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Thread: Dlux BMW E21 build

  1. #1

    Default Dlux BMW E21 build

    I have been working on this build for a couple of months now. I have posted on FB and bimmerforums but I kinda feel out of place there. I feel like most of those people insist on a stockish type of car on 13" wheels. Maybe not insist but rather what they prefer. I prefer heavily modified and I really enjoy the look of a stance car so I figured maybe I will post on here in hopes of finding more like minded people.

    I will copy and paste what I have so far. I hope you guys like it.

  2. #2


    After searching for over 6 months, I finally picked up a 1983 BMW 320i or E21.
    To say I am stoked is to put it lightly. This was my first car ever. 22yrs ago, when I got my other car, it had nothing but problems so I had to get rid of it as it was just not practical for a high school kid who knew nothing about cars. 6 months ago, I looked thru some pictures to try and remember what the interior looked like and when I did, I couldnt get the car out of my head after that.
    This car has its issues for sure. It will be a fun project car to work on. It also has some nice parts.
    Rust free
    Euro bumpers front and rear
    Turbo M10 motor that actually goes pretty good. Lots of oil leaks though.
    BC coilovers

  3. #3


    The most important thing to me about my e21 is a comfortable interior. I also wanted black where as this one came in tan.
    I found a local guy this weekend that was willing to part out his 1977. The door cards are almost perfect condition and the carpet is good enough for now unless I can find a pristine one. I already had the rear seats which are in great shape.

    Last edited by Erik D_lux; 01-14-2019 at 12:18 PM.

  4. #4


    I have always loved Corbeau seats! I have been a dealer for them for some years now so it was a given that I would be putting some in this car. I got some A4 seats with seat heaters and lumbar. I cant comment on the heaters since its summer but the lumbar is so good! I need a lot for my back. These seats turned out perfect IMO.
    The only regret is that I wish I would have gone full leather instead of suede. I also made my stock seat brackets work so that saved me some money. I will put up in a different post how I did that. It was pretty easy.

  5. #5


    "How to make stock seat brackets work with Corbeau seats?"

    Corbeau had finished my seats for awhile but they were still waiting on the brackets. Being the impatient person I am, I got the seats anyway and then looked into how to do my own brackets. Turned out, it was fairly easy.

    Make note, I have no idea how the Corbeau brackets install. A couple of issues I dont understand is how Corbeau sells a bracket for all years of the E21. The problem with that idea is that early e21's had the mounts on the chassis being the same side to side where as the later e21's had the same mount on the door side but then on the inner mount, it drops like 1" or so. I dont see how they can provide a bracket that suits both, maybe they have this figured out? Another issue is that on the later e21, the seat belt is built into the stock seat bracket where as the early e21's have it bolted to the chassis. These are the biggest reasons I see to use the stock brackets over the Corbeau brackets. I could be wrong though.

    #1, you need to make the bracket for the corbeau seats to mount to the stock bracket. I used some 1x.250" flat bar cut to 18.75".

    #2 You then need to drill 4 holes in 4 of these bars. Starting from the edge, you drill a 1/4" hole .594" from edge, 21/64" hole 3.688" from edge, 21/64" hole 15.063" from edge, and a 1/4" hole 18.157" from edge. This will complete all the brackets going from the Corbeau seat to the factory brackets.

    #3 Now you need to drill the factory brackets so they are inline with the flat bars you just made. These holes need to be 13" on center where as the stock holes are 13.375" on center. This part can be tricky because you need to make a hole that is close to the other holes. I did a 3/8" hole for these and if you do the math, they need to be .187" closer than the existing holes, which can be a pain since your new hole will want to walk into the old holes. I used a mill for this so it was not a problem for me, you might need to mess with this for a bit though?

    #4 now you just get to bolt everything up. Pretty straight forward. See pictures.

    #5 To fix my seat belt issue, I took the stock seat belt parts off and welded them to the stock parts. It looks a bit strange with the loop in the mount but when these seats are mounted, you cant even see them and I am not worried about strength.

  6. #6


    Momo steering wheel installed. I love it!

  7. #7


    I went to Home Depot to try my hand at some light upholstery, which is not my thing but turned out OK.
    For $17, I got a lot of carpet and did the trunk area and the rear deck area. Lots left over so I can park on top of it, which is actually nice. I think it turned out pretty good.
    I also installed a stereo. Alpine 73BT head unit, Pioneer TS-A4676R 4x6 speakers, Audison SR1dk amp and 2 Alpine SWR-10d4 10" subs. It satisfies my ears very much.

  8. #8


    All I have ever heard about the dash covers are that they are horrible. I can not stand a cracked dash and taking the dash out to send it off for weeks at a time was not feasible either so I bought a cover to try it out.

