Chris Graham meets BMW enthusiast, Kos Loizou, and his E24 635CSi; a car that has been in the family for over 30 years.
ME AND MY CAR Keeping it in the family!
While it’s quite usual for parents to influence their children’s’ motoring tastes by the sorts of cars they buy and run, it’s less common for a cherished car to remain in one family long enough for it to transfer from father to son. But that’s exactly what’s happened in the case of Kos Loizou.
For as long as he can remember, he’s had a thing about BMWs, and that’s primarily due to his parents’ choice of car. “My passion for BMWs extends right back to 1987, when I was seven years old and my dad bought his first E30 3 Series,” he told me. “Although it was just a 318i model, it was finished in Zinnobar red, with bottletop alloys and shiny chrome bumpers; it really made an impression on me.
Kos Loizou is determined to both conserve and enjoy this 635CSi for many years to come.
Kos likes to change his cars quite frequently, with most lasting no more than 18 months
“Unfortunately, that car got written-off while we were away on holiday, but was replaced by another, which was a face-lifted version. But the car that really grabbed my attention was the one Dad bought next – a 1986 E24 635CSi. I was nine years old when that car arrived, and I went with him to the dealer’s on the day he collected it; it was three years old and had 35,000 on the clock. It’s been in the family ever since and, as you can see, is still going strong today.”
CUTTING HIS TEETH
Kos was evidently hooked on cars from an early age, and became an enthusiastic driver from the moment he passed his test. Insurance wouldn’t allow a BMW to begin with, so he cut his teeth on a variety of teenage ‘starter models’, followed by some hot hatchbacks. “Once I’d passed my test at 17, I went through a number of different cars, including a Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 and a Renault 5GT Turbo. It was while the Renault was having one of its many mechanical issues sorted out, that I got the chance to drive my mother’s E30. I was immediately struck by how well it drove compared to what I’d been used to; not as fast, of course – it was only a 316i LUX – but it had something about it and I really liked the way it went.
This particular car was found to be in great structural condition, which surprised everyone
“That E30 obviously made a big impression because I went out and bought my first BMW about six weeks later; it was a dolphin grey E30 325i Sport M-Tech 1. That was a great car, and I’ve owned many E30s since then, as well as other models. These have included several E30 325i sport models, M3s, convertibles, Tourings and an Alpina C2 2.7 convertible.”
Having been resprayed about 10 years ago, a few rust spots are just starting to show now. Kos is planning for a bare-metal respray.
Evidently, Kos likes to change his cars quite frequently, with most lasting no more than 18 months or so before he’s itching for something different. However, this isn’t always the case, as he went on to explain. “A few have been more long-term projects, such as the E30 M3 which I stripped down to restore the bodyshell.”
But, as the years passed, Kos’ interests broadened, and he decided to branch out from the E30. “In 2005, I started hankering for something that was a bit newer to run as an everyday car, so worked my way through a few more cars in relatively quick succession. Among these were an E36 Touring, an E46 Touring, an E39 530i Sport saloon and then another E46; this time a 3.0-litre Sport Touring. That car was quite a stunner, being finished in Techno Violet metallic and with a rare, Lemon-coloured extended leather interior – a great combination and it was a proper driver’s car due to the manual gear box and Quaife LSD I had fitted.”
“Then I moved on to an E91 320d Touring, that was powered by the much-maligned and often dreaded N47 four-cylinder engine. However, I have to say that this motor was as good as gold for me, although part of that might have been thanks to the car’s previous owner. She’d looked after it very well from new, changing the engine oil every 6,000 miles, and deactivating the stop-start function. Perhaps as a result, the car never gave me any problems, and it’s now out in Western Australia with over 160,000 miles on the clock. I’m in touch with the current owner, and it’s still running its original timing chain!”
Slightly lowered suspension and larger wheels give this 635CSi some serious attitude.
After Kos had sold the trusty 320d, he changed tack again, and bought himself a 2010 LCI E91 335i, with manual transmission. “I went to town with that car, sending it to tuning specialists, Birds, in Iver (birdsauto.com), to be fitted with a Quaife limited-slip differential, uprated suspension and a new ECU. That work transformed it into a brilliant and extremely capable car – it was an absolute weapon!”
That brings us almost up to date with Kos’ motoring background, as he sold the 335i at the beginning of 2018, and it’s now with its new and very happy owner near Edinburgh. But, of course, throughout all this, the Zinnobar red E24 had remained in the background, being used regularly by his father up until 18 years ago. Then it was relegated to occasional use by them both until, in 2007, Kos suggested that he take on the car as a project.
