gchristofi

Budget Track Day Car

89 posts in this topic

Hi All.  As mentioned in the intro forum, I'm in the process of building a budget track day car with a 2000 330i SE manual saloon as the start point.  I wanted to be budget concious and only make changes I could complete with my relatively modest mechanical skills / experience.   It's hard to look past the 3 series when the criteria are....

1. Affordable
2. Reliable
3. RWD manual
4. Availability of off the shelf parts

I'd been searching for a replacement to my e30 325 which I ran the for several years.  I bought it already converted to a track car including lowering, a safety devices cage, seats, harnesses and perspex windows.  It was truly capable and often able to hold it's own against much more modern / expensive machinery.... all that on Toyo T1r road tyres.  But like all things, I got to the stage where I hankered after more power or rather more power to weight.  The e30 was around 1100 kg with 170 hp so approx 150 bhp / tonne.  I did consider the engine swap / FI route but ultimately decided to sell and look for an e36 328 or e46 330 as a new start.

After quite a search, it became apparent there was little value remaining in the e36 market.  Even leggy 150k mile plus 328 coupes were selling for 2k plus. In recent times, I think the e36 has mimicked the e30 of 10 years ago in becoming a sort after affordable starting point for a track car.  It's only logical that the e46 330 will follow and become the next defacto non m3 choice, especially with the upcoming 330 challenge race series. I was happy to finally find a fairly local e46 330i saloon with only 92k near me which I managed to haggle down to £1000.  Bargain!  Here is how it looked before any suspension changes......

That is a full 90 mm gap from the top of the rim to the bottom of the front arch!

 

before.JPG

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Although it drove pretty well on the road, there was obviously little point taking it to the track in its 15 year old SE state!  The front was, shall we say, a little loose when pressing on and the front bushes / ball joints had obviously seen better days.

First thing I did was a Oil / Filter service and make sure the cooling system was all working as it should.  Then started researching options for track mods and so far have completed the following.

1. New front disks and pads using EBC Yellowstuff (always found these superb at track)
2. Cleaned up the rear disks and used EBC Ultimax pads (just to see how they stand track use, always figured can almost survive without rear brakes)
3. Changed all brake bleed nipples (and one caliper after obligatory sheered nipple!), installed braided hoses and changed fluid with RBF600 equivalent 
4. 4x Federal 595 RSR track day tyres, square setup 245 35 18 on each corner even though on staggered alloys (8j front, 8.5 rear)
5. New Meyle HD front control arms with new HD bushes (may polybush later)
6. New front tie rods febi bilstein... great value.
7. Jom NJT extreme coilover kit. Height and damper adjustable kit at a very competitive price.  Almost too good to be true.
8. New shorter font drop links to fit lowered / coilover kit (6" from a 2000 Hyundai Coupe as per advice on forums)
8. 2 Way adjustable camber / caster top mounts from SilverProject.
9. Front tower reinforcement plates to prevent mushrooming 
10. Meyle HD rear shock mounts with extra reinforcement plates
11. Schroth quick fit 4 point harness (great bit of kit, if a bit pricey that really holds you in the seat in the absence of buckets and a harness bar)

That was very easy to type but being a non mechanic and renting some ramp time in a local friendly garage that work took me about 30 hours to complete!  It's never as cheap to build something like this as it is to buy someone else's car when all is done, but part of the fun for me in this project has been to learn how to do this stuff and get the satisfaction when it all comes together.  Anyhow, here's how it sits after changes.

 

after.JPG

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For anyone thinking of following a similar route, I did hit a snag in that the 245 tyres on the front rubbed the coil over springs very slightly.  I discovered this on Saturday at around 2pm but was booked onto a Snetterton track day on Sunday morning.  Luckily, the local Halfords stocked some 3mm  generic spacer kits which got me out of that bind just in time.  By the time I finished setting the ride height front and rear, setting the front toe, fixing a DSC problem due to steering angle sensor, stripping out rear bench seat and backrest, etc. etc. etc., it was the early hours of Sunday morning.  So I ended up going to the track with newly thrown on suspension and no opportunity for any alignment at all..... what could possibly go wrong?

The first few sessions were typical of a February track day.  2 C, damp and difficult to get heat in the tyres.  The realistic aim for the day was to get somewhere near the best time of the old e30 325 which at the 3 mile course had been 2.38.67.  The first session were not entirely successful, I could only muster a 2.45 and the handling was extremely erratic with over too much understeer and very sudden transition to lift off over steer, truly scary at high speed.  Nothing kills a lap faster than fear.

