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DIY written by Blake LaGrone

The new owner of the first Project Car has recently installed the ESS aftercooler upgrade on the car. The upgrade includes the water/air core, water pump and hoses, heat exchanger, and new intake hoses.

1 - ESS MS43 330 VT2 Liquid Intercooler Upgrade Kit
     (ESS TUNING $2075 part #108-72LIC)

8mm Wrench
T50 Torx bit and driver
Wire crimps
Electrical Tape (optional)

Ok, Here goes. I guess the first thing I would say is if you don't have a Bentley manual for your car, get one. It has proven very useful in spots where the ESS instructions are vague. Before I started this install, I had a SPEC stage 2 clutch installed. The stock clutch with the UUC lightweight flywheel was not working well. The engine was putting out too much power for the stock clutch to handle and you could wind up spinning (burning) the clutch without really trying. I really like the new SPEC clutch. The stage two is capable of handling up to 500 hp and yet is very drivable and positive. Also, I could not get a Dyno run prior to the clutch install as the shop said they would just burn out my clutch if I did not change it out. I also replaced the friction pads on the UUC lightweight flywheel prior to the clutch replacement. This is a photo of the kit as I got it (Photo A).

1. Remove the front bumper from your car. On my sport package bumper, this was accomplished by removing the six (6) 8mm bolts from the car: 2 inside each wheel well, and two underneath each bumper side right and left. Next remove the (2) two T50 torx bolts located through holes underneath the front bumper lip. Once you have all of the bolts removed slide the bumper straight forward towards the front of the car, being careful not to remove it completely. Set the bumper on the bumper supports and remove the connections to the fog lamps and horns. Now pull the bumper completely off (Photo B). It is a good idea to have a set of saw horses covered with towels to set this on. This will come in useful in a further step. I disconnected the electric fan and intake duct because I replaced the thermostat and water pump at the same time. It is not necessary to remove these items for this install.

2. Picture of front end after bumper is removed (Photo C). Note the amount of plastic that extends below kidney openings. Also note the lower lip (right above the blue bucket.) There is no way to install the intercooler radiator without cutting a substantial amount of this plastic off. The lower lip will come off completely (cut the two vertical plastic supports between the lower lip and the top plastic, this will then just pop out). Then, measure how much room you need for the radiator from the top of the bottom support rod (of the brackets you got in the kit) to the top of the intercooler radiator. This is how much plastic you will need to cut from below the kidney openings. You won't need to cut off so much that it is open above the intercooler radiator, but you will need to cut off enough that it doesn't restrict the attaching of the intercooler radiator.

3. Check your brackets that were sent with your kit. When ordering this kit make sure you specify the type of bumper that you have as it will make a big difference in the type of bracket kit you receive from ESS. As I said, I had the Sport Package bumper and once the bumper was removed, there is a lot of plastic that will have to be trimmed to accommodate the intercooler radiator. I took off the entire lower portion (lower lip) and trimmed about 4 inches from the top section (below the kidney openings).

4. Attach the brackets. I had to reverse the top bracket bolts and slightly bend the bracket arms (down) in order to slide the bumper back on during final assembly. Otherwise the bumper will hit on the nut heads attached to the bracket and prevent it from sliding all the way on. Attach the intercooler radiator to the brackets (Photo D). Attach the water pump to the left side of the brackets plastic shield to make this fit. If you have room to install this on the left side of the bracket, do so. On my bumper, the brake cooler tubes were in the way and I had to attach the pump to the underside of the left bracket. You can see the pump underneath the bracket (Photo E). I could have cut the brake cooler tube but chose not too. It works, but I did have to do some custom cutting on the shield underneath the car to make this pump fit (Photo F).

