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Well I’ve eventually got the site up and running on a new server. After configuring a newer machine with a LAMP installation on a Debian8 OS at the end of last year, I tried to export the old database and import it on the new site. Unfortunately without much success. The old site was not structured that well (I learned a lot since it started¬†ūüėä) and¬†needed a lot of correction to get it to work well, so I decided to build it again from scratch (lots of copy/paste). The last few days have also been a bit stressful as after going live I had some problems with the Apache web server crashing. Traced it to some PHP errors inherited from the old site, god knows how that ever worked as it did. Anyway, still a little fine tuning to do but hopefully it should¬†perform a little better than on the old machine.

I was invited by a mate of mine, Kos from London, to show the car on their E30 Club stand. On the day there were a couple of unexpected extra guests so Kos and I put the Sharks in the Show’n’Shine Arena.

Well not a lot to show for a day at the Pod – 10 pics. By the Show’n’Shine it was busy from the moment I opened the bonnet with punters interested in the classics. Eventually got round to looking around myself later in the day. The big E65 760 won the Best of Show apparently due to the level of detailing. Mine’s got a way to go to catch up with that, but then again I never built it specifically for Concours.

There are a couple of interesting E30’s here. The red one had an S85 V10 installed – now that’s tight! The black one has a twin turbo small block 5.7L Chevy – WTF!!!! Insane or what?

Saw some reactions from other Dutch owners on a couple of FB pages that they wanted to go with me next year. don’t know yet if that’s going to work as they’ve moved it to June so it might clash with Bimmerfest (Arnhem, NL) or my usual holiday dates.

There are more photo’s to be found on FB taken by Kos under his alter-ego C-Unit: Santa Pod 2015

Another invite from the E30 guys. This time to the Grote E30.be meeting at Sint Niklaas in Belgium. A nice little drive for me, just over an hour across the border to our southern neighbours. Just went for the crack to be honest and on driving onto the town square I was directed to one side where all the non E30’s were standing. Opening the hood generated the usual interest and then I was asked if I’d take part in the concours. I got a form thrust into my hand with the request to put the top half, filled in with the car’s details, on the windscreen and the bottom half should be filled in with my choice in each category. I managed to get away to look around the other cars and dutifully filled in the form and handed it in. Went back to the car and continued talking with interested folks and never thought any more about it until somebody came over to tell me that I’d won a prize, “Best Non E30”. The presentation took place in front of the town hall and I was really pleased to accept one of the nicest trophies I’d seen for years. Much better than the usual silver plastic cups it’s a little piece of auto art, various engine parts tack welded together on a solid wooden base. Best part is that the choice was made by your peers and not the usual team of judges who generally choose the car with the most money thrown at it – and usually not even done by the owner himself.

Some of the E30 guys I know invited me to the E30 Summer Meet at Gemert, The Netherlands on 22-23 August 2015. I think there’s a bit of a click because they’re mostly modders like me. I don’t hold quite the same views as the typical restorers who tend to be traditional E24 owners. But anyway I decided to go and packed the tent and a bottle of Raki brought back from Greece with a few shot glasses and hit the road for the east of the country. Didn’t actually take a lot of photo’s but shot a little bit of video too which was edited into this:

Probably a bit late as it’s almost summer but I just didn’t find the time to write¬†up the rest of the winter work. At the moment I’m waiting to get the car back from the spray shop (De Staart Autoschade, Dordrecht) where the nose is¬†having a small scratch and stone chips put right. They’ve had the car since Monday morning but still haven’t phoned to say it’s finished – it’s Thursday evening. Disappointing but¬†at least I’ve now time to update the site.

