Wednesday, November 11, 2020

[meta] The backlog trap


In fairness, I did acknowledge in the very first paragraph of this blog that there was a real risk that I wouldn't keep up with it for more than a couple of months. Also to my credit, it appears that I kept up with it for THREE months! 

What happened? Well, I wrote some entries, and generally did a good job keeping up with what was going on with my cars, until I didn't anymore. I went to a meet, or some group drive, and when I got home I was tired. I didn't want to take the time to edit photos and write it up right then. Maybe in a couple days. And then I did something else with cars, and suddenly I had twice as much to write about. On and on, and the backlog grew into something unmanageable. I have a graveyard of 'draft' posts, including some opinion/reflection pieces that I think grew too large and put me off of writing. I didn't want to write things out of order in a time-based blog, so I let it go.

Even so, I have to admit that I'm embarrassed it's been nothing since April of last year. We're looking at over 18 months of negligence. So much negligence, that I look at my list of cars in the "build threads" widget and two of the cars have graduated to "sold" status. (I am going to update that list in a minute, so for posterity, the last time I had an entry I still had my 2002tii and the Miata. Those have been sold to happy new homes, and I hope to share those stories) In the same vein, a new car has entered the chat the garage and I've got plenty to share about it.

Now I have to figure out how to get this thing back on track. I just did some testing and it looks like it is possible to set custom publication dates for posts, which is handy. Most of the content I want to share has been generated, but it's been posted elsewhere. Hopefully I can cross-post it back to this website, with the correct dates pulled from those other locations, and the blog here can serve as a central hub. I won't be able to capture everything so easily, but I will get a large chunk that way, so I am encouraged. I will probably put some type of [indicator] in the posts that are being inserted back in the past, to avoid confusing those who thought they were up to date. 

That is, of course, assuming that someone out there is reading. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

[M3] Visiting HMB Motorwerks and Lachs reunion

[note: this post, like an air-cooled 911, is back-dated to when these events occurred] 

Today I found myself near Sacramento to meet some friends, and something was rattling around in my brain... don't I have something else going on in Sacramento...? 

I got Josh on the phone and he welcomed me in at HMB to see the shop and how my car is doing. I haven't actually been out to see Josh's operation, when the car was ready he happened to be near SF so he simply drove my car back. (it's about 2h inland for those not familiar with the geography)

Josh has a great reception area. My CF plenum is currently serving as decoration.

He led me back into the garage and there was my car! And 5 other E30 M3s as well! (I won't post photos of those, not mine to share)

I had genuinely forgotten how nice my car looks. Haha. Front end is sitting a bit high though...

Oh, right.

LS swap! Nah, just kidding.

Over on the bench, my block. Next to that, a shelf full of bits that go in, on, and around my engine.

We are waiting for the JE pistons at this point, the ETA is a week from today. When they arrive, the block will go out to be bored and Josh can turn the corner from disassembly to reassembly. He's going to vapor hone the aluminum components for a squeaky clean end result. I also have a fresh coolant bottle so the sad brown original one won't crash the party under the hood.

I do have a spare valve cover, once this all done and dusted I will give some thought to a treatment other than the OEM wrinkle black. I can't decide if it would be too much, we'll see.

If you looked at a couple of these photos and thought, wait, that ugly silver one looks familiar... you're right! That's my old project Lachs car! Funny to have them both parked side by side in the same place. I sold that car to a friend, who sent it to Josh for an S54 swap. Having spent that October weekend with my dad's E46 M3, I imagine that will be a really fantastic combination.

Thank you Josh for humoring me and letting me kick around the shop and take photos. I could have spent all day there poking around with all the S14 engine internals. I can't wait for the end result of this build! It will be worth the effort.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

[Event] BMW CCA Foundation Fest 2020

[note: this post, like an air-cooled 911, is back-dated to when these events occurred] 

[also note: I have condensed multiple forum posts into this entry, please forgive awkward transitions]

A couple of weeks ago I flew home to Atlanta to see my parents and attend the BMW CCA foundation fest event in South Carolina. We'd been planning to attend the Vintage - my second time, having flown out for that event in 2017 - but it was canceled, only after I'd booked my flight. Thankfully the BMW CCA stepped in and put together an event called the "Foundation Fest" at their headquarters, adjacent to the BMW Spartanburg factory and performance driving center, for the same weekend. Dad and I signed up online and decided to take both of his BMWs.

