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    Rest and recuperation
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic / #Boxd

    It’s been a few months since I last wrote an update on my Baur Cabriolet, but it has been in regular use and pretty much my everyday car. Since I bought it in August 2015 I have added around 10,000 mies to the 106,748 it showed then, even though it spent most of 2016 being restored. It’s certainly getting more use than it had with the previous owner.

    Post-restoration snags carried on into 2018. We had to get the boot repainted because it was patchy in places, and the rear quarter panels started to show signs of rusting, as did a small area around the rear quarter windows, the battery support plate came away altogether and had to be bolted back into place. Maybe they didn’t get rid of all the rust...

    With everyday use, things are likely to go wrong at some stage with a 38-year-old car. During restoration we reconditioned and re-used as many mechanical parts as possible, but more work was soon needed. A whining noise from the front, like a quiet jet engine, turned out to be the wheel bearings so I had all of them changed, front and rear. Next was a horrendous clicking noise underneath from a disintegrating exhaust downpipe. Exhaust parts for right-hand-drive E21 BMW's are like hens’ teeth, but a pair of new-old-stock downpipes showed up on eBay only an hour away, in Marlborough - sorted!

    Next, a grinding clutch release bearing, replaced along with the rest of the clutch. And then, towards the end of the summer, I started having to top up the coolant more frequently. All seemed well on a compression test, so it’s probably not a leaking head gasket. Finally, the oil-pressure light started to glow when idling.

    I met up with Sam Lawrence, at Boxd in South-east London, a new and very popular storage facility. Boxd offers a maintenance service, too, so while your car is in storage they can, for a fee, tinker with it during the winter so it’s niggle-free when you have it back in the spring.

    With that oil-light problem I didn’t want to risk driving the BMW, so I had it transported to Boxd for the technical staff there to assess, they found plenty to keep them busy, the clonks on braking and cornering were from a poorly fitted alarm, found rolling loose in the scuttle area, there was a smell of petrol, requiring a check of hoses and clips around the tank and pump, they will check the whole cooling system for leakage, and fix an oil leak by replacing the sump gasket while carrying out a service. As for the indication of low oil pressure, they’ll start with the warning light’s switch.

    What else? A new seal should stop the major water leak past the offside rear light cluster, the rear silencers will be renewed, blown dashboard bulbs will be replaced with LEDs, and the heater fan made quieter, the non-responsive lever for cold air will receive a new cable, if necessary. Reinstating missing washers in the (loose) wiper mechanism should fix a leak into the scuttle, and the bonnet needs a new torsion spring, the headlights are dim, too - might they deserve an upgrade?

    I’m hoping there will be time to tackle most of the above by spring but, with such a mild winter to date, I am missing it already. Worse, I’m surfing the net to find more Baurs for sale. I must be mad.

    Top and left: BMW has luxury transport, by Classic Automotive Relocation Services, to its winter retreat and health spa at Boxd.
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    Shark Hunting
    CAR: 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    Have you heard classic BMWs described as ‘sharknose’? Sharknose-era BMWs were manufactured from the 1960s through to the late ’80s and represent a crucial period in BMW’s history. They can be as different as they are similar. Some were built for racing, some were built for families.

    Some featured cutting-edge technology, others were a little more basic. What brings them together is a common design aesthetic. They range from the Neue Klasse models of the ’60s through to the M1 and E28 (the second-generation 5-series), taking in the CSA, CS and CSLs and the earlier 3-, 5-, 6- and 7-series along the way.

    Now the #BMW-Car-Club has introduced a new umbrella group called the Sharknose Collection, and I was delighted to be asked to attend a gathering of cars from this collection to produce a video for the club’s website. As club secretary Richard Baxter says: ‘These cars are now becoming sought after yet finding parts and specialists can be difficult. The Sharknose section of the club aims to give cars and owners a collective platform at shows, to help with parts and accessories, to share technical days, and allow networking with fellow owners.’

    The pressure was on to get my Baur looking as good as possible, given the company that it was going to be with. I contacted Joseph Crowe, owner of Knowl Hill Performance Cars in Maidenhead (www.knowlhill. com), and he obligingly ensured that the car was machine polished to look its best.

