PH FLEET: BMW 328I (E36)
What doesn't kill a car makes it stronger, or at least that's the hope
The first to fail was the alternator, a whopping 80 miles from home. To be precise, the red 'not charging' lamp actually illuminated at around 110mph on the way down to Eau Rouge. By 80 miles from home, I do mean whilst lapping Spa Francorchamps.
Mission Motorsports chaps, and it was gutting to do only a few laps before heading home for an early bath.
So then imagine my disappointment doubling when the E36 threw up another problem as we limped back home on the remaining battery power. Over a bump whilst overtaking a truck and the car made a bang and steered itself towards the truck, and then away, and then towards and then ... you get the idea.
A change of pants later it appears that there were some rather important washers missing from those "ready-built" H&R suspension units I'd bought.
A day later and I'd fitted new BMW rear-shock-mount bushes (upgraded RSMs would be nice, but they were a week away) and a new alternator, but then the power steering started to sound funny. In a fit of denial, I ignored it. Bad idea. Half way around a lap of the Nordschleife and the steering went heavy. Pump dead!
By this time I was pretty sick of failures, so I decided to try and find some E36 experts. Not a problem when you live next to the 'ring. Every week I go through the village of Barweiler and see a bunch of orange and silver E36 325i racecars parked in a lot. What I'd seen was Dutchman Jaco Velders' racecar fleet for VLN and RCN at the Nordschleife. He runs a little one-man business called Jaco's Paddock and has been racing E36s at the 'ring for nearly 10 years.
The answers to both questions were surprisingly positive. Yes, he had a steering pump and a deal was struck. And what did he expect to break next?
"Not much, they're very reliable track cars," was his curt reply. "But there's a few things that I recommend replacing as a precaution, based on my own experience. Lots of standard bushes will need replacing with upgraded items if you want the car to do lots of laps."
So that's exactly what I did, ordering a complete rear axle's-worth of purple and black poly bushes directly from Powerflex. And while the back end was apart, I finally managed to coerce my buddy John Moffatt from Ohlins to 'lend' me his built 3.23 ratio LSD.
blogged about before. Can't wait.
Lead pic: Martin Stollenwerk (www.tourifotos.de)
Car: 1997 BMW 328i SE
Run by: Dale Lomas
Bought: September 2012
Purchase price: £950
Second month: Thrashed it, broke it, repaired it. Three times. Also added LSD and some polybushes.
Dale gets over the loss of his RX-8 by buying a new car