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635CSi Project Car Advice Wanted

Discussion in 'E24 (1977-1989)' started by freedomgli, Mar 20, 2008.


What type of motorsports should I prepare my 635CSi for?

Drifting / Time Attack/ HPDE 0 vote(s) 0.0%
Targa Newfoundland/ Road Rally 4 vote(s) 80.0%
Grassroots Motorsports $200x Challenge 1 vote(s) 20.0%

    freedomgli guest

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    Grassroots Motorsports is the devil. Hold on, wait a minute. Let me back up just a bit and start over. A few months ago yellowcar (Toby) and I went to Fredericksburg, VA to pick up a free parts car. Someone was offering up a 1988 BMW 635CSi for free, first come, first serve. All one needed to do was bring a truck, trailer, and their own set of wheels to haul the thing away. You see, the car belonged to this guy's kid, and together they'd dumped thousands of dollars into maintaining it since the kid bought it in 2000. But the kid graduated from college, got a better job, and no longer needed the car. Tin worm got the best of it and when the automatic transmission finally kicked the bucket they decided that enough was enough and decided to park it next to the house under a pine tree. It sat for about 2 years as the dad slowly pulled parts off the car to sell on eBay in an attempt to recoup some of his losses. Finally, mom was sick and tired of seeing the ugly shell in the driveway and demanded dad get rid of it ASAP. I e-mailed the dad and he said that someone else had already called first dibs. Okay, fine. I told him to let me know if the deal fell through as I was still interested. Sure enough, two weeks later, the guy called me back and asked me when I could pick it up. Toby kindly offered to help me out and we went down there one Saturday morning to take a look at it.

    Sorry for the crap pics.

    The car was pretty much picked clean. Gone was the interior, radiator, alternator, power steering pump, hydraulic brake accumulator, throttle body, AFM, airbox, various electronic relays and control modules, ABS pump, front and rear bumpers, lights, etc. However, the car reportedly had a strong running 3.5L motor which would be great to have as a spare for my black 1984 BMW 633CSi. It also had some newer suspension components but they were stock and therefore of little value. The car had been converted from hydraulic self-leveling rear suspension to standard coil spring and damper arrangement. However, the car did have good glass, the front end and hood was clean, as were the doors. The delicate aluminum windshield trim alone made the entire effort worthwhile as it's no longer available new and used examples are expensive.

    Once I got the car home I cleaned it up a bit and took a closer look at what I had. The front fenders are trash and there is significant rust to the rear wheel arches. They all do that. In fact, my black 633CSi is going to Classic Chris' Restorations (run by our very own Joe MacInnes) for this exact same repair in a few months as soon as shop space opens up. I found some more rust in the sills and around the tail lights but it wasn't significantly worse than my black rust bucket that I've been driving around for the past 2 years. However, I don't really need two rust buckets and it looked like this parts car was indeed destined for the scrap heap after I finished pulling the motor, hood, doors, and glass.

    The other POS, my 1984 633CSi

    But then laziness set in. It was winter, the weather was cold, the days were short, and I had very little desire to go outside and work in a cramped carport. To drop the transmission I would have to work underneath the car while supported on jack stands. It was not an ideal situation. So I procrastinated.

    I talked to a few people about my plans. Some said I was crazy for even going through the trouble. Why was I washing my time with this old junker? Why don't I just sell all my project cars and get a new car? These are valid questions. My newest and most reliable transportation is my 1991 Mazda Miata with 130k miles on the odometer so I really could use a newer, more comfortable, practical, and dare I say normal car for daily use. I really don't like working on cars, I much prefer driving them. But sadly I'm not in the economic position to drive a Porsche 997 GT3. I could probably afford something newer and semi-sporty but I don't relish the idea of a car payment every month. Nothing new in my price range appeals to me and everything used in my price range will likely be a money pit. This is the dilemma many of us face when deciding whether or not to purchase a new car or hold onto the crap we've got now.

    Speaking with a close friend one day he mentioned it would be a real shame to send such a cool car to the crusher. I wondered aloud if I would regret crushing a 635CSi. It's not a rare car by any means but it'd be like me hearing a story from an uncle about him crushing an Austin-Healey 100 back in the day just because it had a bit of rust in the fenders and he couldn't be bothered. Nowadays people spend $10k to buy JUNK Austin-Healey 100s just for the opportunity to spend another $60k fixing it up.

    The more I looked at the white 635CSi sitting in my carport the more I saw some potential in it. Sure, the car needed some work, but what car doesn't? I wasn't up to the challenge of a full-restoration since these cars are incredibly complicated. I cringed at the idea of getting the rear seat air conditioning working again. However, turning it into a race car wouldn't be that hard. Race cars don't need fancy interiors. Race cars don't need to look pretty. They just need to be safe, go relatively fast, and be fun to drive. Since the car was already stripped down it was easy to imagine a roll cage, racing bucket seats, and some fender flares covering up where the rust once was. Maybe this isn't such a bad idea, after all?

