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      04-26-2019, 05:31 PM   #1
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Is it worth committing to a N55 E90 as a track car?

Hey guys,

After 3.5 years of daily-driving my M coupe around 15-20k miles a year, I started to desire something a bit more comfortable for my commute. Long story short, 2 years ago I ended up buying my *ideal* 335i, a 2011 E90 with M-sport, manual, no nav, H/K, and white on black with silver cube trim. I bought it with the intention to learn more about turbo cars and to have a fun, yet more comfortable daily than the M coupe. Over those 2 years I have learned quite a lot about this platform, and I have spent quite a bit of money keeping it running (including a whole new motor). Recently, I ended up landing a job that allows me to work from home, so I don't necessarily need a "comfortable" car anymore. I had the intention of jumping headfirst into HPDE's starting this season, but I am currently split with what direction I should go. Considering how much money I have spent into the E90 already, part of me thinks it would make sense to just throw a bit more into it to prep for track stuff, but part of me also thinks that it just isn't going to be a reliable and worth-while track platform.

The question now is, should I keep the E90 and dump even more money into it for track use? Or should I cut my losses and start fresh with a far more competent platform (another Z4M coupe, E92 M3, E46 M3, 987 Cayman S)?

As of right now, considering the problems I have had with it as a typical street car, I am leaning towards ditching it. However, I would like to hear the opinions of those who actually have some HPDE's logged on their N55 E9X's.

Also, would be very interested to hear what others would think I would need to prep for the car's first track day.

As it sits, the car currently has 96k miles on the chassis and 10k miles on the factory-fresh, dealer installed N55. Here is the current mod list:

BMW Performance short shift kit W/ ZHP knob
BMW F10 550i clutch and pressure plate
BMW Performance exhaust
BMS Clutch delay valve
BMS intake
MHD Stage 2+
VRSF cat-less downpipe
VRSF 7" front mount intercooler
VRSF aluminum charge pipe
Stoptech cross drilled rotors front (oem pads)
M3 mono ball upper and lower control arms
ST coilovers
Dinan Stage 3 alignment
Apex Arc-8 18x9 et30 front with 235/40/18 and 18x9.5 et35 rear with 265/35/18
Michelin PS4S tires

Here is my current list for track-prep mods that I'm thinking I would need:

New/better suited rotors front and rear
Track focused brake pads
stainless brake lines
uprated fluids (brake, trans, diff)
front swaybar
rear subframe bushings
camber plates (Not 100% on this as I already have -1.8 degrees in the front without them)
Limited slip-diff+rear swaybar (this would be a long-term upgrade)
More cooling? (car is equipped with sport external oil cooler)

Opinions please! Thanks ya'll!
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      04-30-2019, 09:46 AM   #2
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I don't have an N55 or an E90 (but I have a lot of track time in another "less than ideal" track car - N54 E82) so take it for what it's worth:

Regarding the Sell vs Keep question:
With a brand new motor, I suspect the resale value of your car will never be higher than it is now.

Regarding HPDE prep:
Change your brake fluid to something track-appropriate, Motul 600 perhaps.
An oil change wouldn't hurt if you're coming up on 5000 miles.
Unless your pads are on the way out already, I would leave them be. They will be fine if it's your first time on track. Will you have an instructor?

Assorted ramblings:
The E46 and E90 M3 aren't without their share of problems. And the 987 Cayman did have IMS bearing issues - I won't get hysterical about the failure rate, it wasn't as common as the horror stories would have you believe but it should be part of the decision-making process.

My 135i is now a dedicated track car because of exactly what you are going through. I upgraded it little by little after starting out HPDE's with a completely stock car. At a certain point I felt like I'd take such a loss by getting rid of it that I stayed the course.

I like having something a bit "unique" as opposed to the hundreds of S2000's, Miata's, E46 M3's and Corvettes, all of which are probably better suited for this purpose. But the car is -mine-, which is worth more to some people than others.

Maybe it would be worth doing an HPDE with the car and then make a decision on Sell vs Keep?
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      04-30-2019, 11:11 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajsmithvmi View Post
I don't have an N55 or an E90 (but I have a lot of track time in another "less than ideal" track car - N54 E82) so take it for what it's worth:

Regarding the Sell vs Keep question:
With a brand new motor, I suspect the resale value of your car will never be higher than it is now.

Regarding HPDE prep:
Change your brake fluid to something track-appropriate, Motul 600 perhaps.
An oil change wouldn't hurt if you're coming up on 5000 miles.
Unless your pads are on the way out already, I would leave them be. They will be fine if it's your first time on track. Will you have an instructor?

Assorted ramblings:
The E46 and E90 M3 aren't without their share of problems. And the 987 Cayman did have IMS bearing issues - I won't get hysterical about the failure rate, it wasn't as common as the horror stories would have you believe but it should be part of the decision-making process.

My 135i is now a dedicated track car because of exactly what you are going through. I upgraded it little by little after starting out HPDE's with a completely stock car. At a certain point I felt like I'd take such a loss by getting rid of it that I stayed the course.

