Sunday 1 June 2014

E21: Steering Wheel Retrofit Guide

I got asked on eBay UK if my E21 steering wheel would actually fit an E30, which it turns out they don't. The wheel was then snapped up by someone with an early '70s 2002, but only after I could convince them it would fit...

It's not straight forward, so to clarify...

Later E30/E36/E46 3-Ser / E28/E34/E39 5-Ser / E24 6-Ser Etc. Steering-Wheel to E21 + other Classic BMW:

To fit later model steering-wheels with the modern spline to your E21 or other pre-'82 BMW, then you will need a steering 'boss' adapter, which bolts to the steering-column and usually has multiple sets of bolt-holes to accept any after-market steering-wheel. Some may only have holes to fit the brand of steering-wheel that make the hub, such as the MOMO one, here for about £60, but could be easily adapted to fit whatever wheel you have. Getting a universal one is harder, sites like claim to have ones here for £25 that fit, but they may need adapting to go on the E21.

Earlier E6 [1602/2002] / E12 5-Ser Steering-Wheel to E21:

Not sure why you want the thin, bendy rim of the older model steering-wheels to noon your E21 around, but they are a straight fit and require no modification to the wheel or dash/trim. The horn contact ring at the back needs modifying to work - refer to step 3 of the guide below.

E21 Steering-Wheel to E6 [1602/2002] and E12 5-Ser:

This is a common mod and it makes sense to upgrade 60s and 70s BMWs with the old-style steering wheels to E21 types - they're newer in design, better to use and safer in an accident. E21 wheels are a straight fit to the spline, but some cutting it required to the dash or back of the wheel to get it to fit. The horn button-contact at the back also needs modification.The definitive guide on tidily retrofitting E21 wheels to 2002 etc. is on the 'Bay Area '02' club site-

The are highlights taken from the bayarea02 guide:
Spline Fitment:
If you place the 320i 4-spoke steering wheel onto the '02 steering column, you'll find that the bottom portion of the steering wheel interferes with the padding on the steering column by about a 1/4 inch. Grab a sharp utility knife and carefully trim away the bottom of the steering wheel, or install some sort of 1/4-inch thick spacer between the steering wheel and the steering column.
If you choose the spacer approach, you have to make your own spacer, as commercial flat washers are too large. The spacer needs to have an inner diameter of about 5/8 inch and can be no larger than 1 inch. When I installed a 320is steering wheel into my '02, I made the spacer out of a piece of 1/8-inch diameter aluminum rod and bent it into a ring using one of the sockets from my toolbox as a mandrel.
One cautionary note about the use of a spacer: The lock nut might not grip the shaft threads if the spacer is too thick. Losing a steering wheel in mid-apex is BAD!

Horn Buttons:
Take a sharp utility knife, and make a radial cut completely through the brass ring on the 320i steering wheel. Once the ring is split, use pliers to carefully bend up one end of the ring high enough to form a cantilever leaf spring. Then bend the tip of the ring over to form a smooth contact surface for the steering column.
This method works well with the standard 4-spoke 320i steering wheel because there is little, if any, access to the internal wires going to the horn buttons.

The classic BMW parts market is a lucrative one, as I will detail my own exploits in another post. I assumed E30 steering-wheels where fair game for the E21 and at the time I listed mine the going rate for an E30 foam-plastic wheel was £30. I got £50 for my original E21 wheel, but I wonder if I could have got more. Due to the scarcity of E21s, I would estimate the value of the basic 4-spoke steering-wheels at minimum £50. The 3-spoke 'sport' wheel in foam-plastic is even more sought after and should fetch up to £100 in good condition and at least £100 for a leather-bound one. The wheel fitted to me E21 was a period AC Schnitzer 3-spoke leather wheel with a removable centre. The boss-adapter and condition of the wheel led me to believe this had been pulled from an E30, though I've never seen another like it and wish I'd put the original one back on to sell the car.

