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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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    DUE DILIGENCE Stunning super-rare E21 323i / #JPS / #BMW-E21 / #BMW-323i / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E21 / #BMW-323i-JPS / #BMW-323i-JPS-E21 / #Getrag / #Getrag-245 / #M20B27 / #BMW-M20 / #M20 / #BMW /

    Due Diligence The story of one man’s love affair with JPS BMWs and in particular his stunning E21 323i example. Hard work, combined with a bit of luck, can take you a long way. In Australian Stewart Garmey’s case, it took him around the world as he helped other BMW enthusiasts, and also led him to possibly one of the rarest limited edition BMWs made. Words and photography: Chris Nicholls.

    It takes a unique level of dedication to spend a quarter of a century committed to a brand. And not just committed for your own purposes, but working tirelessly to help fellow enthusiasts enjoy their BMWs, wherever in the world they may be. That’s the kind of dedication Australian, Stewart Garmey has, though. A BMW fan since 1977, when a friend let him drive his then-new 2002 in New Zealand, Stewart finally got his own ‘02 in 1989 (a Taiga green Tii) after his mother passed away. “I always promised myself a 2002, and when my mum passed away in 1989, she left me a small inheritance. My wife said my mum had always promised me a BMW, so I better go and do it!”

    Having taken the plunge, he undertook a bare metal restoration of the car and also joined the BMW Club of Victoria, spending the next 25 years attending club meets, participating in show ’n’ shines and organising things. From 1997-2001 he worked as club president, eventually joining the board of BMW Clubs Australia, and in 2004 he even became the Australian delegate to the International Council of BMW Clubs – a position he held for the next ten years. In 2015, in recognition of all his hard work, Stewart received the ‘Friend of the Marque’ accolade, becoming only the 48th council member to be awarded it, and the sixth Australian. It’s something he is justifiably proud of, saying it was like “getting the Brownlow” (the Aussie Rules equivalent of the PFA Player’s Player of the Year award).

    Of course, just owning a BMW (no matter how nicely restored) and working hard for club members worldwide was probably not going to get him Friend of the Marque, but Stewart proved his love for the brand over many years with further acquisitions. There was an immaculate Henna red South African-built E28 M5 we featured in our October 2014 issue that was so spectacular Stewart even received an offer for it from Ralf Rodepeter at the BMW Museum (a sale that only fell through because BMW claimed it would have trouble insuring the RHD car in Germany). He’s also owned a JPS 323i that he sold a while back, and he currently has a E92 325i Coupé and E91 323i Motorsport Touring he and his wife use as their current daily drivers respectively. Oh, and because clearly he hasn’t done enough for BMW as it is, Stewart runs a register of JPS BMWs (both the Australian factory race cars and road-going special editions made to order in Australia to commemorate them) in his spare time, as no factory records are thought to exist now.

    Now, for those who may not know, here’s a little more information on these Australian-only specials… Covering many different models, they were commissioned by BMW Australia to cash-in on the Team JPS BMW Group 5 and Group A cars of the ’80s. Available only by request, each one came with gold-centred BBS-Mahle wheels, rib-back Recaro seats, an M1 steering wheel, #JPS badges, a build numberplate and the signature black-with-gold-pinstripe livery. According to Stewart’s research, there was only one E12 sold, 100 E21s, perhaps only four or five E24s, just two E28s (one each for JPS team boss #Frank-Gardner and lead driver Jim Richards), and around 30 E30s. Stewart believes only about 15 E30s, 20 E21s, one E28 and an unknown number of the rest survive today, making them very rare beasts.

    It’s thanks to this research and subsequent knowledge of these JPS cars that Stewart was quickly able to discover that his second E21 323i example might be one of the rarest of them all – a 2.7-litre special order version, not fitted with the lazy M20B27 used in other factory BMWs over the years, but a stroker built locally using the 2.3-litre block and fitted with new crankshaft and rods, giving it a totally different character to the factory motor, as well as more power. “We’ve had people look at it and play with it, and almost beyond doubt now, it is one of the three [known] 2.7-litre strokers,” he says. “The fact it’s got the close-ratio 245 dog-leg Getrag and #LSD behind it suggests that it is the big engine. It certainly goes like it is, and when you hear it idle, it’s very cammy and lumpy.”

