The BMW 635csi.
The old six-cylinder loves to rev.
The dashboard is rather fussy.
Rear seats in a 635csi.

The E24 BMW 6-series, first launched in 1976 and was a regular item on Munich’s menu until 1989, used to be a terrifying car to own as a classic. Parts were notoriously difficult to source and when you do find them, it would cost an eye.

These days, the 6-series is more affordable and is a rather sensible buy for two reasons, which we will get to later.

The 6-series was born with a monumental task hung around its neck, it was to replace the legendary E9 coupe, better known as the Batman.

Batman was a sleek machine that captured the imagination of many enthusiasts and helped to establish BMW’s reputation as builder of drivers’ cars. Apart from the stunning good looks, the E9 also had legs to outrun the competition, well some of them anyway.

The 6-series was given the model code E24 and like many modern coupe, it had roots in the more prosaic four-door sedan of the time. In this case the car was built on the first generation 5-series platform, the E12.

This first model ran until 1982 when it was replaced by a car that was based on the E28 platform.

By now you are probably scratching your head, wondering why BMW bothered to change the platform while keeping the car looking virtually identical.

The fact is, the E28 5-series looked like a heavily revised version of the E12 and this is because it really is. BMW called it all new but underneath was a revised platform that carried a revised tophat and that new model designation marked the change.

The 6-series received the revised platform from the E28 but kept the E24 model designation, this, to me, is the clearest indication that the two different 5-series models were based on the same, but heavily revised platform.

This 1983 model comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, a pretty rare occurrence on our shores and what is even more interesting is that this car used to be a daily driver until it landed in the garage of collector, Major (R) Shaharuddin Abu Bakar.

“This used to be my dream car growing up and at that time a 635CSi would fetch around RM90,000 which made it the most expensive BMW at the time.

“To put it into perspective, a Mercedes-Benz S-Class of the time would only set you back between fifty and sixty thousand,” he said.

The Six was the car that a really successful businessman or heirs of old money would go out and buy to flaunt what they have and it is easy to understand why.

Just looking at the car today and that dramatic profile with the stunning shark’s nose simply grabs us by scruff of our neck and demands that our eyes run over every delicate line.

The 6-series, unlike the SL never really looked muscular car, the lines were more delicate and the detailing looked almost dainty in comparison.

Part of the reason why it looks so different was the fact that the glasshouse was almost as tall as the flank, in fact from some angles it looks as if the glasshouse is actually taller than the metal sides.

This one to one ratio in thickness, the visual balance between the bonnet and the boot and the slim pillars all around gives the impression of an elegant gentleman, possibly smoking a pipe, or at least a slim cigarette rather than an athlete.

In contrast, a contemporary SL had a super long bonnet, short boot and a thick C-pillar to create a more dynamic tension in the stance. The SL also had more prominent wheel arches and side creases which helped to accentuate the already muscular tone of the design.

I for one am glad that BMW went the other way, it gives us a chance to sample two very different looking cars today.

The cabin is pure 1980s BMW with the dashboard sweeping towards the driver with rather fussy detailing that made it look super complicated. The centre console was home to the first trip computers found in cars.

When new, this collection of button on a plastic panel could be tasked to calculate several trip variables from fuel consumption, time of arrival, average speed and such. Most owners treated it as expensive and delicate decoration that is nice to look at but rarely touched.

Above the driver’s right knee is another complicated-looking panel consisting of a series of lights arranged in rows which promised to keep the owner abreast of the car’s many systems and features. If it was lit up like a Christmas tree, then it’s time to give the mechanic a nice present.

We took this 635CSi on a spin and it was a delight to hear the silky but slightly mechanical sound of the M30B34 in-line six-cylinder engine.

The M30 engine replaced the M90 engines which provided power for older beasts. Six series with smaller engines had always run the M30 but the 3.5-litre engines were developed from the E9 motors.

The M30 engines displaced 3428cc rather than 3453cc of the M90 but the slight drop in cubic capacity did not really hurt the car because the new engine featured improved drivability.

The M90 engine was a downrated version of the M88 engine which was in turn developed from the M49 family of competition engines which found home in the E9, 3.0 CSi. Competition engines tend to focus more on bore rather than stroke because they had to climb the rev range really fast to achieve top speed, at the expense of low-end torque.

The M30 engines had longer strokes and smaller bores, making them far more tractable at low speeds and you can pull really long stretches of acceleration from as low as 2,000 rpm, all the way to the redline.

This six cylinder still loves to rev after all these years and the wide-spaced ratio makes this a nicely relaxed car to drive on long journeys. They really are good grand tourers.

Thankfully E24s are relatively sensible to own again. In the late 1990s and early 2000s as many of these cars were being abandoned out of fear of exorbitant repair and maintenance bills, a significant number of them found the scrap heap and were broken down for components.

They were worth more as parts rather than whole cars, so much so that people began buying second bodies to cannibalise.

As a result, parts are now quite readily available if you are willing to scour the internet and thanks to their reduced number, their values are also strengthening.

10 years ago, it would have been difficult to get RM30,000 for this car but now the owner says he has it listed for RM75,000 and elsewhere you can find 635CSi in good running conditions on the market for anything between RM50K and RM75K.

Weak points include the dashboard which tends to crack and warp, especially the top part and there is really no cure for this other than a roof to hide it from the evil sun.

Electrics are also not BMW’s best points in the 1970s and 1980s so best beware. This car, on the other hand is enviable as most of the switches still does as it’s told. Even the sunroof still slides open.

Keen? Drop us a line at ilham.editorial@gmail and we will patch you through to the owner.

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