5. Remove the hoses attached to the bypass valve (keep track of these as it is easy to allow one to slip down and be unnoticed when you are assembling the new intake tube with the bypass valve). The ESS manual calls for cutting the plastic cover over the wires running at the back of the engine bay on top. I found it was easier to simply remove the plastic cover and zip tie the wires together during final assembly. Remove the pressure tube and the silicon hoses at both ends. Attach the cuff and step down tube to the blower discharge tube. Make sure that you angle the step down tube as far up (towards the hood) as you can. If you don't do this, it will make the next step (attaching the hose from the step down tube to the heat exchanger) almost impossible without constricting that hose. This hose has to have an open and clear run to the heat exchanger. I found the easiest way was to assemble this out of order from the ESS manual. After you have positioned the step down tube, remove the old hose from the throttle body. Attach the new 45 degree hose to the throttle body and angle this hose as far to the right as you can and still connect the new aluminum tube to the heat exchanger. This will allow for more room for the flexible hose (and you will need all you can get). When you mount the 45 degree tube to the throttle body, make sure to really reef down on the hose clamp (this should have an 8mm head on it). I had this hose disconnect on me and it will really mess up the performance of your engine! Todd had the same thing happen and we both now know that this is an easy way to prevent future hassles. Fortunately, Todd didn't burn up his catalytic converters as I did! Now, check your angles and see if it looks like everything that comes next will align. Position the heat exchanger on top of the engine. Mount the flexible hose from the step down tube to the heat exchanger. I had to trim about 1/2 inch from this hose in order to make it fit. I used a metal cut off blade on my miter saw. Mount the 304 stainless tube to the heat exchanger and the 45 degree hose to the throttle body. Make sure that you have no constrictions on either hose and that your angles appear smooth. Mount your bypass valve with the new flexible hose (and again here I had to trim about 1 inch off the flexible hose to make it fit, I used the same saw for this). Connect all of your vacuum hoses, don't forget any! I used a little electrical tape around the hose that runs below the 304 stainless to make sure I got a tight fit with the connecting hose (Photo G).

6. Attach your intercooler radiator hoses. The ESS manual was pretty good on this part and the only sugesstion I have is to take your time with the lower hose and make sure you don't run it too close to the exhaust manifold. I originally routed this hose too close to the exhaust manifold. I then disconnected it and I found a routing which was a little more difficult to install but keeps the hose a good 2-3 inches away from the exhaust manifold. This picture shows the original routing (Photo H). I also installed heat shielding on this hose (although this was probably overkill). The hose will want to route right up next to the manifold but with a little work, you can route it along with the AC hoses. The top hose goes just like the ESS pictures in the manual.

7. Wiring the pump: The pump should already have been installed on the left side of your intercooler radiator brackets. The ESS instructions werent too bad. The ground wire instruction is good. It simply attaches to one of the bumper support bolts. I did have to do some research to find the right wire (power cable) to install the cable thief on. The picture in the ESS manual is a little hard to see, so, I finally (through a process of elimination) found that the wire to use is red and yellow one on the upper left side of the ECU box. Note the fuse holder and connections in (Photo I).

8. Disconnect the top hose on the heat exchanger. Using the standard BMW coolant mixture, slowly pour water into this hose until it will take no more. Reconnect the hose. Turn the ignition on level 2 and let the pump run for 2-5 minutes (this is where you will find out if you have connected your power correctly, do not do this step until you have added coolant to the hoses, running a pump when dry is not a good idea). Shut off ignition and again remove the top hose and fill with coolant until coolant is running out of the heat exchanger element (top element, top connection), reconnect hose. The intercooler is now working.

9. I did not like the grill that came with the Sport Package bumper. It seemed to me that this grill did not allow for enough air flow over the intercooler radiator. I went to an industrial sheet metal shop and told then what I needed after measuring the opening to my bumper. I bought a steel 1/8" diamond pattern 1/16" thick piece of sheet metal that they cut for me and actually gave me for free. I took the new grill to the paint shop and had them paint it the same color as the car. The brake grill openings I painted black (same material). The result is a grill that provides excellent air flow and looks good (Photo J). I did have to do some edge trimming to get it to fit in the corners and drill holes for the attach studs. This is where the saw horses come into play. Once you get your new grill you will have to attach it inside the bumper. Set your bumper between the two saw horses (covered with a towel of course) and remove the push nuts from the old grill. Be very careful doing this. You will either have to reuse them (if you can as you may have to cut them off using a metal snip) or buy new ones from BMW. The real problem here is to not damage the bumper plastic attach rods. Attach your new grill to the rods using the push nuts (Photo K).


Photo A

Photo B

Photo C

Photo D

Photo E

Photo F

Photo G

Photo H

Photo I

Photo J

Photo K


I have included two Dyno runs done on this car. The first is the run that Todd had done after he had installed the exhaust system (See Project car 1, garage section on and the underdrive pulley system. The second run is the one I had done after the intercooler was installed to supplement the ESS supercharger. Keep in mind that this second run was done using pump gas (91 octane) and a fan that could only provide about 35 mph of air flowing over the front of the car. The run shows a power output of 281.9 to the wheels. This calculates to 340 hp to the flywheel. I firmly believe that with an octane booster and 50+ mph of air running over the system, I will be putting over 300 hp to the ground and 350+ hp to the flywheel. Notice also that the power line on the second run continues to run straight up to redline. This car just starts pulling hard at about 15 mph and doesn't stop until the computer shuts the fuel off at redline. All in all, I have to say that the kit has made a real difference for the better in the the way this car runs and it is a blast to drive!

  © MarvelPhx