Sierrabeige 1977 3.0Si Restoration in the UK

E3-3.0Si

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So after 10 years of ownership (and about 10k very happy miles) I have finally decided to commit to the full restoration that my E3 has really needed. When I bought it, I was immediately struck by the fact that it was in mechanically excellent condition, and that the bodyshell was pretty straight. The downside was that pretty much every panel had filler in it - a lot of filler, and that at some time in the car's past it had received some very poor quality welding. This isn't necessarily surprising; here in the UK, E3s spent so long being worth virtually nothing that most people didn't want to spend much money maintaining them. Our miserably damp and wet climate didn't help much either. On the plus side, the car is very, very original and I have some great history on it. Very fortunately, the father and son team who owned the car from 1980 to 1998 looked after it incredibly well; I'm convinced that their care guaranteed the car's survival.

First thing I did was to consider what I wanted from the finished car. I'm very much a 'do it right, do it once' kind of guy so I wanted to be as thorough as possible in terms of the depth of the scope of the restoration. Secondly, I spent a long time researching restoration companies, and I selected a particular specialist with an excellent track record of very high quality restorations of classic BMWs. The third thing to consider was how I'm going to use the car when it's finished. I love driving it and using it as BMW intended, so I won't be shy about putting some miles on it. To that end, I have considered a few modifications for the car. My philosophy on this is to keep it to OEM parts and keep it as factory looking as standard. I've already got a 5 speed overdrive gearbox fitted, and have now found an M90 engine from an E12 M535i to rebuild and fit. I wanted an M90 as it looks identical to my Si's M30B30 (as my car is a late model, it's fitted with L Jetronic) so that it won't look out of place, and of course there will be a nice increase in power and torque. I discovered through discussion with the son of the car's long term owner that it received a factory remanufactured engine in the late 80' (more detail here: https://e9coupe.com/forum/threads/m90-engine-build-options.35958/#post-304312) so I'm not hugely concerned about the originality point here; the car has long since lost it's original engine. I was delighted when I received this photo; it's the main dealer workshop where he worked in the late 1980s, showing the guys fitting the factory reman engine:

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He also send me some lovely photos from when the family first purchased the car in 1980:

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So, fast forward a few years until I bought it in 2012. I used it a lot. I travelled to France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Holland in the car, as well as driving down to Munich in 2016 in it for the 100th anniversary of BMW celebration weekend. I loved carrying out such trips in the car; absolutely what E3s are made for. More recently, I attended a fantastic weekend with the German E3 Club in Xanten, Germany in 2019 and to my surprise there was another Sierrabeige E3 at the event. This is a very rare colour on E3s, as it was only introduced in 1976. So this was an unusual sight:

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Not long after I bought the car, I started collecting the parts that I thought that I'd need for the restoration that I knew would be forthcoming. One recent jackpot was finding 3 NOS genuine BMW doors, and one very good used one to compete the set, as well as new suspension parts. I've decided on Bilstein dampers all round, and E12 M535i anti roll bars (front and rear) and front coil springs, and stiffer 3.3Li rear springs:

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I must admit that I couldn't believe my luck when I found an excellent second hand bonnet that was being used by an art teacher to instruct her students on how to use different types of paint on different surfaces. Whilst it was covered in many layers of paint, it was in fantastic condition and was an absolute bargain.

So, the strip-down began. I started this work off at home, with the idea that the car would go to the bodyshop for the more involved work. Whilst it actually looks pretty good in these photos, appearances can be deceptive....

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You can see here why I was so pleased to find a really good used bonnet:

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And then the day came for the car to go to the bodyshop. More to follow!
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E3-3.0Si

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I love that first photo of the engine swap, thanks for sharing that. Great story, good luck with the project!
It’s a great photo isn’t it? The nice thing is that the owner at the time worked at that particular dealer (Milcars Temple Fortune in London) so he knew the guys in that photo really well.

I also love the fact that there are a couple of E30 convertibles in the background; they were probably new cars at the time.

The story on the engine is that the thermostat failed in heavy traffic in London, which resulted in the engine being cooked. The owner started pricing up all the parts that would be required in order to carry out a rebuild, but discovered that there was one factory reman engine left in BMW UK’s headquarters parts warehouse, and they were desperate to get rid of it. So, a deal was done and that’s what you see being fitted in the photo!
 

Krzysztof

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Looks like very interesting project. Good luck and we're waiting to hearing from You more!
 

E3-3.0Si

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So, the work started in earnest when the car arrived at the bodyshop. The guys didn't hang around, and quickly stripped it to a bare shell. I had thought long and hard about how I wanted the shell to be prepared before it's inspection. Whilst I can see the benefit of having a car dipped, I just don't see how it's possible to eradicate every last drop of the corrosive fluid that's required for that process. I'm unconvinced that the neutralisation process is all that effective, and that makes me wonder what sort of horrors I'd have to be dealing with in a few year's time. But I wanted the car to be returned to bare metal; it is the only way to fully assess a car and know exactly what you're dealing with. So I decided on having the car media blasted and whilst this immediately revealed some of the terrible welding and repairs that I mentioned earlier, it also highlighted the fact that the shell was straight and true. This confirmed that we had a really good basis to start from:

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Before the shell was blasted however, there was some immediately apparent rust in some of the usual places:

