Thursday, 29 August 2013

E30 Sports Seats vs. Re-covering the Recaros

Saw these absolutely divine Recaro sports-seats from an early E30 Baur cabriolet on eBay. They're all but identical to the Recaro/sports-seats from the E21, but have different subframes for the E30, not that it would make any difference now I've started cutting out the stock mounts and the inner side of the E30 base fits perfectly to the inner-mount anyway, so would be a bit neater/stronger than my all-custom base. Only snag is, the price is a little more than I'm willing to pay as the rear seat and door-cards are included. I've got them down a bit, but I'm sticking to my upper limit and they're having none of it. 

It got me thinking, the shape isn't too different from the RS Turbo Recaros I have, it's just the colourful Ford fabric that doesn't suit, but there may be a way to create some ultra-cheap 'replicas'. I figure the stock E21 seats aren't worth much at all, so there may be enough decent fabric left on the two to re-cover the centre-sections of the Recaros in beige cloth. This leaves the bolsters/head-rest grey alcantara, which is where fabric spray-paint comes in, about a tenner a can off eBay, to make them dark-brown. I whipped the cover off one of my E21 seat to weigh it up and it does look possible. On the other hand it has the potential to mess up a great pair of Recaros that are worth quite a lot more still than I previously thought, as well as condemn a tatty but useable pair of E21 comfort-seats, which I could at the very least donate to someone. At the risk of the end product looking naff, I don't think it's worth the sacrifice.

** UPDATE - Another pair came up on eBay yesterday and guess what, the guy emailed back about the original set accepting my offer. The second pair are a bit dirtier and the back seat is wrecked, but the seller will come to about half the other offer, only thing is he wants collection and they're in Cardiff. It will cost me the difference to drive down there, plus a day spent sat in the car. To be worthwhile I'd have to get this second set for buttons, so I called up the original guy and bought the set above - they'll come Monday and I can use the rear bench. I'm glad this seat problem is finally put to bed as the MOT is a week on Saturday and I need perma-fixed seats!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Big job broke out - Time to do the N/S/R Wheel-Arch...

This is the first wheel-arch I pulled to fit the 16s and it's the only one now still needing a tidy-up, to say the least. I cut too much of the lip off trying to wedge some balloon-like 45% profile tyres and left it in a right mess. The newer 40% profile tyres fit perfectly and only needed minor cutting to the other arches, leaving this one miles from the rim and totally out of shape. The bit I cut off is the line used to form the arch on the rest, so this one was missing an edge to build the filler up to and totally sculpting the new arch-line by hand with hanging bits of mesh and filler was never going to happen. The easiest method would be a plastic arch cover, hiding the cut area completely and easily smoothed into the wing, but all four would have to match and the Group 2 ones are just too big to consider. It seems my only options are -

A. Buy a new pressed-steel wheel-arch from eBay for £25. Trim it, grind the wing away in the right shape, weld it in place, grind the welds down flat and smooth it all off. Only then could I pull the new arch-lip out and fill it to match the other three. [http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/BMW-E21-316-323i-1977-1983-REAR-PASSENGER-SIDE-WHEEL-ARCH-NEW-CLEARANCE-PRICE-/190865619545?pt=UK_CarsParts_Vehicles_CarParts_SM&hash=item2c707a3a59]

B. Spot-weld the piece I cut off back into place and secure it with fibre-glass filler. Fill the lip to match the others and build up and re-shape the arch up to where it meets the wing almost.

No doubt B involves a lot less time and effort, but it's still going to be a lot of rubbing down.


The chewed up scrap of metal, good job I saved it. It didn't just slot back into position, there was quite a bit of grinding and filing.


I had wanted to tack-weld the metal on and fill the gaps with fibre-glass, but I couldn't get hold of one so masking-tape did the job. I caked on plenty of P40 fibre-glass filler in between the tape, waited for it to go off, removed the tape and filled in the gaps.


