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Third time's the charm: 1989 Lachs/Cardinal

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  • Hi
    I think I would star with replacing the throttle position switch, I had one go bad and it caused intermittent fluctuating idle when stopping at intersections.
    If the ICV buzzes then the transistors are good, if the transistors fail the idle speed will be low not high.

    E30 M3 1987
    Mini Clubman GT
    BMW E36 323 Msport
    Toyota Corona
    KTM 200EXC
    Honda CB50 (1979)


    • *edit* test post - will be back with an update soon!
      1989 Lachs
      1988 Lachs - sold
      1988 DS - sold
      Car blog
      Bay Area M3 FB group


      • Series of update posts inbound

        I guess I've been living with my hot idle issue for longer than I realized, I can't believe that was the last update. Still not fixed, I've tried other known-good ECUs but have not really had time to investigate further. Will probably wave the white flag soon and take the car out to Josh in Sacramento.

        Life is busy. In the fall I delivered my first product for Apple, the second-generation AirPods Pro. Never imagined I'd work on something like that - the last product I delivered before this was the Tesla Model 3. I used to work on parts 2 meters long, now I work on parts 0.0002 meters long. Turns out the physics and engineering are basically the same, you just move the decimal points around.

        Car things that happened in the second half of 2022, not very BMW-related:
        • Drove an S54 M coupe and loved it (resisted urge to buy)
        • Displayed my Skyline at Radwood NorCal (photo not from Radwood)
        • Installed an aggressive brake ducting setup in my Focus RS and fixed (mostly) my track overheating issues

        [photo credit: Todd Lapin]
        • Went to Laguna Seca for the Rolex historic races (album) - par excellence
        • Went on vacation in the UK to see the EK9 Civic Type R I bought sight-unseen and take it on a road trip through Cornwall (album) - awesome car, awesome trip
        • Went to the Goodwood Revival (album) - best car event I've ever been to, it's what Monterey Car Week wishes it could be. You absolutely must make the trip if you love cars
        • Went to DirtFish rally school and only by off-hand comment learned that one of my instructors, Sean Edwards, is an E30 M3 OG and restores them (album) - amazing experience, completely different skill set than track driving, fascinating and super fun

        [photo credit: DirtFish]
        • Went to Laguna Seca for the Velocity Invitational (album) - how many dollars of car in the photo below? Don't miss the McLaren F1s in the back there

        Yeah... no wonder I haven't been posting much. But don't worry, you're about to get a complete overdose of E30 M3 photos in my next couple posts. Kevin and I took our cars to Palm Springs two weekends ago to attend M School. Read on!
        1989 Lachs
        1988 Lachs - sold
        1988 DS - sold
        Car blog
        Bay Area M3 FB group


        • [note: this is pasted directly from my blog]

          A year ago, I kicked off my 2022 automotive calendar with an amazing road trip down to Palm Springs in the Focus. You can read about that here on the blog (part 1, part 2, part 3). The purpose of that journey was to attend the one-day M School at the BMW Performance Center West in Thermal, CA, just east of Palm Springs. I made a point of avoiding the soul-crushing boredom of I-5 on that trip, and in the process discovered some gems of roads through central California.

          I enjoyed myself so much at M School that I signed up again for January of 2023. This time, I decided that I wanted to make the trip in my M3, and I enlisted a friend to join me as well. Kevin is a great friend with one of the nicest E30 M3s on earth, and he was brave enough to join me on this journey of 1200+ miles in our 30 year-old cars, driving off the beaten path. I drew heavily from last year's route, trying to balance trip time with road quality and scenery. Here's the route we took:

          [note: CA-33 is closed as I write this, so I can't provide an accurate updated map; this is the map from the Focus trip again, it's the same through Ventura]

          Google maps link: [will update]

