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.