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by Jim Clark; BWM/CCA - 98068, SSR - #35
I purchased a 1972, 3.0 Bavaria (an E3) in the spring of 1993. The car was situated on the driveway of a northern New Jersey home with a hand written "For Sale" affixed to it's rear window. The car had just 43,000 miles on it, a four speed manual, and air conditioning. When meeting the owner, he described that the car had been under a tree for a long time and that it had been given to him by the original owner, an uncle who had since passed away. Years of accumulated bird droppings had eaten through the faded Malaga paint. Tree sap and mold also resided on the paint. Needless to say, it was not in pristine condition but he felt that that ol' BMW cache merited a premium price - he wanted $3500 for it.
Undaunted, I got the owner to take the car to my mechanic; John Indorato of Cresskill Mobil. The owner rightfully objected to moving the car, due to a lack of insurance and up-to-date registration. But with the battery charged up, he sheepishly relented and drove it. I dutifully put a couple of dollars of high-test in the tank and together we took the car, with it's brake calipers rusted nearly shut, the short distance to lower Cresskill. When the car reached John's garage, the rear main seal let loose and evacuated the dirtiest motor oil I had ever seen, all over the garage apron. Needless to say, John was not very happy with me as a NJ EPA inspector had just gone to lunch and was due back at any moment.
With the oily mess finally cleared, the car was pushed into one of the work bays. John proceeded to look the car over. While the Bavaria was on the lift, I received from John a few wayward glances; his rolling eyes indicating that he thought I was loony. John had cut his teeth on early 70's BMWs at several local dealerships, yet was not particularly attracted to the prospect of spending, what initially appeared to be, many hours of dirty work just to get this car to drive safely again. John worked on my late model 5 Series, and I was thankful for his honest, though initially negative, opinion of the car. The car was then towed back to it's owner's home where I told him that I would make an offer, once my mechanic shared with me the results of the estimate.
John's estimate came in at $2,200, made up of a variety of parts and labor but he confirmed that the mileage was genuine. The interior was pristine. On the other hand, the paint was admittedly in rough shape but the car was never in an accident. I reasoned that I liked long term projects anyway. So, I re-visited the owner, shared with him and his wife the estimate and offered $2,300 for the car. They hemmed and hawed a little, though they began to appreciate that the car needed a great deal of work. They wanted the car to be taken care of, as they couldn't any more. I now owned the car. It was then moved by flatbed back to John, where he began the effort to more fully survey the tasks ahead. John and I agreed that his work on the car would be done during his down time between regular repairs. At home, with some urging, I got my wife to agree that the car was worth the effort, making the funds available to begin the work. When visited, John once remarked, "too bad it's a Bav and not a coupe". So, remembering an old Roundel article of nearly the same title, I decided to embark on the project.
Initially, the main seal was replaced along with a new clutch and a tune up was done. At that point, John began to look upon the car more fondly. It readily started and revved with a throaty growl, due mainly to holes in the exhaust system. The brakes were a tale of woe; calipers were seized and no amount of brake spray nor hammer blows was going to get them to move freely again. I agreed to a complete new brake system, as there is merit in being able to stop. I purchased the Metric Mechanic sport brake upgrade kit.
Regular parts deliveries began to arrive from a variety of sources. Bilstein shocks and struts, new springs, gas tank, clutch, a new exhaust system and Conti tires on a new set of refinished 20 spoke turbine-style alloys. The car was beginning to take shape and becoming fun to drive. Even my normally dour father was impressed with how well it drove for such an old car. I also found another rotten Bavaria which I bought from a neighbor for $500. I parted it out and it's various components for spares including a 1981 head for eventual transplant. That Bav also came with two Weber carburetors that I rebuilt to replace my original Zenith units. The owner of this '74 Bav had a variety of spares that he threw in with my purchase, and made a gift to me of two Moto-Meters that took the guesswork out of adjusting the Webers. One of the smarter things I did was install the newer style inertia seatbelt system, this greatly improved family safety and convenience, as there were two youngsters in my family who still required baby seats. The car itself was starting to turn heads and I was beginning to drive it as a 'round-town preference over my other Bimmer. By September of that year, my wife and I were feted to take ex-patriate jobs in Hong Kong. It was agreed that we'd sell all the cars except the Bav and exile it to my grandmother's garage in upstate NY whilst abroad. My Dad made a commitment to take it out on his bi-weekly errands, when he visited there.
