1982 BMW 635CSi – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

The 1980s were the golden age of the executive coupe, and while the E24 from BMW may have come to market in 1976, there is no denying that it was truly in its stride from ‘80 to ‘89 when BMW killed it off. In the decade of excess, of ‘loadsamoney’ and of giant car phones, there was no better way to show the world you were doing well than a fully-loaded BMW coupe. 

Today’s marketplace is full of SUVs and ‘soft roaders’ and they frankly don’t have the same appeal, or the same neck-snapping looks as the coupe of old. Back in the ‘80s, we were happy to sacrifice practicality in the name of looks, and cars like the E24, the W123CE, the Audi Coupe and others were keen to pick up on the trend.

Of course, it wasn’t completely impractical. The ‘city money’ owner could, in the case of the E24, still fit the kids in the back thanks to there being two bucket seats. And with a big boot, it was perfect for the weekly shop, or of course, a set of golf clubs or two. Not to mention the filofax and the briefcase. 

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The BMW’s biggest selling point, however, was that it was a coupe built for the driver. Perfect weight distribution, tight steering, suspension ready and willing to deliver feedback to the driver and of course, rear-wheel drive all added up to, as the brand itself says, being the ultimate driving machine. The only way to heighten the E24’s appeal was to specify it with a manual transmission, which is exactly what this one has.

What is it?

What you’re looking at here is a 1982 BMW E24 635CSi, which short of the M635, was the best specification. That straight-six engine was capable of delivering 215hp to the rear wheels, which as we mentioned above, is diverted there via a five-speed manual transmission, not the usual four-speed automatic. This gearbox makes this car, tired though it may be, one well worth considering. The E24 is great as an auto, but it’s more cruiser than B-road blaster. The manual transmission changes that, and transforms the E24 in the process, especially when mated to that silky-smooth six-cylinder engine. 

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Being the top CSi specification, this car has leather bucket seats, electric windows, central locking, a rev-counter, power steering and ABS. Make no mistake, in 1982, cars didn’t come much better than this. If you wanted a fully loaded E24, the 635CSi was the way to go. 

Why is it a project? 

Sadly, the advert gives very little away in regard to the car’s past. Though, from what it looks like, the old E24 has gone the way of being forgotten for a while, as it’s more than a little past its best. However, it’s not a complete basket case. The vendor states that the car does run (though it needs a water pump and a new radiator), which is better than it being a non-runner. However, there is no mention of the gearbox and clutch, so we don’t know if they’re working. The vendor also goes on to say that the wings, sills and roof all need work, but given how the E24 absolutely loves to rot, this isn’t at all surprising. 

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The advert may be light on information, but the pictures are good and from them we can see that the car is complete, it looks reasonably solid and on the whole, it looks a bit forgotten rather than neglected. We’re quietly confident that this would be a worthwhile project, and if the pictures are indeed representative of the car’s real world condition, it shouldn’t take too much to get this E24 to at least ‘rolling restoration’ standard. And being a manual car, it’s well worth saving. 

Five things to look for

1) Running Gear 

We know the engine runs, but the vendor states the water pump and radiator need replacing. This needs further investigation. Did the engine overheat? Is the head gasket still okay? Is the block cracked? 

2) Rust

It’s no secret that the E24 likes to rust, and while the vendor does state that the roof, wings and sills need some love, you still need to check everything else. Front and rear screen surrounds, scuttle, bulkhead, inner and outer wings… if it’s metal, check it. 

3) Trim

Happily, the interior of this E24 looks to be in good condition, and as such, would respond well to some leather feed and a good clean. Of course, still check for rips and damage, as it’ll be costly to repair – replacing won’t be an option with rare trim like this. 

4) Electrics

There’s no mention of how long the car has been off the road, but even if it’s been a short time, the electrics are still something you need to have a look at. Has it been fitted with an aftermarket alarm or stereo? Have rodents been at it? 

5) Wheels 

This car looks to have the difficult metric alloy wheels, which meant the tyres (that will almost certainly need replacing) are going to be hard to find. You can find the tyres, but they’re expensive. If you want to stick with them, make sure the wheels are worth saving/reconditioning. 

What should you do with it? 

As the vendor quite rightly states, this is a very rare car indeed, as such we would be inclined to restore it to original specification. It’s a rare car in a rare colour and with a rare specification, and that’s something that should be celebrated. Plus, the E24 does not lend itself to modification. BMW got it right pretty much out of the box, there’s nothing to really improve on. 

We’d strip it back, fix any rot, get the interior looking as fresh as possible and then we’d treat the car to new paint, new rubber and a sympathetic rebuild. This is a car to be enjoyed as BMW intended. Plus, you’re building money into the car by restoring it to stock condition, because the market for these cars in good condition is always strong.

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