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The Cart Before the Horse: My Spec3 Build


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This is going to be a long one, so buckle up. I've had a bunch of cars in the last few years during college and in the time since graduation. E30s, Miatas, obviously a few Toyotas, a burnout Mini van, etc. I think the important one to focus on here is when I was scorned by my 4th gen 4Runner and first E30. I was broke, tired, and feed up with fixing broken things, so I sold everything and bought a new GTI (make all your jokes about broken VWs, I'll wait). The GTI was reliable, fast, fun, and gave me the chance to do some HPDE events with NASA Mid Atlantic to get my feet wet. I had done quite a bit of autocross in my Miatas, but this was my first foray into real track duty. One thing to note is that I also work for NASA at these events, so I've been around the track for years and got a good discount on track time. Don't forget I was a broke recent grad at the time!
As I enjoyed the new, warrantied car life, I started to save money. At the same time, I kept my mind busy dreaming of what race car I would have some day in the distant future and what class I would eventually race in. I eventually narrowed it down to two classes: Spec E30, the tried and true perennial favorite of BMW fans who enjoy cheap and fun racing, or Spec 3, the small, but endearing class meant to replace Spec E30 with the next generation chassis but retain the cheap and fun spirit Spec E30 has embodied for so many years. The decision was soon made for me as I got a deal on a good E36 chassis that I couldn't pass up.
That's where the story begins. January 2019. The car, a 1995 BMW 325i sedan. 190,000 miles or thereabouts, repainted oxford green. About a million different owners (half of which I knew!).
One thing to remember is this is the ultimate budget build. I picked this class because E36s are a great chassis and the class rules call for an affordable and reasonable parts list. First up, burn the plastic money car at FCP Euro on a full rebuild of the front suspension and also install a roll bar from Bayside Fabrications.
The car went into hover mode as I waited for parts. New control arms, bushings, tie rods, sway bar end links, etc. My friend had just started up an automotive blog as well, so he chronicled some of it there.
If any of you have owned an old BMW, you know how much of a pain replacing rear trailing arm bushings is. This was the 5th or so time I've done them and it still gave me a hell of a time. It didn't want to come out with the special bimmerworld tool that I managed to break. Lots of drilling, hammering, and cutting, and the RTAB finally submitted to my will.
Did I mention almost all of this was just to get the car to pass inspection? I needed to be able to drive it to the track and it was still a year away from being eligible for antique tags!
Installed the recommended front subframe brace that came as part of the "trunk kit" on LTW M3s. It stiffens the chassis and also protects the oil pan.
Stock :
with x brace:
Time for the first shake down! It was early March and the first track event of the season was nearing, so I wanted to do something to make sure the car wouldn't fall apart. There was an autocross an hour away, so I took it there for the day and put down some sad, un-competitive times. The car did not fall apart, so I was ready for the March VIR event with NASA Mid Atlantic.
I'll just post my original write-up of the first event in the car for reference:
Monday, March 25th, 2019
[QUOTE]First weekend in DE2 and first weekend in this car was a success. I packed up the car Wednesday night and headed down Thursday to work. Packing all of my gear in the car, included 4 tires in the trunk, and I didn't even need to use the passenger seat. The car is a lot better than the other BMWs I've owned so the drive down wasn't too bad, just uncomfortable from the lack of seat padding, stereo, sound deadening, cup holders, etc.
I let my friend take the car out on Friday and he said it felt very good, which got rid of a lot of fears I had and instilled the confidence in me to really go out and rip on Saturday. My instructor was amazing and really let me push in a lot of places. I knew the line from the GTI, so I picked that up quickly again, but I was not expecting so much grip and so much braking. Having a purpose built car makes the whole experience a lot better and I was able to learn/improve a lot more since I'm not being held back by stock brakes and all seasons. The first day went well, with me only needing to point by the V8 cars in the straights, and otherwise had a lot of room and open track to play around on.
During my third session, a very intense vibration developed and I came back in to find that my right rear tire had separated belt from rubber and had a huge lump on the inside. This is likely due to this being a budget build and me running Toyo RA1s made in 2011. I ran around the paddock asking everyone for a tire to buy and eventually someone from Spec 3 let me borrow one of their rain tires to use for the last session. I then did some more walking around the paddock after the day ended and found a Spec 944 guy who sold me a full set of Ra1s for cheap. Unfortunately, those were even older (2008 manufacture date). I woke up very early Sunday morning and was the first at Phil's Tire service to drop everything off to get swapped over and chatted up someone dropping off some $erious rubber. They had a set of Toyo RRs (2017 Date) with plenty of life left they were tossing and they just gave them to me. They are not the exact size I run, but close enough, but I didn't have the time to get those swapped onto my wheels so I stuck with the old RA1s.
