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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > 3 Series / 4 Series > E36 (1991 - 1999)

E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 04-27-2009, 09:10 AM
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Jim Spence Jim Spence is offline
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Thinking about lowering your car?

I just discovered one thing to consider before lowering your car.

I put the Bilstein/H&R spring combo on my car late last summer. I love it. I put new tires on my car last week, and went to get a four wheel alignment. After going to two shops and being told that I needed new rear control arm bushings (which I don't - they were replaced recently) I when to a reputable tire place that my mechanic recommended; he didn't think that the first two I went to did much work on BMWs.

After being on the rack for an hour, they told me that they couldn't get the chamber right, and it was adjusted as much as possible. One guy said, "Maybe you can take it to a body shop and they can bend it a bit to align it."

Bend it!!??!!

So I took my car back to my mechanic with the report, complaining that I'd never wrecked my car, and wondering why they couldn't get it any closer than they did, and he said ...

"Because you lowered it."

Hell, I'd never even considered that.

Fortunately they were able to adjust the rear perfect, and the front was around -1.5 off at each tire. At worst I'll lose a few thousand miles on each tire, but it's now closer than it was when I took it in ... and apparently closer than it's been for the past year or so. It still handles like a dream, so I can put up with buying tires sooner than I expected.

So, when considering lowering your car, think about this possibility.

Just tryin' to help y'all out.
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:28 AM
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I learned this as well, they make camber plates for your rear to where you can have the alignment properly done and not have to worry about tire wear. On my E36 I dropped that thing a couple inches and you could see the inner tire wear even after having a guy spend an hour on it trying to get it perfect. I was just too cheap to get the plates
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Old 04-27-2009, 09:48 AM
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My front driver side tire has inner wear. But I dont think its from the drop, rather from taking turns to fast and doing a couple power slides . I've had these tires for about 12k miles so far, and the center has a ton of meat left (except for the noted driver side tire).
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Old 04-27-2009, 05:54 PM
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Bav Auto and a number of other different places offer adjustable camber kits and such. But hey if you got damn good tires on there, thats unfortunate. But having your tires in + degrees makes it handle a ton better. Think about it... if you tires are like this / _/ \_\ cornering will be much better then this [] [] it gives more area for the tire to roll while cornering...
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:25 PM
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MrAbbs, actually it's negative degrees that makes them like this /_/ \_\ Positive camber would be this \_\ /_/
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:46 PM
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My bad, your right... Seems how much my stoner, hungover of teacher taught me in HS automotive class (backwards) Like most things he said I couldnt rely on, just like now... I have learned so much more credible information since I dropped that class and learned myself..(I'm not in HS anymore BTW)
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:50 PM
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Lowering a car always increases negative camber. BMW's are a pain to align properly because they should be (but rarely are) aligned with weights in the car meant to compensate for occupants. Your options are to live with it and get some inner edge wear, or get some eccentric bolts for the struts or get adj. camber plates.
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:00 PM
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I thought so?? Usually Chad is right...Click image for larger version

Name:	helpPosNegCamber.gif
Views:	171
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ID:	183230 Ahha!!! You can rely on stoners!!!
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:03 PM
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I thought so?? Usually Chad is right...Attachment 183230 Ahha!!! You can rely on stoners!!!
^^^ That picture is exactly what I said fool. Go reread it.
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:06 PM
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Slight dyslexia on that one.... Probably why I'm not good in Algebra and wonderful in Geometry

Chad- no need for the names, "Fool" is a low ball if you have some sort of a developed inteligence. I would like to say I do...
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Last edited by MrAbbs325is; 04-27-2009 at 07:08 PM.
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Old 04-27-2009, 07:22 PM
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Slight dyslexia on that one.... Probably why I'm not good in Algebra and wonderful in Geometry

Chad- no need for the names, "Fool" is a low ball if you have some sort of a developed inteligence. I would like to say I do...
Oh - no, no, no man. Fool is like dude or bro or man. Not an insult at all.