    Having heard the car during the shoot, that’s something we can definitely confirm. And with Stewart revealing one of the three 2.7s was written off in a crash a while back, that makes his – number 47 of the 100 E21s, according to the dash-mounted build plate – possibly one of two.

    The rather amusing thing is that, while Stewart’s hard work was responsible for him discovering how rare this car might be, it was just dumb luck that led him to it in the first place. Having sold off his other toys due to the need to downsize his house, he was apparently experiencing “withdrawal symptoms”, and decided to start looking around to see what was available. Lo and behold, this little example appeared on his radar, although it was, by Stewart’s reckoning, rather overpriced at first.

    “I saw it advertised for $27,000, rang the bloke and told him he was dreaming. He replied that that was what the car owed him, to which I retorted that what it owes him and what it’s worth are two very different stories indeed! However, I watched it for nine months, and kept in touch. Then one day he asked me what it was worth, which was $10-12,000 tops. After a bit of soul-searching he finally told me he wouldn’t take less than $10,000 for it and I told him I’d see him on Saturday morning! So I flew up to Brisbane, saw it and bought it.”

    Obviously neither Stewart nor the previous owner knew at the time that it was likely a 2.7, so clearly Stewart ended up with a bit of a bargain, although its imperfect mechanical condition meant he had to spend quite a lot of time and money ensuring it was back to its former glory. Perhaps oddly, Stewart revealed it didn’t seem too bad on his initial test drive, but once he got it trucked back to Melbourne (a wise decision in retrospect), the full extent of the issues revealed themselves.

    “I drove it while I was there and I was impressed by the way it went, but after 2000 kilometres in a car that hadn’t done a lot of work for a while (it had been a sit-around toy) combined with the fact I didn’t know it… it was too far, so I paid for it to come back to my house on a truck. Which is just as well that I did, as it had things like the exhaust system [being] held on with pull-up ties. It was also missing bits in the front suspension and the brake sensors weren’t fitted… silly little bits like that, so it was a good move.”

    This all happened back in July last year, and Stewart’s spent all the time until now fixing it up. That meant, on top of sorting the aforementioned urgent issues, Stewart had to replace many items in the engine bay, such as the strut-top caps, as well as order custom-made JPS C-pillar badges as they were missing. To match his high standards, he also had to get all five original wheels restored, replace all four headlight lenses, remove an additional gold pin-stripe that wasn’t meant to be there, put in a new dashboard, get the M1 wheel retrimmed and recover the unique Recaro seats.

    This last job proved quite the challenge, as the black side bolster fabric he needed was only used on those seats in period and was no longer in production. However, here again Stewart’s nouse and hard work paid off as many phone calls later, he eventually found out via a Sydney shop that the same material, albeit in green, was used on Holden Commodore SLEs at the time, and due to the Commodore’s enduring popularity, Stewart easily found the fabric and had it dyed black. After getting them done by his friend Ray at Bray Mills Automotive Trimming in Heidelberg in Melbourne’s north east, Stewart says the seat material “worked beautifully”.

    Amazingly, despite how good the car looks now as a result of all this work, Stewart’s not done yet. At the time of the shoot, he’d just ordered a new headliner from America as the original one had rust stains in it, and the carpets were nowhere near his usual standards, so he was going to replace those, too.

    Indeed, as you might have gathered, Stewart is pretty meticulous about his cars in general. His 2002 and M5 won so many BMW Club of Victoria concours events other members complained there was no point entering their cars – to which he responded “I’m not going to back down – if somebody beats me, they beat me, fair enough, but I’m not going to roll over.”

