Project Heinz Is Back On Track

After months of it being in a garage having some major surgery it’s finally back. The main job was stripping down the rear end down to the sub frame to replace the bushings there along with the diff bushings.

While we were in there we we saw the rear trailing arm bushings were fine, but did some elective surgery by installing some Rogue Engineering Performance RTAB’s. I went with the blacks which are their “street” polyurethane/silicon bushings – stiffer than stock factory, and designed to last much longer but not be as harsh as their full on track bushings.

While messing with the suspension I also took the opportunity to instal shock tower reinforcements. E46’s have a habit of the shock towers actually splitting over time. Everything was fine upon inspection, but now the car is on lower and harder H&R springs it’s probably a good idea to reinforce them for the extra stress they will be put under.

When that was done, we had to tackle the front end. The front drivers headlight wasn’t adjusting due to a broken plastic screw that could only be bought as part of a kit costing $30. A lesson was learned here – don’y adjust BMW headlights using an electric screwdriver. Do it by hand so you can feel when you’ve run out of adjustment.

Then came the problem I don’t want to admit to because I did some stupidity. Just after changing the springs I forgot the car was a couple of inches lower and rolled it over one of those stupid curbs they put in car parks before you reach the pavement curb. I felt it scrape and thought nothing of it, but when I reversed it caught and twisted the bumper. That caused a fog light to actually pop out and land on the ground as well as pop the grill out of it’s clips.

Thankfully the M sport bumper isn’t actually damaged, and two fresh fog lights dropped straight in and the grill clipped right back into place.

The headlight however was a proper pain as it’s not obvious how it comes apart. A little YouTube search followed by a “Ah Ha!” moment though and we got the job done.

So how is it?

Well, I waited until midnight to take it for a shakedown so I wouldn’t meet any traffic running up the mountain to Idlewild. It’s one of my favourite roads here as it’s a 5,000 foot elevation of tight second and third gear bends. It’s great piece of road that sorts out the men from the boys and the girls from the women. Road surface is pretty smooth most of the way up with sheer walls and steep drops. There is a severe long, tight decreasing radius turn that can catch out the unwary and the whole road really tests the chassis and tires.

The car is sharp now. Really sharp. Between the shocks, fresh bushings and those stiffer RTAB’s the back is planted. Having done so much on the suspension it needs a proper alignment, so if it’s this good now I really can’t wait to get it to an alignment specialist.

Turn in is great, it changes direction crisply and with certainty but I’m starting do realise I’m not satisfied with the steering feel. There were enough complaints on 2001 330ci’s about over boosted steering that BMW actually changed the rack. Replacing it though will require another alignment and ever expensive Christmas is coming, so I’m debating wether to just wait on having an alignment until after Christmas and do the rack then; or just get the alignment done and do the steering rack as a later project.

Coming down the mountain I noticed a little shimmy under braking that made me back off, it feels like the front discs are a little warped so that will be the next job. BMW’s stock pads are excellent for stopping, but they are almost hilariously dusty so it may be time to put on some old faithful Hawk HPS pads as well.

Speaking overall, Heinz is starting to come alive. In terms of driving, the engine and chassis feel like the car is a few years old rather than 15. The paint and bodywork are at a 7.5/10. It had a good respray a few years back but has a few tiny dings and dimples and the brightwork needs attention. The only place it’s let down now is the interior as that does look 15 years old… and I despise BMW grey already. The plan there is to start replacing until the majority becomes black with grey accents rather than grey with a little black. I’m also not a fan of the fake wood trim but given the price to replace it I’m not sure what do with it other than plastidip or find someone with the patience to wrap it for me.

Long term… once she is absolutely ship shape and everything is how I want it the plan is to let my mad scientist loose on a second engine to strip down and rebuild how he wants. Seeing as he is a forced induction specialist, it would be rude to not let him supercharge it as well.

Who needs a pension anyway?

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