FLO, A small world

A short tale about how small the world is. 

FLO 7 bridge .jpg

Without doubt these cars do something to people in a way that modern cars simply don't do. People get attached to them, worry about them and seek out appropriate custodians when they realise they are no longer capable/able to give these cars what they need. Many find other enthusiasts and form networks with other like minded folk. Its only once you do this, you begin to realise how small the world really is. 

I got a phone call from a youngish guy interested to buy the first car we'd built with the intention to turn a profit. Unfortunately for him we had already sold it but I mentioned we had another two cars in the pipe line. He was enthused and asked me for details and to let him know when they were ready. Several months later I dutifully did so but it transpired he'd already found a car, never mind I thought. 

A few weeks later I got an email from this guy again. It turned out that after he'd bought his 520i auto the gearbox had failed and he suspected the head gasket was also on its way. The email contained a brief overview of him and some friends deciding the best course of action was to pull the original M20b20 engine and automatic gearbox and replace it with a M30b35. It quickly transpired he was out of his depth and decided to ship the car down to his local classic car specialist. What happened next is a fairly familiar tail.

The project was started Gun-ho and the rear axle was also stripped off. The reason for this was to fit an M30 rear axle complete with limited slip differential to deal with the extra power the M30b35 would produce. Whilst it was out it was deemed sensible to tackle some areas of the inner sills and axle mounts which had seen better days so some nice welding was performed to tidy up these areas, result ££££ spent! Next an engine, gearbox, prop shaft, wiring loom, ECU's, rear axle and limited slip differential where found and shipped down from Scotland to Surry, result ££££ spent! Once the welding had been completed the new rear axle was installed and the engine and gearbox where fitted in situ but sadly thats about as far as the story goes. The mounting bills for parts and labour had crippled the poor guy and all told he had way more in the car than it would ever be worth and it was still far from running. I doubt it helped that he'd bought an M30b35 engine for the conversion as it would have made the project much harder than fitting the M30b34 which 535's where fitted with from factory (The b35 was fitted to E34's and E32's as well as Highline spec E24's and has different coolant plumbing) 

The email ended with him wondering if I'd be interested in doing a part exchange for his unfinished project on one of our completed cars. He'd spent a fortune on his but as he was starting a new business he just needed one that could be driven as his mum was fed up of him borrowing her car. The call was made, a deal was done and I set off to Surry with my girlfriends 525e which she'd decided to part with and we had reached a viable part exchange deal on. Clearly a smart guy he released he would never get back the full amount he ploughed into the car or even anywhere near it. At the time it may have made £800 or so on eBay but knowing the source of both the engine, gearbox and rear end to be reputable I gave him £1500 against my girlfriends 525e. 

I arrived at a certain well known purveyor of to die for classic cars in Surry and was led to their grave yard of unfinished projects where FLO was sitting with her own internals strewn throughout the interior and boot. 

Here are some picture from the day of collection. 

So, home FLO came and I'm sad to say that for the first 6 months to a year she didn't get much attention from us either. During this time we acquired some new premisses for storage so FLO did get moved inside pretty quickly but their she laid and collected a lot of dust. 

Some time during October 2016 a guy I know locally told me of a car down in Southampton which was for sale and might be a good source of parts. Its engine had been removed years earlier and it had sat in barn for some time before being liberated by its new owner who wanted to restore it. On closer inspection the new owner had got cold feet and decided it was to bigger project. It sounded pretty bad on the phone and unfortunately some cars really are just to far gone for them to be viable restorations and therefore serve as donors to keep others on the road. It is not often we dismantle cars at Classic Bahnstormers but when we do, we try and save and recycle literally everything. 

This particular car had been deposited in a front garden straight off the back of a lorry with a hydraulic bed. The first pictures shows it exactly as I found it behind a huge mound of soil with flat tyres. As the owner and I pulled the car from its resting place we got to talking. He pointed across the road at a driveway and said, "For years there was an old chap over there with an E28, a 520 under a tarp, Just sitting there. He'd start it up every now and then but it never left the drive. Eventually I persuaded him to sell it to me and I got it back on the road". AT this point his girlfriend emerged and said "are you talking about FLO, I loved that car". By this point FLO had been sitting in my barn since March. I produced a photo and said, "its not this car is it" low and behold it was! It turned out they'd pulled FLO off the old mans drive and got it going again for him. They'd enjoyed cruising around in it and I guess it gave them a nice feeling to have returned it to the road but as he said they already had an old BMW each so they decided to move FLO on. They actually sold the car to a specialist in Wales, whom the chap I bought FLO from had acquired it. It's a small world we laughed. 