This was my first time flying since the pandemic started, and I wasn't sure what to expect. In fact I think this is the longest I've gone without flying in my adult life. The round-trip ticket with Southwest from San Jose to Atlanta was an unbelievable $258, a price I don't expect to ever see again. Southwest is keeping their middle seats open through the end of November and I found the whole experience to be about as good as it can be. Everyone had their masks on and kept their distance, and it was all uneventful. I felt safe.

Greenville is a brief rip up I-85 from Atlanta, but what's the fun in that? We took the long way up through the mountains, passing through Highlands and Cashiers in North Carolina before diving back down into South Carolina. 

Dad's 2002 is fresh off of a body refurb and full paint, looking better than ever. He and my mom tucked into the old timer while I drove the E46, top down the whole way. The weather was fantastic and we were able to enjoy the fall colors. 

It's been a very long time since I've been up in the Cashiers area. Looking at the map, I thought that at 3pm on a Thursday we'd have sweeping mountain roads all to ourselves. Unfortunately, the reality turned out to be mostly new SUVs on Florida plates lumbering around under the speed limit. Bummer. I pulled off to give myself a bit of a buffer and used the opportunity to snap some photos of the M3. To me, the phoenix yellow MAKES this car. If it were silver it would have a totally different feel to it, but there is something about the bright color that gives it personality.

My stopping also gave mom and dad a chance to catch up. 

Things improved when we turned south from Brevard on 276 and went through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. We were mercifully unimpeded for most of the run.

We rolled into the Hyatt Regency in Greenville just before dark on Thursday night. I don't think I've ever been to Greenville before, it's a nice little downtown.

On Friday morning we drove the 17 or so miles east out of Greenville, meeting up at the BMW CCA Foundation building. If you’re not familiar with the area (I wasn’t), it’s all in very close proximity: the huge BMW factory, the BMW Performance Center, the CCA headquarters, and the CCA foundation building are all clustered together. At the factory they build the X (SUV) line of vehicles; at the performance center they do driving schools and new vehicle deliveries; at the CCA foundation building they have a museum space, where the “Genesis” exhibit is currently running. We didn’t really know what to expect from the whole weekend, not having seen any notable BMWs on the way in to town, so it was a nice surprise to find a few dozen exciting bimmers parked in the grass.

The keen-eyed among you may recognize the red M3 as Michael Washington’s. I introduced myself and it was a pleasure to meet him after seeing his name on the SIG, FB, and on the forums through the years.

After checking in at the foundation and grabbing a bite to eat, we drove next door to the performance center for an autocross event that the CCA had arranged. A $70 donation netted 7 runs on the course that they'd set up on the north end of the main track area in their M240i fleet. 

This turned out to be a bit more serious an event than I'd anticipated. There was a big crowd interested in trying their luck behind the wheel. Every red-blooded driving enthusiast, no matter how much we posture or joke about driving skill, gets competitive when a stopwatch is introduced. The course was arranged so that everyone waiting their turn watched everyone as they drove, and front and center was a timer to provide immediate judgment on your driving prowess. Trial by fire! 

The cars were pretty new M240is with automatic transmissions. Rules dictated that the cars had to remain in Sport mode with traction systems in place. I spent my first few passes learning the course and found that the biggest hinderance to a fast time was the traction control system - upset it, and the motor bogs down and your quick run is toast. I ended up pretty satisfied with my time, I think something like a 23.5 against the best time (at least while I was there) of around 22.9. Ironically the prize for best time of the day is a day of performance driving school... in theory awarded to the person who needs it the least! Ha.

With that out of the system, we returned to the Foundation building for our scheduled viewing time for the Genesis exhibit. They had time slots set up to keep capacity at healthy levels. I have to admit that I am pretty ignorant when it comes to pre-war cars, and also under-informed when it comes to BMWs made before the 2002. But it was enjoyable to step back into the coach build era, where every car was a one-off in its own way. It was also a real pleasure to finally meet Dirk de Groen, president of the BMW Classic Car Club of America (CCCA, different from CCA). I've corresponded with him and provided photos to his magazine over the years but this was my first time actually meeting him in person. Super nice guy. He had two cars in the exhibit, the white 328 and the blue/yellow 315 as well.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see Steve Walker's 700 on display. 

I also peeked behind the curtain at some of their museum items in the storage area.

