Ahhh. They All Rust There, Sir.

There are areas where we expect to see rust in unrestored cars.  Almost all of the types of cars we see regularly will be rusty in these areas, if they haven’t been treated by now.  It’s like buying chrome bumper MGBs in the 1908s – no matter how good the low mileage, low owner car appears  to be  on the surface, or how “rust free” the owner says it is, unless the wings, sills and castle rails have been replaced, they need done. Full stop.

There are areas in the cars we deal with where the same thing applies, the most common being E24 wings and inner wings and E30 rear arches and boot pockets.

Basically, the cars that we see all rust in the same places and the only real differences lie in how many of the same places is the car rusty, and to what extent? Some cars rust in more of the same places, but not as badly as some that have rust in only some of the places. Some , like the Lachs silver Highline we are restoring just now, are text book examples of where to find rust on that particular model.

Every now and then, though you do see something different, still rust, but not in one of the usual places.

This South African built 316i with the full set of doors, but cylinder shortage, has been mentioned before.  It’s an unusual car – an interesting combination of poverty spec with some interesting extras like the long range tank and what appears to be a factory sump guard.

It also comes with the standard fit rusty rear arches, rusty boot pockets, sills and jacking points, but it has another optional extra fitted that I’m assuming is for the South African market, because I don’t think I’ve seen it before – the lip around the boot aperture on to which the seal is located had pretty well rusted away right round the boot aperture.

If if you have an E30 saloon, cabriolet, or Baur nearby go and take a look at that area – not for rust – I doubt you’ll find any, but to try to work out how you’d fix it if you did. It took me a little while and the solution was pretty severe, but the only way I could see to repair it properly.

That’s correct. That is the whole boot lip aperture cut from the car all the way round – from the rear screen down the rear quarter, right along the tail panel and back up the rear quarter to the  rear screen again, leaving a “goalpost” lying on the floor.





An identical area was cut from a breaking shell – about the only decent bit of it – and here it is, trimmed to fit and tacked in place.


Fully welded all along the seams – done in steps and stages to avoid distortion. Shown here about half way through.

And then ground flat so that just the slightest skim of filler will be required before painting.

I’ve commented before that the “investment opportunity – E30 prices are only going one way” thing annoys me more than I can express, but things ARE changing.

Only a couple of years ago, nobody would have contemplated doing that repair, costing alone about the value of the car in its present condition, on a four cylinder, four door car.

More and more E30s will be saved. Fewer and fewer will be available for breaking. Finally, the E30 is reaching the turning point and moving from “banger” to “classic”.

Just a quick tidy up

I don’t know if any of you remember “Red Convertible Night at Bavarian Retro” further down the page a bit, but we do appear to have acquired a bundle of Brilliant Red convertibles recently.

At the time there was a customer’s facelift 325i in for some fettling and it has now headed homeward; reliable (now) old Jonah Four

Engines the red Baur is currently residing with Mini-Me in Dundee so that leaves just a 1989 325i auto with black leather and a low mileage, low owner, big history, 1991 318i manual with the grey tartan cloth interior here.

Both of these are in the process of renovation/preparation for sale.

The 325i was “featured” a couple of weeks ago in the “Pattern Convertible Wings” post, and as is so often the case, what starts out as a quick tidy up grows legs and ends up in a full blown restoration.

It is always my view that getting the car as rust free as possible before worrying about cosmetics or mechanics is the only way to go, so a slightly bubbly rear arch turned into the photos you see here.

Both of these will produce excellent cars, rust free and very similar, but very different at the same time.

The 325i is auto with the switchable box, excellent black leather interior with rear headrests, good dash, good roof and dechromed with shadowline. It has had disks and pads and some bushes and bottom arms – generally fettled. I can’t remember, but I don’t think there is much history with it.

The four cylinder is a low owner (3 I think) low mileage, original car with a huge history file including the original purchase invoice, a lovely quiet M40, good electric roof (the horseshoe works), good dash, rear headrests etc. etc.

Both will be on 15″ BBS – or a nice set of refurbed bottletops in the case of the 325i if preferred – and freshly painted.

Both will be repaired/restored/renovated to the standard shown in these photos.




If anybody is interested, you know where to get in touch.

1982 E21 323i Baur TC

Bring bring
Bring bring
Bring bring

“Hi. I was wondering if you were interested in buying a Baur..you know the coachb…….Hello……..Hello.”

Bring bring
Bring bring
Bring bring

“Hi. I phoned a minute ago. I think we got cut off. Might have been my phone It’s bloody hopeless. As I was saying, I’ve an old Baur for sale. It’s a 1982 32…….. Hello…….Hello. Bloody phone. Hello…..Helloooo…”

Bring bring
Bring bring
Bring bring

“Naw! Just naw. Now, don’t phone back!” Click. brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

So here it is.

1982 X E21 323i Baur TC. 5 speed manual.
Been stored inside since 2009. Flat Diamond Schwarz.

The very first BMW I had in about 1987 was an X Reg 323i, but not a Baur. When bought in 1982, this would have been absolutely at the top of the 3 series range. The 323i was the top of the range and the Baur TC was a good deal more expensive than that.

Looks half decent, good chrome, good roof, reasonable interior, pretty much everything works – all lights work, wipers and blower motor don’t, Blaupunkt stereo does. It is complete, a battery, some fuel, a quick bleed of the fuel system and a whiff of “Easy Start” saw it awaken from its lengthy slumber. It settled down quickly to a quiet smooth M20 idle. It moves, stops and steers. It appears to hold all its fluids bar coolant which flows steadily from the radiator.

