By on November 20, 2013

09 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe BMW E24 6-series is one of those cars with a vast, uncrossable gulf between the values assigned to it by Internet Car Experts and those assigned by Hardbitten Burned-By-Real-World-Purchases Car Experts. The Internet Car Expert has seen an ’87 635CSi in nice shape with an asking price of $25,000 on Craigslist, and therefore he knows that even a rough one is worth ten grand, minimum. The Hardbitten Burned-By-Real-World-Purchases Car Expert once paid $2,500 for a fairly solid E24, put $1,500 of parts into it, and sold it for $2,750. The junkyard doesn’t lie, and I see E24s in cheap self-service yards all the time, so often that I don’t photograph most of them. Today’s Junkyard Find, however, has just enough of that Late Malaise Era appeal, with its overtones of imminent Able-Archer 83-triggered nuclear annihilation (plus a manual transmission), that I decided to shoot it.
11 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to imagine BMW adding these cheezy tape stripes, even back in 1983, but they appear to be factory-applied.
04 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe E24’s guts were pretty much the same as those of the E28 5-series, and so the 6 tended to last for a respectable (for the early 1980s) number of miles.
02 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many of these cars with manual transmissions, since low-level S&L scammers and white-powder salesmen back then mostly wanted automatic-transmission luxury to go with their German-coupe style.
12 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is pretty rusty by Denver standards, so it probably spent some of its life in the Midwest.
05 - 1983 BMW E24 Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin181 horses out of this 3.2 liter Big Six engine. That sounds weak these days, but was impressive enough in 1983.

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72 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 BMW 633 CSi...”

  • avatar

    My goodness the interior door handles are small. And in the driver foot well shot, is that the hood release lever hanging down on the left? Is the speaker plate down there where the door chime came out?

    I like those tape stripes. They fit the car just fine!

  • avatar

    I really like the hard angle of the front grill in older BMW’s like this. Someday I’ll add a 6-Series to my collection.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I don’t get it. I worked at a junkyard during college and I don’t recall ever seeing a trunklid pried open with a crowbar as many of your featured cars do. What’s up with that, has the IQ level of salvage yard employees really gone down that much since the 1980’s?

    • 0 avatar

      IIRC he said it was to prevent people for hiding parts in cars and returning later.

    • 0 avatar

      Tearing up the trunk to open it isn’t a universal practice at any junkyard. I suspect it’s done by low-level tow-yard employees looking for bags-o-crack, tools, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        That makes more sense…thanks, Murilee.

      • 0 avatar

        Most if not every yard I frequent has a “NO” jack policy. Along with the obvious BluWrench and other safety concientious rules. In other words they take the jack and tools out so you don’t do something stupid with them. If you need a tire wrench you can get one to use when you pay the admission fee.

        “IIRC he said it was to prevent people for hiding parts in cars and returning later”
        That does not make any sense. And since when does a yard give a damn whether people hide parts for themselves or that they care to sell a damage free peice of sheet metal.

    • 0 avatar

      They do that at the self-serve yards in my area [Detroit] as well. I think that they do it because not every car comes with keys–or sometimes they open the trunks, then some customer closes one–with no way to re-open it. And since it’s probably a lot easier (or faster) to keep the trunk open by wrecking the lid then it is to jam the latch, they do the former.

  • avatar

    The car that inspired the styling on the MN112 Thunderbird. Jack Telnack was very fond of this car.

  • avatar

    I’m not a big BMW-guy but always loved the shape of these old 6-series. The 850i is another favorite.

    • 0 avatar

      As a child, this was my favorite car to sit in in the showroom while waiting for my parents’ E28 to be repaired, which was often.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Yeah, seems like these cars combine the “fun” of 1970s Malaise engineering, with the German penchant for overly-complex and fragile systems. Local body shop has some ’80s 528e for sale. It is a 5-speed, and apparently can move under its own power, but I’m not interested in dropping $2,000 for some BDSM on wheels.

        • 0 avatar

          The 528e was one of the most reliable cars around. My Stepfather then mother put better than 250K miles on one with minimal dilemmas. Then sold it to a friend of mine who put another 50K or so on it before selling it off. Only major repair outside of normal maintenance was a transmission rebuild at ~180K. They are fundamentally a German Buick, but rugged and reliable as all get out.

          Where do you people get these ideas? It’s like any car – if you buy one used that is a piece of crap, it will be an unreliable piece of crap unless you spend a fortune on it. Buy a good one, and it will be a good car. It’s cheaper to BUY a good one than to MAKE a good one.

