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2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Current Mod List (7/07/2020):


  • BMW Performance Grilles
  • Smoked side markers & reflectors
  • LED license plate lights
  • Debadged


  • MK4 Nav
  • TCU
  • TV Module
  • Homelink
  • Rearview mirror w/homelink and BMW Assist (so I have a total of six garage door openers, lolz)
  • M dead pedal
  • M door sills
  • One-touch rear windows
  • Napa leather steering wheel
  • Cheap ebay aux cable to cheap ebay Bluetooth adapter (hey, it cost $5 total and works really well)
  • Findway F518 3D floor mats
  • A & C pillars in black alcantara, B pillars recovered with original fabric (I didn’t buy enough material, but the slight mismatch doesn’t bother me)
  • Car-Solution eKombi Module (Numerical Oil & Water Temp, Battery Voltage, Vehicle Speed Gauges)


  • BMW Performance Intake
  • BMW Performance Exhaust
  • S54 Oil Fill Cap
  • BavAuto Viton OFHG
  • URO aluminium water pump pulley
  • URO aluminium power steering pump pulley
  • E30 expansion tank cap
  • M3 engine mounts
  • M3 transmission mounts
  • BMW Performance shift lever
  • CDV delete


  • Redish V2 RACP reinforcement plates
  • Vincebar Epoxy & Rivet (original design)
  • Powerflex Yellow subframe bushings
  • Powerflex Black RTABs
  • ECS 88A diff bushings
  • Bilstein B4 dampers
  • Front/Rear strut and shock reinforcement plates
  • Ground Control street camber plates
  • 17 x 8.5” ET40 TRMotorsport C2
  • 245/40/17 Continental ExtremeContact Sport
  • ECS Tuning wheel studs (up to 20mm spacers), black acorn nuts
  • Condor Speed Shop Street Brass Caliper Bushings
  • Zimmermann Rotors
  • Hawk HPS Pads
  • Stoptech SS Braided Brake Lines
  • ATE Type 200 Fluid
Thought I'd start a thread on my car, after just over 5 years of owning it.

A bit of back story: Like most here, I'm a car guy inside-out. I grew up collecting model cars, eventually working my way up to a $200 AutoArt Koenigsegg CCXR. I was always a fan of JDM cars, that is until I got to high school autoshop. Unlike most autoshops with a donated Cavalier, my autoshop teacher was building an E36 racecar. Like most projects, everytime he said it would be done by so and so date, it wasn't. So for two years I had my hands dirty with that car, swapping out the M50B25 for an S52B32, Moton dampers, Megasquirt ECU, the works. He also had an 328is for the street, and working on both those cars combined sparked my interest in older BMWs.

Fast-forward to March 2015. I needed a car for co-op, as my first job was in Windsor, and I lived 400 km away in Toronto. I was initially looking at WRXs and Foresters, but they were all beat up or out of my price range. But then a clean E36 323is popped up on Kijiji, so I decided to check it out. Unfortunately it had massive lifter tick, and although clean inside-out was priced too much for what it was worth.

Then, one night I was laying in bed browsing Kijiji, when a 2004 330ci popped up. It was high mileage at 303,000 km, but had the ZHP package (which I wasn't too familiar with at the time) and was Mystic Blue on Black. More importantly, at least through pics it looked like it had half the mileage it did. I lost a bit of sleep that night thinking about it, especially because I knew about the "subframe" (RACP) issue, and that it was more than double my budget. I stayed up doing a bit more reading to learn about the E46 platform, ZHP package, and the RACP issue. It seemed that the consensus with cracking RACPs were limited to pre-LCI cars (ha, ha........ words I will eat 2 years later). So the next morning I decided to pay a visit. This was the first picture I ever took of the car, and the first time I ever saw it when we parked next to it:

The seller and I got along really well, and you could tell he took good care of the car. He wasn't even planning on selling it, as he had brand-new Michelin PSS fitted to the rear, and a full paint correction + Opti-Coat a few weeks prior. Turns out he found a good deal on an E92 M3, and decided to upgrade - we even took a joyride in that car during the viewing!

After 3 hours looking over the car and talking, I made an offer he immediately accepted. Looking back on it I was young and naive, and could have easily bought it for >$1000 lower than what I paid. However I really needed a car, and to this day it still puts a smile on my face everytime I take it out, so I don't regret the purchase.

So as of April 5, 2015 I was the new owner of a 2004 BMW 330CI ZHP.


