Wes’s Secondhand Bimmer


When is a beater not just a beater?  When it is your hobby, your project, and your passion.  We got in touch with our buddy Wes recently to ask some questions about his Bimmer beater. Wes has been working on this BMW for while now, slowly improving it over time and fixing mistakes that the previous owner has made; hoping to make it a prestine example of what an E30 should be.  As comes with fixing up any second hand car there were bound to be some obstacles and stories. This is a clean Bimmer, because even pretty cars can be beaters too! Here’s Wes’s Secondhand Bimmer:


When did you get your beater?
When did I get a beater? I have always had a beater. I prefer buying used cars and naturally you can get used cars cheaper when they also need work. My biggest problem with buying cars is not buying for what it is but what I see that I can turn that car into. My current car, which I have tons of plans for and don’t plan on backing out on is my 1989 BMW 325i (E30 chassis). I bought the car a little over a year ago after selling my mk4 VW GTI, I knew I wanted an E30 and set out to find one as local to me as possible and as clean as possible within my price range. Sadly, there wasn’t a whole lot of E30’s for sale at the time and went after what I could get. So, I ended up buying this one for $2300 and lots of work to be had. Upon purchase I already knew that the front end was slightly wreck, more cosmetic than anything, and really needed a tune up and new interior.

Driving home with one of my friend following, we learned the rear end was way out of wack, the car had been drifted into a curb and bent the subframe, wheels, and a trailing arm. New subframe and left side trailing arm, and set of wheels later it was back on the road, long enough for me to spend the rest of my money from my VW on a friend’s hardly used set of K-Sport coil overs, new brakes all around, poly motor and trans mounts, and stainless brake lines. At this point I realized this was going to be a fun car and one I would keep for a long time. At this point in time I have a lot of time and money into and am pretty happy with it, even if I know there is a long way to go until it is “finished”.  12662433_914741085312938_6507748843452327044_n         12107840_855144967939217_1144382222348603848_n

Currently the car has a fresh M50B25 engine swap matched with a zf320 transmission, Aasco lightweight flywheel, PMC Motorsports shifter, CX Racing radiator, K-Sport coilovers, Porsche 944 brake booster, Porsche 986 front seats (with power), “clean” rear black back seat from a 318i, fully rebuilt gauge cluster using parts from (@e30dad a guy I met on instagram), set of 17″ Enkei Racing wheels with 205/45/17 tires (cheap Nankangs) fully adjustable subframe powdercoated by Element Powdercoats.

The next things to come is a full 5 lug swap, new set of K-Sports, 2 piece BBS RC090 that I have been refinishing, and 4 piston Brembos from a Porsche 986. After that it will be time to save up for the next motor which will be an s52 from a late model e36m3 and of course, PAINT.


What do you like about your beater?

I like just about everything about my beater. It handles great, looks OK, I actually get compliments and thumbs up from time to time. It is a comfortable car, small but roomy for a 2 door, and over all its a pretty unique classic car especially after I’m done with it.

What do you dislike about your beater?
I don’t think I really have any dislikes about it other that it takes ALL of my money. Its not necessarily hard to keep running but it is hard to keep my foot out of the gas pedal along with always trying to add something to make more power. I ended up doing the M50 swap a month and a half after adding bigger injectors, a tune, and full exhaust to the factory M20. Turns out it wasn’t in good enough shape for that so ended up ruining that motor and needing a replacement promptly. 

What is the funniest thing that has happened in it? Has it ever broken down on you someplace unpleasant/sketchy?

I can answer these two at the same time. After a trip visiting my home town (Williams, AZ) 3.5 hours from where I live now (Mesa, AZ), I got on the highway for a fun spirited drive home. Leaving town, it felt like my foot was getting wet, but didn’t last long so I just brushed it off. Well, the temperature difference between northern Arizona and southern/central Arizona are pretty drastic during the summer. So, about and hour from my house I feel that wet feeling again, except it was really REALLY HOT! Turns out my heater core from 1989 finally had it and cracked open spraying my right foot with boiling coolant. Luckily I was coming up to a rest stop of I-17, managed to dance with the gas pedal and boiling water enough to get into the rest stop. Now stopped and an hour from my house I had to figure out how to use the old worn out rubber hoses to loop the heater circuit.

Well after it bursting and me realizing what happened, biggest thing was how do I get to the rest stop. I had to keep kicking the gas pedal and pulling my foot away to keep from burning my foot but still be able to drive it in. Once I got in and got parked first thing I did was call my boss and see if he had ever messed with the cooling system in an E30 and tell me the best way to fix it. Unfortunately he didn’t so I hung up, he hopped on his computer to start to Google around, while I did the same on my phone along with posting on some of the forums Facebook pages.  I managed to find a decent diagram on how the heater core lines routed.1653957_723167154470333_3082849171448292630_n

I popped my hood to start looking at how it all fit, it was all a tight, hard to get to mess. So with it being roughly 110° F outside with a hot engine bay I got my screw driver out and worked on getting the hose clamps undone. Luckily, once the lines were off they were bent in the right shapes to be able to remove one and attach the other to where it removed. Getting clamps back on, was probably the hardest part and took probably the longest. All in all it probably took a little over an hour, which was miserable in the heat, along with being low on coolant and not having any decent water to put into the system.