          1. 101 south to Atascadero, stop for lunch and fuel
          2. Exit 101 in Santa Margarita, catch CA-58 east
          3. Follow CA-58 until it hits CA-33
          4. Take CA-33 south, stop in Maricopa for fuel
          5. Follow CA-33 / CA-166 south, turn south to remain on CA-33 / Maricopa Highway
          6. Follow CA-33 all the way town through Ojai into Ventura, stop for fuel
          7. 101 east to 134 east to 210 east, stop in Pasadena for dinner
          8. 210 east to 10 east all the way to Palm Springs
          There was a bit more prep work required for this trip compared to the previous journey in the Focus. I thoroughly inspected the car and found no issues except for a pool of coolant in the driver's footwell, courtesy of a leaking heater valve. No heat for the trip, then. I decided to apply the "umbrella" strategy (bring an umbrella and it won't rain) and packed the trunk full of tools as well as some M3-specific components that might save us from an extended stop on the side of the road. Of course, my best vintage car tool is a Premier-level AAA membership, which includes a once-yearly 200-mile tow. We packed simple 2-way walkie-talkies to help with car-to-car communication, something hugely helpful for quick communications and alerts about upcoming vehicles with lights on the roof.

          Poor Kevin lives 100 miles north of me, so his Saturday (1/7) started early. We met at my place, ate chicken biscuits, and did a final once-over before filling up our tanks and hitting the road. We merged on to the 101 at 9.45a Saturday.

          The opening leg - about 3 hours due south on the highway - was uneventful. We tiptoed past the CHP command post in King City and arrived in Atascadero for an In-N-Out lunch (mandatory for any CA road trip) and fuel.

          We hopped on the 101 again briefly to reach Santa Margarita, where we connected with CA-58 and left the highway behind. On last year's trip it was "love at first drive" with this road, and 2023 did not disappoint. The road quality is excellent and there was not a single car to slow us down across the uncharacteristically green scenery, courtesy of a very wet winter season.

          Last year I didn't stop for photos - this year we did.

          Midway through CA-58 there is a reprieve from the squiggles and the road becomes dead straight, breaking up solar panel farms. Well - it's straight on the map, but there is a sequence of blind rolling hills that serves to jostle your lunch around and make you nervously lift off the accelerator pedal, unable to see what's on the back side of each crest. I managed to catch an interloper in one of my photos snapped blindly through the windshield, a lone coyote.

          We stopped again to enjoy the vast expanse and total quiet of the empty plain.

          "You know," I said to Kevin, "I've always wanted one of those 'middle of the road' photos, but I've never been brave enough to do it on any roads in the Bay Area."

          "Well," he said, "there is no one out here, and we can see miles in both directions." And so we did middle-of-the-road photos. Of course we didn't just park our cars - in these photos we're both hunched over behind the wheel, car running, ready to clear out as soon as we hear a car coming.

          None did.

          [photo credit: Kevin Lee]

          CA-58 is a greatest hits album of a road, offering a complete and varied package of scenery, cambered curves, and long straights. But the top single from the album is the eastern end of the road, a descent past the Temblor Range into the central valley. This is a dream piece of road, perfect in every way except that it's so absolutely in the middle of nowhere.

          At the bottom of the hill we intercepted CA-33, following it south through the oil fields and small towns of Taft and Maricopa. We stopped for fuel in Maricopa - not strictly necessary, but I prefer to top off with good quality gas when venturing off the beaten path.

          CA-33 and CA-166 coincide south of Maricopa, and we traced them down for a few miles before turning south to stay on CA-33 / Maricopa Highway toward Los Padres National Forest.

          I recycled one of the photo spots I found on last year's trip - not too shabby.

          The sun started to sag pretty low, and we still had to get up and over the hill, through Ojai and to our next stop in Ventura. Pre-trip we'd discussed the option of Malibu canyon carving, but we'd spent a fair amount of time stopping and snapping photos (no regrets) and the 5p winter sunset meant we had to pick up the pace. I didn't want to be on these unfamiliar canyon roads in the dark.

          CA-33 is another road worth a few hours' detour in a sports car. My favorite part is the series of S-curves along Sespe Creek, perfect in third and fourth gear in an E30 M3. The downhill portion into Wheeler Gorge is superlative and when we came through, the hills were purple with dusk and the sunset was unfolding on the western horizon. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.

