Another E24 (or two) join the fleet

An American meets a European. They’re quite the couple, eminently suitable. After a prolonged courtship, two become one. A magical synthesis? The best of two worlds, truly a marriage of convenience.

In our case, the two victims are a very nice ’86 Zinnberrot E24 “shell,” and a trashed ’83 European spec Polaris 635CSi. A ‘shell’ is slang for a car without a powertrain, also known as a “roller.” The zinno is a normal US model, with the big bumpers. Originally it would hae carried an emasculated 3.4 L motor. The Euro has a more powerful 3.4 L engine, but it had clearly been subjected to many indignities and other unfortunate occurrences.

Chronologically, these two BMWs should be projects eight and nine, but I’m lumping them together and calling them project ten instead (Project X?). No real reason. It’s highly likely that more unfortunates will participate in this project than just these two.

The red ’86 came my way first. The owner called me in response to a Craigslist ad, asking if I’d be interested in an old E24 without an installed motor. I wasn’t terrifically interested at first, but I was impressed after I took a look at the car. The E24 is a lot of fun, but they have several notable defects. Performance is tepid, many parts are rare and relatively expensive, and they’re not what I’d call a tremendously practical car. Worst of all? They’re VERY susceptible to rust. However, this particular car had a lot of very desirable attributes:

  • Zinnoberrot is such a pretty color, isn’t it?
  • Tan leather interior. BMW calls it ‘Lama’, we call it ‘peanut butter’. These are the very comfy “Sport” seats, equipped with power and three memory settings. Driver’s side has a replacement panel and other minor noticeable wear, but it’s been well taken care of. Far better than most old BMWs I’ve seen.
  • “BMW Premium Sound System”: Not the best sound ever, but I’m keeping it original wherever possible.
  • Manual transmission
  • Rear spoiler by Zender
  • On-Board Computer
  • Rear sunshade

I suspect it was optioned out by someone looking for performance. None of the heavier options like an automatic transmission, rear A/C console or self-leveling suspension had been installed. As a bonus, it also came with an aftermarket leather/alcantara-wrapped Momo steering wheel (Team?) and a full R134a A/C conversion already completed. The original head unit had been replaced with a Sony CD unit. I have mixed feelings about non-OEM electronics, but at least it was a decent-quality unit installed without collateral damage. The paint had seen better days, but the kicker was the near-total absence of rust. I knew no E24 is clear of rust, but the chassis was surprisingly clean. Rust has killed more E24s than any other defect.

The old gal has some history too. Her original powertrain had been replaced with an ’85 S38B35 from an M5 sedan. The original Getrag 280 and large case 3.91 LSD were still in the car when it was delivered. I cut a deal with the seller. I’d buy the chassis with his powertrain, but those parts would remain his. I’d then remove & sell those parts, and keep a commission for my trouble. It worked out well for both of us.

I’ve been moving relatively slowly on this project; but you can find a page dedicated to that process here. Major milestones include getting it transported to Iconic BMW HQ, clearing enough space in the garage, pulling & selling old parts, sourcing a new motor & transmission, finding a new differential, finding a used OEM exhaust (thanks Dan!), and upgrading the motor electronics. With a bit of luck, it’ll be on the road in a month or two…

Time for an update! As it turns out, I got the car back on the road in May 2017, about a year after I wrote the article above. I’ve made considerable progress. While the car is in decent running shape, I’ve found a few little problems to resolve before I start the process of fully “trusting” this car. I don’t really mind the occasional bout of unpredictability, but enough trust to contemplate long-distance drives must be earned!


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