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Discussion Starter · #42 ·
I sanded down all my trim on Friday in preparation for epoxy resin. Goal is to conceal all existing cracks under a few layers of resin so they don't show through in the final finish.



Here's my setup. Trim pieces are either self supported on their own studs, or hot glued in place on stilts. Using West System epoxy. ]



First layer of epoxy applied.



On closer inspection, the results are pretty problematic for round one. I have a lot of entrained air. After review with my buddy who builds canoes, this is due to me being miserly with the epoxy and spreading it on so thin that it picks up air bubbles from the roller. Nothing a bit of sanding and another layer of epoxy can't fix.

 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Waiting for epoxy to cure is pretty much akin to "watching paint dry", so I decided to come up with some other stuff to tinker with in the meantime.

My replacement USB ports arrived, so I secured these into the center tray. To make sure they never pop out of place unintentionally, I trimmed down a spare door strike and inserted the little strips of sheet metal behind the clips, wrapping them around the housing with channel locks.



This is now very solidly in place with no wiggling and no play.



Here is the new center tray in place with the USB hub connected. RIP, cup holders.

 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
Epoxy is still not cured, so what else to do?

I got this E60 shifter, part # 25-11-7-546-373. Look how much it moves the fulcrum:



Here it is installed. The toughest part was getting out the little plastic cup that goes around the shifter ball. No matter which way I rotated it, it wouldn't come out. I ended up prying the shifter out of the cup, and then working my way around the cup with a hook tool and a screwdriver until I was able to pull it out and replace it. Not much to look at here since I'm leaving the boot and trim off until I clear coat the trim, but this shows that it sits at the same height as stock. I didn't take before/after measurements, but my throw from first gear to second or third gear to fourth is pretty much exactly three inches now. I'm pretty sure it was at least double that before.



There's still a bit of slop, but this is already vastly improved over stock. I'm pretty sure the front linkage bushing is shot, I'll do that one next time I'm under the car.

Went out and got the snow tires mounted on my new rims... Rims look too nice for winter, but I could have worse complaints than that.



Okay, we're now up to mid-afternoon on Saturday, and the first coat of epoxy is cured.
 

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Discussion Starter · #45 ·
Per my friend's recommendation, I went hog wild with the epoxy for the second coat. I doubled the batch size and applied it very liberally, making sure the roller stayed completely saturated.



I still got a fair bit of air entrainment, but close inspection will show a much more consistent result from round two. I also have enough depth now that I'm certain the cracks are permanently encapsulated.



I let it cure a full 24 hours before sanding on the second round, since the first round was still a bit gummy after 6 hours. As a result, I needed my random orbital to make much progress at all.

Here's how I left it for the weekend. The primer is just so I can clearly see which bubbles are visible through the finish and will need fixing:



This is one of the worst areas for air entrainment. I've ordered some spot glazing (the red stuff) and will pack all of these with putty before sanding and base coat.

 

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Discussion Starter · #46 ·
This is an "I-had-fifteen-minutes-to-spare-yesterday-and-fifteen-minutes-today" update.

Here is four coats of Krylon Covermaxx Satin Clear:



I actually ended up with 6 or 8 coats before I stopped, not out of necessity but because I had some dust spots and wanted to test a few cleaning methods before I installed the part. A few of the cleaning methods were unfavorable, and I lightly sanded with 1000 grit and laid down a few extra coats to get back to a consistent finish.

In case you want to mimic this satin clear trim process: do NOT spray your trim directly with rubbing alcohol, or windex, and do NOT wipe with a paper towel. The rubbing alcohol left the surface dry and misty and uneven, I assume because of the uneven drying times based on uneven application (the thin parts tend to mist off quickly). The windex just left it looking water spotted, and the paper towel left too many hairs. I'm not sure if any of this did actual damage, but to get back to square one I wiped with a tack cloth and laid down the extra coats.

After another day of curing, the finish feels durable when handled, and doesn't show fingerprints or spots at all. My cleaning method that yields reliable results is: blot with 1:10 diluted purple power using a microfiber cloth. Blot dry with a microfiber cloth. Blot liberally with 303 aerospace protectant. Wipe gently all in one direction so you don't pick up any hairs on the rough surface. It sounds like a lot of steps, but for how clean my interior stays, this is probably an every-three-months sort of exercise.

Following my own cleaning method, here's the installed part. This is exactly the finished look I was going for, so I'll proceed with the same method for all remaining trim.



Cheers!
 

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Discussion Starter · #48 ·
This build makes me want to start looking for a clean 6spd! Nice build.

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
You and me both.

6MT ... :deal2: :devil:

While cutting my highway RPMs to something south of 3,000 would certainly be a welcome - though not strictly necessary - improvement, between stock 3.07 gearing and a modified 7,000 RPM redline, I run out of road LONG before I run out of gears.

