View Full Version : e30 project or a e36?

09-12-2011, 11:11 PM
Hello bimmer fans! im kind of new to this forum.

i'm considering to buy a used car before next summer. although i'm still in school i want to do a project bmw. im thinking of getting a e30 they look pretty nice and classic. though is it worth it buying a e30 and restore it or should i buy a running e30 then from there fix it etc?

if not then should i get a e36 as my frist car? either way as long as i have a bmw i should be happy at the end of every day.

other the other hand, i have took the class auto shop in high school so i know the basic on car like oil change, change fuse, change tire, etc. i have a welder and some basic tools so im really all set for the time being.

what do you think? e30 or e36?

09-13-2011, 12:20 AM
First post, nice. This question has been asked a million times before though. xD

E30 was my first. It's been great. I've learned a lot about cars, that's for sure. I don't have much experience with E36, but they're newer. (obviously) I've come to assume that the E30 will be a rarer, more interesting, fun car to drive, but it has less power, more issues. Hard to find a car that doesn't need an immediate couple thousand.

09-13-2011, 01:21 AM

09-13-2011, 10:08 AM

bmw or gtfo.

09-13-2011, 10:58 AM
e36 and e30 prices are so close to each other now, i'd pick whichever you like better. Remember e36's are newer, have more power, and are heavier/bigger.

09-13-2011, 03:20 PM
If I were buying, I'd go E30 because I prefer the looks. Sure the E36 is faster, etc. but anything can be made fast depending on how much you want to spend on it.

However, my advice after buying two E30's this summer... Be patient. I jumped at an E30 that was in quite poor shape because I got the itch to buy. This car, even though it looked very salvageable, ended up being far too rotten in the ass end to do anything with and I parted it out. The E30 I'm working on now is a complete project. It's not so much a basket case anymore as I've worked out a lot of the electrical kinks, but after 2 months of looking at and working on it I really want to drive it. I mean, it's in excellent shape and I've got all the parts lined up to finish it, I just have to get them in my possession and assemble. Hopefully a few weeks.

Anyway, moral of this story, if I were going to do it again, I'd have been more patient and bought something closer to "done" so I can enjoy it straight away (there's that patience thing again!). I'd also have the stones to field strip a car in the sellers driveway to see what's actually under the carpet and back seats.

Good luck in your quest!

09-13-2011, 03:30 PM
get a cheap 318i E30 and a E36 engine, best of both worlds ;)...

the tricky part with E30's is just the condition you find them in as karmatose said, some look good and tend to be rotten, so don't get to hasty. its more the body work bushings and brake lines, if the engine in the E30 has less then 300000 you can be singin cause it will last another 150k (with some love but it will get there). My E30 came with almost no rust, but the bushings, brake lines, brakes were garbage, so another 2000$ later my car was certified :P .... you'll find lighter cars are more fun IMHO

09-13-2011, 06:09 PM
E36 LOL.

I thought they all rotted out a long time ago.

09-13-2011, 07:32 PM
I'd argue that a GOOD E36 makes the better daily driver - quieter, better on fuel (stock M20 for stock M50(2) ).

An E36 hooks up better, especially coming out of corners, largely due to the better rear suspension geometry.

A clean E36 is WAY easier to find.

Despite all that, I'm working on an E30...I just find them more entertaining, with a lot more character.

09-13-2011, 11:14 PM
so technically its all up to me on whether to get a e30 or a e36. e30 looks like a fun car to get for a frist car and easier to maintain than the e36 am i correct? also! the e30 looks very classic and has it own character which i love.

im not going to winter drive most likely, but i will be using my car a lot during summer. repair and maintenance wont kill me because i have lots of free time on my hand. i want a really fun first car for the time being.

on other hand note i have some more questions i need to know before getting one. my goal is to get one before new year.
1) if you were me in this situation, what car would you get?
2) which car is easier and cost less to maintain or repair?
3) which will be cheaper on insurance?
4) if im considering buying an e30, what should i really look for?
5) if im considering buinng a e30 that was in accident is that a good idea? iof so, what types of damage will it not make a e30 fixable for the cost? ie - dented chassis.
6) where can i find a good and used bmw especially a e30 or e36 for cheap?'

09-13-2011, 11:57 PM
E30's are easy to wrench on. I've never wrenched on an E36, but logic dictates... newer car, more tech, a little trickier (someone please correct me if I'm wrong).