Well sealed behind with more P40. You can see the sliver of metal in position as the light shines through, showing just how much arch got cut off originally.


It was then ground down with a rotary-file on the drill, mainly inside so nothing rubs on the tyre, but a bit to give the lip some shape. All that's left now is the arduous task of filling all that arch.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

(Wheel) Arch-Nemesis Beaten! - tidied up with a bit of flare.

Been enjoying the car and weather too much over summer to neaten up the pulled wheel-arches, but thought I'd take some time off to finish them before the rain and gloom sets back in.



I bent the lip with a pair of grips into the smoothest arch I could and filled it flush with P38 to where the original outer lip was. This took quite a bit of building up.


Normally I'd give it a coat of zinc-primer for now and rub it down again, but for aesthetic value I went straight to red-primer and it's already lifted the look of the car.



More of the rear arches had to be cut away than the front, so this meant a smaller and slightly easier area to fill. The only remaining arch is the dreaded N/S rear one, which I hacked to death trying to install tyres that were too big, but it's a mammoth job alone and will have to wait.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Recaro Seat-Base Adapter - Finally solved!

I'm all for keeping things so they can be converted back to stock later on, but fitting seats with the E21 base-mounts is a nightmare. Once you've overcome the different height on each side and the mounts being too far apart, the seat has to be set low enough to be able to drive the car. I've tried a couple of times and just can't deem a complex two-height setup safe enough to be permanent. The Planted adapters from this post are just too expensive - I don't have £300 to spend on brackets for seats I had lying around so, with regret, the outer [higher] mount has had to be cut out. Gleefully this has done the trick and the passenger seat is now mounted at the perfect height and slides back and forth like it's on ice, so with a nod to retaining originality, this is the first thing anyone wanting to fit sportier seats should do.

Ripping out both mounts gives a blank canvas to put any seat-frame in any position, but a bit more research taught me that the inner mounts by the trans. tunnel can be re-used when fitting upgraded BMW seats, - Recaros, E30 seats etc. - which is what I would fit in future ideally, so they stayed and the outer mount came out to reveal 5" strip of flat surface, the only bit in this area of the floor-pan. Given the choice I would use steel box-section here to raise the flat section up to the same height as the inner mount and do some welding, but I just cant find it anywhere locally in the right size. I got some immense inspiration off this thread on Bimmer-Forums - http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?1757170-E30-sport-seats-in-e21 - in particular this guy, who used a block of wood - http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?1584670-HSVTurbo-quot-Mac-quot-Build-Thread. Would had been considered originally with the Recaro project, but not ruled solid enough. HSVturbo showed it can work here though and I guess as long as the bracket is bolted well through the floor, the would should be plenty solid as a riser and won't twist about.

It transpired there was a 2x4 type beam leant up in the shed that was pretty much the exact height of the inner seat mount, so I chopped off a 55cm piece of it, to match the full length of the inner mount - I can see the extra PVC-pipe thing works for HSVturbo, but one piece has got to be more secure. I then ran a length of angle-steel from left to right at each end of the inner-mount and bolted it through the existing holes. The angle-steel also sits flush against the front and rear face of the mount and wood-block. Lastly, the angle-steel is bolted through the wood to the floor-pan. Now I have two cross-bars to bolt practically any seat onto, good enough to rival the Planted adapter, well not quite, but it's an inch lower, solid and cost a whopping £6.99 to make. The carpet even fits snugly back over it, with a few slits for the cross-bars to go through.

To mount the Recaro on the cross-bars the base-mounts needed removing entirely. These are held to the sliders some of the strongest rivets I've seen and needed grinding and chiselling out, but thankfully not enough to mess up the holes, which I re-used to mount it with short M4 bolts. For the seatbelt-buckle anchor I just used a short piece of angle-steel, but it will need replacing soon with either a right-angle bracket at least 2.5mm thick, or better still some stalk type buckles from an E30. Some E30 Recaros would go nice with those too...



