Live Thread: We’re picking up our new 2015 BMW 435i project car

J.G.
Update by J.G. Pasterjak to the BMW 435i project car
Jan 6, 2024 | BMW, 435i, F30

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[Editor's Note: The landing page for this project car notes that the car is equipped with a 9-speed automatic when the car is actually fitted with an 8-speed. Our website does not currently have 8-speed automatic as an option for transmissions, but we are working to remedy the issue.]

The rhetorical question pops up a lot in our editorial meetings: “Why do we do project cars?”

And when it’s 2 a.m. the day before you’re supposed to leave for an event and you just lost your only 12-point 11mm socket that fits the last bolt you need to tighten before you can load it on the trailer, that question gets screamed loud enough to wake the neighbors.

We could give you a lot of slick talk about market forces and inertial popularity and audience connection and other made-up terms, but after 40 years of doing this, we’ve kind of noticed a pattern. And that’s that we’ve managed to stay well enough engaged with the scene that whatever we think is cool and interesting, the readers will probably think is cool and interesting.

So what do we think is cool and interesting at the moment? F30-chassis BMWs.

The F30 chassis spanned 2011 to 2019 and saw the disappearance of the much-loved 3 Series coupe with the two-door variant coming out in 2014 and being designated the 4 Series. Like so many BMWs, the two- and four-door variants sit on nearly identical chassis, with almost identical exterior dimensions, wheelbase, and even curb weights.

We’ll pore through all the details of various options for F30s when we start really digging into the editorial, but for now here’s a few thoughts as we pack an overnight bag and get ready to board an Allegiant flight to Cincinnati to pick up our new project.

These cars are now one full generation old and falling off warranty, which seems to have given them a nice drop in price and a nice boost in value. They’re old enough to enjoy some depreciation, but not old enough to have become complete ratbags.

That said, owning an off-warranty BMW is always a bit of a high-risk proposition. As our friend Rennie Bryant once said, “BMWs are 100% reliable as long as you fix everything that breaks.”

BMWs are well-built Europeans machines, but they’re also complex beasts. So when something does go wrong, it can be a little more of a challenge to service than other cars. The tradeoff is a highly rewarding driving experience and a car that generally does everything well.

Anyway, these mid 20-teens cars started getting cheap, and in conversations with our friends like James Clay at BimmerWorld, they were noticing a rapidly growing portion of their customer base ordering F30 parts, taking their F30s to the track, and generally getting interested in making them awesome. So our instincts were not deceiving us.

When we started shopping, we looked at both the F30 3 Series and F32 4 Series. BMW has a seemingly endless and arcane list of options and packages, but the key features we were focusing on were the optional big brakes and a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.

Yeah, we said automatic. Fight us.

Look those ZF boxes are awesome, durable, and have now been hacked by the aftermarket, meaning they’re one of the easiest and most accessible paths to race car-style paddle shifters with zero lag available today. We feel zero shame for seeking out this option.

[Why are we considering an automatic for our ASA stock car?]

Luckily, most F30s and F32s were equipped with that eight-speed box, but getting the steering wheel-mounted paddles was not always a guarantee, especially in 3 Series. Even some 3 Series with the M Sport package did not come equipped with the optional steering wheel-mounted paddles, but nearly all 4 Series we looked at did. So that was the first +1 in the 4 Series column.

The brakes were even trickier. The M Sport package guaranteed you a set of four-piston aluminum Brembo calipers in the front (along with sportier seats, a front bumper with more cooling area, and some trim items), but unless a further brake upgrade was specified, they came wrapped around 340mmm discs and paired with single-piston rear calipers. A separate-line brake upgrade–identifiable by blue calipers–gave you four-piston front Brembos around 360mm discs, and two-piston rears around 345mm discs.

Well, just go the dealer and get the better brakes and bolt them on,” you say. And BMW would be happy to oblige. And BMW dealer would sell you the larger Brembo calipers and larger rotors to upgrade your base or non-big-brake M Spec (those calipers would be red, orange or yellow), but the parts were not inexpensive. The rear calipers alone cost more than $800 each, so finding a car with the good brakes and even paying a bit of a premium for it was kind of a priority.

Ultimately, we found our desired combo a much easier thing to locate in a 4 Series than a 3 Series. Yes, there’s plenty of 3’s out there equipped as we desired, but many of them were on the West Coast, and something within a weekend’s drive or two would be far preferable. Plus, 4 Series look cool.

Our find–a white 2015 BMW 435i with the M Sport package and the good brakes–was tracked down at a used car lot in Cincinnati. The odometer lists 71,000 miles, and the Carfax says it’s a one-owner car.

While Midwest cars can be crusty underneath–even newer ones–this 435i has spent all but the last year and a half or so in Florida, so we’re not anticipating a huge amount of winter wear underneath.

There’s plenty more to tell and we’ll do that over the next year or so as we dig into it and send it out on track. For now, we haven’t even seen the car in person.

We did, however, receive a stellar report on its condition from our friend Lee Grimes at Koni, who happened to be nearby to the dealership when we put a call out on social media for a remote inspection. Lee trucked over within 30 minutes of our post and took a test drive and reported back with the good and the bad, and there was far more of the former than the latter.

On Saturday, January 6, we’ll deplane in Cincy, grab our new ride, and head south, hopefully just ahead of a winter storm hitting the area the same day.

Anyway, the thing has heated seats and a 400-mile range, so once we’re in with the heat cranked, we’re not setting foot out of the car until we get to Atlanta.

Follow the adventure in this thread.

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Comments
David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/24 11:20 a.m.

So, will this outrun our E46-chassis M3?

Link to the M3 track outing. 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/5/24 11:22 a.m.

I like that JG saw my out-of-warranty GTI and said "I'll raise you."

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
1/5/24 11:22 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

So, will this outrun our E46-chassis M3?

Link to the M3 track outing. 

Editorial Director, Grassroots Motorsports & Classic Motorsports

So David just told me his car weighs 3415, and this thing is probably 3550+, with similar power as it sits, and a set of 60% Michelin Pilot A/S tires according to Lee.

So I'mma say no.

Or, more accurately "not yet." :)

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
1/5/24 11:23 a.m.
Tom Suddard said:

I like that JG saw my out-of-warranty GTI and said "I'll raise you."

Who on staff can we get to buy an Audi?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/24 11:24 a.m.

In reply to JG Pasterjak :

I might have a set of wheels/sticky tires for you. :) 

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Publisher
1/5/24 11:26 a.m.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
1/5/24 11:28 a.m.
JG Pasterjak said:
Tom Suddard said:

I like that JG saw my out-of-warranty GTI and said "I'll raise you."

Who on staff can we get to buy an Audi?

jg

I think I saw an Allroad for sale the other day...

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
1/5/24 11:32 a.m.

My DCT 135i kind of soured me on modern BMW turbo cars. But I'm still a BMW guy at heart. 

dyintorace
dyintorace GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
1/5/24 11:33 a.m.

This is going to be fun!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
1/5/24 11:44 a.m.

Just announced: CFR SCCA autocross January 20 at Orange County Convention Center

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