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Member Journals Do you have a long term project you would like to share with the community? Use this forum to create a single thread which you can update over time to document the progress.


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Old Sun, Mar-04-2018, 03:17:32 PM   #1
ctres
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Default Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

I've had this project in the works for over a year now but I'm finally making decent progress so I figure it would be a good time to start a thread to document it. I'm a little late in starting this, so I'll post photos and videos as I get time.

I ran across a good deal on an S54 with a bunch of spare M3 parts on craigslist in Fall 2016. I had no chassis to put it in but I had been wanting to do an E30 swap for a long time so I scooped it up anyways. The search was on for a clean E30 chassis to drop it into, but in the meantime I stripped the engine down to the long block and started cleaning things up.

Picking up the S54 and a bunch of other M3 parts that came along with it.


The S54 in all it's glory on the engine stand




Long block being stripped down for repaint. Stay tuned, I figured I'd go with something more exciting that the standard black paint.


Fast forward to Summer 2017 and I finally found a good chassis locally. It was a 91 318is in Alpine white. The car had been an Arizona car for it's entire life up until about a year before I bought it, and had never been driven in a Michigan winter so there was no rust to be found. Everything else on the car is a bit rough, and the odometer had stopped at 225K, so it's had a long life but the chassis seemed solid and I wasn't concerned about the drivetrain so I took the dive.

Here's a few glamour shots of the E30 shortly after I got it. The cosmetic issues are readily apparent, but I'll get to those later. For the moment I'm happy to have found a rust free late model E30 for a reasonably price.




I got distracted working on my M3 that summer and fall, so the E30 didn't get much attention except for the occasional burnout and hooning here and there.

Meanwhile the S54 sat on the stand for quite some time without getting much love. Finally just after New Years 2018 I got around to buying a new suframe and pulling the S54 oil pan to send out to Arc Asylum for Tyler to do his modification to retain the stock S54 oiling system in the E30 chassis. I got back to work on the engine and started getting serious about accumulating parts for the swap.

We got the car inside, which was a struggle since it barely wanted to stay running and the battery was totally dead from sitting in the freezing cold for 4 months. It was making some pretty awful noises at this point but I managed to limp it in. More on this later. My buddy helped me pull the stock M42 engine and thanks to the lack of rust, everything came apart without any issues and we managed to get the engine and trans out together pretty easily in just two evenings. We don't normally have that luxury working on cars from Michigan so that certainly made the process less frustrating.

Tucked away in the corner


Hood off


Everything mostly disconnected up top, getting the engine ready to pull


Out with the old!


Mostly empty engine bay before I removed the last few things. Since this photo I removed the purge canister, and AC lines, condenser, and electric fan


I also picked up a ZF 5speed, steering rack, and power steering pump from an E36 328i in a local junkyard. This will make a nice improvement to the steering, and the ZF mate up to the S54 with an E46 M3 clutch and pressure plate and an E34 M5 clutch. I'll be using an E36 328 or M3 driveshaft which should bolt right up with the E30 CSB.

ZF 5spd + all the mess from the M42 removal


With the M42 out I made my first repair to the E30! I swapped out the blower motor resistor and got functioning heat again. I pulled the AC condenser, fan, and AC lines since I don't plan to have functioning AC. I want to keep weight off the front end, since the S54 upsets the weight balance a bit already, and I don't feel like dealing with the CAN interface required for proper operation of the AC compressor with the S54. However, I need the blower working so I can at least have windshield defrost functional. I figure I'm saving about 40-50 lbs by not having AC. The metal fan on the E30 condenser was surprisingly heavy. I'll have to weigh everything to get a final number.