It has however got the popular factory option of sill delete and both sills are shot. I’d be astonished if the rust stops there.

We will get a look at it on Monday. The restoration queue is lengthening by the week – another E24 635 and an E28 arrived this week – and subject to inspection, the plan might be to get this MoT able quickly and just use it over the summer and repair what goes wrong as and when it goes wrong, but it may need more in the way of restoration than that. An 885 head and Motronic are a must at some point. L-Jet is bad enough, but K-Jet? No thanks.

If anyone wants it, we will sell it as a completed and MoTd car only, and not as a project. Its value as a breaker is such that we are not prepared to sell it as a project for someone to break it and rob all the valuable E21/2002 bits from it.

Please get get in touch if you’re interested


1989 E24 635 CSi Highline Motorsport Edition £4000

I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion, that with cars scattered far and wide in lockups, garages, friends’ garages etc., and as time marches on and semi retirement is no longer in the distant future, I have to be realistic about what I’m going to be able to finish and to keep.

I’ve already got the E30s down to two, and I need to look at the E24s. I’ve an M635CSi to finish and I’ve decided that one E24 and one E30 is the future – for me anyway.

So, this is a car that I chased for some years before the chap agreed to sell it. I specifically wanted a Macau Blue Motorsport Edition. I think I am in the minority, but I prefer the Highline to the earlier cars.

The Motorsport Edition was a runout lim inited edition towards the end of production. It was basically an option list special with nothing that couldn’t be specified on any other car – I’ve seen better specified late cars. It was only available in three colours, Nogaro Silver and Misano Red (both with black interiors) and Macau Blue with Lotus White Interior, came with M-Tech suspension, top tint screen and some other bits and bobs. Bear in mind that the Highlines were very well equipped from the factory with extended leather dash, centre console, door csrds – even the headcloth is leather, and air conditioning etc.  

This one has done about 150000 miles and has a full BMW service history.

I’ve had it for about four or five years and used it for a couple of years. It now needs tidying and refreshing to be back at its best.

As always, there is some bodywork to be done.  The rear arches are a little crumbly, and inevitably once you start there, you’ll find that sill and inner sill and floor work is likely to be required, but it is not the usual E24 rot box.   The wings, though are OK and the inner wings have been repaired by a previous owner. The screen apertures and scuttle area  are perfect and there is only one very slight bubble on the roof at the corner of the sunroof aperture.  The sunroof is good.   The area below the rear lights appears good.  

The paintwork needs attention having been painted by a previous owner at home in his garage.

Mechancally, it is spot on with recent new exhaust, and M635 suspension. The car runs and drives and this is the smoothest, quietest M30 engine I’ve ever had. It has the switchable Sports gearbox and a rare 3.64:1 LSD, it sits on four staggered 17″ BBS RC090 Style 5 wheels. The interior is good and the seats are out to be replaced by a pair of heated seats with switches and loom which will be supplied. The white floor mats are even there!

All the Motorsport bits are intact, it has a full toolkit and a rare warning triangle holder.

This is a rare opportunity to buy a complete, running, rare car needing some attention – and some money spent –  to turn it into a stunning example.

It’ll come with boxes of bits and pieces that I’ve collected for it over the years, including loads of Lotus white interior parts, a brand new BMW carpet, new seals, gaskets, rear light gaskets, Air Flow Meter, new front bumper “boomerang”.  I’ve even got the registration number “A635ONE” that can be had by separate negotiation.

The current registration number is “SIL3388” and the VIN is 8188335.  

It will need transported as it is out of MoT and I  can assist with that.  

I’m ideally looking for someone who is going to restore it and keep  it, not tart it up and flog it for profit, nor break it for its valuable bits,  nor see it as an investment to be sold when it has generated the maximum return, but at the end of  the day, I’ve no control over any of that.

It’s realistically priced and I am so tired of daft offers and “Last price?” messages and even just numbers being sent that I now price my adverts as fixed price.  The price in the ad is the price I’ll sell it for. Look at the prices asked for even the wheels and the LSD. 

I know so many adverts say, the”not fussed about selling”.  I want to see this car restored and used, so it is for sale.

I’ll take more photos tomorrow.


Signs of a Well Cared For Car? And Cheap Fixes

My pet hate with E23 and E24s is the two screws on the A post gutter “hockey stick”. You never see cars with the correct blanking cap finishers fitted. I’ve even seen cars with the screw heads visibly painted black.

The correct caps are 71p each inc VAT. Please fit them.

The £3 spent tells people that the car is cared for. Like a full toolkit in the bootlid, OEM carpet mats and fixings or a spare wheel with a new tyre on it. Another of my favourites is dealer number plates – about £20 per pair and they just look “correct” as opposed to “Johnny’s Discount Motor Factors” in a font almost as big as the registration number.

Any other examples of little, cheap, or free details that tell you the car is or has been cared for?

And on a related point – E23s, 24s and 28s with doors that don’t fit properly. I’m talking about doors that need a slam to close because when you close them normally, they bounce off on to the safety catch.

Probably not fixed because they take hours to adjust properly and garages will have whistled through their teeth and quoted ridiculous sums to repair, with owners deciding not to bother for the sake of slamming the door a little harder.