Called my boss, let him know I got it looped and hopped back on the highway and drove as quickly as I could hoping there wasn’t going to be any traffic that was going to cause me to have to stop. Pulling in my driveway was probably the best feeling that day.  It made it home and didn’t overheat. That was the one and really only day that it would have left me stranded anywhere and for some reason I also found it amusing being I should have checked that when I had first felt the wet feeling on my foot.

Have you been on any road trips?
No big road trips yet, it takes all of my money preventing me from taking road trips. Although I do definitely plan on it in the next couple years or possibly sooner.


What is the weirdest thing you’ve had to fix or take it to the mechanic for?
I wouldn’t say there was anything necessarily weird that I have ever had to fix, just a lot of things the previous owner had done that made me question why they even thought it was a good idea to work on cars. One good example of that is my sunroof ,which I have yet to decide on how to fix, has been deleted using some galvanized metal sheet, lots of RTV and expanding foam. Can you can believe that? Along with the white vinyl with black diamond stitched interior, which I got rid of as quickly as possible, and the horribly executed single stage repaint.


Was There anytime during the build that made you laugh or was a particular pain in the butt?
Definitely! That would go back to putting a ton of work into my M20. It sucked getting my valve cover and intake powder coated, putting the bigger injectors in, the tune, exhaust, new starter, new clutch, and a bunch of other very specific-to-that-engine and not very cheap pieces and parts; and to basically destroy the motor within 2 months and have to do a motor swap to keep it alive.11101246_753850554735326_2412661219058910090_n

Saab Story

I’m currently working on a series of essays that explore why it’s the oddball cars that are the best.  It’s the wallflowers that you really want. In the series are a bunch of analogies to supermodels and how they’re great for a quick ride around the block (see what I did there?) but, in the end, it’s the girl next door, the cute one that always been there, that you want to marry.  She’s reliable, understanding, your parents love her, yadda-yadda etc. I’ll stop there in case I use one of them for a later post.  You know, no spoilers right?

One of these wallflower cars that I spend some time talking about is Saab.  Yes, Saab.  I like a little bit of quirk; a little bit of different in my routine every now and then keeps life interesting. I think Saab did that for the auto industry, it added a little something interesting.  They did things their own way, like an ignition switch in the center console instead of the steering column or dash, or that whole early 2-stroke phase. This Saab, belonging to long-time friend Jim, is one of those cars that does things a little left of center.

I think one of the first actual conversations I had with Jim, while we were both living in Connecticut and working at Lime Rock Park, had something to do with Saabs and Volvos being underrated and under-appreciated.  Sure, they aren’t sexy but they’re fun and well, they can really move!  This week Jim was kind enough to tell us a little bit about his beater.  A car that, as long as I’ve known it hasn’t been the most reliable thing on the road, but it might possibly be one of the most interesting and unique things on four wheels. It definitely comes with its own unique personality.



I have a 1994 Saab 900se. 2.0 turbo w/ a 5-speed gearbox. 1994 was the first model 90 after GM acquired Saab and also the last year of the classic 900. Because of that, it was incredibly difficult to buy parts for my car back in 2011-2012. Parts stores would think I had a classic 900 or they would tell me my car didn’t exist. That problem has long been resolved thanks to Eeuroparts.com. They are a great parts supplier for German cars based out of my home state of Connecticut.

I bought the Saab in October of 2011 for $2600. I don’t remember the mileage it had, but if I had to guess then it would be 100,000 miles. I bought it from a guy in Massachusetts who bought it at an auction. I bought the car because no one I know had a Saab, and well because it was turbocharged (who doesn’t want a turbo?).

I didn’t have it barely even a month before I had to replace a transmission mount that split in half. After I fixed that I went to a Volkswagen and Audi event in New Jersey called WaterFest. The drive there was nice and smooth, but the drive back was a nightmare. The car was stuttering and wanting to shut off under load. Then when I shut the car off at a gas station, it did not want to start back up. I was 2 hours from home and did not have money for a tow. I waited 30 mins and luckily she fired back up. I didn’t want to break down on the interstate so a 2-hour drive on the interstate ended up becoming a 4-1/2 hour  backroad drive

As soon as I made it home I hit the forums hard. I got a bunch of answers on what it could be but no one was close on the issue. It ended up being a crank position sensor. That was my worst memory with the car.”


“My best moment with the car would have to be when my friend  (and Beater Life contributor) Dakota and I went to the Tail of the Dragon up by Deal’s Gap just to drive around, have some fun in our cars and then go home.

The thing I like the most about the Saab would have to be that it stays fun to drive and it is a car you don’t see often. It being a car from the north, it has seen a lot of winter driving. So there is rust and spots of rot in the underside and the chassis isn’t in the best of conditions.

Every time I meet someone new and they ask about my car or get in my car. They either don’t know what it is or they look at the center console and say, ‘Wow that is where your key goes in? That is so weird.’  It’s pretty funny




WE NEED YOUR STORIES!!! Send your stories and some pics about your everyday cars to: BeaterLifeBlog@gmail.com.   If we like it. We’ll feature it!