The Horror! The Carnage!


If you recall, Der Überbird ended its last LeMons stint with a motor dead from unknown causes. Sure, there was water in the oil, we had a stuck valve and no compression in the number one cylinder, but beyond that it wasn’t obvious what had killed it. Now we know.

P1010022Pulling the MotorP1010020

It was probably a bad sign when pulling the drain plug resulted in a solid 30 seconds of water pouring out. Not just the milkshake-y sludge that accompanies a blown headgasket, clean, clear water. Roughly half a radiator worth, as we learned when draining the radiator took less time than expected. Following the water came the milkshake (but no boys to the yard) and then what can only be described as motor diarrhea. After we let the sludgy foul-smelling concoction drain, the motor came out courtesy of a garage-sale hoist and onto a garage-sale engine stand. We flipped the motor and pulled the pain to reveal carnage of an unprecedented scale.


In case it’s not obvious what’s gone wrong here, the #1 piston is stuck at the top of its bore. The bottom half of the #1 piston is gone. The #1 rod now looks like a shattered metal banana and was found in the pan around the #4 cylinder. The oil pump has a huge chunk out of it and there’s a 2″ by 2″ hole through the side of the #1 cylinder into the water passage (hence, the water in the pan). Obviously, there’s shrapnel everywhere.


So, um…yeah. Probably won’t be rebuilding this one for the next race.

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31 responses to “The Horror! The Carnage!”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    Well, at least aluminum and steel scrap prices are up right now. You might get $20-50 for that engine.
    Or just try to fix it with $20-50 worth of J-B Weld.

    1. Alex Kierstein Avatar
      Alex Kierstein

      My buddy says that a can of Magical Mysterious Mystery Megalomaniac Maternity Oil in the crankcase 'll fix 'er right up! Also it'll reduce emissions and increase PAH!

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        Don't forget the Seafoam!

    2. dmilligan Avatar

      Slick 50. It'll fix it like magic.

  2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Wankle. Or better yet Subaru power!

  3. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    ahem… well there's your problem! :returns to drinking beer:

  4. Jim Brennan Avatar
    Jim Brennan

    Tim…. I just don't see the attraction of the BMW in LeMons events. They all seem to grenade at one point or another, and only for the grace of god do they ever finish competitively. With all the complexity of Fuel Injection, the insanity of the drive train, and the confusion of the early ECM's, you have to wonder how they ever finish.
    Yes yes yes, almost the same thing can be said about the Corvair, from the complex fan belt, to the Aluminum engine block, and the finicky dual carb setup.

    1. Timothy Odell Avatar
      Timothy Odell

      The FI on this car is actually remarkably easy to work with, if you're someone who can handle early EFI systems. I can debug a 1980s EFI system better than I can debug a distributor + carb. (let alone multiple carbs).
      As regards engine durability…Our first motor was a 177k example that ran 2 races before it developed a knock. This one came out of a car that the guy drove to the recycler. No idea the mileage, but if it was in bad enough shape that he just decided to sell the car to a recycler, it probably wasn't a garage-queen. It was running hot the whole time due to some vacuum leaks, a leaky exhaust manifold and generally being flogged really hard in 90-something degree dry heat.
      Typically, BMWs need a race or two to get sorted, then they do all right. There are quite a few BMWs with 5-6 races on them.

      1. Pleco Avatar

        Well, I'm around a lot and willing to help and now have proper SFI gear… I don't do Carbs either.

      2. P161911 Avatar

        I chased overheating problems with the M20 in my E30. I replaced the thermostat, the water pump, and the radiator. Turns out is was the fan clutch the whole time.

        1. Timothy Odell Avatar
          Timothy Odell

          We ditched the fan on this motor and just left our electric pusher fan going.
          At speed, it's more of an engine load problem than an airflow problem.
          We probably should've pulled the t-stat, but that wasn't really on the must-do list when we were doing the swap.

