1989 BMW M635 CSi
Restoration? No, no. Just a Quick Tidy up
When I bought the car in August 2004, I knew that it would need new wings and the sills looked at in time.
As it was on the day I bought it.
Back in the day, BMW were replacing E24 wings under warranty! It had the rust bubbles under the rear lights which is a standard fitment in all Highlines along with the electric memory seats and extended leather trim. That interior was excellent and overall it was a well maintained tidy enough example of a rare car with only two previous owners (one of whom I knew), and loads of history.
While I knew that it would need new wings in due course and the sills looked at, probably all at the same time, I thought I?d be able to use for the remainder of that summer and hopefully the next one as well before the inevitable bodywork tidy up was required.
I had looked at a few cars, standard 635s and it would be fair to say, that I considered this car to be in far better than average condition at the time I bought it. I knew it would need some work, but this was no M.O.T. failure rotbox – you’re thinking of this, later acquisition:-
An M.O.T. failure rotbox pictured recently
A few months later and in my garage proudly wearing its Style 5s
You can see the wing bubbling here.
Anyway, I used it for 18 months or so and just before it went off the road for the winter in October 2005, it was suffering from an occasional misfire.
A trip to BM Motors in nearby Law saw the fitment of:-
a reconditioned starter motor;
new distributor cap;
new rotor arm;
and, all the way from der F?derLand, allegedly BMW’s last new set of HT leads;
all of which along with a full service had the car running beautifully. Much smoother and more responsive and it starts immediately every time. The engine seems to barely turn before it bursts into life.
This last bit was a bit of a double edged sword really, because, just occasionally, when it burst into life it sounded like a paraffin grey Fergie running a pot down, until the timing chain tensioner built up its pressure and quietened it all down. I was also mindful of the Alpine White car I knew back in the late eighties and early nineties, so, out with the official BMW bullet (Part no. 25111221287) and some industrial strength dentures and into the timing chain.
BM Motors again did the necessary, replacing the chain, all three sprockets, all the guides and the engine mounts.
Part way through the chain replacement
Everything went swimmingly and now at 112000 miles I have the peace (or should that be “a piece”?) of mind of knowing that the chain is done. There is a funny rattle from the chain at about 3000 rpm which I don’t really like and wasn’t there before, and I think I’ll maybe replace the old tensioner just to see if it goes away.
The E24 (and indeed the E28) is well known for a judder from the suspension and brakes at about 55 mph and I don’t know why, but one day, I pressed down on the nearside front wing and it was solid, well the wing wasn’t solid, obviously, but the suspension was.
So we now have a seized damper and we’re getting into December and while I really want to get the bodywork done, I’m thinking that maybe I should get the bullet and dentures out again and take a look at the suspension.
So, another wee trip to BM Motors (and indeed Eastern BMW in Edinburgh) sees 4 new yellow Bilsteins, 4 springs, top mounts front and rear and all suspension bushes, pitman arm bushes, track rods etc. etc. replaced along with both diff oil seals and the transmission and diff oils. The suspension overhaul was quite psychadelic really:-
Right! So all we need really is a quick tidy up of the bodywork and interior (which is really OK) and the car’ll be be back on the road for the spring.
With bodywork, there are two difficulties. Firstly finding someone you would trust to do the work and having found them, persuading them that they really want to work on your E24. Bodyshops, however well regarded, really don’t want to look at anything over a few years old where the parts aren’t available at the local body factors and can’t be glued on with a tube of Sikaflex.
Between all of the assembled staff of McFadden Classic Cars in Motherwell, they couldn’t spell “Sikaflex” so on that positive note, after a long chat with Paul there, we agreed that he’d take it in and “tidy it up a bit” for the spring – well by this time we were into March so that was always optimistic.
He was busy, I was going away, then he was going away and it was late April before the car was delivered to his premises and I was introduced to “Jimmy” – the craftsman who was to be tasked with tidying up my E24. Imagine the positive “can do” attitude of Private Fraser in Dad’s Army combined with the sunny disposition of Victor Meldrew and the rugged good looks of Yoda, mix in a Glasgow accent et voila Jimmy. We got off to a good start when I learned that Jimmy only works two days a week and no amount of cajoling, pleading or threatening would change that. Apparently his wife is really scary and won’t let him do any more. Anyway, it was only in for a quck tidy up, replace the wings, patch the sills and a lower half repaint should only take a couple of weeks.I had collected a pair of really good – perfect front wings – one from the rotbox pictured above and another from Germany. Jimmy prepped them for fitting and tried to ensure that they’ll never rust. At least we now know where E24s rust so preventing them rusting in the future should be easier. It was when I realised that Jimmy had spent four days preparing and rustproofing the new wings (and removing what miniscule amounts of rust he could find) that I began to realise that the spring wasn’t really feasible.
