The “unSTOCKable” dailies. Or how being pistonhead turns to be lifetime curse.

posted in: Car story | 0

I bet at some point in your life,  you have been in my shoes, tellin yourself “Yeah.I need new daily, but just daily, ain’t gonna spend single dime on it, except for maintenance expenses” and then months later you ended up with bunch of upgrades, and basically your daily becomes sort of project too.

And till that point that’s what exactly happend with all of my cars. More or less.
(Sorry for the pics quality, most of them were made with period correct cameras)

My first beloved one. VW mk2 golf. It all start with that custom “muscle-wanna-be” paint. Bought some BBS 14’s after a while. And installed that ridiculous sound system on the trunk shelf which made the rear glass to bounce. Don’t blame me. I just turned up 18 back then. Also this car showed me what understeer means and why FWD is bad.

Then came the Sierra. It was originally 2.0 injection, but the DME fuck*d up, i got pissed and swapped it with carburated 2.0. Downgrading from 115 to 90 hp at it’s finest. Then found a parted Sierra “Black sapphire” (google it, it’s the top drawer of the model). Hooked myself up with cool oem sport seats, even more cooler instrument cluster and fancy steering wheel. That RWD totally got me and everything ended like this.
Then came the Renault. Didn’t do much on it since i bought it for one of my exes, but spent a week converting the manual front windows to power ones. It was the shittiest car on the earth, seats wasn’t comfy, heater knobs breaks all the time, it got that tiny little pedals ( flooring was a tuff job for someone like me with #46 shoes) , clutch was heavy af, the clutch bowden cable snaps every two weeks,but steering was epic, also that 1.4 liters were absolute fun to drive. Born to win.

Face of victory.


And then came my e36. 96′ m43b18. Saloon (cuz we all know 4 doors get more hoes)
Seriously this was the coolest car i drove in my life (I was almost 20 years old). It was plain as Natalie Portman without the pushing bra, but definetelly was love from first sight. For real, the option list was poor. The only executive thing was the electrical operated sunroof and the armrest. No power/sport seats, no A/C, no power windows. Simple and clean mtech-less exterior and interior. .  It was on low mileage, good condition and most important – it was in my budget. I had it for 6 years and i loved it.

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It was supposed to be my daily while im studying, because i lived in Bourgas, which was 300 km away from my hometown. And then when i moved there i met the local BMW enthusiast and this is how all started.

As a fresh owner, BMW rookie and a student without any friends in new town, i got tons of spare time so i started reading online for upgrades for my m43b18 and mostly for drifting. So the first thing i did was the COP conversion.


I felt kind of improvement (mostly in throttle response) but it was ugly as shit and took it down after a while.
Then i was curious about those fancy lights that every e36 got and invested in a pair of new headlights with lenses, xenon and the angel eyes.


That look …

So according to the web drift gurus, lowered and stiffered suspension could compensate the lack of Hp. Sureeee, but yeah, let’s give a try. Bought that cheap, brand new coilover kit and used the oportunity to move from drums to discs on the back.


Then start looking arround for a nice set of 17″ ( I bought the car with 15” steelies). The borbet T grabbed me, since they were answering the two criterias i got back then : Being a star spoke and got that wide lip.


While i was looking for set of tires for them i encountered that Subaru.


The green part of it was really close to my Boston grun and the rims looked so good in that dark gold. It wasn’t a brainer.

Young, sassy lad with lowered e36 and freshly painted rims means new friendships. Surely, carpet match the drapes.


I was basically living all year waiting for the snow, so i could skid all night long. Everyday.


Then the magic happend. I discover the LSD (the differential). I also discovered the small 168 mm cases are weak after i broke 3 of em.


And i started concidering a swap. Now most people on my age basically did the swaps on the cheapest way which means, cheapest 2.5/2.8 on the market. And that’s it. No brake upgrade, no tranny upgrade. Just the engine, actually most of them didn’t even bother to change consumables such as waterpump, belts etc.

I decided to do it on the right way. Everything. All inclusive. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So i found a well maintained m52tub28 from e46. It was a bit overpriced, but i got it from a friend and i was sure what im buying.

Then start collecting everything needed – ZF, 188mm LSD, thick shafts, full 2.8 exhaust with working cats, etc.


Changed everything on the front. The old stuff was good, but i was just preping for “the big day”.

Found a set of brake calipers from e36 328.

Took me a while to bring them back to life, but that’s what i got by the end of the day.


And it was all set !


It was awesome. Believe me or not when you jump from 115 hp to 193 hp it makes difference. I’ll never forget the goosebumps i got while i drove it for a first time. Totally different car.


But still something was missing. Then i got my struts.