Part no. 17 on the photo will in 90% of cases be missing. Splash out 80p per side and replace them and the doors will, in all probability, close perfectly.


The cheapest, most successful fix for most classic BMWs.

What is your favourite cheap fix?

We have these plastic stops and the E23/24 finishing caps in stock.

TRX Tyres And Why We Won’t Sell Them Used

We are constantly being asked for TRX tyres, particularly in the rarer 415 size as fitted to the E24 635 and the E23s.

It is often difficult to explain – or more accurately, difficult to persuade customers to accept our explanation that no matter how good the tread and sidewall appear, we won’t sell used TRXs that are over three years old.

TRXs are the absolute best tyres for late 80s performance cars. Remember they were fitted to Ferraris, XJs etc. New – properly new – ones transform the big BMWs.

The issue is that the rubber compound hardens with age – quicker and to a far greater degree than other contemporary brands and unbelievably quickly in comparison to modern tyres.

This wasn’t much of a problem when the cars were doing 10000 miles per year. 20000 miles out of a set of tyres wasn’t that bad for a wealthy executive in 1987.

Now, though, most people will look at the tread and sidewall and if they’re OK, they’ll consider the tyre to be OK and its relatively poor performance must mean that it is a bad tyre.

The only way to buy TRXs now is to bite the bullet and buy new. And check the manufacture date too. Do not buy new old stock. Buy only recently manufactured tyres. However these cost £300 + per corner. So called, “New old stock” TRXs, unless they have been stored away in perfectly dark, cool conditions – free of UV and off the car will just propagate the myth in my view.

Realistically you are far better to buy a decent set of wheels and good modern tyres for less than a set of TRXs.

However, a 535, 635 or 735 on a set of really new TRXs is a revelation. Superb grip, roadholding and ride comfort. This is the exception though and the normal reality of poor wet performance and skittish cornering caused by hardening of the rubber compound is far more typical.

However, they ARE great tyres, just too expensive to get any use out of.

We have a number of 16 and 17″ options available to soften the blow. Contact us for details.

1982 BMW 635 CSi Turbo

1982 BMW 635 CSi Turbo

A bit of a history lesson first.

The 1980s were definitely the era of the turbo. Everything, it seemed had a turbo bolted on to the exhaust manifold and a “Turbo” glued on to the boot. Everybody remembers the iconic turbos like the Quattro and the Renault 5GT Turbo, but much more mundane models received the forced induction treatment, even the Maestro!

BMW weren’t immune to the charms of this ubiquitous tuning phenomenon and with gay abandon in 1979 bolted a big snail on to the side of, initially, an internally modified M30B32, and from 1984, an internally modified M30B34, and fitted these to European LHD market only E23 seven series to produce the 745i.

Approx 250 bhp and 280 ft. lbs of torque produced a monster of an executive four door five seater limousine capable of over 140 mph and 0-60 in under 8 seconds. If you’ve ever seen the size of an E23, you’ll know that that is a superb achievement in 1979. For now we shall ignore the ultimate E23, the M88 engined South African special and concentrate on the Turbos.

Neither of the other M30 powered cars of the time, the 5 or the 6 series received the turbocharger treatment and the 745i in turbo form only appeared in LHD markets – possibly because of steering clearance issues.

Now, in about 1987 I think, I had an MGBGTV8 and, as a daily an E21 323i. Motor racing at the Ingliston circuit to the west of Edinburgh was the only acceptable reason for any self respecting Glaswegian to venture further east than Harthill and SMRC meetings were held monthly.

For me, at that time, one of the real highlights of the Ingliston meetings was a 745i running regularly in the road going saloons class. It was right hand drive and prepared and maintained by a pretty well known local outfit, AVA Turbos in Clydebank.

The car used to hare along the M8, race twice and blast all the way back again. It was far from unusual to be passed by it and the sight and sound have remained amongst some of my best memories of the Ingliston era. The fact that the car was right hand drive and prepared by AVA led me to assume that it was a standard UK market E23 converted. I have recently discovered that, in fact, it was a genuine 745i converted to RHD.

What has all this got to do with anything?

Well, AVA were a well known and progressive tuning outfit in the day and they realised that BMW had missed a trick. They sought to remedy that and to do so, they produced their own turbo M30 conversions for 5,6 and 7 series models. Now RHD 5,6 and 7 series turbocharged models were available – and not just the B34, The 2.8s were offered too.

So well regarded were AVA that their cars were tested by the like of Autocar and What Car, the former saying of their 535i demonstrator, “For the price, AVA’s conversion is sensational. It simply transforms a road burner into a road rocket.”

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Their price list makes interesting reading too:-

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

This car is a very early E28 based E24 635 CSi which left the factory in November 1982 sporting Alpine White coachwork and Anthracite cloth interior. It appears to have led a fairly uninspring life until about 1987 or 1988 when it was firstly delivered to a local, independent performance car specialist, George Morrison Motors in Rutherglen, Glasgow who undertook engine, interior and suspension work to prepare for its short trip across the Clyde to AVA.

There it was treated to their full 300 bhp conversion and its 16″ Compomotive split rim wheels.

Fast forward 25 years and the car is now in our custody.

Let us make no mistake, the car is now a restoration project.

It has not turned a wheel in anger since 1999 and has been owned by the same owner and stored inside since then.

