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Old 10-20-2019, 07:52 PM   #1
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Default '97/'98 Manual Z3 2.8 to '96 Automatic 318ti

Hello all,

Just finished up my 97-98 Z3 2.8/ZF Manual swap for my 96 Automatic 318ti California Edition car and wanted to do a very basic run down of what I needed to change and what parts will and will not fit. This article is intended for people who buy a 97 and 98 Z3 2.8 ONLY. Those years are the only 2 years with an M52b28-0. The following years are M52tub28. Which is a completely different animal. I recommend getting a Manual car so that you can also get the 3.15 LSD. You WILL need parts from a 328i as well. I will make sure every part below is labeled Z3, 328i, or Ti so you know EXACTLY what you can or can not use. I will NOT be going into detail on how to do every bit of the swap. There are tons of swap threads on how to swap X and Y. I am going to focus on what changes need to be made for the Z3 pull out to work in a 96 Automatic 318ti. MAKE SURE TO DRAIN ALL FLUIDS FROM MOTOR, TRANS AND DIFF!

So for starters lets focus on the Z3. There's a few ways to tackle the swap. I chose the easiest route. Drop the front subframe with the engine, trans and all the brakes and steering rack still attached. The other way is to take off all the parts and put them into your TI one piece at a time. I prefer the first option as the "dressed" subframe is only attached by 19 bolts. 4 bolts for front subframe, 4 bolts for lollipops, 4 for trans support, 6 for the top of the stuts, 1 for the steering shaft joint. And I will walk through this "tutorial" as if you did the dressed subframe drop as well. Regardless of which route you take, you need to pull everything from the driveline off the Z3. This is the fully dressed engine, the Transmission, the Driveshaft and the 3.15 LSD. Make sure to keep the midsection from the exhaust. If you plan on a widebody kit for your car and use the Z3 rear subframe/control arms, it will be easiest to do a subframe drop out. To use the rear subframe and trailing arms you will also need to make custom ebrake cables.

So if you did it the way I dropped mine out, you should have a few pieces. The exhaust, the Driveshaft, the dressed Front subframe, the dressed rear subframe and the E36/7 chassis. At this point there will be a few extra parts you will want to grab from the chassis.

Z3 Non Major Components Parts List
  • Z3 radiator and fan shroud
  • Z3 front Aux fan
  • Z3/6cly Radiator Supports on the frame rails
  • Z3 Secondary Air Pump
  • Z3 battery cable from engine to rear battery
  • Z3 Exhaust
  • Z3 Driveshaft
  • Z3 Fuel Pressure Regulator with all 4 rubber hoses connected
  • FPR mounts from Z3 (for 95-96 318ti ONLY)
  • Z3 Xbrace
Manual Swap Parts
  • Z3 hard clutch line
  • Pedal Assembly with all connectors attached and pig tailed

So you got all the Z3 parts, now you will need some 328i/E36/E30 parts.

E36/E30 Parts List
  • E36 M52 Throttle Cable
  • E36 M52 Traction Control Unit
  • Manual 328i Wiring Harness
  • Manual 328i DME
  • E30 rear Half Shafts for Z3 LSD
  • E36 M52 AC compressor and Compressor to engine mount
  • 6cly E36 AC Line from Compressor to Firewall
  • 6cly E36 AC line from Compressor to Drier
  • New 328i engine hoses
  • 2 Front 328i O2 Sensors
  • E30 Med Case Diff Stud Kit
  • E36 M52 SAP to SAICV hose
    Manual/ZF Swap
  • Shifter (Can be from any E36 and Z3 1.9 ONLY)
  • Shifter Carrier from/for ZF trans ONLY (328i, M3)
  • Shifter Selector from/for ZF trans ONLY (328i, M3)
  • E36 Shifter Foam and boot
  • 6cly E36 Secondary Air Pump if you want to be "correct."
  • M50 Manifold
  • M50Manifold.com Kit
  • Short Nose Master Clutch Hardline for 97-99 E36

With this, the swap can be done.