2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Oh hell yeah that thing is beautiful. I'm excited to see more pics and hear about your RACP issues as I'm in the process of reinforcing my facelift coupe zhp. No cracks and the spot welds look ok, but mind did come with the foam reinforcement (band aid) from the factory.
Thanks, it really was for the mileage! Are you referring to the plastic block that's included in cars which were built after 10/2004? As mine is 04/2004, it didn't have it. Hopefully that's not like the foam injection, where you can't weld on plates or you'd start a fire!

I'm going to continue writing, and hopefully have it caught up to the present in the next few days. I'll have full details on what I did (along with many pics) but let's just say I'm not worried at all about autoxing, tracking, or drifting (at least with respect to the RACP itself - still don't hang out at 6k RPM+ because of the oil pump nut)

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Brought the car home and a few pics under my new ownership:

Crusty BMWP Exhaust (that I somehow didn't get around to cleaning until 4 years later...)

I brought the car to my highschool autoshop to do the oil change, because why not take advantage of using a lift. But more importantly I wanted to remove the rear rotors to investigate why the handbrake wouldn't work. I don't have any pics, but there were chunks of friction material missing from the shoes. I actually bought the handbrake rebuild kit 2 years after this point, and even to this day still haven't gotten around to replacing it. For now I've been parking in gear with no issue.

Additionally, there were traces of rust here and there:

I didn't know it at the time, but the above pic came in very handy when diagnosing the RACP!

The previous owner was somehow able to take advantage of BMW's 12 year rust warranty. The warranty technically only applies for perforation, and the fine print says that you have to go back to the dealer every so often for inspections. So the car has had a couple partial resprays and blending done, but it kept coming back. The previous owner and I managed to put a case in with the same guy at the same dealer all the previous repairs were under, so we crossed our fingers and waited for BMW Canada for approval.

Throughout the summer of 2015 I didn't do much with respect to mods and maintenance. Looking back through my maintenance log I did an oil change, coolant flush (pulled the drain plug on the block), and trans fluid. I also did my best to keep it clean with regular 2-bucket washes. But I mostly just kept driving - putting 400 km every 2 weeks driving between Toronto and Windsor, man the ZHP is such a great road trip car. I was also part of the Formula SAE team at my school, so a few weekends I'd also drive there for summer testing.

At some point I also bought a cable for PA Soft and changed the hexadecimal values to make the coolant temp gauge more linear. I distinctly remember driving back from work and after 5 minutes, the temp gauge was at 12 o'clock. So, I revved it out and it sounded... stressed. More than likely coolant temp was juuuust at 75 deg C, and if that's the case, oil was likely at 40 deg C. Yeeeeaaaaah... again, I was young and dumb (which you'll see more of in my next post). As we don't have oil temp gauges nowadays I make sure to drive a minimum of 10 minutes after coolant is at 90 deg C, to make sure oil is more or less up to temp before giving it the beans. And I just bought a module from Germany that taps into the K-Bus and will display coolant & oil temp, battery voltage, and vehicle speed on my MK4 NAV!

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Alright, here comes the one stupid moment I had with the car, it comes down to bad timing and bad judgement. I was late for work and stuck behind a garbage truck. It was a 1 lane road with a solid yellow, and there were no other cars in sight. The truck started to pull to the shoulder with no signal, and there were houses with bins lined up by the curb. So I (wrongly) assumed he was stopping to pick up garbage, and crossed the solid yellow to go around. Unfortunately this was a case of him just signaling at the last minute, to turn left into a driveway. As he started the left turn I was too far gone, and his left front corner tagged my rear quarter panel. Quite a bit of carnage:

As I’m sure many of you are aware, insurance lowballed me and tried to total my car. I took it to the best collision shop in town, which caters to high-end exotic cars (more on this in a bit). After a bit of back and forth, they put out their final evaluation, and told me to get my own to prove the value of my car. So that’s what I did, and the appraisal came back for much more than I had purchased the car. Of course this was biased as the appraiser knew what was going on, but it did the job, as after 2 or 3 weeks of sitting repairs were approved.