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Custom Seat-Base vs. Planted Adapter

Had a go at fitting the passenger Recaro seat, this time using the Ford sub-frame and slider instead of the BMW one. The driver's seat I did last year has sunk into the BMW slider and won't adjust anymore, not to mention the seat is too high. OK, I've got used to it and it's holding for now, but bolting things on top of the E21 slider/base plain doesn't work, is ugly and will need improving before the MOT. Using box-section etc. that won't sag down is out too - my head would be pressed against the roof.

For this side I chopped the left side of the Ford subframe so it would fit on the floor against the original outer seat-mount. This mount is an over an inch higher than the inner mount next to the trans. tunnel and this just adds to the problem, as the mounts are too wide apart for most seats anyway, so simply raising one side is no good, you need cross-bars. Cutting the Ford sub-frame and bolting it through the floor-pan on the outer side is the only way I could see keeping this mount, so stock seats could be later refitted, and without it all being set too high. The inner mount is just the right height, so I reused the bolt-holes to mount a piece of angle-steel, which the seat then bolts on to about half an inch further out. To bolt on to the angle-steel, the base-mounts had to be ground and chiselled off to leave just the sliders on the right side, which was a right pain. The placement of the seat was now perfect, but the funny shape of the E21s belly-pan, bespoke Ford mounts and custom-made risers did not make for the strongest design. The seat felt solid to sit in, but once I'd moved it back and forth a few times I felt the left side mounts twist and the sliders jammed. You could now feel it moving around a bit, so without a safety pass this is another fail.

It seems that there is just no way to keep the stock mounts and be seated nicely, unless you have better tools and materials than us and can fabricate a very flat, snug fitting adapter plate, with feet on one side and a seatbelt bracket. Believe it or not, they exist, made by a company called Planted in the US, available from a few sites over there [http://www.stableenergies.com/Planted/products/393/] and eBay [http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Passenger-Seat-Bracket-for-MOMO-NRG-SPARCO-RECARO-BRIDE-BMW-E21-Series-1975-1979-/120994172571?pt=Motors_Car_Truck_Parts_Accessories&hash=item1c2bd08e9b], though pricey at £150, each!


They're very nicely finished in 3/16" thick steel, bolt straight into the existing mounts and have a series of oblong holes to drop most types of sport seat onto, Sparco, Bride, MOMO, NRG, Recaro are menioned, though you don't get sliders. I've seen one with sliders made by Corbeau [http://www.harrisonmotorsports.com/corbeau-seat-brackets.html] available through Demon Tweeks, again £150 and will likely need adapting to fit non-Corbeau seats. I've been weighing up buying these for the best part of a year, so to weigh up the pros and cons they're an easy straight fit and let you keep the stock base-mounts, but with sliders on top the seat still sits too high and the crazy £300 cost for the pair is getting into E21 Recaros territory, so really I think it's worth having one last go at a custom adapter.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tyre stretch comparison.

This is for a mate who's bought some 17" BBS reps (Calibre Vintage) for his Mk4 Golf. As with my tyres, the Demon Tweeks guys recommended 45 profile for his wheel size. Im guessing this is for comfort, safety etc., but not with the amount of stretch in mind. The first pic shows my 16x9J wheel with a Yokohama 205/45 tyre. In my opinion this is just too big looks wise and takes over the look of the wheel. The second pic shows my second set of tyres, Toyo 195/40 profile. The difference it makes to looks is staggering, showing the rim off instead of hiding it. In my case the bigger tyre was jammed against my wheel-arch and made me cut more than I needed to when I got the lower profile 40s. 

Lower profiles are harder to find and the tyre sellers will probably say the 5% difference in tyre-wall won't make much difference in order to shift items they have in stock, but as you can see below the difference is actually huge. 

225/45

215/40
May as well be 225, profile same but 5mm less pitch-angle on either side.