The second part of the winter work was more electricals, new alarm and replacing the Miller GENIII with their WAR programmable chip. I couldn’t decide what to tackle next but seeing as how the loom needed opening up to remove the old alarm stuff and put in the new, plus I had to connect the gauges with the senders, I started on the alarm first. I bought a Toad A101CL alarm on¬†eBay¬†last year from¬†Southern Car Security¬†and got it delivered to friends in England. I picked it up when we went over to visit. I chose the Toad as it was reasonably priced and seemed popular on various forums. Strangely enough I couldn’t find much in the way of reviews for stuff like this here in the Netherlands although I did find a couple of sites offering diy alarms reasonably priced. Miguel the owner of Southern Security was really helpful with the installation although he is really busy and a reply to the mail is sometimes the same day but sometimes a day or two later. I’ve not taken any pictures of the alarm installation as it would give the game away a bit if you see what I mean. Everything is neatly taped up in the loom or routed tidily under and in the dash. The installation itself went reasonably but finding the correct connections even with the BMW ETM (Electrical Troubleshooting Manual). If you don’t know of this Google it – you’ll need one for your exact model and year anyway.¬†When I finished connecting it all up I got the necessary chirps from it but it kept giving me 3 when arming thereby informing me that either the doors, bonnet or boot were still open. I disconnected the bonnet and boot and found that the doors were working correctly but it took me a couple of evenings testing and tracing to work out what was wrong. Both bonnet and boot switches work, as with the doors, by grounding the switch connection, so that‚Äôs how I‚Äôd wired it up. However when closed (switch open) I was still getting a signal to ground. Eventually I found that the positive feed to the lamp itself was showing me a connection to ground except when the lights were on when it gave me 12v. I think BMW must use some sort of relay system which I haven‚Äôt bothered to delve into but I solved it by putting a 5A diode in both feeds. Problem 1 was¬†now solved. Secondly the central door locking was not working and I eventually found the answer on a blogsite from another BMW owner. As I understood¬†the ETM it was using positive switching but again due to the complexity of the BMW wiring system this was again wrong and after connecting¬†the two alarm wires to earth, instead of the¬†12v feed, problem 2 was solved. Lastly I needed to adjust the ultrasonic sensor and so needed to get into the service¬†mode, that took me a while to get right. Once in service mode you need to be pretty quick switching the ignition on and off to get it to work but eventually I got it to chirp and then proceeded to check everything including the ultrasonic sensor. That is now adjusted so that if the window is¬†open it doesn‚Äôt go off until you stick your arm right in.

OK so the last part of the work was actually the easiest, installing the new WAR chip. Now the WAR chip is not actually a simple eprom like the oem chip or the GENIII, its a small printed circuit board with a set of pins through it to fit in the IC socket. It has a couple of larger chips and other components on it for the engine management, ram storage and the usb connection I presume.

So the first job was to open up the DME casing and fold the hinged boards open to reveal the old GENIII chip top left, the silver one.

Once removed you can see the 28 pin eprom socket I installed when I did the original MAF conversion

The WAR chip plugs in just like the old one. Here you can see the two supplied cables attached, the USB from the horizontal socket on the right and the cable for the tune selector switch from the vertical socket. Top left is a grommet round the cables to stop the casing chafing the cables.

Here a shot of the casing with slot cut in it with the Dremel. Grommet takes on an oval shape in the slot to accommodate both cables snugly.

Once reassembled it looks like this ready to be refitted in the car.

The last job was installing Windows XP on an old laptop to use for the interface to the chip. The present WAR software won’t run on Windows 7 or later.

Well winters here again, well it’s been here for a while actually. Under Dutch Oldtimer reduced tax laws I’m not allowed to drive the Beamer on the roads in December, January and February. Not a big problem as I haven’t used it in the winter for donkey’s years. It also gives me some time to get some jobs done. Last year I did the rear axle and the brake upgrade, this year I have some lighter work – a new alarm installation, an updated Miller chip and set of gauges to check on things modern cars don’t do any more.

Before Christmas I was busy doing some online shopping to get hold of the gauges and the Miller WAR programmable chip. The Toad Alarm system I bought last year when we were in England. The set of gauges included an oil pressure gauge, oil temperature gauge and a volt meter but after the WAR chip arrived I decided to get an AEM Wide Band UEGO O2 sensor and gauge to help me with the chip programming (it measures the fuel/air ratio), So after everything arrived I first set about stripping out the old alarm and the wiring behind the centre console for the radio which was also in a bit of a state from previous owners. I had been thinking for a while about a design to fit the gauges in the lower part of the centre console where the original cassette holders were situated. I also decided to replace the ashtray and lighter which are situated in the horizontal section in front of the cassette holder. After removing these sections I made templates from some cardboard packaging.