          As the sun set on the California day, it also set on the fun parts of our drive to Palm Springs. We caught traffic in Ojai, and by the time we made our fuel stop in Ventura it was fully dark. We met some great people at the Chevron - a group of teenagers who'd been surfing all day and come over from the hotel next door for some munchies. "Did you see the waves? Biggest in 50 years!" We did not see the waves, on account of the dark, and generally not seeing the Pacific Ocean all day. We also met a really nice guy who had previously worked in a BMW performance shop and gave us the bona fide BMW guy seal of approval for our cars and our S14s. I think he said he used to own an E34? He had followed us in to the gas station when he saw us come by, just to check out the cars. His poor wife was waiting in the car while we chatted. (full disclosure: I have done the same to Sara)

          Because it's LA, there was traffic and our planned straight shot of 101-210-10 due west was complicated. In any case, we stopped for dinner in Pasadena. I've never been - nice downtown, lively with a lot of cool restaurants.

          Leaving Pasadena, it was a straight shot down 210 to I-10 out to Palm Springs. At one stage of this leg, we came up behind an F80 M3 on the highway. I radioed to Kevin and we flanked the M3 on either side, dropped into 4th, and did a stereo carbon airbox ricer flyby on the M3 for a laugh. There was no reaction at all, lame.

          As is tradition, an hour outside of Palm Springs I cued up Queens of the Stone Age's 2002 album Songs for the Deaf. Aside from being one of my favorite records of all time, it's a concept album modeled after the drive from LA to Joshua Tree, jumping through fictional radio stations representing different cities along the route. It was a sadder play-through this year after the death of Mark Lanegan in February of 2022. RIP to a one-of-a-kind voice.

          Queens of the Stone Age - Song for the Dead

          After a short 'victory lap' cruise down Palm Canyon Drive, at 10:30pm we finally rolled in to our hotel, the goofily-named Sonder - The Cole. That's where we'll park this trip for now. Next up: Joshua Tree and BMW M-School.​
          1989 Lachs
          1988 Lachs - sold
          1988 DS - sold
          Car blog
          Bay Area M3 FB group


          • Kevin and I slept in a bit after Saturday's long haul. With the M School scheduled for Monday, we had Sunday free to explore the area around Palm Springs. We narrowed our options down to two: visit Joshua Tree, or do the epic driving loop that is CA74 / CA243 around Mt. San Jacinto. Sara and I did both when we came in the Focus for Thanksgiving in 2020 - you can read the blog post here. You can't go wrong with either option, so when Kevin's girlfriend and her pup joined us for the day, we opted to visit the park.

            Sonder the Cole - stupid name for a hotel, but good parking. The tidy little lot is just off Palm Canyon Drive but hidden from the main road.

            This is where they produce the wind for all of California.

            Kevin trying to talk down the $30 entry fee. When I came with Sara we entered from the south side and ended the day at the north exit; this time, we started north and made our way south.

            Joshua Tree is my kind of national park experience - you can just drive through all of the beauty in a couple hours, or you can park and wander off into the landscape, passing as much time as you like.

            On this particularly Sunday in January the park was not crowded, and the weather was beautiful. 70F and sunny while most of California was receiving record rainfall.

            Joshua Tree national park covers the intersection of two distinctly different types of desert biomes: the Mojave desert (north side), and the Colorado desert (south side). The geography, vegetation, and plant life are unique in each area. The eponymous Joshua tree is exclusive to the Mojave desert side, and when you drive south through the park you'll notice that they simply vanish. You've reached the Colorado desert.

            It's hard to take a bad picture of these cars in this place.

            If you come to visit, don't miss Keys View. Palm Springs is at the base of Mt. San Jacinto, top-left in the photo above.

            These next photos are from the Colorado desert (south) side of the park - notice the absence of the Joshua trees and boulder formations. There is a great cactus garden down in the basin.

            Layering up some proper dirt.

            Myself and Kevin, *exiting Joshua Tree National Park.

            Next entry: M School and the drive home.​
            1989 Lachs
            1988 Lachs - sold
            1988 DS - sold
            Car blog
            Bay Area M3 FB group


            • The alarm went off early on Monday. Palm Springs put on a desert light show to coax us out of bed - the big day was upon us.

