BMW E24 Six Series
The E24 was indeed a worthy successor to the previous E9 3.0CSi coupe. The car was designed by Parisian styling chief Paul Bracq and it's engineering was overseen by Bernhard Osswald. It was built between 1976 to early 1989 with fairly few body changes, perfection is difficult to improve on after all. The shark like nose of the E24 is still a thing of beauty even now, no BMW has ever been so distinctive. The E24 has huge presence.
Both the preceding 3.0CSi and the later E31 850i had no B-pillar. The six gained one in order to pass US roll over and side impact tests, it also helped make the body more rigid. US market demands also saw the E24 become a more luxury focused car than the 3.0CSi. The E31 did without a B-pillar mainly due to a strong design that was intended from the outset to allow a convertible (though one was never produced).
My own '85 635CSi
Most E24 owners never saw the E31 8 as a replacement for their beloved Sixes. The 8 was a bigger, more expensive car and the V12 put it out of contention for most european owners who had any regard for fuel economy. The later 840i V8 helped but by then it was too late. BMW's biggest ever failure in modern times was not to make a two door version of the E34 five series. This would have had just the right looks for a replacement and would have started with the same M30 and S38 engines, later moving to the V8s. It would have been a classic in it's own right.
Perhaps the nearest successor in terms of size, power and weight were the E46 330Ci and M3. But although the E46 coupes were good examples of BMW styling they had nowhere near the presence of an E24. The later E63 six series is a good car in it's own right but the "Bangle Butt" styling is controversial. The third six series, the F06, comes closer to the mark. But none of these cars will feel as raw and untamed as an E24 with a manual gearbox and that wonderful M30 heart.
The shark like profile of the M635CSi. Only 5,803 were made.
|635CSi||M30||77-89||1430||152||3.07 (3.45 US)||Disc/Disc ABS*|
|L6||M30||? - 89||1560?||117?||3.25||Disc/Disc ABS|
ABS was an option on early cars, not standard equipment. LSD was an option on later models and widely fitted. Automatic cars are 20kg heavier. Pre-82 628 and 635 are 60kg heavier.
US versions of this car suffered terribly from anti-pollution regulations which greatly reduced engine power. They also had awful looking bumpers and were heavier. As a result euro cars are much better performers than their US equivalents. This difference reached its climax in the US L6 version. This car had an extremely luxurious interior for its time so was 450kg heavier than a euro six, and yet only had a 182 bhp engine.
The elegant 635CSi, this is a 1988 version.
Driving an E24
A six is an amazing car to drive, at least a good one is. By a good one I mean a euro spec. car with the full 218bhp. The lighter the better too, Highlines and L6's add a lot of pounds to the car and that does the driving experience no favours. My own car was an '85 that started life as an automatic and ended up as a manual.
The automatic is a fine car, the M30 suits an auto as it has lots of low down torque. The most impressive thing is the kickdown when in sport mode, on a wet road it can easily cause wheel spin if the driver is a bit too keen. But it's wonderful for overtaking and is perhaps the only thing you'd miss in a manual. For me converting to a manual was the result of not being able to find one in the first place. I drive on twisty country roads and the manual gives more control and a better driving experience. It had a very heavy clutch though and would have been no fun in traffic jams.
My comparatively light 635 was easily fast enough as a manual when you let it rev it's head off. I've never driven an M635CSi but it must be real shock and awe territory. I often thought about power increases and how to achieve them but there was one corner I drove every now and then that convinced me I didn't need any. The Cabrach pass in the depths of the south eastern Highlands was always a favourite. One corner comes over a hump back bridge, turns 90 degrees and goes up hill sharply. Going through it in second with the foot down the last thing my six needed was more power.
Brakes were another story. Right hand drive cars transmit braking power via a linkage bar to the other side of the car, perhaps something is lost in this setup. But my six never braked as well as I'd have liked. E24s had the same brakes as an E28 518i unless you bought the //M car. It wasn't dangerous, but it wasn't enough. Post '87 facelift cars got the bigger brakes from the E34 five series and this made a massive difference. My friend's Highline stops far better than my car despite being heavier, the difference is staggering. As the parts are a simple bolt on the upgrade for owners of earlier cars is a no brainer.
In terms of handling the stock suspension is generally good. It's designed more for autobahn storming than little twisty roads but it still gives a good account of itself. In my opinion the best option for an E24 is to lower it around 25mm and fit upgraded Bilstein shock absorbers. You'd also want to refresh the tired anti-roll bar links and Pitman arms (dog-bones) which is a fairly cheap exercise and will tighten things up. If you can find stiffer anti-roll bars even better. A Sparco E28 front strut brace isn't a bad idea either. With these mods the car will really corner well and respond to throttle inputs amazingly well. It's not hard to make a really focused car.
Do not lower the car more than 25mm. The rear semi-trailing arm suspension will be upset and you'll hit every speed bump in creation.
I ran 225/50/16 tyres on 16x8" wheels, in my case rare black centre Alpinas which I loved and really suited the car. You could run 17s but I'd not run wider than 225 tyres at the front and 235 at the back. It's common to see wider but the car will be prone to tramlining. With 17" you're going to want to have all the steering and suspension linkages and bushings in top shape as any play will result in tramlining and poor handling. You do not want to fit 18s on the car, it just wasn't designed for tyres with so little sidewall give.
Regular and preventative maintenance is the key to a reliable Six. Avoid a poorly maintained car. Feed the leather Neatsfoot oil and buy some Zymol, especially their glass and vinyl cleaners. Do a pre-winter rust inspection every year.
Give the car a strong dose of Redex then change ALL the fluids when you buy it; ATF, brakes, gearbox, engine, final drive, coolant, etc. Gets bits from Euro Car Parts or German and Swedish, they are half the price of the dealer.
Most Six owners drive them every day so don't expect to find a low mileage example. These things were meant to be driven and enjoyed.
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