My girlfriend and current fiancee, decided its going to be nice if she buy me that sport interior seats without mention me a thing.
She arranged a friend of mine to go and get em while we were at her parent’s house, she gave him a key from our flat, so when we went back they was set up as car interior in the middle of our dining room. Well played !


Remap & Dyno time.


I couldn’t stop at that point. My new goal was installed A/C and 4 power windows. 4 months later got em working, also got the most epic receiver for e36 -Becker Traffic Pro, a cup holder from 6 series, VDO gauges & glowing digits on the ///M shift knob.


That becket supports multifunctional steering, it also got the “Navigation system” (must be really wow thing back in the 90s ) and it got that digital compass. An arrow which points where is north. Braging time.


One day all of sudden the radio start to update.What ? From where ???

And then on the display popped up message :  ISROW successfully installed.
I was wondering what the heck is ISROW, google it – nothing, then when i was browsing the settings i noticed i got a new menu “Games”. Whaaaaaaaat ??? Turns out ISROW was a real game that you can play by turning/pushing the tuning knob to navigate the figgure. Can you believe this ? LOL !

I was getting really sick burning all this cds, but that was the price i had to pay for owning that technological marvel.
But i found something called “Digital cd changer” which was just an external module supporting flash memory with a size of pack of Marlboro which connects to the radio and fooling it that all of the 6 folders on the usb are actually cds. So i got a storage of 6 folders, which could contain up to 99 mp3 files. Fair enough, except i really hated the fact i have to keep the USB in the glovebox. Started to look for alternatives, when i found a crashed x1 in the local junkyard and it turns it USB plug would fit plug and play into my e36 center console. Little bit of modding and here we go.


I spend a whole year in gathering info how a cruise control could be installed on the m52tub28 engine. Figgured it out too.


Meanwhile added an ambient light ( like those mood lights in e39 and e46)

And the 18 button OBC.


Then i got my e28 and decided new paint in the same color and adding a mtech exterior pack would be a nice finish for the e36, before start dealing with the old lady. (Here are the 5 chapters about her)

The Granny
Honey,its 11pm are you coming home? Part1
Honey,its 11pm are you coming home? Part2
Honey,its 11pm are you coming home? Part3
Insert some plastic here. The m52 swap.


Found the needed parts. Mirros was extremelly difficult task after the old style front bumper with grills (instead of honeycomb).


She become a really hot saloon .

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Time was passing, i was dealing with the e28 and there was some thoughts running through my mind about selling my e36.
Reasons. I was just graduated from the university and i had to focus on more important things instead of dealing with two cars.
The e28 was really time consuming, while the e36 was a neverending project. Also i was sick of scraping EVERYWHERE durring the winter and the cherry top came when some young lady bend the right fender while parking. The e36 was love  and it occupies all of my attention and time. Probably because i had it for so many years and put all of my attention and money. So this madness had to stop. I had to sell it. Following picture was taken by random dude, minutes before signing with the new owner. I was damn sad, you could literally read the regrets on my face.


I was driving my fiancee e36 compact for a while, trying to figgure out what should be the next one. This throws me in deep, deep thoughts. The first thing that came in mind was just to keep the money and drive the e28 which was almost ready to go, but then i remembered 2.8 + 4.45 isn’t the best idea for the winter. Next thing was thoughts about newer BMW, but i knew ill fall in love again and the history will repeat. So i decided my new car should be the absolute opposite thing of my ex e36. – Lifted, so i won’t scrap anywhere and pretty much don’t care where im driving. AWD, so i don’t have to worry for the winter. Touring ( e36s got really small trunk space!) so i can move stuff arround. And … (drums) … it should be Japanese. Being JDM antifan all my life i knew this is just the right receipt for not spending cash on cars. Buysomething you don’t like and your cash is safe. No feelings – no problems.

So I ended up with a 2006 Subaru Impreza hatch 1.5 liters.
Went with my father to pick it up. It looked great, worked great. I throwed it in the deepest mud available to test the all wheel drive system – it was all good. Payed for it and went back home.


But …

85 kilometers later (on our 200 km trip) it started smoking badly from the exhaust. It started to overheat and i was FML like for real!  It got all signs of cooked head(s) (just boxer things) except the burnt oil. It turns out the engine (el15) was shot.

Swap it is.

Got the engine removed 3 days after i bought it.

And start looking for a new one. Found 2.0 liters (ej20).
I said it’s all good. The bigger, the better – but this is the last thing im buying for that car.


The e28 was on the road again after 18 months of hard work, so the impreza was just sitting out while i was enjoying the real car.

The hot summer days was about to knock on the door and i said to myself. “Yeah, maybe it’s a good idea to drive the subaru for the summer since it got the A/C and also the e28 is a weekend car, not a peasant daily…”. Changed the front shocks and had to change the rotors and pads too, because something fell off while i was driving on my way to the shop and every braking sounded just like train trying to stop. This is what i found.