          1. LTDScott Avatar

            I was utterly amazed that our car ran cool as a cucumber at Arse Sweat in Buttonwillow last year. Stock radiator, no clutch fan, just a cheapo eBay electric pusher up front.

    2. LTDScott Avatar

      Other than a blown up clutch/flywheel in our first race, our E30 has completed three races, two of which in the top 10.
      Bone stock original motor. We have had some computer issues, but nothing major enough to knock us out of contention.

    3. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      Wait, what car doesn't finish LeMons by the grace of god, let alone win?

  5. Alff Avatar

    Gee, if only you knew someone who had a lot of BMW spares.

  6. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    Reminds me of when my friend's Camaro threw a rod. Piston smashed up crooked into the head, rod end scattered into the oil pan. There were pieces of what looked like two of the lifters.
    Solid green coolant drained out of the car. It was a trip.

  7. Timothy Odell Avatar
    Timothy Odell

    Yeah, we're not entirely sure what caused what here.
    It was running hot most of Sunday, so that wasn't helping. It failed with about 3 seconds of bad knocking, then a big boom.

    1. discontinuuity Avatar

      Probably a cracked piston, maybe cause by the knocking and the heat. The good thing about modern aluminum pistons is that they're nice and light (and fairly strong). The bad thing is that they like to fail in spectacular ways because of the thin castings.

  8. Baron Von Danger Avatar
    Baron Von Danger

    Just dump a bunch of Seafoam in it, that will fix her right up!
    WTF, Did a small animal get trapped in there?

  9. mdharrell Avatar

    But the rest of the engine is fine, right?

  10. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I gotta start a new punk band: Shattered Metal Bananas

    1. Baron Von Danger Avatar
      Baron Von Danger

      Followed up by the Weeping Grease Monkeys
      That name reminds me of the real band name Melt Banana

    2. joshuman Avatar

      I heard they were appearing next year on the John Peel stage at Glastonbury.

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        They damn better, along with the punk group Sludgy Foul-Smelling Concoction.

        1. joshuman Avatar

          As an American, I only found John Peel when I discovered BBC Radio 1 streaming online in 2000 or 2001. I learned more about music from his broadcasts than any other DJ has taught me before or since.

          1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

            John Peel was a total legend. The very fact that he was still broadcasting on Radio 1, a station actively marketed at teenagers and young adults, spoke volumes about the how great an influence he had.
            Irreplaceable. If I had long arm's I'd buy you a drink.

        2. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Also worthwhile: Water in the Pan, Motor Diarrhea, and Carnage of an Unprecedented Scale. Actually, that last one might be a better album title.

  11. skitter Avatar

    That is some of the hottest metal-on-metal action I have seen in a long while.

  12. CptSevere Avatar

    Wow, that's really something. I've never blown an engine in such a spectacular fashion myself, just a spun bearing or two, but a "buddy" of mine did stick a rod through the block of a VW I used to have long ago. I lent the damn thing to him, I wasn't even there to hear it grenade. As a little kid, I was in the car when my stepdad blew the 383 in our '63 Plymouth Belvedere. I learned some new words that day, as well as hearing first hand what a thrown rod sounds like. Also, it was refreshing to see Mom seriously pissed off at somebody of the male persuasion other than myself for good reason. An educational experience, and aside from the death of the Belvedere, not unenjoyable.

  13. Joe Dunlap Avatar
    Joe Dunlap

    As a young tech in the early 70s, I lived along Hiway 1 in Ca. and used to see some spectacularly grenaded air cooled VW's. I recall one notable example a Type 2 bearing a paint job appropriate of the time being towed in one afternoon. The owner, a quite hirsute individual with a faraway look in his eyes, stated that the engine had started to make some strange noise, so he put the pedal to the floor to see if it would go away. Unfortunately for him, it did. Quite literally the only thing salvageable was the sheetmetal shrouding. Those were the days….