          As for the E24s, early ones are on the E12 platform, late ones are on the E28. I *think* an ’83 is the first of the E28-based cars, but I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong. Similar, but not the same.

          • 0 avatar

            Not sure if you’re responding to bumpy ii, me, or both of us. FYI, our E28 was purchased new in March of ’82, and my parents are sticklers for preventative maintenance.

            I think you’re right about ’83. The E28 5-series debuted in the ’82 US model year, which would jibe with ’83 for the related 6-series.

          • 0 avatar

            Keyword “was”.

            When it was new, I’m sure the 528e was Very Reliable.

            But now one of that era is pushing 30 years of wear and age-out, and that makes anything less reliable.

            (At 30 years, *everything* is suspect for Imminent Failure.)

          • 0 avatar

            The ’83 528e was in our family from new until 2005 or so, and my friend had it until 2010. It was no less reliable at 25 than it was new. The only reason my Mother sold it was my Grandparents stopped driving and gave her their car. My friend sold it because it was finally starting to get fairly rusty after 15 years in Maine – it was in CA before that.

            I had an ’86 535i for a few years about 8 years ago, it was also bulletproof. A friend still daily drives that one too. I guess I am just cosmically lucky when it comes to European cars.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      When these came out, I thought the 6-series was the most beautiful car shape ever – and I’m not even a BMW fan.

  • avatar

    Push it to the limit!

  • avatar

    I feel more sorry for that Saab behind the BMW. That being said I always thought these BMWs looked a bit off compared to the others of this time, but they are interesting insights into what Detroit was aping at the time in terms of visual ques.

    “181 horses out of this 3.2 liter Big Six engine. That sounds weak these days, but was impressive enough in 1983.”

    Considering that 5 litre V8s were pumping out 130hp-160 on average I’ll take a smaller but more powerful piece.

  • avatar
    George B

    If old guys collect the cars they wanted but couldn’t get when they were young, I could see BMW coupes in good condition becoming collectable in the way muscle cars were for aging Baby Boomers. The trick is to figure out how to get the restoration cost down.

  • avatar

    I love my $1600 E28 528e that I have spent $6000 on (only because I stopped counting).
    Someone please go back to that junkyard and get all the 5 speed parts (including driveshaft and pedals)and put them for sale on mye28.

  • avatar

    Steve was a legend in his own mind.

    He would sit in the parked 633 and relive the most glorious time of his life, the early 80s. Booze. Coke. Women. Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Epic times, he thought. Steve had worked for Micheal Milken whose junk bonds made near instant millionaires of he and others employed at Drexel Burnham Lambert. Milken enabled the so called “Wall Street raiders” to do hostile takeovers of major corporations and downsize the employees, Steve had hobnobbed with some of the most powerful people in the industry… but that was so long ago. He turned the key and the car turned over but wouldn’t start. Steve hit the key a few more times and frustrated just sat back in the drivers seat, kicked in the clutch and played with the shifter as his drew into another daze.

    “Steve, where have ya been?” the tuxedo-ed Larry asked as Steve stumbled forward toward him.
    “I eh, got lost in the coatroom” he replied as he turned around and made a gun with his hand pointing at a disheveled cocktail waitress. Larry slapped Steve on the back and pulled him toward the stage.
    “You old dog, come on Milken’s going to give his speech” Larry said as the two walked toward the stage.
    “You know I finally fulfilled one of my dreams Lar” Steve said similing.
    “The coatroom?” Larry asked.
    “Okay, two dreams” he gushed.
    “Seriously what did you do?”.
    “After I paid off Mom’s little house, I had a little left over so I bought the Beemer of my dreams. Six series with a manual, 180 fricking horsepower Lar!”.
    “Wow” Larry said impressed. “What about the Cadillac?”
    “The Seville? That piece of s*** will just be my commuter now” Steve replied. The lights dimmed and Larry hushed him as their hero and god walked out on the stage. Milken began to speak and Steve drifted into his own world. The annual high yield bond conference in Las Vegas felt like a dream to Steve. He grew up poor in the Midwest, his father was killed on the job at the Packard plant in Detroit and Mom brought the little Steve back to Nebraska to live with her parents when he was five. Mom had always been there for him and now he was able to return the favor. He thought he was invincible, just as he believed junk bonds were as well, invincible until the cancer came a year later.