    Gathered together for the shoot were some of the very best examples of sharknose BMWs in the UK. In the picture, above, from left to right are Stu and Lizzy Blount’s grey #BMW-E28 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E28 , Tony Wilkes’ beige #BMW-E3 , Georg Champ’s red #BMW-2002 , Sam Lever’s blue #BMW-3.0-CSL-E9 , Trevor Gude’s white #BMW-E12 / #BMW-M535i-E12 , my own BMW-323i Baur Top Cabrio and Kos Ioizou’s beautiful red #BMW-635CSi-E24 . I was amazed at the depth of knowledge and passion for the cars shown by all the owners – the future of these classics is safe in their hands.

    The Club is looking for ownership and restoration stories to share in its monthly publication Straight Six and hopes to attract owners of cars not yet known about. Cars from the Sharknose Collection will be on show at several events this year, including Masters at Brands Hatch on 26-27 May; Sharknose Europe at Rosmalen, Holland, on 23 June; Silverstone Classic on 20-22 July and the club’s National Festival on 12 August at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon. There’s more info at and I hope I will get along to at least one or two in the Baur.

    Above and below Sharknose Collection members lined up some of the UK’s finest examples, including Sanjay’s 323i Baur cabriolet.
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    A question of #safety

    CAR: #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    Winter came and went and I haven’t carried out all the improvements on the BMW that I’d hoped to. But there’s a major incident to report. We came back from holiday in early December and there was a strong smell of petrol throughout the house. It was coming from the garage and – specifically – from the BMW.

    I took the car to Automo (, where it had been restored, and it turned out that there were several problems to fix. Later six-cylinder E21s were fitted with an extra fuel tank, connected by a link pipe, plus extra venting, an expansion tank, connectors, clamps and so on, which means a host of possible weaknesses. Access to most can be gained only via a hole in the bodywork under the rear seat base. Automo traced a leak to the connecting pipe between the two tanks – and also the fuel cap, which I had not fully closed…

    Even with the problem diagnosed and fixed, there is still a distinct smell of fuel around the car, especially on a full tank, so further investigation is required.

    The other improvement I managed to complete was to fit new seatbelts. The old ones were difficult to pull out, did not fully retract, and were prone to catching in the doors. The rear belts were covered in red paint overspray too, so I was keen to get them sorted.

    I called on the help of Stuart Quick at Quickfit SBS (www., a family-run business created by Stuart’s father Bill Quick, which has been fitting seatbelts to cars since the early 1960s, well before they even became a legal requirement. Of course, if your car was originally manufactured without seatbelts, you are not required by law to have them fitted. However, passengers under 12 years of age must be strapped in whether your car was manufactured with seatbelts or not. And if you’re planning to use your classic on a tour or long trip, seatbelts are a worthwhile safety upgrade.

    Quickfit can retrofit periodlooking seatbelts that will not look out of place.

    In making the Cabrio, Baur adapted the rear seatbelts of the E21 saloon. The saloon’s mounting points are fixed to the rear pillars but, in the Cabrio, the belt housings were moved to a position in the boot, under the rear parcel shelf. This required parts to be made specifically for the Baur, and they are now extremely hard to find. Quickfit also advised that the webbing itself needed to be changed, as well as the reels and mechanisms.

    The result is that all the seatbelts now work perfectly.

    Above and left #Quickfit-SBS made up new seatbelts from scratch to fit the Baur, which has unique mountings in the boot space for the rear belts; Baur’s red paint glows against the backdrop of a WW2 hangar at Bicester Heritage.
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    Time to get the rot sorted

    CAR: 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO
    OWNER: Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    The original pitch from the advertising agency that proposed BMW’s now legendary slogan was made back in 1974 and was therefore used in the various campaigns for the launch of the new E21 in 1976. But is there any truth in it? Was it really the #Ultimate-Driving-Machine ?

    The Baur is a fantastic little car and such great fun to drive, with oodles of power. I have enjoyed using it so much that it has become my everyday car; there is only one set of keys I look for whenever I go out (without being disloyal to the DB7, of course). It is so perfectly at home on modern roads and motorways that it is hard to believe that this is a car designed in the early ’70s; it feels so comfortable in all conditions. The driving position is excellent with good visibility all-round, and on motorways the car is very quiet inside the cabin, unbelievably so for a convertible built 35 years ago. This car must have been so over-engineered in its day.