    He also never allows anyone other than he and his wife to sit in his toys with regular outdoor shoes on, and even he and his wife dust their shoes off before getting in. When it came to detailing this car, he says: “It lived up on wheel stands for about three months because I was detailing under the guards.” He also detailed the suspension while he was there and, because it had aftermarket stainless mufflers fitted by a previous owner, Stewart polished those up, too.

    All this graft is, perhaps, more evidence that effort, combined with luck, can indeed net you amazing results. As you can see, even in the car’s supposedly incomplete state, it’s a stunner. The sheer gloss Stewart’s managed to achieve with the original paint, and the near flawless finish on the (unfinished) interior all point to how much effort’s gone into it.

    Refreshingly, as you can see by the fact he was happy to get the car shot on a dirt road, Stewart isn’t overly precious about using it, either. He plans on taking it out regularly for club events and while there will, no doubt, be times when he’s too busy polishing it to make every meet, he always makes as much of an effort as he can. Because clearly, the rewards are worth it.

    “The fact it’s got the close-ratio 245 dog-leg Getrag and LSD behind it suggests that it is the big engine. It certainly goes like it is”
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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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    KYLE COLLINGWOOD #BMW-E21 / #BMW-323i / #BMW-323i-E21 / #BMW

    Australian Kyle Collingwood’s example might look like a rally refugee but it’s actually his daily, as well as being something of an on-going drift project. He says it’s pretty stock underneath the skin but is slowly becoming more and more of a drift machine. We think it’s got a lot of charm and that is enhanced by the striking blue wrap, the unnamed splits and copious underbonnet stickers (we spy a bit of Superman in there). Inside there are bucket seats with a drift steering wheel and at the back there’s a welded diff for maximum sideways action. As far as E21s go, it’s different and we love it. Bonzer!
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    Paying Homage #BMW-E21-Alpina-C1 / #BMW-E21-Alpina

    Alpina UK’s freshly restored #BMW-E21 #Alpina-C1 2.3-litre maybe be a replica but it’s also a real stunner. We present a loving re-creation of the E21 C1 2.3 #M20 from #Alpina-GB ; while it’s not the genuine article it’s still a wonderful machine to admire and drive Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Max Earey.

    In the classic car world you can sometimes come across unscrupulous individuals hoping to profit from selling something that simply isn’t what it purports to be. And with the classic market currently going through a huge boom period it’s not hard to understand why as there’s big money to be made if you’re prepared to be economical with the truth. Even if you’re perfectly upfront and refer to a car as a replica you can run into a whole host of trouble with enthusiasts who will be ready to nit-pick over the slightest deviation from the norm, especially so if the car has a strong, loyal and knowledgeable fan base.

    And it was with this in mind that I sallied forth to Sytner Nottingham where the company’s Alpina arm has spent a lot of time and money kitting out an E21 3 Series as an Alpina version of the original Three. Obviously as a reputable company it’s not attempting to pass off the car as a genuine example. It doesn’t even refer to it as a replica. No, what we have here is a re-creation or, perhaps more accurately, a homage to the original E21 Alpina C1 2.3. And it’s an absolute belter. To the untrained eye it could easily be the real thing, but delve a little deeper and it becomes clear that there are plenty of deviations from the norm.

    But before we get onto this particular machine we should perhaps have a little look at what Alpina was actually doing with the E21 3 Series back when the car was new. Space doesn’t allow us to go into the tiny minutiae of intricate specification changes but broadly speaking one could say that for European customers there were three distinctly different flavours of E21 Alpina: The A Series machines based on the four-cylinder car; the B6 2.8 that used an Alpina-fettled M30 six-cylinder; and the C1 2.3 that’s the main focus of this feature.

    The C1 2.3 came pretty late to the party as #Alpina waited a number of years to bring out its version of the E21 based on the new small-block six-cylinder engine. #BMW launched the 320 in #1977 and in #1978 went one better with a longer stroke version of the engine to create the 323i that certainly put back the pizzazz that had been missing from the entry-level BMW. When the 323i made its debut Alpina was busy going several steps further than BMW with its B6 2.8 machine and for a couple of years it let this car lead the way as the ultimate incarnation of the rapid 3 Series, but with a second fuel crisis coming along at the end of the decade Alpina decided to also fettle the 323i to create a car that would slot neatly between the 143hp 323i and its 200hp B6 2.8.