    Originally, I was thinking I would simply turn the white E24 into a drift / time attack/ HPDE car that might see occasional street use (for instance, to transport it to an auto-x event or to simply cruise in). Such a car would be low, stiff, and fast with a big turbo for big HP. Then I read an article in the BMWCCA magazine Roundel about Targa Newfoundland and I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube, which made me want to build the car for open road rally. Such a car would have lots of wheel travel to soak up bumps and it would have to be very reliable to withstand the brutality of such events. The entire vehicle would sacrifice weight for strength; the cage would be more robust, major mechanical components like engine, transmission, and differential would have skid plate protection, etc. Then Toby gave me the latest issue of Grassroots Motorsports magazine where they talked about their Berzerkley project carfor the $200x Challenge.

    Don't get me wrong - racing ain't cheap. But it doesn't have to be expensive, either. The GRM $200x Challenge could be a great advertising tool for my friend Ben's race fabrication shop, Kaplhenke Racing. Generally, people start with better cars but starting with a free parts car ain't a bad way to begin. From there it's just a bunch of elbow grease, some beer and a few good eBay deals away from glory.


    There are lots of reasons why this is a silly idea and there are plenty of other good starting points for race cars. Smart money buys a race car that some other sucker already built. However, I've already got this car and the knowledge to fix it up. I think it'd be cool to have both a race car and street car version of the same make/model vehicle, especially one as cool as the E24 coupe. This project would give me something to do and I can save money by doing much of the fabrication work myself or with the help of my friends' race shop. My justification for moving forward with this project probably looks pretty pathetic to an objective observer, like a drunk trying to rationalize why he drinks. I guess I'm just looking for direction, reassurance, or a reality check.
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    Give it a decent burial.

    paradise930 guest

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    rust bucket racing

    i liked your rant. i have taken an expensive car that i could not afford to wreck to the track and i guess that i just put out of my mind what would happen if i rapped the armco or even a tire wall.
    the only thing that i see as a set back for you and your plan is all of the missing parts on the project car you will now have to replace may be a real pain to find and re-install.
    now you need another parts car. i can visualize you finding another free car that may be in better shape then your current car.
    i have a new rust bucket e24 e88 (i think) that i am going to do the same thing with until something major comes and i will have to decide how much to invest or dump it.
    i have no idea if my experiment of launching a low budget rust bucket racing program will work...but not doing it sure wont.

    jb.from virginia

    jec635 guest

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    race car vs modified street car

    I would say you should decide if you want a modified (drivable) street car or a race car. It has been my experience you can't have both. I bought a 2002, had a cage put in, race suspension, seat, etc thinking I could drive the car on the street. It is a pain changing the pads and shoes to street versions, plug up the exhaust so the neighbors don't take aim when you drive away for work. My insurance co. said the minute the car went on the track they would never insure it again. I ended up with a race car only.
    I cast my vote for race car and not the crusher. I think having a race car is a blast. I would recommend you do it and consider the SCCA. The last 6 yrs has been a great father-son experience playing with our 02itb toy.

    paradise930 guest

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    i have made no real progress on the m6 since i bought it.
    i would like to get involved with a racing series to get a feel for it. what is a good way to get started. i dont want to make modifications to the m6 that might disqualify it from an otherwise competitive class.
    any recomendations?:confused:
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    Freedom - my spur-of-the-moment guess would be that to return the 635csi to reliable daily driver level would be fairly expensive and time consuming, while making it into a reliable race car of any format would be even more expensive and time consuming. Put a budget into your mind, and write down everything the car needs just to get it to reliable driving level with parts costs and time estimates for each stage of that project, and then start tacking on the stuff for making it into a race car. If you're thinking of converting it to a manual tranny - just 1 more level of expense and time. Once you get an idea of what you're facing there, you'll be able to answer your own question. If you have an itch to do the GRM challenge thing, I would think it would be best to start with a mostly complete car.

    Paradise - I don't know, but I would guess that whatever class that vintage of M6 fits into for the SCCA, it might well not be able to be competitive unless you threw a lot more money at it than you might be willing. Check the SCCA website out, I'd think they'd have their rules and classifications there somewhere.

    One of the stock classes for BMWCCA Club Racing might be the least expensive ways to get going, peruse their website thoroughly, see if that helps - http://www.bmwccaclubracing.com/

    jec635 guest

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    no class in the scca for the e24

    I just checked the 08 GCR with the scca. I did not find any class for the e24. So MGarrison is right; the car club is likely the only racing venue for your car. It would probably be a big expense to make it competitive. Not lookin good for the ole girl. Sure do hate to see them go, though.

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