    All I can say is "Wow"! I really like this cover! It snapped into place with no trimming at all, literally snapped. The fitment is perfect and the look is hard to tell that its not factory. I dont see the downside.

    I did park it in the very hot sun and there is one spot where I did not glue down that bubbled up a touch, like maybe 1/16 of an inch. The only reason I noticed is because it was new and I wanted to see how it did with the sun. If I didnt touch it, I would have not known.

    Maybe I have not seen the downside to this cover but right now, I am MORE than pleased with it and I am pretty picky about how it looks. For $130 shipped, that really cant be beat either.

    Oh, BTW, its Accuform brand and not Coverlay, maybe thats the difference? I found that Coverlay makes them for pre 80 where Accuform makes them for post 80

  9. #9


    Dear M10,

    I wish I could say you have disappointed me but this was my expectation from you. I really just wanted you to survive 6mths to a year. I guess that was just too much and I should be happy with the 3 weeks or 200ish miles I got? Either way, I am going to have to ask you to pack your bags and GTFO. I have a new, hotter girl moving in.

  10. #10


    Finally, most of the planning and gathering parts is done. Now the fun part, the build.

    I got a donor E28, got to work and pulled the front and rear out of it. With a bit more work, I will have this under the E21.

  11. #11


    Hey, I finally get to post some progress pics! Its really nice to finally get something done on this car.

    I got the front end put together for the most part. I swapped in the E28 (528e) front end. This is not a direct swap in as there are a couple issues to get around.

    First issue is that the control arm from the e21 will not work with the E28 spindles and the E28 control arm will not bolt into the E21. So, I had to figure out how to do that. My fix was to fabricate a control arm.

    I went with a 3/4 x 5/8 rod end at the sub frame, I will have a poly bushing at the sway bar and then I went back to my crawling roots and I put in a 1 ton tie rod end at the spindle. LOL. I think that should be plenty strong?

    I machined all DOM tubing to accomplish this.

    The 1 ton tie rod end was a pretty close fit taper wise but I did have to ream out the hole for the correct taper on that end.

  12. #12


    The other problem on the E28 swap other than the control arm is the strut or shock mount. It will depend on what type of strut youre running on what fix you need to do. Luckily, I have coilovers. Coilovers allow me to adjust the top mount to bring them out towards the fender. Being as the E28 will make me wider, I need to bring the top of the shock out too so my camber stays in check.

    I made some adapters so the coilovers will weld onto the e28 strut housings. They are a different size than the e21 struts.

    I left a good bit of strut housing but in hindsight, I think I could have cut off more to get the car even lower. No biggie. I think I am about 1/4" taller with this setup than with my e21 setup because of this.

  13. #13


    Other than the adapters to fit the coilover on the strut housing, I also did a couple other mods.

    I shortened the coilover bottom housing almost .8" to bring the ride height down. This was just wasted space and added unnecessary ride height.

    I also saw that they left a bit of extra meat on the top bracket where I can machine that out and get about .250" of extra adjustment on the camber. I might be able to get even a touch more, I am not sure if I will need it though, we will see.

    Last thing I did was add an extra brace between the strut housing and the shock body. I dont think this was necessary but it was fun to make and adds a bit of coolness to the build.

  14. #14


    I really like where this is going, nice work keep it up! I'm with you on Bimmerforums being a bunch of grumps. I'm banned there anyways, haven't been back in years haha.

    Keep the updates coming, I feel like E21s are finally starting to get the spotlight they deserve. They just look so cool sitting low.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Seney, MI


    I think the e21 and e30 are tied for the best looking BMWs. I'd love to get my hands on a clean one...alas, I live in Michigan's North Pole.

  16. #16


    Quote Originally Posted by bwwaaaa View Post
    I really like where this is going, nice work keep it up! I'm with you on Bimmerforums being a bunch of grumps. I'm banned there anyways, haven't been back in years haha.

    Keep the updates coming, I feel like E21s are finally starting to get the spotlight they deserve. They just look so cool sitting low.
    Thanks man!

    Hopefully I fit in with this site too. I wont be dropping this car 1/2" off the ground but it will be low and custom for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Beemernut View Post
    I think the e21 and e30 are tied for the best looking BMWs. I'd love to get my hands on a clean one...alas, I live in Michigan's North Pole.
    There has been an e21 for sale for months here in Ut for $900. Its pretty clean from what I can see. It has some damage to the front fender but I have front fender I could give the buyer.

  17. #17


    I now have the control arms and shocks all mocked up. I hope I didnt miss anything.

  18. #18


    I got a set of rotors for $12 shipped from Amazon. Yeah, $12, and that includes shipping. How is that possible? Is it too good to be true? Well, it might be. LOL.