But yeah, camber plates can correct the negative camber, and when you've lowered the car you should definitely get it corner balanced when you do the alignment.
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Old 04-28-2009, 04:30 AM
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Jim Spence Jim Spence is offline
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After posting this elsewhere, I got a wonderful answer; and rather than post a "competitive" thread link here, I'll copy and paste it. Again, this is not my doing, merely an answer to my comment.

My thanks to the gentleman that posted it.

With so many posts asking about how to get the car aligned, what shops will align the car, what are the right specs, and why do I have tire wear.....I think we need a definitive alignment guide here.

Q. What is the Stock E36 Alignment Adjustability?
A: A stock E36 has the following adjustments - front toe, rear toe and rear camber.

Q. Can only certain shops align my E36?
A: There is nothing special about aligning your E36. Now, aligning your E36 per the manual maybe (because of adding weights to car). But the factory specs are terrible and you can forget about them.

Q. Is it mandatory to add weights to the car when doing aligment?
A. No. Even though the factory manual says to add weights in different locations, it is not absolutely necessary and will have a rather small effect on your alignment. You can add weights per the manual, or [recommended] you can add weight in the driver seat only to approximate your own weight, or you can add no weights [not recommended for best results].

Q: Can I just take my car into a shop and ask to get it aligned?
A: Only if you dont care about performance and tire wear.

Q: What the hell does that mean?
A: If you bought an E36 M3, you obviously are looking for performance (or if you bought it for image, status, pimping, flossing, hardparking, etc, please GTFO! ). The BMW factory specs care nothing for performance or tire wear, only for safety and a low # of lawsuits. YES I AM SAYING THAT THE BMW FACTORY SPECS WILL NOT ONLY GIVE YOU POOR HANDLING AND PERFORMANCE, IT MAY ALSO WEAR OUT YOUR TIRES PREMATURELY.

Q: Ok, so what is a good performance alignment for the street with good tire wear?
A: Here are the specs:

Front
Camber: -2.5 deg (per side)
Toe: 0

Rear
Camber: -1.5 to -2 deg (per side)
Toe: 0.20 total toe in (IIRC this is 1/8" total toe in)

Q: Can I get a good Performance Alignment for the Street with stock adjustments?
A: NO! You can not get a good performance alignment for the street with a bone stock E36 M3, or even with a modified suspension, without front camber adjustment . You need some form of front camber adjustment that doesn't come stock.

Q: Why do I need front camber adjustment?
A: Here is the short explanation (long explanation explained later)...your M3 came from the factory with an alignment that gives the rear tires more grip than the front. This means, when you are going around a turn (say an off ramp) and you are at the limits (tires are squealing), your front tires are giving up and the car does not turn. That is much safer than if the rear tires gave up first and you are now spinning around. But when the front tires give up long before the rear tires, you are giving up a lot of cornering ability vs. a car that all 4 tires give up at the same time. And a car that wont turn feels like crap.

Q: How do I get any kind of front camber adjustment, and how much will it cost?
A: Here are the options:

Install shims at lower strut mounts
- ($0.10 to $10)
- easy to install
- gain about -1 deg. camber (about -2 deg total per side)
- may have tire clearance issues with coilovers

Swapped 96+ M3 upper strut mounts
- (free if you have a 96-99 M3, or about $75 used on bf.c)
- relatively easy to install
- gain about -2 deg. camber (about -3 deg total per side)

Vorshlag Camber/Caster plates
- ($380 shipped IIRC)
- relatively easy install
- gain up to -3 deg. camber (range of -1 to -4 deg total per side on avg)
- lower stack height, allows for safer lowering of car
- 2 way caster adjustability

Q: How much negative camber is safe to run on the street?
A: Up to -3 deg per side is safe to run on the street. (I run -3.4 deg per side on the street).