Every time I start thinking about doing a 5MT --> 6MT swap, or adding a limited slip, or adding significant power beyond what I already have from a simple intake and tune, I put a few pennies in the "buy an E90 M3" pot. Give it 2-3 more years and those should be in the sweet spot where depreciation has made them affordable but they haven't become classics yet. (We can all dream).

If I buy another E46, it will start as a low mileage 6 speed. But already having a 5MT with a known maintenance history is also fine by me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #51 ·
Lots of updates this week. I took a vacation day on Friday to catch up on chores, and after a bit of yardwork and a trip to the BMW dealer, spent the balance of the day on my build.

My goal had been to get back to audio this weekend, but this trim work has turned out to be far more iterative than I had hoped. In any case, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I predict, fingers crossed, that I'll be 100% done with interior tweaks (minus upholstery and steering wheel) within a week.

Ready, set, go!
 

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Discussion Starter · #52 ·
Sorry for the slightly blurry picture. I had mentioned using "the red stuff" for a spot glazing putty, and that's what I intended to order. But what I ended up with was totally new to me: "plastic metal", by Bondo.



Given that I didn't want to wait around for an exchange, I decided to give it a go. It's interesting stuff, seems to react rather quickly with oxygen. It is workable for about three passes with a putty knife, before it starts to gum up and get crumbly.

The method I came up with that works is to use a razor blade in lieu of a putty knife, so when the knife starts to gum up you can discard it and grab a new one. As long as you do a small dab (less than a diameter of a penny) and spread quickly, it works just like wood putty.

You already saw the first few pieces I started on with the Plastic Metal. Here are the remainder of the pieces, primed to expose any imperfections.

 

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Discussion Starter · #53 ·
The Plastic Metal supposedly hardens to a metal-like consistency in 2-3 hours. Well, maybe not so much, but it is sandable at 75 degrees within 90 minutes, which is cool. Here are the first three pieces sanded out:



As a reminder, here's one of the trouble spots that needed work. Before:



And after:



So, it works quite well at filling small holes, and seems to bond very well to the epoxy surface that I'm starting with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #57 ·
Now, one of the reasons I took Friday off. I've been getting incessant postcards warning me about the Takata airbag recall. Since my car was originally delivered in Germany, and lived there for four years before being imported, I had to jump through a bunch of hoops with BMW North America before the dealer could recognize my VIN and perform the recall service.

I had hoped this would get me a new horn cover and BMW logo on the steering wheel, but no such luck. After disassembly, they determined only the passenger side airbag needed service.



Now, unfortunately the airbag cover fits a little loosely now, and is not quite perfect anymore, but on the bright side I don't have a claymore aimed at my passenger.

Here is the dealer's feeble attempt at cleaning the brake dust from my wheels. You'd think they've never seen racing pads before. :laugh: Oh well, the price was right:



I even got a free carwash out of the deal. Too bad it was raining. But the car looked nice for a few hours.

 

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Discussion Starter · #58 ·
Okay, back to work.

Here is the door trim pained:



Clear coated:



Tragedy strikes! I had a little paint splatter that I optimistically tried to retouch with a bit of tack cloth. Instead, I peeled through four layers of clear and four layers of basecoat.



In retrospect, I should have let it cure, spot sanded, then touched up the clearcoat. In any case, this picture shows the luster I've been getting on this paint + satin clear finish recently. The difference (I think) is I've been laying the final two coats wet instead of misting them, so it smooths to more of a semi-gloss than matte.
 

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Discussion Starter · #59 ·
Here's a preview of how it looks installed in the doors:



I had about 3 or four more rounds of ruined paint finish on the passenger side trim before I finally got an acceptable result:



Not being willing to accept "good enough", and being rather pleased with the easier-to-clean semi-gloss finish I had been laying down on the wood trim, let's just say I ruined the shifter trim. I cleaned the trim with alcohol, let it dry, laid down a light mist coat of clear, and two wet coats, and the trim immediately bubbled up to an unsightly orange peel finish. I let it dry, tried misting it in hopes that a matte finish would hide the new orange peel, but that didn't do it either.

Too embarrassed to take pictures, I peeled off the tape stripes, sanded through 120 - 180 - 240 - 360 - 400 - 800 grits, and primed the trim. I'll re-paint, re-tape, and re-clear-coat it next week, but... ...I've used so much primer, base, and clear in all my mulligans that I'm fresh out of supplies.

 

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Discussion Starter · #60 ·
Not to leave things on a negative note, here's a preview of what's coming up next. I painted the original brake handle, and laid down 6 or 7 coats of clear for good measure since this is going to be handled on a daily basis. Hopefully that's enough that the paint finish will be durable.



And that's all for tonight. I'll see if I find any ambition tomorrow, but at the moment the paint fumes have taken a bit of a toll, despite my best efforts at proper ventilation.
 
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