As it’s the quarter panel my car is now tainted, but there was no way insurance was going to pay for a full quarter replacement (plus, 2 years down the line the other quarter panel got damaged, due to a drunk driver – again, more on this later). The quarter was pulled as flush as possible, then a skim coat of filler was applied. A donor door was sourced and fully stripped for paint. There were no LKQ mirrors with shadowline trim available, so the entire passenger’s assembly was replaced. The whole lot was then painted:

After another 2 weeks, repairs were complete:

And as an added bonus, I salvaged as much as I could off both doors. You don’t realize it when you’re just swinging it on its hinges, but jesus christ that sucker was heavy. My door card was swapped over so I have the door card off the donor, which I ended up selling online, amongst other things:

Immediately after taking delivery of the car, I noticed this:

Which, under more revealing lighting conditions turned into this:

So, of course I’m like WTF? They didn’t even touch the roof when painting, and the roof is Opti-Coated! But then, I remember walking into the body shop still shaken up by the accident, and seeing an employee drying the car. He was using some kind of foam squeegee to dry the cars, which explains why the swirl marks aren’t “swirly”, but rather straight. Well, given that half the car is coated and half is not, and that the whole thing is so messed up, time to break out the Harbour Freight DA I had recently bought. After some trial and error, that above spot turned into this:

A few lessons were learned with this accident (only had one more due to a drunk driver, 2 years later), including the fact you really have to do research into body shops, and that perhaps I’m too fussy with paint. Definitely wouldn’t have expected a body shop of that calibre to cause that much damage. Anyways at that point I was hogging my parent’s garage too much, plus it was insanely hot. So with the paint mostly corrected and protected I kept driving it until the end of August. At which point my co-op term ended, and it was time to go back to school. It was pretty odd putting the car away for storage when there were still 2 more months of relatively nice weather, but I lived a 5 minute walk from campus, was super-busy managing school and FSAE, and would save a bunch of money on insurance.

So I gave it one final detail, swapped on the winter tires and pumped them up to 50 psi, plugged the exhaust tips, disconnected the battery, brimmed the tank and added fuel stabilizer. Then threw a car cover over it, and said goodbye for 4 months.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
After driving my car with that crusty, ripped alcantara wheel for a few months, I decided it was time for a change. Being the budget-conscious student I was, I wasn’t willing to buy a new leather wheel, and I didn’t want to go back to alcantara. These were the days before DIY sewn-on-covers from China, so my research led me to buying a napa cover from Redline Goods. So while my car was in storage, I removed the wheel and installed the cover:

I’d like to say I’m fairly decent with my hands, but this is probably one of the hardest DIY jobs I have done. There’s just a certain level of finessing you need to get the fitment to an acceptable standard, and I was never truly satisfied with the fitment of the cover. At that point in time though, that’ll have to do.

Come the start of 2016, my car was coming out of storage (in the winter!) for my second co-op job. In January, BMW Canada finally approved rust repairs on my car, for what would be the final time since the 12-year mark was approaching that April. As mentioned before the rust kept coming back with resprays, so this time they decided to cut out both rocker panels and replace them:

Suffice it to say I did not want rust coming back, so since then I have not driven the car in the winter.

Come April 2016, I was going back to school for the summer, then ended up landing my third co-op in the SF bay area for the fall. I would’ve loved to drive there, but would not want to drive back in December. Then I was back in school for winter 2017, so the next time my car was out of storage was March 2017, 11 months later. It was at this point, 2 big things were coming up – the first stage of my RACP reinforcement, and a road trip to the SF bay area for my fourth co-op term.

1 Posts
Your 330Ci may not be a true ZHP.

In many ways your 330Ci looks like a a ZHP but it may not be a true BMW factory made ZHP because the instrument dials needles are white like the standard 330Ci non ZHP and the true ZHP has orange needles. Also, the true ZHP has special hotter engine cams and sports performance suspension.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
In many ways your 330Ci looks like a a ZHP but it may not be a true BMW factory made ZHP because the instrument dials needles are white like the standard 330Ci non ZHP and the true ZHP has orange needles. Also, the true ZHP has special hotter engine cams and sports performance suspension.
If we want to be pedantic about it then sure, it's not a ZHP - it's technically a ZAM. But aside from the gauge cluster it's identical to a ZHP sold in the US.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
It’s now March 2017, and I’ve taken my car out of its 11 month hibernation. I had been planning a road trip to the SF bay area for some time now – I had an internship there for 4 months in the summer, and what better way to spend 4 months there than driving the canyon roads? So in addition to completing my oil change before even starting the car up for the first time, I also had a quick look at the rest of the underbody.

Right before storage I had the brake pad warning light come on, but I still had tons of pad life left. During my inspection I found this:

When I first got my car, it needed pads and rotors to pass safety inspection. The PO took it to a generic shop, so I guess they just didn’t tuck the wire behind the dust cap for the bleeder. I quickly fixed it with a brand-new sensor I found cheap off some guy on kijiji.