Q: Wont too much negative camber kill my tires?
A: Negative camber does not kill tires. Negative camber plus excessive toe (in or out) causes inner tire wear. Toe (in or out) in effect forces the car to "drag" the tire down the road, where 0 toe lets the tire roll down the road. Make sense? Negative camber will cause the tire to roll on the inside of the tire, but negative camber plus excessive toe will drag the inside of the tire down the road causing bad inner tire wear.

Q: So why are the insides of my rear tires worn after I got a factory alignment?
A: Because factory specs call for lots of negative camber and LOTS of toe in. Very safe but bad for tire life. (Another cause for bad rear tire wear is worn out trailing arm bushings (RTABs) giving you dynamic toe changes.)

Part II

Q. How does camber affect performance?
A. To maximize cornering force from your tires, the tire must be square on the road during a corner to achieve max grip. If your car had zero camber (all tires square to the road when driving straight), as soon as you turn, the body will roll to the outside, and the outer tires will roll only on the outsides of the tires. Thats why if you ever drove a car with stock alignment hard in turns, you'll see the outsides of the tires worn.

Q. Why does the M3 need more camber in the front?
A. Because of the M3's suspension geometry. Simply put, as the car rolls in a turn, the outside wheels' suspension compresses (makes sense right?). The rear suspension was designed to gain negative camber as it compresses. So as the body rolls, the tire does not roll over as much as the car's body roll, maximizing the tire's contact patch. The front suspension is different, it does not gain negative camber as it compresses (during body roll in a corner), and therefore allows the tire to roll over to the outside edge, minimizing traction. This is why you must give the front end more negative camber to begin with. (Another very popular M3 trick is to run a stiff front sway bar, to limit the front body roll and maximize tire contact).

Q. What is a proper alignment procedure?
A. Before you get your car aligned, you should know what will happen. The shop will put your car on an alignment rack, and put sensors on the 4 wheels. Some racks have a hard time with very low cars, or cars with spoilers (the Beissbarth rack). BMW suggests weighting the car in several areas. This is fine, but not necessary. At least, it would be good to place weights in the driver's seat equal to your weight. But again, not critical.
The tech should start at the rear of the car, where he can adjust toe and camber. Rear Toe is adjusted by loosening the 3 bolts that hold the rear trailing arm to the chassis. If you push the arm inward, you get toe in, outward gets toe out. To adjust camber there is an eccentric bolt where the lower control arm bolts to the spindle (or wheel hub, correct term?). Anyway, once this is loose, it can be turned to adjust camber. It has a cam shaped profile, the base circle of the profile gives the most positive setting, the high end of the "cam" gives the most negative setting. Once the settings are reached, the tech will re-tighten the bolts, (if he's good, he'll do it carefully so as not to affect the positions when tightening, which you'll see when the numbers don't just quite match).
In the front, all that can be "adjusted" is toe. This is just a matter of loosening the tie rod jam nut, and then adjusting the tie rod length, and then tightening down. If the car has camber plates, it can be adjusted at the top of the strut (under the hood) and the tech CAN do this.

Q. What should I do before I get an alignment?
A. Know what you want from the car. Know what settings you want, or the shop will give you factory settings. Do you want the best performance with good tire wear? Then you need to address your front camber issue. Either shims, swap some 96+ strut hats, or camber plates. If the shop can install this for you, fine (it'll cost you), but don't assume they will.

Q. How do I find/install the shims?
A. First you need to find shims. It is basically a washer, with a hole that fits over the lower strut bolt (at least 10mm IIRC). The washer should be about 0.10" (2.54mm) thick. This should give about -1 deg more camber. Do not go much bigger, as you will lose thread engagement (the bolt will not go in all the way). A 0.10" washer is perfectly safe. All you do is jack the front wheel off the ground, remove the wheel, and remove the 2 lower strut bolts. Then insert the shim between the strut and the spindle, and reinstall. (***Note*** This method will pull the tire closer to the strut and spring perch. If you have coilovers, you may need to run a 5mm spacer (or so) if the tire begins to rub the spring perch. Should not affect non/coilover cars.)

