A BMW 328ti's Story
by Stephen Wolff
Stephen Wolff has sent us a really unique piece; the creation of a new BMW model! He has built a 328ti Sport, perhaps the only one in existence. His work, while unique, gives a special look at what can be accomplished with this most sporting machine. But let's let Stephen speak for himself:

I purchased my 96 318ti Sport Package in Alaska Blue with Gray Millpoint, in October '96 through BMW's European Delivery Program. As this is the second "ti" in my household, I was already in love with the car.

On June 10, 1997 it was a very wet day. It was the third or fourth day of consecutive heavy rain in the South Florida Area. Anyone from South Florida knows what that's like. I went to lunch and the road I traveled was flooded. I should have known better, but in front of me was the little Honda Civic that went through the water just fine. I went for it. Almost all the way through the flooded road I heard a loud thunk and the engine shut off. The car kept rolling and made it closer to the water edge so I didn't get too wet. The car wouldn't restart and I called BMW Roadside Service. They towed the vehicle back the dealer and I got the news I didn't want to hear, The engine was hydro locked. GREAT :(. I called the insurance company, they inspected the vehicle and authorized a long block replacement. That is when the contemplating began about replacing the engine with something other then the M44 Engine.

We had 2 ideas on what kind of engine I wanted to put in the car, a 328 or a M3 engine. I didn't want to do a 325, since it had already been done by Race Marque a year or so ago. I had a budget I had to work with and when I started looking around, the M3 drivetrain was too expensive. I also knew that if I went too extreme on power I would end up having to replace the differential. After driving enough 328's I knew that this was the perfect engine for the job. I located a place in Orlando, Florida called Michael Foreign Auto Recycler and spoke to Bob Wery. It turned out that they are an authorized recycling facility for BMWNA. I told him what I required for the conversion and we agreed on a price for an almost new 328 drivetrain. He sent me almost everything from the engine compartment including the splash shields!!! The only part he couldn't supply me with was a DME control unit. I talked to him on a Friday and I had the parts Thursday.

Then the fun began. Lee Oliva, a Master Technician was going to do the job. We joke that he can remove a transmission with one hand and put in another with the other. The M44 engine was removed along with the engine wire harness, radiator and transmission. We surveyed what would have to be removed or relocated. We noticed the DIS (diagnostic) plug mounts on the other shock tower. The battery tray did not pose any problems, though eventually I would like to relocate the battery to the trunk.

When I got home from work I made a call to Race Marque Systems in California and spoke to Osh. I wanted to know what problems they faced with their "325ti". He informed me that the driveshaft would not have to be cut. I will have to replace the instrument cluster with a 328 cluster and install diagnostic wiring so that it will accept programming. They used a stock 325 exhaust and cut to make it fit. The only other problems he felt we might face with a 328 engine would be the OBD II (On Board Diagnostics). The ti does not have some of the sensors that the 328 carries. A couple of brackets had to be removed that aren't needed on the 6 cylinder and got in the way of the installation. One was the bracket that holds on the coils on the passenger side of the engine compartment and the other was power steering reservoir bracket. On the 328 the reservoir mounts on the left engine support.

Next the 6 cylinder was lowered into place. As expected the engine bolted right up to the "ti" engine crossmember. All E36's use the same engine crossmember. Before we installed the transmission, we checked to make sure that the transmission output shaft and the front driveshaft mount where the same size, they are NOT! After thinking about my conversation with Race Marque, their 325ti was a automatic transmission, this probably why it fit without cutting. I ordered a 328 driveshaft from Michael's and will have the front section cut and installed on the rest of the "ti" shaft. It will also have to be shortened 4 cm. I am hoping that we can just slide off the front section of the 328 driveshaft and slide it on to the rear of the "ti" shaft since the 328 drive shaft is shorter the then "ti" shaft, so I hope that shortness is in the front section.

The new transmission was then installed, again with no problems. We discovered that where the battery sits in the engine compartment, is where the air pump mounts on the 328. So that means the battery is definitely getting relocated to the right rear trunk. The remainder of the A/C lines were run and installed.