I did one session on the 3 2011 tires and the 1 2008 tire I bought and shaved off even more time. My instructor was silent throughout as I worked on getting Oak Tree figure out. By the end of the session, I was taking turn 3 at 70 mph indicated (speedo may be off a bit), the uphill esses flat in 5th at around 100 mph, and exiting oak tree at 60 mph. I compressed a lot of braking zones and got the zone at the end of the straight down to braking at the 1, which was a big improvement. My instructor told me he thought I was ready for DE2 solo and was about to sign me off for the rest of my sessions, but I discovered another one of the 2011 tires had developed the massive lump, causing vibration and a hard pull to the right and I was then out of tires and out of options as the guy I borrowed the wheel from had already left. I packed up knowing that I put down some good times and feeling confident that I may progress to DE 3 at some point this season, however I'm not in a hurry to not have awesome instructors helping me improve. I'm bummed that I had to quit early as I felt like I was really shaving off time every lap and making great improvements, but I'll settle for a major incident free weekend.
My current plan before April is to try to lose more weight from the car. It weighed in at 3170 with a full tank and me in it. Also, I'm going to swap those Toyo RRs onto my wheels and try to sell the 6 RA1s I have left to recoup some money if I can. I'll do a nut and bolt on the car and she should be good to go.[/QUOTE]
The next event in April went well at Summit Point. I was signed off by my instructor to drive solo, so the weekend was focused on improvement and consistency. The next things done to the car after was more weight loss. I cut a lot of the interior out and spent some money on a steering wheel.
DIY headlight intake
The next event was the may VIR event and I had finally sold the GTI that originally got me on track in order to buy an F150. I rented a uHaul trailer and towed the car down. I'll post my write up from that event in a quote below
Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
[QUOTE]I didn't get to drive until Sunday morning after (an instructor friend) took my car out for a session. I texted him while I was on grid and asked how the car felt and he had no issues except it was bouncy in left hand turns. I figured that was just the fact that I had swapped tires without telling him and he went out with 50 PSI in the back left. I went out and immediately discovered a loud clacking sound that got really bad under left hand turns. I pulled in and had pit out check underneath and they found nothing. I went back out and got another 2 laps in before checker and I turned in.
I hoped it was just the fire extinguisher rattling around so I cut that loose and hopped in the passenger seat to head out with (my instructor friend) at the wheel and we didn't make it out of turn 2 before hearing the racket and bringing it back in the look. I asked pit out  to look at my rear shock mounts to see if they looked funny. He checked and came back around to inform me that there was actually no shock back there. We pulled the car in and popped the wheel off to find that the shock piston has broken through the shock mount. I found a replacement part and threw it in and headed out for my next session. My friend left his AIM in there so I had some actual times for my first time on track. 2:27, 2:26, 2:25, 2:24.... Okay, I was picking up time, so I decided to keep pushing. Came in hot through Oak Tree and dipped a tire off... and the noise is back. I pull in and check the mount. This one is broken as well. Turns out I installed both missing a washer, so it was pure luck I hadn't blown them earlier. That was the end of my weekend.
I'm looking forward to Summit where hopefully everything can finally come together. A running car without charging issues, tire issues, or other things being broken. The car felt absolutely STELLAR in the few laps between broken shock mounts. I could definitely feel the ~200 lbs of weight loss. The better ride height from lowering the rear was apparent, having balanced, good tires that were actually found inspired a lot of confidence since the car was shaking violently above 60MPH. The headlight intake and cleaned throttle body, MAF, and free spinning alternator definitely made the car feel a lot peppier. I'm very happy about the car.
To do before Summit:
Install new rear shock mounts (again, but properly)
Flip my shock mount reinforcements
Add bump stops to the rear shocks
AC delete
Pull the last bit of carpet
Swap driver seat and harnesses for the halo seat I just picked up
To do before next season:
Remove sound deadening
Install Spec Exhaust
Install ECU Chip
Sunroof delete
Rear Subframe reinforcement
Sway bar reinforcement
Subframe bushings (AKG Poly)
Diff bushings (AKG Poly)
Engine and Trans Mounts (E46 M3)
Rear control arm ball joints (OEM)
Source M3 Control arms, Spec Shocks, Spec Springs, Spec anit-roll kit, camber plates (This step alone will cost 25% of what I've already spent on the car)
If I come into some money or a better job, see if I can get a cage welded up. May not be feasible, but is very important.
Fire bottle
Kill Switch
Drill ignition lock
Vanos rebuild
Baffled oil pan and safety wired oil pump nut
At that point, I believe this car will be 99% of the way to being spec legal.
Halfway through my first season with the car! This is getting long, so I'll split it into the next post.
Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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Monday, June 10th, 2019
[QUOTE]Who would have thought the car would hold together better when I install parts correctly? Only casualties this weekend was a turn signal flying out somewhere on track along with a fog light blank. The car itself handled marvelously. I was able to put down consisten 1:31-1:32 laps for most of the weekend but my times continually dropped off  as these tires wore down past the last grooves and the track got hotter. The region director and champion drive drove my car for a session and confirmed my suspicions that my suspension is far too soft and is putting a lot of heat in my front tires. Considering I'm on stock sway bars and some random combination of vogtland springs and bilsteins, Hawk HP+ pads, tires with unknown heat cycles, and being 200 pounds too heavy, being only 5-6 seconds off the Spec 3 guys doesn't feel too bad.
I don't think I'll be able to swing any event before August VIR financially so I'll try to tackle installing the Spec 3 exhaust and ECU chip, delete the AC, and maybe start to source parts for someone to weld in reinforcements and do my rear bushings this off season. Hopefully should gain a few horsepower and lose a few more pounds with those things.[/QUOTE]