    Steve woke up in the Beemer and hit the key again to no avail. The radio worked, the power windows worked, must not be getting spark he thought. Steve opened the door and got out of the car. The little Beemer looked tired and worn as the bald Steve felt, but much like Steve it had been a little trooper. He beat the cancer, he conquered it. Sure Mom had to take care of him during his convalescence but Steve won. During his prolonged absence the junk bond game changed so much. Eventually even the SEC was knocking on his door. When Drexel went under Steve didn’t apply for another license, after all Mom always blamed the job for his cancer. He took out a cell phone and dialed his mechanic.

    “Hello” Steve said into his Nokia.
    “Steve, is this about the Beemer again?” the voice said
    “Yes, it won’t turn over in the garage”
    “Steve I’ve known you since we were kids and I know how you think, but I think its time to let it go”
    “Jimmy just come get it” Steve said annoyed. Jimmy sighed and agreed.

    Steve walked past the old keyring and grabbed the valet key for the Beemer, and tossed it into the open driver side window onto the seat. He clicked the 80s grade garage door button to open the garage door, and shut the door to the house behind him. He stood at the mantle ans stared at Mom’s urn. His cell phone rang.

    “Hello, here already Jimmy?”
    “Hello this is Doctor Stoller’s office for Steve Guynan”
    “This is he”
    “Mr. Guynan please hold for Doctor Stoller he wants to discuss the results of your biopsy”

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I had the pleasure of driving one of these in 1985 from an “exotic car” rental shop up US 1 north of San Francisco. In the context of the time, I found it to be a very sporting (i.e. not extreme) ride which required just a little bit of respect for the handling traits of the trailing arm suspension. The engine had adequate torque such that you didn’t have to rev the piss out of it to get it going; but venturing into the upper rpm range yield more than just noise.

    180 hp out of 3.2 liters without tricks like variable valve timing and lift and with the desmog equipment of the day is not too shabby.

    With due respect to the principle de gustibius non disputandum est, I liked the appearance of the coupe. It was a “pretty” car, to my eye and one that I would have been happy to own.

  • avatar

    Such is the plight of the yuppie mobile and not understanding the maintanence required on a performance car let alone a German one.

  • avatar

    If those classy tape stripes were factory, just imagine how expensive they would’ve been on an 80s Beemer.

  • avatar

    Oh, dear Lord, did I lust after this car, particularly the M version.

    • 0 avatar

      Last year, I found two of these right next to each other at my Pick n Pull. One of them was an M6 with Dinan stuff! One of the coolest rear seating areas I’ve seen on a car. Another thing of interest is that the right rear seat was heavily worn, and had a buildup of filth. As if an extremely dirty person was chauffeured around in it. Really weird. The car was thoroughly beat from stem to stern, but when I came back a week later, it was stripped to the bone of anything not totally shot.

  • avatar

    Interesting that you posted this. Last Sunday I was standing at the side of our house….which is situated on a corner lot…when a guy driving a pristine, white BMW of this type and vintage came to a halt at the stop sign, proceed to make a right turn and the car died and coasted to a stop in front of my driveway. He tried to get it restarted with no luck. I helped him push it away from my driveway since I was about to go out. The BMW owner wasn’t too talkative, seemed really annoyed. Like I said, the car was beautiful, looked new inside and out and had historic plates. He called his wife and she picked him up in a late model Nissan CUV. When I got home, the BMW was still at the curb. That evening a flatbed hauled it off.

    • 0 avatar

      If the same situation came up with a French car, the guy wouldn’t be embarrased or annoyed at all.
      He’d have shared a dozen stories of really bad breakdowns (on the motorway, the fast lane, in the dark!) and would probably have had a picnic (french loaf, some brie and some vino) in the boot to while away the time until the flatbed driver arrived.

  • avatar

    The junkyard does not lie and the nicest cars in the junkyard are always the the most expensive luxury vehicles. Honda Civics in the junkyard are truly clapped out/wrecked while Jags and BMWs often look just like the one Murilee found.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    IIRC this (or at least its front end) was one of the bricks in The Wall..

  • avatar

    These aren’t _that_ bad to own and maintain. The trick is to find them earlier in the run when they were more grand touring coupes rather than ultra-lux status symbols. The ’77-82s were based on the E12 chassis, which is much simpler than the e28.

    The M30 is kind of like BMW’s small block, around from the late 60s to early 90s. The M10 is the same motor, minus two cylinders. You can get a reman long block between $500 and $1k.