    BMW even had an ad campaign claiming that, with the top down and driving in the rain, the design of the ‘targa’ roof meant that you would still stay dry inside the cabin, as the rain would be deflected away. I will put that to the test in due course.

    As you can see, I am full of praise for the 323i and rightly so I think. What other five-seater convertibles were there in the early ’80s that boasted disc brakes all-round (vented at the front), a 143bhp six-cylinder engine with five-speed gearbox, 0-60mph in 8 seconds, a top speed of 120mph, and driver comforts such as central locking, electric mirrors, three-speed windscreen wipers and even headlight wipers. This car was so far ahead of its competitors that I think BMW had every right to use that ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ slogan.

    At £12,000 new it wasn’t cheap but it meant you were driving what was probably one of the most well-engineered cars of its day. That price also meant that it appealed to owners who could afford to maintain them. I am lucky to have found one that I know has been very well looked after and garaged for much of its life. That said, the model suffered from corrosion and, although mine looked OK, it was impossible to tell what was lurking beneath. There was superficial rust all over the bodywork, not terrible but I could see that some work needed to be done. As winter approached I was faced with a dilemma: should I face up to it now or wait another year?

    A chance meeting with Chedeen Battick, owner of Slough restoration company Automo (, set the cat among the pigeons.

    Chedeen and I met at the launch of a car he had designed for a Jaguar re-creation manufacturer. The work that he had engineered was impressive, so when he said that he had been let down on a job and could get my car in to take a closer look at the paintwork, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

    The plan is to strip it down to see what needs to be done. I’ll report back next time but I am very excited about the prospect of getting the bodywork sorted out.

    THANKS TO BMW Classic Group,
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    Fine tuning 1981 BMW 323i


    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #1981-BMW-323i / #1981-BMW-323i-E21 / #1981-BMW-323i-Baur / #Bosch-K-Jetronic

    Most of the saga of getting my Cabrio back on the road was covered last month. All except the story of its fuel injection. And #Bosch K-Jetronic is notoriously difficult to get right. There was a strong smell of fuel and the car was running rough and revving high at idle. Then, during the early summer months, it started to run hot.

    The temperature gauge needle should sit exactly in the middle of the dial when the engine is up to temperature, but it was creeping over the ¾ mark. I tried to diagnose the fault myself, and changed the sender unit – but no difference. So I changed the thermostat, but no. Could it be the water pump? No, that was fine too. Could it be the head gasket? Gulp! I took the car to #Munich-Motors in Wokingham, where Clive Sanchez has been specialising in older BMWs for several years. He soon had the Baur running smoothly again.

    The overheating turned out to be a faulty new thermostat! And fine-tuning the K-Jetronic injection was a relief, as the car had been guzzling fuel, but it was now returning a respectable 28mpg. Felt quicker with it, too. There have been several other minor problems, such as the alternator which I replaced (from #Linwa-Motors in Lancashire). I drive the car every day, but I don’t want to continue using it throughout the winter months and it’s too nice to be kept outdoors so I think I will store it until spring.

    There are many things that I want to improve, though some parts are near-impossible to find, especially in right-hand-drive form. The seats are creaky and could do with re-padding and springing. I have managed to source some original seat fabric from #BMW-Group-Classic which was an absolute find: a project for the winter.

    Above With the fuel injection sorted and a faulty thermostat replaced, the Baur Cabrio is now a star performer.

    THANKS TO Jeroen De Laat at; Benjamin Voss at BMW Group Classic,; Clive Sanchez at Munich Motors, munichmotors.; Ian Thompson at Linwar Motors,; Chedeen Battick at Automo,
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    Back in for final fettling 1981 BMW 323i TOP CABRIO Sanjay Seetanah

    / #1981 / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW / #M20B23 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR /

    I have been rather down in the dumps about my Baur during the last couple of months. Initial forecasts were that its restoration would have been finished last May, but work was delayed on several occasions due to parts being very difficult to source. As we edged towards the end of summer I knew all hope of enjoying the warm sunshine with the roof down was out of the question.

    But finally, and to my delight, the call came and I collected the finished car in October, with just enough pre-winter weather left to enjoy a few topless drives. And that’s when I discovered all was not as it should be.