Between events, I installed the Spec Exhaust and sway bar end links that used the M3 strut mounts I had, which stiffened the front a lot.
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
[QUOTE]Had the week off from work and did a sunroof delete and an AC delete. The AC delete was fairly straight forward. Disconnect the AC lines from the firewall, pull the front clip of the car off and disconnect the lines to the condenser. Remove the condenser, unbolt the compressor, and pull those items as well. Also deleted the horns and the washer fluid. The sunroof delete involved unbolting the entire cassette, measuring, cutting and drilling pieces of metal to hold the sunroof panel into the roof skin, and then sealing with caulk and taping the top of the roof to keep water out. The whole process took probably 6-8 hours for both things.
Towed the car to Pitt Race and was met with rain the first morning so I switched to my RA1 rain tires. I ended up leaving those on all weekend as I didn't feel I was being help back by tire at all. DE2 with Great Lakes is a lot different and consisted of almost 2 hour classroom sessions, drills in every other session, and passing anywhere except braking zones. I've been solo for a while now, but apparently that is not a thing with this region and even DE3 has instructors. Picked up a lot of speed as I learned the track on the first day and ran at 2:14. Race pace for Spec 3 seemed to be 2:04-2:06 so I had a long way to go, but I was gaining confidence. Near the end of the day I started working on left foot braking as I got the line down and really enjoyed the smoothness it added. This video here is from the reverse gridding drill where the "faster" people were gridded in the rear and slower people were in the front to encourage passing. I ended up being second from the back and struggled more than I expected since my car lacked the straight line speed of most of the cars, but absolutely ate them up in the turns. The car ended up developing a miss down low due to a valve cover gasket failure flooding my spark plug wells with oil, so that's another thing to work on before VIR.
More weight loss. Thinning wiring harnesses SUCKS
More MORE weight loss
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
[QUOTE]Wow! This car is so much faster at VIR than it was a couple of months ago. Since my last time at VIR, I've dropped probably 300lbs and gained hopefully 3-5 hp with the exhaust and ECU chip. That was good enough for an immediate 2 second drop in times in my first session and a drop of 5 seconds over the whole weekend. All of this on RA1 rain tires instead of the RR semi slicks I ran on last time! This weekend was my evaluation to move to HPDE 3. This consists of a few drills and an instructor evaluation, all while driving in DE3. If you mess up at all, they send you back down to DE2 for the weekend and you have to wait to try again.
First session out, I was black flagged for my hood not being shut. My second session I went off in turn 10. The car is easily 5 mph faster through there now and I tried to left foot brake, did not brake enough, and dropped two tires off over the curbing. Lots of people try to save it there and end up in the tire wall so I let the car go off into the grass on the right side and rode it out. My group leader found me and told me one more mistake and I was back to 2, which really put the pressure on me. The weekend was very hot some times reaching 95 degrees, which led to temps above 110 degrees in the car. This was also my first weekend using a fire suit, so it was pretty miserable some times. I continued to work on my line and awareness with a group comprised mainly of mustangs, corvettes, and Camaros that I was constantly giving point bys to. Overall, I had a lot of fun and I'm glad to be in DE 3 now. This puts me at 18 track days, which means I'm 12 away from being eligible for instructor clinic. (Not that I'm in a hurry).
As for build progress, I've ran out of money for this so progress will slow considerably now that I'm out of cheap things to do. Removing sound deadening and finding a cheap way to add negative camber will be next on the list since I'm destroying the outside edges of all of my tires.[/QUOTE]
Deleted the heater core and installed a water temp gauge. This is a bear of a project, but needed to get down to weight, get hot water away from your legs, and clean up the under dash area. Installing the water temp sensor involves remove the intake, which is a fairly involved process on these cars. The heater core delete requires some hose rerouting, so I'm keeping this handy guide alive and searchable on the internet because it was so valuable to me.
MORE wire harness thinning. I seriously didn't think I'd ever get the car running again after this.
Blocked off hole where the heater core was.
HOURS spent with a heat gun and a scraper to get rid of all of the sound deadening on the floor
Painted the floor a clean color after removing sound deadening. Big improvement
Monday, October 28th, 2019
[QUOTE]Car felt really really good. the RA1s finally got down past the tread blocks and picked up a lot of speed. I changed my line in a few places to be more like the Spec 3 line and I'm really feeling like I'll be close ish to their race pace once I have a suspension on my car and I'm running RRs. Presently I'm 5 seconds or so behind the fastest Spec 3 guy, so I hope having the same equipment as them can help me pick up another second or two, then the rest is all driver mod. So far, I'm 10 seconds faster than I was in March. Set my personal best at 2:19 during Open track on Friday and continued chasing that the rest of the weekend. The car understeers really hard compared to the Spec cars, so I really look forward to getting the sway bars, camber plates, and stiffer suspension they run.
Training as Pace car some more (thanks to my roommate for letting me borrow your BRZ) and got another clean DE3 weekend under my belt. Picked up some more Spec 3 parts and a dual fuel pump setup that I'm going to try to wire up soon. Most importantly, AKG has decided to sponsor me on my path to Spec 3, so they'll be helping out with the bushings and chassis reinforcements I need, which I'm really excited about.
On to Summit in 2 weeks![/QUOTE]
Monday, November 11th, 2019