    The workings of early Motronic are pretty well understood, as is the path to other engine management options.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Because I’m more daunted by the horror of the later E63 (2004-2010) and F12 (2012-present) 6-Series models, I can’t imagine that these relatively-analog E24 6-Series cars would be that hard to maintain.

      • 0 avatar

        They are not – but they do RUST. Badly. Karmann did not build the bodies as well as BMW did, and they are quite complex structurally so difficult to repair.

        Having owned a couple of e28s, my current e91 3-series has about the same amount of room inside. The old 5 was airier of course, having bigger and more upright windows and much thinner and flatter doors. Actually, if anything the e91 has more back seat room. The current F-3X is notably bigger inside than the E-9X, but is also lighter.

        The e24 is longer-lower-wider than the e28, but ultimately about the same size. The e28 was a big car back in ’83.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    What’s interesting about this particular Bimmer is that it still looks like a large car, versus a 528e that would probably be dwarfed by a modern 328i.

    But, in all seriousness, what would make BMW round 3.2 to 3.3—I’ll assume this was back when BMW model numbers actually meant something—to make the 633 model designation? Unless the 3.2-liter engine was actually closer to 3.3 liters, I don’t see a real reason for it because 632 is a far prettier number…

  • avatar

    When I was younger I had a small collection of Road & Track magazines from 1986. One of those issues featured a road test of the M635CSi, and it was love at first sight. Well okay, it wasn’t my only car-based love, there was also a Ferrari Testarossa on the cover of one of them and a Testarossa vs Countach road test, but you know what I mean.

    Such a cool looking car, but I doubt I’ll ever own one…

  • avatar

    That intake manifold would make a great piece of wall art:

  • avatar

    Huh. Before this, I didn’t remember a BMW 6 series even existed.

  • avatar

    Cybill Sheppard’s character Maddie Hayes drove one in Moonlighting L0L

  • avatar

    Perfect! Consider me “Hardbitten Burned-By-Real-World-Purchases”.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My late wife’s stepfather had one of these of very similar vintage , tho his was more of a gun-metal gray , with an automatic and a parchment color leather interior . Don’t know if the oh-so eighties tape stripes were factory but his had identical ones . He had a bit of a drinking problem – what later vets would call PTSD , in his case stemming from combat in the Navy in WWII in the night battles off of Guadalcanal-and a couple of times drove it into a ditch .At the time it was like 14, 15 years old , showing a bit of wear . I recall driving it myself a couple of times , taking him on a couple of discreet liquor store and cigarette runs in the Dallas exurbs, both of us hoping my awful mother-in-law , God rest her soul , wouldn’t get wise . Not all that quick with the auto trans but a nice car . He was the type who spent his money on Rolexes and expensive cars , had owned everything from a 1946 Chrysler Town and Country convertible to a couple of Porsches . His favorite was a pagoda roof Mercedes . Kindest old drunk I ever knew, way nicer than my old man . Dead of a heart attack a year or two later . Getting teary eyed thinking about him, 15 years later .

  • avatar

    Had one of these, same color, 5-speed, etc. It drove nicely but was the most unreliable, expensive to maintain car that I have ever encountered; very glad to see it go.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The the rusty rear wheel arches was the death knell for this Shark . The 181K is barely broken for the M 30 engine. Manual transmissions were more common in the earlier 533s 633s and 733s than the later models. With the Bentley manual for the E 28 and on line support, the E 24 is a great car for a DIY’er. They are very easy to work on. But they will put in the poor house if you have to pay a mechanic.

  • avatar

    Would you believe I owned one of these until two years ago? 1983 and all! I got it cheap because it needed paint and a tune up, but it was still VERY solid (only had 90K miles on it. I rolled it flat-black (even the wheels), serviced it and drove it 100 miles everyday to work and back for well over a year. Even went on a 900 mile trip with it. I was a bit too aggressive down my uncles long, rutted, gravel driveway one drunken night and split the body weld going up the strut-tower to the windshield (right on the seam). It felt noticeably “looser” after that so I pawned it off on my neighbor (another car guy, who knew exactly what he was getting himself into) and picked up a Mercedes C126 in its place. Two weeks later it was stolen from him and showed back up missing EVERYTHING three days after that. They even took the lug nuts! E24s were great cars, and not particularly expensive to own if you can turn your own wrench. Being 28, I never thought id get the chance to own one and Im very happy I did. Great driving car… and that shark-nose is lovely to see everytime you get out of it. Now, if only I could get my 560 to sip gas like the M30 in that E24 Id be ok…

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