Weekend project - motor swap in a 1974 BMW
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Thread: Weekend project - motor swap in a 1974 BMW

  1. #1
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    Weekend project - motor swap in a 1974 BMW

    This...is a 1974 BMW 2002.



    My mom's had this car in some form or another since she turned 16 as a present from her dad. The original was a 1976, and it was silver.

    My mom came down from PA/Boston in '85, so the car had seen a lot of salt and snow, and the body had rusted through a lot...almost too far to save. These are the only pictures I can find of that car looking through some photos I have scanned on my computer.







    As you can see, even in '88/'89, it was missing a few of the trim pieces. (And yes, that's little me).

    You might say my family is kinda crazy in how we feel about our cars. Some of them are more or less a part of the family. Our first "new" car was bought in 1998, and up until that point, this BMW and the blue Saab in the picture below were our main cars and remained in daily service til 2004 or so. After growing up with it as my favorite car, the 1985 Saab became my first car, blew the oil pump, and either threw a rod or timing chain or something at 320,000 miles in 2005.



    Back to the story! My dad bought the 1974 red car for the body that had spent its whole life in the South back in 1991, which came to us as a 3-speed automatic (pretty rare), along with air conditioning (a very rare option), a jammed door, and an automatic choke that liked to stick on a cold start and leave the engine idling at 4,000 RPM, tires that stuck way out from the sides of the car, a tattered tan interior, and an engine that smoked a good deal. Despite all that, the body was in excellent shape.

    So began the transformation of taking everything from the silver 76 to the red 74. The 4-speed manual transmission, engine, and entire interior was gutted from the silver car and installed into the red one.







    After that, the car went on as a daily driver for almost 7 years with little to no problems. In 1997, my dad was leaving for work at night and hit a deer at ~40 MPH.


    Again, really only picture I could find of it.

    The front end was rebuilt, the whole car repainted, and it looked very, very good. The frame of the car did suffer some bending that was hard to straighten back out, and to this day, the doors and hood require a good solid slam to make them shut. The front end shimmys a bit around 65 mph, but this car really isn't driven on the highway (it's a screamer with only 4 gears - 70 MPH results in 4,000 RPM). It was later involved in a small accident in 2003 that again destroyed the hood and grille.

    We inherited the grey Buick (picture behind the Saab in the snow) from my grandfather in 2001 after the lease on the 1998 Expedition was up, and the BMW spent winters parked in the garage at that point. A well-deserved break from a hard life.

    As my parents have been busy with life, the BMW hasn't been driven much, and has sat in the garage a lot the past few years. Recently, my 17-yr-old brother has sparked up an interest in the old car, and worked on restoring it a bit more. Within the last year or so, he's put in new front seats, tuned up the engine, put in a new transmission (and clutch) that no longer whines, and put in a new rear differential that no longer shakes. The parts just get tired over time. It was running great for about 6 months, and my dad had once again been driving it back and forth to work since it's a lot better on gas than his Jeep.

    We'd known this motor has had a small head gasket leak - it eats coolant at a very slow rate, but it has never been severe enough to warrant taking the motor apart and fixing it. Recently though, I think it got worse. The #3 cylinder ate through the head gasket a little more on a highway jaunt and destroyed the piston rings for that cylinder. The dipstick blew straight out of the engine, spraying oil all over the underside of the hood, and there was a horrid scraping noise from the engine at an idle. The cylinder had 25 PSI compression. After 36 years of faithful service, the engine is dead. Since the block is likely scarred to sh!t from the rings (we found chunks of ring in the oil pan), the block wouldn't even be worth saving with a rebuild. We have no idea how many miles are on the car (the odometer flips over at 100,000), but we estimate it's at 240,000 since 140,000 seems like too few miles.

    Although we still had the engine from the 74 sitting in the garage, apparently it had ALSO had a small head gasket leak and, although stored with oil in the cylinders, one of the cylinders had pretty much fused by rust to the piston skirt, making it pretty much a boat anchor too.

    My brother located an engine from a 1975 being parted out that ran very well and is almost sludge-FREE - seriously, this engine is in fantastic shape. I drove home this weekend to help with the motor swap. My brother has spent the past week removing almost everything else in the engine bay so we could get the motor right out and put the new one right in.