Finally in March 2017, a year after first acquiring FLO we decided (after some stick from one of our customers) that we really ought to get on with the project. FLO is an excellent shell, good sills, rear sub frame mounts, inner wings, floors and screen apertures. We had acquired the original rear end, trailing arms, axle carrier and diff when we first collected FLO and we decided to reinstate these along with some new bushes. We don't tend to deal in modified cars at Classic Bahnstormers. We have nothing against them and have done lots of engine conversions and modifications for our customers but these cars are still most desirable in terms of resale, when they are stock so that is what we decided to do with FLO, put her back to her original 2,0 litre automatic format. To get the M30 engine and transmission in, the previous guys had removed the radiator support panel as the M30 radiator uses different mounting points. As you can see above, once we'd removed the M30 engine we had to weld a support panel back in which we cut from another car (seen in red above). 

In the summer of 2016 I acquired another 520i auto which I had originally intended to restore. It came from a really lovely chap who had sadly miscalculated one day and front ended it. He was so embarrassed he'd gone out and bought an exact replica of his own car. He told me with a smile on his face it took weeks for any of his work colleagues (who had ripped him for driving an old banger) to notice the registration of his car had suddenly changed. His original car was tucked up in an old pig shed and forgotten about for 8 years. In this time he collected many of the pieces which where needed to put the car back on the road but unfortunately, by the time we got to it, years of living in a damp and humid tin shed had taken its toll, the chassis was soft and the rot had taken hold around the front windscreen. After resisting the suggestion we could use this as a donor for FLO for nearly a year I eventually caved and it was decided that the low milage (107k) engine and transmission would be used to breath life back into FLO. 

At this point its worth noting that FLO will probably always have a place in the heart of our newest team member pictured above. It represents his first engine removal and reinstallation and a whole host of other firsts under a watchful eye. 

Once the engine was in the project began to gather speed. The donor engine ran surprisingly well considering it had sat unused for so long. We went over it and fitted lots of new parts including, a timing belt and tensioner, thermostat, water pump, sparks plugs, oil pressure sensor, distributor cap and roar arm and a whole host of other odds and sods. The previous owner of the donor car had loads of history and a wod of receipts for the car so it was clear he'd looked after it well. Once the engine and gear box was refitted along with the propshaft from the donor we set to work on reinstalling all the trim and interior which had been removed whilst the engine conversion had been carried out. The original front seats had been switched out for Black leather ones from an E34 (next generation 5 series) but we managed to track down some original seats with matching blue velour fabric to complete the interior. We also replaced a smashed back light, renewed all the fuses and repaired the drivers door lock so it would fire the central locking properly. 

BMW E28 restoration for sale

Outside under its own steam for the first time since 2015 FLO had temperarily lost her 15 inch alloys whilst they went off to be shoed with 4 matching continental tyres. We'd also been through the brakes completely renewing all the fluid and connecting up all the new flexible hoses and brass lines that had been added. The callipers striped and cleaned to make best use of the new discs and pads. 

Unfortunately the test run didn't go so well. A hideous noise could be herd from the drive train on deceleration. I have to take responsibility for this one as it turned out the differential had been drained of oil before we acquired the car and we had not checked it before our maiden test run. The differential from the donor car was quickly installed and FLO hit the road for the second time and wafted effortlessly along in style once again. I was struck by how well the car drove and how tight it all felt. Nice responsive steering and brakes, by no means is the 2,0 litre a fast car but it's smooth and plenty responsive enough. FlO is a wonderful stylish cruiser and a very pleasant place to be. 

The twist is, that the gentleman who sold me the car which became the engine donor, did say at the time that if we restored the car he would be very keen to buy it back. I felt guilty for consigning his car to our parts store so I felt I should let him know what we'd done and give him first refusal on FLO as most of the drive train was now made up of his old car. He took the news pretty well, as I am writing this article I am waiting to here whether or not he does indeed decide to have FLO in place of his old car. 

BMW E28 Royal blue for sale

Sadly for the gent who owned the donor car, it turns out he's not in a position to purchase FLO at present so this means we will shortly be offering the car for sale. 

Find the advert here 

FLO

 

 

E28 M535i resurrection part III Dignity

Part III Dignity 

One cold January day the time had finally arrived to give E800ACD back its dignity. Having finally collected the car from paint, and after completing a small amount of additional welding which we had found in the driver's footwell, I literally couldn't stop myself from refitting a few bits and pieces which had been left in the boot. Reinstalling the iconic shark nose, headlights, grille and nostrils transformed the now pretty but bare shell into a car. Suddenly it was a car and no longer a shell and after not having been illuminated since 2012, all four lights front and rear worked first time when we switched them on. 