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And then we got to the dashboard. Very fortunately, this was in really good condition and the screen surrounds were very nice. I had been a bit worried about rust here, and you can also see on the kick panels where the metalwork had been butchered some time in the 1980s to fit some very 'fashionable' Pioneer speakers:

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On that subject, the car ad been fitted with the typical mid-80s in car entertainment system; a Pioneer head unit, speakers and amp. In addition, an alarm system and an occasionally functioning central locking system contributed to a lot of extra wiring. As I want to return the car to standard specification, all of this is going to go. In the photo below, you can see the original wiring loom on the right, and the additional wiring on the left:

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Krzysztof

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Very common, cars used in 80's and 90's were full of different wiring. I'm recalling my friend removed three alarm systems from his E36 convertible after he bought it. The car was also carrying OEM, factory installed one.
 

eriknetherlands

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@E3-3.0Si ,
On your aircleaner lid are snappers, made from wire. These are often replaced with later ones with bend metal strips. Someone will want them.

Would you care to sell me the old original harness? I'll scavenge some connectors, earthen loops, spades and wires (specific color) from it.
 

E3-3.0Si

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Very common, cars used in 80's and 90's were full of different wiring. I'm recalling my friend removed three alarm systems from his E36 convertible after he bought it. The car was also carrying OEM, factory installed one.
Wow, four alarm systems. I guess the previous owner was rather security conscious…..
 

E3-3.0Si

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@E3-3.0Si ,
On your aircleaner lid are snappers, made from wire. These are often replaced with later ones with bend metal strips. Someone will want them.

Would you care to sell me the old original harness? I'll scavenge some connectors, earthen loops, spades and wires (specific color) from it.
That isn’t my air filter housing in the pic; it’s from a carburettor car and mine is an L Jetronic 3.0Si. I guess that part just happened to get in to the photo! No decision has been made on the wiring loom just yet; it’ll either be restored and reused, or a new one made. I’ll let you know if the old one is not going to be retained.
 

Krzysztof

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Wow, four alarm systems. I guess the previous owner was rather security conscious…..

Car stealing was a big problem in 80's and 90's.

That time, to be able to get a discount for car's insurance you have been forced to have two (one despite OEM if available) anti-theft protection systems (mechanical, electrical)

Other story is car electricians prefer to mount new, than play with old system and dismantling cost time = money. :)
 

E3-3.0Si

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Car stealing was a big problem in 80's and 90's.

That time, to be able to get a discount for car's insurance you have been forced to have two (one despite OEM if available) anti-theft protection systems (mechanical, electrical)

Other story is car electricians prefer to mount new, than play with old system and dismantling cost time = money. :)
I don’t think that it is just vehicle electricians who think that way…..
 

E3-3.0Si

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I was really curious to see what the shell was going to look like when it came back from blasting. Despite the expected horrors of the terrible welding in some localised areas of repairs, the general impression was that it is a really straight body. There is no evidence of any previous accidents, and my feeling that this was good, straight, original car was confirmed when it was placed on a Celette jig and found to be exactly to factory tolerances.

Nonetheless, it was immediately apparent that some repairs were going to be in order:

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As you can see below, even when it was partially blasted (before the process was completed) the shell came up really well and it was apparent that on the whole, it was pretty good:

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The boot floor was, however, a different story:

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I'd love to know who thought that this was a good idea:

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More to follow!
 

Candia4441

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I was really curious to see what the shell was going to look like when it came back from blasting. Despite the expected horrors of the terrible welding in some localised areas of repairs, the general impression was that it is a really straight body. There is no evidence of any previous accidents, and my feeling that this was good, straight, original car was confirmed when it was placed on a Celette jig and found to be exactly to factory tolerances.

Nonetheless, it was immediately apparent that some repairs were going to be in order:

View attachment 134844

View attachment 134845View attachment 134846View attachment 134847View attachment 134848

As you can see below, even when it was partially blasted (before the process was completed) the shell came up really well and it was apparent that on the whole, it was pretty good:

View attachment 134849

The boot floor was, however, a different story:

View attachment 134850View attachment 134851View attachment 134852View attachment 134853View attachment 134854

I'd love to know who thought that this was a good idea:

View attachment 134855

More to follow!
It is very interesting to know what is price of this E3 in UK that is worth a hard work to restore if it was E9 yes it will pay back but I may be wrong
 

E3-3.0Si

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It is very interesting to know what is price of this E3 in UK that is worth a hard work to restore if it was E9 yes it will pay back but I may be wrong
Quite honestly, my car will never be worth enough to justify what I will be investing in its restoration. But, I love the car and I’m never going to sell it, so for me, the investment is 100% worth it.

To anybody else, it would probably seem a bit crazy however.
 

Fritzie

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Quite honestly, my car will never be worth enough to justify what I will be investing in its restoration. But, I love the car and I’m never going to sell it, so for me, the investment is 100% worth it.

To anybody else, it would probably seem a bit crazy however.
Right spirit!
 

eriknetherlands

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Really nice to see the clean body. It shows the true bones of your car, and gives you a clean sheet to start from. Serious job & no secrets left!

Agree on the finances. In the end it is a hobby, and as i always say: Hobbies are meant to be non-sensible, irrational at times. Otherwise it would resemble work.
For me surely, and probably many others, the work setting has a environment where everything has to be efficient, economical.

When I come home I usually have this childish urge to make some nice irrational decisions.... Perhaps I'm mixing it with emotion, not sure.
 
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