The 328 radiator was installed. The bottom mounts for the radiator are different from the "ti", so they where changed. The "ti" a/c condenser did not work either, so it was replaced with the 328 condenser. The new auxiliary fan and cooling fan was installed (the "ti" only uses 1 electric fan).

The 328 driveshaft arrived. After measuring the whole 328 shaft we decided that it should bolt right in with no modifications. It did, every thing bolted up fine. The new fuel lines were installed with out any problems.

We realized that the "ti" does not have a Fuel Pressure Regulator, so we had to install one from a 328. It installs under the car in front of the fuel filter. Some of the metal fuel lines had to be cut to fit the regulator.

When the engine was removed at the salvage yard, they cut the O2 sensor wires at the connectors, so we had to repair some wiring. This took a bit of time to complete. The 328 catalytic converter was bolted into place and fit on the "ti" exhaust mounts fine. The 328-rear muffler will need to be cut at a muffler shop; about 15" need to be removed.

Next we changed the engine oil, refilled the coolant and hooked up the DME control unit. Since the battery cable hadn't been run yet, we rigged the battery and removed the secondary air pump to get power. Once we had power, we coded the DME to the car and then we had to align the EWS II with the DME.

THE CAR WAS STARTED. It ran for a few minutes and then we shut it off (remember no muffler).

We are about 90% done, but the car driveable for now.

The car went to the muffler shop to have the exhaust cut and fitted, but the 328 muffler is to wide to fit under the car. They created a temporary custom free flow exhaust, using a "Y" pipe and using a single outlet. The exhaust looks almost like a stock "ti" exhaust pipe.

After the muffler was done, I couldn't stop smiling on the way back to the shop. The acceleration is amazing. The engine is so smooth. We are using the stock "ti" differential which has a 3:45=1 ratio compared to the 328 which uses a 2:93=1 ratio. So the car accelerates hard, but does not have a high top end. Right now, I figure top end to be about 120mph; this is fast enough for me.

We also installed the set of M3 wheels and tires that I purchased (1995 M3 wheels), also from Michael's. They really make the car look great.

After driving the car for a few weeks it was time to install the new instrument cluster. I decided to install a M3 cluster since it will work the same as a 328 cluster. I spent most of the day installing the new instrument cluster. I removed the glove box assembly, airbag and steering wheel. I ran the diagnostic cables (RXD & TXD, the "ti" does not have them) behind the dash and spliced them into the ZKE control module. I also ran the wiring to get the MPG gauge to work. For this, I had to run the wiring out through the firewall on the driver's side and install it with a pin in the X20 connector (Big round plug next to fuse box).

Since the "ti" does not have any instrument diagnostics, the only test I had was to code the cluster with the MODIC (BMW's handheld diagnostic and programming device). It worked perfectly with no hitches (I had to get all the coding codes from another 328). After everything was completed I connected the car to the DIS (BMW's diagnostic computer) to clear the SRS fault. At that time I did a fault test to see why the "Check Engine" light stays on. It listed about 5 different faults. I cleared them all and the only one that came back on was an O2 sensor fault. I'll have to see what's going on. Maybe I have a bad sensor. Now the tachometer doesn't go in a big circle when I accelerate. On the way to work one morning I decided to see how fast she would go. When the rev limiter kicked in the speedometer was showing 133mph. Given the 328 is limited to 128mph. I would think the speedometer was a little off, which is normal.

I still have 2 problem that cause the "Check Engine" light to stay on. One is the Fuel Tank Pressure Sensor. The 328's have a fuel tank pressure sensor that is used in conjunction with OBD II. The "ti's" do not have one. This will require a bit of work. Our thought is the measure the Ohm's output of properly working 328 sensor, then hot wire a resistor to those wires that puts out the same Ohm's, fooling the DME into thinking it has a good sensor working. The other fault is the Exhaust Flap Sensor. The 328's have a trick exhaust valve on one of the exhaust outlet pipe. It can be opened or closed by the computer. Hopefully if I install the sensor, the computer will be happy that it's there and it doesn't transmit sensor readings.

I've put about 7000 miles on the car since the engine installation. I haven't had one problem with the car so far. I installed an AutoThority K&N air filter assembly, sounds even better now.

TOTAL COST OF PROJECT: $8000.00 (including wheels)

September 17, 1999