    Up until this point in time Alpina had used just two letters to denote what type of engines its cars had used: A for the M10-based four-cylinder models and B for the big-block six-cylinder machinery. With the arrival of this new BMW engine, however, it needed a new letter for models that would be fitted with this unit and, working chronologically through the alphabet, the letter C was a sure-fire winner. The 2316cc engine fitted to the 323i was given a mild going-over by Alpina and this included new pistons, hemispherical combustion chambers and an uprated 268-degree camshaft along with an Alpina exhaust system. The result of this was an increase in power from 143hp to 170hp at 6000rpm and 155lb ft of torque (up from 140lb ft) at 4500rpm. Not wild gains by any means but the performance figures suggested otherwise with the 323i’s 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds being slashed to just 7.9 seconds while top speed was up by 10mph to 129mph. Alpina claimed a standing kilometre time of 28.9 seconds, which is pretty impressive for a nigh-on 35-year-old machine.

    As you’d expect with a complete Alpina conversion there were a number of other changes, too, including #Bilstein gas-filled shock absorbers coupled to Alpinaspec springs front and rear and uprated anti-roll bars, too. Externally there were the by now traditional Alpina styling cues – the deep front air dam, boot spoiler and a set of multi-spoke alloys. These measured a miniscule (by today’s standards) 6x13 inches up front and 6.5x13 inches at the rear but despite their differing widths the C1 was shod with 185/70 HR13 rubber all-round. To complete the exterior and to ensure everyone knew you had an Alpina there was the Alpina decal set.

    Inside you got a set of sports seats clad in Alpina cloth with blue and green stripes and to finish things off there was a leather Alpina steering wheel and a wooden-topped Alpina gear knob. The price for this back in 1980 was DM 38,300 – the cheapest car that Alpina had offered for a number of years, and one that sold well, too, with the company manufacturing 472 C1s before it was replaced by the E30. There were some standard factory options, too: metallic paint cost DM 718; a mechanical limited-slip differential DM 668; a sunroof DM 918; a long-range fuel tank DM 747; and the most expensive of all, 15- inch staggered alloys at DM 1780.

    At the time Alpina in Germany wasn’t making official UK right-hand drive cars and the ones that were found in the UK were generally sold by the then importer Tom Walkinshaw Racing as Sytner didn’t take over the running of Alpina in the UK as the sole importer until 1985. Despite not being involved when the E21 C1 2.3 was a new car, when a fortunate set of circumstances arose Alpina GB couldn’t resist the opportunity to recreate a loving homage to one of these cars.

    The machine you see here actually started life as a 320 back in 1981 and was subsequently sold to a local lady in Nottingham in 1984. She kept the car for 27 years and sold it back to Sytner Nottingham when she became too elderly to drive. Alpina GB’s brand manager, Matt Stripling, takes up the story: “The car was beautiful and had only covered 35,000 miles so we were keen to do something special with it. We decided to make it into a re-creation of an Alpina of its era, or as close as we could get.”

    The car was thoroughly evaluated in Alpina GB’s workshops and was discovered to be in remarkably fine fettle, although as the base car was a 320 there were a number of significant changes that would need to be carried out in order for it to be converted into something approaching C1-spec. “Because the C1 Alpina was based on a #BMW-323i-E21 , not a 320, we had to upgrade the suspension and brakes (the 320 had smaller discs as well as drums at the rear). We obtained the correct E21 323i kit – bigger suspension legs on the front (with bigger discs) and at the rear, a disc brake setup. The front anti-roll bar is bigger, too, and there is now a rear anti-roll bar where previously there wasn’t one at all. Of course, we used new BMW discs and pads all-round,” Matt told us.

