1981 E23 BMW 735i
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.
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.
Current owner since 1982
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:-
all combined to produce:-
– its first one of these since 1995.
Celebrated with another visit here:-
11 July 2011:-