The Game Plan for Project BMW E46

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It will be a busy few weeks in the garage for my BMW E46 project car.

With any $1,500 automotive purchase there are going to be a few things that need addressed. And, of course, a 19-year old BMW is no exception. But, I knew that going into this when I bought this 1999 BMW 328i. The E46 is a great platform for motorsport, provided you’re okay with putting in the wrench time to address some of the car’s notorious shortcomings.

For my particular car, I was fortunate find an example that, with some elbow grease, cleaned up nicely and passed California’s tough smog emissions testing. However, even though the engine seemed stout after some fluid changes and fresh fuel, the same could not be said for the suspension. Specifically, something was clunking in the rear suspension whenever I changed gears. This is something that industry professionals would say “isn’t good.” So, I made a game plan, an expensive game plan.

So, what’s the plan?

Since I will be taking this car on track and drifting it, the chassis needs to be able to cope with the abuse. To that end, I ordered a ton of parts for the car through ECStuning. To address the E46 chassis’ notorious subframe issue, I bought a reinforcement kit. Since I determined that the rear differential bushing was causing my clunking sound, I ordered a full polyurethane diff bushing kit. Seeing as how I have to drop the subframe to address these issues, I also picked up a complete set of polyurethane subframe bushings.

Additionally, I mentioned how floppy and vague the shifter was. There were instances where I found 5th gear instead of 3rd, or, more troubling, 3rd instead of 5th. Which, in case you’re curious, is not a fun surprise on the freeway. To that end, I ordered a full shifter rebuild kit, with of the bushings and pieces needed to have the shifter assembly working correctly. Oh yeah, and for the time being, I ordered some cheap knock-off E46 M3 transmission mounts, as it’s one of those “while you’re in there things” that’s worth replacing.

Taking on some rear shock mount reinforcements, another trouble-causer, this brought my grand total up to $560.78. For those keeping track, that’s over 37% of what I paid for the entire car. I have a feeling this won’t be the end, either.

Though, that said, the next step is remove the rear subframe and suspension from the E46 and swap in all of these new bushings. So, stay tuned for the next episode of Project E46, where I begin the full tear down on the car. I have no fear tearing apart this $1,500 beater, and possibly breaking a few things along the way, so this is sure to be entertaining. Project BMW E46

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Jake Stumph is a lifelong car enthusiast and racer, who has operated as the content editor for Internet Brands Automotive since 2015. He runs Corvette Forum, 6SpeedOnline, Honda-tech, and LS1tech, among other Internet Brands Automotive websites. His work has been featured by several other prominent automotive outlets, including Jalopnik and Autobytel.

He obtained a bachelor's degree in Political Science at the Ohio State University in 2013, then pivoted from covering politics and policy to writing about his automotive adventures, something that, he says, is a lot more fun. Since that time, he has established connections with most of the world's major automakers, as well as other key brands in the automotive industry.

He enjoys track days, drifting, and autocross, at least, when his cars are running right, which is uncommon. You can check out what he's up to on his YouTube channel, as well as his Jake Stumph Racing Instagram account. He can be reached via email at [email protected]

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