So I will assume at this point everything is out of the Z3 and the 318ti is still together. You will want to do the following while the motor/trans is on the stand/table.
  • Separate the Engine and Trans
  • Do the Shift Selector seal, front AND rear output shaft seals, put in a new T/O bearing and master slave. Also the flywheel, clutch disk and pressure plate if needed. Best to do a lightweight flywheel conversion at this point too.
  • Pull the Z3 wiring harness off the Engine and all the heater hoses on the back of the engine. Pull the battery junction box off the Z3 wiring harness. If you plan on doing an M50 manifold swap now is the time, so pull the M52 manifold off the engine while/before the harness is out.
  • Reseal/Change PITA parts of the Engine. This is the Oil Filter Housing Gasket, oil pressure switch, Vanos Line with new banjo bolts, Rear main seal, Belts, Hoses, belt tensioners, AC Compressor and AC to motor mount, Chain Tensioner Cylinder and valve cover. Anything else you might think you should seal, its best to do it while the motor is out. Mine didn't seem to need anything else and was relatively oil free. Make sure to buy everything as Z3 parts. The only thing you should NOT buy as z3 parts is the E36 M52 heater core hoses and the E36 M52 AC parts.
  • once the engine is resealed, put the modified 328i harness on *PLEASE SEE SECOND POST FOR MORE DETAILS* , attach the battery box to the harness, and than put on the M50 manifold.
  • Attach the Transmission back up to the motor
  • Put the studs into the rear diff and make sure to use red Loctite
  • Pull off the front half of the Driveshaft, be careful not to wipe off the white marking where the splines are, you will use this later on.
  • This is also a good time to change out front shocks and springs if you have a pair to put on. If you have new brake pads for the 328i brakes like I did, wait to put them in until everything is in the car.
  • Add the 328i 02 Sensors to the headers as the 97-98 Z3 only comes with rear o2 sensors.

Side note, it is best to use 328i/E36 M52 hoses for the engine. You CAN 100% absolutely make the Z3 stuff work, but it is best to get the 328i stuff.

Now you have your complete pull out of the Z3 and its ready to go back into your 318ti. Now you will drop everything out of your TI. Once this has been done you will have a empty engine bay inside the 318ti. At this point you will want to change out the front radiator supports, cut and fold or completely cut off the power steering holder, run the Z3 battery cable to the rear, add the 6cly AC lines and pull out and install the new rear diff and rear half axles. Take out all the Auto trans stuff and put in all 5spd swap parts like the hardline and pedal assembly and put in the M52 throttle cable. If you use a Z3 hardline, you will need to bend it to fit. MAKE SURE YOU DO NOT KINK IT. Gentle bends ONLY. You can alternatively buy the $80 special order hardline from BMW for a 97-99 Manual E36. There are two styles of master clutch. 92-96 aka Long nose, that has two screw ends on the hardline, and the 97-99 which is the short nose, which has one screw end, the other a "push in" end. Make sure you have matching HARDLINE AND MASTER CLUTCH if you plan on buying a new clutch hardline rather than bending the Z3 one. Add the hose from the master clutch to the brake reservoir and cut off the tip of the nipple to make it work.

If you have a 95 or 96 318ti This is VERY important. You NEED to weld in or timesert a way to hook the FPR up to the underside of the body in front of the fuel filter. The 95 and 96 cars do not come with FPRs on the body so you need to add the mounting yourself. You also will need to cut the fuel lines and bend them a little bit to get them to fit. Alternatively you can go get the three fuel lines that go into the FPR from a junk 97+ E36. If you have a 97+ 318ti, just replace the FPR with the one from the Z3.

Now the chassis is ready for the drop in. Simply drop the chassis onto your front subframe, bolt up the subframe, and hook up the brakes. Make sure to watch the steering coupler goes onto the steering rack properly. Hook up the wiring harness, put on all the engine accessories, (You will need a new SAP hose to the SAICV as the z3 one is too long and incorrect) put in the shifter carrier and selector rod and shifter in, swap in 6cly cluster, plug in the DME, align the EWS and bam, you engine is ready to turn on. You will want to take the front half of the Z3 driveshaft and put it onto your 318ti rear half of the driveshaft. Remember, align the two white dots. This will make sure the driveshaft is balanced. If it is not balanced, don't worry because you can get the driveshaft balanced for ~$100. Finding an M3/328i driveshaft with a 4 hole back will cost at least $300 and take months to find. Just use the Z3 front and TI back and get it balanced its cheaper easier and more convenient. The driveshafts are designed as such on E36s, Front half is transmission specific, rear half is body specific. Add all your fluids back in, do your brake pads, and bleed the system for your new clutch.

