1986 BMW 535i

I know not everyone agrees, but I think that the U.S. mandated 5 m.p.h. bumpers that were fitted to many of the 1970s and ’80s import cars were just horrible. Some manufacturers had sorted it out by the mid 1980s; Mercedes-Benz and Audi, for example, had managed to integrate the new bumper designs well into their updated large and small sedans so that by 1985 there were only minor differences between the ROW models and U.S. models – and importantly, the bumper covers didn’t look like an afterthought. But BMW seemed to stand in defiance, refusing to update any of its models until nearly the end of the decade. The result of that was that by 1987 BMW’s lineup looked quite dated in comparison to the competition. While switching those BMW models to the ROW bumpers doesn’t necessarily update the look, it certainly refreshes all the models and brings them closer to their original design – something I’m personally a big fan of. While all of the 1980s BMWs benefit from this, one of the most popular to swap European trim onto seems to be the E28 5 series. A classic since new, the great package that was the E28 is lightened and tucked in Euro guise, making an already good looking design sportier and more compact in just the right ways:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 535i on eBay

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Rare Shark Sighting – A Trio of low-mileage 633CSIs

I still remember when my father purchased his first German car. It was a 1982 BMW 633CSi in metallic grey with tan leather and a 5-speed manual, with the original BBS Mahle wheels. It was otherworldly to me; long, lean and low compared to the Toyotas I was used to being carried around in, the BMW had a feel of quality that the other cars I had been in couldn’t match. It snarled with a wonderfully raspy exhaust note and I felt invincible inside. The 633 was also the first car I displayed at a show myself; in that case, I proudly spent hours cleaning it and getting it ready for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix in 1993. At that point, the 6 was still a pretty new car – but even then, it was rare to see 6 series and since then it’s even more rare to find them. The best of the bunch are arguably the ones that came after my father’s car was made and got the post 1983 E28 chassis updates. Although considered the lesser model due to the lower displacement motor, in fact the 633CSi was only 1 horsepower short of the 3.4 that made its way into the 635CSi replacement for the United States in 1985. Today, there are three lower mile examples of these clean coupes up for sale – which would you choose?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 633CSi on eBay

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1979 BMW 635CSi Euro-Spec

As iconic designs go, the E24 has to rank pretty high on most German car enthusiasts’ lists. The lines are pure and classic – a long hood line with chiseled front end, delicate and subtle wheel arches, a sweeping greenhouse and a flowing trunk line. It just looks right – the front of the E9 that it succeeded was equally as classic, but I have always felt that the back of the 6 series was prettier than the car it replaced. It took elements of some classic BMW designs that preceded it and incorporated them flawlessly with updates for a new time. By 1970s standards, it was a very clean design – consider what was coming out of Detroit during this time period, and you’ll understand why the 6 still looked reasonably fresh a decade on in the 1980s. But for my money, the prettiest of the 6s are the early Euro cars, unencumbered by the DOT bumpers. Early on, though, the 6s suffered from not much performance – the engine lineup was effectively carried over from the previous E9 platform. That was solved in 1978 with the launch of the 218 horsepower 635CSi; a 5-speed transmission, deeper airdam and black rubber rear spoiler with model designation indicated the higher performance of this model. The 635 officially wouldn’t come to U.S. shores until much later in 1984 with the E28 updates in place, but for a time this was the highest performance BMW coupe you could get. Finding early examples that are still in prime shape is quite tough these days, but there’s a lovely example on Ebay today in Connecticut:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 635CSi on eBay

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Heap of the Week Twofer: 1985 Bitter SC and 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1

While we usually don’t like to show cars that are not at least good examples of the respective marques that they represent, occasionally some oddballs pop up that are just too good to pass up. Today is such a case, with two unique vehicles popping up on Ebay that rarely get seen at all. Unfortunately, both are in need of a fair amount of work, so depending on your comfort level I wouldn’t really consider either of these cars a turn key, collector vehicle as they stand. However, with the right about know-how, determination and a fair amount of work I think both of these cars could be resurrected to their former glory; certainly, both would bring smiles at shows wherever they went. Let’s look first at the rare duck of the two, the Bitter SC:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Bitter SC on eBay

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Euro-looker: 1987 BMW 535is

When people think “E28”, they immediately think “M5” – those two combinations of letters and numbers are both magical and intertwined in the history of performance sedans. Indeed, like the original GTi defined the hot hatch segment and has always been at the forefront since, the M5 has similarly defined fast executive sedans. However, I’m going to let you in on a little secret – 20 years on, it’s pretty expensive to own and run the S38 motor in the M5. There is no doubt it’s a screamer, but for most people, a warmed over 535is is probably a better option; they look nearly identical to the M5, they get better fuel mileage, around town they’re practically as fast as the M5, and critically they’re usually had in good condition for less than half the asking price of the M5 and are cheaper to run, to boot. On top of that, you could get them in colors other than black – not something everyone wants, but for those not really into the Model T scene it’s a welcome addition. Today’s 535 is a excellent case in point; looking quite catching in red with Euro bits complementing the original shape of the E28 and with a very inviting looking black sport interior, this 1987 535is sure is a looker:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 535is on eBay