    The car looked absolutely gorgeous but, to my horror, it drove nothing like as well as it looked. Clearly it would have to go back for some further mechanical work; as things stood, it was hard to believe this was the same car I’d delivered for a paint job 12 months before. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

    I’d bought the car largely because it drove beautifully and was mechanically sound. Before the restoration it became my daily driver and it seemed completely at home in busy traffic, quiet and very comfortable despite being 35 years old. All that was required was bodywork to match.

    Naturally I expected a few snags; when you have an engineout, ground-up restoration, it takes a while for all the components (and there were many new ones, including suspension parts) to bed-in and work together, but this felt rather more serious. The back end of the car swung out when cornering at 35mph, it stopped poorly, and the differential and gearbox whined. It would also stall in low gears, the gearshift was extremely stiff and it stank of fuel. Quite a long list of snags, then, and the car was duly returned to Automo to carry out further checks.

    Automo’s proprietor Chedeen Battick was horrified that the car had been returned to me without proper shakedown testing, and assured me that all the problems could – and would – be fixed. With winter now upon us, and the first dusting of salt having hit the roads in November, I resigned myself to the fact that I was unlikely to be driving the car again before the coming spring.

    Still, although I was gutted that I would need to wait much longer for the finished result, I was confident that the problems could be solved by Chedeen and his team. I hope my patience will finally be rewarded and that the BMW will drive as well as it looks.

    THANKS TO Chedeen Battick at Automo (; Katrin Mölle and Benjamin Voss at #BMW Group Classic (

    Below and right New hood and shiny red paintwork look resplendent, though more work is needed to solve the BMW’s mechanical issues.
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    Classic Car Auctions June sale / #1973 / #BMW-2002-Baur / #BMW-2002 / #BMW / #BMW-2002-E10 / #BMW-E10 /

    We love a 2002 and this round-rear-light model with a #BAUR soft-top looked to be an excellent purchase. With 38k miles indicated (although not verified as correct) and receipts for a £5000 recommission a couple of years ago, it should provide many happy summer miles for its new owner. It sold for £8900, a little over its £6500- £8500 pre-sale estimate.

    SOLD FOR: £8910
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    Baur wow wow! / #1981 / #BMW-323i-E21 / Top Cabrio / Sanjay Seetanah / #BMW-E21 / #BMW / #BMW-323i-Top-Cabrio-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur / #BMW-323i-Baur-E21 / #BMW-323i-Baur-Cabriolet / #BAUR / #BMW-M20 / #M20B23 / #M20

    After eight months in the workshop, completion of the Baur’s restoration may be in sight. But getting to this stage has seen the job list get ever longer. The engine needed nothing beyond a good clean, but further inspection of the bodyshell revealed more rust, this time around the front floors where they join the sills, the jacking points and the rear subframe’s mounting points.

    So we had the discussion. Now we have started, was there any point in stopping the paintwork at just the exterior, the engine bay and the boot? So the suspension, exhaust, fuel pipes, brake pipes and fuel tanks were all stripped from the BMW, and the whole of the underside metalwork has been blasted and repainted.

    The next question was: what to do with the hundreds of parts that have been taken off the car? Do we just clean them up and put them back, or do we try to make them as good as new? So Chedeen Battick, owner of Automo where the Baur is being brought back to life, showed me what is possible.

    There are various ways to make parts look like new again, but one of Chedeen’s favoured methods is vapour blasting, which uses water vapour and a flow of water-borne abrasive. The flushing action of the water gives a fine finish and stops grit and dirt being impregnated into the component or being broken up into dust, unlike with dry blasting in which the finish comes from the force of the abrasive particles’ impact.

    So I decided, even with all the extra costs of a project in danger of escalating out of control, that we could not miss this opportunity.

    I agreed to have everything reconditioned… every single nut and bolt, as well as all major parts that weren’t to be renewed. Other parts such as brake and fuel pipes would be renewed, though. Most of the suspension parts, too.

    The classic BMW part-searcher’s best friend here is BMW Group Classic’s website, on which every part is listed for each BMW model. You can search every section of your car, see detailed drawings and a list of all the parts for that section, and discover how much it will cost.

    From a bodyshell to wiring looms to brake pipe clips to individual washers, all are here with their part numbers. Whether a specific part is actually available is another question, but at least with the part numbers you can look for it elsewhere if BMW doesn’t have the part itself.