**EDIT**Updated 24Feb09** Some have asked if it is possible to run a thicker washer [0.20" (or about 5mm)] and purchase longer bolts for the lower strut mount. Theoretically you will gain approximately -2 deg camber (about the same as swapped strut hats), however, this will bring the tire even closer to the strut, and may make it difficult to run wider tires. I have not tried this. See Post 149 for the discussion.

Q. How do I find/install the 96+ upper strut mounts?
A. If you have a 95 M3, you can find some used on bf.c. If you have a 96, 97, 98, or 99 M3 you already have these. These upper mounts or "top hats" are a steel plate with 3 studs to bolt to the shock tower, and a ball bearing in the center that holds the top of the strut shaft. You'll have to remove the entire spring/shock assembly on each side, and using a spring compressor to keep tension on the spring. Then you will need an impact tool to remove the top strut nut. Once the nut is off, you simply swap the strut hats from Left to Right, and reinstall. [It is a good idea to clean and repack the bearing before you install/re-install them]. You should have about -2.5 to -3 deg. camber. Don't forget to get an alignment afterwards.

Q. So why bother with camber plates?
A. Camber plates give you the most camber, and it is always adjustable. Some people will max out their camber on track/autox, and then adjust it back to a milder setting for the street. (Personally I just leave it). Also, most camber plates also allow for 2 different caster settings. (I wont go into this discussion, it is generally accepted to get as much caster as possible, but I've heard M3 drivers who prefer less caster, anyway....). Finally, I run Vorshlag camber plates because they have the lowest stack height (and a larger ball bearing center, for more info www.vorshlag.com). This means that if you lower your car, it does not compress the strut as much so you have more travel (no bottoming out), and it lets me run my spring perch higher, more adjustment range for coilovers.

Q. How does toe affect performance?
A. Toe behaves similar at either end of the car. Toe in will stabilize the car, making it track straight and not want to change direction. Toe out does the opposite, makes it twitchy, and want to change direction quickly. A car is more responsive with toe out, but less stable.
FRONT Of CAR - Toe-out in the front lets the car turn in nicely, but may "tramline" down the road (finding grooves and irregularities and following them). Toe-in front makes the car hard to turn and want to "push" or understeer (BTW this is what BMW recommends!).
REAR OF CAR - Toe-out in the rear is pretty dangerous for RWD cars, makes the car want to spin, especially under hard braking. Toe-in rear will keep the rear stable, and (here is the key) allow for you to put power down as early and as hard as possible without wheel spin. More is not always better, racers will always adjust these settings till they get it just right. For the street, the suggested settings will let you set-it-and-forget-it.


Q. What is a good track/autox alignment?
A. Most track guys already know what to do here, but for general FYI, a good baseline is:

Front
Camber: -3.5 deg per side
Toe: 0 (0.10-0.20 total toe out for autox)

Rear
Camber: -2.0 to -2.5 deg per side
Toe: 0.20 total toe in (IIRC this is 1/8" total toe in)

You'll notice it is just slightly more aggressive than a good street alignment. Any more than -3.0 deg camber and 0.10 toe (in or out) per side can lead to inner tire wear with lots of highway driving.
Some race cars (on race tires) will run even more camber. For race cars, suspension and weight (and usually the track) always plays a role in alignment.

Q. Why believe the author?
A. You don't have to. I'm not part of a professional race team or anything. But I've done a lot of research, a lot of tuning, and a lot of listening to faster racers. I've had my M3 since 2004. Since then I've learned to develop and setup my M3 competitively for autox and track. In 2005 I was mid pack in my autox class. In 2007 I was beating (and getting beat by) national trophy winners. Also in 2007 I started doing time trials with NASA, and held track records at VIR Full and North Course (which will be improved upon!), and got 3rd place at Redline Time Attack - Summit Point (behind two superb BMW drivers). Also became a certified NASA Instructor earlier last year.
I also drive my car on the street, and can't afford uneven tire wear. I DD, autox, and do track events all on the same tires, so they may not last more than a year, but they are usually worn evenly. I have worn tires unevenly, and it was because I was running the wrong alignment settings (usually too much toe!)
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Old 04-28-2009, 09:02 AM
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i thought so?? Usually chad is right...Attachment 183230 ahha!!! You can rely on stoners!!!