[QUOTE]Wow! First DE3 at Summit and I had a blast. Most fun driving weekend yet. Driving with round/balanced wheels is great. Picked up another 5 seconds or so for a new PB of 1:27.4. I'm really excited to see what kind of times I can record once I have the Spec 3 Suspension, Sways, drop another 100 lbs, and run the 225 RR instead of the 205s I ran this weekend. The car feels great, but still has a tendency to understeer, but the added camber, sway bar stiffness up front, and more tire pressure really helped to reduce the pushing from the last time I was there. Left foot braking is absolutely crucial at Summit and is VERY fun. Gave a lot of ride alongs, got a lot of compliments on my driving (even from Chris himself!), and escaped the weekend without incident. Thanks for Jon for having a spare brake light switch when mine failed! That would have cost me the weekend!
That's a wrap for the 2019 season! On to the off season! Who knew it would be as long as it ended up being?!??!
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2019-2020 off season. The most important work!
Made a crappy switch panel
Dropped the front subframe to get reinforcement welded in. These cars have the chance of unthreading the nut on the oil pump nut sprocket if you spin the motor backwards on track. Common fix is to safety wire the nut, which I did.
Baffled oil pan going in. These cars oil starve under high G corners, so most people run a quart or two over full. Doing that + a baffle should keep me from grenading the motor.
D'OH. I'm a dummy. Put the wrong bolt on the wrong place and cracked my rear main seal housing. I didn't expect to be learning how to pull a trans, but it happened.
Was a good opportunity to replace my throw out bearing and the clutch fork pivot pin which is plastic on these cars from the factory. I replaced it with a stainless steel part from the E31.
Reinforced oil pickup from the Z3
All in all, while I had the car out of commission, I knocked out the following stuff in December-January
Rear main seal
Rear main seal housing
Pilot Bearing/
Throw Out bearing
Pivot pin
Removed trans tunnel insulations that was falling down and crumbling, replaced with aluminum tape
New Guibo
Inspected clutch, flywheel, pressure plate
New oil pan gasket
Loctite and safety wired oil pan nut
reinforced oil pickup
baffled oil pan
cleaned trans, steering rack, oil pan, engine, subframe
reinforced subframe
brass caliper bushings
headlight intake installed
new 96-99 M3 control arms with new ball joints
new control arm bushings
brand new eibach sway bar kit
Made a floor pan and installed a bigger fan.
Last but not least, I finally got a slot with an affordable cage builder
Only a few more weeks before this car's first event of 2020. A few more really expensive items left (fire system, new seat, new belts, transponder) and the car will be a real Spec 3 race car and I can do competition school.
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Not so HyperFest 2020
Best time: 2:21.19
Weight: 2997
HP: 188
Tq: 167
First event with a cage and all of that jazz. It's been a VERY long off season and I hadn't driven the car is 9+ months so I was pretty nervous. I was driving open practice Friday, then DE3 for the weekend and it took a lot to shake the rust off. Started out running 2:25s on Friday just because it was like starting over after so long off and a car that was so radically different.
On friday, I was using hoosiers that I had traded a friend my RRs for so he could do comp school and the grip felt nice until it didn't. Car got light at the top of esses and I got into a tank slapper. Kept the car straight and spun through the infield, debeading a tire and knocking some vacuum lines off, requiring a flat tow for me.
I swapped back over to my Toyo RA1 rain tires with 45+ heat cycles on them and got back on the horse. However, at this time, I did notice the car was burning/leaking a lot of oil. I'm not really sure what the main culprit is, but the dipstick tube did come loose, so I'm assuming that's a part of it. Not looking forward to cleaning up that mess and figuring it out.
I picked up a lot of speed and all of us in DE3 started vibing well and playing around. I did my TT checkride at the end of Saturday and the instructor told me to pit after 2 laps so he could get out. "You don't need me in here, go have fun" he said.
I dyno'd my car Sunday morning and it reported in at 189 horsepower on average, which is a bit below the max allowed for spec 3 but it's certainly not unhealthy. Sunday was uneventful besides picking up more speed and pushing my braking zones deeper and deeper with great success. Saturday and sunday I ran 2:22 just about every single lap that was clear, then I started to push into 2:21s at the end of Sunday. I was on pace for a 2:20 but dipped a tire off in my second to last session so I decided to call it quits and just accept a good weekend. Overall, I'm pleased, especially not being too far off race pace for Spec 3 while being 200 lbs heavy and on 50 heat cycle rain tires.
All I need is a seat back brace, new belts, rain light, and a fire system to do comp school, but I've ran out of money for now and I'm getting low on consumables. I also have things on the car I need to address such as dropped more weight, new wheel studs, and other things I should probably spend money on before rushing to comp school. I'll probably run TT5 for now and see how things shake out.
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Long story short. Car was still leaking oil out the dipstick which was very annoying. Then the motor blew up in my first TT session. Probably dropped a valve. Piston looks pretty bad from what we could see with the bore scope. Will dissect and diagnose later, but I'm a little tied up with other stuff for now. All I know for sure is it made a lot of noise, the engine doesn't run, and this is the spark plug from that cylinder.
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Took a break from the e21 and did some stuff to the Fiesta which then let me make more space in the garage so I could work on the engine again. Finished disassembling down to the block and crank. Exhaust cam bearing surfaces did not look good. Intake cam looked fine, but then that intake valve that dropped did not look good at all.