I also realized that my driver’s mirror cover was pretty loose. All the retaining tabs were broken, and it was held in with black butyl tape. Removed the cap, epoxied zip-ties to the inside of the cap, and had the zip-ties come through the holes for the tabs.

Another thing I found was this:

Remember when I took my car to my highschool autoshop when I first got the car? I thought that split seam in the left rear wheel well was just compromised seam sealer, and was probably something I should take care of. Doing a lot more research, turns out cracks in the sheet metal are not the only indicator of a failing RACP, but the split seam is a result of the RACP actually starting to come apart and fall down, away from the rest of the body. At the time I was quite shocked and disappointed, as repair costs are a decent chunk of the vehicle’s value. But I decided to look into it, as I planned on keeping the car as long as I can. Normally I’d DIY everything, but I was still in school for another month, and there was no break period from end of school to my road trip. Luckily I found a shop that was vetted on the local forum by multiple people, and their pricing was unbeatable (though there was a small conundrum that was peacefully resolved later on). After discussing with the owner of the shop what exactly I wanted done, I was confident that this was the right shop to trust my car with.

Things that were done at this time:

• Repaired the existing crack (stop-drilled the ends, then welded it closed + grinded flush)
• Welded Redish Motorsport V2 plates in
• Welded separated seam in left rear wheel well
• Powerflex Yellow subframe bushings (while we’re in there)
• Powerflex Black RTABs (while we’re in there)
• New OEM diff bushings (while we’re in there)
• Replaced fuel pump with VDO unit (I was going to take care of this on my own, and had the part. But they said they’d do it for free since it takes 5 minutes with the tank out of the car anyways. Very kind of them!)

Crusty subframe, ugh I hate Canadian winters:

Crack I found:

Plate welding in progress:

Repaired seam in left rear wheel well:

With stage 1 of RACP repairs complete, I then took my car to the dealer for the driver’s side airbag recall:

Ooooooh shiny new badge:

Throughout the winter I was also keeping a close eye on eBay for reconditioned steering wheels. There are a couple well-known sellers within M3 Forum, but their prices were out of my budget. But then, a relatively unknown seller popped up, and they had only sold 3 or 4 wheels at that point. The pictures showed a wheel as nice as the ones by the more well-known sellers, so I decided to chance it and went for it, knowing I had eBay buyer’s protection in case things went south. Contrary to what most people like, I decided to stick to black instead of tri-stitch, I think it just looks much cleaner.

The wheel arrived before I took my car out of storage, and man it was beautiful. I held off installing it until after the RACP repair and airbag recall, to keep it clean.

Aaaaaaah much better. And it was only $220 USD!

I think I held onto my old wheel for about a year, before I found a buyer to recoup some of the cost.

With the RACP repair, airbag recall, new steering wheel, and the car inspected with a clean bill of health – it was now time to drive to California.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
I had a lot of car work planned for the 4 months I was in California. The last time I was there, I had spent 4 months helping a friend 2ZZ swap his MR2 Spyder, so I was able to use his garage, tools, and help this time around. Nevertheless, I still brought some of my tools with me, and was able to make full use of the space above the spare tire and under the trunk false floor:

My first stop was supposed to be Chicago, but I had visa issues and was held an extra night in Sarnia. Luckily things got resolved, so I’d still be able to make my 2nd stop with a bit of extra driving.

Crossing into Port Huron, Michigan:

12 hours later, and a lot of killed bugs:

The view from my AirBNB at Council Bluffs, Iowa:

Saw an actual cowboy en route to Denver:

Past Denver and starting to climb:

Went from fairly decent spring weather, back to winter. Surprisingly the Michelin PSS did fairly decent in the little slush I did encounter:

Made it into Utah!

Sitting hellaflush with all the weight in the rear:

Unfortunately, this is the only pic I have of my car at the Grand Canyon:

At a family friend’s house in Kingman, Arizona:

Stopped for a couple nights in Vegas (no pics, unfortunately):

Almost there!

Aaaaaand, made it. Of course, lots of carnage:

The best view I’ve ever had out of any bedroom, and I’ll have it for the next 4 months:


2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Back in December 2016 I ordered a massive pile of parts, to take advantage of the end of year sales. I had them shipped to my friend's place, since we were working on my car there anyways.