Eleven months passed and my wife was promoted again, this time to her firm's London head office where I was finally in a position to take delivery of the car. I arranged to have it shipped across the pond. I was almost constantly thinking about the car and my next restorative steps. The only negative incident with moving the car to England was that I had my new Diehard stolen by some miscreant while it waited on the pier in Port Elizabeth, NJ. A Longshoreman apparently substituted a dead battery in it's place. But with the car delivered to London and residing in a warm, dry garage, I joined the BMW Driver's Club and the BMW Car Club of Great Britain with an eye towards resuming my restoration efforts with local expertise.
My first effort with more car upgrades and repairs in the UK was with Jaymic Ltd. of Cromer, Norwich, a friend to the BMW/CCA and a 2002 restoration shop of some repute. Jaymic does many of the country's 2002s and has a huge parts bin and ships parts all over the world. Together with co-owner Keith Morley and shop manager John Kamp, I plotted a course for the next steps; refining mechanicals and an eventual exterior makeover. The folks at Jaymic performed a wide variety of work on the car and also arranged to have the car MoT'd (UK inspection) for me, for eventual UK registration. Always on the lookout for parts to improve handling, appearance or reliability, I had Jaymic install one of their coupe style steering wheels to replace the almost truck-like dimensions of the 17" original equipment. This new leather bound wheel is a fairly good compromise from the otherwise frighteningly expensive CS/CSL originals. Another nice find, from the classifieds in the Club Journal; a genuine CSL air dam! This air dam would later be painted and affixed once the body work got underway.
In Britian, I learned that I could alter the front-end ride height by removing strut spacers that artificially raised the car to US bumper clearances and remove the gasoline smell from the interior. This time, for these efforts, I took the car to Munich Legends (ML) in Wych Cross, East Sussex (the 250 mile drive to Jaymic in Norwich was getting too arduous). Owners Barney and Tony Hulse and Repair Manager Alex Elliot took my car in and took care of all of my requests and offered many of their own recommendations for improvements. Munich Legends has a busy operation with an emphasis on E9 coupes. At ML, the Hulse family also has two showrooms that house a number of ready for sale Bimmers and even have a few racing CSLs that are on the floor for browsers to gawk at. Uniquely, they have even had a number of 3.0Si Estate (E3 station wagon) models for sale over the years that a custom coach builder created for the British landed gentry.
Unfortunately, my family and I had to return to the States in July of '97. We then made our new home in a suburb of Buffalo, NY. Buffalo is an old union town and brainwashed by the Big Three, so as a consequence the incidence of classic "furrin" cars and the people to fix them is not very great. Western NY winters are also very hard on cars and the use of salt, as opposed to real snow removal, is prodigious. So the car sat in it's garage for most of it's time in Buffalo. It seems like most late model cars in Buffalo begin to rust after one season, therefore "winter beaters" are often used by classic and caring car owners. So, I used a '97 Ford Windstar to beat the winter.
