I found the somewhat “holy-grail” of BMW’s sitting at an auction looking pretty sad, and it instantly caught my attention. An alpine white E30 with writing all over the windows. I immediately made the drive to the dealer where the car was sitting and checked it out. At first glance, it looked a little rough. After closer inspection, I saw a golden nugget sitting in front of me. Sure, the window said “bad brakes” and “do not drive” and there were some dash lights on, but cosmetically the car was pretty nice for being 27 years old and it had a box full of original books/manuals, extra parts, wiring diagrams and an oil light reset tool. I did some quick math and came up with a number that I wanted to pay and what I thought I could sell it for, and headed back to the office in anticipation of the auction the next day.

How it sat when I purchased

To make a long story short, I was the winning bidder and the old E30 was mine! Luckily for me most of the guys in the car business had no idea what the car was so I didn’t have much competition. I went back to my office, grabbed my truck and dolly and towed it back. Let the fun begin!

Car Stats

1988 BMW 325is

ODO reads 155k but is not working

Alpine white on dark tan interior

Purchased for $2970

Issues

Buying an old car like this you really never know what you are going to get. After getting the car back to my shop I started to go through it to make a list of parts to order. The brakes were completely inop, some oil leaks, all fluids were in desperate need of replacement, guibo disc is shot, center driveshaft bearing is done, spark plugs and wires are old and worn, all the belts are shot, A/C isn’t working. the car is not getting up to temperature, there is some nasty rattling coming from front end when going over bumps, trans and engine mounts are toast and a myriad of other little issues. It may sound like a lot but overall, I was pretty happy with the condition of the car and everything it needs is easy fix stuff.

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Up on the lift

I started by getting the braking system in working order. I started with bleeding the brakes, only to find that the brake fluid looked and smelled like raw sewage and had a ton of air in it. Because parts are really cheap for this car, I went ahead and replaced all four calipers, brake lines, rotors/pads and wear sensors. Bled the system for half an hour to ensure that all the nasty stuff was out and voila, we have brakes.

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Looking at the suspension, the lower control arm bushings were in desperate need to replacement so I installed a new set and that took care of the suspension rattle over bumps. While underneath the car, I dropped the driveshaft and installed a new guibo disc and center driveshaft support bearing. Installed new transmission mount and engine mounts. Drained the oil, transmission and differential fluid (they all came out looking like tar) and filled with Redline fluids.

Going up top the engine, I replaced the fan clutch assembly (these are a common fail point on these cars) and the thermostat (it was stuck open), and flushed the cooling system. There was a timing belt change sticker on the top of the engine, so I didn’t bother with that or water pump. Changed out all three belts up front, flushed power steering, changed the plugs and wires, got it aligned and did a deep clean pressure wash of the undercarriage and took it for a drive. Car was coming together nicely at this point and was driving excellent.

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On the inside, I pulled out the ABS relay and took it apart to find that there was a fusible link that had blown. I soldered an outboard 3 amp fuse on to the relay and reinstalled, and no more ABS light. I pulled the instrument cluster and ordered a new set of odometer gears from eBay. Took apart the speedo, replaced the gears and reinstalled.

Replacing odometer gears, a common failure on E30's

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I then assessed the A/C situation. The car had never been converted to R134 and was still on the old R12 system. I shot the system with some R134 and found that the high side pressure was right on but low side was 0, so there was a blockage somewhere. I ordered a drier, condenser, expansion valve and an R134A conversion kit. The drier was toast but the real issue was the expansion valve. It was completely clogged with some nasty looking stuff. After pulled the side of the dash apart to get to it, I flushed the system with some A/C cleaner, installed the new valve, installed the R134 kit, installed new drier and condenser and gave the system a charge. Started car up and waited patiently. After about two minutes, it started to blow cold. Success!

Old expansion valve

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Taking apart A/C lines

I then got some door dings popped out by my paintless dent guy, had the whole car clayed, lightly wet sanded, buffed and waxed. the tint was purple and probably original so I had that stripped and redone. Got the leather seats conditioned and looking as good as possible. I then drove the car for a couple weeks with nice weather and enjoyed every minute of it – I plan on doing a write up/review of the car sometime soon. After putting about 700 miles on it, I listed it for sale on craigslist, eBay and CarGurus. Instantly started getting calls and emails on it, and had a few serious parties within a week. I ended up working out a deal with an older E30 enthusiast in North Carolina, after he had a PPI done at the local BMW dealer, arranged shipping and waved at the car as it was hauled away.

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Below is the breakdown of all of my costs on this mini-restoration as I plan on providing for all of these write ups. Keep in mind that labor is not included as I’m doing most of the stuff myself and I get parts wholesale or at dealer cost. I learned a ton about the E30 and it really makes me think about owning one – I think I’ll wait until the M3’s come down a bit, if they ever do.

Car Cost: $2,970.00

Parts: $592.35

Labor: $350.00

Shipping: $750.00

Advertising: $10.00

Total Cost: $4,672.35

Sales Price: $9,250.00

Net Profit: $4,577.65

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