I was impressed by the foundation's assembly of these unique vehicles from all over the country. I think they've produced an online version of the tour to make it more accessible to everyone in 2020. Worth seeing it in person if you're able to make it!

On our way back toward the hotel, we detoured to the BMW Zentrum as they would not be open on Saturday. I couldn't resist putting the cars in front of the building for a few photos.

I guess the Zentrum is a museum of sorts? They had the first car built on a pilot line at this factory (the E36) and some other vehicles that were built here as well.

This very tidy white M3 was there, not quite stock though - 16" wheels, some racy stripes, exhaust.

If I remember the placard correctly this was the last M Coupe built. I quite like it in white with the M flag decals. It's pointless to make the claim now, but I promise, I always thought the wide-hipped M coupe was amazing even when everyone else thought it was awkward. Unfortunately now everyone agrees with me and they're $$$.

This was the rather uninspiring "made here at the factory" portion of the exhibit... though to be fair, I would like to try one of the new M SUVs.

We made our way back to Greenville with the Friday evening traffic. On Saturday morning we returned to the BMW hub, this time for the Cars and Coffee put on at the BMW CCA headquarters.

I warned my dad but he didn't listen: "If you don't want to talk about your car all morning, you better step away from the car." Something I practice with the Skyline. But he didn't, and so he was there chatting with people for a couple hours. To be fair though, he was enjoying himself and meeting nice new people. His 02 received some really nice compliments and that's always fulfilling.

There were two E30 M3s in attendance, unfortunately I did not get to meet either of the owners. Both red. The first was this absolutely pristine car, which according to Facebook is owned by Brian H and fresh off of a 3-year restoration. He had so many great parts all the way down to the license plate!

The other car, also red, was set up on these beefy HRE wheels.

Here's an original owner 1602 to finish off the photos from the C&C event.

For the drive home, we decided to try a different route. I was nosing around on Google maps when a name caught my eye. Pumpkintown. And just down the road from that - Salem. What better destinations for the week before Halloween? So we set the GPS and it wound up being a really nice route through farmland and smaller roads. I think both the M3 convertible and the 2002 were in their element on these sweeping, quiet lanes.


Pumpkintown, as it turns out, is the intersection of two small roads. There's a Dollar Tree on one side and the Pumpkintown General Store on the other. Best food in town! In my head I was planning a really nice photo of both cars posed in front of the building, instead it was busy with a Saturday lunch rush.

Salem had a bit more going on, but... not much on this particular day. 

We laced our way around and across Lake Keowee before rejoining the larger roads on the final stretch home. At this point driving fatigue was starting to set in from a busy weekend and I stopped snapping photos. About 30 minutes from home the heavens opened up and were doused with rain. I was lucky to be able to pull over beneath a conveniently-placed overpass and put the roof up before I got soaked. 

Here's roundie rolling down the driveway, having safely completed the 500-mile trip without one hiccup. Both cars performed flawlessly, in fact. We'd talked about swapping seats for different driving legs but in the end dad wheeled the 2002 the whole way and I enjoyed the E46.

The M3 convertible is extremely well-suited for this type of travel, and it was affirming to experience it myself. It's not the car I would buy for myself, right now, based on the way I like to drive - aggressive windy roads mainly - but as a long-distance GT it was a great place to be. The S54's induction noise comes to you from all directions with the roof down, it has heated seats, cruise control, and modern conveniences, the ride is comfortable (at least compared to my own cars). The seats didn't tire me at all. I did subject it to "my style" of driving when we found the clear twisty roads. The run-flat tires and 300 lbs. extra of the convertible don't do it any favors, and it certainly doesn't grip like my E30, but it was still enjoyable despite the lower performance threshold, if that makes sense. Yes it rolled a bit, and the grip was lower, but it still had the excellent steering feel and dynamic experience I'm used to from my cars and my old E90. The motor is also so enjoyable to use, linear and ready to roll all the way out to 8k. No wonder so many people drop them into our E30s, I'd love to try one in a light car.

To wrap up the trip, the 2002 took me to Mellow Mushroom to pick up dinner. It's like reuniting with an old friend!

Thanks for following along if you read all this. All the car stuff is fun but at the end of the day it was all about spending time with my parents. That's what cars do for me, for my life... they open up all these awesome adventures and opportunities to spend time with loved ones, friends, and new friends. Go for a road trip!