Editorial: Why Wagons?

This post is written in first person, as it’s a different narrative than the regular chronicle of events at SkunkRennWerks.

To me, the wagon forms a perfect combination of elements that make up a great car. You have the size, performance, and styling of a performance sedan; combined with the cargo and people capacity of an SUV or truck. The current trend shows wagons are big, wagons are in, wagons are cool again. Take this smattering of shots from the OUSCI photo gallery, which spans generations and continents for its wagon collection:

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I’m not a wagon newcomer, I was born into it. I cut my teeth real early on the wagon trend. My dad, Cryptic Father, started me on wagon path early, with his fox-based wagons. He swapped Mustang drivelines, suspension, and interior comforts into Fairmont and LTD wagons. This was before the internet and way before I could drive, so I grew up around these projects and had many a road trip in the back of a wagon.

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When I turned driving age, I had stewardship over the beige 1984 LTD wagon in the picture above, and I loved the 5.0 V8 power and ample room for friends and parts. I did (and still do) have affairs with non-wagon platforms, but I keep coming back to the staple that the wagon format.

When I met Shelby, she was shocked when I was quite taken with her family’s former shop project, an e39 wagon with a supercharger and loads of AC Schnitzer goodies. Seems Cryptic Father wasn’t the only one with hot rod wagon dreams running through his head.

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So it was a natural choice when we bought our first joint car, the e46 wagon I now race. And when the #stealthbomber needed to leave, what could replace it, but another wagon? Of course, this is different than any wagon I’ve owned, with AWD, 6-speed manual, and a boxer engine to boot. But it has already been a thrill and finally having off-pavement capabilities has been quite addicting.

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So with the question being “Why wagon?”, I’ll always reply back “Why not?”

 

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Because Racewagon

What is the #racewagon? At it’s core, a 2001 BMW 325i Wagon, with the grey interior wrapped in Alpine White paint, equipped with sport and premium packages. This wagon has been a staple of the fleet for a little over five years, as a daily-driver and parts runner. The unofficial motto of SkunkRennWerks is “leave nothing stock”, and the wagon is no exception. It is minimally prepped; with FK Streetline coilovers, ECS Tuning shift bushings, ZHP weighted shift knob, ECS Tuning aluminum water pump pulley, a square set of BBS RS2 18×8.5 wheels in a fetching liquid copper powdercoat, and Nankang Noble Sport NS-20 tires in a narrow 225/40/18 configuration. Additional non-performance mods include OEM Euro clear corners and taillights, and PlastiDip-blackout trim & kidney grills. It also has a rarely-installed  Yakima roof rack with spoiler for that ultimate stance-scene street cred. However we use the hell out of the rack, especially at Home Depot.

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After selling the #stealthbomber, we moved the wagon to race duty, with the addition of another wagon to the fleet, a 2011 Subaru Outback. Surprisingly, at least to non-BMW people, the little wagon runs very similar times to the #stealthbomber, even on it’s small non-sticky tire setup. Future plans call for something closer to the 200tw street tire class limit, along with a Porsche 996 Brembo brake package. After abusing the GT500 setup on the Bomber, big brakes are a must for all vehicles in the SkunkRennWerks fleet! Look forward to more race updates and work being done on the now 100% wagon fleet here at SkunkRennWerks.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A lot has happened since our last update. The garage has been busy as hell at SkunkRennWerks and the lineup has changed. Let’s dive into it.

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From a racing perspective, while we love the #Stealthbomber, it wasn’t a great fit for the household, and with a certain 1988 Mustang lurking like a specter in the shadows, the Bomber wasn’t long for our stable. Upon discussing the car’s fate among friends, a fellow Mustang enthusiast jumped at the opportunity to continue the legacy.  A deal was struck and our S197 Mustang went off to a new home in November.

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What is the next racecar? We would be silly to say we won’t race again. Our daily driver BMW e46 Wagon has been given the go-ahead on becoming the new race vehicle for SkunkRennWerks, and the moniker #racewagon has been adopted. Look for a future post on the history of our little wagon that could.