              We made a pit stop at Starbucks, then followed 10 east for about 40 minutes. The BMW Performance Center West is co-located with the Thermal Club, a private racetrack-community complex. BMW has their own corner of the campus with a handling course, polished concrete skidpad, and paved exercise area. One of the driving exercises uses a portion of the Thermal Club circuit - both times I've visited, I've been on the Desert Circuit (north end, green kerbs).

              Yep - this is my second time doing one-day M School. Last year I joined on a late whim, when someone sold their spot in the class on short notice. You can read all about that experience here if you haven't already. Obviously I enjoyed myself enough to return in 2023.

              It felt better, and more natural, to pull in to the school in my BMW. We were warmly greeted by the instructors and our classmates - it's become uncommon to see these old M3s out and about.

              When we arrived, there was already a group starting their handling exercises. I believe this is the delivery experience, where owners get to drive "their" new cars (equivalent cars owned by BMW) on track with professional instruction. I love that BMW offers this! Modern sports cars offer performance capability that can only really be safely deployed on track. A program like this can develop in the owner an appreciation for the engineering of the cars, and a respect for the power available from modern motors. I certainly gained a huge appreciation for my Focus RS when I did the included driving school (link), so much that I started tracking it regularly, something I definitely had not planned to do.

              The roster of cars for the M School was the same as last year - M2, M3, and M5 competitions. Last year the instructors were chatting about the M3 xDrive variant, so I thought perhaps they'd swapped RWD for AWD, but this was not the case.

              Three takes on orange. The Lime Rock E92 is my favorite, but I'd be happy with any of these three.

              The new front end treatment is a travesty on the 7 series, but I think it suits the x7 well. I've driven an X4M Competition on a brief street loop, I think it would be hilarious to try one of BMW's SUVs on an actual track.

              We started with approximately an hour of classroom instruction, and while I've heard most of it before, BMW has refreshed the instruction materials and the updated diagrams and explanations are well-done. This year I also had a different set of instructors, which is always valuable for gaining new insight to your driving strengths and weaknesses. Our classroom session was presented by Rob Stout, the chief instructor for the Performance Center West.

              Agenda for the day:

              1. [M2] Handling course
              2. [M5] Polished concrete skidpad
              3. [M3] Corner exit speed exercise


              4. [M3] Lead-follow on Desert Circuit (+ instructor ride-along)
              5. [M5] Rat Race (polished skidpad)
              6. [M2] Handling course / autocross (timed)

              First exercise: M2 handling course. This was familiar for me, the same cars running the same layout as last year. The M2 feels dynamically last-generation when driven back-to-back with the M3 and M5 in two ways. First - the M2's steel brakes take appreciably longer to come up to temperature than the ceramic brakes on the M3 and M5, and you'll do well to remember that coming into the first big braking zone. Second, the TCS and driver aid systems are markedly less sophisticated than on the M3. In the M2, when you ask too much of the motor when traction is not available, the penalty is a harsh, immediate cut in engine output. In the timed autocross this will kill your run. In the M3, the driver aids are much more subtle, and you can just detect them nibbling away at your power delivery, but in a much less binary way than the M2. Of course the M2 is an excellent car, I'm nit-picking. You could argue that the M2's system makes you a better driver by doling out harsher penalties for bad driving practices.

              Second exercise: M5 on the polished concrete skidpad, set to RWD with all driver aids deactivated. This was the most frustrating exercise for me last year, because I wanted to be great at it, and I was not great at it. In 2022 I just couldn't get into a sustained controlled slide. This year, with the benefit of past experience and a recent visit to rally school, I got the hang of it. The key to my improvement was a skill learned at Dirt Fish: patience. Blip the throttle to break traction; counter steer; be patient and wait a beat while the car takes a set and is on the verge of regaining traction; then apply throttle to maintain that balance in a controlled slide. Last year all of my inputs were too fast, too much, because it feels uncomfortable to have the back end swing around like that. But once you acknowledge that momentary feeling of discomfort, and understand that it's required to let the car adjust its attitude - you can regain control. By the end of the exercise I was circling the skidpad continuously and playing with throttle and steering angle to see how much I could hang out the back end. SO fun once I got it.