As it is now, more than a little sorry for itself:-

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Every panel needs work. The roof is particularly concerning and the cassette has obviously rusted through. One wing might survive. One needs replaced. One sill looks ropey and one rear quarter is poor. Inner wings are both poor and the number plate panel,and area behind the lights are all needing work. The floors appear good and the inner sills appear strong with the carpets lifted. The rear arches and boot floor appear good, but remember that once you start poking around looking for rust, invariably horrors emerge.

There’s a chrome bumper at the front that has seen better days and a painted one with an M-tech valance at the back.

The interior is excellent with excellent unworn beige leather highback Recaros, and the original early pre M-tech three spoke steering wheel.

Mechanically, it is currently an unknown quantity. I believe that it has a Getrag 260 5 speed overdrive gearbox – reputed to be the strongest of the factory boxes – stronger even than the M5/M635 one. A lightened flywheel came as standard along with this gearbox from the factory and I believe that a 3.07 LSD is fitted.

It is not currently running. I am told that all it requires is fresh fuel and that it was running recently. The fuel certainly smells awful. The engine turns on the battery, but the smell of the fuel meant no real attempt to get it going has been made yet. I shall get it running before any sale. It shows 78000 miles.

It is a car that is certainly not beyond saving, but my view is that it is not a commercially viable restoration. If I were asked to quote for its bodywork restoration, I’d be saying that you should budget in the region of £ 8 – 10000 for the bodywork alone. The only way I can see this car surviving is for an enthusiast to take it on and do all or most of the work himself. Another option would be transplant the mechanical bits into a good shell.

I have many photos of all the bodywork and will happily send them to interested parties.

While I am realistic enough to accept that once it is sold, I have no say in wha happens to it, I’d be prepared to sell it complete and as it is to someone who is prepared to undertake its restoration. I am not minded to sell it to someone who will just break it. I can do that myself and with the number and quality of the excellent parts on it, it will break very well indeed. I shall keep it whole for some time to allow anyone interested in restoring it to get in touch and get a deal sorted out.

If anyone wants parts off it, please let me know and I’ll keep a list of interested parties and get back to them once I know what is happening to it.

I have the V5, it shows 9 owners I think, but it has had loads of plates in that time. There is no history with it, but with many thanks to Lewis, the original AVA adverts shown are available.

Remember the racing 745i above? This car was owned by the owner of the race car as his road car.

Certifiable enthusiasts, please get in touch.

E30 325i Convertible Buying Guide – Part 1

I’ve always been of the opinion that the E30 325i convertible is the perfect classic car. Reliable, great fun to drive, good looking, particularly in chrome bumper guise, easy to maintain, relatively cheap to buy, practical with four reasonably useable seats and still a desireable car to own today.

The E30 arrived in ’82, but the full convertible didn’t appear until ’86. Until then, the only convertibles available were the factory sanctioned and dealer sold coachbuilt Baur TC cabriolets – converted two door saloon harking back to the E21 Baurs of the late 70s and early 80s.

Here’s a lovely E21 320 Baur cabrio, I kept for a little while.


These converted cars were continued into the E30 range and while, understandably, they became less popular from ’86 on when the factory full convertible became available, many were still converted for owners after the factory ragtop became available – the discerning purchasers presumably taking the view that the improved rigidity of the shell, comparative lack of scuttle shake and a full four seats were worth paying the significant cash and aesthetic premium for.

The Baur TC is beyond the scope of this article, but I would suggest that if you can find one of these later cars, particularly a facelifted post 1988 one, like the one pictured below, it might be worth considering for two reasons:-

1. The Baur is currently unloved and while cheap just now, there will be far fewer Baurs around than standard convertibles in years to come. They are good cars, just not quite so good looking as the later convertible.

2. The original purchaser would have had to walk past the far prettier car and would have chosen to spend significantly more on the Baur conversion. You could be forgiven for assuming that money was not this purchaser’s primary concern and that this type of owner would be unlikely to scrimp on maintenance or options. A late model Baur was bought by somebody who really wanted one and who could afford it. You could reap the benefit now.


Now might also be a good time to explain the position of the convertible in relation to the 1988 facelift. Basically the convertible got the mechanical facelift parts at or about the same time as the rest of the range. However the body changes didn’t appear on the convertible until 1990. So you have the chrome bumper, smaller rear light cars continuing until 1990 in the convertible and the plastic bumpers and larger lights appearing in 1988 on saloons and Tourings. I’ve seen 1990 “H” cars in both guises. It should also be noted here that the convertible stayed in production after the saloon was superseded by the E36. 1992 saw the end of convertible manufacture and the last cars were pretty much 1992 K – and almost exclusively 318is. There may be the very occasional straggler on the “L”. Tourings also remained in production much later than saloons and “L” plate Tourings are far from unheard of. All Tourings are post facelift.

So, getting back to the convertible, which to choose? 318i, 320i or 325i? The four cylinder cars do feel a bit lighter and nimbler, but they are often lower spec with fewer goodies and at the end of the day no lightness or feeling of deftness can atone for the lack of two cylinders, four valves and loads of bhp and torque.

Of the sixes, the M20b20 in the 320i is a lovely smoooth engine, if a little pedestrian, but the urban myth that it is no more economical than the 2.5 is actually true. It sounds just about as good and it really is, in general terms, just that little bit smoother, but its comparative lack of power and the fact that that loss isn’t offset by improved economy pretty much rules it out.