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1979 BMW 528i

While the BMW faithful and converts have flocked to the E28 and E30 as the next collectable and drivable classics, nearly ignored in BMW history are the E21 and E12 predecessors; cars that both revolutionized the small luxury sport sedan market and set the stage for their more sought after replacements. If you’re not in as much of a hurry and don’t mind the more 70s, less 80s approach of the earlier cars, finding a clean example is a much cheaper proposition than the market stars that everyone is looking for. Truth be told, finding those clean examples – especially the E12 variety – can be difficult, but today there is a mint condition, lower mile 1979 528i example on Ebay:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 528i on eBay

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Shark Week: 1977 BMW 630CS

The BMW E9 chassis was a tough act to follow; gorgeous simplicity, solid performance in street trim and a world contender and winner in the European Touring Car Championship. The E9 was also the basis for the first two BMW “Art Cars”, bringing the maker to a new medium and market. Clearly, Paul Bracq had his work cut out for him designing a replacement, but if he hadn’t already, he would prove himself more than worthy. The E24 launched in 1976, and like the Porsche 928, the design would prove to be advanced for the time.

Initially available in Europe as the carbureted 3.0 630CS, over its production run the E24 gained horsepower, luxury, sprouted spoilers and larger wheels, and became a serious performance machine in M6 guise. Few U.S. enthusiasts even remember the 633CSi, never mind the fuel injected version of the 3.0 that introduced the U.S. to the E24 in 630CSi form. Perhaps that’s because the emissions equipment that was fitted robbed the car of performance, but to me, the prettiest of the E24s are the early, simple cars without the all the spoilers. Thanks to the grey market, a few of the carbureted 3.0 CSs made it to the U.S.. Even fewer survive today thanks mostly to rust and depreciation, but occasionally one of the original sharks surface, like today’s very rare 630CS:

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Year: 1977
Model: 630CS
Engine: 3.0 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Mileage: 42,000 mi
Price: $9,900

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1977 BMW 630CS on Classiccar.com

BMW 630 CS Coupe, Black, for sale in Griffin, Georgia, for $15,900. Exterior paint finished in Schwarz Black complemented by a Saddle leather interior. It is truly in mint, pristene condition, both mechanically & cosmetically with just 42,000 miles. Features 4-speed manual transmission, factory a/c, chrome alloy wheels, power antenna, rear power windows, Clarion am-fm cassette radio, coco mats. We just performed a comprehensive maintenance service to ensure ultimate performance & driver satisfaction. If your a BMW enthusiast in the market for a 630CS Coupe, you need to come see this car. You will have to look a long time to find a better one than what we are offering. Just reduced price $5,000 to move. Buy it today for only $9,900. Don’t miss this fabulous car.

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In keeping with our “shark week” theme of E24s, it seems only fitting to find one of the original run. Sure, the 630CS doesn’t have the performance factor of the M6, but in proper tune the carb fed 3.0 put out a respectable 182 horsepower. But if you’re seriously looking at this car, you’re probably not looking for the “ultimate driving machine” as much as what I think is the best expression of the E24. In European market spec, this car just looks like such a fresh and clean design, it’s easy to understand why it was still hanging around dealer lots in 1990. The tight bumpers, the tucked corner lamps, and no spoilers; it’s simply a beautiful car. The leather looks to be in great shape, and the paint shines well, though there is no mention if it’s been resprayed. As with the E9, early cars are noted for being rust prone, so I’d check carefully. The current wheels, sourced from either an E34 or E32, would be best replaced with some nice 15″ or at most 16″ Alpina wheels. If you go too big you’ll ruin the aesthetics – don’t forget they originally came with 14″ wheels on them!

At an ask of $9,900, this car’s price would get you into a later 635CSi with better performance and creature comforts, and indeed they may be better driving cars if you’re looking for a spirited weekend cruiser. However, if you’d really like to appreciate the car’s original design, this is the car to buy. Bring it to a show, and no one there would guess it was a 1977 model. Better yet, you’d be baffling even most die-hard BMW enthusiasts, who would swear you lost the “i” off of your badge. Considering the prices on E9s have climbed so much in recent years, this car appears to be a hidden gem, and while Hagerty may claim the value of one is hovering in the $5,000 – $6,000 range, I think this car would be well bought at $8,000 – $9,000, provided an inspection doesn’t uncover any rust or serious neglect. At about half the price of a nice M6, you’d have a piece of automotive art the way Mr. Bracq intended, and I’m just not sure it gets much better than that.

