Project E21

Project Betsy Progresses – £750 BMW E21…

Behold, the E21 progresses. A bit.

Not2Grand IT bod, Mike, updates us on the progress of the restoration of his bargain BMW E21.

You may remember last year, I accidentally bought a BMW E21 316. At the time of the post, work hadn’t started as the workshop was being renovated. A lot has happened since then, so it’s about time I gave an update on the progress of Betsy.

Before we got her into the workshop, I took a couple of videos of the ‘as delivered’ condition. Remember, this turd is £750 worth of Bavarias finest. She drove and she stopped. That’s all that matters, right?

Apologies for the sniffing. I had a bit of a cold. And those are fireworks, not gang drive bys.

She’s been in the workshop for about eight months, and has been progressing slowly. The Crap Car Collective (CCC) meet up once or twice a week to work on our cars. It’s not a lot of time, but in the case of Betsy, I have been taking bits off, taking them home and renovating them so once the body is finished, we should just be able to bolt them back on.

We started from the rear, as it was the best place to start from. The first job was to drop the rear axle carrier and petrol tanks. The boot floor had been patched previously, badly, and also had a couple of new holes. The more we looked, the more rot we saw, but on the whole, it wasn’t that bad, and the repairs wouldn’t be too difficult. However, the rear window scuttle/boot lip was rotten and had been fillered up. You might notice on the video there was a rubber seal on the rear edge of the boot lid. This was to try and stop any more water getting in. It didn’t really work.

The rear panel was also shot, but I managed to source a new old stock panel in Greece.

Our resident ex-BMW bodyshop expert, Si, spent the next few months welding up the holes in the boot floor and replacing the rear panel. The most awkward area to repair was probably where the fuel filler pipe goes through the rear wheel tubs. It was also rotten where it bolts to the inner wing too. The rear wings were also a bit rough around the edges so local repairs had to be made to where they meet the rear panel too.

I spent some time on my back cleaning all the muck from under the rear arches, and they came up like new. Because of things like this, we reckon the car was looked after and garaged in its early years, only to fall into the wrong hands when it was abandoned on a drive for almost a decade.

I took the axle carrier and arms shot blasted and powder coated at Midas Touch in Castleford. I first used them when they powder coated my vintage Kenwood Chef. They have always done a great job. New bearings were fitted and a complete set of polybushes were purchased from Schmiedmann BMW in Germany. The petrol tanks were cleaned up, checked and painted. Even though the edges are a bit rough, there doesn’t seem to be any holes, which is good because replacements are €731 each from classic BMW specialists, Wallothnesch. And there are two of them.

The great thing about owning a classic BMW, is the resource You enter the last part of your vin number, and you get all the diagrams, parts and part numbers appropriate to your car. This was a real boon when it comes to sourcing nuts and bolts. Just down the road from me in Wakefield is the nut and bolt supplier Kayfast. I went along to the trade counter with a list longer than the arms of a man with very long arms, listing all the nuts and bolts I needed, from the back of the car right up to the gearbox mounts. With the exception of a couple of screws, he was able to supply me with everything. The bag was massive. How much was this going to be? Based on the price of BMW bolts, I was thinking £40? £50? I had £70 on me. Surely that was enough. £12. Yes, £12. ‘Oh. I thought it would be a lot more’ I exclaimed. ‘Well, you can give me more if you like’ he replied.

In March this year work stopped due to Lockdown. On Facebook, half of the people in the car groups I am in were furloughed and were able to do the jobs on their cars that they’d been putting off. Betsy is about six miles from home so we were unable to work on her. Matt, the owner of the unit, took the opportunity to create a large entrance for the vehicles. When we were finally allowed back to work in May, everything was covered in brickdust so the first job was to get the cars out and have a good clean up.

The plan now, is to strip her down to a shell and flip her onto her side, so we can weld up the underneath. Si says he’s getting to old to be lying on his back welding. It certainly will make it easier. It was bad enough getting dirt in my ears when I was under her scrubbing the boot floor.

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