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BMW 635CSI Published: 30th Mar 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Contributer and ex-racer Jeremy Waltons1986 BMW 635CSI at 169,891miles

It’s a dramatic classic year for me since I wrote about my 635CSi BMW. I’m truly sorry that the coupe that I dubbed Helga during the 16 years and 83,000 miles we shared, has now been sold for a more modern BMW. After so long together and memorable multiple classic trips to France, Germany, Belgium and Spain, it was one of the biggest losses of my motoring life – emotionally and financially. Yet it had to be done.

Rewind back to 2013 and the charismatic automatic transmission had a busy winter in harsh snow storage, attending early dates at Old Sarum Airfield and Bath & West Showground, followed by sunshine outings on Drive It Day, July’s Silverstone Classic and Grand Prix weekend. They were the good times but escalating repair costs meant that little short of a full body restoration was now needed – and the car simply wasn’t worth it, in monetary terms, anyway.

Bill comes calling…

There was a significant £536 bill to get through MoT in May of that year with a new headlamp, repairs to the Recaro front seat frames, new wipers and a Bosch starter and full service. Nothing major to warn me that we would soon be parted, especially as the nagging start/no ignition hiccups were eradicated by multiple electrical components and a direct wiring feed to the starter motor had made the car now reliable, even if it didn’t look it appearance-wise.

Diverting funds to tidy the 635 for business use, my 1958 gone but not forgotten Frog-eye Sprite was sold in that same month. I had a look around the BMW’s body in the brighter weather to see what needed doing to make it presentable once more and found mismatched paint on doors and boot lid, previous smash and grab break in damage, a scruffy rear bumper and rubber trims, passenger door seal blown, a centre section to driver’s door lock missing (but still functional) and threatening rear wheel arch blisters for the third time. Since rectifying the arches alone had cost me over £1500 during my ownership, I was naturally fed up with having to spend more on a vehicle that wasn’t appreciating in value to justify heavy expense.

Don’t quote me…

So I drove the 635 to Ridgeway, the official BMW dealer in Salisbury, and their staff took detailed time to note down the spares I wanted – about £500 in all it ran to. I’d allowed £5000 to get Helga back into shape with matching respray. I wanted the job done properly if not to concours standard so headed west to a specialist, where I knew a fellow BMW club member had an M635CSi conscientiously restored. An examination was given. Judgement: “Nothing dangerous here and it is perfectly useable, but we don’t do anything but the right way: it will cost not less than five figures, probably £13,000’sh.”

Gulp! As I had spent £4250 on the front inner panels in 2011, I knew this was it – the time to get rid of Helga had arrived; a sad and sorry situation many of you have also been in, I fancy.

Within a week I was out shopping with wildly different ideas of the single vehicle that would replace my two classics for a rugged winter. I didn’t want a repmobile, just a useable classic. Read all about it in our sidebar…


1997 to ’13 ownership taught me:

Pros: 635 is timelessly beautiful, comfortably quick (0-60mph in 7.5 sec; 137mph) and classy enough to attend any social or business occasion. Fuel consumption on a run was always 26-29mpg, and that straight six motor delivered durability with smooth charm.

Cons: You need serious income and proper coachworks to keep that fine Bavarian body toned!

Baby love for anotherBMW

I set out to buy a 37,000 mile Toyota MR2 the rainy morning that I sold my 635 and bought a baby BMW 1 Series instead! The advice of a fellow CM contributor favoured a third generation MR2 as a good modern classic, delivering practicality and compact size alongside agile handling and good performance – and utter reliability. Happily, a local West Country dealer was selling a clean, low mileage MR2; how lucky was that?

Part exchange was no problem because over the phone the dealer told me; ‘I’ll take anything on exchange, steal the washing machine from the Missus, I don’t care!’ Naturally, I shot down there and spent hours looking over some amazing military vehicles that these undoubtedly skilled premises also serviced for UK and US military. Alas when it came to trading the BMW, my contact turned shifty and refused the deal offering me hundreds off the £4500 MR2 with no trade in…

Seen and approved

A foul temper in a downpour matched my mood, as I slithered the Big Six south. Remembering that I had completed an unlikely trade via an M3 convertible for a Nissan X-trail at Somerset Carriages in Ilchester, a while back, I thought I’d pop down there just on the off chance. The dealer knew my 635 and made a decent trade offer inside 10 minutes, before tossing me the keys to a few ‘as seen and approved’ 3- and 1-series BMWs sitting out the back. The first slot ‘key’ opened a 117,690-mile 120d with M Sport kit, such planetary mileage traced to a first keeper at ill-fated bank, RBS. I drove 120d into that damp day and could feel the expensive [£258 a pop] tyres were shot. Apart from this there were no rattles, no shudders and only normal diesel smoke on a cold start. The six-speed gearbox and light clutch were a slick contrast to my early manual Evo M3. Official performance figures were encouraging, reporting 0-60mph in 7.5sec coupled to a 142 mph max – and it’s a diesel remember!

This 2007 facelift 175bhp M-spec hat boasted leather sports seats, plump steering wheel and aero kit. A year’s MoT and a recent service further sweetened the deal and my plastic bought it painlessly for under the proposed MR2 money. I earned a vital second set of electronic keys and the authorities transferred my personal plates within 10 days. A little over 2500 miles at 43-46mpg later finds me a happy modern car owner once again even if a set of those Bridgestone Run Flats has made me considerably poorer but they grip well. Road tax is £105, less than half that of 635, however. Journey times are quicker in this grippy 2-litre turbodiesel than the coupé’s 218 horses, but nothing like as comfortable and charismatic. Yes, the ride is just as awful as expected on run-flats (and that means remarkably tough and jittery in our experience-ed), but the handling and grip compensate. I’ll let you know how I get on with Helga’s cousin in due course.

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