Anyway; let's answer some of your questions.

1) I was in your situation and bought an E30. I wanted a Datsun 510, but they're getting up there in price and finding a good one for under $5K is impossible. E30 was a good substitute as they're close in looks, smallish, low tech and rwd.

2) From various trips to the wreckers, I've found several E30s and E36 wrecks available to pick parts from. Parts seem to be roughly the same in price from various trips to pelicanparts.com and the like. I can only imagine in the next few years that E30 parts will start to get harder to find, but E36es have a way to go before that happens as they're a newer car.

3) My E30 will $40/month to insure as a pleasure car according to my insurance broker. That's full coverage and agreed value. Again, not owning an E36, I can't tell you what that's going to be.

4)Look at the following:
-Lift the carpet and look at the floors. Take a ratchet and 17mm socket with you to pull out the seats. Surface rust is an indicator of things to come. Pay close attention around the dead pedal as that's where holes usually start. Also there's a dip under the seat, look there for rust as well.
-Look at the tail lights and make sure the seals are good. If you spot bubbling around the tail lights, the seals are bad and water has likely been getting into the trunk for a while.
-Look at the jack wells. If water has been getting into the trunk, that's where the rust is going to be. Also remove the spare tire and check out the well. My 318 had a bunch of rust there too.
-Look around the shock towers on all four corners. In the trunk, look for rust/rot on the inner wheel wells specifically up near the cabin. I've never seen an E30 with rust under the hood, so in the front look for stress around the shock mounts.
-Also, like with any used car, look for previous body work.

Mechanically, look for signs of leaks around gaskets, etc. typical wear stuff. When you go for a drive, listen for clunks from the steering rack and the diff. If you can get the car up on a hoist, check the guibo (or flex disc) mounting the driveshaft to the transmission. Also look at brake lines for signs of rust and rot. Chances are, the car will need a valve adjustment, so there's no way around that one.

(I can't think of anything else... anyone care to chime in on something I missed?)

5) If it was a major collision, Hell no! Unless they have receipts from a reputable body shop, and can prove the frame is straight, run. There's too many E30's out there to settle for one that's had extensive body work done to it (unless it was for restoration purposes). Minor bump or dent? Diving boards and good doors are plentiful and front fenders are cheap. Plastic bumpers as I've found out (unless you live or can get to the USofA easy) are stupid expensive.

6) Enthusiast forums like this one. Typically, enthusiasts care about their cars. Take Kijiji and Autotrader ads with a grain of salt and give them extra inspection. Also, southern US or BC cars are the way to go if you have the coin.

Hope this all helps.

09-15-2011, 10:50 PM
^ HOLY $@#$ ! thanks for all that useful information! i appreciated it that you took the time and wrote all that! tons and tons of respect

although before buying an e30, how much should i set aside for a restore? like what is the price range you guys spent on restoring/fixing an e30 up?

09-15-2011, 11:01 PM
I know you want to put wrench time in but there's an E30 goin for 3000 I think on the forumn and it had a E36 engine already swapped, you can put a new suspension on it and I think the heater core has some probs, but nomatter how much was done there's more to do... Ill try and send you a link, if I didn't already have one ied prob take a look at this one

09-15-2011, 11:08 PM

Haha! I found it

This guys pretty much does the what's wrong/good with it for ya, go check it out, it looks like a sweet ride, also he's lowerd the price from the first thread. Considering the swap costs enough, I think the price is totally reasonable, as well if you have any questions he seems honest enough

09-16-2011, 12:17 AM
although before buying an e30, how much should i set aside for a restore? like what is the price range you guys spent on restoring/fixing an e30 up?

I'm into mine for the purchase price + parts so far at around $2250 and I don't have a motor yet. Luckily I'm getting an extremely good deal on an entire drivetrain which should keep my costs to about $3500 to get it from a pretty much gutted shell (if you search the keywords "E30 Shell" on this forum, you'll find my car) to a drivable car. Had I not got several incredible deals, I'd be looking about $5K including purchase price of the shell to get it on the road using quality parts and not cutting corners. This also doesn't include high performance parts.

You can get a really nice E30 for that money that is completely turnkey. I'm just a sucker for punishment and like doing things the hard way.

But seriously, buy El Gato Liso's car. It looks like he's got all the hard work done and the price is more than reasonable.