    So we made a list of all the parts we needed. This is not as easy as it sounds: discretion is required not only to keep the costs sensible but also to avoid unnecessary work. Between us, though, Chedeen and I still came up with a list of about 100 parts.

    Most expensive were the two fuel tanks at £800, but we needed them because blasting the originals revealed that they were badly corroded and clearly unusable. Our list also included a complete wiring loom, because the one on the car was showing signs of perishing and we wanted the restoration to last another 35 years. The engine loom and front loom came to £700.

    Then there were a complete set of water and air hoses, a brake line kit and new pipes, all the fuel and injection pipes, all the rubber seals for windscreen, doors, boot, bonnet and roof, chrome trim for the doors and rear windows, the targa top and rear folding roof, suspension springs, dampers and struts. So another quick call to the bank manager was required as all parts had to be with Automo as quickly as possible!

    The Baur has now been painted and it looks stunning, even as a bare shell. I think the Automo team are pretty proud of it, too. I can’t wait to get it back – and, with luck, there will still be some nice end-of-summer days to enjoy it.

    Thanks to Chedeen Battick at Automo, Taplow (; and Katrin Mölle and Benjamin Voss at BMW Group Classic.

    Clockwise from above. Refinished underside gains new heat shielding; bodyshell looks like new in shiny red, with all rust surgically removed; engine needed just a check and a clean.
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    What’s in your Garage? We find out what it’s like to own a rare 502 #V8 . / #1955 / #BMW-502F-V8-Cabriolet / #BMW-502F-Cabriolet / #BMW-502-Cabriolet / #BMW-502F / #BMW-502 / #BMW / #BMW-500-series / #M502 /

    Rare on British roads, as Mike Taylor reveals, this early post-war 502F V8 Cabriolet draws admiring glances wherever it goes Photography: Mike Taylor.

    The Baroque period is said to have run from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century and refers to the exaggerated style conspicuous in art, music and sculpture to produce drama, tension and grandeur. The BMW-500-series of the early 1950s was nicknamed by owners and observers as ‘Baroque Angels’, the moniker being an acknowledgement of the car’s flowing exaggerated lines shared by heavenly figures shaped during the baroque period.

    For BMW, restarting production after hostilities was to prove an uphill struggle involving the possibility of building cars under licence to finance the purchase of machine tools; it was a consideration which wisely never saw the light of day. Another notion was to design a new baby car called the 331. In the event this too was vetoed by BMW board member, Hanns Grewenig, who believed the company’s future lay in the manufacture of low volume luxury cars. With this in mind he tasked BMW’s chief engineer, Alfred Böning to begin with a clean sheet, producing the basis for a luxury limousine. The outcome was the 500 Series. The job of styling the new car was given to Peter Schimanowski while BMW tasked Pininfarina to shape an alternative for comparison. Discussion at board level declared the Italian solution emulated too closely the Alfa Romeo 1900 of the day and it was discarded in favour of the in-house proposal.

    The result was a car that eschewed angular edges for flowing lines; even the grille boasted a double curvature while the headlamps were recessed into the front wings and the front screen was a single panel giving the car a contemporary appearance. At the rear the bootlid flowed gracefully down to meet the bumper line. The most obvious feature was the lack of embellishment, the result being one of subtle elegance. Critically, the 501’s flowing design was very reminiscent of the models emanating from Detroit during the 1930s.

    Beneath was a perimeter frame chassis with double wishbone front suspension and torsion bartype springing front and rear. Steering was a kind of rack and pinion with the rack following the curvature of the toothed pinion. Brakes were large drums allround. Power was supplied by the M337 engine, which was a development of the M78 engine first used in the pre-war BMW 326. A straight-six OHV unit, the engine had been given a reinforced crankshaft running in larger, more modern, main bearings. The cylinder head was reworked to produce better combustion efficiency fed by a new inlet manifold. Initially of 1971cc this engine produced an adequate 64hp.

    Interestingly, the gearbox was mounted remotely between the second and third chassis crossmember rails operated by an ingenious, if complex, mechanism linked to a column mounted gear change, giving a somewhat vague shift pattern. Drive was taken from the clutch to the gearbox via an open shaft with rubber couplings fore and aft to soften drive take up.