“The car had been spending more and more time sitting in the garage, and had actually been untaxed for a six-year stretch. Dad agreed that I should start sorting it out, as we both knew that the lack of use was starting to take its toll. So I took on the responsibility for bringing it back to life, and managing what needed to be done to ensure its ongoing survival.
“For a good few years the extent of the E24’s activity had been to have its engine started every now and then, so my first move was to get it booked in for a thorough assessment by an independent specialist we knew, and who had worked on many of my previous BMWs. I asked him to go through the whole vehicle, checking the engine, brakes, suspension and electrics. The same guy has worked and maintained the car since about 1995.
The engine remains in standard trim, but has had a head skim due to slight corrosion discovered on the face.
“Encouragingly, though, and despite the 107,000 miles showing on the clock, the car actually needed remarkably little work. A few rubber bushes were replaced in the suspension, new brake discs and pads were fitted plus a new radiator (as a preventative measure). But I’d also discovered a few spots of rust on one of the front wings so, once the mechanical work was finished, it was moved to a bodyshop for further investigation. As it turned out, the only issue found was with the front nearside wing, and some scabbing on the nearside rear quarter. The wing was replaced, and I took that opportunity to get the whole body resprayed as well. At the same time, the original metric wheels and tyres were replaced by 16in Alpinas. Those metrics are very expensive, noisy and scary in the rain,” added Kos, “and if there’s one thing that’s a must on any E24, it’s to switch to imperial wheels with modern tyres.”
VERY LITTLE RUST!
Despite the E24’s formidable reputation for serious body corrosion, this particular car was found to be in great structural condition, which surprised everyone. Kos puts it down to the fact that the car has been so well garaged for much of its life, as there’s no other obvious reason for such a lack of rust.
“Lots of people who see the car now can’t believe that it’s not had a major bodywork restoration, and are amazed when I tell them that all that’s been done is a full respray about 10 years ago. However, I’m just starting to see the odd spot of surface rust appearing here and there, in particular on the rear nearside quarterpanel.
This 635CSi has required a couple of exhaust back boxes, an airflow meter, a replacement control board for the service indicator system, a DME relay for the fuel system, a new radiator and heater valve, a new front wing and bottom-end shell bearings. Not bad for 107,000 miles over 30 years!
I think the car probably had some repair work done there in the past and, short of replacing that whole panel, it’s just something that I’ll have to manage and live with, until a localised repair is done.
“In 2011, the car was taken off the road for about a year, during which time the front brake calipers were rebuilt, and the shock absorbers were replaced with OEM-spec Sahcs units and a set of H&R springs, which lowered the ride height by about 25mm. The exhaust back box was replaced as well, and I also switched from 16in Alpina alloys to 17in. Incidentally, since then, I’ve changed the wheels again, to the polished, 17in forged ACT 3pc wheels fitted with now, just to make the car look a touch more aggressive.”
It was then run for another couple of years until, in 2014, it came off the road again for some preventative maintenance work. “The oil pressure light had been flickering on and off, so I thought it best to get that investigated. The sump was removed so that the bottom-end shell bearings could be changed, and a new oil pump was fitted to replace the tired original. At the same time, the cylinder head was removed and some minor corrosion was discovered on the face, so that was skimmed, rebuilt and re-fitted.” At the same time, everything in the engine bay was restored back to its original finish.
The 635CSi has Kos’ complete attention these days, and he’s sold his two other BMWs to concentrate on the E24. “It was a hard decision to part with my E30 M3 project car, as well as my E36 Compact track car, but both were lumps of money and, in all honesty, I wanted to focus on the E24 now and decided to invest money into it. “I had the interior re-trimmed by B Trim, Enfield (btrim.co.uk) about 20 months ago, and a pair of Recaro seats fitted simply because I like the extra sportiness and support they bring. It’s a period seat and quite often a talking point at shows. The audio has been upgraded, too, but tastefully to keep things looking as original as possible – I’ve fitted an Audison Sound processor unit and had some bespoke speaker builds in the front doors, which transformed the sound. This was carried out by Studio Incar, Southampton (studioincar.com). This company specialises in higher-end audio installations and the brief was to look OEM, and sound quality, which they executed perfectly.
There’s something about the Zinnobar red/chrome combination that just works so well!