    And...out it comes (my brother did most of the work, so he got to pose for the picture)

    A mere shell of a car now:



    This is the "new" engine with everything bolted up to it, and ready to go in. Every rubber seal/gasket has been replaced, as well as the timing chain and oil pump chain. The oil pan and valve cover show NO sludge at all.


    New engine down in the car.

    The hardest part was bolting back up the dang AC compressor, and we ended the day with that. The transmission and driveshaft go back in tomorrow, and then the exhaust manifold, all the accessories, radiator, and lots of little things here and there. I believe we'll have it running tomorrow before I have to head back to Virginia.
    Last edited by jblackburn; 01-06-2013 at 09:42 AM.
    2012 Cruze 1LT 6M


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  3. #2
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    One of my dream cars is an E30 with an S54 swap. Someday...

    Nice 2002, awesome car!

    I'm really not impressed with anything BMW has done since the E39. The F10 550i and M5 are awesome cars, and the F20 is the first good looking 3 series since the E30.

    I had an E46...was a turd in a straight line but an absolute monster in the corners with suspension and semi-slicks. I could have cared less when i totaled it.

    I've decided that E36s are almost old enough to be cool if you find a mint one...almost. A few more years.

    I keep kicking around the idea of a big turbo E36 M3...goal would be at least 800whp. No point in building anything turbo that can't easily trap 140+ these days.
    jblackburn likes this.
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    The only good thing about the E30 was the motor. It would run almost forever, but it was the worst 3-series IMO ever made. My uncle had one almost as long as I can remember. Even when it was just a few years old, everything squeaked, everything rattled, the seats were bad, it was extremely tail-happy, and the car just wasn't much to look at. I guess they make good track cars since that's what everyone seems to use them for now. Now, the E21 and E36 and E46 are all cool cars and actually good to drive/own.

    I'll agree with you - I really don't like anything BMW's currently got on the market that much. I liked the new 328i on paper until I drove it. It's too quiet and all the electronic crap just doesn't make it feel like a BMW should. The 2002 is just a real DRIVERS car. Not a whole lot of power, no power steering, terrible brakes, but it will do whatever you tell it to and you have a blast doing it.

    Some day I'd like to have a E39 540i. Maybe as a project car or something, or just a nice weekend driver. There's something great about 10-15 yr old luxury cars that still drive great and put a smile on your face when you mash the gas down.
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    What a great story! Glad to hear everything went smooth today. I have to say, your engine puller doesn't look like it's struggling at all, lol. I had ours so loaded that two of us had to stand on the end to keep it from lifting off the ground.

    I wish we had a longer relationship with our cars than we have had, especially those that I really liked. We just leased for so long that I never had much of a relationship with the cars until recent years. We've had the Wrangler 11 years now in April, but it's not quite a daily with only 58k on it. My dad has kept his Jags for a long time though- my mom's they bought back in '86 and his in '95. I remember going to pick up the one in '95 and the year long restoration. Sadly he's lost interest in them in the last ten years or so and they don't come out often. He's very anal about them, so I've had little involvement in them other than detailing. I've only driven one, and not more than just in/out of the garage and in the driveway.

    Enjoy the time with it in its third life while you can!
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    Man that sooo nice I want a 2002 soo bad but their hard to find in Canada and in good shape but looks good man


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  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jblackburn View Post
    The only good thing about the E30 was the motor. It would run almost forever, but it was the worst 3-series IMO ever made. My uncle had one almost as long as I can remember. Even when it was just a few years old, everything squeaked, everything rattled, the seats were bad, it was extremely tail-happy, and the car just wasn't much to look at. I guess they make good track cars since that's what everyone seems to use them for now. Now, the E21 and E36 and E46 are all cool cars and actually good to drive/own.

    I'll agree with you - I really don't like anything BMW's currently got on the market that much. I liked the new 328i on paper until I drove it. It's too quiet and all the electronic crap just doesn't make it feel like a BMW should. The 2002 is just a real DRIVERS car. Not a whole lot of power, no power steering, terrible brakes, but it will do whatever you tell it to and you have a blast doing it.