fail. LOL!
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Old 04-28-2009, 09:20 AM
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MrAbbs325is MrAbbs325is is offline
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We for the most part have intelligent answers, we just seem to stray from the topic, usually from somebody's ignorant and uneducated guess's.
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Old 04-28-2009, 10:29 AM
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We for the most part have intelligent answers, we just seem to stray from the topic, usually from somebody's ignorant and uneducated guess's.
no idea what you refer to exactly.

anyway, spence, good read. I wonder how bmw handles this issue when they now install BMW Performance suspension upgrades on e9x
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Old 04-28-2009, 10:39 AM
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-2.5* front camber?!

The rest looks good, but that's a little too much.

And it didn't look like you were asking for any more explanation on how to align a car.
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Old 04-28-2009, 11:44 AM
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A question for you then , when the front tyres wear like \_\ \_\ what does that show to be at fault ?
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Old 04-28-2009, 05:32 PM
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deeeeeeeeem! just bookmarked this page and screen shotted all that info. great post !!
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  #19  
Old 01-22-2010, 01:27 PM
Eight Thirty Eight Thirty is offline
nothing.
Location: Rochester, Ny
 
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Mein Auto: who knows?
Okay.... im bumping this for an actual reason now.

A LOT of peoples have been getting lower and i thought i would post this up for everyone to see..
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  #20  
Old 01-22-2010, 02:37 PM
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wag-zhp wag-zhp is offline
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Location: Sacramento, CA
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 3,526
Mein Auto: 97 White 328iC
Quote:
Originally Posted by E36 Phantom View Post
-2.5* front camber?!

The rest looks good, but that's a little too much.

And it didn't look like you were asking for any more explanation on how to align a car.
If you leave the front toe adjustment set to the factory recommended setting that is true, but if you adjust the toe as recommended the tires will wear much better and give better turn in and overall traction. Very good information!!!!
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  #21  
Old 01-22-2010, 02:58 PM
advertisehere advertisehere is offline
pancakes?
Location: Belmont, CA
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 72
Mein Auto: '96 328i sedan
thanks, I'll use this when getting an alignment done.
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  #22  
Old 01-22-2010, 03:15 PM
Pilgrim Pilgrim is offline
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Location: Fort Collins, CO
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 475
Mein Auto: 2009 328iX Coupe
Moral of the story: there are good reasons not to mess with the suspension and/or lowering unless (a) you have done a lot of research, (b) know what you're doing, and (c) are ready to do a LOT more than bolt on parts.
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  #23  
Old 01-22-2010, 03:45 PM
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cmybimmer cmybimmer is offline
IM DA BES
Location: 'llejo Califo'nya
 
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Mein Auto: A rental
^Or have a crapton of tires to burn

Speaking of which, Im starting to worry bout Steve. Where in the hell has he been? Anyone try contacting him? I tried calling/texting him a few time with NO response. Hope everythings cool with him.
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  #24  
Old 03-21-2010, 07:59 AM
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JC540I JC540I is offline
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Location: N.H.
 
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Mein Auto: 95' 540ia-orient Blue
Great post, not trying to jump start a dying topic?!?!?!? but good stuff
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Owned/own:
1995 M3-cosmos black(E36)
1998 528I-schwartz black(E39)
1999 328IS-steel blue(E36)
1995 540IA-orient blue(E34) 5/6 speed swap soon.
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  #25  
Old 03-21-2010, 02:56 PM
Chris S Chris S is offline
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Location: Kanagawa, Japan
 
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Posts: 797
Mein Auto: 1997 323i
think it was long dead... not dying
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