Meanwhile there was sale at local car parts shop and they were selling 2 pairs of universal foglights for peanuts. Since my subaru haven’t any fogs i decided to buy them calming myself with “It’s for me, it’s not for the car!”.
They were installed on the same day.


On my first night drive i realised the instrument cluster lights are absolutelly horrifying. I couldn’t see a damn thing.
(Here the lighs are on …)
So i found a really cheap cluster in miles and installed it. Also the seller gave me the oem fog light switch,which i was missing. It was the deal of the century.
The old one glowed in red and blue and the new one was in green and yellow and matched perfectly the heater controls and the radio. Also the old engine revs up to 9k and the new one up to 8k. Sorted. All Good.

It was a really boring weekend in the begining of June. All of my friends was somewhere with their girlfriends/wives, mine was with her parents so i had to find occupation for two days. And it hit me. The impreza got most awful rear mirror ever. It was the ugliest thing you have ever seen, so i dig up at my garrage and found self dimming mirror from e39. Used some parts from the impreza, glued them to the e39 mirror’s base, wired it  and hooked myself up with nice and working auto dimming mirror.

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The other thing that bothers me was the fact i haven’t any place where i could keep my sunglasses. So i found that headliner part from audi a4 and it was perfect for the job.

I’ve always wanted a gated shifter like those in the old italian sport cars. So i build my own.

A month later we decided we could go on a vacation in Greece in August, so we started planing a route. Then my fiancee mentioned “What we are going to listen to durring the trip” and I realised the oem radio doesn’t even support AUX. Was browsing online for a new, cheap receiver and found a brand new double din android. It was on the price of a mid-class receiver, but 7 inch android vs single din radio .. duh …


Installation was pretty easy. Took me less than two hours.


When i realised there is reverse camera in the kit. Spent another two hours wiring it.

Trip went well. Not a single issue with the car for 2000 kms, but i noticed few things.
1. Seats aren’t the best one for a long go.
2. Shifter knob sux for a city drive.
3. Key was dying.
4. In the mornings and evenings car runs fine, but durring the day something happens and it feels like it lost half of its power. (No, it’s not because of the A/C)

So i started resolving stuff.

1. Found WRX seats in a good condition. Yeah, that’s what i call seats for a trip !

2. Got myself skunk2 shifter.


3. And nice new folding key.

I was really currious what exactly happens with the car durring the day and it hit me when i was chaning my spark plugs.
This bad boy used to be between the chassis and the right fender.


Sucking air from the left hole and sending it to the engine on the right opening.


Most important thing was from where exactly it sucks air.
From here.


And what’s hiding underneath down there ?
EXACTLY ! The exhaust manifold. LOL!


Measured the intake temperature with laser thermometer while bonnet was closed and reving the car on 3k rpm and it turns the engine is feeded with 82C HOT air.  Such Performance, Very Engineering. WOW !
Solved the problem in less than a hour.

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And the last thing from this week.
I really missed the e36 headlights look.

So bought a set of halo lights ( angel eyes for subaru are called halo lights), sprayed the inside of the headlight in black (except the highbeam reflector ) and installed them.



And also bought a set of voltmeter, oil temp and oil pressure gauges and installed them aswell.
(Don’t mind the airbag and abs lights – im working on them right now)



I guess it’s just a passion to upgrade,  to invent, to add  things, to improve. And Im sure it’s not just me.

Most people worry, the invested funds will never return. I mean if you have a car for 3k and invested more 5k, you would probably sell it for 4-5k at best circumstances. But you had fun, right ? I mean if you are going on a vacantion and you are about to  spend 8k for traveling, you are having fun too. But does the money return ? No. And what you have left from the trip ? Refrigerator magnets, bunch of pictures, some nice memories and that’s it. Good luck selling those for 4-5k.
Just accept cars as part of your life as they are and don’t be sorry about your investments (that doesn’t mean to act stupid).
Remember there are handicaped or suffering some illness people and they would love if they could be on your place – dealing with cars, driving them and enjoying life instead spending cash on medicines. Think about that. Some people might say “Yes, but you can invest in properties if you cut your car expenses”. And that’s the truth. You can sleep in a car, but can you race a house, huh?
Cars are like scars – tattoes with better stories. They are for life and believe me or not, you are going to remember those good old days someday and you wouldn’t regret.

I’m waiting for the day when ill buy a car and sell it year(s) later exactly how i bought it. A family member told me : “That day will come for sure. You would be completelly different person in ten years.” and yeah I’m sure about that. Like totally. I’ve start playing Diablo 2 back in 2003 and guess who got a kick-ass sorceress on a hardcore mode 13 years later – in 2016.
I won’t change. Life is too short to stay stock ( and to play softcore diablo 2) .


Thanks for reading.
Guardian George.

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