 

On the 9th of January 2017, I made my way excitedly to the paint shop to collect the now fully resprayed shell. The respray had been badly delayed by weeks because midway through priming the shell for paint, it suddenly conked out and then refused to start. This necessitated us having to fault find the no start issue at the body shop. The car was refusing to turn over which led to an initial diagnosis of a failed starter motor. 

The starter motor was replaced but this failed to cure the fault. After 3 days of fault finding and trying 3 different starter motors we eventually replaced the engine to inner chassis rail earth strap (We had already checked this for continuity several times) and this solved the issue. Unfortunately by this point we had missed our window with the paint shop and their commitments meant we would have to wait several weeks before they could put their focus back onto the M535i. Eventually all the stops were pulled out and the paint was completed during the Christmas break, due to the deadline for completion that we had set ourselves of the end of February. 

Refitting the car was a hugely exciting and fulfilling process. Refitting each extra piece gave the car more and more presence. Initially it seemed a daunting task as the car came to us completely disassembled and although other than the carpet, door cards and screens which we knew were missing, it was only as we started to put it back together that we really realised what we did and did not have. What we had was a huge pile of screws, nuts and bolts and very little indication of which ones went where. Sadly I have to admit that this exercise really highlighted our sheer level of nerdiness! It turns out we really can recognise the bumper support bracket self tapping bolts in a bucket of fixings. 

We had managed to source most of what we knew was missing in advance but a few things had escaped our attention. We are lucky that we have several donor vehicles on site so we were able to pillage those for things such as sound proofing, which had all been removed and lost long ago. We had several rear screens in stock and were lucky to find that we had matching green tint front and rear screen which we had fitted with new seals by our local mobile windscreen fitter. A lot of the original shadow line trim and finishings had been lost or damaged. Luckily our windscreen fitter was able to help us refinish some normal trim to shadow line spec. 

One of the things the car did not come with (oddly) was number plates. For the first time we have chosen to add a little branding to one of our cars and had some Classic Bahnstormer number plates made up, it was quite momentous for us when they arrived in the post, yes it's the little things that make us happy. We have since been asked for them by customers and have fitted a few sets now, so in order to roll with the cool kids you'll be needing a set for your Bahnstormer!

One major issue with the refit was sourcing door cards. As leather interiors for E28's now change hands for a premium it seemed unlikely that we would find just a set of leather door cards for sale, as nobody would have been likely to want to separate door cards from an interior. So when this set of cloth two piece door cards came up for grabs, we pounced on them. 

The board backing for the fabric was in good shape which was our main concern. The two piece cards are what the M535i originally came with and if it had been specced with black cloth then picture one above would have been a good representation of what they'd have looked like. The cloth was carefully removed and the door cards disassembled. The new black leather we had sourced was not the same perforated pattern as the original E28 leather door cards. We had opted for a smooth finish leather which matched the seats. The leather was cut to shape and then adhered with contact adhesive. The door cards where then reassembled and we were able to fit them to the car. 

BMW E28 M535i restoration

As I have said in a previous section of this blog, unusually everything on this car has gone fairly well to plan, in terms of that job should take this amount of time. My girlfriend and any other honest mechanic will tell you that is seldom the case. This car really wants to live! It has  been a pleasure to put it back together, and it has gone back together so well. After sitting for such a long time exposed to the elements, the only electrical item that did not work first time on the car was the central locking. This necessitated us replacing the control module which is becoming a fairly common culprit on E28's. What was unusual is that all of the actuators then worked wonderfully rather than them being seized. 

Above is the most recent photograph I have of the car, although by now it has had its wing mirrors and rear spoiler fitted. It now sits on a set of 15 inch BBS alloy wheels and a good set of tyres on which it will soon re enter the world. The car has run pretty badly for the entire time we have had it. Recently we have spent a lot of time trying to diagnose the bad running. We have now replaced the fuel pump which died rather unceremoniously one day causing me to rope the windscreen fitter into pushing it back into the workshop. The car has had all the things you might expect: distributor cap, rotor arm, new induction boots, vacuum hoses, spark plugs, HT leads. We have since moved onto less consumable items such as Air Flow Meters and ECU's, but nothing has made much of a difference. We have finally pinned it on the fuel injectors and believe that one or more is bad. Further to this unfortunate development, during what we hoped would be a clearing run, the gearbox decided it had had enough and refused to change out of first gear. 

