The car of choice, and how I technically got a free BMW

So to begin this project, we need a car to work on.

The car I have chosen to perform the electric conversion on is a 2002 BMW 325xi. So why did I choose this car?

  • BMWs are built to take a decent amount of power, so I don’t have to worry about damaging the drive train by using the more powerful electric drive motor
  • The styling is timeless, it has a stance that is more substantial than something like a Civic or a Geo Metro.
  • BMW parts are expensive, meaning I can sell all the parts I remove to help cover the bulk of these costs.
  • It has a good amount of space under the trunk for the motor and controller, and a large trunk for batteries
  • There are a few people who have done conversions with other BMWs, so it gives me extra confidence with my choice

Now I will note that it is not the exact vehicle I had wanted, but the deal was too good to pass up. Due to this being an X Drive model, it has all wheel drive, which is extra weight, but I am hoping it helps distribute power to the ground.

And speaking of the deal, it turned out much better than I anticipated. I had originally tracked down a 2005 325i for $600 that sat for the winter and would just click when the woman tried to start it. I had explained my situation and talked her down to $450, but the same day I got the funds, she had sold it.

I was let down out but I never give in that easy. I found a 330xi for $500, but after talking with the owner, the list of repairs were too long . And finally, I located this car, the 02 325xi, originally listed for $600. The reason this deal is so crucial is that the previous owner only had it for 4 months and drove it one mile to a Firestone, got a list of the repairs it needed, bought most of the parts, and then never touched the car again . He showed me all the receipts, it was right around $500 worth of parts in the trunk.

Now if there is anything I have learned, it’s that it can’t hurt to ask anything. So I explained what my idea was for the car and offered $400. He was into the idea and was willing to cut the price down, so my father and I went to take a look.

The first visit was just to see it in person and ensure there was no structural problems like rust or seized wheels. While the car was in rougher shape compared to the photos, something just clicked that told me this was the right vehicle and that I wanted it no matter what. My father took a look around, we noticed it was 99% rust free, the wheels were from an M series, giving it a meaner look, and that the bones were solid. But two things held us back. He couldn’t find the key, and thus could not open the trunk to show us all the parts he claimed he bought. We also wanted to see it run, as I did plan to sell the engine to help fund the project. We both thanked him and said we’d back if he could find the key.

I was a little bummed about the key, it seemed like it was a dead end. That was, until a day and a half later when I got a text containing the image of the previously lost key and fob. The next afternoon, we grabbed a pretty hefty jump pack meant to start large diesel trucks and headed over to see what we could do.

We got there, he opened the trunk to confirm it has every part listed so that definitely sweetened the deal. With the battery pack hooked up, the guy clicked the key on, and to his astonishment, the car fired up with ease and actually sounded healthy. Minus the hacked off exhaust pipes.

But I should have seen this coming. The seller steps out of the car, turns and exclaims

“Wow! I haven’t gotten this thing running in months, even after I tried jumping it. I could easily get $1000 for this! I don’t know if I want to even sell it to you guys, I should just keep it and fix this up myself!”

Well now I’m kind of in an odd spot here as I, the buyer, just got his car working and now he might not sell it to me, again, the guy who got it working.

I got home and just hopped on my computer to search for other cars, as I figured that was a lost cause. And that was confirmed when I saw his listing jump from $600 to $1000, and the line “Will Run!” added to the description. Fantastic, I’m screwed now. I couldn’t find anything else even remotely close to the deal I had there, so I decided to text him again. “Hey, I got the $400, we can get a trailer and grab it tomorrow” to which he responded “No can do, I have someone who is coming at the end of the week for the bumper and I am going to scrap it, I’ll get about $750 for that together. So if you can’t match that, sorry”.

Well this is great.

But I did know one weakness he had, and that was time. While we had looked at the car, his parents nagged him to “get that piece of junk out of the driveway”. I knew he needed it gone, so I came back with a counter offer. He was at $1000 and I was at $400. He was a great negotiator who wasn’t one to be swindled. So we met right smack dab in the middle at $500. Which basically means I got $500 of BMW parts, and a free BMW to go along with it.

A few days later, we got a UHaul and scooped the car up, where it now resides in the garage just a few feet away from me.

About the author

Jameson Toper

I am a Computer Science Student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and I have a strong passion towards the field of electric vehicles. When I am not working on this project, I teach a Computer Science course and make music.

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