From the two templates I created a single section from MDF to fit in the space.

After a certain amount of adjustment and trial and error I got it to fit reasonably but not quite as I wanted it. The two holes were just to put my finger and thumb through to pull it into place. Not being completely happy I decided to remove the centre console completely, making access from the rear much easier than the turn and twist from the front.

The next step was the the fitting of the gauges. It would have been simple to just cut some holes in the panel and job done but I had earlier realised that the visibility wouldn’t have been brilliant as they sit so low. They needed to be turned slightly upward and to the left and I first thought about making square box like sections to attach to the front. After playing around with a cardboard mockup I decided that it looked bit naff and decided to try and do something like the windscreen post pods which are available. What I needed was an MDF tube but¬†nothing like that is available so I had to make my own. Step 1¬†glue some pieces of MDF together and let it¬†dry overnight (sorry, too busy, forgot the photo’s again). Step 2¬†find the centres at the two ends and mount it in the lathe. Step 3 turn it into a solid cylinder. Step 4 divide it into four sections and using a fine blade as it turns in the lathe cut partly through each of the three cuts, finish the cuts off the lathe. Step 5 hollow out each section to the diameter necessary to allow the rear attachment, and here’s a photo (the duct tape is just to protect the surface a bit from the chuck jaws).

The mole wrench attached to the bed is just a quick fix to create a stop for the carriage so that I left the correct lip thickness to mount the gauge in place. The next photo shows a couple of the pods after completing this step. You can see the material left on what would be the front.

Step 6 is to put the pods back in the lathe and finish off the front so that the gauge fits. Round off the edge with some sandpaper to create the correct shape and the lathe work was finished.

Step 7: Create the correct angle to the back of the pod plus the shape to fit them together on the belt sander (again no photo’s, too much mess). Step 8: place the pods together on the front of the replacement lower panel and draw¬†round them with a fine tip marker. Step 9: I machined around the inside of the marked lines on the milling machine to about half the thickness of the panel. All done slowly by hand as it’s not a CNC. This was done to create a better bond between the pod and the panel. After glueing and holding¬†in place with some duct tape to dry overnight it looked like this.

Just a question of finishing now. After cleaning the glue off it started to look like it might be something and I made a start at getting it into shape with some polyester filler.

The back needed some extras to help mount the cigarette lighter (on the left) which I decided to keep rather than build in just a USB adapter. Also the control for the sub woofer and the rotary switch for the WAR chip tune selection. I needed to sink the knobs because the shafts wouldn’t fit on the 5mm thickness of the panel. Best solution seemed to be the aluminium strip which doubled as extra support for the sub control.

After priming plus liberal coats of spray filler and much sanding we were getting there.

A last trial fitting before some colour was applied and it was beginning to look like what I’d seen in my mind’s eye.

The initial¬†result after spraying with matt black just didn’t look right, for one thing the paint wasn’t matt it had a slight shine which just didn’t look right with the rest of the dashboard. I ended up creating a textured finish by blowing some of the sawdust I’d created onto the wet paint and as it dried brushing off the excess.

After a bit of judicial work with some Scotchbrite it eventually seemed to be part of the interior. This is what it will look like when it gets replaced in the car although the console will need a bit of a polish of course.

After all that the workshop needed a lot of clearing up so I spent one evening with the vacuum cleaner, broom and dustpan and brush so I could begin with the electrics. Below you can see that I’ve been busy making a mini wiring loom which will attach to the rest of the electrics under the dash with the multi-plug. A few more wires to attach but it’s as good as finished and I can move on to the next job. Haven’t made up my mind if that’s going to be the alarm or the WAR chip upgrade.

Post Script: Wasn’t very satisfied with the Equus gauges I initially bought – cheap doesn’t cut it. So I bought a set of VDO and sold the Equus set.