There was no rust in the inner wings visible from the engine bay nor in my prodding about in the general area with a big screwdriver so it was just a case of taking off the wings and putting on the new ones. Even for Jimmy, no more than a day’s work.
At the moment, I only have a picture of the completed inner wing, but it was three weeks work and included fitting the new “trumpet” panels, the fabrication of the forward most 8-10 inches and the complete perpendicular flitch panel you can see at the front sitting just behind the indicators.
Repaired nearside inner wing – the offside was worse.
Some considerable time was spent trial fitting the outer wings, tacking, adjusting, trial fit, tacking, adjusting etc. until the fit was as good as possible. While it’s not absolutely 100% perfect, if I’m honest, I couldn’t see the one tiny defect until Jimmy pointed it out to me. I don’t know how he saw it either, because to look at the state of his dungarees, you wouldn’t think that he could see the distance between his plate and his mouth, but there you go.
So, wings done, the sills shouldn’t be too bad……………
You wouldn’t think so, but a couple of e-mails to Walloth und Nesch enquiring as to the availability of their outer sill repair panels and more specifically their negative response sent Jimmy into full “We’re alll dooomed. Dooooooooomed Ah tell ye.” mode and on closer inspection one could see why:-
We’re alll dooomed. Dooooooooomed Ah tell ye.
So no repair panels, no factory panels – that old “Back order in Germany” chestnut and Jimmy preparing to hang himself by a fanbelt from the garage roof, leaves us with no option but to fabricate the repair panels as required They say a picture paints a thousand
words, but these pictures only paint two, “Oh, shit!”
Off side front inner and outer sill stripped and rust cut out
Inner and outer sill repair pieces – made from scratch by Jimmy
Rear inner and outer removed, jacking points repaired and ready for outer replacement
The front of the NS rear wheelwell repaired. Yes, the offside was the same
So to recap, inners and outers and jacking points all repaired and replaced, front and back, on both sides. Jimmy is now beginning to take on hero status having made up all the sill repair panels himself and with the sills completed there cannot be much more needing done to complete this quick tidy up and get the car back on the road.
There was a bit of a mystery in that a badly placed jack had damaged the floor and I certainly didn’t notice it at the time I bought it and it wasn’t done by me subsequently but I had noticed it some months before going into McFaddens, so I did know that the floor needed hammering out and straightening a bit so Jimmy got the bodywork hammers out and……….
Offside floor after Jimmy had straightened it.
More of Jimmy’s repair panels.
Now straight, rust free and rust protected.Not pretty though.
So floors finished. What else can be left?
In for a penny, in for a pound. There were a couple of 5p piece sized scabs at the base of the A post on either side and a nasty wee bit at the wiper wheelbox, so out with the bullet, dentures and the windscreen. “Tip” and “Iceberg” are two words that spring to mind:-
Just very minimal bubbling before we started leads to this hole.
All the rot cut out.
More of jimmy’s metalworking magic.
Rust? No rust here, guv.
An identical repair was required to the other side, along with a couple of wee bits inside the screen aperture. This necessitated the removal of the screen. Having completed the A posts and screen, Jimmy started prodding about at the B posts
Another tiny bit of bubbling is reduced to dust and a big hole
So that’s the A and B posts done – there’s some rot around the windscreen that’s been done too.
Highlines all suffer from rust below the rear lights. It’s just a bit of bubbling easily repaired with some Kurust and Cataloy. This car was no worse than most others, though it had already had the kurust and Cataloy treatment and a better more long term repair was needed. If you’re of a nervous disposition and your Highline has a couple of wee bubbles under the rear lights, you might want to look away now:-
Not only is it a big hole, it’s a hell of a shape!
Not as bad as the other side, but still holed and needing metal let in.
More of Jimmy’s repair pieces
And the finished article. The other side is the same.
Well, finally that’s just about it for now in terms of repair and replacement. Like all restorations, what you can see and what you know needs done is only the tip of the iceberg. The car’s ready for paint at this point and will be leaving Jimmy’s tender ministrations any day now.
Ready for paint.
To recap, the wings have been replaced, the inner wings repaired using new factory panels and handmade repair sections, the inner and outer sills, the jacking points, the floorpan, the A posts, front screen aperture, B posts and the panel below the rear lights had all received new metal and hand fabricated repair panels.
Mechanically, the car had had the benefit of a thorough ignition overhaul, timing chain and tensioner and a full suspension rebuild along with various other bits and pieces.
Completely out of the blue, last September,(2007) after 17 years in the one place, we decided to move house. God knows how that happened, but it did. Well my wife decided to move and invited myself, Chrstopher and Pablo, the lucky black cat(?!) to join her. And to be honest it took me a wee while to get used to the idea, but I did and my only regret is that we didn’t do it five years earlier.
Anyway, after deciding to move, there was a huge amount of work to be done to get the old (200 years plus) place ready to go on the market, so I went to Ireland with the boys to play golf and left my wife to get on with it.
