Say Hi to my latest, and hopefully last (for a while) acquisition...

Details about the car that I could tell:
MY 2003, built in 12/2002
325iT, rear wheel drive
* Cold Weather Package
* Premium Package
* Natural Brown leather (included with Premium)
* Orient Blue Metallic
* Moonroof
* Automatic transmission

Overall, this is a very middle-of-the-road optioned vehicle. Unfortunately it was missing a critical item for me: Xenon headlights. But, I digress...

This baby will hopefully serve the purpose that Rusty the Touring couldn't serve, which is to replace The Vault in wintery, rainy, or random days I don't feel like driving a manual. Thus far un-named, this Orient Blue diamond-in-the-rough has already gotten several replacement parts and modifications done by me in the past 2-or-so weeks I've had it in my possession. While not as well optioned as Rusty, it does have a few things going for it, chief of which is low mileage and the added bonus of a heated, Natural Brown interior. Orient on Natural Brown; now there's a color combo I can get behind, not to mention that I won't have to two-tone swap this interior. It's already done for me!

There are (were) some problems, however. This car lived its whole life in New York City, which is probably one of the trashiest places to own a car. The rear bumper bears all the evidence of such a crap environment. The rear bumper is more peppered with imperfections than a teenager's face, and the front has seen better days as well with damage to the top of the bumper and the hood. I'm not too worried about the front and rear bumpers, however, because this beauty will eventually receive new M-Tech II front and rear bumpers. The hood's future is unknown at this time; I'll have to see if it can be salvaged. If not, a new one will eventually make its way on.

The paint needs some serious detail work. There are clearcoat scratches on every single panel on this car's body, including (very strangely) on the roof. This car was clearly not owned by enthusiasts.

Thankfully the body doesn't have excessive amounts of rust. The only rust to be found on this car's body is on the right-rear fender arch (typical place) and two small surface rust spots where some idiot used the wrong screws for the rear license plate. These will also be addressed in the future.

The underside of the car wasn't bad with rust. It's very light surface rust, nothing atypical of a Northeast car, though this car seems to have a lot less of it than other cars I've seen. I did get the chance to inspect it on a lift before purchasing, so if I bought it you can imagine it's totally doable. I didn't get any pictures of the underside, however, but if I'm willing to work on it then it's obviously not a big deal!

I'm amazed by how clean the interior is. The seats actually aren't even rock hard yet unlike the seats in my ZHP. Most of the seat parts are still somewhat soft to the touch, so I think I can revive some of the softness with a good Leatherique application sometime next summer. Because the leather is so good, I may accelerate my window film plans and put the same film on as my ZHP currently wears, Llumar AirBlue 80. I'd like to keep the seats as nice as I can for as long as I can!

Unfortunately the dash, center console, and center stack all appear to be shiny black, so they must have been treated with some oily crap that some cheapo detailers like to use. I will most definitely be cleaning this crap off; I like my materials looking new, which is matte! It is hard to tell in the pic, but trust me, it's glossy as hell...

Let's get on to the things I've already done to the car in the past 2 weeks.

On the drive home from the dealer, I realized the automatic transmission had a problem. What a way to start the journey, both figurately and literally...
The ZF transmissions on these are total garbage for the most part. They have a variety of issues that are somewhat common, including things like no reverse gear or rev-bouncing on the highway due to blown torque converter seals. While my reverse gear worked fine, the car hunted for revs a lot on the highway and never locked up fifth gear.

After some research I found that the torque converters used on the ZF transmissions used an inferior seal that couldn't stand up to the heat produced. Eventually they fail, which causes pressure issues and the inability to lock fifth gear on the highway, causing the rev hunting. My car was also dropping the revs a lot, shaking the car, and bouncing the revs back up even at really low RPM / speeds (around 30mph).

The first thing I did, in a panic, was drop the car off at a local transmission shop (Affordable Transmissions). They are rated well and I got a great feeling about them after speaking with the owner of the place (named Warren). He was knowledgable, very nice, and offered a very fair labor rate. Unfortunately the bill was still a lot, but that was because I told him to install upgraded parts instead of direct swap ones. This means I got an upgraded torque converter from a performance shop with upgraded seals. He also said I needed a valve body, so I upgraded that as well with one that has the updated pressure regulator from Sonnax already installed. The pressure regulator helps with mitigating issues such as the reverse drum issue. $1900 later, I have a transmission that's better than any of the crap I'd be otherwise swapping from a junkyard. Along with the new valve body and torque converter, I obviously had them change the fluid and filter. I used Redline D4 ATF for the fluid and a geniune BMW filter.