Though for a limited use cruiser, a good 320i convertible shouldn’t be discounted. They are possibly easier to find, particularly in good condition, and have often led an an easier life than the 325i.

But, for me anyway, it really boils down to a 325i convertible or a 325i convertible. The only real choice is between manual and auto and that is down to personal taste, but the M20b25 powered E30 convertible is ideally suited to the 4HP22EH switchable sports box. I would strongly recommend that you do not discount the switchable auto until you have tried one. It is perfect for the convertible.

So having established that we are looking for 325i convertible, what do we look for?

It is pretty common sense stuff, much the same as you would check before buying any classic car. By far the most important thing to look for in any E30, or indeed any classic BMW, is rust. Where?

For the convertibles you want to be checking everywhere externally visible, the base of the wings, inner wings, sills, front valance (bolt on) and particularly under any body kit fitted. From inside the boot, have a good look the boot floor – both for rust and evidence of accident repair – and the inner arches on both sides with the carpet trim out. Check the wells that hold the jack etc. too. From inside the cabin, if you can lift or peel back the carpets and get a look at the floor and sills so much the better. Removing the rear quarter cards lets you see the other side of the inner arches.

Look for interior dampness and try to find out where it is coming from. Not always easy on an old convertible.

Externally the rear arches rot as does the bulkhead at the base of the A post and in behind the glove box caused by poorly draining rain water.

So with the shell checked out and you’re happy that you know at least what rust is in there and how much it’ll cost to repair, the next thing to do, is to double your estimate. Having done that, where do you look next?

Some examples:-



We can’t leave the body shell without a word about identity and accident damage.

You should obviously check for accident damage – check the shut lines, check in the boot floor, the slam panel area and the chassis legs. Check for uneven tyre wear. Don’t be too concerned, though. These cars are at least 20 years old and the chances are there will have been a bump at some time. If it has been properly repaired, it is no big deal. Have the car HPI checked and again, be realistic about what you find.

These cars are worthless in the eyes of insurance loss adjusters and have been for a long while. They will be written off for the smallest repair. I bought a category C Motorsport convertible that needed a bonnet, a grille and one headlight to repair. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, i would think that any Cat C or D write off in the last 10 years is likely to have been pretty minor.

Anything older than that and repaired would have been an expensive repair and likely – but not certain – to have been done properly, but if not done properly, I’d think signs would be showing by now.

Unfortunately, it has to be mentioned though that a sizeable proportion of convertibles may have some issues with their identity. These were one of the most likely cars to be targeted by thieves and “ringers” (they buy an accident damaged write off and steal an identical car and give the stolen car the identity of the “repaired” damaged car) back in the day and I have certainly seen a few that were dubious.

Get the last seven digits of the VIN and ask a local dealer to do a specification enquiry. If the manufacture date, body style, colour and engine/gearbox all match the car you are looking at, the chances are it should be OK – unless they’ve been very professional and stolen the exact twin to “ring up”.

I’ve seen 316 4 door saloon identities on convertibles and Baurs were popular to “ring” into convertibles because of the body style on the V5.

Bear in mind too that many have been legitimately altered over the years with different paint and different engines and gearboxes. 320 to 325 conversions and auto to manual being pretty common place and the chances are that any dodgy dealing going on was many, many years ago and the original owners, insurers and Police are extremely unlikely to be interested now.

Remember though, that any write off categorisation may have an impact on future values and bid accordingly.

Probably the next most important part of a convertible is the roof. A new one to a good spec, supplied and fitted, will be £750. Ignore people who say you can have rear screens stitched in or that small holes can be easily repaired. They can’t, not properly and not without removing the fabric from the frame – at which point you are better replacing the whole thing. Second hand roofs that are good enough to fit are few and far between. Expect to pay £350 for one.

Check the top seal where it fits on to the screen header rail, look all round for small “abrasion” type wear and holes, check the stitching. Try and play a hose on the car to see if it lets water in. It will. It’s just a question of how much.

Frames are likely to be OK. If you can raise and lower it, it’ll be fine.

Power roofs come in two flavours, the 1989 EH electro hydraulic roof that is a masterpiece of over engineering fitted to M3s and Motorsports and the later simpler, less robust, electro mechanical versions based on a wiper motor. These were implemented not because they were better than the EH, they weren’t, but because the EH roof was fortunes to build and install. No matter which type is fitted, If they are working, consider it a bonus. If not, don’t believe the usual, “probably just a fuse” nonsense spouted by sellers. Either version can be costly and time consuming to get working correctly. As an example the ECU for the EH roof is £2500 plus VAT! A working power roof is a joy to behold. A faulty one is a nightmare. I like the EH. I wouldn’t have an EM. A manual is probably the best option.

We had this roof fitted to an E30 M3 convertible recently – it is a superb job at a cost of about £750 complete.


Next up is the interior.

Continue reading “E30 325i Convertible Buying Guide – Part 1”

E30 325i Convertible Buying Guide – Part 2

Having checked out the shell and the roof, you should move on to the interior.

All convertibles should have BMW sports seats as standard – often wrongly referred to as “Recaros”. These are available in a variety of leather colours and in various style of, primarily check, cloth.

Like the Recaros they are licensed copies of, they wear out the bolsters quite quickly. Replacement leather bolsters will be about £100 per side. More if the foam is damaged too. Cracked and scuffed leather can be improved dramatically with Gliptone Liquid Leather, badly cracked seats will need to be replaced.

