The easiest part of the process of building a Spec E30 is stripping the interior. The obvious first step is, removing the front and rear seats, most of the carpet, door and interior panels, headliner, steering wheel and rear shelf. They all come out easily, and it gives you the sense of accomplishment — but that’s just the beginning. The work takes the better part of a day to do, but it’s all pretty straightforward.

Once you gain momentum in stripping the interior, the pile grows. The dog still wouldn’t let me remove the rear seat.

The next item on the list is removing the dash. Many likely would prefer to wait until later, or not remove the dash at all. It’s well worth doing because all the unnecessary wiring from the stereo and power windows and, if equipped, cruise control, come out much easier with the dash out of the car. Then there is the entire HVAC assembly that should come out, which is difficult to do with the dash in the car.

The rear package tray comes out as one piece. 1986 and later cars have the third stop lamp mounted to the tray.

A few good reasons why you want to remove the heater/ac assembly are that it is unnecessary weight. It’s a big, bulky box full of 30-year-old wiring, switches and relays. Besides the obvious heater core, the assembly also houses the evaporator core that doesn’t need to be there. Weight aside, the biggest reason to remove it is that these old heater cores are prone to fail, which could put hot coolant in the driver’s compartment. The last reason for its removal is because it allows for the complete removal of the carpet and gives access to the last of the sound-deadening tar that’s all over the inside of the car, and trunk. To me, these reasons outweigh the reasons to keep it. And if you decide to freshen up the heater core and reinstall it, you can.

BMW used a lot of sound-deadening mat on the E30 cars. All the stained orange areas indicate where there was tar mat.

The next step is to remove the tar I mentioned. Its job was to reduce road noise and keep panels from vibrating, making it a quiet, and comfortable commuter car. It is also flammable and can burn with a fury! Well, in the world of racing, it’s nothing more than dead weight and therefore must go!

With the interior fully stripped and the tar mat removed, this project is taking shape.

There are a couple of methods to remove the tar from a car. One way is to use dry ice to flash-freeze the tar, which can then be broken up easily with a mallet. Sourcing dry ice could prove difficult or impossible for some. The method I prefer on these cars is to use a small torch to heat up the tar and scrape it off with a putty knife. You can purchase a small propane torch set and a putty knife for less than $30. The tar installed in BMWs comes out much easier than that of most manufacturers I’ve had the pleasure of “detarring.” That’s the good news about this task.

The trunk took about an hour because it had two thick layers of sound-deadening tar, which had to come out one layer at a time.

With the torch, heat up a small area until you feel the tar soften and start to come up with the putty knife. Once you get the rhythm of the application of heat and scraping, it all comes up easily. For this project, it took me about two hours to remove all the tar from the car. It’s everywhere, from the firewall to the rear shelf, inside the doors and even inside the quarter panels. I spent nearly an hour alone in the trunk because each of the two thick layers had to come out, one layer at a time. When finished, I removed more than 48 pounds of tar out of the car!

It doesn’t look like much, but after a couple of hours, I pulled 48 pounds of tar from the car.

Next up, strip and gut the doors. Start by unplugging all the wiring from the regulator, striker plate and door handle. This will allow you to completely remove the wiring harness as a complete unit from the door without cutting it up. It simply unplugs from the A pillar and you just thread it out of the door.

This short video clip demonstrates how I removed the tar from the car using a propane torch and a putty knife.

Removing the glass from the door makes removing everything else easier. The good news is if you forgot to roll the window down to gain access to the bolts that hold the glass to the regulator, there is a rubber cap on the motor that an Allen wrench will fit into and you can locate the window where you need it. Once the glass is out, you can remove the window regulator assembly.

The door has now been completely stripped. The cage builder will use a plasma cutter on the inner door panels to accommodate the door bars in the roll cage.

The next step isn’t necessary, but I like to remove the striker latch that is held on with three Phillips screws. This allows you to remove the locking rod and the rod that connects to the inside door handle.

It also allows you the chance to clean and lube the striker latch so it operates precisely. I like to use a spray-on dry lube so dust and dirt won’t stick to it, and it allows for a smooth, long-lasting operation. There is nothing more annoying than a door that is hard to open and close, and then there are the safety considerations that become an issue if you can’t get a door to open easily. The last thing to do here is to remove the door lock assembly. Remember to reinstall the striker latch and use a little Loctite on the three screws to keep them from backing out on their own.

This is most of the wiring that has been removed from the car. It’s amazing how much comes out that you just don’t need to drag around with you on the racetrack.

We will need to remove the inner door sheet metal to accommodate the door bars in the roll cage, but we’ll leave that to the fabricator, who can use a plasma cutter to cut the inner sheet metal cleanly. We won’t be reusing the inside door handles or even have a place to mount them, but I’ll show you how we accommodate the lack of an inner door latch when we discuss the cage build in a future installment.

 

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Image courtesy of Shawn Meze