Unfortunately, due to the transmission issue, I now deduce that I've paid WAY too much for the car. I didn't know it had the transmission issue at the time because I couldn't test drive it. I could thank New Jersey for that; the only highway nearby was the Garden State Parkway, which you have to pay to get on and off. I wasn't about to pay just to get on an exit and get off again, so I tried to get up to speed on the main road, and it behaved just fine on the main road. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Another thing I've had to replace was the rear window regulator. It went crunchy crunch crunh on me the day before I was supposed to drop it off at the transmission shop. Thankfully that was an easy job, though it took way longer than it should have due to a bolt that decided to disappear without a trace. Home Depot to the rescue!

Alright, alright - I'll get on to the mods, hold your horsepower!

The autodim mirror wasn't working. No surprises there; it's usually a lottery if they do work with cars this old. No worries; I had a functional spare with the homelink buttons on it, which is exactly what I needed to install anyway. Two birds, one stone, check.

I've gotten used to my ZHP beeping on lock/unlock since I retrofitted an alarm into that car a while back. I missed that with this one as it didn't come with an alarm, so I remedied that situation by taking it out of Rusty. Holy crap what an endeavor that was; it took me at least a couple of hours to figure out how to disassemble the back part of the touring chassis so I can get to the tilt sensor, as well as dealing with the "gotchas" I found along the way. Then, to have to do it again on the Orient one... at least that one went faster. It was worth it, however; I now have an alarm, coded and functional!

This little shit gave me far more grief than I anticipated. I WIN, SUCKER!

I will need to upgrade the LCM on this bad boy at some point. This one is an antiquated version, low 3.1x if I remember correctly. Rusty has a 3.56, which I may swap, but I have a spare 3.6 with software 4.0 flashed on to it that was causing problems in the ZHP, so I removed it. I may try it with this car to see if I have the same problems. I'm going to have a harder time running LEDs in the touring since PWM can't handle the LEDs properly, so they are at 90% brightness even with the lights not fully activated. That gets rather blinding at night, so I'll try to work some magic with these. I need to have LEDs!

Rusty also has more goodies that I intend on swapping. It has the newer style HVAC module (IHKA) that I want to swap, which isn't as deep and allows more wiring to hide behind it in case I want to install another headunit or media integration module. One of those options will be happening, I just haven't figured out which one yet.

Rusty also has a full PDC system installed, which I really want to install in the Orient, but I'm dreading the amount of work that's going to be to remove it from one and install on the other. Decisions, decisions...

Tonight I spent a ton of time tearing apart Rusty's front end so I can...
... INSTALL THE XENONS IN THE ORIENT. Holy crap, the halogens are terrible.

Currently Rusty sits in the parking lot with no front headlights because I ran out of time. I did, however, finish the Orient, and the AL Xenons are installed and functioning, albeit as low beam only. I have to wire up the shutters to the LCM, which involves finding the right connector for the Xenon shutters to be plugged into the controller (ballast). That will be a project for a later time; for now I'm content with Xenon lows/halogen highs. I do need to swap in a pair of ZKW lenses on to the projectors, however; this murky blurred cutoff is annoying me. I do have a spare pair of ZKW lenses, so that will happen shortly!

The lighting is a big part of the upgrade, but the aesthetics are signficantly better as well. I don't have a daytime shot yet, but I will update this (if I remember to) tomorrow with a daytime shot of how much better the front end looks with Xenon projectors and lenses that are in significantly better condition.

Last but not least, Rusty had a surprise up its sleeve, and you're damned right I installed it in the Orient!

Yup, that's an aFe intake. I also have the shield, but that doesn't want to play nice with the AL Xenon controller, which protrudes too much into the space the shield would be in. For now, I've left the shield out and will most likely reinstall it when I retrofit new projectors into the spare set of ZKW Xenons I have lying around. Once that happens I'll also be installing city lights, just like my ZHP.

That's it for now. Stay tuned; there will be many things happening to this car in the future! Also a big shout-out to Charlie for helping drive The Vault back from Jersey when we went to go pick up the Orient. That was a helluva long day for him; thanks Charrie!