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wvumtnbkr

Teach me about e46 please

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I have access to an e46 to turn into a champcar.

 

What are the strengths and weaknesses?

 

What are the "must dos" to have a competitive car?

 

Which model do I want / need?  And years better than others?  Any specific engine or trans to get?

 

Any help is appreciated!  I have built a fee champcar and played around with an e30 or 2, but never anything that new.

 

Does it basically require an aftermarket ecu to be competitive?  

 

Thanks y'all!

 

Rob R

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e46's are pretty complicated compared to e30/e36.

 

which specific model do you have (sedan, coupe?  323, 325, 328, 330?  Manual or auto?)

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Some things we have learned from a reliability standpoint. Can't really talk about competitive, because we're not (yet) 

 

- Buy quality front control arms. Meyle sets have been good to us. 

- 330 brakes will fit all e46's and are incredible. 

- The rear sub frame mounting points are a weak point, and there are reinforcement kits readily available.

- There is a module that ties the ECU/anti-theft/key together so that the key has to be matched to the ECU. Its worthwhile getting this feature removed from the ECU. There are companies that will do it for a couple hundred bucks, and if you want put a slight performance tune on it. 

- keep a few spare rear camber arms and control arms around, they seem to bend easy.

- The drive shaft center bearing is worth the few bucks to carry a spare. 

- The coolant expansion tank is worth carrying a spare, they are prone to explode. 

 

All in all though, ours has been pretty bulletproof. Our car has the 323 engine, so is definitely a little down on power to the fast cars, but the motor had 186,000 when we bought it and just passed its 3000th race mile with nothing more than oil changes and a set of spark plugs. 

 

Parts wise we've found it easy to find whole parts cars for sale with something silly like that ECU/Key relationship failed where mechanically they are sound but have some electrical repair that is cost prohibitive in the $400-1000, which is a great source of mechanical spares. 

 

New parts also seem cheap, assuming due to the sheer number of e46's that were made.  

 

I think you would ideally either want a 325 or 330 from a competitive standpoint, we just have a 323 because it was cheap and haven't changed it because the engine refuses to die. 

 

Strengths: 

Cheap, readily available cars and parts.

Strong drivetrain. 

Brakes

Handling. Fast and easy to drive. 

Work. Once all the non essentials are removed, actually pretty easy to work on. 

Really nice side mirrors.

Can fit 255's under the fenders with a roll. 

Good looking.

 

Weakness:

No factory LSD available.

Not a huge amount of room points wise.

Rear subframe mounts, but this is easily prevented or remedied.

So. Many. Cars. Are. Silver. 

 

cgU4sY7.jpg

 

https://imgur.com/cgU4sY7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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58 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

Does it basically require an aftermarket ecu to be competitive?  

Huggy can add a bit here, but you should not need to replace the ECU.  I'm using an MS43 (older style and what they use in SpecE46), but I believe MS45 is similarly accessible.

 

1 hour ago, wvumtnbkr said:

Which model do I want / need?  And years better than others?  Any specific engine or trans to get?

If I were building a Champcar, I'd look pretty hard at a 328.  Iron block, dual vanos.  Lot's of torque.  However, I have not gone through the build to see how it would end up on points.

 

1 hour ago, wvumtnbkr said:

What are the strengths and weaknesses?

John covered a bunch of it.   Here's some more.

  • It's fairly heavy.  Strip as much out as possible.  My 330 weighs ~2600 lbs dry with no driver.
  • Add a baffle in the oil pan
  • Probably should replace the balancer.  Also check the balancer.  They have a tendency to fail and the outer ring will rotate.
  • Do not delete power steering unless you can find a really slow rack.  I tried.  It was almost undriveable.  
  • Be sure to buy an oring for the power steering reservoir.  It will spew everywhere.
  • Add a baffle to the oil pan.
  • The cat is built into the manifold, so figure you'll have to gut it for no points or take the hit for a header.
  • M style bumpers are cheap on Ebay but probably better to buy from Bimmerworld...Not sure how Champ is interpreting those for points.
  • Open diff was the only diff offered, so you'll have to weld or take points for an LSD or run an open diff.  Stock diffs are pretty cheap though.  If you go LSD, M-factory is probably a decent option.  Be sure to get the one for the 3.15 and higher ratio.  The 3.07 and 2.93 had a slightly different thickness ring gear.
  • There is a lot of data available over the CAN bus.  Works well with can enabled data devices.  I only added an oil pressure sensor.
  • You can modify the brake module programming.
  • You can modify the huge ass 'lighting module' controller programming that controls the headlights.  It's huge, but I kept mine.
  • Fuel system is pretty good.  Just buy an ///M sump for ~$30 and add it to the tank. It takes about 15 minutes.  Maybe add a surge tank, if you want to spend some more money.  Some have put another pump on the driver side to pump fuel back to the main pump.
  • Use the Z4/ZHP front control arms when you replace yours.  They have upgraded ball joints and aren't that bad on price.
  • Motor mounts are the liquid filled type.  I'm running urethane ones.  Not sure what 0-point options are out there. 
  • You will probably need to buy/install a trans shift pin kit.  I think it's ~$125.
  • I'd recommend the garagistic shifter or maybe something more exotic (assuming you can find a way to keep the motor/trans mounts stiff).  The reason for this is that it eliminates $50 in bushings and shortens the throw.  I'm pretty sure it's cheaper than buying a Z3 shifter and all of the bushings and stuff that go with it.  It definitely isn't much more.
  • The steering wheel is slightly offset to the right.  If you have a low mounted seat the trans tunnel forces you to move the seat further left.  You'll probably want to cut into the trans tunnel to move it to the right and you'll need to remount the steering shaft to the dash bar on your cage.  This is a comfort item, but I highly recommend it.  When we got our seat in originally (without cutting) the wheel was about 2" to the right of center (roughly in front of my right nipple).
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Wow, that was lots of info!