While I was there, Paul phoned saying,
“I know your car was meant to be next into the paint shop, but…….” and then rambled on about loads of pish that, with all that I had going on at the time – looming bankruptcy, bridging loan, two houses, estate agents, lawyers, Stamp Duty, and a tricky downhill 5 foot slider to decide who paid for dinner and drinks, I really couldn’t be arsed listening to.
The upshot was that he wanted to do a couple of quick, well paying paint jobs before mine and would I mind if he put it back for two or three weeks?
We were moving in November, I wouldn’t have a garage until the spring and every penny I could muster was being used to fend off the aforementioned looming bankruptcy, bridging loan, two houses, estate agents, lawyers, Stamp Duty etc. so it all seemed sensible.
I told him that as long as it was ready for March, he could do a Pebble Beach Concours winning restoration of a Duesenberg type J if he wanted.
He did a quick blow over on a Morris J type van instead.
The house move eventually worked out very well and everything went according to plan.
Much to my amazement, the Morris J type van won the Pebble Beach Concours.
It had as much chance as my car did of being ready for March.
It didn’t get into the paint shop until June! And even then I’m sure that they had some sort of trick Thunderbirds/Bond style warning system that tracked my movements so that they knew when I was within 5 miles and heading into the workshop and were able to move the car they were really working on out of the paintshop and mine in, all at a moment’s notice, because while it was in the paint shop in June, it didn’t see any paint till August.
Mikey, the painter and Jimmy really couldn’t be less alike – Mikey’s younger, better looking and better natured – but then so is Prince Philip. Where they are similar is in the painstaking approach to the job.
I couldn’t believe how much work was involved in getting all the panels ready for paint and pretty much every panel needed attention. The bumpers in particular took some time and everything was either prepared for paint or sealed with matt black Hammerite type paint. Mikey spent days and days, preparing the car for paint, seeing imperfections that I couldn’t even feel, let alone see. Having primed it and applied the guide coat he then spent days and days flatting it back and repairing even more blemishes before finally applying the colour coat.
I don’t have any photos of this stage in the process yet, but here are a couple from after the final colour coat has been applied and most of the masking removed for flatting and polishing:-
At this point I was actually pretty disappointed. I thought it looked terrible and I’m afraid I couldn’t hide it. I was assured by Mikey though that once flatted and polished, it would be perfect.
Flatting and polishing took days, weeks even and the results appear to have been worth it. Mikey explained that he puts slightly more lacquer on than most others and it takes longer to flat and polish. The “from the gun” finish doesn’t look good, but it allows for a better polish and affords some protection for later on as well. One of the downsides is that the paint can sink on application of the lacquer and the bonnet required repainting. Four times! Eventually, after considering using the new bonnet I sourced, Mikey decides to buy a new batch of paint and try one last time before consigning this bonnet to the bin (well, eBay actually – same thing). It takes first pass of the gun. All is well bonnet-wise now and the finish is superb.
Further financial pain had been inflicted by the purchase of some new trim bits, bumper rubbers, badges, headlight grilles, sill strips, a front spoiler, indicators, kidneys, rear lenses, wiper arms – even chrome tailpipes etc. in preparation for the refit. Having gone this far, there was no point in spoiling it for the sake of saving a few pennies here and there!
It was then returned to Jimmy to reassemble on the basis that he took it apart and his irrepressible good nature, optimism and positive attitude mean that I’m keeping well out the road unless I really need to be there.
This is how it looked about a fortnight later:-
Thereafter, it had the bumpers, spoiler, eyebrows etc. put back on and the rear lenses replaced with the new ones. The kidneys have been painted body colour.
All in all, a positive experience and while there were times that I wondered if I had taken it to the right place, my concerns were never on the quality of the work, only on the time it was taking.
But, having said that, this was not a hugely expensive bare metal, glass out respray. I had agreed with Paul a fixed fee for the respray and despite a lot of extra work, he stood by that price in view of the time taken and the delays. And, while I’m realistic enough to know that you get what you pay for, and I’m not expecting a Pebble Beach finish, I’m pretty happy that it will look far, far better than it has any right to at the hourly rate charged for the respray. It’s also good to know that it’s all done by hand, by a man, with a compressor, a booth and a lot of experience.
The style 5 BBS Split rims you see on a lottof these photos now grace another car, which can be seen here squaring up to the E28 M5
I got the chance of replacing them with a better set of polished wheels and these puppies are now sitting on 0760465
The white stains on the tyre are tyre soap. Honest.