“Some cosmetic work was carried out early last year to rectify some stone chips and the front spoiler changed to the deeper more aggressive M technic version. “My plans for the future are more of the same, really. The car will certainly be kept in the family, and I’ll be using it at weekends and for attending shows and BMW Car Club events. I don’t believe in keeping cars wrapped in cotton wool. So, taking it out in the rain doesn’t bother me – I drove to the recent BMW Car Club National Festival at Gaydon, which was very wet! – but my concern is the increased risk of damage caused by other drivers, due to the road conditions, not the rain. It’s a shame to keep cars locked away.
“I’m thinking that the bodywork will require more attention in due course and, when the time comes, I plan to opt for a total strip-down and bare-metal respray and restoration. Although this will cost a lot of money, I think it’s something that’ll need to be done to ensure the car’s long-term survival if I’m going to continue to use it. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon and, in the meantime, the overall condition remains great, so there’s no rush.”
The E24 presents an unmistakable and timeless profile. It’s a very pretty car.
It’s clear that Kos still gets immense pleasure from spending time in and around the E24, and that it’s a car that remains important to the whole family. I don’t imagine that they’ll ever part with it and, for that reason, feel sure that it’s a car that can look forward to a long, secure and rust-free future.
“I still get just as much pleasure and satisfaction from driving the E24 as I did all those years ago,” Kos told me as we returned from the photo session in West London. “I just wish the roads around here had fewer speed bumps and less traffic! Despite the local limitations, though, I still enjoy driving it, and take it out just for the sake of it whenever I have an hour to spare. “Obviously, it feels dated compared to the 3 Series I currently run as my daily driver, but it remains perfectly drivable despite that. It has all the creature comforts you really need – air con, electric windows, power steering, automatic transmission, etc – which means it’s very usable and happy in modern-day traffic conditions.
Kos opted to fit a pair of Recaro seats, to enhance the sporty feel of the interior.
“There are still a couple of niggles that need sorting on the car, but I guess that’s just what you have to expect with a 32-year-old vehicle. There have been a few problems with the heater which have been sorted out, but another has come up; the heater occasional stays stuck on hot.” This caught Kos out earlier this year driving over to Holland in the middle of a heat wave!
“I’ve got my doubts about the accuracy of the temperature gauge, too, so that needs to be checked and re-calibrated. I’m also exploring the possibility of installing a couple of digital readouts to provide specific values for the water and oil temperatures. I’ve discovered a conversion specialist in America, who replaces the ‘economy gauge’ at the bottom of the rev counter, with a very neat, black-screen display that presents clear digits in a BMW-like amber colour.
But the car that really grabbed my attention was what Dad bought next – a 1986 E24 635CSi.
“That conversion is completely unobtrusive and looks very ‘OEM’, which is important. But it’s quite expensive and would involve sending the whole cluster to California, so I’m still weighing-up that idea. A couple of other options I’ve been toying with are to increase the engine’s capacity, making it a 3.6- or 3.7-litre, and replacing the standard automatic transmission with a manual ‘box. But nothing’s been decided yet.”
The interior was re-trimmed 20 months ago.
The pride Kos has in the car is self-evident, as is his passion for the marque more generally. He’s involved with the BMW Car Club (GB), runnning the E24 Register and helping out with the newly-established Sharknose Collection, and has been getting involved in the vehicle-showing side of the hobby recently, too.
He’s done Show and Shine a few times, but he’s now looking at Concours. His first attempt with the E24 earned him a Best in Class award at the BMWCC’s Southern Concours event. This represented an impressive debut, and speaks volumes for the condition level at which the car now sits.
He’s also a regular traveller to BMW events in Europe, with one of his favourites being Bimmerfest Europe, which is held in Holland and attracts 10,000 visitors and close to 4,000 cars. “It is immense in size and atmosphere” he says. “I drive over with some close friends, usually about 10-15 of us, and spend 4-5 days out there.” But the one he enjoys the most is the Sharknose BMW meeting in Holland. This is a smaller event – about 450 cars – but benefits from a great venue, exclusive selection of unusual and rare cars and a truly international feel. “It’s a more intimate event and very chilled. I’m hoping to get a group of us from the BMW Car Club to go over for next year’s show, which will be the event’s 10th anniversary.”
Kos works hard to promote the marque at many different levels, and is typical of the sort of BMW enthusiast whose interest straddles the vehicle generations. People like him are at the very core of the brand’s popularity and success in the UK, and the fine condition of his family’s E24 635CSi is proof enough of the determination he feels about conserving the car, and his dedication to BMW more widely. Long may that continue.