A full standard leather interior in good condition for a convertible will be in the region of £500.

Seat mechanisms can wear, but their replacement is fairly straightforward.

Dashboards crack too around the oddments tray on the passenger side. A good replacement dash can cost £100. If you’re doing it yourself and it is your first one, allow a day to strip out and a day to replace. We’d charge a full day to replace a dash. Repairs never work in our experience and are often more unsightly than the crack. The definition of an optimist is an E30 convertible owner without a dash in his spares collection. Buy one now – even at £100 – while you can.

The rest of the interior is pretty hard wearing and visual inspection will be enough to assess what is required.

Mechanically these are robust and relatively cheap and easy to fix and maintain. Just the same checks as you would with any old BMW or older car in general.

Suspension bushes wear and the rears are a bit of a job, so may have been overlooked. A full new set of bushes, mounts and ball joints will transform a car for a few hundred pounds fitted – far less if you can do the work yourself.

Engines and drive trains are strong and robust. Check for signs of head gasket failure on a 6 cylinder – they do crack. If there is no evidence of a recent timing belt change, knock £200 off the price and get it done immediately. A snapped belt won’t see much change out of £1500 if you are having to pay to have the work done. Make sure the viscous coupling works properly – a failed one can cause the car to overheat in queuing or slow moving traffic. An M20 really shouldn’t be allowed to overheat. Make sure you are getting warm air into the cabin with the heater and blower on.


Propshaft centre bearings can go as can the rubber doughnut joining prop to gearbox. These are often fitted wrongly hastening wear.

Diffs, driveshafts and rear axle components are strong and reliable too. Problems will usually make themselves evident.

Handbrakes – especially on automatics – will probably need freeing off and lubricating.

Check the ride height. Many cars have been lowered – not of itself a bad thing, but some are lowered too far and rendered almost undriveable as a result. 25 mm lower than standard is perfect – anything more may cause a harsh, crashy ride.

Similarly many cars, particularly convertibles it seems are running on the wrong wheels. The best wheel and tyre combination for ride, handling and comfort for any E30 is the 15×7 inch wide BBS cross spoke wheel with 205/55/15 tyres. Standard 14″ alloys are good. Some 4 cylinders came with steel wheels. They should be updated to alloys. 16″ Alpinas or Hartges if genuine, are superb, if expensive. Anything that is 17″ or above is too big meaning that to get the correct rolling radius, the tyres need to be very low profile – back to harsh and crashy ride again.

I’ve seen a combination of over lowering and bad wheel choice ruin many an E30 – to the point of damaging the bodywork.

You should remember that it in all aspects, it is very, very difficult to improve on BMW’s original design.


Most parts are still available from the dealer network and some prices are surprisingly reasonable. Some are however, eye wateringly expensive. E30 part prices at the dealers are definitely on the up. I think the old stock of parts is coming to an end and new batches are being manufactured, with often significant price increases.

OEM Parts are often available from specialist trade factors such as Euro Car Parts and GSF for a fraction of the dealer prices, though as these cars get older, less parts are becoming available new in the aftermarket. There are plenty of second hand parts available – at the moment. Most enthusiasts we encounter who are planning to keep their cars are starting to lay in a stock of parts for future use.

1981 BMW 735i

1981 E23 BMW 735i

March 2011:-

I’m sitting at home one night a few weeks ago, when the phone rang.

I knew it was my diminutive Yorkshire chum straight away, because the voice said,
“Hello caller, I have a reverse charge call from …. Will you accept the charge?”

Then it starts,
“Eeh bah gum lad, ist tha on t’internet?”
“Get thasen on t’ eBay. Thers a car ther w’ your nem writ reet ova it. Item number…..”

I phoned Steve – another chap from Yorkshire and repeated what my man had said,

“What did he say, Steve?”
“Ay, they talk reet funny uvva ther.”
“Don’t you start, FFS, just tell me what he said. ”
“There’s a car on eBay you ought to buy. It might be cheap.”

Now, that word, “cheap” will always attract the interest of a Yorkshireman or a Scot and despite his vertically challenged frame and funny voice, my man does know his old BMWs, so I flung on a bid of £750 and forgot about it.  A few days later the very efficient staff at eBay advised me that I was the lucky winner.

Of an E23.
Restoration Project.
In Newbury.
For £750!

You can imagine how lucky I felt, but a deal is a deal so I made arrangements to collect it. As time passed, I became more depressed about it. Why? What would I do with it? I can’t even break it because there’s only a handful left and therefore no demand for parts. The advert didn’t really inspire confidence. Poor photos and the standard eBay blurb where what is left unsaid is probably more important than what is said.

“BMW 735i Auto for Restoration completion,All body work done needs fitting up and trim fitted all parts present few new trim parts been dry stored in workshop past few years have to have space.engine good but needs new fuel pump also there are 2 new ABS hubs for rear as these were rusted.wheel and tyres are new all in all goty the makings of a great classic. All documents and history. No MOT Cash on collection by trailer or recovry Happy Bidding”.

Hmmmmmm. I was sceptical and sure I’d be disappointed once I saw it On arrival, it pretty quickly became apparent to me that the unsaid bits were indeed significant.

So what was left unsaid?

