Stripping Down Project 324K

In my first Project 324K post, I introduced the build and my goal for a Honda K24-swapped BMW E36. That is, a touring car-inspired, high-revving street and track machine.

Today, we’re looking at the strip down of the two E36s I purchased in order to build one car. Spoiler alert: We got some nasty surprises…

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Before any disassembly began, my builder –  Jonathan Rudman from Rapid Garage in Boksburg – thought it would be a good idea to have the two cars together in one place, so as both came apart we could chose the best parts to keep and the worst to dispose of. My initial idea was to use as many panels as I could from the Facebook Marketplace-sourced blue 318iS, as they visually look a lot better than those on the 316i – previously my parents-in-law’s car since new.

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First things first, we gave both cars a quick wash so we could see what condition their paintwork was in. With a little bit of elbow grease, years of grime quickly ran off the grey donor 316i, revealing an exterior in much better condition than I expected it to be. Who doesn’t love it when that happens?!

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Next on the list was pulling the K24 engine out of the blue car and checking its condition. The motor had quite a few scrapes on it, like it had been handled very roughly, but we were hopeful that everything inside was super-clean and in perfect working order. That’s what the seller told me it was like.

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But still outside, the more we looked around the engine the worse it got. The mounts were just plain horrible, and incorrect hardware was used all over the place. Wrong size bolt? No problem, just make it fit with a stack of washers. The guys that put this car together definitely did it by halves.

The Getrag GS6 BMW gearbox, however, looked to be in pretty good condition. However, as I’m planning to go down the turbocharger route with this build, we’ll have to wait and see if it’s up to the task.

The adapter plate for the gearbox is not the prettiest, but it seems to work. The clutch has plenty of life left in it too.

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With the engine and gearbox out of the way, we could finally take a good look at the bay, firewall and chassis. I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but let me say that after seeing this mess, I’m very glad I never tried to drive this car. It really did look like it was held together with hopes and dreams.

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What do you do when the exhaust manifold doesn’t fit properly? You bash one side flat with a hammer. If it hadn’t seen this for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.

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By this point I’d had enough bad news, so we turned our attention to removing the stock BMW power plant from the donor 316i. With more leaves and dirt than I’ve ever seen in an engine bay it definitely wasn’t clean, but at least it hadn’t been butchered.

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With the gearbox and engine removed, we could see how the 316i’s front end compared to the 318iS disaster. A quick pressure wash revealed a bay and chassis in good condition with no sign of rust at all.

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While we were here, Jonathan took the opportunity to test-fit the K24 in the bay and check the clearances. It all looks great. As you can see, the engine will sit quite far back – not front-mid like it was in the 318iS though – which means better weight distribution.

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Opening up the engine to check its condition was next on the list. I’ll admit, I was not looking forward to this, but being a stock motor, I hoped it was good.

The oil was drained and the sump was removed. The oil actually looked OK – which was surprising all things considered – but my smile didn’t last long.

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Jonathan took the cam cover off next to inspect the cylinder head. There was obvious wear in a few places, including the camshafts.

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This revelation meant we had to check the bottom end as well, where lo and behold Jonathan found some well-worn bearings.

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Jonathan decided he’d carry on and strip the engine all the way down, because at this point there’s no other choice but to check everything. I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that the pistons are worn, and there are signs that the engine has been run been run quite dry. We don’t know exactly what caused that, but this K24 is most definitely not in great condition.

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So where does this leave me? Well, what I thought would be quick engine swap into a same-but-different chassis is now a frustrating situation. After talking it over with Jonathan, I’ve got two choices: One, send the engine off to the machine shop, and then source new pistons, new bearings, a new intake camshaft and a new head gasket at a minimum. Option two, which right now seems like it could be the better idea, is to purchase a full turbo K24 package that a friend of mine is selling. Going down this route would put us right back on track.

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I’m currently trying to work out all the details and decide which is the best option to take. While this is happening, Jonathan has started swapping body panels on the cars, so at least progress is still being made. Check back for the next Project 324K update soon.

Stefan Kotzé
[email protected]

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