A while ago, I wrote about a handling issue on Rene, my ’73 3.0CSi, that manifested itself primarily in a wandering steering feel on crowned roads. I discovered that the front camber was uneven. The left front camber was fairly neutral at -0.08 degrees, but the right front was -0.79 degrees—tipped substantially further inward at the top and causing wear on the inside edge of the tire. I carefully examined the right front strut and held a straight edge up to it, and did not see any evidence of its being bent.
My friend Andrew Wilson went through this on his 3.0CSi a few years back, and the folks at VSR1 solved his problem by installing a set of KMAC adjustable camber/caster plates with integrated strut-tower bushings (part number 191716-1J), then carefully aligning the car. While it looked like the KMAC adjustable bushing set was what I needed, the $380 price tag gave me pause. A similar product from Ground Control Systems was priced even higher.
As I often say, I don’t apologize for being relentlessly price-conscious; I couldn’t afford to keep all these cars if I wasn’t. None of them automatically gets everything it needs. So, having identified the KMAC bushings as objects of desire, I kept looking for a discount. They’re sold online directly by KMAC, by ECS Tuning, and by Vivid Racing. I’m on the ECS mailing list and kept hoping for a coupon code that would reduce the price. The best I found was a promo for 5% off if you added a T-shirt, which cost almost exactly the same as the discount. At one point just before Christmas, I thought, “Well, I need them, nothing wrong with a Christmas present to myself and all that,” but I drew a line in the sand: $380, but no more. No tax, no shipping.
Unfortunately, with all three of the vendors, the total crossed $400, and I just couldn’t bring myself to pay it.
But I did continue to check. Curiously, in addition to the bushings being on the ECS website, I found that were also two pairs being sold by them on eBay. The fixed-price auction clearly identified the seller as ECS Tuning, and although it showed the same $380 price as their website, it listed the quantity as “2 available.” In contrast, their website listed the bushings as “in stock.” As some online vendors can be a bit liberal with the meaning of “in stock” (e.g., it can mean “It’s in stock at the company that we buy it from”), I was curious about the “2 available” sets that ECS was hawking on eBay, as “2” struck me as probably a real number in a real ECS warehouse.
The fact that the eBay auction listed the bushings as fitting the E3/Bavaria but didn’t include any E9 coupes in the list of cars they fit was a bit puzzling—the E3 and E9 share the same front struts—so just to be certain, I checked the part number on KMAC’s website to verify that the bushings in the auction would fit Rene. I put the auction on my watch list so that I could easily return to it, because sometimes when you watch an auction the vendor will send you a discount offer.
That didn’t happen. However, imagine my surprise when about a week and a half ago I checked in on the auction, and saw that the price was no longer $380 but was instead $74.37. Wait, what?
Curious (well, I was waaay more than just curious), I hopped on ECS’ website and looked at the bushings there as well. They were listed for the same $74.37 price, with a red tag that said “80% off!” It still listed the bushings as “in stock,” but still did not specify a quantity.
At that price, I knew that I was 30 seconds away from a purchase. The only question was whether to buy them directly from ECS’ website or off eBay.
Because of the fuzziness of “in stock” versus the concreteness of “2 available,” I elected to go the eBay route. I clicked and bought, scarcely believing my good luck. The “available” number immediately changed to “1.” Within an hour, another enterprising soul apparently did the same, as the eBay auction showed “0 available.”
Still curious about the question of inventory, I went to ECS’ website. Their page for the bushings was unchanged, still showing the steeply-discounted price and the item as “in stock.”
I was torn between wanting to share my good fortune with other E9 owners who might want to take advantage of the discounted price and wanting to be certain that I didn’t jeopardize my order. I elected to wait until I received a tracking number for my eBay purchase showing that the package was actually on the way. When that came, I posted the story to e9coupe.com, explaining my uncertainty as to whether ECS had more than just the two sets on eBay.
For completion, I included the link to what I assumed was the expired eBay auction, but to my surprise, it had changed back to “1 available.” I don’t know if a third set was unearthed or the buyer of the second set never completed the purchase. I advised folks to either do what I did and grab the one on eBay, or actually call ECS regarding what was up on their website and verify that there were real physical goods to be had at that price. As had happened before, the remaining one on eBay vanished quickly.
A few days later, a big box from ECS Tuning arrived. I opened it and found a smaller box inside with printing on it from an unexpected source—Bavarian Autosport (aka BavAuto).
I had to chuckle a bittersweet laugh. Friendly local vendor Bavarian Autosport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the vendor that hosted the annual Show and Shine event, the vendor that once left me parts behind a bush outside their building so that I could drive up there and pick them up after hours that night and install them before a road trip the following morning, closed about three years ago. I recalled reading that ECS Tuning bought their remaining inventory.
Out of curiosity, I googled “Bavarian Autosport ECS Tuning,” and it took me to the ECS page that has an FAQ on their arrangement with BavAuto, which is the same page that you’re redirected to if you go to www.bavauto.com. At the top of the page there’s a photo of the left C-pillar of a red E9, which, from the enamel emblem and the little bit of orange peel visible in the paint, is clearly my red E9—Rene, the very car I bought the bushings for. I laughed out loud.
When I turned the box around, I could see the original Bavarian Autosport label on it specifying that it’s a camber kit for the different variants of the E3. Like the eBay auction, it says nothing about the E9.
Of course, what matters is what’s in the box. I opened it to find, as hoped, a new-in-the-wrapper set of the correct adjustable camber/caster bushings for Rene.
With the goods in hand, I rechecked the link on ECS’ website. The 80% off sale for the bushings was gone; back was the $380 price. They’re still listed as “in stock.” No one on e9coupe responded to my post on whether they were successful at snagging a set at the sale price.
My theory is that someone found two dusty boxes in the low-traffic corner of the ECS warehouse in Wadsworth, Ohio, where the remains of the inventory purchased from BavAuto are kept, thought that the demand for parts for a “1969–1977 2500 to 3.0” was unlikely to increase, recommended a blowout price that percolated back to their website where the items were also discounted and listed as “in stock,” but the 80% off price was only ever going to apply to the two pairs of bushings in Bavarian boxes, not to any order that they had to pass to KMAC. Just a guess.
I’m a little hesitant to dive into the bushing replacement right now, since the head is still off the 2002tii and the Lotus is undergoing some surgery, so the garage already has that hit-by-a-tornado look to it. But man, I look forward to correcting this highly annoying problem on my favorite car.
But when, at the final Bavarian Autosport Show and Shine a few years ago, Rene was in BavAuto’s parking lot and these bushings were in their warehouse, probably a few hundred feet from each other, and then the car showed up as the poster girl in what’s essentially BavAuto’s final official public-facing web page, it seems like kismet that the bushings and the car have found each other.
Sometimes you just get lucky.—Rob Siegel
Rob’s new book, The Best of The Hack Mechanic, is available here on Amazon, as are his seven other books. Signed copies can be ordered directly from Rob here.