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BMW 330ci (E46) Track Car???

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  • BMW 330ci (E46) Track Car???

    The more I learn about the e46 330i/330ci, the more I see why it can be a good track car. I'm open to both the coupe (330ci) and the 4-door sedan (330i).

    For those in the know, what should I look for when shopping for one of these cars? Are certain years better than others?

    Do these cars require brake cooling ducts (like ALL Mustangs) or is that optional for a street/track car?

    Any other advice?

    As an aside, I might be putting my Mustang Boss 302 up for sale. The car is just too pristine and I can't get myself to subject it to the rigors of track driving. I'm simply not enjoying it like I should. Hence, this topic.
    Last edited by MikeColangelo; 04-23-2017, 11:18 PM.

  • #2
    There is a SpecE46 class now and if you look-up their forums you'll probably find all the info needed.

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    • #3
      I found a ZHP, which comes with the M3 front fascia and it has massive brake ducts. Regular 330's don't have brake ducts, I don't think.

      When I bought mine back in July, I had to look past a lot of deferred maintenance to see the "good bones." Mine had a lot of trim items broken, and I'm fixing them one at at time.

      Mechanically, mine had a leaky valve cover, which killed an O2 sensor and probably one of the engine mounts. Plastic cooling system parts get brittle. I'll think of more, but I have to run out for a bit right now.

      I like mine. It's really engaging to drive.
      www.TrackHQ.com

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      • #4
        Most 330s have 17-inch wheels, so track tires aren't cheap. I've not put brakes on mine, but I know the pads cost more than those of a Miata. Mark at Iron Canyon knows the cars well, so you have him to fall back on.

        Other problems:

        - unibody cracks where rear subframe attaches; rear upper shock mounts, too. There are aftermarket fixes for those, but they all involve welding.
        - Takata airbags


        We did a story on Spec E46, which involves 330s. It covers a lot of what it takes to make them into track/racecars. Here's a link to the story.

        Speed News Vol. 6 Issue 1 February 2017 - I
        www.TrackHQ.com

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        • #5
          We have 3 E46 cars. Race m3 (any time now...), street m3, and a street/track 330. The 330 was purchased for Spec E46 duty but I'm waiting to see if the class gets any real traction in Socal. At the Thunderhill SCCA Majors there were 8-9 Spec E46 running as T3 cars so the class appears to have traction in some regions. Wrt to street/track use my 330 has been used as a trainer for my daughter who is just getting started. I drove it for a couple of sessions and beat the crap out of it. Really fun car, well balanced, good brakes (Stoptech street/track pads, centric rotors), great aftermarket support, and pretty decent power. The only thing I've done beyond normal maintenance is add Apex wheels, RS3 tires, and Stoptech pads. The cars are fairly easy to work on unlike the later models. Not as easy as the e30/e36 but reasonable once you get your mind around what the Germans were thinking. They do like odd sizes for nuts/bolts. 16mm, really? The biggest issue with these cars is that they are getting a bit old so expect to do an intake manifold off replacement of ALL hoses. Reseal the oil pan as well. After that the engine is rock solid as long as the rev limiter is respected. We have experienced no overheating issues with the OEM waterpump and radiator. Yet. The M54 engine has some weird harmonics at high rpm (over oem rev limiter) that will cause crank or damper failures if not heeded. I haven't had issue with the subframe deal but we did preemptively reinforce that area on the race car and then Moti's awesome cage made it bulletproof. If I continue to build the 330 I'll probably do the reinforcement just cause I'm there. The Daughter is now fast enough that a proper cage and seat are warranted at this point. One thing we did run into on the 330 was fuel starvation. Anything less than 1/4 tank was bad news in hard right turns. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
          Last edited by markn; 04-24-2017, 07:06 PM.
          AiM Data and Video systems, Suspension Setup, Race car builds, support, and rentals. At your beck and call.

          Mark Nichols
          Iron Canyon Motorsports
          http://www.ironcanyonmotorsports.com

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          • #6
            If I remember correctly, the 330 sedan has different rear subframe mounts?
            There was a guy running an E46 sedan back in the Open Track Challenge in '07 and REALLY wanted an LSD rear end for them.

            But, it was going to take considerable work, since it wasn't a plug-and-play bolt-in type affair.
            This, according to Bill Arnold... but again, it's been a long time.

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            • #7
              If one wants to go over the rev limiter on M54 regularly ATI harmonic balancer is a necessity. Your posts covers the most important aspects.
              16 and 18 mm bolts started to appear in E36 and newer models, 1 mm down from 17 and 19. I believe that weight savings is the reason for that.

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              • #8
                Couple of other points:

                - the 3.46 diff from an auto e46 is a cheap performance upgrade. 150 or so.
                - auto transmission engines bolt right in and are far less likely to have been abused than a manual trans car. 900 +/-.
                - buy a set of etorx sockets.
                AiM Data and Video systems, Suspension Setup, Race car builds, support, and rentals. At your beck and call.

                Mark Nichols
                Iron Canyon Motorsports
                http://www.ironcanyonmotorsports.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by markn View Post
                  The cars are fairly easy to work on unlike the later models. Not as easy as the e30/e36 but reasonable once you get your mind around what the Germans were thinking.
                  Quoted for truth. I mentioned in other threads, it helps to understand the engineering when you make repairs. Exploded views are more valuable to me than a repair manual. Realoem.com is a great resource for part numbers and diagrams.
                  Yer pal,
                  Force

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                  • #10
                    Great info, guys. Thanks!

                    I'm looking at a 2001 330ci (coupe) next weekend. For track purposes, does one body style (coupe vs sedan) have any substantial advantage over the other?

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                    • #11
                      I tracked my e46 wagon, the extra doors give passengers better hope for survival. YMMV.
                      Yer pal,
                      Force

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                      • #12
                        The subframe mounts are the same coupe vs sedan afaik. What is different is the subframe on the M3 vs the non-M cars. The M3 was the only E46 to come with a LSD (crappy one...) so one way to get a LSD in a non-M is to source a complete diff and subframe assembly from a M car. Not worth the trouble IMO as the stock M3 gives up quickly on track.

                        Originally posted by Schmoe Money View Post
                        If I remember correctly, the 330 sedan has different rear subframe mounts?
                        There was a guy running an E46 sedan back in the Open Track Challenge in '07 and REALLY wanted an LSD rear end for them.

                        But, it was going to take considerable work, since it wasn't a plug-and-play bolt-in type affair.
                        This, according to Bill Arnold... but again, it's been a long time.
                        AiM Data and Video systems, Suspension Setup, Race car builds, support, and rentals. At your beck and call.

                        Mark Nichols
                        Iron Canyon Motorsports
                        http://www.ironcanyonmotorsports.com

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks Marc! I figured someone here would know more about it.
                          I just remember the whole "sell the car and buy a different one" came up a few times over the course of the week.

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