PistonHeads.com Forum

RE: BMW 635CSi: PH Fleet

Friday 10th November

BMW 635CSi: PH Fleet

What to use a proper old grand tourer for? Well, some proper grand touring, of course!



It's a common urge among motoring journalists to make up a pairing or a trio of cars based on a common theme. I'm not sure why; maybe it stems from years of putting together group tests or something. Either way, I've spent... oh, minutes on end, at least, trying to draw a line between the cars owned by myself and two mates that we took on a pre-marriage, ambition-fulfilling road trip two years back.

The three musketeers!
The three musketeers!
I mentioned this trip in passing when I introduced the 6 Series, and before going any further with the car, though I'd expand on it, as it was and remains today the most memorable thing I've done in it thus far (apart from getting married, of course, if Mrs R's reading). The brief was simple: take the aforementioned trio of cars across France, to drive the Route Napoleon, hobnob around Monaco, nip into Italy and drive home, all in the space of five days.

No time for dawdling, then. And while, as I've said, I've struggled in vain to link our three cars in some way, it proved impossible, as you'd struggle to find a more disparate trio of enthusiast motors. Lining up alongside the BMW on the sunny September morning we departed were best man George's Jaguar XK drop-top, and a Renault Clio 172 owned by mutual friend and snapper Tom, whose work you'll have seen on these pages before.

Indeed, throughout the first day's motorway trudge down to Grenoble, the differences between the three came into sharp focus. With the top down, the Jag purred along effortlessly, leaving George to pose, while the Clio bounced Tom around noisily. And the BMW? It was sublime, sunroof open and creamy-smooth six humming along, earning admiring looks from passengers in passing cars; not quite as smooth as the Jag, but twice as classy.

What else to do on a deserted autoroute?
What else to do on a deserted autoroute?
That night in Grenoble, George and I enjoyed our beers while Tom nursed his tinnitus, but the next day, he'd have the last laugh. As we hit the Route Napoleon proper, the Clio snapped at the heels of the lumbering Jag, whose power gave it the ability to squirt away on the straights, only for the Renault to catch it again as it plunged its nose wide at the next bend.

The BMW was the biggest surprise, though. While its weight was undeniable, BMW's late-80s attention to suspension tuning was clear; the big Six rolled in corners to a certain point, for sure, but then it seemed to check itself, whereupon I found you could squeeze on the power progressively and lean on the grip of the chunky outer tyres to gain speed through the corner without upsetting the tail. In this way, it was capable of covering ground at quite an indecent rate, aided ably by the talkative, wonderfully progressive steering. Not to mention the gearbox's switchable '3-2-1' mode, which locks it into whichever gear you select using the shifter, and prevents it from changing up or down. Used in anger, this allows you to drive it much like a manual, albeit shifting a second or two earlier in anticipation of the slower change.

All three cars were outshone by the scenery, mind you. We deviated from the Route to take in the winding roads running down the banks of Lac de Serre-Poncon, its waters a barely believable shade of aquamarine and hemmed by steep slopes swathed in deep-pile greenery. From there, it was an equally breathtaking run along sinewy roads clinging to leafy hillsides to Digne, and then on via Castellane and Grasse to Nice, the sun growing hotter and the landscape drier and scrubbier as the miles passed.

Now we're talking
Now we're talking
I was sure the BMW's weight would decimate its brakes before long. Sure enough, by the end of the Route, there was a definite wheel wobble under heavy braking, pointing to a warp on at least one of the discs - although after six hours' reasonably spirited driving in such an old car, that that was the only notable effect was impressive.

The following day's bimble along the coast through Monaco was a delight and passed without a hitch. Then, after a night in San Remo, we headed back over the mountains, bumping into a Cars & Coffee meet at Mont Cenis, our now fly-spattered cars comprehensively outclassed by the Lancia Stratos, Lamborghini Countach, Alpine A110, and countless other bits of exotica that had turned up.

From there we stopped in Annecy, whose riverside old-town and lake-edge location make it one of France's nicest towns, for my money; and then it was home via another motorway stint and the obligatory stop at the old grand prix pits at Reims, the BMW again proving its grand touring cred with its smooth ride and effortless engine. It arrived back in the UK having put not one foot wrong, and neither has it done since, wearing those 2,000 miles of relatively hard driving remarkably lightly for a car just the right side of 30 years old.

Had to be done, didn't it?
Had to be done, didn't it?
But the BMW's road tripping won't end there. It's had a year or two off while weddings and house renovations have taken precedence. However, the new Mrs R is very keen to see what all the fuss is about - so another trip to the continent is planned for the 6 Series in 2018. More on which in good time.

[Apologies for the delay in getting this featured, Alex delivered the words in good time and we've simply slacked off in uploading - more to follow soon! MB]


FACT SHEET
Car:
1988 BMW 635CSi Auto 'Highline'
Run by: Alex Robbins
Bought: December 2014
Mileage at purchase: 100,895
Mileage now: 107,401
Last two months at a glance: Alex reminisces about the BMW's first big adventure - and looks forward to the next

Previous updates:
Hello to one hell of a 6 Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

2 GKC

Original Poster:

299 posts

28 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Main picture is superb. Best front end ever?

Have we seen this car before?

sinbaddio

886 posts

99 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Brilliant, great car and fab route.

Did similar this year from Grenoble to St Raphael, albeit it in a Hyundai Santa Fe, 7 people and a roof box! Stunning roads and scenery to die for!

cerb4.5lee

8,967 posts

103 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Always loved these. cool

V8 FOU

2,215 posts

70 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
One of the best cars I have ever owned.
Correct about the handling, unless you are on those awful TRX tyres.

culpz

2,286 posts

35 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
I feel bad because, with respect to the Jag and the BMW, i honestly cared more reading about the Clio 172. I must have Renaultsport fever biggrin

Sounds like an awesome little trip. I must say, i adore the 635CSI from the front and sides but the rear really lets it down for me.
Advertisement

Digga

22,385 posts

206 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
The 6 series is simply iconic. In many respects I still feel it one of the most beautiful coupes ever and certainly from BMW. A unique design, very much of an era and only really equaled by it's contemporary, the XJS.

