91 BMW 318is - Inca Orange

Like everyone else on here I have a bit of a car addiction. Mostly I like to buy them, work on them, and then sell them. This is my 3rd BMW e30 and I’ve been steadily increasing the amount of work I’m taking on myself. I went all out on this one…swapping the drivetrain, ecu, suspension, brakes, etc. Some BMW swaps are relatively easy but I took this one on because it’s more challenging. Now that I’ve got the car up and running I think I only drove it about 3 times before I started to strip the body. I’m really eager to get it looking good.

Here is how it stands today:

Pretty ugly. Whoever repainted it a while back didn’t do a great job so the clearcoat is failing all over and I have some rust bubbles popping up on the roof. The body is straight though and I have a bunch of new body kit parts to put on.

Here is what I’m going for with the final look. I sort of went all out on the engine so I want to give it a color to match. This is an OEM BMW color for BMW 2002’s (from the 70s):

And for the bodykit I’m going to do the same thing I did on my last e30:

Here is a more detailed writeup on the mechanical work I did on the car:

So…just started digging in this week. I have everything pulled off the car and I’m going to sand, bodywork, and 2k primer it a panel at a time. I need to sand a lot of the paint off because the clearcoat is peeling. I’m thinking I will at least go down to the original OEM finish and in some places strip it all the way down to metal. I’ve sanded down the trunk lid and plan to do the bondo work tomorrow followed by a couple coats of primer.

I’m totally new to bodywork. To learn I refinished this Porsche wing for my friend last week. The videos in the VIP series were the only way I was able to get it done. Thanks @TonyB!


@rjmcdermott81 Dude… I LOVE it! That will be a bad ass color on that thing! Keep us posted! I can’t wait to see it done!

This week I sanded down the trunk lid. Suprisingly it needed quite a bit of work…it seems like all these BMWs have “outtie” dents where people shut the lid on something too big to fit in the trunk. I used a hammer and dolley to flatten it out as best as I could, sanded everything down with some high spots going down to the metal, then used filler to smooth it out. This was my first go at using filler and everything and it went pretty easy. I should have taken a pick of it before painting…but here it is after 2 coats of epoxy primer. It’s not completely finished yet but at least it’s sealed and protected.


Looking great my man!!

Might be picking ya brains in the future ref my E30

More progress this week. I tend to work in 20 minute chunks here and there each day. I went way way too deep into the trunk considering it will all be covered with carpet, but now I see what a rabbit hole this can become. There was some surface rust where the spare tire rubbed over the years so I ground any bit of rust out that I saw. I learned a lot this week. I thought I wouldn’t ever replace sheet metal but in one really hard to see spot I was grinding, grinding, and grinding trying to get into a corner. When I stepped back I noticed that I had gone completely through the panel above the tail light…Doh! Small hole about 1.5 in x .25 in but I wanted to fix it right. I’m a terrible welder but I have a MIG so I cut a piece of sheet metal, fired it up and spot welded it in place.

Anyhow, finished the week off with 3 coats of epoxy primer in the trunk. I went for three because these cars have a tendency to let water in the trunk at times and I wanted to protect it as best as I could. Grinding the rust, and 400 gritting the area was easy, but cleaning the grime out of a 25 year old trunk that holds the battery in it was the most time consuming part of the whole thing.

1 Like

More progress. This backend was really the only significant body damage on the car. It was pushed in a couple inches under the left tail light. I did a ton of pounding with a hammer and dolley and really just a hammer and got it back to the right shape but it took a light coat of filler to even it all out. I’m pretty happy with how it looks and it matches up to the tail light, bumper, and trunk lid perfectly.


More progress. Got the sides and hood done with all the dings and dents filled.


Primed the front valence, hood jambs, and bottom of the hood this morning.


Man, I LOVE the old e30 body styles. Would love to get a classic BMW added to my collection one day. I also love the older 5 series e39. Great cars. Your project is getting there my man. Keep it up, it will be worth it in the end :slight_smile:

SWEET!!! Looking tough!


I started to tear into the “couple rust bubbles” in the roof… definitely more to it than that. I guess it actually started rusting on the inside where the sunroof cassette joins with the roof so it’s a bit of a larger project than I expected. Totally fixable but I have to cut some of the spot welds and remove the entire sunroof cassette so that I can cut that part of the roof out and replace it with sheetmetal. Should be a fun week.


Cant wait to see more. Its looking better.

This sunroof thing has really taken me longer than expected. I decided to get rid of the sunroof completely. “Slicktops” are more desirable in these cars anyhow.

It took a bunch of work but here is the sunroof all mounted in. The sunroof cassette is all pulled out.

There wasn’t really any straightforward way to close up the sunroof hole. Everyone online seems to say that the metal on the roof is too thin to weld and you’ll just end up warping the hell out of it if you try. I saw that some Porsche guys bond in a sunroof plug using 3M panel bonding adhesive. So I’m trying a sort of hybrid approach. I bonded steel bar on to the sunroof to make it bigger than the hole, then slowly ground it down to size. The sunroof fits in there super snug and I’m sure the snug fit + 3M adhesive will hold it with no issue. Once it was in I filled the corners with 4mm steel wire and adhesive

My only concern is I’ve heard about “ghosting” that shows up on hot days when you use panel bonding adhesive. Because the plastic is expanding differently than the metal. Honestly, I have so little adhesive I don’t think it will be an issue but I’m thinking I’ll fill over the seams with kitty hair. If anyone has suggestions please let me know.

1 Like

Now that the roof is more stable I’m going to slowly start to cut out and weld in patch panels where the rust is. I’ve done some test welding and the roof metal is so thin if I’m not careful I just burn right through. I’m not experienced at welding at all so this will be a good learning experience. I’m planning to do small sections at a time so the roof doesn’t lose it’s shape.

1 Like

I quickly learned that my welding setup was terrible for working on these thing roof panels. I was using the .035" flux core that came with my MIG and it worked fine on the patch panel material but just burned holes through the roof material. I went to the welding shop and they set me up with .023" wire and a bottle of Argon/CO2. What a difference that makes. I still need to finish up the welds and grind them down but I’m going super slow to not warp the metal.

1 Like

Welding complete. I wouldn’t say I’m a pro but it’s going to work.

starting the build up with kitty hair first. It’s not very thick, just spread over a big area to cover the dip where the sunroof met the roof.

@rjmcdermott81, looking good… lots of work but well worth it. Nice job so far.