Yes another long overdue post.  The SE46 has already turned wheels in anger, but I’m taking it back to the beginning in an attempt to catalog all the work that went into this build.  Perhaps it’ll be helpful to someone else considering this path to racing, or maybe it’ll just be good reference to help refresh my memory on what exactly I did.  After all, it all seems pretty easy once it’s all said in done.  I could use a little reminder of the true pain building a race car from scratch can be.

Let’s get caught up to speed.  Back in February 2015 I picked up a well used, not so loved, 2001 Alpine White 330Ci coupe on my way back from the Rolex 24hr of Daytona.  From there I dived straight into the work.  First step is to strip the car down to the bare chassis and running gear.  There’s no need for almost anything in the interior per the Spec E46 rules, so it all came out.  This included the sunroof cassette, seats, sound deadening, carpet, side glass, window regulators, switches,… well you get the idea.

This is mostly very easy work, though a bit labor intensive.  You can do it much quicker if you have no intent to sale the removed items, but I was hoping to at least recoup some of my money from the initial purchase of an otherwise street-ready car.

Labeling WiresTo help myself down the line, I always take the time to label wires as I unplug them from their switch, motor, or sensor.  I used some waterproof labels found at the local office supply, as they hold up much better than the standard paper ones.  I used red labels for any items I knew could be permanently removed, ie seat adjustments, air bags, interior lights, etc.

Before you get too into ripping apart the car it’s very important to decide how you are going to go about wiring the minimum required items.  You could, for example, totally remove all the chassis side wiring and go completely custom for the brake lights, fuel pump(s), windshield wipers, etc.  This is probably the lightest route, perhaps even quicker.  I, however, wanted to retain the stock light controls, wiper stalk (for easy intermittent timing) and other functions.

Removing Interior Items

Everything that was salvageable was set aside, everything else was tossed in the can.  I did make it a point to save every piece of hardware (nut, bolt, washer, plastic pop rivet) as they were removed.  These can come in very handy later for other spots on the car.

Removing HVAC system HVAC Removed

One of the more challenging removals is the heating and air conditioning unit (HVAC.)  Sure a sledgehammer would break it down into easier to remove pieces, but I’d rather get it out complete.  Don’t forget to first have the refrigerant sucked out by a certified technician before breaking the lines.  The entire dash and dash support bar must be removed to pull the unit out from the cabin side.

Once all the interior bits and pieces are removed, the carpet can come out.  What’s revealed is your next challenge: sound deadening removal.  This stuff is a thick, heavy, tar-like substance that is either sprayed on in spots or found in a sheet adhered to the metal of the cab.  There’s no need for it in a race car, it’s just dead weight.


Before getting to crazy with removal of this stuff, make sure you have all your wiring well clear of your work space.  I actually completely unplugged the harness from the back of the car forward and then laid it outside the cab.

Tar RemovalNow there are several techniques to removing this tar sheet, such as dry ice, liquid nitrogen, heat guns, grinders with wire wheels and of course manual labor with scrappers and chisels.  I’ve found (having done this on multiple cars) that no single solution works on all vehicles.  For instance, my ’95 M3’s sound deadening just pealed up by hand.

This car took a combination of heat guns, scrape blades, and wire wheels to get the majority of the matting removed.  With large chunks gone you will be left with a nasty brownish residue on the painted interior.  This is where the chemicals come in.  I found that the Pro Strength Goof Off (in the yellow 1 gallon can) with a stack of shop towels worked best.  This stuff is pretty nasty and puts off some very strong fumes, so we pushed the car outside and wore respirators for this part.

In addition to removing the sound deadening, there are multiple metal brackets inside the cabin that are no longer needed.  Brackets for the rear seats, air bag electronics, head rests, seat belts, and so forth.  Now it isn’t absolutely necessary to remove these and most don’t, but I wanted as clean of an interior as possible, not to mention the weight savings.

So using a red paint marker, I put a red “X” on all the unneeded brackets and fittings.  From there I used a combination of spot weld drill bit, grinder, and sanding disc to permanently remove these unwanted pieces.  I also removed the majority of the seam sealer from the inside of the car, as it’s spread on pretty thick from the factory.  The bare metal was then sprayed with gray primer to just keep the rust at bay.

Interior Clean Up Brackets Removed

I also made it a point to save as many of the rubber/plastic plugs for the various holes in the floor and firewall, so that they could be reused later.


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