Fortunately, as the tyre pressures were dropped, the situation improved dramatically.  I'd taken the car there with 32 psi all round cold, but after the first session this had risen to 38+..... far too high. As I dropped pressures to 30 psi hot, the balance of the car was transformed and predictable.  By the third session the traction control was becoming intrusive and turning this off netted a few more seconds and times were down to 2.35s.  By the end of the day, as confidence grew in the cars capability, it had put in a best lap of 2.32.968 a great start that surpassed my expectation especially considering that no wheel alignment has been done. (would love to share a video but ran out of time to set up the track addict recording for the day)

This was a good start.  Now I'm looking ahead to the next steps in improving this car on the track which I think will be

1. H&R anti roll bar kit (expensive but apparently transforms the corning grip and stability)
2. Full 4 wheel alignment.
3. Start to strip weight (although going to keep the back seats in the shed just in case I need it as a stand by family car)
4. Corbeau Club Sport xl seat (when available again)
5. Maybe new water pump and thermostat as summer approaches, just in case.
6. Front strut brace and cross brace if available.
7. Secondary air pump delete (needs more research)
8. Exhaust, maybe just gut one of the silencers for that childish kick of a racey sound (standard system only put out 84 db on static testing.... shameful ;-)  )
9. Poly bush, starting at the rear, where there is a knock on gear changes.
10. Power? Not easy on m54b30 but?

Very open to suggestions and observations.  Looking forward to next opportunity to test this car further, which I think will be Cadwell Park later this month.

 

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After much deliberating about anti roll bars (with one eye on budget) and looking into the potential to upgrade using front M3 + Rear 6 cyl m sport convertible bars, by the time you take this route and add new poly bushes then you're around £200.  Most H&R kits in the UK are selling for around £340.  Eventually managed to source the H&R kit for £260 direct from a German supplier and delivery was around 3 days.  Extra cost for the H&R in this case seems justified.

Probably worth changing the rear drop links too (have new fronts already) and it's a choice between Lemforder or Meyle HD.  Anyone got opinions on these?

Also would like to know whether the rear anti roll bar swap is easily done on the driveway with axle stands?  The front looks simple enough but can't quite remember what I saw at the rear.  Is it worth booking a bit more ramp time?

Cheers

Edited by gchristofi

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Interestingly expensive there. I think I paid £20 for my rear 330 'vert' ARB.

I use whichever I can get at the cheapest price out of Lemforder, Meyle HD (or Febi). I think Lemforder generally offer a longer warranty though.

DIY is a bit of a pain, but totally doable. I tried (for some unknown reason!) to try and do it all from underneath the car. If I'd take taken the wheel off and gone in the side way it would have been much easier (mainly access to the bolts securing the droplinks). I wouldn't pay for ramp time, personally. (Although I say that based on the summer - in this weather, I'd not want to be doing anything outside!)

I love this sort of build though - interested to see how this goes. As you say, I can see there being a big influx of 330i/ci track cars soon enough. The saloon makes more sense for its stiffer chassis and lower purchase price too.

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Salim   

Always wanted to have a budget track car but had other priorities. I've been thinking recently that its now time and I had the same choices as you. I found this to be a very interesting read. Look forward to seeing more. 

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On 13/02/2016 at 20:20, TriggerFish said:

Interestingly expensive there. I think I paid £20 for my rear 330 'vert' ARB.

I use whichever I can get at the cheapest price out of Lemforder, Meyle HD (or Febi). I think Lemforder generally offer a longer warranty though.

DIY is a bit of a pain, but totally doable. I tried (for some unknown reason!) to try and do it all from underneath the car. If I'd take taken the wheel off and gone in the side way it would have been much easier (mainly access to the bolts securing the droplinks). I wouldn't pay for ramp time, personally. (Although I say that based on the summer - in this weather, I'd not want to be doing anything outside!)

I love this sort of build though - interested to see how this goes. As you say, I can see there being a big influx of 330i/ci track cars soon enough. The saloon makes more sense for its stiffer chassis and lower purchase price too.

TriggerFish, that does shed a different light on the costs because the best I found on the used rear ARB was £80.  Can't say I looked too far though as I was probably trying to feel a bit more comfortable paying out 260 for the H&R kit :-)   . So for used 26mm front, 20mm rear it could be £40 front + £20 rear + £80 poly bushes with a bit of patience and shopping around = £140.

Haven't had the chance to fit them yet but you're right, given the weather and what amount to mates rates, think its sensible to get back to the ramp.  Went for the Lemforder links in the end.  Around £20 the pair from Mr Auto (not in a hurry).

So far, car is going well. Managed to squeeze in an unplanned afternoon session on Silverstone yesterday.  First time there so that was a bit of a learning process but well worth a visit just to see the facilities... "The Wing" is even impressive for non F1 aficionados like myself.