There is no doubt that, as you’ve probably seen, despite his obvious social inadequacies, or, perhaps because of them, Jimmy is a legend. He doesn’t suffer fools – or indeed anyone – gladly. He never uses a word when a single syllable or gesticulation will do and to say he’s a “glass half empty” person isn’t really fair. It’s more “glass broken and cut my finger on it, too”. What I didn’t realise is that he has Alzheimers. That’s the only possible explanation for the amount of bits of my car that he’s lost:- floor mats, mudflaps, splash panels etc. etc.
I had replaced the splash panels a couple of years ago and thought at the time what a terrible system it was. The panels were flimsy and poorly rust protected and the rivetted seal affair was just another opportunity for rust.
I ordered new ones to replace the missing ones and was told that they were on back order – in Germany. Experience suggests that, in BMW parts department parlance, “back order in Germany” actually means “No more. Ever.” I ordered them anyway.
Three to four weeks later and no sign of them, we come to the decision that these should be pretty straightforward to make – and indeed improve upon. The MGB (McFaddens’ staple restoration fare) uses a very similar arrangement. The suggestion was put to Jimmy that he could perhaps fashion one from an MGB panel and after a number of separate syllables that appeared to include “shove”, “that”, “shite”, and “arse”, along with a couple of gestures that would have been, at the very least, extremely painful and probably anatomically impossible to implement, he stormed off, stole Paul’s best chisel and ground it into the shape of the strengthening ribs to use as a former, and made these:-
An MGB door seal was butchered to fit and they were rustproofed, rustproofed again, sealed, re-rustproofed and fitted. They are infintely superior to the originals, not just in terms of fit and sealing, but they are stronger and stiffer and lend strength to the wing as well. The area at the top with the daft rivetted seal is now never likely to allow water ingress.
Oh and the next day, the new ones arrived at Eastern. Jimmy was……….delighted.
The pinstripes were made up by a bloke with a PC and a vinyl cutter who also did the black stripes on the bumper endcaps – all for about the price of one black stripe from the dealer
Pretty much everything else went according to plan. I knew that there was a sticky caliper and that the discs were a bit ropey at the front, and I had saved what looked like a new caliper and discs from the breaker, intending to replace them myself in due course, so when it failed the MoT on the brakes (as expected really), I had Paul fit them all along with new rear discs I had been hoarding and a brake bomb.
So, it was finally, MoT’d 19 months after it was last on the road.
Pictured just before I collected it, along with Mikey the painter on the left and Paul on the right. Jimmy will not be photographed in public since the incident outside the girl’s school, but I’ll get a picture of him at some point.
A brief recap:-
Full suspension rebuild
Diff oil seals
Rotor arm, cap and leads,
Inner and outer sills, jacking points front and rear, inner wings, A posts and B posts, screen aperture, driver’s footwell, number plate panel, rear light apertures, and rear arches all had rusty metal cut out and replaced. Wings and inner wing trumpets were replaced.
Front spoiler, kidneys, light grilles, all badges, wiper arms, sill strips, indicators, bumper rubbers, pinstripes, decals, A post wind deflectors, and rear lenses were all replaced
Paint – full respray in Lach Silver
New style 5s with Toyo Proxes.
Loaded up heading home:-
There are some electrical issues to sort, but I’m pretty certain that’s down to a bad earth, but other than that and 18 months of dust blowing through the vents, it’s just as good as I had remembered.
For me, the difference is in all the trim bits – expensive though they were, they just finish off the respray perfectly. I’m now regretting not getting new rubbing strips on both sides – about the only trim not replaced.
I’m happy wth the results. It took longer. It cost more – much, much more, but at the nd of the day, I’ve had it for 4 years, I intend to keep it and what was the alternative? The work done needed to be done in order to preserve the car’s useful life. It’s done. I don’t expect it’ll need doing again for a long while so, was it all worth it? Oh yes.
I have to thank Paul, Mikey and Jimmy at McFaddens. All joking aside, Jimmy is a star. A cantankerous, curmudgeonly star, but a star nonetheless. The car wouldn’t be finished without him, it’s as simple as that. The McFaddens experience was a positive one and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone wanting quality work done on their classic – whatever it is. In my time in and out of their place, I’ve seen MGs by the dozen, another E24, mark 2 Jags, an XK150, P4,5 and 6 Rovers, Lotus 7 and Elan, J Type van, and many others. They welcome customer input (Jimmy excepted – obviously). They want to do the job properly, they don’t want to take the easy route, just because it’s easier and do things the way they should be done first and foremost. If it’s not worth doing, they’ll tell you – I saw an Alfa Spider yesterday that they had examined and told the owner to go and buy a better one with his money rather than restore this one.
The Parts Department at Eastern BMW in Edinburgh were very helpful and gave me excellent discounts – way better than the BMW Car Club rates.
BM Motors in Law did the mechanical stuff with Davy’s usual old school approach.
I’ll leave the last word, of course, to Jimmy, on seeing his latest project, a Bentley Mark VI needing a wee bit of tlc:-
“Aye…..that’ll be f*?$in right!”