Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

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Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby kawada1313 » Wed Mar 26, 2014 4:23 pm

Hi all, I'm new here and have only recently caught the E30 bug, and I've been doing some research and thought i could run a few things by you guys - I've really enjoyed looking through many of the threads and seeing what amazing stuff a lot of you have done - but sometimes its a bit over my head.
I would like to build an E30 with an M50 2.8 engine in it, but I'm a bit stumped as to what i should opt to go for. I have not bought anything yet and would like to source exactly what i need from the beginning, at least in terms of body/donor car and engine.
I realise much of this may be blindingly obvious to you guys, but please bear with me ;)
Im just going to go with a few statements (please tell me if they are correct or not and why) or questions(please help with answers)

The most important aspects of the body shell are straightness and rust - so find a straight rust free body. Does the model matter? Ive read that its best to get a 325i because of the brakes and suspension - is that the case? Im probably planning on upgrading the dampers&springs and possibly going to a 5 stud setup anyway so won't a 316 be enough?

There are a few bare body shells for sale quite close to me (I'm from Poland btw) which i was considering, and then sourcing all the parts from different breakers yards - or does it make more sense to buy a complete car and then remove the parts i don't need?

The engine I would like (i think) is the M52B28, as it seems that the 2.8 would be preferable over the 2.5 - but whats the situation with the Vanos vs double Vanos engines? Does the newer double vanos add too much complexity? how can i tell for sure what type of engine i am looking at?

What is the deal with OBD1 and OBD2? Is it really such an important aspect? I would assume that newer tech that allows easier diagnosis of problems could be a big help later in life, even if it involves a little more work in setting it up?

What would the best gearbox to pair to an M52B28? I realise there are a number of configurations, each with their own pros and cons, but for reliability is there a solid winner?

Thanks all!
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby Yoshi » Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:47 pm

kawada1313 wrote:The most important aspects of the body shell are straightness and rust - so find a straight rust free body. Does the model matter? Ive read that its best to get a 325i because of the brakes and suspension - is that the case? Im probably planning on upgrading the dampers&springs and possibly going to a 5 stud setup anyway so won't a 316 be enough?


The only E30s with odd suspensions are the early model non 325's. 318/316s came with drum rear brakes and worse suspensions. All the late model (plastic bumpers) have updates. So you're mostly right. Although the IX models are VERY different.

kawada1313 wrote:There are a few bare body shells for sale quite close to me (I'm from Poland btw) which i was considering, and then sourcing all the parts from different breakers yards - or does it make more sense to buy a complete car and then remove the parts i don't need?


I think it's easier to strip out than to add back. It'll save you money. The more complete, the less ebay staring you have to do.

kawada1313 wrote:The engine I would like (i think) is the M52B28, as it seems that the 2.8 would be preferable over the 2.5 - but whats the situation with the Vanos vs double Vanos engines? Does the newer double vanos add too much complexity? how can i tell for sure what type of engine i am looking at?


That depends on chips and whatever you can get. If you go with double vanos, the motor would be out of an E46. Which means you'd have to transfer all the electronics and have the ECU flashed. If you get an M52Bxx from an E36, you get the obd2 stuff, still have to send it out to be flashed, but it's much less complicated (and single vanos). OR you could do an OBD1 swap to a single vanos and just buy a chip. unless you're turbo charging or something crazy like that, you can get away with any of those engines. "complex" isn't really a big deal if you're just swapping parts. It is if you're tuning.

kawada1313 wrote:What is the deal with OBD1 and OBD2? Is it really such an important aspect? I would assume that newer tech that allows easier diagnosis of problems could be a big help later in life, even if it involves a little more work in setting it up?


OBD2 is nice because you can read error codes nicely. OBD1 is nice because it's simple and has less parts. OBD1, you can swap chips, OBD2, you have to send the ECU out somewhere or find a tuner friend. Really, that's all it is.

kawada1313 wrote:What would the best gearbox to pair to an M52B28? I realise there are a number of configurations, each with their own pros and cons, but for reliability is there a solid winner?


Depends on what you're looking for. I suggest the ZF 320D from an M3 and put a 3.25 LSD out back. You can use a factory E30 gear box from an M20 but it'll be offset and hard to fill with gear oil once in the car. But really, it's up to you. Stare at some gear ratios and pick what's the best for you.


Also, welcome to the boards!
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby M20_fever » Wed Mar 26, 2014 6:04 pm

Since you know your swapping the engine, suspension and brakes your best bet is to get a 316/318 car (with rear discs) since they are the lightest e30s from the factory. That will save you a lot of time that would be spent stripping insulation and unneeded wiring. Looking forward to a build thread, and welcome aboard!
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby kawada1313 » Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:33 pm

Wow, really quick replies, thanks!

So it seems that a good base would be a 316 or 318, but a later model (plastic bumpers ;P) with all its gubbins intact - am i right in thinking thats after 1987?

Engine wise I best would be an ex E36 M52 as i think i will appreciate having obd2 just for easier diagnosis of future problems, but i wouldn't have the extra headache of dual vanos incase of future endeavours.
I don't think i should have too many problems finding somewhere to have it 'flashed'. A question regarding that, is 'flashing' essentially reinstalling the engine map onto the ecu with the new sensors and ews settings?
If this is the case, is the ECU in question capable of being remapped? Basically, the place that popped into my head to get this done, is a friendly dyno guru/engine mapper - and while I'm there if its possible i might as well see if he could map the engine according to my specific exhaust system and air inlet?
If any of this makes sense and is possible - any suggestions on any mods that need remapping in order to function properly/to their full potential?

and gearbox wise a ZF 320D with 3.25 LSD - although i think i might enjoy playing around a bit with different gearings - anything to watch out for when doing this?

Thanks a lot guys, and when i get going with it you can be sure that ill be posting progress (and likely more questions!!!)
If you ever find yourselves in Poland in need of a jack and tools - shout! ;)
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby Yoshi » Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:25 am

Plastic bumpers are 89-91. Some 88s are but it's not the same.

Yea you can get someone to flash your ECU with something off the shelf or have someone custom tune it for you. You just have to find a tuner that can do that. The real reason you need it flashed is to get rid of the EWS. Or as I call it "satan's ball sack".

For gearing, nothing too bad to watch out for. Just know that you're messing with your top speed and acceleration. Too short and you redline going 60mph. Too long, you won't have very good acceleration.
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby 87e30 » Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:17 pm

Yoshi wrote:Plastic bumpers are 89-91. Some 88s are but it's not the same.


They made diving boards in 88? I thought it was some 87's that had plastic. Sorry, and now back to your regularly scheduled topic...
Schwarz 5-speed 87 325is (newest project)
Arktisblau 5-speed 86 325e (current DD)
Schwarz 5-speed 87 325e (parts car/LS1 swap?)
Gazellenbeige automatic 85 318i (70,000 miles)
Alpine white 5-speed 87 325is (my first e30, possibly for sale)
99 Suburban
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby Yoshi » Thu Mar 27, 2014 1:27 pm

87s were the last year of the pure diving board. 88 was the year where it's still diving board but they made the body changes before they added the plastic bumper. you can take the plastic bumpers and swap them onto an 88 with no mods but you'd have to cut up the rear and add a valence for an 87 and before.

88s even have the rear valence where the 87s and before don't.

Source: I owned an 87, an 88, a few 89s, and a 90.
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Re: Best combinations for M50 Swap - Basic Questions

Postby M20_fever » Thu Mar 27, 2014 10:29 pm

^^^what he said.
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