After its initial flurry of dignity, the car limped back to the workshop where the gearbox has now been removed and another fitted ready for a new set of fuel injectors to be fitted and then hopefully, finally we should be able to obtain an MOT, and this car which we are now a bit attached to, will finally be ready to Bahnstorm again! 

 

 

E28 M535i resurrection part II From one barn to another

From one barn to another!

On the 2nd of June 2016, 3 days before my holiday, I set off for Dauntsey Wiltshire to collect this once great M535i, I was full of excitement about the project and despite the off-putting photos, the pure enthusiasm of the previous owner had raised my hopes that we would be able to resurrect the car. The picture above shows it exactly as it was when I arrived, bathed in summer sun for the first time in years. I was met by the understandably jaded bodyshop owner who was clearly overjoyed to be seeing the back of it (he had texted me three times that day to make sure I was still coming). After a frosty start, he transpired to be quite amiable and as he started to explain what had been done and what needed doing, he even became quite nostalgic about it. It would later turn out that the work he'd already done was superb, with seamless spot welds and a perfect reproduction of the factory construction. He told me that the car had arrived some years ago needing nothing but a little TLC. The owner would constantly change his mind about what he wanted done and it turned out it was indecision that eventually caused it to get into such a mess. The bodyshop abandoned the project and it had sat in a farm building ever since. 

 

Click on the gallery bellow to see more images 

Once I had taken the car back to the yard and put some air in the tyres, I fitted a fresh battery and, believe it or not, I drove it into our storage unit. The front brakes were jammed on and it ran impossibly badly but it drove the 100 yards or so under its own steam and I instantly got all excited and committed to its restoration. The previous bodyshop had completed about 75% of the welding that was required, and to a very high standard but they had not touched the rear panel and it was pretty unpleasant. If you scroll through the pictures above by clicking on them, you will see the state of the back panel and the rear screen. Whether or not it would be restored, would come down to Rob's opinion of exactly how bad and how much work it really needed. The door of the storage unit swung closed and the M535's brief exposure to daylight was over. 

 

Enter a man with an angle grinder and a need for wire speed. 

Thankfully Rob also saw the potential in this M535i and after a bit of a delay we actually began work on the car in earnest on the 3rd of September. Most of the rot in the rear panel turned out to be reparable by shaping and welding in small patches of new metal. One large section had to be cut from a donor vehicle to make up the guttering of the passenger side of the boot. 

After cutting back most of the bodywork and finding it really did need a complete respray, we arranged with our fabulous body shop to have the car painted. Unfortunately for a job of this size they needed an entire week free and the earliest slot they could offer us was mid November. We decided that this would have to be the date whereby everything else was completed, so the car could be collected from paint, reassembled and taken for an MOT. As you can see from the gallery above we decided to change out the tired rear suspension which had been adorned with cheap lowering springs for standard ride height M535i suspension, we replaced each corner, as well as exhaust hangers, drop links, dog bone bushes. We also worked our way through the brakes, removing, cleaning and servicing the callipers and renewing the brake fluid. We went right through the engine with new viscous coupling and replaced perished induction boots, vacuum lines, distributor cap, rotor arm, spark plugs, leads and so on. 

I have to say, I was concerned about how easy it would be to work on this car, seeing as it has covered 225000 miles. Unusually for car jobs, everything on this has gone according to plan so far. Each job has been pleasant and added to both Rob's and my enthusiasm for the car. There is an extensive history with the car and it is clear that it has been well cared for in the past. Narrowly avoiding the clutches of breakers, it has been a testimony to the efforts of its previous owner's diligent maintenance. 

Finally, the shot below shows the car stripped down slightly further, although with wings now and with the paint shop ready to receive its transformation. 

 

E28 M535i resurrection

Click on the picture to see more.

When is a restoration no longer viable? A great many people embark on restorations of classic cars and for one reason or other and often these reasons are beyond our control, we are sadly unable to finish what we have started. At Classic Bahnstormers we can be quoted as saying we never put good Bahnstormer down, where possible we always strive to resurrect these cars. This E28 M535i began its restoration several years ago but sadly the owners health has deteriorated and is no longer able to finish the restoration. We will be taking delivery of this car on June the 2nd 2016 and running a feature on its restoration. 

The car is a genuine m535i with an interesting spec which includes desirable black sports leather and the much coveted glass (moon) roof. Despite not having been started in some years, fresh petrol and a good battery where applied and after some re-lubrication of the head had taken place the car fired into life and actually ran pretty well. 

This is going to be an exciting project that will hopefully illustrate our dedication to saving these marvellous examples of excellent engineering and returning them to the road where they belong.