Got the other engine off the truck and into the garage. Taking a break for now after a full day in the garage and I’ll pick back up tomorrow after tending to the F150. Need to swap the water pump, oil pickup, oil pump nut and safety wire (ordered new), exhaust manifolds, engine mounts, fuel rails, install new oil pan gasket and valve cover gasket, remove ac compressor and bracket/pulley, swap over coolant block off plate from head and coolant temp sensor. Inspect sensors and wires, install new rear main seal, flywheel, clutch, then bolt up the trans and throw it back in.

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I have the new engine torn down. It’s pretty gross inside and out, so there’s been a lot of cleaning. Two of the timing chain guides were broken, but the one that is not broken can’t be replaced without pulling the head, so I’m at a crossroads right now where I need to decide to button it back up now with just the two new guides, or jump in with both feet and pull the head and do all of that stuff.

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I ended up biting the bullet and pulling the head. Dropped it off at a machine shop out near Dulles and work begins next weekend when I get the head back.

  1. install safety wire oil pump nut
  2. swap windage tray
  3. install z3 reinforced pickup tube
  4. new timing chain guides
  5. reinstall head with new bolts/head gasket
  6. new vanos chain guide
  7. reinstall cams, vanos, time engine
  8. install new rear main, flyweeh, clutch, pressure plate
  9. attach trans and reinstall in car
  10. Wash underside of the car
  11. hook up driveshaft and such
  12. torque new crank bolt
  13. reinstall wiring, accessories
  14. do everything else
  15. racecar
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Finally got started. Windage tray installed, bimmerworld safety wired oil pump nut installed, cleaned the block deck in preparation of head gasket install. I got the timing cover back on and realized I'm missing a circlip for the chain guide. Quite nervous about putting it all back together. I suppose there's no reason I can't have the engine back together this weekend. [Image: d46da981fff80066a3029e1fc6a32223.jpg]

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New head gasket, picked the best lifters from each motor to make a set that's hopefully more quiet than before. Head installed, engine timed, vanos installed and timed, baffled oil pan installed, new read main, new front main, new pilot bearing, new oil filter housing gasket and other seals such as valve cover, timing cover, exhaust gasket, etc). New flywheel, clutch, and pressure plate, and then transmission installed on engine and engine loosely mounted back in the car. Work resumes tomorrow and I hope to get the engine started. [Image: 46b7ca1c317f6933f7236adc45af2b1b.jpg]

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Honestly just guessed at where most of the connectors went and I guess I got the important ones right. Hooked up the battery jumper and it fired right up and idled for about 5 seconds before I turned it off. I guess I'll go ahead with getting the front end back on the car so I can get the radiator hooked up and get the engine full a coolant before I try to get it up to temp and figure out what I DID mess up. I'm sure some of the sensors have to be flipped around. The engine wire harness is an absolute mess and I'll probably have to pull the intake again to reorganize it.

I also have a new adapter for my coolant temp probe that I'm waiting to get in the mail, so pulling the intake will help with that. I hope to spend New Year's doing all of this and that potentially means I can put it back on the ground and take it for a spin up and down the street this weekend. If all goes well, I'll register for a refrigerator bowl event either Jan 10 or early February to see how the car holds up and brake in the clutch before Comp School in March.