    Unfortunately, Schimanowski’s calculations on body weight had been inaccurate; the welded chassis/body shell structure tipped the scales at a hefty 3150lb. The limited power available from the M337 engine produced a lack-lustre 84mph performance with a 0-60 gallop a dull 24 seconds.

    “My first car was my sister’s hand-me-down 1960 Mini, which I had almost free access to, taking my driving test in it in 1964,” explains Benjamin Hargreaves, owner of the enchanting Cherry red 502F V8 we are reviewing. “I then took the Mini to Munich in Germany during my nine months before university where the intention was for me to learn the language. It was here that I really noticed German engineering. I was especially struck by the ubiquity of the saloon version of the 502. Production had only stopped just a few years before so they were quite common on Bavarian roads.”

    The BMW 501 was launched to a receptive audience at the Frankfurt Motor Show in April 1951 where its DM15,000 made it a markedly expensive machine; significantly more costly than its closest rival, the Mercedes Benz 220.

    For BMW, putting the 501 saloon into production proved a tardy and involved procedure. With no sheet steel pressing equipment on hand at Munich to manufacture the bodies, the initial 2045 bodyshell chassis units were assembled by Karosserie Baur in Stuttgart and shipped to BMW’s factory where the drivetrain and suspension components were added. Significantly, customers could also order a two-door coupé or convertible version from Baur or Autenrieth (or a four-door convertible from Baur) as alternatives. Even before 501 production had properly begun, Böning proposed the development of a larger engine to power future versions of the car to BMW’s board.

    His suggestion found favour. Rather than simply expand the capacity of the straight-six engine his approach was to create an all new compact, lightweight V8 similar to the type of engine being made by General Motors for the Oldsmobile Rocket. It would feature a single camshaft located centrally in the cylinder block acting on pushrods operating overhead valves in wedge-shaped combustion chambers. However, the BMW engine would differ markedly from the US engine, its cylinder block being manufactured from aluminium alloy fitted with castiron cylinder liners. Capacity would be 2580cc and, fitted with a single twin choke Solex carburettor, the engine produced 100hp. At this time in BMW’s history the proposed V8 programme would be a costly exercise. Nevertheless, the green light was given, the project being completed by Fritz Fiedler, who replaced Alfred Böning as BMW’s chief engineer in 1952.

    The engine was introduced in 1954 at the Geneva Motor Show in the 502 saloon. Based on the 501, this car featured a much more luxuriously appointed interior and proved a major threat to Mercedes in quality, luxury and performance; at the time of its launch the 502 was hailed as Germany’s fastest saloon in regular production.

    When The Motor road-tested a right-hand drive 501 powered by the new smooth V8 engine it was impressed by its apparent ease at covering long distances without stress to the driver or passengers. The car was capable of just 100mph with a 0-60 acceleration timed at 15.2 seconds. Autocar commented on the almost austere interior with its painted metal facia, cloth-covered seats and rubber floor matting. Significantly, as a right-hand drive model, the column gear change had been changed to a floor shift as part of the conversion.

    Sadly, like the 501, the 502’s elegance and speed came at a price and at DM17,000 restricted sales to a mere 190 units in the first year of manufacture. In 1955 the 502 was given a mild restyle, which included a wraparound rear window.

    “During the 1970s I ran three different two-door BMWs starting with a 1600 and followed by two 2002Tiis,” continues Benjamin. “In those days BMWs were still quite unusual on the roads of the UK. I gave up the brand when people began to recognise what they were! Then I began to drive a company car, a Chrysler Alpine five-door hatchback, which is definitely the worst car I’ve ever had. However, having a car on the business did provide the opportunity to calculate the savings that I was making and I realised I could afford an Aston Martin; in those days the price of a second-hand example matched the cost of a new Ford Cortina. In 1973 I had already bought an Aston Martin DB2 drophead. I then bought a DB5.”

    Like the 501, the 502 could also be ordered in two-door cabriolet and coupé form from Baur. Interestingly, records reveal that a few 501s and 502s were also converted into ambulances and hearses. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1955, capacity of the V8 was increased to 3168cc and fitted to four new cars; the 507 two-seat convertible, the 503 coupé, the BMW 502 and the 505 limousine prototype. Compression ratio was increased to 7.2:1 and power was now up to 120hp. To provide even greater performance, the 3.2 Super was launched in 1957 which boasted 140hp.