    “The suspension was becoming a little tired so we decided to refresh the shock absorbers with new adjustable items, too. Once we had done this we effectively had a 323i base, without the engine. The original Alpina C1 used a tuned 323i 2.3-litre engine with power increased to 170hp; the easy way for us to achieve this was by using a later 2.5-litre 325i engine which starts life at 170hp. It also benefits from Motronic fuel injection which is a superior system to that used previously. So we purchased a complete 325i with a good engine and drivetrain. The engine has the same dimensions so it went straight in and while we were at it we put the five-speed gearbox in to replace the old four-speed.”

    Alpina didn’t leave it there, though, as it wanted to try and coax a little bit more power from the 2.5-litre ‘six so a more aggressive camshaft was fitted along with a tubular manifold and a hand-made stainless steel exhaust system. The high-lift cam does give the car a little bit of a lumpy idle and on reflection Matt does feel this might have been a mistake but they’ll live with the car for a while before deciding whether or not to revert to the cam that was originally in the 325i’s engine. Other mechanical changes included the fitment of a conversion unit to drive the mechanical speedo as the 325i’s five speed ‘box doesn’t have a speedo drive like the original vehicle. In the interest of weight distribution the battery has also been relocated to the boot.

    While mechanically it may not be exactly to C1-spec to the untrained eye externally it looks pretty much spot-on. Fully paid up members of the Alpina aficionado’s club would probably be able to immediately tell you something’s not quite right though and that centres on the wheels. As Matt explains: “E21 Alpina wheels were either 13 or 15 inches in diameter and these are no longer available so we used a new set of E30 16-inch Alpina wheels with special spacers to give the correct clearance.” When these wheels were first mounted the E30 centre caps gave them away as definitely not being correct, but since then the wheel centres have been painted black and Alpina centre caps fitted, which makes them look much more period.

    Externally a copy of an Alpina front spoiler was installed as the originals are no longer available and this was painted the correct hue when the car was also having some other minor imperfections sorted out. Whether or not to apply the deco set and if so what colour to use took much deliberation between the guys at Sytner Nottingham and in the end the silver stripes were applied which look wonderful when contrasted with the Henna red paint.

    Inside the car was still pretty standard and it could have been left like that but Matt wanted it to look and feel ‘right’ from behind the wheel so some changes were made, as he explains: “The upholstery was grey cloth and as new but slightly boring, with standard seats. So we obtained some original BMW Recaro seats, and sent the car to our original coach trimmer from our Alpina building days, Graeme Dean at Ilkeston. He has reupholstered the car in black leather, adding a bolster to the centre of the rear bench (a bit like an E30 M3) and fitted the last of his remaining (original green/blue Alpina) seat trim as well as some roundels below the head restraints. There is no ‘correct’ way to do the upholstery as there were so many different bespoke solutions at the time, but I think we have got this spot-on for the car. The door panels are leather too.” The icing on the cake was that an original Alpina steering wheel and gear knob was still available and the fitment of these has finished off the interior really nicely.

    In the flesh the car looks simply stunning and plenty of people stop to have a look while we’re photographing the car. The interior in particular looks very inviting and the seats themselves are hugely supportive and grip you in all the right places. While at idle the tickover leads you to believe that it’s going to be a bit of a peaky unit as soon as you’re moving you discover that even with the lumpy cam profile it’s still actually very tractable and will pull pretty cleanly from low revs. It feels very quick, too, and despite not having a huge amount of power by today’s standards it’s important to remember that the E21 was actually pretty featherweight so it has a very decent power-toweight ratio. Our brief drive reveals strong performance, nicely weighted controls and accurate and well weighted steering. In fact, it wouldn’t be going too far to suggest that you really could use this car everyday.

    We think it’s fantastic that Sytner Nottingham has honoured its history and made the effort to recreate this C1. It certainly won’t be used everyday but will be brought out for shows and the like and while it might not be 100 per cent original Alpina GB is not pretending that it is anything other than a homage to the original. Top work chaps!

    Alpina GB couldn’t resist the opportunity to recreate a loving homage to one of these cars.

    “The car was beautiful and had only covered 35,000 miles so we were keen to do something special with it”
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