The next project has arrived! 1990 535i automatic.

Today’s fun was running down south to pick up a pretty decent 1990 535i. This particular model is an E34 chassis, outfitted with the 3.5 liter M30 motor and a 4-speed automatic. Paint is the common “Bronzit beige metallic”, paired with “Natur” leather upholstery. The build sheet also turned up a few very nice options. The limited-slip differential was a pricey option, fairly rare on the automatics. Heated comfort seats were also installed, but are unlikely to be working. Unusually, the seatbacks are not twisted (it’s an all-too-common problem with these seats).

The previous owner had been very good to the car, upgrading the suspension with Bilstein B8 Sport shocks and Eibach lowering springs. It also came with an excellent assortment of spare parts, including a genuine set of forged Style 37 “M-Parallel” wheels. These were fitted to many later BMWs, including the E38 7-series and the E39 5-series.

The car is in excellent mechanical shape, especially considering its age. There isn’t much in the way of rust. The car runs, and even left the seller’s driveway under its own power. I’m told the r134 conversion still works. HVAC system appeared functional. No missing pixels! The hood is a newer replacement, but it’s a pretty decent job and appears to be the only new panel on the car. The paint is still in decent overall shape too. There are a few cosmetic issues inside: the door panels are complete, but all de-laminating, roof liner has fallen off, sunroof inner panel was removed, minor cracking in the front seat leather finish, etc..

It has a long list of problems, but we’ll be working through them as time permits. The biggest problem is the water pump bolts. They’ve all practically welded themselves into the block. It stumped the previous owner, I’ll see what can be done. If I had a welder, I’d tack a 10mm bolt onto what’s left of each pump bolt and spin them out.

Battery wasn’t a pretty picture, very close to totally dead. I measured 1.6VDC. My little jump pack still managed to start it several times (briefly, of course). That came in tremendously handy for loading it onto the flatbed. When I pulled the terminals off I noted some significant corrosion on the positive cable stud. Lots of metal had been eaten away, appears to have been a slow acid leak. That’ll need replaced!

The car is running quite roughly, I suspect that primarily due to it sitting idle for two years. I’ll clean off the crank sensor too, those always get gunked up.

The driver’s rear door doesn’t open. Seems to me that the lock actuator is jammed shut, permanently locking the door.

Something is very loose in the front end, I’ll lift that up and take a look eventually.

April 6, 2021: I’ve been steadily working on the car. Lots of little problems have turned up, but only two big problems remain. The water pump bolts fought the good fight, but they’ve been drilled out. I’ll reassemble the water pump once the replacement radiator gets here. Why replace the radiator? Well, the transmission cooler failed, flooding the unfortunate ZF with a bit of coolant. I’m unsure if it can be saved. I’ll dump some cheap ATF into it and see what it does. The old 4HP22 wasn’t a bad gearbox, it might last a little while longer. I was planning on a manual swap eventually, so this just bumped up the clock on finding those parts.

I even completed the tool kit – all it needed a pair of slip-joint pliers and the towing eye!