BMW 3.0 CSL (e9)

One of my Indian colleagues had won some tickets for the Historic Grand Prix in Zandvoort on the 31st of August but not really being interested in cars he offered them to me. A couple of family petrolhead friends went with me in the BMW. Parking was a nightmare, although if it had been beach weather it could have been a lot worse. We ended up parking at Bloemendaal a couple of kilometres up the coast. A good half hour walk back found us at an extremely good event with some excellent examples of all sorts of racing history although wasting so much time trying to find a parking place we had missed most of the morning’s action. The afternoon started with¬†the F2 cars which were pretty interesting as they don’t have it any more but somewhere later in the afternoon we seem to have missed the F1 cars, I’m not sure that it actually took place. My favourite to see on the track has to be the old Group C cars from the 80’s, a class that became the LMP1/2 of the present LeMans series. Absolutely fabulous, old Porsche 962’s, a Jaguar XJR16, some big Nissans and even a couple of Spices. There was an assortment of DRM saloons, the precursor to the present DTM and this was one of the few classes where I didn’t hear the British National Anthem for the winning car. To be honest I think a good 80% of the competitors were British anyway, although I did spot a few Dutch registrations, some French and some German on the transport vehicles in the paddock. No good photo’s of the Group C’s as they were a little inaccessible in the main pits. There are couple shots of a damaged Nissan before being loaded at the end of the afternoon.

Weather was excellent as can be seen in these shots of the circuit.

Here are a few links to some video I shot of some of the races.

Tried to catch some of the Pre ’61 GP Cars from the main stand. We then came to the conclusion that it would be better to find a better location.

Moving to a vantage point between Hunserug and the S-Bocht we got some much better shots. This is the Historic F2 Cars in action.

Next up were the Group C/GTP Cars.

Then we moved on to the Pre ’66 GP Cars.

The afternoon’s racing closed with the DRM Klassik-Pokal. This included a couple¬†of fire breathing BMW M1’s, some Porsche 911’s & 935’s, BMW 2002’s and even a Corvette. I can’t believe that someone would run a Corvette from that period in a road race, drag racing maybe… It sounded like a fart in a large plastic bucket and if you look closely at the video (at around 45 secs) you can see it wallowing into the S-Bocht. Handling? – I don’t think so.

The last day of the road trip would take us to Hull to catch the return Ferry

PO-Ferry

So that was it then, almost the end of the Scottish tour. Our last real Scottish breakfast at the Abercorn Guesthouse was as good as we had come to expect and afterwards we settled the bill and waved goodbye to Angela (Willie was at his work). We were heading for Hull to catch the return ferry but as we didn’t feel like driving behind all the commercial traffic on the A1 down through Newcastle we took the A68 through Lauder, Jedburgh, Corbridge to rejoin the A1M at Darlington.

 

At Jedburgh we took a break to get a coffee and look round the old town. Jedburgh is known for the ruins of it’s 12 century Abbey.

South of Jedburgh we passed through the Northumberland and Kielder National Parks region which is almost as good as driving in Scotland. In places the road takes on a switchback character and Elly was complaining that her stomach was in her mouth at the crest of every rise in the road. As we got closer to Darlington the road tends to lose it’s open, rural character and the towns and villages seem to be closer together.

 

Back on the A1M it’s too crowded to give¬†the Beamer it’s head and it’s just a question of following the traffic especially through the major roadworks taking place. We stopped once to fuel up and get some refreshments but all in all it was an uninspiring drive. Just before reaching Hull we stopped at Goole to call at a Tesco supermarket for some shopping (things we can’t get in Holland).

 

After that it was a short drive to the ferry terminal which we reached at about five o’clock. They had already started boarding so we were on board within minutes of arriving. Once on board and checked in we dumped the case in the cabin and took a walk round the ship. On inspecting the self-service restaurant, which was included in our booking, we decided to pay the extra for the ‘a la carte’ restaurant and booked a table for around seven. This didn’t disappoint with good good food, wine and service. The ‘a la carte’ breakfast the following morning was also included in this change. Here are a couple of photo’s on the ship.

Postscript:

After leaving the ship the following morning it was a real shock to be driving in the madness of the A15 round Rotterdam in the morning rush hour traffic. After more than a week in the relative peace of the the Northern British Isles I had forgotten how crazy the drivers can be. If you visit the Netherlands, beware!

Day 7 would end at the Abercorn Guest House in Portobello, Edinburgh.