Sunday 2 March 2014

E21: Seat Fitment Guide:

Swapping seats round in a BMW E21 3-series is a nightmare, thanks to the floor-mounts being two different heights. To fit level-based seats from another car requires chopping out the welded floor-mounts and once this is done there is no going back.

1. Check if your floor-mounts have been chopped:

Check the outer floor-mounts on either side, spot-welded in place just inside the door-sill. They should look the one in the left photo below.

If they don't, and they look more like the right photo [with or without the wood], then you have chopped mounts and seats not originally from an E21. You also won't be going back to E21 seats very easily, so to preserve the style and make the ride a lot better, throw in seats from a newer BMW.

2.1 Fitting stock BMW seats from E30, E36 etc. :

This makes sense. E21 seats are sprung and uncomfortable and were dropped in almost every succeeding model. Other BMW seats are easier to come by and cheaper. E30 seats preserve the look almost identically and are far superior in construct. They also fit the inner seat mounts on the E21, the ones against the trans.-tunnel, so only the only outer ones need adapting. I am sure this is the case with seats from other 80s BMWs, possibly the E36 and E46 as I've seen it done, but need confirmation.
Modifying the outer floor-mounts, the ones against the door sills, is impossible as they just sit that much higher than the inner ones, the E21 of course having a crazy odd-height sub-frame design, so they need cutting out. Putting in new ones is pretty straight forward though, you can fabricate them with steel or alloy C-channel, wooden blocks, improvised stilts - these are all popular methods. Tilt-forward seats don't tend to be very strong anyway, so the new mounts don't have to be rock solid as long as they're bolted or welded securely to the floor-pan. Mine used the stock inner floor-mounts and a wooden block on the outer side to get the height - this presented no problem to the UK MOT (roadworthiness-test).

Check out my guide here:

Or check out HSVTurbo's guide HERE [where I got my idea] in THIS THREAD on bimmerforums.

2.2 Fitting rigid Racing bucket-seats:

If you're building a track car then it's obviously best to keep things as stiff and secure as possible. The neatest and most weight-saving method is to cut some steel cross-beams to fit and weld them across the floor-pan, from the trans.-tunnel to the door-sill. This could be done with or without removing the outer floor-mount, but you will probably have to do this to get the seat low enough. Two cross-beams under each seat would probably be best, but it is most often done with just reasonably thick one.

More info. HERE on bimmerforums.

2.3 Fitting non-BMW stock seats (VW, Ford Recaro etc.) :

To get the right height and a central-position with stock seats from non-BMWs there is a lot of modification to the mounts - these seats will always have the bolt-holes in the wrong place. The tidiest way would probably be to weld in rigid cross-beams like in the above guide [2.2], otherwise you will need to fabricate custom mounts. [I used a combination of wood-block and steel cross-beam to fit Ford RS Recaros to mine in THIS POST].

3. Re-fitting stock E21 seats:

I have never seen anyone online do this. If you have level floor-mounts then I see no reason to switch back to E21 seats. All but the Recaros are uncomfortable, sprung nightmares. They give a truly bouncy and uncertain ride - only the most restoration mad would want it. The Recaros are super-rare and overpriced to fit the E21s mounts. E30 Recaros are a fraction of the price, have level mounts and are better anyway. If you are so desperate to restore your E21 dutifully, then I would consider it having cut floor-mounts a deal-breaker and to find one with stock seats, because the car will never be the same again.

There are 3 ways I see to achieve refitting stock seats:

1. Build custom outer mounts using a combination of the methods above, building them back up to the original and rather tall height for the stock seat-frames. [].

2. Locate a pair of original outer floor-mounts that have been cut out of another E21 and refit them to yours. These would first need to have been cut out carefully from the donor car and preserved by someone. Whether they would advertise them for sale is another matter, but asking on the forums can't hurt. Otherwise, you'll need to find someone with a scrap / breaking E21 and ask to neatly cut out its floor-mounts for a few quid. Either way, obtaining a useable pair is going to be tough.
Once you do though, they would just need to be measured up to where yours were cut off and welded into place. How neat a job you do will determine whether they fit or if it's unnoticeable.