              Third rotation - corner exit speed in the M3. This was an interesting exercise, new for this year (last year this was another lead-follow session on track). The goal was to convey the idea that corner exit speed is of paramount importance, and corner entry speed is actually a minor factor in overall pace. We took a simple right-hand corner repeatedly, running through a speed gun about 100 yards past the apex. It was informative to get immediate feedback on pace through a corner, and repetition helped me focus on vehicle positioning, smooth brake release, and rolling into the throttle in concert with reduction in steering angle.

              After the morning's three exercises, we took a break for lunch.

              The afternoon exercises offered a chance to deploy what we'd learned in the morning. Our fourth rotation on the day was a lead-follow session in the M3 on the Desert Circuit of the Thermal Club. Due to a small group size, Kevin and I were able to run at essentially full pace behind our instructor. I went into detail in last year's write-up, but to reiterate, the G80 M3 is unreal on track.

              Just imagine if they'd made it good-looking. Oh well. Prohibitively expensive to purchase or run for me in any case.

              Next up: the Rat Race. The instructors set up a diamond configuration of cones on the polished skidpad - two points wide, two points tight. Students compete head-to-head in a bracket tournament, lining up their cars opposite one another and then racing to complete three laps first, all moving in a counter-clockwise direction, one car trying to catch the other. The M5s once again have all aids and AWD turned off, so it's about managing traction and rotating the car to allow for short straight-line bursts of speed. Kevin bested me in our practice run, but we matched up in the group 'grand final' (only four of us to start with, ha). Our race was so tight that we went into multiple sudden-death overtime laps, and I eked poor Kevin right at the line.

              Note: last year we did what the instructors referred to as the "Rat Race XL," which was generally the same concept but much larger, and NOT on the low-friction surface. I enjoyed that version but apparently the instructors find it nerve-wracking. I can sympathize, the speeds are much higher than on the skidpad and in 2022 I watched M5s spinning across the asphalt like like very large, very fast tops.

              Our final rotation of the day was the timed M2 autocross. I leveraged the fact that I had essentially 2x the experience of anyone else in the class to claim top time of the day (sorry Kevin). Kevin was just behind me, and third place was claimed by our new friend Clark, who we discovered owns the Lime Rock M3.

              Photo credit: Case Montgomery

              We kept the medals, but I handed back the trophy after this awkward photo was taken. A solid improvement from last year, when I missed P1 by 0.15 seconds.

              The day ended with distribution of some nice branded hats, and I bought a sticker for my helmet. The staff was nice enough to let us stick our M3s on the handling course for some end-of-day photos.

              I've found myself in a bit of a "progression pickle," similar to what I experienced after my 2-day class at Dirt Fish. I love this 1-day itinerary, but I would also like to take things to the next level and continue building my skills. The instructors recommended Kevin and me for Advanced M-School, but it's a big cost jump. This one-day course costs $1750 - I paid $1400 with BMW's 20% Black Friday promotion. The two-day Advanced M School is $4695. Even at a 20% discount, that's about $3750, a huge chunk of change. There is no question that I'll have a good time, but how many HPDE track days could I get for the same money? What am I actually trying to progress toward by purchasing more expensive school packages? I won't be turning pro anytime soon.

              In any case - I love this experience, and I like the idea of making it an annual pilgrimage. I'll consider my options for 2024.

              Next entry: the drive home.​
              1989 Lachs
              1988 Lachs - sold
              1988 DS - sold
              Car blog
              Bay Area M3 FB group


              • After class, we enjoyed dinner at 1501 Uptown Gastropub and watched UGA thump TCU in the college football title game. I spent the evening downloading photos, packing up, and preparing the route for the drive home.

                Our grand ambitions for the return journey dimmed when we studied the forecast for Tuesday, which showed heavy rain everywhere between SF and Los Angeles. We decided it was wise to stick to the freeways and stay out of the wet as much as we could, but even then, we were bound to encounter heavy rain. California's roads, cars, and drivers are not equipped to deal with precipitation and I started to get nervous about the drive. My tires (Advan A052) are essentially autocross tires with very little in the way of water management. To add another concern, highway 5 can be icy over the Grapevine pass in the winter months.

