Project: Bratwurst

Hello and welcome to project Bratwurst! (or Bratty for short, ratty Beemer) This was my entry for the Practical Performance Car £999 challenge 2010 held at Santapod on 17th September.
For those of you not in the know, Practical Performance Car magazine is the only real world monthly car building/modifying magazine out there worth buying on a regular basis and there £999 challenge was a much anticipated annual event, this being the fourth such event.
For more details on the magazine (from now on referred to as PPC) click on the link:

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How it looked in my imagination. The reality was a lot more down to earth (and green).

The PPC £999 Challenge

The challenge was simple, you were allowed a budget of up to £999 (of your own money sadly) to buy and modify the car of your choice to compete in two challenges.

These challenges were:
1 ) Drag Run - Straight simple drag race.
2) Handling Course - Timed slalom.

The Car

1991 BMW 525i SE
M50B25 Engine: 2.5ltr straight 6, DOHC and 24 valves. Non-Vanos (Variable valve timing thingy).
Approx 189bhp @ 5900rpm and 184lbs/ft @ 4200rpm when new according to wikipedia.
Weight : 1.48 Tonnes
Value:
£80 at the time (2008, makes you sick doesn't it!)

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History:
The car was given to me November '08 as a spares car for my then daily driver '92 BMW 518SE and was even the same colour (the BMW alongside it was my old daily driver). The car was at the end of it's working life and in very shabby condition. The only parts of any use to me for spares were the electric window mechanisms and the four wheels as they had reasonable tyres on them. Everything else was either worn out or broken. However it did have a nice engine and it was rear wheel drive. Oh, and it was free!

In order to make things a bit fairer and give the car a value I took it along to the local breakers for an evaluation. The theory behind this being that although not everyone was in the position to receive a free BMW, there was nothing stopping anyone from buying one from a scrapyard. I also wanted to see how much it weighed before I started stripping it out.

The car weighed in at 1.48 Tonnes. This was with a near empty fuel tank. At present values (21/11/08) that gave the vehicle a scrap value of £59. The dealer later added that he'd give me another £20 for the alloy wheels giving a total of £80. This left a substantial amount of the £999 budget left to play with (minus another £5 for getting it weighed) which might have seemed an unfair advantage to some but bearing in mind that I had very little funds, a young family to support and two other projects all demanding there cut of my finances I couldn't see me getting anywhere near the maximum budget in my total spend!

And Finally, the name, why 'Project: Bratwurst'? Well, it's not entirely my own idea, I shamelessly stole the idea for the projects name from a member of the PPC forum by the username Crogthomas with his project sausage. He had a 1988 1.0 Nissan Micra project car affectionately named ‘Sausage’ by his girlfriend, “because it’s an old banger”. I liked it and decided to copy it but with an added Germanic twist!

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Initial Assessment

What sort of condition is a free BMW going to be in?

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Weight Loss

As Colin Chapman said, "add lightness".

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Rectification

So long as the basics work...

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Modifications

Big plans on a small budget.

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Budget

Think 'Tesco Value'...

The Big Day!

17/09/2010

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I did it! I actually did it! I got the Bratwurst to Santapod for the big event! I was disqualified for a minor technicality (no MOT) but so were two others but we knew that before we started and were allowed to have some fun anyway.
So how did it perform? Faultlessly! Despite the drivers worst efforts! The engine never missed a beat all day even if I did miss a gear on the first go up the strip and went from 6,000rpm in third gear back down to second! It survived unscathed though and continued to put in a strong performance up the strip.

The final best standing quarter mile time was:
14.9662 seconds
91.60 mph

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Admittedly a bit of an unfair match on this run.

To give this some form of perspective, there were about 35 entrants of which only twelve achieved a sub 15second run. As you can see, the orange racing scheme didn't quite make it. Maybe next year.
The handling course wasn't so successful. This was due in part to the front tracking be very much out of line with far too much tow-out, the opposite to what you would normally have on a rear wheel drive car. This revealed itself early on in the project when I removed the front wheels. Although they showed plenty of tread on there outer edges, they were bold on the inner edges. This meant that the car was prone to under steering. Of course, had it been set up correctly I would probably have just spun it instead as the other problem was the incompetent driver. It would have looked more spectacular though!

Lessons Learnt & Development Opportunities

Drag Strip
I was well chuffed with my results with this. I didn’t expect a middle of the range 19yr old 5 series to brake under 15 seconds with just a weight loss program!
Problems – Traction in first was terrible and not great in second. Things improved with practice but the car could easily be improved on.
Development – The first obvious fix is an LSD, or a could fit a welded up 518 diff that’ll give me lower gearing for faster acceleration. I wasn’t quite maxing out in fourth by the end of the strip, I think I still had another 1,000 rpm left to go. Another problem was a result of the lightening process. The rear suspension had very little load on it and as a result had become very rigid. The front though still had the weight of the engine to contend with and so was still very compliant. This of course was very much restricting weight transfer to the rear under hard acceleration. A few measurements and a trip to the breakers to find something the right size from a smaller car might be the order of the day here, or perhaps get the originals re-tempered.

Handling course
I knew the car would struggle here, not least because it’s a bit big and now relatively nose heavy, but also due to the rather inexperienced driver.
Problems – Apart from the idiot behind the wheel, the car was carrying a problem before I even started. The original front tyres, though showing lots of tread on the outer edge, were bald on the inner edge. So it’s pretty clear that the tracking is way out with lots of toe-out. This made it’s presence felt at the big bend at the top of the course where the front wheels could be felt to scrub and break traction resulting in a tendency to under-steer. Had I got the tracking sorted then I might have been able to provide a bit more entertainment by over-steering instead and spinning off into the cones. The 2.5” suspension lift (from the weight loss plan) and the fact that the rear end was hard whilst the front was still soft may also not have helped but I think my limitations would have been reached before these had an effect.
Development – Get the tracking sorted! Then lower the ride height and get something softer on the back.

Conclusion
In all, a very pleasing first attempt with no complaints whatsoever. Lots of development potential in the car that can be carried out relatively cheaply and easily. I was seriously tempted to keep the car, finish and flog the other projects, and concentrate on seeing just how far I could develop it within the confines of the competition.

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The Fate of Project Bratwurst

So what became of Project Bratwurst? Did it realise its full potential?
Sadly no, lack of funds and the looming loss of storage meant it had to go. So regrettably it went on ebay (old advert in the link).
But the spirit lives on. I had so much fun building and developing this car that it changed my outlook on the hobby. It's ethos lives on in the yellow Scimitar!

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The contents of this website are purely a reflection of my own experiences and knowledge gained whilst working on my various projects. Anything you do based on what you have read here is done so entirely at your own risk.
Personally I wouldn't trust some like me with a lawn mower! You have been warned! Flapper-bat!

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