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Project: Gurken

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  • Project: Gurken

    So since MIVE is back I figured it would be good to "start" a project thread and show what it took to get Project Gurken to where it is today. I worked on the project with my Dad and his shop Classic Car Garage in Greenville. They did a lot of the custom work required for the build and used their experience on multiple LS swaps to make this a successful build right out of the gate.

    So this project idea kinda came out of the blue. I had a small project fun car in a 1990 Miata that I enjoyed but it wasn't the best for being a single parent and putting a car seat in and out of. So I just wasn't getting the use out of it that I wanted So I surfed the interwebs for something more practical. I always wanted an E30, but I wanted something that would stand out from the crowd a bit.

    And this is what I ended up with. A 1991 325i Touring M Tech Automatic. I found this car on AutoTrader from a dealer in Florida. The car is originally from Japan (LHD thankfully) and was already titled in the US so it was all set to go. What made me decide on this car was A) the condition, being mostly flawless paint and super low miles at 63k. B) I loved the color and it really made the car stand out. Here's some pics the day I got it (Mar 28 2017) and a comparison to my R. Kind of crazy how big the R looks compared to the tiny E30

    So the LS swap idea came from that I happened to have a donor car "lying" around in a 1998 Pontiac Trans Am. The car was high miles but had a 1 year old rebuilt T56 trans (As some may know T56 trans are a bit on the spendy side) and was 1 owner well maintained from a family member.

    Starting the build would be to decide on which swap kit to use and start ordering all the parts required for the swap. I decided on the Sikky kit, which if I had to do again knowing all that I know now I would have pieced together my own kit. The one advantage of the Sikky kit is they sold a hydroboost brake booster to still have power brakes, opposed to most swaps going full manual. I wanted this car to be a comfortable dailyable cruiser so keeping all the 1991 "amenities" including AC/power brakes/windows/heat etc was required.

    Getting started with build was remove the LS1 from the TA and getting the engine ready for the swap. Here she is out of the TA in all it's LS glory. This was after cleaning off many miles of grime and dirt.

    I decided on rebuilding the top end of the engine while not touching the bottom. After cleaning up it was time to tear down and start replacing the top end bits. For cam I wanted something that was mild to still get a good idle and gas mileage while still moving the power band up so I can rev it to 6500RPM. I decided on a Lingefelter GT2-3 207/220 duration @ .050 lift -.571/.578 lift with 1.7 rocker 118.5 CL. For the valve springs I'm using Lingefelter Single Beehive springs. For the rocker arms, one common weak point is the trunion bearing of the rocker. Stock they have very tiny needle bearings to work like a hybrid roller rocker. These can fail and cause quite the havoc. I replaced these with a bronze bushing upgrade kit. Also done was new valve seals.

    During the upper end rebuild we replaced with new OEM parts the oil pump, water pump, timing chain, lifters, push rods, and all the OEM replacement hardware to go with those parts. Here it is put back together with the custom "7 quart" sikky oil pan.

    I wanted the engine to look OEM+ as possible and also try to hide the dirtyish aluminum. So I decided on satin black for the engine.

    Next step was mounting the exhaust manifolds (Hooker Cast Iron) and Sikky engine brackets and mounts (These mounts were complete garb. Crazy stiff and were swapped out later).

    With the LS ready to go in it was time to pull the straight 6 out. Crazy how heavy that cast iron engine is. No wonder the swap only adds about 80lbs from a stock setup.

    And here is the first attempt at setting the engine in place. No major body mods were needed for fitment, other than a BFH to the tunnel. You can see how tight it is in the trans tunnel. As you can see the Driver side manifold blocks the steering shaft. Thanks to my Dad's ability to never throw anything away we were able to search through his parts bin and find a manifold that worked perfectly. It was off of 2008 GTO 6.0L LS2. (Not Shown).

    The next big hurdle after making clearance in the trans tunnel was getting the hydroboost fitted. This was a laborious process with the booster coming in and out multiple times. Just like with every aftermarket product nothing is ever "bolt in". Here you can see the tight clearance from the valve cover to the booster.

    Now I'm missing a lot of pics from the one shown below, but in that process was hooking of the hydro boost/power steering pump to the steering rack. The fitting included with the Sikky kit to the rack was also garbage. The o-ring design the opted for was very finicky and leaked. It required the perfect preload of the o-ring to not leak. Once "properly" assembled it hasn't leaked to this day. Other updates to this pic was the installation of the wiring harness. I went with Wiring Specialties E30 harness. I was very happy with this product. It uses OEM connectors and does a good job of hiding the wires whenever possible. It plugs into the E30 body harness and allows for the factory cluster to be used. With this harness the OEM LS ECM is used and that was mounted behind the glove box. This is really why everyone does swaps with LS engines. Being able to keep the OEM engine management with factory MAF is far superior to any aftermarket speed density system. Sure you need to get it properly tuned on a dyno after the fact, but power/driveablity/tunability can't be topped. Also in this picture is AC/Heater/Radiator and plumbing required.

    Now with everything plumbed/wired on the top side it was time to take care of the exhaust. CCG fabbed up a custom exhaust with a single Magnaflow muffler to start. This was as expected incredibly loud.

    The fix was adding two resonators and a H Pipe that really smoothed out the exhaust and nearly got rid of drone. Also added was two flex pipes for vibration reduction, cause you know daily...

    With the exhaust it was finally time to start it. Here's video of one of the first fires.

    With the car running it was time to tackle the suspension. I went with K Sport Weld in coilovers all around. E30s are funky in that the strut is welded to the kunckle. So we had to cut the old strut out and weld in the new coilover. Also nice on these coil overs is height is adjusted independent of the spring on the front allowing for good travel and ride comfort.

