Hengst filter will help keep everything turning smoothly.
Underneath the car, you’ll already find our brand-new in-house developed stainless steel exhaust for the E46. To mount it up, we had to ‘persuade’ a nice dent out of the transmission tunnel in the floor of the car where it met something harder than the stamped body. Fortunately, a little hammer action by Chris straightened it right up so our bolt-on exhaust fits just like it would on your (ideally undamaged) E46.
While under there, we took a good look at all the bushings and mounts that will inevitably see replacements in short order. Much to our pleasant surprise, the main suspension components, like the control arms and ball joints, are in surprisingly good order. Regardless, Meyle is supplying us with fresh versions of everything while H&R coilovers will sit at each corner to maintain proper control through the corners.
Additionally, we went ahead and removed the rear subframe assembly to toss in some fresh subframe mounts and Powerflex bushings to reduce any undue deflection caused by the worn-out mounts robbing the E46 of some power to the ground. We’ll make sure to touch just about every rubber bushing and wearable ball joint while down there, which is best practice for any venture like a track-dedicated build.
Along the way, you can watch us run system by system to improve, repair, recondition, and build this E46. Much of what we do will apply to nearly every old used vehicle out there and can serve as a guide for you to start your own track build. So, follow Chris, Ellen, Jay, and other Chris as we take this solid, but tired, E46 330ci and create the next Racewagen for you to enjoy.
If you haven’t, go check out the latest episode and the backlog of older seasons right here on our YouTube channel. See you at the track, boys and girls!