    In 1958 the 501 and 502 model designation was dropped when the 501 V8 was renamed the BMW 2.6 and the 502 was given the title of 2.6 Luxus.

    Power steering became an option in 1959 with front disc brakes being added the following year The model names ‘3.2’ and ‘3.2 Super’ were replaced by the ‘3200L’ and ‘3200S’ in 1961, the L model being fitted with a single carburettor and producing 140hp while the S version was fitted with twin Solex or Zenith carburettors, the unit producing a healthy 160hp.

    In 1961 the company’s new model range was launched at the Frankfurt Show: the contemporary styled four-door Neue Klasse saloon with a fourcylinder 1500cc engine and the 3200CS coupé, the last model to be fitted with the Böning-inspired V8. Two years later manufacture of the 500-based models ceased. However, without doubt these cars had taken the Munich-based business from a little known limited production company to worldwide acclaim.

    “My decision to look for a pre-war car began when a friend of mine had a 1930s Aston Martin,” continues Benjamin as we stand admiring his red cabriolet. “I’d completed several runs in it and I’d given him moral support when he began racing the Aston Martin in club events. It encouraged me to begin thinking clearly about the kind of pre-war car I wanted for myself. Above all, it had to be capable of being driven from one side of Europe to the other. I started by looking at the Derby Bentleys, Lagondas and pre-war 2.0-litre BMWs. In the event I bought a Lagonda. On one occasion I was driving out to Munich on a Historic BMW Club Rally following behind two pre-war BMW 319s and wondering whether I was going to be happy with one of these funny little cars. Later, I was in the BMW museum and saw a Baroque Angel, again. Then, I noticed an article about a similar cabriolet in a magazine. I telephoned a club member and received quite favourable reports about it. This car was up for sale and was twice as suitable and a third of the price of a 319, so I bought it in autumn 2008.”

    If appearances can be deceptive then this is certainly the case with the 502F cabriolet, its large curvaceous body and tall stance seeming to suggest a wallowy ride tinged with a relaxed gait. In reality this is far from the case. Moreover, the casual observer can be forgiven for thinking that the car originated in Detroit, until closer inspection reveals the iconic BMW propeller insignias back and front.

    The doors open wide to give easy access, even for those travelling in the rear, while the seats are set high enough to ensure good visibility all-round for driver and passengers. Fit and finish is well up to BMW’s luxury trademark, though there is a tinge of durability attached to the plain leather-covered dashboard and workmanlike rubber matting on the floor. Designed as a true five-seater, legroom and seat sizes ensure a degree of luxury when touring, the front seats proving especially comfortable, only the lack of shape to the backrests preclude any sideways support when cornering.

    Ahead of the driver is the large steering wheel with its period ring-type horn push, a characteristic so prevalent of Fifties cars. In the dashboard there is a semi-circular speedo with rectangular ancillary instruments for petrol, temperature and so on. The handbrake projects from underneath on the left-hand side of the column. Originally the 502 would have had a column gear change but on this car a previous owner has replaced it with a floor change, with the original chrome support for the column lever still being in evidence.

    Starting the 3.2-litre engine presents no dramas, the V8 rumbling into life with ease. On this car clutch travel is pronounced, demanding that the pedal be pushed to the floor to ensure graunch-free gear selection. The movement is long yet precise. Twist and release the handbrake and we’re off.

    Without making demands on the engine acceleration is satisfyingly brisk. Changing up to second involves the long movement of the pedal and gear change, though drive take up is delightfully smooth in harmony with a responsive throttle. Up to third is more of the same, the gate of the ‘H’ being similarly pronounced.

    Top gear provides relaxed reaction from the engine and with probably 115mph maximum speed available cruising in unison with other traffic gives no sign of strain on the powertrain. For a tall car the handling is surprisingly roll-free perhaps indicating that even in the ‘50s BMWs were drivers’ cars. Under way, the tall screen and large side windows satisfactorily mask those inside from irritating wind roar giving a pleasant sensation. The brakes – disc up front, drums behind – are fitted with a reassuring servo to take the pain away from slowing down, despite the car’s 28cwt of unladen weight.

    Clearly a rare car indeed on British roads today, this 1955 BMW 502F V8 Cabriolet makes an impressive sight, especially with the hood down, drawing many admiring, if slightly bemused glances as it glides by.