After the usual breakfast we had decided to take a more interesting route to Edinburgh than straight back through Glasgow and the motorway. So we set off straight north on the A819 to meet the A85 at the top of Loch Awe. Not a great distance, 23 km, but a great piece of road and never saw another car.

On the A85 we drove west until we met the A82 near Tyndrum where we pulled in at¬†The Green Welly Stop¬†to fill up and get a coffee. The Green Welly is an extremely popular place with bikers and this being a Sunday it was pretty busy. Having owned bikes in the past and knowing how good the roads were in the beamer, it must be fabulous to ride a quick bike up here. Not without it’s dangers, however, for the inexperienced rider. I’m not surprised that they’ve put speed camera’s everywhere.

We followed the A82 till we reached Crianlarich but the traffic was pretty heavy, a lot of which turned south with the A82 while we headed east on the A85 again. Traffic was still not what you’d call light, however, and we followed a line of caravans, campers, vans and other ‘steady’ drivers for quite some distance. The beamer is not that much fun to drive in this sort of traffic as I’m constantly having to change up and down between 4 and 5. Now and then the opportunity arose to overtake and I could drop it down to 3 and give it it’s head. By the time we’d cleared most of the traffic in front of us we’d reached Lochearnhead where we turned off, still following the A85 while the rest of the traffic seemed to follow the A84 south. The drive alongside Loch Earn was pleasant enough but after leaving the east end of the loch the scenery began to change and it was obvious that we’d left the beauty of the Trossachs National Park behind. We passed through Crieff but saw nothing there that enticed us to stop. The A85 meets the A9 just before Perth and we headed south to join the M90 a few kilometres further. The M90 was quite a pleasant drive as motorways go and we made a stop at the first services we came to. After making use of the amenities we walked back to the car to find a younger couple looking at the car. If I remember correctly they were from Sweden and had flown over and had a rental car. They weren’t too sure which model BMW it was, only that it was old, so I gave them the usual tour. They said that they’d rather be touring in the beamer than in their new hire car. I just smiled ūüôā

It didn’t take long to reach the Forth Road Bridge and we stopped to take a couple of photo’s from the north side of the bridge at a view point.¬†Just west of the original bridge they have started work building a new one to relieve the traffic congestion.¬†¬†On the southside of the bridge we pulled into South Queensferry where I took a couple of shots of the Forth Rail Bridge.

There is a myth about the Forth Rail Bridge. (quote from The Fortean Times)

The myth

The Forth Bridge is so big that as soon as maintenance crews have finished painting it, it’s time to start again. Thus, any task which can never be completed is said to be “like painting the Forth Bridge”.

The “truth”

The world’s first steel, long-span, cantilever bridge, opened in 1890, remains one of mankind’s greatest engineering achievements. As a modern symbol of Sisyphean labour, however, it’s useless. On reflection, starting at one end and painting doggedly towards the other would be a deeply inefficient approach to such an immense and dangerous job.

Sure enough, an inquiry to the Forth Bridges Visitor Centre Trust brought the categorical statement: “The bridge was never painted in that way. Different parts of the bridge suffer different levels of exposure to the elements; the maintenance schedules reflected that.”

It’s all academic: the bridge is currently having its famous red paint replaced with an epoxy resin expected to last for 20-30 years. In America, incidentally, the equivalent expression is “like painting the Golden Gate Bridge.”

After leaving South Queensferry we approached Edinburgh and found signs for¬†The Royal Yacht Britannia¬†which is moored in Leith Docks and is open to the public. This seemed like a interesting way to spend a couple of hours as I didn’t feel in the mood for dealing with the Edinburgh city centre rush having just left the peace of the highlands and islands. Since as long as I can remember Britannia has been regularly in the news with royal tours etc. so it was quite an experience to be able to walk around it. Not that I’m a royalist or anything but just the history of the ship alone.

The last few kilometres to our destination today was in some reasonably heavy traffic the likes of which we’d not seen in over a week.

The owners of¬†Abercorn Guesthouse¬†in Portobello are Angela and Willie, a lovely couple who made us extremely welcome. We didn’t feel like guests more like old friends and they made some room in the garden at the rear so I could park the beamer off the road. Willie is also a bit of a petrol head and has an old Mercedes which he has restored. After getting installed in the room we went out to take a walk down to the beach and along the promenade to find a pub called the Esplanade or Espy’s, as advised by Angela. She wasn’t wrong! They also do food but we fancied a curry in another local Indian restaurant she had recommended. Another fine day.