                So with some trepidation, off we went on Tuesday morning. What began as a dry morning in Palm Springs quickly gave way to drizzle, full rain, and finally full deluge conditions. On reflection I think this is the most nerve-wracking piece of driving I've ever done. For one particular 15-minute stretch on 210 west the M3 was essentially aquaplaning continuously. Traffic, which was thick, slowed to 40mph and it was full-tilt wipers to deal with the rain and the spray from the other cars. I had to shut off the music and start talking aloud to steady my nerves: eyes high, relax the shoulders and arms, light controlled grip, maintain safe distance and don't make any sudden moves. The M3 skidded around in little fits and jerks. Kevin's car, eager to add to the excitement, had one of its headlamps go out.

                Mercifully the weather broke, and shortly after we joined highway 5 north. I really do have to commend the A052s - for what they are, they did a surprisingly good job. I expected to hit a patch of wet pavement and pirouette into the center median, but instead it was mostly OK with some small pockets of "controllable" aquaplaning. If such a thing exists.

                The opening 3-hour stretch was so fraught that I didn't dare take a photo of the conditions, or indeed do anything that required taking my hands off the controls. So our first photo of the actual drive is from our lunch stop in Wheeler Ridge.

                The M3s drew attention from some tourists in their Pacifica rental.

                From there we were graced with generally clear weather. I-5 was its usual terrible self with long lines of semis and longer lines of people who don't know that the left lane is for passing. The wet January made for uncharacteristic and lovely green scenery.

                We made our final gas stop in Santa Nella, where CA-152 connects I-5 to the 101. With a little more than an hour left on the drive, I felt like a horse turning home for the stable, picking up pace.

                These next three photos were taken in Gilroy. There is not supposed to be a lake here - this is flooding from the winter storms.

                Triumph - at about 4.30p we returned to my house... where the power was out. We'd just finished gathering candles and headlamps when the power returned.

                So - success!! With the motors switched off, we were right back where we started, but with 1250 new and exciting miles on the odometer, and a couple of very dirty cars.

                The car performed extremely well - in fact I had no issues at all. For that I have to thank Josh Johnson of HMB Motorwerks in Sacramento, who built my motor, overhauled my entire rear subframe, and just generally takes wonderful care of my car. I drive my car is intended; that is, to redline once it's properly warmed up and the conditions are appropriate. On this trip the car handled that along with the long stretches of freeway on cruise-control, the aforementioned crazy weather conditions, and multiple stop-starts for photo ops.

                Old and specialty cars can be a hassle, but as they say 'the juice is worth the squeeze' and these cars bring richness and color to my life. Kevin is just one of the great and lasting friends I've met through E30 M3s, dating back to my first car in 2015. I could have made this trip solo - I did it last year - but it was so much more enjoyable doing it together with Kevin, who has become a great friend.

                So - go drive your cars. Get the rock chips, it's worth it. Thanks for reading.

                1989 Lachs
                1988 Lachs - sold
                1988 DS - sold
                Car blog
                Bay Area M3 FB group


                • Awesome write up. I figured you wouldn't have any issues at all. These are solid cars, every bit as reliable as anything currently on the market. Yep, you had a heater core die. It happens. I don't think twice about driving my pretty much anywhere, and I know my engine is tired. The cars like to be driven, and you chose some fantastic roads to do it on. Your impressions on driving in the rain on R compounds says a lot about the chassis as well. They are so well balanced that as long as you trust the car, and yourself even in the rain or snow they just do their thing. I went over Tehachapi on highway 58 in the snow a couple years after I bought my car with bald tires and, just as you stated, drive smart and it will get you where you are going without a whole lot of fuss. They really are amazing cars.

                  Glad you had an awesome trip.

                  '69 Datsun 2000 Roadster vintage race car (Street driven on a regular basis :taz
                  '59 Alfa Romeo 101 Sprint (HUGE project :uhoh
                  '88 M3


                  • This would have been an awesome post with just a couple of whatever e30 m3s, but these are two absolutely exceptional examples and makes it that much better. Always happy to see what you have to post, and I say in the highest regard, it makes me want to do nothing more than just drive mine.