Now attach the Mid section to your headers. The 97-98 Z3 2.8 mid section is a 2.5" pipe just like the stock 318ti. So you can use any 318ti cat back section to keep the single tip exhaust. If you choose like me to use a 318ti cat back, you will need to take it to a muffler shop to get the exhaust extended by a few inches. This should only cost around ~$100.

The o2 sensors for the mid section will also need one of the wires lengthened or you will need to buy a third o2 sensor. I spliced and lengthened the o2 sensor that came with the Z3.

And that's all it takes. If you have any questions please feel free to ask. I am going to put a Q&A Section at the end so all the questions are easily accessible. Thanks guys! Pictures will be added at some point.

Last edited by LanOsb133; 10-20-2019 at 09:52 PM.
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Old 10-20-2019, 07:53 PM   #2
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Modified 328i Harness Details

Now this part is my solution to the 328i harness not working with the Z3 alternator. It may not be "right", but its what I did while I try to figure out a better alternative. The Z3 Alternator takes a three prong plug containing two wires. A blue exciter wire, and a second wire that is a power wire when the ignition is in start and run position with a 10a fuse. So you will want to either cut the 3prong connector off the z3 harness, or find the connector on the body of the Z3. There is ONE 3 prong connector near the fuse box that is on the Z3 body. It has a white with brown stripe, white with blue strip and white with red stripe wires in it. You can use this so the Z3 engine harness is not molested. So take your blue exciter wire from the 328i harness and chop off the end bit and solder that wire to the MIDDLE wire (Aka #2, or White wire with blue stripe if you pulled the connector off the body.) of the three prong connector.

Nows the fun part. Because we no longer have any of the Auto Transmission stuff in the center console you will be left with an 8 pin connector next to the gear selector. This 8pin connector we will need to put a wire into slot #5, it has the green and grey striped wire. Add a LONG wire into that connector and run the wire through the rubber shift boot to underneath the car. From here I ran the wire from the back of the transmission all the way to the Alternator. I put that wire next to all the transmission wiring on the wiring harness and followed it back up to the alternator. This single wire is than soldered into the 3 pin connector on slot number 1 or the white wire with the red stripe. Refer to the Z3 harness for which slots to use. After this, replace Fuse #28 with a red 10a fuse. And its that easy, this will give the Z3 alternator the power cable it is looking for to be used on your 318ti.

If you plan on running the clutch switch it will come off the Green/Grey wire also. So simply add two wires off the green/grey wire. 1 for the alternator 1 for the clutch switch. The clutch switch wire, you will add an inline 5amp fuse and than just hook it up like it should be.

Q&A Section:

Why the 97-98 Z3 2.8 and not a Sedan E36 2.8?
Because the 97-98 is an M52b28-0. It is the ONLY aluminum block single vanos M52b28 in the US market. It is somewhere around 60lbs lighter than the Iron block. Or somewhere around half the weight gain of a typical M52 swap. This IMO is a huge advantage for the cars handling characteristics since the car is being turned from an FMR (Front Mid Engine, Rear Wheel Drive) car to an FR (Front engine, Rear Wheel Drive).

Would you do this swap again?

Was this swap hard?
No. It is very easy all things considered. Its more labor intensive than an E36>E36/5 swap and it has more parts your need to source, but its worth the extra bit of work.

Why did you use the M50manifold.com kit?
Not only is this kit the cheapest and easiest option available. Besides those two things its one of the only kits that retains all the features of the M52 manifold meaning I can still BAR certify my car and my car wont throw up any check engine lights because everything is still there!

Last edited by LanOsb133; 10-20-2019 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 10-20-2019, 07:53 PM   #3
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Old 11-01-2019, 06:15 PM   #4
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Have you got any pictures or info on where the 3" extension in the exhaust needs to be? I am using the 2.8 z3 exhaust and will need to address that.

Also, I changed the alternator to the m3 one in order to use the normal connection's.
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