Returned again to the mainland for a stay at the Argyll Hotel in Inverary for the night of day six.

Above the Beamer parked in front of the Hotel. A lot of bus parties at the hotel but a little interest in the car from a group of middle-aged bikers.

The day started as usual with the now expected breakfast and after packing and settling the bill at the Islay Hotel we left to drive a couple of kilometres down the road to the Laphroaig Distillery. I had pre-booked a tour earlier in the year as I am also a¬†Friend of Laphroaig¬†but we arrived a little before the tour was to start. This gave us the chance to look round the shop, also to collect my dram as rent on my plot and print out the certificate. I ended up buying a presentation set of the Quarter Cask (48%) and a polo shirt. The tour was similar to the Bruichladdich but a little more corporate in character, nevertheless very interesting and worth the visit.¬†After visiting my plot we drove a little further down the road to find the Lagavullin and Ardbeg Distilleries, and later on the way back to the ferry the Bowmore Distillery, but didn’t spend any more time on tours.

At Laphroaig they had a similar spirit safe to the one at Bruichladdich. If you can understand everything the young lady was saying you’re doing well ūüėČ

We were told that the Kildalton Cross, a few kilometres past Ardbeg, was worth a visit so we drove on to find it. Only when looking for more information later did I realise how interesting it was because when standing at the site without knowing the background it is just another relic.

On the drive back across the top of the island we found the peat bogs (no relation to Pete Boggs ūüôā ) that we had been told about on the Laphroaig tour. The Laphroaig peat is cut by hand and left in situ to dry out before being transported to the distillery. Although we spotted some drying in the distance we saw nobody actually working as this was a Saturday.

The peat bogs on the top of the island

The road is dead straight from just outside Port Ellen past the airport almost to Bowmore but as you can see from the next photo it does tend to undulate as it runs straight across the bogs.

The road over the peat bogs on the top of the island

The next place of interest before reaching Port Askaig again was Finlaggan, another mediaeval site steeped in history with a small museum. When we arrived we had trouble finding a spot to park the car which I thought was strange because we had not seen that many visitors at any other location. Turns out that there was a wedding taking place and as we approached the gate to the small path down to the ruins and lake they were making their way back up to the car park where they boarded a bus and a number of other vehicles. There were people in the party that we had spoken to on the ferry to the island the previous day.

We reached Port Askaig with time to spare and joined the queuing cars by forming a new row to stand at the front of the car park and I wandered down to the ferry dock to take a few pictures of the picturesque hotel and the ferry arriving. Back at the the car waiting to be directed onto the boat we had both doors open as it was quite warm. And then the officer charged with loading the ferry turned up to discuss the waiting vehicles with the person in charge of the car park. He was looking for a large van or something similar to fit in a space just behind the loading door at the front of the boat, but there weren’t any that day. “No problem” he said, “we’ll take the BM (pointing to us) – it’s got big doors and will need the space anyway”. I couldn’t believe my luck, this meant that we would also be first off and wouldn’t have to sit behind the caravans and trucks on leaving the terminal.

Just as I had expected there was nothing on the road in front of us after leaving the ferry terminal at Kennacraig in West Loch Tarbert and we reached Inverary at the head of Loch Fyne after a spirited drive over the A83 through some lovely countryside along the shores of the loch.

After checking in to the Hotel we briefly visited the bar until our restaurant reservation time. We were a little disappointed initially with the hotel, the interior was very tired and in need of a good makeover, so to find that the food in the restaurant was so good made up for it. It seems to be a senior citizen tour bus stopover which probably accounts for the state of the place, but then for the very reasonable (compared to other hotels on the trip) prices one can’t complain too much. After dinner¬†we went for a stroll¬†around the town before returning to the bar to partake of the local ale – again. I was beginning to get a taste for local ales, much better than I remember typical English bitter back in the 80’s before we moved back to Holland, and very different from the typical Dutch pilsner. Here I drink mainly Grolsch.