While two doors sometimes mean limited interior space, this BMW offered seating for four and a 410 dm3 boot that could fit a week’s worth of holiday luggage. Headroom in the back was good, but legroom restricted.
One of the great features of both older BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes was the comfort of the seats. No unnecessary electric motors or massaging systems; just good support, quality leather, generous proportions and lots of adjustment.
Trip computers were a special feature in the early 1980s and the top BMWs were quick to add these and other gadgets to make the cockpit look more like that of an aircraft, right down to the red instrument-cluster backlighting.
Top-quality white-on-black dial lettering has still not been beaten for clarity, while LED strip lighting indicated the need for a service, which was also a novelty feature (except, of course, that you had to get the BMW dealership do the resetting). Later on, clever independent mechanics managed to figure out how to get around this.
BMWs’ engine sizes, even in the 1980s, bore no obvious relation to the nomenclature. The E24 635CSi had a 3,4-litre (3,430cc) straight-six with a single overhead camshaft and delivered 215bhp at 5200rpm.
The 1970s and ‘80s saw a fueldelivery system that abolished the carburettor to lawnmowers and generators only. The company of choice for fuel injection was Bosch. While older models used the mechanical K-Jetronic and electronic L-Jetronic, the 635CSi used the latest Motronic system that did service in many cars well into the 1990s.
In these days of eight-speed autos, it is strange to think that the capable ZF automatic transmission had just three forward ratios. This gave our test team performance figures of 9,0‑seconds to 100‑km/h and a top speed of 211‑km/h. Great for the time, but merely average by today’s standards, of course. At 1‑430‑kg, the CSi was relatively light, especially when you consider that a recently tested 2016 BMW 730d G11 tipped out scales at 1,890kg.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
When searching for a 635CSi E24, try to find one from an inland town, as it would have been less prone to rust than a coastal one. Engine parts are available, but becoming increasingly scarce.
Look out for cracked facia plastics, rust around windscreens and door sills, as well as non-working electrics on mirrors and windows. Steering was also by ZF using ball and nut, while the suspension was independent all-round with dual-jointed half axles from the diff to the driven wheels.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICES
Very few were sold due to the high price after import duty was added. In fact, from 1983 to ‘84 the price rose from R65‑000 to R82‑000. Thereafter, prices were not even quoted. Why? Well, the rand went from R1,20 to the dollar in 1984 to R2,80 in 1985 after PW Botha’s infamous Rubicon speech in August of that year. You had to ask a dealer for the latest price shock.
As an aside, a 1984-vintage 745i’s price tag of R73 500 was not far below that of the 635 CSi. Today, a well-maintained 745i fetches around R50‑000.
Generally, 635 CSi’s are well maintained and few scrapped, so there should be one or two available at any time. Expect to pay a similar price to the original one for a great example.
Clockwise from below the sporty BMW cockpit was arguably the best in the business; straight-six engine remains a beloved feature, even in modern BMWs; clean lines accented with a small plastic spoiler; the 6 Series struck a great balance between comfort and control.
Manufacturing of the 6 Series bodywork started at the Karmann factory, but was subsequently moved fully inhouse to Munich.
In 1983, the BMW M635CSi E24 was introduced to Europe. This used a modified E26 M1 engine (M88/1) to push the power output to 213 kW. This engine could also be found under the bonnet of the flagship 7 Series, the 745i. These powerful saloons were sold in South Africa between 1984 and 1987. About 250 were retailed, in case you’re looking for an engine to rebuild.
Thanks to a trip computer and other gadgets, the cockpit looks like that of an aircraft.
CAR ROAD TEST
Model BMW 635CSi E24
Issue September 1983
Fuel index 12,6 L/100 km
0-100 km/h 9,0 sec
Top speed 211 km/h
Price SA R65 000
SPOTTED ON GUMTREE SA / BMW 635CSi AT, 1981, white, R95 000, Johannesburg / BMW 635CSi AT, 1979, red, Lexus engine, offers
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