 

Specific setup and parts questions...

1)  what are the best struts for champcar on this platform?

2) is everybody running a fuel cell?  How is it setup?

3) how long can you go on a stock fuel tank (length of stint)?

4) what wheels and size do people run?

5) is a 2001 325ci manual a good choice?  I believe that is the m54 engine.

6) how hard is it to remove the unnecessary wiring (other then what was mentioned above)?

7) any brake issues?  What pads?

Thanks y'all!

 

Rob R.

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5 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

5) is a 2001 325ci manual a good choice?  I believe that is the m54 engine.

 

 

I think it would be, yes. Not as powerful as the 330, but no penalty laps so thats a ++++
 

8 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

3) how long can you go on a stock fuel tank (length of stint)?

 

We get about 1hr20 out of 12.5gal because we are having some pump out issues with our cell, so I think if you could get all 16.5gal or more with a cell out, you'd definitely make 2hrs. 

 

9 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

4) what wheels and size do people run?

 

17*8.5 et40 with 245/40/17's currently, but 255/40/17's on a 9" will fit. 

 

10 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

6) how hard is it to remove the unnecessary wiring (other then what was mentioned above)?

 

Theres a little bit of wiring in the headlining area thats a pain, but for the most part easy. 

 

11 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

1)  what are the best struts for champcar on this platform?

 

Bilsteins

 

11 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

7) any brake issues?  What pads?

 

We have not run into any issues with Brake performance, but would advise against using parts store rebuilt calipers. Every one we tried ending up leaking past the seals. BMW factory seals are not expensive from the dealer. 

 

 

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If you go the e46 route, I highly suggest getting in touch with Kevin Tulay on the SpecE46 FB group. He does alot of the harnesses for different people. His price is very reasonable and it takes alot of the guess work out of the process.

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You will want to go to the 330i brakes on the 325 most likely

 

wiring is wiring.  BMW has excellent wiring diagrams.  How good are you with dykes?

 

01 325 is the M54B25, the engine I run,  It will be on the MS43 DME, which is cracked for free.  I can burn you a DME with the EWS (the key anti-theft) mechanism deleted, so you can get rid of that failure mode.   The info for how to do it (as well as how to tune it) is available for free on the internet.

 

 

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On 5/3/2019 at 6:03 PM, Huggy said:

wiring is wiring.  BMW has excellent wiring diagrams.  How good are you with dykes?

In our industry those are refereed to as alternative lifestyle cutters, or cutters with comfortable shoes....

 

We work in some corporate places where asking if you grabbed your dykes can cause "issues"😀

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On 5/3/2019 at 5:06 PM, jakks said:

If you go the e46 route, I highly suggest getting in touch with Kevin Tulay on the SpecE46 FB group. He does alot of the harnesses for different people. His price is very reasonable and it takes alot of the guess work out of the process.

 

Yup. I'm about to send mine off to him for my spec car build. Great guy. Smart. If I try to do the wiring on my own, I'll likely screw it up or do something that strands me at the track that I'll never figure out. I'm a dum dum and this is cheap insurance. Also, he will get more weight out of the harness than I was going to be able to

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Have any of the teams running these cars done anything to address the oil pump nut/shaft failures on the m54 engine?  Or has the internet blown the likelihood of that failure out of proportion?

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On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

2) is everybody running a fuel cell?  How is it setup?

I know this has been debated, but I do not think there is much of a safety benefit to running a cell in an E46.  The tank is very well protected in the center of the car under the passenger seat area.  A cell will be more exposed in the rear of the car and also cause dynamic handling as the level drops.  The stock setup has 1 pump on the passenger side and a sending unit/return on the drivers side.  The return dumps returning fuel back on top of the fuel pump on the passenger side via an internal tube.  You can add a second pump on the drivers side (it doesn't fit well due to contour of the tank, but it does fit) to pump fuel over to the stock pump on the passenger side.  You can add a baffle on the stock pump very easily.   See below.

https://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=704377

On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

3) how long can you go on a stock fuel tank (length of stint)?