From VinceSE2 on M3 Forum (for my RACP reinforcement stage 2):
***8226; Vincebar, Epoxy & Resin (Original design)
***8226; Epoxy & Resin Install Kit

From FCP Euro:
***8226; Cooling system refresh
***8226; Belts, tensioners
***8226; M3 engine and trans mounts
***8226; E-brake rebuild kit
***8226; Inner + outer tie rods
***8226; Strut & shock mounts, reinforcement plates
***8226; Bilstein B4 shocks & struts
***8226; Oil pan gasket
***8226; Diff fluid
***8226; BMW Performance Shift Lever (correct one)

From ECS Tuning:
***8226; BMW Performance Shift Lever (wrong one, so I had to return it)
***8226; ZHP 6-speed shift knob
***8226; URO Aluminium Water Pump Pulley
***8226; URO Aluminium Power Steering Pump Pulley
***8226; VANOS oil line
***8226; S54 oil fill cap (because I had $$$ from the refunded shift lever)

From BavAuto:
***8226; Viton OFHG

From eBay:
***8226; POR15 starter kit (for Vincebar)
***8226; Smoked front reflectors (to match the smoked side markers from the PO)

I also bought Araldite 2014 epoxy for the Vincebar, but forgot where I got it from.

I also paid a quick visit to Walmart to grab some car wash supplies, as my car was (obviously) in dire need of a wash:

Much better, feels good to get all the road trip grime off:

Installed my smoked reflectors:

I wasn't very happy with the fitment, as they're flatter than they should be, so the leading and trailing edges stick up a bit. Unfortunately I cracked one of the original ones taking them out, and I did get a partial refund on them due to the bad fitment. Given how the paint on my front bumper is original at this mileage, the reflectors are far from the ugliest part in that area, so I wasn't bothered enough to buy higher quality ones.

I also had a flickering passenger's xenon, which turned out to be a broken wire. Cut, soldered, & heat-shrinked the offending wire, and all was back to normal.

I then sprung a leak at the plastic neck on the radiator for the upper rad hose. Impeccable timing too, since it happened about a week before I was planning on doing my cooling system refresh. A small dose of JB Marine Weld got me through the week (and probably would've lasted a whole lot longer):

Unfortunately, I have no pics from my cooling system refresh. We did the following:

***8226; Radiator (Behr)
***8226; Water Pump (genuine BMW)
***8226; Thermostat (Mahle)
***8226; Expansion tank (Modine) & E30 1.4 Bar expansion tank cap (Behr)
***8226; Both the primary & AC belt tensioners (INA) and belts (Continental)
***8226; Expansion tank return hose (Rein)
***8226; Power Steering & Water Pump Pulleys (URO Aluminium)
***8226; OFHG (Viton, so hopefully it lasts a lot longer than stock)
***8226; VANOS oil line

I didn't intend on replacing the upper or lower rad hoses, since they were done in 2014 and still soft. To reuse them I bought o-rings and replaced those instead, which worked fine on the lower rad hose, but still leaked on the upper rad hose. So I just bought another upper rad hose anyways and left the lower one.

I then started stripping the rear end of the interior, in preparation for the Vincebar.
Crumbling sound deadening:

Score! Found some spare change under the rear seats:

I've no idea why I bagged the sound deadening (that I was tossing) so nicely:

I had a bunch of packing supplies leftover from all the parts I bought. For some reason, instead of removing the rear seat belt receivers, I left them in and wrapped them in bubble wrap to prevent them from rattling around:

My friend and I planned to do the Vincebar on a 3-day long weekend in mid-June (I forget what long weekend it was for) because we weren't sure how long the whole job would take. So on Friday, June 16th after work, I pulled into his garage and put my car up on jackstands for the next 3 days.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
So we put the car in the air, and the first thing I did was look at all the work the shop did. Considering the price, I couldn’t complain about the quality – the underbody isn’t colour-matched but the welds looked fine and was properly protected from corrosion. The poly subframe and RTAB bushings were also installed properly, with lubrication.

However, I paid for OEM diff bushings to be installed, and the bushings looked… not new. The rear bushing was fine, but the steel outer sleeve was rusted. Furthermore, the front two bushings had significant cracks:

I was quite surprised that they weren’t replaced. I had a pretty in-depth discussion with the shop owner, and he knew I normally did all my own work. I emailed him about it, with no response. I sent a few more emails and called him a few times, and was eventually able to get a hold of him, and he said they somehow forgot to do it. After a bit more chasing, I ended up getting 1/3rd back of what I paid him for the entire job in the first place. It definitely wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I’m just glad not to have gotten screwed over – in fact, I ended up buying the bushings on my own and replacing them myself later on.

