I saw an ad pop up on Facebook for a BMW E21 which was quite local and up for the paltry sum of £1000. I went over to have a look at it, and was thoroughly underwhelmed. The interior looked like it was home to a thousand tramps and their dogs, there was more fiberglass in it than in a Reliant and there was a hole cut in the floor, where the previous owner had started a repair but then realised he didn't have a welder. On the plus side, the rear arches were solid and it ran and moved.
I went away not that interested. I am one third of what we call the Crap Car Collective. It's kind of like Area 51. I had a chat with the others and they said 'Offer him £800 and if it's crap, we'll flip it'. I rang him and offered £750, and he accepted. We collected it that night. It was actually driven onto the trailer.
Then a couple of days later, I was thinking about how much I like old Beemers, having had a couple of E30s and currently run an E36. So, I ended up selling my Anglia project which I hadn't touched in years, to fund this one.
From what we've seen, there's no major horrors. The rear panel is the worst, but I've managed to find a NOS panel, and I've collected a few other parts. I'm not sure on the plan yet. I would probably go down the restomod route with an M42B18 from a 318is, but they're getting thin on the ground. I've heard the M52B30 from an E46 330i may be a viable option. Something for me to look into.
My first thought reading through was 'damn, that is cheap for an E21'. Then I saw the pic where you can see the ground through the floor. That's why still, all repairable and I've seen worse go for more money.
As for swapping in a more modern BMW 6, the early M50s from E36 325s and E39 525s are simple swaps. Not sure if E21s are the same, but E30s there's tons of information out there for them. I've actually got a fair few of the bits needed for an E30 swap that'll be going spare, including an M50B25 from a 523i. Positives to those are the electronics are still old-school enough that you can plumb them up to retro cars without any funny business, they're cheap, they remap well, and there's a couple of affordable turbo kits if that takes your fancy. Cons are they're iron blocks so a little heavier than some later engines, and they don't make as much power out of the box.
From what I understand, the M52B30 ECU speaks to other gubbins in E46s and doesn't like being cut off from them. I've read around that they can be flashed to believe they're still there, but haven't yet found someone who does it (if you do I'd love to know as I need to do the same thing with an M57D30TU from a 330d). You might be able to get one running on a remapped older ECU (not looked into that yet), and a standalone would work fine. Pros are more power and an alloy block so a bit lighter (around 170kg fully dressed, so 10kg lighter than the M20 that was in the E21 323i). Think M52TUB28s from the E36 328i are also alloy block, but don't quite me on that.
I've got a load of info for medium case diff ratios and which ones have what type of LSD too, provided they're the same setup as E30s.
No probs The ECU problems with the M52 can't be insurmountable as it's been done loads of times. Might just be a case of finding the right guy to flash it, or even more basic just find out what needs to stay connected for it to be happy and keep it all in place (I've got that info somewhere from a mate who was still moving his about after stripping various bits and pieces).
When you say M52B30, do you mean the M54B30? They're a very sweet engine. The M52TUB28 if that can can go in would be a great lump as well. For the ECU Gubbins, speak with Martyn *@ ECUWorx ; he at least in the M3 world seems to be a bit of a wizzard with them ; it's his software I used to flash my M3's ECU .
Dez, I've read a fair few forum posts about engine swaps, and a few people have the same thought that the best engine for an E21 is a four pot, but I love the sound and power from a six cylinder. I might have to buy a second E21 and do both conversions to see which one I like ;-)
The workshop was being sorted out, so this week we have finally got her in there.
I'm going to target the car from the rear, so I dropped the rear subframe out along with the fuel tank. It looks very rusty but I think that's generally surface rust. I had the sender out and it looks very clean inside.
Both bits were stripped down. I'll be cleaning them up and painting them over the next week or so.
So what have we got left? The rear panel needs replacing, but I've got a NOS one to fit. The boot floor is generally ok. The sills will be replaced, and there are other repairs needed, but no real horrors.
The edge of the boot frame on the right was covered in fiberglass filler.