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Stewart water pump, 2 new knock sensors, and my external water temp gauge all installed. Pulled the intake and redid the wiring harness, got the temp gauge in the cluster working and got all of the other connectors in the right spot, I think.

Got it fire up and up to temp, then took it for a romo down the street. It seems to be running well. However, after the car runs for 5-10 minutes, the engine will start to idle at 3k and the CEL comes on, then when you turn off the car, the battery is completely flat. It was charging the other day, so I'm not sure what has changed. Since the battery is flat, the CEL is gone and I can't check it. Will try to tackle this in the daylight tomorrow and get the rest of the front end back on.

After I get the car sorted out in that regard, it's time to use the OG Racing gift cards I got for Christmas and snag some of the following

- fire system
- rain light
- seat back brace
- new belts

Then install my hood latches and I should be ready for comp school.

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Car is back together. Runs and drives without issue as far as I can tell. Throw some green paint I picked at random on the m3 bumper it's almost kind of close. Installed the aerocatches (what a pain) and signed up for a refrigerator bowl in February to shake the car down.

I think I'm going to lose a lot of sleep over thinking about every bolt I could have torque wrong or forgot to torque. Mainly the engine crank pulley bolt. I snugged it down with the max setting on my impact and blue loctite, but the torque spec is like 400 lb-ft which I don't have a reasonable way to achieve. I guess we'll see.

[Image: 9b9011d87c202be3b28fb05625a29d04.jpg]

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So, story time. I’ve been scrambling to finish my Spec 3 for comp school. Got the engine rebuilt and back in, had to installed new safety gear, rain light, fire bottle, kill swtich, etc. Wrapped it up just in time. After driving 2 years in HPDE, I was finally eligible for Competition School, so I was signed up for Friday. I drove down Thursday night in the pouring rain to unload and work in Registration that night. Friday morning I had my first classroom session for Comp School where we went over the CCR and plans for the day. We were out on track doing a “half track left” drill at 8:50. This mean we had to drive at speed,only using the left side of the track. We were supposed to be doing this in a combined group with other racers doing a “test and tune” which mean there would be 50 other cars out there NOT doing this drill that we would have to also watch out for. The rain was so bad that the only people that ended up out there were the 10 folks in Comp School who had no choice but to go out. The rain was so bad that I could only do about 6/10 pace even on fresh rain tires. The spray from cars in front of me was so bad that I literally could not see a car in front of me on the straights, so I made a point to pass anyone I got behind so I could at least see out the windshield. That plan worked until my windscreen fogged up so bad that I lost all visibility out the windsheild. In the video above, you see me look out the pasenger window to see the flagger on the other side of oak tree. When I looked back forward, I had lost the track and went off. In the dry, it would have been a quick 4 off and back on track, but the wet grass was like ice and I slid right into the wall.

I got pulled out of the wall and limped back to the pits. I had no time to fix my car as the nexst classroom session started right away, so I left my two friends to work on getting my car back in a presentable state.

[Image: uVD74x4.jpg]

Classroom ended and I went back out for my second session. This time we were doing a half track right drill. The track was dryer so I was pushing a big harder. Passing some folks and doing well. Then my car developed a severe, but random misfire. I limped it along for a few more laps until my ABS failed going into turn 1. Luckily the runoff is huge there, so I just slid through the grass and I’m really lucky I didn’t flip. I limped it back to my paddock spot

I had no time to work on the car, so I went back to class. The next drill was a leap-frog passing drill. I was partnered with another E36 and we were tasked with passing each other at every available turn. For 35 minutes we jumped back and forth, but my misfires kept getting worse and worse and worse. Unfortunately, we had back to back sessions. We came into the hot pits after the drill, but were scheduled to go right back out, so I had to yell to one of my friends to go search for some ignition coils for me to try to swap around. A few minutes later, we were back on track for our “start” practice. We did one warm up lap, then did a simulated “Standing start” . We did one more, then 2 rolling starts, then one single file restart. Then we raced for one lap and came back into the paddock. We were instructed to not leave out cars. Some folks with stop watches came by, and when they said “go” we had to get unhooked and out of the car in under 15 seconds, or else we failed comp school. (Video soon to come)

So, at that point, the only thing left for Comp School was the “dust off” race. The comp school students would start at the back of the pack and race against everyone else. I had about 30 minutes to try to get my severe misfire fixed, or else I’d be a rolling roadblock for everyone. We were scrambling to swap coils, check grounds, etc to figure it out. With 20 minutes to go, Jake said “Stop messing with that and just take my car”. I lined up and went out for my first real W2W race. A couple laps in, we catch a full course yellow and we get bunched up in a big pack on the back straight right as the flags drop and we go back to racing. I’m three wide coming into the roller coast and I see a honda challenge racer try a late pass on the outside of me. I leave him room, but as he gets to the side of me, he gets loose, dips two in the dirt, and darts track right, hitting me right in the door and sending me spinning off the track through the dirt.

