I first thought about making this a review of my 2000 BMW 323i, but that didn’t feel right. Right in the sense, of it wouldn’t do for this post alone. After venturing to church, I had an immediate insight as the preacher waxed poetic on one of the holiest of days. “Rebirth” came to mind.
While working on my master’s, I got tired of the same routine. Work, school, sleep repeat. So to help my mental anguish I decided to do something different. That became the decision to get a project car. To keep a long story short I began to scour auctions for a nice manual. I wanted to get back to my roots. Doing things I have never done before. Regaining my mechanical skills. And boy, I didn’t realize what I got into when I found this BMW.
I bought this car for $1,200 and offered the guy another $150 if he delivered it to Tulsa. I figured if the car couldn’t make the 1.5 hour trek from Grand Lake to downtown, I’d dodge a pretty good bullet. After all the car had 263k miles. It made it and I was the kinda proud owner of my new project.
This car needed a lot of work. I had issue paying over 1k for the car. The previous owner had pretty good service records. Drove it mostly on the highway, and seemed to do everything in his power to keep the car running. He recently had the valve cover gasket replaced (though they charged him 350 dollars for a 40 mins job with 30 dollars of parts). The car also came with brand new headlights and recently installed coil-overs. I honestly felt like I got a screaming deal.
Now for the things that I had to fix or discover while driving. I have definitely learned a lot more about BMW’s than I have ever expected. Here’s the breakdown:
- Driver side window regulator
- Replaced the trunk
- Upgraded the brake lights from a 330i
- Replaced the radiator, coolant reservoir, thermostat, and all the hoses.
- Upgraded the power steering pump from LF-20 to a LF-30.
- Refreshed power steering lines.
- Fixed sun roof track and panel.
- Update the radio to an actual unit with Bluetooth.
- Replace the steering wheel with a less janky one.
- Fuel filter and fuel sending unit replacement.
- Drop the oil pan and replace the gaskets. Kinda wish I got the baffle done while I was down there.
- Rebuild and refresh the VANOS system.
- Power steering fluid flush. Flushed the transmission and differential oils as well.
- Replaced the flex disc and reseat the middle bushing.
- As of yesterday, cut off one resonator and added a better muffler.
As you can see, I definitely found the project I was looking for. I have done so many things with this car than I have ever expected. I have learned so much more than I picked up helping my dad with his projects. From electrical, to the fuel system, to adjusting ride height for the first time.
There’s some more I am probably missing, but it has been therapeutic and fun even while frustrated learning why the E46 chassis is regarded as one of the best driver’s cars ever. And yes, even the 323i is amazing on the back roads.
Now for the future. What are my plans? Autocross the car. Upgrade the brakes from a 330 and lines to tackle a track day at Hallet. Ultimately, drive the car till it doesn’t drive anymore. Then throw a V8 in it. Now bonus pics!