Stock tank will go 2 hours in 325 trim.  Not sure about 328 or 330.  I'd think you would be close in a 328.

 

On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

4) what wheels and size do people run?

I'm running 255s on a 17x9.5 wheel.  I'd recommend that.  I'm using APEX wheels.  They have sales or group buys periodically.  There is a 10" option, but it wasn't available on the group buy I did.  I'm happy with the 9.5s, though.

 

On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

5) is a 2001 325ci manual a good choice?  I believe that is the m54 engine.

 You will need to buy this.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/sis.html?_nkw=SHOP+MANUAL+E46+SERVICE+REPAIR+BMW+BENTLEY+BOOK+3-SERIES+WORKSHOP&_id=123344750319&&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2658

 

On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

6) how hard is it to remove the unnecessary wiring (other then what was mentioned above)?

One of my teammates did the wiring in about 2 days, but he spent about a week planning, bought everything and rewired it.  My advice is...Have a plan.  If you want some suggestions on wiring supplies or specifically on wiring the E46, PM @CabotTeg118

 

On 5/3/2019 at 4:39 PM, wvumtnbkr said:

7) any brake issues?  What pads?

Convert to 330 brakes.  Run PFC08 pads.  They are good and will last multiple races.  Keep ABS.

 

26 minutes ago, Ws6 Mike said:

Have any of the teams running these cars done anything to address the oil pump nut/shaft failures on the m54 engine?  Or has the internet blown the likelihood of that failure out of proportion?

We safety wired ours and loctited the oil pump bolts.  Cheap insurance.

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As far as special tools, I believe all you will absolutely need is this if/when you do timing chains.  Technically you can get by without it, if you are careful, but it takes the guesswork out of it.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HDZKJK9/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Edited by zack_280
tagged wrong person
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On 5/3/2019 at 9:38 AM, zack_280 said:

 I'd look pretty hard at a 328.  Iron block, dual vanos.
 

 

There's no such car (in US trim anyway).  E36 328's are iron block M52's.  The M52TUB in the E46 is an aluminum block.

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4 minutes ago, Grufton said:

The M52TUB in the E46 is an aluminum block.

Oh yeah...I forgot the TU also got the aluminum block.

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I forgot you had a specific E46 thread, so moved this from the other thread since it seemed more appropriate over here.

 

The M54 is aluminum block in north america, make note of the year the one you are looking at was made.  Some of the early ones (of which I was lucky enough to be the owner of one) had some issues with how the aluminum was cast.  I used to know the technical casting details that caused that, but has been too long ago, I am sure somebody else will chime in.  They don't seem to have an issue unless you have to pull the head for some reason.  When you torque the head bolts, it is common to lose the threads.  Some will say it happens when an engine is overheated, but my engine had never been overheated and it still did it.  In my case I had three go on the second pull (still pretty low torque).  I installed Time-Sert inserts in the block for all head bolts and no problem afterward.  The timesert  kit is about $400 but most everybody does like I did and buys the kit with inserts, uses it, buys replacement inserts and sells it again on Ebay, etc for about what you paid less the cost of the inserts which are about $25.  Anybody out there that pulls the head on an M54 (at least the early ones that had the aluminum casting issue), go ahead and save yourself the time and cost of consuming a new head gasket and just timesert the threads.  It's a pretty easy job.  Then the fun begins on trying to retime the cams with the dual vanos.  You have to get somebody with the special jig to help set those.  I tried machining my own jig but just couldn't get it close enough, or didn't know what I was doing?  Got help, no problems.  Oh by the way, go ahead and do the vanos rebuild/update if you are at this point.

Edited by Burningham

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47 minutes ago, wvumtnbkr said:

Is 2001 an early one?

 

I know nothing about these cars...

 

My M54 was an 01 but it was in a Z3 not an E46 but should be pretty much the same.  I wouldn’t worry about this issue unless you pull the head, people run these motors lots of miles. 

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On 5/5/2019 at 4:52 PM, RC413 said:

Even taking laps, is the 330 able to be competitive with no points to work with?

My son swapped the engine in his street 2004 325i to a 330i engine (both M54 engines) and it changed from a car that felt like it was struggling at times to one that felt competent instead. Not sure if it's worth the 55 point difference though.

 

Despite "no points to work with", there are lots of freebies now so the main decision is whether you can match the 330i performance by adding 55 points worth of mods to the 325i.  

Edited by mender

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Yep.

 

I'm thinking the first race will have very minimal mods with most of my time focusing on weight reduction and fitting the widest tires possible under the car.

 

Assuming the reliability is taken care of as well.

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