I like having something a bit "unique" as opposed to the hundreds of S2000's, Miata's, E46 M3's and Corvettes, all of which are probably better suited for this purpose. But the car is -mine-, which is worth more to some people than others.

Maybe it would be worth doing an HPDE with the car and then make a decision on Sell vs Keep?
Exactly. Do some HPDE first. HPDE is not wheel to wheel racing. It is education. You surely don't need anything you listed to do an HPDE event as a beginner.

Get an idea for what types of cars are out there on the track with you. You might be surprised to see that 80%+ of the cars are only lightly modified. You'll be out there lapping $100k porsche and getting lapped by $3k Miata's lol. Most of the real gutted cars with cages are OLD because they have depreciated to null value and the aftermarket has matured. Prices have dropped and people don't need to sell their homes if they wreck or blow am engine. E90's specifically are going to be a rare sight in "full" race prep because its really only enthusiasts doing it. There is no "spec" E90 club racing going on. If you do heavily modify an E90 and enter some amateur events you'll probably be classed into some unlimited class or some other noncompetitive class for the chassis. That is the real draw-back to a LOT of cars, not just the E90. Again, HPDE is not amateur racing. You aren't there to do a time trial. You'll be driving in traffic and practicing things like making off-line passes.

I've gone deep into my car. Built engine now, E92 M3 rear-end swap, solid bushings, and I am currently hacking up the fenders for custom flares. I love the car. It's different. It's fast. I am not a race car driver though looking to win trophies lol. It's just a hobby. My 135i is worth maybe 8k. No harm in hacking it up and gutting it at this point... That's still decent money, but, I'm at a point where I can afford to have it as a toy to continue my hobby. It's no longer a car I drive to work. A Civic or an older E36 M3 would surely be a cheaper car...

As for actual "racing" all you need is money. Got 100k for a car? 40k for entry fees per event? 50k+ for consumables like tires and brakes per season? You can go be a professional driver...
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Last edited by bbnks2; 04-30-2019 at 12:01 PM..
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      04-30-2019, 07:09 PM   #4
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Problem is once you start DE you will get hooked, and spend more on the car as you get faster lol. For now I’d stick to maintenance, hi temp brake fluid, and helmet. Once you feel the brakes starting to fade, pick up some PFC 08 or 11’s. If you think you’re carrying serious speed and want to up the safety, look into a HANS and Quickfits.

Fight the urge to go all-in and when you get to the point where you’re considering seat, cage, etc then think about what your ultimate goals are (i.e. DE stud, time trial or w2w). Nothing worse than trying to get a fully modded street car in a competition category that doesn’t exist so you spend even more money taking mods off.

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      04-30-2019, 07:22 PM   #5
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It's the unpopular opinion but I think it's best to do a track oriented pad for the first day. Something that warms relatively quick. Stock pads love to leave deposits and judder SUCKS, that was my first day experience.
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      04-30-2019, 10:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drunkenup View Post
It's the unpopular opinion but I think it's best to do a track oriented pad for the first day. Something that warms relatively quick. Stock pads love to leave deposits and judder SUCKS, that was my first day experience.
Track pads can handle more heat but take longer to heat up and thus are more prone to getting deposits on your rotor if driven in cold/wet.
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      05-01-2019, 03:27 AM   #7
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I'm nearing the same dilemma as I prep my tired old 328i for HPDE and track days.
You've already gotten some sound advice here so I won't restate what's been said but I think the part of your post that stood out to me was that you mentioned that there are better ( maybe cheaper to run, maybe more sensible) platforms out there for a track car, but this one is YOUR car - that tells me that you should at least give it a go. Decide after.
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      05-01-2019, 08:30 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3002 tii View Post
Track pads can handle more heat but take longer to heat up and thus are more prone to getting deposits on your rotor if driven in cold/wet.
They also have poor cold braking characteristics. A lot of people (including myself) often misjudge just how much a brake pad and tires can cool off while blasting down the straight away. Then you shit your pants when they provide 0 bite when you try to late-brake into the first turn lol.

Stock pads are by far an easier pad to learn on than a track pad. They usually have pretty good braking characteristics at all temperatures and are usually a sporty FF or GF rated pad. BMW doesn't use shit pads on these cars... Despite what people say, a stock pad isn't magically just going to give up on you either and leave you with no brakes. You might feel them begin to fade late into a session, and your brake zones might get longer, but that is something you should be learning to manage. There is really no reason you should be overheating a stock pad as a beginner! A track pad isn't going to fix poor braking habits.
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      05-01-2019, 06:37 PM   #9
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My stock pads never gave up their bite late braking at marker 3 on thunderbolt's main straight, lap after lap, on my first day. My peak speeds haven't changed all that much, either. I don't even brake that late anymore, that instructor just preferred I learn closer to threshold. But braking from 135-140 with a steering shimmy is not conducive to learning.

I'm not suggesting he go get DTC-70s, but something along the lines of DS2500s or Yellowstuff would easily avoid oem pad judder, at least in my experience, but maintain stock pad manners.