-Carter

1980 Alpina B6/2.8

I love how the BMW E21 3-series perfectly completes BMW’s early 80s lineup, sharing design language with the E23 and E28 while introducing the 3-series nomenclature as a diminutive sports sedan. It was a good start to a model line that became great, but it was definitely more entry-level than we know the 3-series as today. How to fix that? Not that difficult – a bigger engine and a legendary name. Hence the Alpina B6/2.8, giving the 3-series E30 M3 power starting in 1978 by shoehorning the 528’s M30 into the tiny engine bay. Add some technolines, spoilers, and the best wheels ever made, and you’ve got a bonafide Alpina classic. Extra points for being a Euro import, tiny bumpers included. This may be one of the cheapest ways to get into a genuine Alpina out there.

Year: 1980
Model: Alpina B6/2.8
Engine: M30 2.8L I6 – 197hp/183lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed
Mileage: 43,223
Price: $8,300 at time of writing, reserve not met

1980 BMW Alpina B6/2.8 for sale on eBay

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This is one of only a few original and authentic Alpina B6/2.8 models in the US. Based on the BMW E21, with the ‘big six’ M30 engine & injection from the 528i installed by Alpina along with many other upgrades, it’s as fast & rare an ’80s car as you can find. The wide-striped velour interior is in very good condition (w/rare A.S.S. seats). It has a 5-speed close-ratio trans, a limited-slip differential w/cooling fins, Alpina suspension & brakes, extended-range fuel tank, rare A/C & power windows, very low miles, and the wheels, spoilers, stripes, steering wheel, shift knob, emblems, mud guards, etc. that make an Alpina stand out from the crowd like it does.

The body is free of any dents or visible rust. The clear coat was failing on the horizontal surfaces, so those surfaces only were repainted in October. The rest of the car still has the original paint, inside and out, which on some panels shows faint scratching or crazing in certain light. The mechanical condition is very good. The car has recently undergone a thorough inspection, servicing, and replacement of worn parts as necessary. Everything works on the car except for the A/C, which has a leaking condenser that needs replacing. All import documents necessary to register the car in any state, including exemptions from both the DOT & EPA, will be provided to the buyer.

This must be a hoot to drive. Maybe not quite the same panache as the E24/28-based Alpinas, but you’re getting about 90% of the Alpina effect with low miles for what appears to be a good price. It’s hard to say exactly what the market is here, but the nicest normal E21s have gone for up to $14k, so anything under $15k seems like a good deal if you want a rare E21.

-NR

1985 BMW 528e w/ M30 swap for sale

Reader Jaymes forwarded us his buddy’s listing from the MyE28.com forums for this unique 528 project.  It’s been through a few owners and iterations as is thoroughly documented in the ad, and while it has definitely been a work-in-progress, it looks to be fairly well set-up for driving at the moment with great potential if you’re looking to continue the project.

It started life as a standard 528e and stayed that way for most of its 25 years, staying with the first owner until 2001.  A friend of the seller bought the car in 2004 and apparently let its condition slip a little, so when the current owner bought it in 2008 it was ready for a refresh.  The seller sounds very thorough and honest, coming clean about the few rust spots but assuring the reader that it’s still better than the vast majority of E28s.  Since then he’s done some work inside and out, highlights being Euro bumpers, an M30B34 swap with a 3.23 LSD, and some suspension work.  It’s not a beauty queen, but it’s no ratrod either; I like the style of rugged aggression.

1985 BMW 528e/M30 for sale on MyE28.com

At $4000, there’s plenty of fun to be had here.  The seller seems to have his head on straight when it comes to E28s and Bimmers in general and I like what he’s done to it so far.  My main reservation is that, despite a thorough and detailed ad, I can’t quite tell how much the car is going to need in the near future.  Swaps always sound to me like there will be significant work in the future to keep it all square, but perhaps it’ll be no more work than any other 25 year-old BMW; I just don’t know.

I like the look, the power, and the price, but it’s up to you if the work is worth it!

-NR

Well-Traveled but Clean 1988 BMW 535is for sale

Before I take the big plunge to E28 M5dom, I could definitely see myself learning the ropes by enjoying a 535is for a while.  With essentially the same styling and plenty of fun to be had from the venerable M30 3.5 inline-6, the “is” provides a nice middle ground between the normal 535i and the fantastic M5.  535is prices also trend much closer to the 535i than the M5, making it perhaps the best value of the bunch.  Today we have a very clean but high-mileage example off eBay.

With a no-reserve starting price of $3,995, this 245k-mile 535is could be a great starter.  The body is very straight, the interior is mostly great with some medium bits, and the paint and wheels look fantastic.  There are enough little issues (trunk doesn’t stay open, broken cruise control, etc.) in addition to the high mileage to keep the price low, but it’s a lot of car.  The M30 block is widely regarded as one of the more bulletproof engines out there, and this one seems to be running strong and well maintained, so that mileage is much less of an issue than it would be on most other cars (Benz and VW diesels excluded).  If it stays around $5k, this could be a great way to enter the sporty E28 market without breaking the bank.

-NR