During life in Buffalo, I only drove the car a few hundred miles in two years but my eyes were still fixed on more tweeks and upgrades. I continued by installing a Crane HI-6 electronic ignition and PS91 coil from Summit Racing. This resulted in much improved drivability, performance and gas mileage. Moreover, I slowly began to acquire a selection of all new front-end and rear-end componentry. I used Bavarian Autosport and Maximillian Imports for any of the genuine BMW bits. I was also on a steady acquisition of OEM rubber and aftermarket polyurethane bushings, to be installed throughout the car's under-pinnings, as I was determined to get this car to feel like new (with poly, better than new) again. I purchased some of more important polyurethane bits for the control arms and trailing arms from Mesa Performance. These bushings have completely transformed the sloppyness found in the front and rear-end. The last two things I did while living near Buffalo, was to get my spare head rebuilt and acquire a used 3.45 limited slip differential from a former Buffaloan and friend Marty Roach. Marty has access to a great many southern NJ wrecking yards. A Buffalo city/Henman Avenue machine/head shop called Jim's performed a mild, three angle, valve job as well as mated my re-ground 284 degree cam from Web Cam/Ireland Engineering to the head.
Career opportunities knocked again, this time from The Netherlands. My wife decided to accept a position at a major bank here and the car came along again. This time I had the resources to finish the mechanical tasks. Through a friend of the Senior Six Registry, I located a Dutch firm that specializes in older BMW restorations. The firm is called Brove Restauraties and the owner is Henk Speek of Leek in the province of Gronginen. Henk took my car in and had it throughout the winter and early spring of 98/99. Henk evaluated the car and related his findings; my 3.0 litre was clapped out. New pistons would have to installed and he said, if you accept the notion that new pistons are required, then you might as well go for larger displacement. He gave me two options from his parts bin; a Euro 3.3L (with 88.4mm stroke) or a 255hp 3.5litre Alpina from an '81 B10. Needless to say, I did the Alpina!
My Bavaria, now Alpina equipped, and has all the manners of a big middle linebacker on crack! At idle, the 300 degree cam causes the motor to quake and burble. At 2000 rpm and beyond, the motor blips up, smoothes out, and sounds positively angry. When in gear; as the clutch is eased out, the car beginning to pull away but the rear-end kinda does a power squat, then scoots off. Upon my first try, the wheels spun - a little touchy, is a phrase that comes to mind. Going through the new dog-leg, 5-speed gearbox (aaah, the creaking bushing squeek and sciatic nerve leg pain from the old clutch is gone), the MM shifter throw is nice and short, almost click/click. Maybe it's city manners will be OK, then again, maybe not. Who cares? A little touchy - abso-frick'in-lutely!
Whoa! Around town, just slowly cruising at 30-40mph, handling prowess inspires much more confidence. During tight cornering, the car runs as if it's shoulder has dropped and it's gonna punish a slightly built running back. The enlarged sway bars and urethane bushings allow the wheels to quickly turn, dig in, pop up again to look for the next corner. I've got a feeling that tires aren't gonna last very long. The steering is exact - no checks and no play whatsoever - nice, firm and precise. The steering wheel even centers after each maneuver. The car holds curves like a leech and behaves like it's on the balls of it's feet all the time - ready to respond to the next input.
When hitting highly illegal highway speeds, I feel very safe indeed. I've gotten it up to 130mph @ 5000rpm - the footballer on crack part. Big sweepers and banked motorweg turns demand more gas, more gas, more gas! At these high rpms, the engine sounds like a beehive and is intoxicating. Trouser stiffening in fact! Having my license plate radar-photographed at these speeds could get seriously expensive - hopefully, it'll be a blur.
Henk and his crew executed nearly all my preferences. The list was long and costly but the two most satisfying parts installations were the addition of the glorious Alpina motor and new rubber or polyurethane at every possible position throughout the car. In the months to come, I'll turn my attention to painting the car and removing some of the road/engine noise with padding and insulation but I had only imagined that the car would turn out this well. Probably the most instructive assistance I received throughout this project were from my phone calls and email discussions with colleagues of the BMW/CCA and Senior Six Registry, but I'd be remiss if I did not also acknowledge a steady stream of Club friendly parts sources and a bevy of knowledgeable technicians (both in the US and abroad), that have made my car a distinct pleasure to drive once again.
Too bad it's a Bav? Yeah, right. Ready for Part Three?
Jim Clark can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
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