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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Removal of Front Support

Yesterday as I was leaving the garage I asked my brother if we could make arrangements to put my car on the two post lift for the next couple of weeks. He agreed so today the first order of business was moving a bunch of cars and, finally, putting the E36 on the new two post lift for the first time. Since the car has no drivetrain we resorted to using the casters once again to position the car relative to the lift. This turned out to be fairly critical, both laterally and longitudinally, as the multi-stage arms on the 12000 pound lift are a bit higher and tend to hit the side skirts on the car if positioned incorrectly. I negated most of the clearance issues by spinning up the flat pads on the lift arms and using the small blocks of wood roughly 1" tall my brother fabricated for use with one of his low-slung cars.

With the car up on the lift just a couple of feet off the ground I was able to start work to remove the front support. This went about as expected though I was ultimately forced to remove the headlights, as they would have placed too much weight on the grill support to which they are mounted. For what it's worth, I took the time to measure the position of each headlight adjuster with my calipers, create small alignment marks on the neighboring metal where possible (obviously these would be worthless on the support, which is to be painted), and made sure to hold the adjuster steady as I removed each screw. Hopefully this will make alignment relatively easy when the time comes, but even it doesn't, I tried.

Once I removed the plastic ductwork I realized that BMW affixed nut plates to the grille support. On my car I found two hex bolts with 10mm heads installed in these plates as required to tie the grille support to each vertical support. I can't help but think that there is a special washer of some kind missing, as the holes in the vertical support are in fact about 1cm square -- which is fairly pointless for a bolt with a head about the same size. I'm not sure how I'll deal with this. I couldn't find the official hardware in the ETK so I'll likely have to take the support to my tech to jog his memory and see if he can direct the parts guys to the correct parts in the ETK.

After I had removed all of the screws and nuts necessary to free the support from the car I noticed that the passenger side vertical support seemed stuck to the face of the frame rail. A closer examination, as well as some cleaning of the dirt covering the support, revealed what I can only assume is an artifact from the original production process - a spot weld bonding the vertical support to the frame rail. I'm not sure why this was done, but I surmise it was to aid manufacturing in some way. The only way to get around this was to drill out the weld.

With the support removed a close inspection has revealed a lot more areas of rust, particularly where the vertical supports mate with the grille frame. As body shops love to charge for prep I began to wonder if it will be cheaper and better in the long run to just by a new support from BMW and hand that to the body shop. I suppose it will all come down to price, so I'm planning to request a quote tomorrow.

Incidentally, I am planning one modification to the support (old or new) -- the installation of M5 AVK nutserts in the two holes that currently accept an expanding plastic rivet to secure the black plastic cover designed to duct air to the alternator. This cover has to come off the car to begin virtually any work on the engine and over the years everyone (including me) has been guilty of using a screwdriver behind the cover's mounting flange to help remove the rivets. Unfortunately this has resulted in countless unsightly scratches (and now rust) around each hole. Once I install the nutserts I'll be able to use a common M5 stainless screw and fender washer to secure the cover, and as a result, the front support should remain free of scratches from now on.

Next Up

I have yet another batch of parts to order tomorrow -- mostly hoses and such. I'm also expecting the first batch of powdercoating to be done tomorrow or Tuesday, at which point I'll deliver the next batch. Once I get the support painted I'll be able to reassemble the front end, but in the meantime I'll begin work to replace various components including the water valves and related hoses that came in last week. I may even start replacing the fuel hoses. I'm also expecting the machine work to be done late this week. So if all goes as planned I'll be able to start assembly of the engine next week.

Oh, and yes, I plan to stop work briefly tomorrow to admire the eclipse, which will unfortunately only be around 75% coverage at totality here in NJ, but something is better than nothing.