That's just my opinion. I think its dumb to prepare the car to go way faster than you will as a first timer, but I think if anything should get a buff, it should be brakes. A step up from OEM.

Also, the irony of people returning from their first track day asking how to get their brakes to stop juddering (yes, I know it'll solve itself in time), and they're told to drive on true track pads to scrub the rotors of deposits. end rant
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      05-02-2019, 07:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drunkenup View Post
My stock pads never gave up their bite late braking at marker 3 on thunderbolt's main straight, lap after lap, on my first day. My peak speeds haven't changed all that much, either. I don't even brake that late anymore, that instructor just preferred I learn closer to threshold. But braking from 135-140 with a steering shimmy is not conducive to learning.

I'm not suggesting he go get DTC-70s, but something along the lines of DS2500s or Yellowstuff would easily avoid oem pad judder, at least in my experience, but maintain stock pad manners.

That's just my opinion. I think its dumb to prepare the car to go way faster than you will as a first timer, but I think if anything should get a buff, it should be brakes. A step up from OEM.

Also, the irony of people returning from their first track day asking how to get their brakes to stop juddering (yes, I know it'll solve itself in time), and they're told to drive on true track pads to scrub the rotors of deposits. end rant
I am actually in the exact opposite belief. I think people don't seem to understand that it's a normal function of the pad for material to be transferred to the surface of the rotor. Most people just run aggressive pads way too cold and they never get to the point of that proper transfer. Rotors also end up getting eaten quickly. Not sure exactly the "judder" part. I can't say I've ever experienced anything to the extent you're talking about. Some of that "judder" could just be slop in the caliper which people claim brass pins helps with. The "deposits" might just be bringing out that play.

You don't need to "scrub the rotors with true track pads." That's a bit of a myth. 2 minutes of driving on cold brakes/rotors will wipe them clean just from daily driving or just driving home from the track after a cool-down.

I have more issues with picking up marbles on the track and driving home bouncing down the road than I do "brake judder."
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Last edited by bbnks2; 05-02-2019 at 07:20 AM..
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      05-02-2019, 03:23 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajsmithvmi View Post
I don't have an N55 or an E90 (but I have a lot of track time in another "less than ideal" track car - N54 E82) so take it for what it's worth:

Regarding the Sell vs Keep question:
With a brand new motor, I suspect the resale value of your car will never be higher than it is now.

Regarding HPDE prep:
Change your brake fluid to something track-appropriate, Motul 600 perhaps.
An oil change wouldn't hurt if you're coming up on 5000 miles.
Unless your pads are on the way out already, I would leave them be. They will be fine if it's your first time on track. Will you have an instructor?

Assorted ramblings:
The E46 and E90 M3 aren't without their share of problems. And the 987 Cayman did have IMS bearing issues - I won't get hysterical about the failure rate, it wasn't as common as the horror stories would have you believe but it should be part of the decision-making process.

My 135i is now a dedicated track car because of exactly what you are going through. I upgraded it little by little after starting out HPDE's with a completely stock car. At a certain point I felt like I'd take such a loss by getting rid of it that I stayed the course.

I like having something a bit "unique" as opposed to the hundreds of S2000's, Miata's, E46 M3's and Corvettes, all of which are probably better suited for this purpose. But the car is -mine-, which is worth more to some people than others.

Maybe it would be worth doing an HPDE with the car and then make a decision on Sell vs Keep?
Thank you for the informative response. I am not opposed to doing a HPDE with the car as it is now. Though, after owning the car for a while now and putting almost 30k miles on it, I have a pretty good impression of where the weaknesses are (brakes, cooling, engine consistency, reliability, stability). Considering I have exposed those weaknesses with simple spirited street driving, I am worried they're going to be a headache once on track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3002 tii View Post
Problem is once you start DE you will get hooked, and spend more on the car as you get faster lol. For now Iíd stick to maintenance, hi temp brake fluid, and helmet. Once you feel the brakes starting to fade, pick up some PFC 08 or 11ís. If you think youíre carrying serious speed and want to up the safety, look into a HANS and Quickfits.

Fight the urge to go all-in and when you get to the point where youíre considering seat, cage, etc then think about what your ultimate goals are (i.e. DE stud, time trial or w2w). Nothing worse than trying to get a fully modded street car in a competition category that doesnít exist so you spend even more money taking mods off.
I have done a few small events here and there with my M coupe, but time and money was the limiting factor. I am already hooked, and now I don't have as many limiting factors as before.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drunkenup View Post
It's the unpopular opinion but I think it's best to do a track oriented pad for the first day. Something that warms relatively quick. Stock pads love to leave deposits and judder SUCKS, that was my first day experience.
With stock pads and Stoptech drilled rotors in the front/OEM rotors rear, I start to get brake judder pretty quickly with spirited driving. That is even with trying to drive cautiously and smoothly with as little hard braking as possible. I guess it doesn't help that the car is making a lot more power than stock. Still, the stock brakes are not very confident inspiring regardless, especially when compared to the E46 M3 CSL brakes that the M coupe had.
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