    They put the retaining screw in the wrong spot. LOL. Or did they? I would have guessed that you would put that retaining screw in the middle of the two lug holes, but I guess BMW had a different idea to off set that screw hole. Weird.

  19. #19


    I was concerned about how much weight I would be gaining with all this heavy duty stuff so I weighed it.

    E21 setup was 34lb
    E28 setup was 39.5lb

    5.5lb for a way better setup per side? Thats a no brainer! I am glad its that little.

  20. #20


    Sometimes I ask myself WTF I am doing. I never really come up with a good answer.

    I look at all the E21 guys that are replacing all their rusty panels and I dont know whether to admire them or have pitty on them. I think its great that they go thru the effort but it looks like a horrible time.

    Well, its my turn. I looked at my front end for a good while. I tried to justify its condition. The front was cut up pretty good to fit the turbo/intercooler etc and looks like this car was in an accident.

    The accident pushed in the drivers side a good 3/8". This made it so the hood did not shut correct and it rubbed on the door, no matter how much I tried to adjust the hood.

    I could not handle it so I decided to cut the front end off. The plan is to cut the front end off the donor car that I got and weld it onto this one.

    Wish me luck! Sometimes I feel like watching TV would be a much better hobby than the things I put myself thru.

  21. #21


    So, the plan to replace the front end went a little like:
    Make perfect measurements
    Make perfect lines
    Take a TON of time cutting exactly on those lines
    Place new front end up against cut up front end
    Weld together

    I figured I would need to do some light grinding here and there to get a perfect fit. It didnt really happen this way though. LOL

    I did everything best I could. When I was cutting the donor car, I found some welds really close to where I was cutting. Somebody had the same idea I did with the donor car. Luckily, they were further back in the engine bay so I didnt actually cut out much of that part. I placed the donor piece against the car, and found the passenger side matched up for the most part, just like planned. The drivers side was a different story. LOL. I think some things changed from 1978 to 1983 in the sheet metal. Not much lined up very well. Needless to say, I had to make everything work with some filler sheet metal and a rubber mallet. This is not exactly the way I like to make things but I guess it is what it is.

    The fabrication part is done. Everything lines up, the fenders go back on and the hood finally goes on the way it should so I think I am good to go?

  22. #22


    Too busy to do updates! Here is one, I will post some more cool stuff hopefully in the next couple of days.
    I spent some time on the engine compartment. I threw some bondo down over my welds/seams, pulled everything out of the bay, painted and then put everything back in. Now awaiting the new motor.

  23. #23


    I had to redo the front end. It feels like I took 10 steps back and 30 forward.

    Stephen Gobbi was nice enough to put in some constructive criticism when he saw the control arms I built. He asked why I would fix most problems but not all. I dont know enough about these cars so I didnt have a good answer.

    After he gave me a link to a guy who had done a much better setup (…), I knew I had to redo everything I had done as it was obvious this is a much better setup.

    I am much happier with this setup. I cant imagine making the front of this car much better and keeping the car mostly original.
    Infinitely adjustable sway bar (HUGE)
    Sway bar ties the front of the car together making it much stronger
    Removes all rubber bushings from the OEM setup, no more shimmy/play/etc
    Adjustable wheelbase, adjustable track width
    Here is the overall shots. I will continue to post the individual parts next.

  24. #24


    First part I worked on for the front end was the sway bar.

    Part of switching over all the new stuff was how cool the sway bars were. You can get them in different diameters and different thicknesses. This should cover just about any amount of sway control that you could desire. I choose the 1.25" diameter 48 spline bar and its .095 wall so its super thin. Pretty sure I lost weight by moving to all this stuff too!

    First I made some delrin bushings for the bar.

    Second was to make the housing for the sway bar. I really could have, maybe should have just left it as a solid piece of DOM tube but for some reason, I had to put some holes in it. I just think it looks much cooler and therefore, much more satisfying. Yeah, its going to get water/rust inside, I will deal with that when the time comes I suppose.

    Third was to make the arms adjustable. I am not sure what the plan was when the made the arms, looks like originally the guy just put the rod end at the end of the arm and called it good. I made a bunch of holes so it can be adjustable.

  25. #25


    The control arms were pretty simple.

    The control arm that controls the side to side has a bend to clear the sub frame so there is no contact there anymore and then there is a 3/4" rod end on the frame side and same 1 ton tie rod on the wheel side.

    For the control arm that controls the front to back, I used a bent piece of tube again to clear the steering and then a 3/4" tie rod and a 3/4" clevis joint which will stop the previous referenced control arm from rolling. Note: only one fore/aft control arm is showing. I am still waiting on the other clevis joint to arrive so its not bolted up on one side.

    I made a bracket where the OEM sway bar went so the new fore/aft control arm would have a place to mount. This bracket also doubled as the sway bar bracket.

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