In the process of dropping the rear subframe one of the handbrake cables got twisted. I suspect the shop installed the nuts with a gun and overtightened or cross threaded it, so I added a new set of cables to my list of new parts to buy:

Rear subframe dropped:

Also took some stuff out of the interior, as we needed the space and things were going to get very messy:

Then I drilled the pilot hole for the front mounts from the bottom, poking through the top-most layer of the floor. Then used a holesaw from the top-side to allow access to the internal MIG welds (which weren’t cracked) at the top of the threaded insert for the front subframe studs:

Then started cutting the top-most layer of the rear section:

Had to do a couple of minor trims, before a test-fit of the bar:

All the grinding and cutting sure makes everything in the garage dirty:

Started removing paint on the areas that will be epoxied, and applied POR15 Metal Prep to prevent rust:

Then, epoxied and rivetted everything in place:

It ain’t pretty, but I covered all the exposed seams and remaining exposed metal with POR15:

Also got my new rear shocks, RSMs, and reinforcement plates in during reinstallation:

Managed to button up the car the last night of the weekend, and decided to fabricate the cover and clean up the car the next weekend. Turned out that pre-cut steel plate that was sent with the kit was too small, since I guess I cut the rear top-layer too big:

So I made a CAD template, bought some sheet stock, and re-made it:

Sensitive content, not recommended for those under 18 Show Content

Then rivetted the whole lot together and seam-sealed the seams:

Then POR15 all exposed metal and seam sealer. Again, it ain’t pretty, but it’s not something I look at every day:

If I could go back and do it again, I’d take a lot more time protecting the interior. I had a few cheap towels laid out, but clearly they weren’t enough. It took me forever to clean the carpets, and I now have permanent craters in the headliner and pitting on the interior of my windshield from the sparks:

Oh well, at least I shouldn’t have to worry about my RACP ever again.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
With the RACP locked down, I started to enjoy the back roads around the area (headed to Alice’s quite a few times with friends and co-workers, drove around La Honda/Skyline/Page Mill). I also started autox’ing with BMW CCA Golden Gate Chapter and Golden Gate Lotus Club. Funnily enough, this was the first time I was autox’ing my car, but I had been autox’ing with my Formula SAE team for two years at that point. I still remember the conversation I had with after my first run with my friend (who is also an instructor with BMW):

Friend: “Oh, that really wasn’t bad for your first run! How did it feel?”
Me: “Not bad, but it’s pretty… numb? And really, really boaty”
Friend: “Eh, this is fairly average and a decent car to start with. That Cadillac over there is boaty. Also, you’re turning in waaaaay too late”
Me: “Yeah, I’m used to the FSAE car where you turn and it just goes right away”

Regardless, it was still tons of fun and I was now hooked.

Me being a noob and not putting the tape on my window:

Well, back to never-ending car work. I had a leaky oil pan, so I purchased a Harbour Freight engine support brace (man, I’m so jealous of how cheap the tools are!) and got to work replacing the oil pan gasket (Victor Reinz). Once again, “while we’re in there”, I did the following as well:

• M3 engine and trans mounts (Rein)
• Front struts (Bilstein B4), strut mounts (Lemforder), reinforcement plates (genuine BMW)
• Inner + outer tie rods (Lemforder)
• Steering Guibo (genuine BMW)

I was honestly appalled at the quality of the casting for the oil pan. Tons of little burrs that ripped the shop towel I used to clean it. I had first-hand experience with quality cast aluminium gearbox casings at my co-op, and they were as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I also found these little guys, and was quite concerned. However after getting some opinions it’s very likely a brittle piece of old valve cover gasket:

Man, I hate rust. To get the tie rod end off the upright, I used a pickle fork and had to hammer for half an hour before that sucker came out.

I also bought new rims. As much as I like the look of style 135s, I was looking to downsize to a square 17” setup. Lower unsprung mass, less understeer, cheaper tires, and the ability to rotate your tires are a few reasons why I wanted to do so. I had a corporate discount with Tire Rack, so got a set of 17 x 8.5” TR Motorsport C2, wrapped in 245/40/17 Continental ExtremeContact Sport. Although these are cheap rims, I had read multiple reviews from guys who had abused them, and they are JWL certified. Also, call me a basic b1tch, but I love the look of TE37s, and wanted to bring a bit of my love for the JDM scene to my car.

I put a couple coats of Poorboy’s Wheel Sealant and will be annually recoating them to minimize buildup of brake dust, and maintain ease of cleaning.