I fill out the body contact forms and submit my video to compliance, then head straight to the classroom for my written test to finish everything up. I’m in class until 7PM. After that, I’m out of light, so I can’t work on my car anymore. Unfortunately, Jake was done for the weekend as well. I end up hearing back that it was ruled the other driver’s fault and he was suspending for one race for the move.

At this point, I wake up at 6PM Saturday morning and work on my car some more. I took my DME out and checked for cracked solder points or an unseated chip. I put it all back together and head out for the Lightning warm up. The car still misfires. I come back in and borrow someone else’s DME and swap it with mine. After that, I was finally able to pull a code for a bad crank sensor. It took about 2 hours, but I got that swapped out and the car was as good as ever. I went out for qualifying and placed 6 out of 8 in my class (27 out of ~50 overall). A few hours later, I started my race and finished 5th out of 8.

Sunday was smoother sailing and I could focus on my driving since my car wasn’t broken anymore. Jake took my car to run GTS2 just to get points for starting a race and completing a lap as well. Sunday, I qualified 5th out of 8th in the Beast of the East race.


In the race, I had a bad start and dropped back to last in my group. I fought my way back and passed on guy in turn 3, and the next guy in turn 12. On the next lap, the guy ahead of me spun in 10 and hit the tire wall track left. At this point, I pulled away from the guys behind me and the leaders of Spec E30 ended up catching me. I let them by (to avoid out of class racing), but the Spec E30 leader used me as a rolling road block to cut off P2 in SE30. I gave P2 a point by into 14 and he overcooked it and spun. He ended up catching back up to me and I signaled to him to catch my draft. Spec 3 cars are faster on the straights, but I’m a bit slower in the turns than the top SE30 drivers, so they usually tuck in behind us on the straights for a draft, then dive over and outbrake us at the end. I sling shotted him ahead and let him go on to catch P1 in his class.

For the rest of the race, I maintained my lead on the Spec 3 guys behind me and no hope of catching 3rd place, until apparently he pulled off track and retired, so I ended up finishing 3rd in my third overall race and might get some free tires!

And that’s that. One more race to complete my provisional license and I’ll be an officially licensed racing driver. I’ll have to complete 5 more races to lose my “rookie” status.


Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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Wasted no time tearing into this. Summit Point in April will be here before I realize. Guessing, using some eye measurements, I hammered and pried the fender back out to where it looked decent-ish. I also bent the jack posts back and cut them down shorter so I'd stop hitting them on the trailer.
I started looking for a parts car with no success, so I checked local junkyards and found one about an hour away with 1 325i and 3 non M50 powered Sedans, so I made couple trips.
I also put in some orders on Rock Auto. Turn signals, fender liners, rotors, grill mesh, etc.

Disassembled everything to assess damage. Damage was a bit worse than I expected. Driver frame rail was bent in a bit, inner fender was totally out of whack. The bumper shocks were also bent and the studs were knocked out of the frame rail. The hood was also bent at the front and bowed in the middle. The nose panel was ruined, the frame connector was bent, the bumper core itself was bent as was the core support. The door and rear quarter are also scratched, and of course, the mirror was broken. Basically everything on the front of the car needed to be replaced. Luckily, my trips to the junk yard had been fruitful, so I had everything I needed. I also picked up some spares at the yard like a fuel pump, wheel speed sensor, extra mirrors, etc. 
Sanded, primed, and painted the old M3 bumper and the fender from the junk yard. 
New wheel liner
This bumper has seen better days, but it looks completely fine at 100 mph. $10 m3 grill mesh from Rockauto is much better than cutting up gutter guard to fit. Not sure how it's supposed to be fastened though. 
Lots of positioning, hammered, and prying later and we have a car again! Hood is still bent. 
Pulled some vinyl off and washed it. Hopefully getting some new numbers (22 was taken with NASA MA anyway) soon. 
Bonus shot of the cul de sac de BMW
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  • 4 weeks later...

Before my weekend update, please check out the newly renovated Spec3 web presence I've been working on. 

Our new series page [url=https://spec3.nasaseries.com/]https://spec3.nasaseries.com/[/url] 
Facebook Page: [url=https://www.facebook.com/NASASpec3]https://www.facebook.com/NASASpec3[/url] 
Instagram: [url=https://www.instagram.com/nasaspec3/]https://www.instagram.com/nasaspec3/[/url]

Installed one polycarbonate window and it took forever so I decided to hold off on the other until after the event last weekend. Stopped by RRT on the way to summit as well and saw a Z8, which was awesome. I ran the car in Spec3 and Jake ran it in TT5 all weekend and it never missed a beat. I qualified 7th and finished 7th both days. Great weekend! 