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In addition to the #racewagon, we’ve replaced the Bomber with something a lot more practical. Something that can go off-pavement and haul a lot of stuff. Something from across the Pacific.

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Yep, we just went full wagon. We picked up this 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 6MT with a little under 50k miles in late November. Packaged in a pretty Azurite Blue Pearl, along with an Ivory interior, this wagon is our go-anywhere do-anything solution. In typical SkunkRennWerks fashion, we wasted no time in heading off the beaten path with it, venturing up Nate Harrison Grade to Palomar Mountain Observatory for Black Friday.

BMW E46 Yaw Sensor Replacement

What is a BMW post doing on a Mustang racing site? It’s one of our daily drivers, and one of our favorite road trip/parts runner/carry-all cars. Our particular example is a 2001 E46 wagon in classic Alpine white, featuring a manual transmission, coil-overs, OEM Euro clear corners and taillights, DIY Plasti-Dip shadow-line trim, tinted windows, and Alpina 18×8 wheels.

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The particular problem we’ll address today with our little BMW is a yaw sensor failure, with revealed itself by the ABS/TCS system grabbing the passenger front caliper for a millisecond, then illuminating the ABS and TCS lights, indicating an error in the system. This happened within minutes of driving the car, and was quite noticeable and alarming. Scanning the code with our OBDII reader showed a yaw rate error, leading us directly to the yaw sensor itself. We researched online, and came across tested yaw sensors on eBay, part number 1166003. $59.99 later, we had a verified good sensor sitting on the workbench.

First, we gathered the necessary tools for the job:

  • 3/8″ Ratchet
  • 3/8″ 16mm Socket, Deep
  • 1/4″ Ratchet
  • 1/4″ 10mm Socket
  • 1/4″ 1-1/2″ Extension
  • 1/4″ 1-1/2″ Extension, Wobble
  • 1/4″ Universal Joint
  • 1/4″ Driver
  • 10mm Box-End Wrench, Ratcheting
  • 5mm Hex/Allen Wrench
  • Wire Cutters
  • Magnetic Helper
  • Pry Bar
  • Flashlight
  • Matador Surface

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The sensor is located in the floor, just in front of the driver’s seat. We unbolting the driver seat, with two 16mm nuts under plastic covers up front, and two 16mm bolts out back.

We tilted the seat back, without disconnecting it’s wiring harness. Underneath the seat, a wiring harness is zip-tied to a plastic bolt. We cut it with the wire cutters, then turned the bolt by hand to remove.

Next, we used the pry bar to pop the lower inner door trim plate. This plate is held on by 4 plastic clips and was very stubborn.

We then pried the front section of the carpet back, exposing the bracket holding the yaw sensor.

The bracket is covered by a wiring harness, which we moved to the side, using the seat stud to hold the harness out of our way. The bracket is held on by four 10mm bolts, two of which are visible at the top of the bracket, already removed in the above picture

The lower bolts are quite difficult. The first bolt, on the outer side, can be accessed by removing the ground point with the 10mm box wrench, then removing the 10mm bolt on the bracket with the 1/4″ drive and both extensions, using the wobble extension to get the 10mm socket on the bolt. The last bolt is impossible, in our opinion, without doing a little demolition work. We used the pry bar to cut through the Styrofoam, to allow for us to use our extensions and the universal joint to get the socket on the bolt.

 

The bracket itself was then able to be removed, and the sensor unplugged via a simple push clip. We used the 5mm hex/Allen wrench to remove the two bolts holding the sensor to the bracket. Installation, as they say, is the reverse of removal. We bolted the sensor to the bracket, and the bracket to the body. We reconnected the ground point, and placed the chunks of Styrofoam back in place. Then fold the carpet back down, screwing in the plastic bolt, using a new zip tie to hold the wiring harness in place. Replace the lower inner door trim, then re-position the seat and bolt it back into place.

A quick test drive showed no more errors, and after a few trips with the car, we’ve declared the problem completely resolved!