Last edited by ctres; Tue, Mar-13-2018 at 02:05:12 AM.
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Old Sun, Mar-04-2018, 03:22:01 PM   #2
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Sounds like an awesome project. Looking forward to updates.
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Old Mon, Mar-05-2018, 12:48:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Thanks, I can't wait. Stay tuned for updates.
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Old Mon, Mar-05-2018, 03:55:23 AM   #4
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

I'm always in for a good build thread. This should be awesome!
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Old Wed, Mar-07-2018, 08:04:47 PM   #5
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Excited to see the progress on this build
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Old Sat, Mar-10-2018, 08:35:12 PM   #6
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Sounds good.. sub'd
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Old Tue, Mar-13-2018, 02:27:51 AM   #7
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Original post updated with photos. We completed the autopsy of the M42 on Saturday. Did I mention it was making bad noises? Yeah, well it turned out nearly all the main bearings had spun. I knew it was losing oil all along, but hadn't bother to trace down the leak since I really didn't care what happened to the M42 and I knew I'd be pulling it sooner than later anyway. Turns out running it hard with very little oil tends to expose the ummmm... shall we say 'weaknesses' of the engine (or possibly the owner).

Here's a photo of the crank. All the main journals had seen better days, but but damage on the one in the middle of the pic is particularly bad. You are actually seeing the outside of the bearing shell there. The two halves of the shell welded themselves together and formed a ring that can be spun around the main journal.


And a photo of the head which actually seemed to be in good shape. Turns out there is still a market for a lot of parts from these engines and I've been able to part some stuff out. Not bad since I had just planned on scrapping the whole thing.


Anyway, enough of the old, the S54 bottom end looks healthy and I started replacing the rod bearings on Saturday with new OEM WPC treated bearings. I got 3 cylinders done but it was getting late so I'll finish the rest this week.


Assembling with redline assembly lube


I'll post photos of all the shells once I finish the rest of the cylinders. All three that I pulled showed a small amount of copper on the rod half. Nothing major, and certainly not bad compared to some of the ones I've seen posted by others here. However, it was a good reminder that doing this is worthwhile, especially when it's easy with the engine out like this. I belive this engine has around 130K miles on the original bearings. I did find a vanos tab in the oil pan unfortunately, so I had to bite the bullet and buy a new hub to the tune of $400. Vanos bulletproofing with Beisan parts is next on the agenda before the engine goes in the car.
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Old Wed, Apr-18-2018, 01:17:49 AM   #8
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

It's been a while since my last update and progress has been slow. I've been accumulating more parts and discovering more hurdles as I go.

I found that one of my rod bearings was damaged in handling/transit, so I have 5 done and I'm waiting on a replacement to finish installing them. I found a good vanos hub, so Beisan fixes will be next along with new paint for the engine block.

I rolled the car outside on a warmer day and cleaned out the engine bay and got rid of a lot of the dirt and grease.

In doing so I unfortunately discovered that there was some damage to the chassis legs at some point in the car's past. I knew it had been in front end collision at some point because the radiator support was a bit bent up in one spot, but I didn't think it was enough to affect the legs. If you look closely you can spot it. I'm still trying to decide how to proceed from here. If anyone has any tips feel free to let me know. The safest course of action would probably be to take it to a frame shop to check it for straightness and adjust as necessary.


In the meantime I've been figuring out my fuel system and a bit more wiring. I got an Aeromotive 340LPH pump which is overkill, but seemed like a quality option. I'll be installing it in place of the stock 318is fuel pump in the tank. Stock rubber lines are 8X13mm, so I got some replacement CRP line and I'll be replacing any rubber lines that need it (probably all of them). I'll be using a stock 318is fuel filter in the stock location. The fuel supply and return line come up to the engine bay right near the left side chassis leg/strut tower. I'll be installing a stock E46 M3 FPR in this location and connecting it to the fuel rail with either an E46 or E36 line.

I also dug into the wiring harness a bit to delete the SMG connections that won't be needed. More details to follow on that, but this certainly helped to remove much of the bulk.

For the brakes I got a used booster from a BMW 2002. This will bolt up to the firewall and the master cylinder will fit right on it. The rod for the clevis will need to be modified. From what I've read it sounds like this will clear the manifold. If not I'll likely modify the manifold or move the booster to the left.