Saturday Race


Sunday Beast of the East (Qualifying) 


Sunday Race


I also took a Spec E30 out in DE2 which was a lot of fun.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Polycarbonate rear window install finished. Door skins cut out.

Used 17x8.5 ET40 K1s fitted with 15mm spacers and new 235/40/17 RRs.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Welp, engine overheated really badly on the first session of a three day event at VIR. Spent the entire weekend trying to figure it out including bleeding the system a bunch, swapping thermostats, gutting a thermostat, pulling apart the whole cooling system etc. It kept getting worse and worse and eventually it became clear that the head gasket was blown. 

What I think happened was a test port on the radiator was not torqued after I had the radiator pressure tested and it slowly backed out and eventually let out coolant only under pressure on track. I kept trying to do things to fix it and it would overheat and I think that eventually killed the head gasket. The head had already been milled and they had to take even more off this time so my hopes are not high that this will not go south again, but we will see. Currently have the head back on the car with a new thicker gasket and copper gasket spray applied to both sides. Hoping to find time this weekend to get it all back together. 

I also managed to scratch up the head when trying to place it the first time when it got hung on the header stud. Yikes.




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Car is back together and fired right up. Idles well and holds temp without issue. I think we're okay! Installed bumper trim, fog lot delete panels, and a new turn signal. Ready for Summit Point! 

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  • 1 month later...


Welp, another bad weekend.

Took the car to Summit Point this last weekend. First session out, the water temp gauge on the dash slowly crept up over the course of the session, but the after market gauge I installed read 180-190 and I saw no physical signs of overheating. Either way, it really freaked me out, so I did some digging. I plugged in my scanner and found that the DME was reading a lower coolant tempt than expected as well. I went out for the race on Saturday and the car felt very down on power and the stock temp gauge slowly crept up over the 35 minute race and eventually was reading WAY TOO HOT. I had decided to power through and ignore that gauge as long as the after market gauge I installed read correctly.

Turns out I had my coolant sensor plugs switched around, so I flipped them and fixed everything. I believe the DME thinking the engine was too cold probably hurt power, but I never got a chance to test this as the clutch of flywheel failed during a session Sunday morning where I let a friend test drive the car.

Single mass flywheel kit ordered and I've gotten an exemption from the series leader to run one (since a dual mass is required for the rules). I hope to have this installed, along side the cool suit system and transponder in the next couple of weeks before Pitt Race at the end of July.



Single mass flywheel conversion finished, cool suit installed, new transponder wired up, cleaned car and redid my sticker/vinyl placement, also I was gifted the Spec3 test wheels so I'm now rocking some 17x8 Konig Hypergrams. Drove to Raleigh on Thursday to pick up my new enclosed trailer (financed, zero down, yolo) and then drove essentially straight to PittRace with a stop along the way to load the car.

The weekend went well. I had not been to PittRace since 2019 and I've never raced there (was in HPDE2 in 2019). The first day was really just to get my feet wet and get comfortable going door to door with folks on a foreign track. The trailer was an absolute blessing and gave me a place to sleep, relax, change, and store my stuff out of the rain. My goal for the weekend was to improve my times to a 2:08, which I smashed in the first warm up session sunday, running consistent 2:07s. The car developed a severe clunk, however, and I had to figure out what that was. It turns out my diff bolt and subframe bolts had started to back out a little bit. They were "tight" but not tight enough. I snugged all of those down and was good to go. 

Qualified 6th on Sunday and finished 5th. 



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  • 3 weeks later...


Before this last event here at VIR, I didn't manage to do much work except install a radiator duct and do a nut and bolt check on the car. The car seemed to be in good enough shape anyway.

Saturday went well, picked up about a second every session I went out. In the race on Saturday, some wires under the dash melted and forced me to retire early. It took a lot of time digging around to find what all had melted, and eventually it became clear that it was nothing I could fix at the track. I'm going to need to pull the whole harness out and get it thinned out properly.

The fix for the time being was to run without a gauge cluster so that the worst wire that was completely melted was not powered. The qualifying session went pretty well and I started the race in 6th of out 9 racers. Driving without any gauges is harder than I thought and I missed quite a few shifts. I went off in T1 after starting to pull away from the folks at the back and dropped to last, but this was a blessing. The rest of the race was a lot of fun trying to get past the guys that got around me, but it was extremely clear to me that my car was down on power by a lot compared to the other folks, which was frustrating.

Near the end of the race, the engine became more and more sickly and eventually started misfiring bad enough for me to pull back into the paddock. I had no gauges at all, so I had no idea if it was running hot, but it has since become clear that the head gasket failed around cylinder 5 and that cylinder 2 has/had bad rings (which explains why I haven't had any power). I cancelled my registration for nationals and will be sourcing a new engine, and thinning my harness properly. I hope to be ready for Hyperfest in October.


Edited by TaylorGoesFast
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  • TaylorGoesFast changed the title to The Cart Before the Horse: My Spec3 Build

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