I had also ordered a stud kit from ECS Tuning, and was holding off on mounting my new wheels until those were on the car. This turned out to be a lucky decision, as 5 days later this happened:

I was lucky to have avoided a front-end collision that could have totalled my car, but he still tagged me in the left rear quarter panel. We pulled over, 3 Hispanic dudes got out of the car, and none of them spoke English. How did I know? When he was trying to give me his insurance papers, he instead gave me his court order for DUI.

Look at it on the bright side: my car was already tainted from the accident prior to this one, so now both quarter panels are jacked up (yay!):

The other side, that swung into the shoulder:

I brought the car to a body shop on recommendation of one of the guys on the ZHP facebook group, and they had lots of good reviews. He came out with an estimate for repairs, but before repairs could commence, I had to deal with the aftermath of the accident. It was clearly not my fault, but this guy used the shittiest insurance company possible. They wanted to total my car like the last accident, and were evaluating my car at a retardedly low number without room to budge. Whenever I tried to prove to them that my car should have higher value given it’s a ZHP and is in exceptional condition, they were complete assholes over the phone. So I called up my own insurance, who immediately gave clearance for repairs, and would go after the other company for the bill. Haha, suck it!

With respect to attention to detail, this body shop was far better than the last one, and other things on my car were inadvertently repaired as well. Some of the fasteners and plastic push pins for the rear splash guard were missing, which were replaced. The battery and storage trays on the sides of the trunk were also missing push pins, and new ones were there when I picked the car up. I noticed a bit of haziness on the paint, and the guy whipped out the DA and polish out on the spot. All of this makes sense, since he wore an Obsessed Garage T-Shirt when picked my car up.

In addition to the repairs with the quarter panel, other things were done as well:

• New left tail light (I had noticed faint water spotting inside the lense, but didn’t think much of it)
• Rear bumper repaired and resprayed (had minor gouges from PO parallel parking in city, so now it’s mint)
• Both rear style 135 rims were reconditioned (left side had minor scrapes, right side had “chips” from my drifting into the shoulder)
• Replaced driver’s door seal (I’d noticed it had a tear, so they immediately ordered a new one no questions asked). This is something I’m pretty happy about, since the felt liners on both seals were missing since I bought the car. At some point the PO tried re-gluing them on, but failed. So there were nasty brown stains of dried glue on them

Of course, having an accident still sucks. But I was glad to have had a few things on my car repaired, all gratis.


After (looking back at this pic, I’ll have to re-seat the door seal, as the gap in the felt is shifted such that part of the felt liner goes under the interior trim, pushing it up):

Alas, no body shop is perfect… 2 years later I found minor rust on the quarter panel, right where it interfaces with the rear bumper. I’m guessing the body shop in Windsor was a lot more diligent with making sure the paint extended all the way to where the quarter panel stops, and the inner wheel arch began, to prevent rust from forming in Canadian winters. It was no big deal, since it was in an area that you cannot see, and had not spread to the outside surface of the quarter panel. The rust was so minor that I sanded it down, POR-15’d it, and painted over it with touch-up paint two years later.

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #14
As I had mentioned with the RACP stage 1 reinforcement, the shop “forgot” to install new OEM diff bushings, and had given a partial refund for not doing so. I had a decent amount of car work done, but still had a few remaining items to do, including those bushings.

I did a bit of reading online and found that soft durometer poly diff bushings had negligible increases in NVH. Seeing that ECS’s bushings were 88A, I decided to go ahead with those. So for the umpteenth time, I dropped my exhaust and driveshaft and set to work:

Original cracked bushing:

One of my co-workers was a tech at BMW, so one of his old colleagues was kind enough to let me borrow the proper tools to replace all 3 bushings. The job would’ve definitely taken significantly longer without these – the rear bushing took quite a bit of force to remove even with the tool, and there was a loud bang when the bushing can un-seized itself from the sleeve in the rear subframe.

I drove around with the bushings installed and had a noticeable clunk. Turns out I put the bushing in backwards, d’oh! Re-removed everything again, flipped the bushing, then re-installed in a couple hours. Still didn’t solve my clunk, I’m not actually sure what solved it but it was gone after all my car work in California was done.

I have to say – I do not recommend ECS Tuning bushings. NVH is fine, but fitment was not. Perhaps I got one from a bad batch because I didn’t read any bad reviews, but the stepped head of the front bushings were too thick, which pushed the bolt head onto the aluminium driveshaft protector/brace thingy (?). This transmitted fairly loud scraping sounds to the cabin, and I thought something was seriously wrong. Unfortunately I don’t have pics of the actual problem, just the fix:

Basically I hammered in a flathead to create a gap, in which I squeezed some seam sealer, which was leftover from the Vincebar install kit. This did the trick, as the scraping noises were completely gone. Downside is that if I ever have to remove that brace, I have to redo that procedure, which takes a full night to properly cure (ask me how I know).