 

Silverstone Opentrack.jpg

IMG_4035 (Large).JPG

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On 13/02/2016 at 21:33, Salim said:

Always wanted to have a budget track car but had other priorities. I've been thinking recently that its now time and I had the same choices as you. I found this to be a very interesting read. Look forward to seeing more. 

Hi Salim.  It's the best legal way to spend money :-)  . As mentioned earlier, the best value is buying a car already converted but there is great enjoyment to be had from making changes to a standard car and seeing what improvements they make.  Happy to share budgets and prices on the things done so far if of interest to anyone.

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Salim   

I am on a serious budget but I cannot buy an already converted car. In fact more than tracking it I want a car that I can tinker with! I've got my 330cd exactly where I want it and at this point I usually sell my cars when I have nothing else to do on them at a big loss. 

 

Edited by Salim

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Managed to fit the H&R anti-rollbars on Saturday then off to Cadwell Park to see how things would handle. Set the front fully soft and the rear fully hard in an attempt to dial out any remaining understeer. I have to say, the car was handing well before but the improvement in turn in and mid corner stability is remarkable.

I don't have much experience of Cadwell Park but was happy to end the few sessions I managed with lap times around 1m 55.

I'll see if I can post a video up at some stage. Next stop, a 4 wheel laser alignment as I have little idea what camber / caster / toe the front and rear have at the moment. I'm hoping this small investment will pay large dividends.

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Anyone got any advice for track focused geo settings?

Booked into a local(ish) outfit that offer the Hunter  4 wheel alignment service.  They are expecting me to bring some geometry specs with me.  At this stage, I have no idea how the car is set up or what the limits of adjustment are.  It's been thrown together with basic front tracking and surprised how well it drives already.  Have been trawling the internet for numbers and trying to put together a good set of starting numbers for a track focused alignment.  This is no way scientific but the broad consensus appears to be...

FRONT - negative camber 3.0 to 3.5 degrees.  Slight toe out i.e. +ve 0.25 degrees positive total. Caster approx 7-7.5 degrees positive (if possible)

REAR - negative camber 2.0 degrees.  Slight toe in i.e. -ve 0.3 degrees total.

Apparently, these camber settings are too high for general road use but good for track days.

Any opinions or experiences gratefully received.  If it helps, car is running square tyre setup, 245 35 18 Fedral 595 rsr, H&R anti roll bars, front full soft, rear full hard.  Lowered on coilovers.

Edited by gchristofi

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avalaugh   

If you've not got coil overs with adjustable camber plates your pretty limited.

Are you on stock top mounts ?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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R11CH   
40 minutes ago, avalaugh said:

If you've not got coil overs with adjustable camber plates your pretty limited.

Are you on stock top mounts ?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Looking through his list he has coilovers and adjustable top mounts.

With them specs above the car will be a mare on the road but not a bad starting point for the track. My track civic had 3.5 front and 2.5 rear, toe out front and rear with adjustable arbs etc etc it use to drag me everywhere coupled with the diff dragging the car about as well it made for interesting journeys on the road.

Standard my 325ci is:

negative 0.54 front (knocked the pins out the standard top mounts)

Caster 5.22

1.0mm toe out

negative 1.3 rear camber

1.2mm toe in

So limited with the stock running gear but then this is just for the road.

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2 hours ago, R11CH said:

Looking through his list he has coilovers and adjustable top mounts.

With them specs above the car will be a mare on the road but not a bad starting point for the track. My track civic had 3.5 front and 2.5 rear, toe out front and rear with adjustable arbs etc etc it use to drag me everywhere coupled with the diff dragging the car about as well it made for interesting journeys on the road.

Standard my 325ci is:

negative 0.54 front (knocked the pins out the standard top mounts)

Caster 5.22

1.0mm toe out

negative 1.3 rear camber

1.2mm toe in

So limited with the stock running gear but then this is just for the road.

Well spotted, have adjustable top mounts but no idea what they are capable of achieving... 

Thanks for the info.  Gives me and idea of what standard looks like and how far I might deviate from that if possible.  Willing to sacrifice on road comfort for a bit of extra track performance.  Hoping to head back to Cadwell end of the week after alignment so it will give me the opportunity to directly compare the benefit (or otherwise!) of the changes. :-)

IMG_3785 (Medium).JPG

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Long overdue update from me.... Had the geo set up done and got pretty close to the numbers posted above... Only problem was that the the hunter machines sensors could not take a caster measurement as the car was too low and the sensors hit the arches as moved....

6 track days done so far and the car has been excellent.  Been through a couple of sets of pads and some front discs but the Federals are holding up well.  I'm gradually stripping weight from the car as time and weather allows.  Thought it might be interesting (maybe?) to weight each item that comes off the car.  Interesting to add up the total savings but also may be useful for others when deciding weather it's worthwhile removing certain items....  Still a long way to go, including front seats , roof lining, window motors etc etc but here's the list of weight reduction so far. 

