The E24 BMW 6 series was a dream car for me. Even up to the end of it’s life in 1989 it was still publicized. I remember poring over glossy adverts in such things as the Sunday Times magazine, and the like, that my parents used to get. I was a bit too young to really be getting contemporary car literature but even from these adverts the car seemed impossibly glamorous and good looking.
As is the wonders of market forces, I became old enough and (more importantly) the 6er became inexpensive enough that I could consider buying one. Many cars from the 80’s appeal to me, and I would probably be happy with any of them. However the 6’s combination of period BMW sports dynamics, panache, and what is, in my opinion, one of the great GT shapes of all time. Big call? Sure. But for me very few cars get the proportioning and the detailing so right (especially the later E28 based cars which just filled out enough, to realise the promise of the original design).
Olympic Park, Munich if I am not mistaken, been there.
My particular E24, I bought sight unseen, from ebay, in another state. Sounds risky for sure, but where I live is a relatively small city. Most of the interesting cars are interstate and the market is more competitive in places like Sydney and Melbourne, however the distance between the cities in Australia means it is expensive to go and have a look at a car.
I trusted my judgement that the seller seemed like a genuine sort of fellow, and I had spoken to the workshop that had looked after the car. So while I was at work, my lady friend sat at home waiting for the ebay auction to get to it’s dying moments before submitting our bid (all bidding early does is drive up the price for the seller), still someone jumped in after us but our bid was good enough, hurrah!
So, two mates and I (any excuse for a roadtrip, those boys), booked a plane to Sydney. The seller had the good grace to pick us up from the airport in his ‘new’ E36 M3, probably wondering how three 6 footers were all going to fit in one coupe and drive it halfway across the country (in the end, we fitted fine, in fact the rear seat became the place of choice when not driving). He took me for a drive and then I drove my new purchase for the first time, not much to tell driving around inner city Sydney, rear subframe bushes were worn out (this is common for all Beemers of this generation), a few warning lights, but nothing to get too worked up about, the seller fueled it up and bought a can of tyre inflator, the spare being the original metric wheel and tyre, had seen better days.
Deal done, we headed out. Of course we were not driving straight back to Adelaide, that is one of the most featureless drives you can imagine, we were headed south-west to the Alpine region and then across the top of Victoria chasing a couple of rivers and through a wine region, nice lazy 3 day drive, this is somewhere on the way back:
I went for this particular car because of it’s specification. 1987 635CSi, a ex-UK personal import, diamond schwartz (metallic black), shadow line (de-chromed) with cloth Recaro interior, I originally wanted leather but now I would have the period design cloth every time. Getrag ‘dogleg’ 5 speed manual (so 80’s), full fat Euro spec M30, high compression, no emission control, no catalytic converter. The original metric wheels had been replaced with those from the later E31 850i. Normally this sort of thing is not to my taste at all, but these really suited the car.
On the drive back we all struggled to get used to the dogleg box, luckily it was only me who wrong slotted it (this would become a theme for me with these boxes) and the handling was a bit wayward. So on our return I got some parts ordered and we started to make those small improvements, that means you can have a GT that can also be properly hustled along when the right road appears in the windscreen.
So out with the worn old subframe bushes, in went solid replacements, rebushed most of the back end, rebuilt LSD, Ohlins/Bilstein for the springs/dampers, upgraded brake pads, ITG panel air filter, a number of other detail changes all contributed to sharpening up the driving experience. The 17 inch wheels gave too much grip for how I like to drive, and made the ride a bit crashy with the suspension changes, so a change to 15’s with a higher profile tyre gave me what I was looking for.
Many great adventures ensued. First up a trip back across to New South Wales to spectate the Bathurst 12hr, this sportscar race gets nowhere near the publicity of the V8 Supercar round but opens up ‘The Mountain’ to a whole host of other machinery. As usual I plotted a less than direct route there, much greatness drivingness followed (the E46 M3 in many of these shots belongs to my great mate The Accountant, and trying to keep up with that thing has given me much pleasure over the years, although the M3 is streets faster in absolute terms, on real roads, in real driving conditions the 6er holds it’s own, until old mate wakes up and then he is gone...).
Oh, and that white thing? Forget about that, it’s in another league.
One of those cars, the longer you own it, the better looking it gets...
Next up was another trip to NSW, for the ‘Ferrari Festival’ held at Eastern Creek raceway in Sydney, the event was a bit of a fizzer to be honest (although seeing all the ‘F’ cars together in one room was pretty cool)
and put me off ever wanting to be a Ferrari owner. But the drive there... This time I picked a different route and we had some cracker roads on the way there. Inclement weather meant a great leveling ground and the 6 was able to keep up with the more modern machinery (by then the tyres were, lets say, slightly more worn on the rear, so you knew which end was going to slide...) and the route dictated a stretch on unsealed roads, great fun!
Those muddy roads were crazy fun, so much fog you couldn’t see where you were going and so slippery my passenger said his prayers a few times. This was the last roadtrip for the white weapon, by now it was more race car then road car, and that shit gets taxing over a few thousand kilometers...
The last great roadtrip was to journey down to Phillip Island in Victoria for the once a year extravaganza that is the Phillip Island Classic.
Another early start, meant we cleared the city and were out into country South Australia before sun up.
We made it to the coastal town of Robe for breakfast, then a quick trip out to the edge of the ocean.
From there down through the southern part of South Australia and into Victoria. Coastal hippy towns and wet roads snaking through temperate rainforest.
We stopped for the night at Apollo Bay, we broke camp just as it was getting light, the Great Ocean Road and the towns along it are a big tourist draw, but we were there for one reason only, driving and driving hard. The next 50km is arguably the best driving road in the country, we only caught a couple of other vehicles and they were easily dispatched. The corners come at you thick and fast, slow ones, fast ones, sometimes the road is narrow against the cliff, sometimes more open and flowing. The odd short straight allow you to ring that straight six out, the topography of the road is incredible, you regularly get the sensation of tumbling down and rabbit hole of corners, leaning hard on the levels of front grip, then climbing, now the rear fully loaded, just sliding but driving forwards all the time. All the time the sun rising over the ocean to your right. Epic blat.
The Phillip Island Classic was good, maybe not as good as the previous time we went but still one of Australia best motorsport festivals. Of course it was as much about the journey as the destination.
Now the 6 was a long way from perfect, it drove me mad (still does) with some electrical issues. I learnt a lot about fixing fuel injection on that car. Rebuilding the Getrag was the opposite of cheap. Then again it is knocking on the door of being 30 years old. Mechanically it’s a pretty straight forward car to work on, the fact that throughout it’s life various (lots of) electronic systems were added to what was essentially a early 70’s design means finding problems could be close to impossible.
Luckily not many of these things matter to me, it was a great driving experience and that is what mattered. It never failed to engage you at any speed and to get the best from it took time, months to learn and even having not driven it for a while, a day or so to get back in the groove. Once you adapted it felt like the most natural thing in the world.
All good things must come to an end.