3. Fabricate new outer mounts from the ground up out of steel and weld those in. I will endeavour to make a note of the dimensions of my cut one before passing it on and do a quick CAD design to fab-up a simple one.

**Also, I still have the passenger-side (N/S, Euro/US Driver-side) floor-mount [above], so if anyone wants it to try and weld back in message me! [Sadly, I cut the driver-side one out more severely and this is probably going to be the case if yours are chopped as it gives the wood or whatever more to grab on to.]

Sunday 19 January 2014

E21 316: Car sold...

Met up with Jake yesterday and did the deal. He was getting the train down on his own from Newcastle, so asked if we could meet him in Manchester with it to halve his train fare, which was fair does, it's only about 40 miles from us and was a good chance to see if the car was up for the Newcastle run before handing it over... 

Obviously it was and once I'd hit the M56 I was whipping past cars in the middle-lane with my Dad struggling to keep up in his Audi. Apart from getting a bit warm in the cabin, the engine was ticking along beautifully at about 3,400 revs @ 70mph and I did manage a few stints at 80mph @ around 4,000 rpm, but my right foot was quickly subdued at the sight of a steaming Volvo Amazon on the hard-shoulder - the stranded owner grimaced at me as the Bavarian stalwart roared past, but as we got into Manchester the car was just as sedate in the long traffic-light queues and turning a lot of heads! 

After such a charming run into the city-centre, public-transport showed its true colours and there was bedlam with the Trans-Pennine trains and Jake's arrival was delayed by about 40 minutes. After that the switchover went nice and smoothly, the car speaks for itself and I knew he was keen anyway,so we were back on the road home again in about half an hour with no haggling. I threw in the original 13" steel-wheels, the beige rear seats, the short SPAX springs and a few other bits and bobs including the black rear grille-panel. Jake is only 20 and has had a couple of slammed Mk1 Golfs, so he's well into the scene and I can tell the E21 has gone to the right place, where it will be equally coveted and, hopefully, seen out a bit more.

Of all my car projects, this one was by far the most popular. Bye bye little E21, you will be missed.

Last ever fill up. Took it into work up the motorway for a pre-run check and it was flying.  I threw the 16s on for the trip to Manchester and was expecting a bit of steering-wheel wobble with them not being balanced, but above 50mph the wheel became eerily calm and gave the best high-speed ride so far, even with those stretched tyres.
The highest speed (and most fuel in the tank!) since the day I brought it home from Surrey :)
Parked up in Picadilly station car park, where it drew quite a bit of attention. There were 2 parking-attenants in the place and both were suddenly drawn to it like a magnet, which was unnerving at first.
Timeless lines. Probably the only E21 out in the city that day and getting a lot of love from the Mancs.
The E21 shape just has to have deep-dish wheels - it's well worth the effort to get 9Js on the back.
Coombs of Guildford, endorsed by the Queen no less. Old Beemers famously outlive their dealerships, but I'm pleased to see Coombs is now Vines of Guildford, still a BMW specialist.
In the immortal words of Andy L. - "I do love a sticker". 

Saturday 18 January 2014

E21 316: Last week with the E21...

Quite a sad time this week as the car is now confirmed sold, but it's nice to see it will be going to an enthusiastic new owner, a lad called Jake from Newcastle ways. Quite ironic that the car doesn't leave leafy Surrey for 29 years, then in the subsequent two makes it's way through Liverpool (230 miles away) and then as far North as it practically can to 'Castle (another 175 miles)!

It will be very dearly missed, the handsome E21, not just for the sentimental reasons of it being the exact same age as me or the extent of work and restoration I carried out, but mainly because it is such an awesome car to behold. Time waits for no man and it would be even worse to see me SORN it, hide it away somewhere and let it fade away... it needs to be kept on the road so it can be enjoyed by both the driver and the public. Like any BMW old or new, the thing just loves to be driven and gets better and more rewarding the more you do. It's also great that other people like the shark-nose classic (and in some cases, rare but gratifying, actually get the stance scene :D) and appreciate the work that's gone into the project.