    Some day I'd like to have a E39 540i. Maybe as a project car or something, or just a nice weekend driver. There's something great about 10-15 yr old luxury cars that still drive great and put a smile on your face when you mash the gas down.
    I found my E30 much more enjoyable to drive than my E46 ever was. It wasn't as fast (until i gutted it), didn't handle as well, didn't brake as well, etc...but it was pure. The odometer stopped at 200K...no idea how many were actually on it, but that engine was awesome.

    The 3-series sold its soul in 2001, with clutch delay valves and awful e-throttles. The E90 sealed the deal, because to me that's when BMW fully transitioned from a luxurious sports car to a luxury car that was slightly sportier than the competition.

    You can heat soak an N54 into limp mode in less than 2 laps in the summer...it's built only to get you to starbucks or the country club. Junk.

    As for the new 328i....a turbo 4-cylinder BMW? DO NOT WANT. The magic of a BMW is the silky I6.

    I've always been a fan of the S54 M-coupe.

    No offense, but i feel like the E39 540i is one of the most overrated BMWs ever. The best thing about it is timeless looks. If you buy one, get an older one without Vanos, more power and more reliable
    jblackburn likes this.
    '12 Cruze 1LT M6 - K&N Drop In, Intake Resonator Delete, Black Label Tuned - 162whp/186wtq @ 18.5psi

    '05 GSXR750 - Big ole turbo.

  8. #7
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    No offense, but i feel like the E39 540i is one of the most overrated BMWs ever. The best thing about it is timeless looks. If you buy one, get an older one without Vanos, more power and more reliable
    I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a nice body

    I drove a friend's E39 528 once. Needed more power and I hated the autobox, but it was nice to drive. He sold it for a Honda CRZ. What a terrible decision, but with a 70-mile/day commute, he needed the gas mileage I guess.

    Actually, speaking of the E30, the guy we got this engine from has a 2002 with a 325 engine swap. He cut the firewall back a little to stuff the engine in the 2002, but it is done right that way. Gobs of power in a car that weighs ~2100 lbs. Definitely a unique sound from a 2002 too.
    Last edited by jblackburn; 01-06-2013 at 10:14 AM.
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    You're sending me down memory lane with this thread.

    Old E46 took a lot of abuse. Guzzled oil on the track, i'd just dump a quart of oil in at the start of a track day and by the end it would be at normal level. Lol

    Tires every 5-8K miles because i was an absolute hooligan back in those days. I have stories for hours...

    One night i was doing about 100 in a 25mph zone on a back road i'd never driven before, like 1am. The road ended and there were no warning signs because a drunk driver had hit them a week prior. I crashed pretty hard, frame was bent so bad the sunroof popped out the top.

    RIP E46, but you were too slow to be missed.

    Dammit i want an E36 M3 now...gut it, suspension, tires, and just beat the living crap out of it...then boost it later. My buddy just made 648whp on a stock S52, 21 psi on pump gas...SOB.
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    '12 Cruze 1LT M6 - K&N Drop In, Intake Resonator Delete, Black Label Tuned - 162whp/186wtq @ 18.5psi

    '05 GSXR750 - Big ole turbo.

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    A fiend of mine put a BMW M motor in a 2002 and takes it to the track regularly. Not quite as fast as my Z but still a lot of fun._DSC2844.jpg_DSC2845.jpg_DSC0190.jpg_DSC0203.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by 30 Ounce View Post
    A fiend of mine put a BMW M motor in a 2002 and takes it to the track regularly. Not quite as fast as my Z but still a lot of fun
    Nice roundie. Oh man, I'd love to find an S14 to put in there. But we got this engine for $150 as he had no use for it anymore, and it's a fantastic deal for as well-taken care of as it is.

    Both of those look like very nice cars.

    Cranked it a bit ago. No leaks, good oil and fuel pressure, and the timing's good. Brother's putting the transmission in now while I work on the distributor timing, exhaust manifold, radiator, and connections under the hood.

    Luckily we've never had to pass this car on a smog test living in NC - all that early 70's pollution control crap takes up a lot of space, zaps 30+ HP, and has connections running everywhere under the hood.
    Last edited by jblackburn; 01-06-2013 at 06:39 PM.
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