My mate's dad had a 635csi, back in the day. Even as a passenger, you could feel the way it rode and cornered - you just knew it was something special.

My own dad, a bit later on, went through a series of (straight six) XJSs, one of which I borrowed for a trip to Scotland with Mrs Digga and, in a similar way to the OP, was staggered by quite how well a good chassis will let a heavy car handle. I also 'got' the knack of the 3-2-1 shifter when decent stretched of A and Broad allowed.

Leins

6,200 posts

71 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Great stuff, that looks like a proper trip for such a car!

acme

1,457 posts

121 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
A stunning car.

My father had one from new in Jan 1987 for 18 months, funnily enough one of the most unreliable cars he had, a new gearbox and two new ECU's I seem to recall, in 18 months and 60k miles. Strangely of all the reports I've read on them, reliability I don't recall is mentioned as an issue.

I've mentioned it on here before but if anyone knows where D88TWC is please get in contact. Though I suspect given the history it's not goodfrown


Digga

22,385 posts

206 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
acme said:
Strangely of all the reports I've read on them, reliability I don't recall is mentioned as an issue.
Me neither. My mates dad had run two 7 series before his 6 and, IIRC a 5 before them. To this day, he still drives BMWs.

I guess your dad's car was like my Toyota Landcruiser!

Amanitin

97 posts

60 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Is it true that these have metric factory wheels and consequently tires are a fortune to replace?

JMF894

2,119 posts

78 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Amanitin said:
Is it true that these have metric factory wheels and consequently tires are a fortune to replace?
Saab did that for a short time with the classic 900 and yes, you are correct regarding the tyres.

HardMiles

50 posts

9 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Man this makes me miss my big six. What a car they are! Probably the best looking coupe of all time. The handling comments are so true, as long as it isn't on the TRX tyres which suck, but the manual override works a great, with a very rangey 1st taking you up to 65mph, great to attack the twists in.

Make sure to upgrade the springs at least and stick a stainless exhaust on and you're golden!!! :-)

HardMiles

50 posts

9 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Amanitin said:
Is it true that these have metric factory wheels and consequently tires are a fortune to replace?
Yes, as above, but just swap them out and get some normal rubber on there and they are way cheaper and ride better. First thing I did to mine.

D51 VCF I hope you're well?!!!

She was bought cheap to be given love to be show worthy by an Aston Martin engineer. Hope to see her shining on show one day!! :-) fond memories!!

fourfoldroot

279 posts

78 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Amanitin said:
Is it true that these have metric factory wheels and consequently tires are a fortune to replace?
My experience. Buy 635 with lovely original coke bottle top wheels. Discover price of TRX replacements!!


Do some research and buy some perfect M sport parallels which fit modern tyres,
Find out everyone thinks they are gash.


Sell them at slight loss including price of tyres and buy some original ish wheels with much bigger depth of tyre. Find it rides much better. Everyone happier!


Digga

22,385 posts

206 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
fourfoldroot said:
My experience. Buy 635 with lovely original coke bottle top wheels. Discover price of TRX replacements!!
fk me though! Those original, 80s wheels just look such works of art.

Scrof

186 posts

77 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Thanks for all the comments, folks. Lovely to see the old girl being so appreciated, and yes, it was a wonderful trip. I'd strongly urge anyone who has the opportunity to drive down to that part of France and Italy; it's utterly glorious and the roads are terrific.

Digga said:
Me neither. My mates dad had run two 7 series before his 6 and, IIRC a 5 before them. To this day, he still drives BMWs.

I guess your dad's car was like my Toyota Landcruiser!
Yeah, mine has been good as gold. Mind you, the other day she did have a 15-minute sulk where she refused to go after sticking fuel in. Fine after a bit of coaxing, and started fine ever since, too.

Amanitin said:
Is it true that these have metric factory wheels and consequently tires are a fortune to replace?
Yes, which is why a previous owner stuck the distinctly non-standard 18in cross-spokes on mine. I left them there as I rather like them!

acme

1,457 posts

121 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Digga said:
e neither. My mates dad had run two 7 series before his 6 and, IIRC a 5 before them. To this day, he still drives BMWs.

I guess your dad's car was like my Toyota Landcruiser!
Agreed, he replaced it with a 735i and I'm not aware he had issues with that and that did 105k in 2-3 years.

Incredibly the 6 series cost 33k with a few optional extras in late '86, the 7 series 36k in '87. Work those for inflation and that's just shy of 90k according to the bank of England!! Bonkers I'd say!

The 6 was a dream, so it was inevitably a little disappointing, but the car was still very much loved. It was my job to clean the wheels!

Not sure if the ECU replacement was related to the cars interaction with the immobiliser, guess it was the early days of such things and the alarm went off a few times when he was in the outside lane of the M25, with the resultant cut of the engine the car thinking it was being stolen!!

Digga

22,385 posts

206 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
Scrof said:
Yes, which is why a previous owner stuck the distinctly non-standard 18in cross-spokes on mine. I left them there as I rather like them!
They looked pretty original to me, optional extra perhaps, but reminiscent of the M635csi wheels.


Agent XXX

713 posts

29 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
The last decent looking car BMW made.

ZX10R NIN

8,691 posts

48 months

Friday 10th November
quotequote all
My dad had one of these I've always liked the shape.