09-18-2011, 05:05 PM
Thanks everyone for the reply, i decided and promise myself to get a e30. although now the problem is that should i get a 318i (m10) or 325i (m20)?

09-18-2011, 05:38 PM
That's kinda like askin yourself... get a M3 engine swap or a turbo?

09-18-2011, 05:48 PM
Thanks everyone for the reply, i decided and promise myself to get a e30. although now the problem is that should i get a 318i (m10) or 325i (m20)?

Don't get an e30 with an m10 unless the car is clean and you want to do an engine swap. E30 w/ m20b25 or m42 = pseudo sports car, m10 not so much.

09-19-2011, 12:55 AM
Aye.. I have an M10 in my garage from my first car and I hated it. With the right gearing, it could get out of it's own way, but barely. And even if you do a motor swap, the M10 is worth nothing (unless you have a 2002 and are going for stock... and even then...).

I'm gonna say the same thing a fellow e30 owner said to me after I bought my 318i and that's to buy a fairly clean 325is and go from there. You'll save so much money.

09-19-2011, 01:34 AM
EDIT: Don't get a 318. Get at least the 325. If you're gonna restore a BMW, you're putting money + hours into it. Do you really want to restore a car with little go? Okay...some people do. I am being a little bold here but I'm going to guess you're no older than 22. You seem young. You don't want a 318, methinks.

I'm not going to lie - your lack of effort in your first post makes me very cautious. It seems you're not very sure what you're getting into. Let me try to break it down for you in terms of cost and money that I've experienced, difficult to least difficult. Restorations are not for busy students (okay, maybe they can be, but be prepared to put your baby on hold a lot). Restorations are not for poor people. Restorations are not for people who do not have a car to truck their stuff around already.

Most diff to do a good job DIY + costly at top

Engine (it's heavy, you need connections to machine shops, you have to get so much other shit out of the way)
Bodywork (holy fk this is 100x harder than you think. dust, insects, poor paint match. This is something that has 1000 variables. If any of those variables goes to shit, your job looks like shit.)
? ? ? <Lots of shit in here - pretty damn difficult without proper tools> ( "what the fk ?! ALL MY FASTENERS ARE RUSTED IN." )
Fuel + Cooling Systems ( "goddamn which of the lines is the problem?! why do I get such inconsistent power at the top end?" )
Brakes / Bearings ( "oh i hate rust everywhere" )
? ? ? < Lots of shit in here getting pretty easy> ( "nice, now my fingers look like they came straight outta the butchers shop. at least everything looks nice and works" )
Interior + Interior Electronics ( "that was a breeze. and my car looks nicer" )
Minor Plug/Play Replace components ( "wow was that too easy? smoothest upgrade of my LIFE" )

You have to consider the following:
1) DO you have a local BMW scrap yard? You're in toronto, so the answer is yes. Lucky you.
2) Have you had experience painting? No? Don't touch the body work unless you're willing to drop months into it or money into it. I started painting the side of my E36 in mid July. I haven't finished it to today becuase I'm not satisfied until I get it perfect. It's not technically the most difficult but it is EXTREMELY time consuming.
3) Do you have a lot of spare time? a LOT? Do you have another car you can use to fetch parts in? How nice is that car? Do you want to put dirty parts into that car to truck around?
4) Do you have connections to body shops? A nicely sized driveway? Lots of tools?
5) Are you poor? Are you ready to spend 50% more than you planned? You better be.
6) How much time do you have? Think about everything that needs to be fixed. Then think about how long it might take for you to fix each of those parts, labourwise. Add 2-3 hours for every part you need to replace (for part retrieval + internet research time). Now multiply that figure by 3 to 4 to include you screwing up, you encountering rust, you getting the wrong part, you getting stuck and of course, taking out the tools and setting everything up every time you want to do something major.

You have to consider all the variables. The key things you wanna look for is a healthy engine, a healthy transmission and good bodywork. By good I mean inspect every single square inch of the car, inspect the door jambs, inspect the hood, everything. Every little bubble of rust showing up (check the fenders esp) is something you should get worried about.

A clean interior is indicative often of an owner who babies his car so this is also something to look for.