Two owners from new.
82000 miles
Current owner since 1982
100% complete
Full history
Amazingly original down to the mental Blaupunkt radio/cassette with stalk mounted remote control/graphic equaliser – with manuals – and receipt foir £1200 in 1981!!
Resprayed by painter used to spraying nothing but Rolls Royce/Bentley
New wings, doors, arches, exhaust and much more.
The sellers occupation – restorer of Rolls Royces. He had everything from a gorgeous 20/25 doctors coupe, through a £120000 restoration of a Silver Cloud – a car doing well to break £40000 – right up to to a few current Bentleys.

The chap was a true gentleman and his car has been restored to RR/Bentley standards. The paint is absolutely flawless. Here’s a few photos:-

It’s amazing. It’s a real time warp car and the standard of the bodywork restoration is astonishing. I’ve only had a quick look, but it looks complete and fairly easy to put back together – just like a bigger six series. And Christ is it big?!

The best part? It was late when I got home and I left it on the trailer parked in the drive.my wife saw it for the first time the following morning and declared that she hoped we were “keeping that one for a wee while”.

Mid April 2011:-

A couple of hours a few days later and it’s running, Well it runs. Very smoothly too actually. But first, some more, decent photos:- .

There was no fuel at the fuel rail, in fact the fuel feed had been disconnected at a strange late 80s catalyst type of “bomb” thing used as a snake oil “cure” for unleaded fuel. Bin that and go foraging for a length of fuel pipe to get it connected at the fuel rail. A dead 320i convertible sacrificed the necessary length of rigid fuel pipe and the fuel lines at least look pressure capable. No fuel when cranking. Bugger. No fuel when shorting out the relay. Hmmm. Nice healthy bright bulb on the test lamp at the fuel pump connections.

Gotcha. Fuel pump replaced with an known good E24 one and fuel at the rail with the relay bridged and with the relay in place and engine cranking. When I say fuel, I mean varnish. About three gallons of the stuff pumped up and into a jerry can until it ran dry. It was a real murky, dull brown colour. Tank empty. Fuel filter changed. A gallon flung in and pumped straight back out to flush it through and then a full jerry can emptied in. I remember filling that can, not *that* long ago and thinking, “Bloody Hell! £14!! That’s damn near £3 a gallon.” Today? £26. Success. Nice clean clear fuel into a glass Irn Bru bottle to check first and then at the fuel rail. Check oil. Plenty and clean. Put some coolant in. Connect up the power pack and let’s see what happens. Nothing. Well lots of spinning. No firing. Stick a plug on a lead on the rocker cover. Nice big fat spark. So we have fuel and spark, but no startee. It’s spinnning over very slowly and the plugs are rank.

Stick a set of plugs in it and that’s me for the morning as an M20 needed a belt and pump. While waiting for Euro to deliver said belt and pump, I decide that I might as well buy a new battery for it. It needs one anyway. Phone Euro and the boy on the phone says that there are none listed either by chassis or registration number and the car must be too old for them to stock a battery. “OK, I’ll get one locally.”. Within 3 minutes on Euro’s website, I’ve got the part number and phoned him back with it. 17 in stock apparently! It arrives just before 1.00. By 2:30 the M20 is off and it’s time to get this thing running.

Battery in. Spinning over at a good old rate, but not starting. Not even firing. Spark and fuel, but no combustion. Compression test is next on the cards, but I decided to ply it with a quick score of “Easy Start” to see if it fired. It did. Compression test not required fortunately, so injectors are now the prime suspect. Hide the “Easy Start”. Plugs out. They appear dry. Looks like the injectors aren’t firing even though they have power. ECU not sending the injectors a pulse? Swap out a known good one. No difference. Hmmmm. With a hammer and long extension, I give each of the injectors a couple of good sharp taps.

It fires. It even runs. Momentarily. On three, maybe four. More injector tapping and half a can of carb cleaner rammed down the throttle body get it running at idle speed. It won’t rev and only the front three are firing. The back three are dead. Cleaned every electrical connection with cleaner – sensors, AFM, injectors, HT leads. Everything. No difference. Swapped out AFM. No difference. Decided to bin upside down AFM and cone thing and fit proper filter and airbox. In doing this, I see the AFM is fitted backwards. Shouldn’t really matter, but I put it all right with brackets, airbox and air filter as it should be.


Bolt it all on and this is the result:- Right:-

I’m not yet convinced that swapping the AFM round did it, I think the AFM connections were possibly ropey, but it’s running anyway. It’s also dropping ATF on the garage floor – from the steering box I think. Bugger. More to come over the next few weeks.

Mid June 2011:-

There has been slow, but steady progress made over the past few weeks.

All the external trim has been fitted.

In the advert, the chap said it was complete. As I suspected, he was hallucinating. I’ve had to buy at least two interior trim bezels. Other than that, it was *absolutely* complete. The door handles were indeed the predicted nightmare. Refitting the rear ones involved completely stripping out the door, glass, regulator, seals, trim etc. right down to the bare door. All four doors and two front locks plus refitting the door furniture removed by the previous owner, took pretty much two full days. “Exactly the same as a six series”, I thought, forgetting entirely about the two additional rear doors.

The hole you can see on the rear quarter is for a US style side marker light – God alone knows why, but they were fitted early in its life – and lost some time later. A couple of wanted ads elicited a response from a chap called Rich. Just before he replied, I checked out the ETK for the early 6 series US spec side marker – the very one. NLA, but a supercession part number was listed. I asked Fairbairn’s to check, but was told that they didn’t have access to US model information, but a supercession should fit retrospectively. I ordered them and they arrived from germany, but three days later at a very reasonable £55.