At the same time, I replaced all the shifter bushings, swapped in a BMW Performance short shift lever, and installed a new shifter shaft seal:

Which was then topped off with a new 6-speed ZHP shift knob to complete the job:

Man, the difference with the shifter was night and day, as my bushings were original at 322,000 KM. I also installed the ECS Tuning stud kit, then fitted my new rims, just in time for the next autox event.

So the funny story about the below pic is that I still wanted to go to the autox event, but my car was still at the body shop. One of my friends drives his parent’s Prius as a daily, and we went for a small romp on the backroads. My, oh my… I understand why that car makes people drive so slowly! For shits and gigs, we decided to try autox’ing it. However I got my car back from the body shop a couple days before the autox. My friend has since been autox’ing his Prius on the regular.

One of our other friends is an amateur photographer, and he also came by. So at least I have some pretty decent pics of my car in action:

LOL stock suspension doing what it does best:

Unfortunately it was almost time to drive back home. But not before my style 135s turned from this:

To this:

Probably much easier to haul back to Canada, given the limited space in my car.

3,186 Posts
Looks like this car has been through a lot. Pretty nice otherwise, I love the contrast of ZHP cube trim on a black interior. The steering wheel is also nice, I'm personally not much of a fan of alcantara

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Looks like this car has been through a lot. Pretty nice otherwise, I love the contrast of ZHP cube trim on a black interior. The steering wheel is also nice, I'm personally not much of a fan of alcantara
Yeah, it is what it is, there are positives and negatives with respect to the body work on the car. The quarters are jacked up, but both rocker panels are absolutely mint. I think the shell's going to last a long time, since I store it for the winter.

Interior wise, I agree - silver cube does break up the black interior quite nicely. I actually like alcantara, but only if it's a brand-new wheel - it feels amazing. But it gets nasty real quick, and wears out real fast.

649 Posts
Awesome post Tim. Glad to see you are in Toronto! Hope to see your car around =)

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Awesome post Tim. Glad to see you are in Toronto! Hope to see your car around =)
Sweet! Your car looks really clean - love the SSR rims. I'll be sure to give you a wave if I see you :thumbup:

2004 330CI ZHP
161 Posts
Discussion Starter #19
Well, as it was now time to leave the SF Bay Area, I gave my car one last detail before setting off. This is probably one of my favourite pictures of my car:

Filled to the brim:

Which made me hellaflush in the rear:

It was right at the end of August, and there was quite the heat wave (it peaked at 40 degrees during the drive!):

The first few casualties of the trip:

A quick jaunt later, I was at the Canadian border into BC:

Stayed with some relatives for a couple of days, then continued into the interior. That year was Canada’s 150th birthday and to celebrate, Park’s Canada gave out free passes to all national parks. Boy oh boy, I definitely took advantage of that:

Jasper National Park:

Maaaaan… the winding one-lane road highways were a dream to drive on!

Probably the most scenic McD’s drive-thru in the background:

Stayed another couple days in Banff/Canmore, then continued through to Edmonton. Lots of casualties:

At that point I realized my rims were in dire need of a clean:

Luckily, I had my uncle in Edmonton, so I was able to wash my car there. Unfortunately, there were only 2 buckets, so I decided to just wash the body to get the bugs off, and left the rims filthy:

Unfortunately, the only notable event between Edmonton and Toronto was me crossing 330,330 KM. If any of you have made that drive… boy is it boring!

Nevertheless, filthy again but back home:

The next day, I immediately set out to work. Haha such contrast:

My wheel bucket was actually filled with tea once I was all done:

Cleaned under the door sills as well (which have broken clips, and are unfortunately really loose):

Before putting the sill back on I put some silicone paste where all the holes were – I’m guessing the body shop that did the repairs in Windsor 2 years prior put that grease there for rustproofing.

Me being the weird person I am, and storing my car when there’s still 2 months of good weather left:


96 Posts
Tim, its been enjoyable reading through your journey with your car. I definitely understand the struggle of balancing personal time and FSAE...It was usually all FSAE for me :rofl:

I got my ZHP after graduating but I'm coming up on RACP reinforcement, so it's nice to see another detailed story of how someone repaired it. I've also had those ECS diff bushings sitting for 2 years now, so it's good to know of some complications that I might encounter.

Looking forward to the next post!
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