E21 Dub Club has had over 12,000 hits and a heap of good feedback and I would like to thank everyone who has checked it out, not just those who gave props props on the motor, but for those who found it useful and have been helped or inspired with their own E21s... hats off to you. Finally, a big shout out to Clint Warburton for his support - hope with all the space of the Ozzy outback you get to keep your E21 for the foreseeable future.

Never the less, a new project beckons, but sadly it's a bricks-and-mortar style project this time. That time has come again for me to flee the parents nest and give up my natty cars, though I'm sure another retro BMW will appear when the dust settles from this house!

Back in the car gallery at West Wal, where it's not been enough this winter....
Turning heads in Co-Op car park, Wallasey...
Built, not bought. Driven, not garaged. And simply stunning to boot,, even rocking the 15" Melber wheels...

Checking out the bad boy evil Angel Eyes in the tailgate of this Mini. The poor girl must have wondered what I was doing taking photos... obviously she hadn't seen the eyes approaching and got out of the way - it was flying in the cold air!

Saturday 11 January 2014

E21 316: Flared wheel-arches painted.

I have a buyer organised for the car, coming to pick it up next weekend. Just throwing up some recent pics of the painted wheel arches.

Friday 11 October 2013

E21 316: Update + MOT Pass

After my disastrous few weeks I managed to get hold of a Bilstein strut-insert and get it onto the car along with the longer springs, meaning it was finally back on the road and in an state worthy of the MOT test. I cautiously rolled down to the test-station on Saturday and am glad to say the E21 passed with flying colours!

Bilstein damper is strong, but will be a pain with the short springs.
This was a relief considering the slightly dodgy seat-frames I made bolted through the floor-pan, which stuck out like a sore thumb when it was up on the ramps, along with the scuff marks where I've grounded the underside, but with the car at a more standard height off the ground this didn't see to bother them and there was no problem with the chassis at all.

Oddly, the guy told me that the split-pins were missing from the castle-nuts on my steering track-rod ends and this would actually be a fail under normal circumstances, but they could see I'd been working on it and decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. This was true, I'd had them off swapping the springs and hadn't bothered to replace the split-pins as they would be coming straight off again to put the short springs back. That was decent of them to let it go, as it would have been beyond frustrating to lose another week to something so trivial and shows just what a pain the UK MOT test is.

Folded up and with a 1/4 inch thick layer of
pallet-wrap to send as a parcel.
Spending on the E21 has been a bit out of control since buying the E30 seats and it is still in desperate need of the wheel-arches finishing off. By this point, I'm past what I can recoup if I sell the car. I'm still using my E39 as my daily, the E21 has had no use for nearly a month with no MOT and finally, due to a planned move, it's looking like I will have to let her go anyway, unless I can find somewhere cheap enough to store it. I had hoped to have the arches skimmed off and painted by the guy who did the respray, but money is tight so I will be buying a rattle-can and doing the best I can with them.

Thankfully, I've managed to generate a bit of extra cash to pay for the strut-debacle [this post], by selling some bits on eBay, like a battered old set of alloys, an E36 nose-cone and other bits I had lying around, as well as the original beige passenger seat from the E21 - I think I have enough seats for the car now. I hope the seat arrives to the buyer OK, as I had to practically shrink-wrap it to be able to send it Parcelforce [£27], pictured, as the original method of courier was just over £60!

My spare set of E21 ash-trays is not selling on the other hand and is still on the site here -

Tuesday 24 September 2013

E21: Deep 'Alpina' Style Front Valance on eBay UK

** UPDATE - This sold for the same £51 bid that was there on day one of the auction, but alas I missed the end.

I've been looking for a replacement chrome rear-bumper to get rid of the two minor, but ugly, dents on mine and spotted this -

A super-rare for the UK deep front-valance / bumper, I think from the 'Alpina' models and it's genuine BMW. Probably going to sell for way over the current £50 bid, but I think I will be having a cheeky bid myself if it doesn't go stratospheric.