I also installed garagistic delrin shift carrier bushings and a new selector shaft seal on the ZF trans. The input and output shaft seals looked dry so I didn't mess with them. I also purchased a new collar thingy that goes around the input shaft, new shift fork, and steel pivot pin as well as garagistic poly bushings. I have a new Sachs E34 M5 clutch and used E46 M3 flywheel and pressure plate with low mileage that I'll be using to pair the engine to the trans.

I have a steering rack from an E36 328i that I'll be installing once I get my subframe back from Arc Asylum. The E36 rack is 3.2 turns lock to lock vs. the stock E30 rack which is about 4 turns. I'll be using an E36 power steering pump and lines. The Arc Asylum subframe is being made so that an E36 rack is a direct fit with no spacers needed. I need to make some slight modifications to where the column comes through the firewall to make everything line up since my car is equipped with an airbag. Earlier non-airbag E30's are a bit easier.

Last edited by ctres; Wed, Apr-18-2018 at 02:03:54 AM.
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Old Fri, Aug-24-2018, 06:27:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: Calvin's E30 S54 Swap

Long overdue update here, I have quite a bit of progress to cover so it will probably take a couple posts.

Arc Asylum subframe bolted right up with no issues. The E36 steering rack fit perfectly on the modified subframe and I installed new lemforder control arms and tie rods along with Garagistic offset control arm bushings which will help with header clearance.

I used the steering shaft joint from the stock E30 318is along with an Ireland Engineering poly coupler. The angle of the input shaft to the steering rack is slightly different on the E30 rack which require that the firewall hole where the steering shaft passes through be enlarged slightly. I expanded the hole down and towards the passenger side a little bit and sealed it with POR15 and some primer. Then I took a piece of aluminum and made a new covering plate with the hole for the rubber grommet relocated to match the modified hole in the firewall. This was done entirely with a dremel, angle grinder and bench grinder. It's not super pretty but it does the job.

After that the steering column bolted up nicely.

I bulletproofed the VANOS on the S54 with Beisan disk and all new seals, as well as a new (to me) exhaust hub since one of my tabs was broken. I finished installing the rod bearings and torqued everything with new OE BMW M10 rod bolts.

I had stripped all the old peeling paint off the S54 block months earlier using a pneumatic needle scaler tool, but in the meantime the block had developed surface rust again. I used some Metal Rescue rust remover which worked remarkably well to remove the surface rust and get it back to bare metal. I used the liquid kind in a spray bottle and just kept the block wet for about 2 hours and it just rinsed it all off with only a little bit of work with a wire scrub brush.

I then cleaned prepped the block with using POR15 cleaner degreaser and metal prep solvent. I used the products as instructed in the POR15 engine painting kit, and then painted the block with a base coat of black POR15 using sponge brushes. I was extremely impressed with how well the POR15 covered the block and the durable coating it created. It looked very professional and similar to the factory paint. I then went on to paint it with the POR15 engine enamel in bright red. I figured it would be fun to do something different and go for an exciting color after all the work I had put into prepping it. I wasn't too impressed with the results though. The paint was quite thick but didn't cover well and had a tendency to run. It filled in the roughness of the block leaving it very shiny and smooth, which I think is the intention. It ended up with quite a few runs and was thick in some areas and too thin in others. It looks great from a couple feet away though, and no one will ever see it though. Perhaps I did not mix it adequately, or I got a bad batch somehow. It sounds like other people have had good luck with it. If I try it again someday I'd be inclined to spray it on, or possibly just do a base coat of regular POR15 and follow that with a coat of rattle can from another brand.

I'm currently in the process of reinstalling all the accessories and wiring. I expect to be dropping the engine in the car in the next couple weeks.

Pictures coming soon once I get a chance.
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Discussing Calvin's E30 S54 Swap in the Member Journals Forum - Do you have a long term project you would like to share with the community? Use this forum to create a single thread which you can update over time to document the progress. at BMW M3 Forum.com (E30 M3 | E36 M3 | E46 M3 | E92 M3 | F80/X)