Unfortunately they were nothing like what I needed – way too modern – and they won’t take them back because I gave them the part number and they were special order. Cheers! Back to Eastern for me from now on. Back to Rich, who gets a very nice man in Canada to e-mail me and they should be – subject to Canada’s postal system – heading across the Atlantic now. The other lights took a wee while as some of the connectors were a bit ropey, but this old 732i Sport:-

(sadly bought pretty much for its sport steering wheel) provided a couple of much better connectors which were soldered in place of the scotchlock butchery previously fitted. Getting everything working again took a wee while, but now all lights work – in fact everything needed for an MoT works, washers, wipers, horn, lights et

The aircon doesn’t. The headlamp wash wipe doesn’t, the headlamp adjusters don’t.

All the interior trim has been refitted and in doing so – actually in looking for the first aid kit – an interesting discovery was made – electrically adjustable rear seats. – they work too. As do the C Post reading lamps in the rear and the sun blind too.

The old 732i donated its radiator, various wee clips and spring clips, some wiring, steering wheel, radio blanking panel, HT leads, windscreen trim, bits and pieces and most importantly, a test car to break things off to see how they go back on properly. This sort of thing is so much easier to do with another car that’s only biding out its time nearby. I’ll save what’s useful – including the sport suspension – and should get what I paid for it or very close over the weighbridge. Still needs brake hoses fitted – it has new copper lines throughout, brakes bled and the PAS leak needs fixed, and thereafter its off for a valet and MoT.

A set of staggered Style 5s has been sourced and I’m hoping it’ll be set to perform its first official duties at my son’s graduation in mid July. Its first venture outside under its own steam for many years saw it introduced to a typical Glasgow summer.

Late June 2011:-


No pictures this time, but a little more progress.

Like many elderly aristocrats, it had a bit of a problem with fluid retention. Basically it didn’t retain its fluids.

Over a few days there would be an incontinent, very small, spreading pool of coolant on the garage floor. The radiator was well past its best and the 732i happily surrendered its decent (but non aircon – that’ll not be working this summer anyway) radiator to the betterment of its older relative.

It’s always good to replace the transmission fluid, but it’s a bit of a pain so I’ve developed a handy shortcut.

Park the car with its nose out of the workshop, ideally over a slight downhill section. Whip out the radiator, allowing the coolant to drop and pour away out of the workshop and down the hill. Keeps the floor dry and clean.

Now here’s the clever bit – before you do anything else take a phone call from a close friend discussing the recent death of his father in law, funeral arrangements, the fact that his 24 yr old daughter is on the other side of the world a 26 hour flight away, and that he’s having to drive 200 miles to collect her and get back with a few hours before the funeral, oh, and that she doesn’t know her grandad is dead yet. You may have to improvise a bit here depending on your circumstances, but 15 minutes with your mind firmly away from the job you’re doing is required.

The next bit might be tricky for some of you too. You now need a Scottish summer rain storm. Then get into the car and drive it back into the workshop to fit the new radiator. Magically, it will pump all its transmission fluid out for you, saving you from lying underneath struggling with a drain plug. The ends of the cooler pipes placed firmly into a suitable receptacle might prevent it pissing all over the engine bay and garage floor, but I wouldn’t be able to confirm that from personal knowledge. Would I?

Garage floor cleaned up. Rad installed. Trans fluid refilled. All is well in the coolant department. Its prostate problem appears to be sorted.

Now we have a PAS fluid leak to sort out. It looks very much like it’s dripping from the actual steering box. Bugger. That’s all I need! A steering box swap. I take a look at the box on the partially dismembered 732i and decide that I really don’t fancy this, but there is so much gunk in the engine bay after the transmission fluid “change” that I think the best way is to power wash it all down and then see where the leak is coming from properly.

I get the steering box area nice and clean, refill the reservoir and start moving the wheel from side to side. Nothing. After a few minutes of working the steering and no leakage, I move the car back inside optimistically wondering if some use and movement have lubricated and resealed the dry seals caused by years of standing with no fluid in the system and might it have fixed itself.

No. As soon as I park it, there’s fluid dripping out of the steering box. On to the now well lubricated garage floor. Aaaagh! I was only moving at walking pace. How come the fluid is pooling on the chassis rail ABOVE the steering box? It’s not been blown there by road speed!

Bloody useless brake bomb/servo system. It’s coming from the servo. I have a few servos from E24s and E28s and I’m certain they’re the same, but I’ve an E23, but 10 yards away and I know it’s working and not leaking. 20 minutes removes it. Another 45 minutes has it fitted and finally, I can park it running or not and no puddles appear underneath it.

If only my grandmother was as easy to fix.

Early July 2011:-

They can’t all survive:-

Is it still raining outside?

Finished, washed, polished and hoovered. MoT on Monday. Side repeaters on order from strike torn Canada. Number plates, two trim bits and a touch up stick due at Fairbairn’s on Saturday.

05 July 2011:-

Well, good day yesterday.

A phone call here:-

Followed by an early trip here:-

then here:-

here again:-

then here:-



all combined to produce:-

– its first one of these since 1995.

Celebrated with another visit here:-

And Finally,

11 July 2011:-