If you ever decide to get paint, go to Auto Paint Circuit in Toronto. Do not settle for Canadian tire shit. Get them to scan your car and get their system to find a colour match. Do not go for anything that reads higher than 1.5 of a match. Get them to do a full system scan to find a better match if no BMW colour matches. Make sure that if you do decide to spray - that you have a compressor + gun. Why? Because any clear coat that isn't two parts is shit. You _can_ buy 2 part clear coat in a can but it isn't the best nor is it reusable or anything.

My main experience comes from my '97 E36 328i. Runs wonderfully mechanically but the body is having its share of rust. I've put well over a hundred hours into painting just 2 doors and a fender and I've learned a lot. Painting perfectly ain't easy but if you know where to start and you got the right supplies, you can cut that time down by 2/3rds, potentially.

On top of all that, let me tell you a little bit that I can see from El Gato's E30. I will suspect the worst, which may or may not be true. But as buyer, you must always be wary, regardless of the reputation people have. I will comment on what I know about.

- parking brake is either dislodged, or needs tightening. ( Why hasn't he tightened it? Why hasn't he fixed it up? Tightening can be an easy job. But he hasn't done it..... You cannot pass safety with this. With E36s, the backing plate dies. Some shops will tell you to replace the brake but to do that, you'll need to replace the wheel bearing - that alone is $500. Some shops cut the backing plate off and put on a new one. That's 200 dollars a side. You do not know if both sides are dead or not).

- Temp Guage isn't wired up ( Why not? Also, has he been in the dash? Make sure all the lights come on when you turn the key. Some people pull the dash warning lights and you don't see the check engine or airbag light, etc)
- Tachometer is not working, never did from when I owned the car. ( Why didn't you get it fixed? This is actually pretty useful and not having it would annoy me. )
- some 1/4 panel rust on 1 side. can be grinded down and painted over. ( Bodywork is not easy. Do not think it is easy. it is not a canadian tire job. Check other places for rust. You know it's on the car already. )
- the bonnet could be replaced, but more than good enough to be used! ( A hood repaint is 300~. They are rare to find in great condition. It's not cheap. 300 doesn't include bodywork, BTW. Any rust + dents qualify as body work).
- sunroof has no liner, and is rusting......typical. ( Water's coming through. Look out for rust. I ****ing HATE rust. ****s everything up )
- probably needs a new control arm ball joint, it isnt knocking, the boot is ripped. ( ....hmm. Google this. )
-rear sway bar links need to be installed. ( not too bad, it seems. Pelican puts it at a 3/10 for difficulty)

- BMW E34 M50 Technical Update (Vanos, WHICH WORKS!)
~~~Engine came out from an Automatic.
-5 Spd Manual transmission. (nice)
- BRAND NEW Bilstein Sport shocks all around! Also has brand new OEM shock mounts around the car. ( nice )
- 3.73 LSD (not installed, comes with) ( cool )
-custom welded exhaust pipe with magnaflow exhaust muffler. The sound is one of a kind. ( might not be your cup of tea )
-Small diameter Dyno steering wheel with momo (modified) hub. ( I dislike non-OEM steering wheels. )
- 4300K Propr'one HIDs. ( HIDs on E30s look a little weird. They are...old cars...)
- Ellipsoids (1 cracked, grrr) ( If I'm not mistaken, these guys aren't cheap to replace. At least 75ish from eurostyle? )
- has had a replaced steering rack, front subframe. new subframe stabilizer bar shackles and bushings. ( nice. I'm starting to wonder how often this car was tracked. tracking ages a car quickly)
- M50 swap done complete and properly using stock e30 parts, and other bmw parts. ( this is neat. v sexy)
-brand new rust free fenders installed, but over the 2.5 years they're still pretty sharp and have little kinks from rubbing issues. ( nice. make sure the fitment satisfies you! take the car on some turns and make sure the rubbing isn't too bad).

A nice car, but not cheap to get to 100%. It's not going to be cheap at all. I do not know if he's made the car sound worse than it is, but I think 6k is alot. It's 6k a large deal due to the fact that it has a swap. The swap cost the owner alot, so he's transferring the cost onto you. He's not doing anything wrong - but you have to realize you're paying for that, not for the condition of the car. The only reason you would buy this car is if you REALLY want an E30 and you REALLY want a better engine. For 6k, you can get a retardedly good condition E36 with an M52 engine from the start. Hell, you might even find an abused E36 M3. Take 3 months to yourself and look over a bunch of cars. Never jump on something that you're not sure of. You will always regret it.

Good luck. I hope you get a car better than mine.