    “The first owner kept it for four years,” continues Benjamin. “The next owner was a newly qualified engineer in his late 20s and he kept it for 50 years. Other cars including a Gullwing Mercedes came and went but the 502 was the one that stayed in his garage. Today it has covered over 600,000 kilometres and is on its fourth engine. He upgraded it to the highest specification with a 3200 S V8 engine (which produces 160hp), added a disc brake conversion and had the gear change moved to the floor – modifications that the factory offered at the end of the car’s production life. He used it as his daily driver until the mid 1970s.”

    So what has been Benjamin’s furthest trip in his Continent-covering cabriolet? “My furthest excursion was when I used it on a Delage rally, which took us down to Provence in Southern France,” he grins at the memory. “When I take it to Germany, the car receives a lot of attention and there are often people who remember them when the 500 Series was still in production. I even came across someone who worked on these cars in the factory.”

    Clearly, Benjamin derives huge pleasure for his #BAUR BMW . “I do tend to drive it a great deal with the top down – I enjoy open air motoring,” he asserts. “In fact, I might not have been so encouraged to buy it had it not been a soft-top. Once I was driving in East Sussex when a young girl looked at it and said, ‘oh, that’s cool’. It draws that kind of reaction”.

    Clearly a rare car on British roads today, this 1955 #BMW-502F V8 Cabriolet makes an impressive sight.
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    BMW 2002 TOP CABRIOLET / #BMW-2002-Top-Cabriolet / #BMW-2002 / #BMW-2002-Cabriolet / #BMW-2002-Baur-Cabriolet / #BMW-2002-Baur / #BAUR /

    Year of manufacture #1974
    Recorded mileage 64,081
    Asking price £21,995
    Vendor Avantgarde Classics, Tamworth, Staffordshire; tel: 01827 288177;

    Price £3499
    Max power 100bhp
    Max torque 116lb ft
    0-60mph 10.9 secs
    Top speed 106mph
    Mpg 24-30

    This is an old friend: post-restoration with a long-term owner, it appeared in a #BMW cabriolet group test in the October 2002 issue of C&SC. The 2002 was bought in 2012 by one Jay Kay – car enthusiast and popular light entertainer – the fifth owner, the first having kept it until 1991. The restoration, more than 20 years old, is holding up extremely well, the repaint in the original Inka still nice. It’s almost as clean underneath, where it has a stainless-steel exhaust. The only blemishes are a couple of minuscule bubbles at the back of the offside front wing and a small vertical scratch in the nearside flank. The soft coverings of the roof are new, the 100+ alloys are shiny and unscuffed and the bumpers are in fine shape. The hood cover is original, with one split and a popper missing. Its tyres are decently treaded Bridgestones, with a Sine radial on the spare. Its well is rot-free and the fuel tank opposite looks new.

    Inside, it’s all smart and original, bar the fat-rimmed Moto-Lita wheel and that the cloth on the driver’s seat base has worn through. There are a few blotches on the back seat but the carpets and overmats are good. The dash and instruments are sound and the BMW Motometer clock still works. The single-carb motor, with added Kenlowe electric fan, is clean and tidy with lightly polished alternator and cam cover. The structure around it is excellent, with perfect inner wings and no rot in the front panel or bonnet nose. The oil is full and light brown; the coolant the same and blue. It fires easily with a bit of choke and drives tightly, with a taut structure and suspension, and no slack in the steering at straight-ahead (any play is cleverly arranged at the extremities of lock on the ZF-Gemmer box). There’s adequate prod in that low-geared ’02 sort of way and the brakes are firm. It doesn’t run hot, and there’s no valve-guide smoke on the over-run. This superb Baur Top Cabriolet will be sold with an excellent history file including photographs of the rebuild, the original handbooks and corrosion protection warranty, as well as a fresh MoT.


    EXTERIOR Almost perfect, apart from tiny flaws on the offside front wing
    INTERIOR Original and unworn bar driver’s seat base; non-original Moto-Lita
    MECHANICALS Drives well; no valve-guide smoke

    VALUE ★★★★★★✩✩✩✩

    For +Lovely restored condition
    Against - Quite pricey

    Must be one of the most solid and sorted Baur Top Cabrios in the UK, but be quick because it might be disappearing back into the trade.
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