WEIGHT REDCUTION

KG ITEM
8.5
Padding and soundproofing under rear seat
7.4
Rear parcel shelf, padding, speakers and c post trim
3.2
Middle console, rear ashtray and armrest. 
1.5
Plastic sill trims and b post lower plastic  panels
5
Rear door cards and isofix brackets
2.2
Secondary air pump and bracket, not valve yet
9.5
Rear fitted carpet and padding /foam
0.9
Rear plastic trim in boot
5.4
Boot carpets and carpet mouldings (not including floor board) 
3
Boot floor board / spare wheel cover
0.9
Boot plastic battery cover and lhs tray
6.9
Spare wheel, jack, chock and plastic cover
0.4
Under bonnet soundproof pad
13.8
Rear cloth seats back and bench
2
Engine under tray
3.1
Front and rear floor mats 
4
Boot cd changer and bracket
   
77.7 TOTAL SO FAR

 

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Had a couple more evenings at track and the weight reduction is beginning to tell, if nowhere else, then in the excellent mpg I get driving to and from the tracks.  (I've even put in a bit of effort on driver weight and lost 6 kg in time for summer ;-)  ).  

A visit to Snetterton 300 saw the car put in a 2.26  lap tme.  6 seconds faster than the previous visit in similar conditions. I think the majority of which is  down to the uprated H&R anti roll bars.  Nice to see some return for the money.  A trip to Brands Indy saw me just under 1.01 , I could have gone faster if I grew some cohones through paddock hill bend so I think there's better to come.  I would post videos that I have but very shaky mount syndrome persists.  Hope to resolve this when stripping the headlining and looking for a better mount point.

Next up, thinking of fitting 1 or 2 Corbeau club sport seats.  They get great reviews and apparently weigh in at around 8kg.  Anyone fitted these? Is it possible without a custom fabricated e46 seat frame?  Can I salvage parts from my outgoing grey cloth seats to use?

Also thinking about stripping the front footwell carpets but the floor underneath is convoluted and something would need to replace the carpet / foam.  Anyone done this DIY?

:rolleyes:

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I had a pair of corbeau Clubsport XL's in my previous John cooper works & i loved them! a little bit wobbly/flimsy if you a bit bigger. But very comfy!!

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1 hour ago, LJColeman said:

I had a pair of corbeau Clubsport XL's in my previous John cooper works & i loved them! a little bit wobbly/flimsy if you a bit bigger. But very comfy!!

Sounds like another happy customer, will be going for XL too.  Hopefully they weren't so wobbly that they didn't support you properly around corners?  

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3 hours ago, gchristofi said:

Sounds like another happy customer, will be going for XL too.  Hopefully they weren't so wobbly that they didn't support you properly around corners?  

No they were absolutely fine in that respect, It was only when i watched my in car Go pro footage back that i could see how much they flexed. Couldnt feel it when sat in the seat tho!

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R11CH   

Got a Corbeau club sport in my track civic for passenger laps, bloody good seat for the price and not much heavier than my kevlar cobra suzuka.

20150328_151800_zps5qne2lvy.jpg

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Thanks for the positive info on the seats.

I uploaded a couple of videos to YouTube hoping their fix tools might help with the wobbly footage.  It's helped a bit.  Here's a couple of links. 

Brands Hatch

 

 

Snetterton

 

Edited by gchristofi

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Another good day at Bedford Southwest and another second off the lap time.  It has highlighted though, the bang I get from the rear when changing gear in anger!   Next on the list then, change the 4 subframe carrier and 3 diff bushes... something I was hoping to hold off for a while longer.

On the quest for some performance value from this job, have bought a 3.38 diff (to replace 2.93) which should add a bit of pep for a small outlay.  Will also take the opportunity to install some adjustable rear camber arms whilst the diff is removed.

I hope the lower final gearing should knock a few seconds off all the lap times.  Yes, there will be the occasional extra change up required but hoping this will be more than offset by the extra acceleration in every gear.  Will report back once the job is done and I get the chance to re visit some of the circuits I've done already. :-)

Edited by gchristofi
typos

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Edges   

Love reading this! I'm talking a friend into this sort of thing with me! Personally don't see the point in camber arms if you already got about -2 rear anyway? You don't want any more than that I wouldn't have thought because then you're losing traction. As much as I love to see m sport bumpers etc, se spec much easier and cheaper to find if you brake something! Cracking thread though. As far as front alignment goes, I've been playing with it on my daily 325, track day tyres with FK coilovers. I found about 1mm toe in worked much better than any toe out. And if you can, as much caster as possible. No need to measure, just as far as it'll go. My experience on 595 rsr tyres is they love camber on the front. But at abou 3.5 think you probably got it right 

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