    Here it is sitting outside for the first time in a few months.

    After the swap I was curious of the weight change. So here are some corner weights (no hood) after the swap was complete. Should be just shy of 3000lbs all said and done. (suspension height was pretty rough at this point)



    With everything buttoned up it went to a tuner in Saranac for dyno tuning. Unfortunately during the tune we didn't realize the engine was 1.5 quarts over filled with oil. The Sikky dipstick with the kit was not even close. After taking some measurements we remade the correct dipstick marks and corrected the oil fill issue.

    Here it is "done" and home for the first time in awhile. Got it finished a couple days before the GAS open house in August. Now it was running and driving and reliable it was far away from being complete.

    Little addition to give a hint whats inside...

    Video For Fun

    So after driving the car for about a month I decided my wheel choice wasn't really the best. The Keskins I had were pretty beat, didnt hold air and were bent. I also didn't think it fit the cars theme. So after some search I found some Rota Recce 17x8 et25 wheels. I knew it was going to tight fitting these but figured it was worth a try cause I really liked the look.

    Time to get them mounted.

    Initial fitment... This is with 5mm spacer. Damn E30 struts

    But they fit!

    After this the car sat for most of the winter untouched until around Jan. From this time I was running on the stock open diff. I purchased a used LSD off ebay and tried it but unfortunately it was shot. But the good news is it basically paid for my core charge for a full rebuilt one from Diffsonline. I went with 4.10 ratio with upgraded 3 clutch LSD. This ratio is perfect with the T56 and puts me at 2000rpm at 70 but then nice close ratio for acceleration.

    Also on the diff swap we wanted to fix some other vibration issues. Another problem with the Sikky kit is they didn't really think about driveshaft angle or pinon angle for the install. After some measuring we found the pinion angle to be tilted down 3 degrees too much thus created our vibration. The reason its 3 degrees down was due to a spacer added to the front of the diff mount to create clearance for the 1 piece driveshaft to the body. The fix was to lower the rear diff mount to fix the angle. Also during this time, swapped out all the rubber on the rear cradle and susp.

    With the rear end fixed and susp dialed in time to get an alignment at GAS

    Now with some miles breaking in the Diff it was finally time to readdress the tune. I brought the car to Andrew's Auto in Hudsonville per good reviews from my Dad and online. He took a baseline and found the car to be running excessively rich at 11:1 at WOT. The baseline power at the wheels was around 310whp. After some tuning and leaning it out he got some impressive gains with power going to 348whp @ 6050 rpm and torque to 340wtq @4800 RPM. Sorry for the potato quality pics but here is before and after curve.

    From the tune it defiantly feels more lively and the low end power was a big improvement.

    Here are some other details I've been working on this spring.

    New Renown Motorsport wheel (Cluster is out for refurb currently)

    Custom Coil covers painted by Classic Car Garage and addition of Garagistic strut bar.

    Garagistic Lower X brace and showing the flex pipes.

    I missed a ton of details but if you have questions let me know! That's it for now but I'll continue to update as I optimize!
    -Matt- 2011 VW GTI - 1946 Chevy Pickup

  • #2
    That?s a great project. Love it
    '98 Beetle: PURPLE ---'03 Jetta TDI: my new daily --'01 GTI VR6: my new toy --'75 CB550F: Cafe Frankenbike ---'82 XV920: The Cruiser ---'99 Ninja 250 ---'00 KLR685


    • #3
      I've seen just a couple o the pictures on the face space, glad there's a much more detailed project thread for this. This thing is badass!
      90 Audi Coupe Quattro 20vt
      08 VW Touareg - VR6


      • #4
        Too cool..I can has ride?
        '93steVoR6 : '92SLd : '90g6d : '58 gypsi : '59scab : '60dlx
        >> VAG-COM & Tow Dolly For Rent <<
        Parting Out: MK3s, Passats & Corrados


        • #5
          Originally posted by n0ftInc View Post
          Too cool..I can has ride?
          You bet! Anytime.
          -Matt- 2011 VW GTI - 1946 Chevy Pickup


          • #6
            So much win in this.
            -Nick V-
            Current: '88 Golf GL 2.0 16V / '82 Caddy Diesel
            Favorite Past Dubs: '92 Corrado VR6, '99.5 APR Stg.3 A4, '91 GTI 8V, '81 Rabbit Truck,


            • #7
              After seeing it in person a couple times it's cool to get the build thread perspective. Must be a ton of fun with that kind of power to weight. Do E30's have issues with the rear diff mount tearing from the body? I've welded in a reinforcement kit to a Z3 which is a similar style for that issue.
              91 Jetta 16v
              78 Transporter
              I have a fender roller. Contact me if you'd like to rent it.


              • #8
                Everything I have seen on Instagram has been awesome and I look forward to seeing it in person some day.
                A big Ford 4x4, a Deeeeezle BMW and a air cooled flat six
                PCA# 2014080243


                • #9
                  Dude this thing is sweet. Good work man!
                  Audi S5, Audi Q5
                  B5 Passat, MKIII GTI Vr6, Audi Coupe Quattro


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by joezeeuw View Post
                    After seeing it in person a couple times it's cool to get the build thread perspective. Must be a ton of fun with that kind of power to weight. Do E30's have issues with the rear diff mount tearing from the body? I've welded in a reinforcement kit to a Z3 which is a similar style for that issue.
                    There are kits out there that add a second bushing on the passenger side to give more support. So far no issues with the single. Then again I haven't done any burnouts or clutch dumps yet. lol
                    -Matt- 2011 VW GTI - 1946 Chevy Pickup


                    • #11
                      Very Cool. Pretty sure I have seen this around town and was confused when I heard it.