It doesn’t take much to ruin a great design, and even less to screw up an adequate one. As I laid eyes on this Series 6 BMW, I thought: “How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways…” Stupid rims both too wide and too big? Check. Wrong bloody colour? Check. Unnecessary / tacky add-ons? Check. Still, looking at it another way, it was a 35-year-old BMW coupé in mint condition. Guess it was time to snap first and ask nitpicking questions later.
There was cause to find some merit in this old gal, of course. The flawlessness of the ensemble was undeniable – you would just never see an old car this clean anywhere but in this country, a fact that continues to amaze me and makes for excellent CC fodder. Another thing that made me smile was the BMW roundel’s paint was peeling off, as they all do. Even the most anally OCD Japanese owner cold prevent that from happening.
Big BMW coupés, as Paul pointed out in one of his posts on the E24, were much finer in their earlier incarnation, a.k.a the 3.0 CSi (E9). Our editor felt that the E24’s biggest issue, design-wise, was the greenhouse looking too tall. Personally, my chief gripe with these is the front overhang, which is just too pronounced. This is made a lot worse on the 5mph-bumper cars of course, but even our feature car here suffers from a bad case of prognathism, to my eyes at least.
This is not really aided by the classic BMW face this car has. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of the classic BMW face. It made the marque iconic. But some cars wore it better than others, and the massive cowcatcher-like front spoiler really doesn’t do this car any favours.
They weren’t always like this. When Paul Bracq authored the design, back in the early ‘70s (as masterfully recounted in Prof. Andreina’s seminal Bracq bio, a must-read), there was a lot more balance to the whole car. The above photograph shows a Euro-spec MY 1976 model – one of the early ones built by Karmann. That’s the original vision, and it wasn’t bad at all. Quite tasty, in fact. Just not quite as sweet as the old E9.
The contrast with the Tokyo car is stark. The clown wheels aside, it’s the spoilers, both front and rear, are just pure eye cancer. Let’s look at that rear one just a wee bit closer, as it really looks like an egregious assault on good taste.
The tiny “M Technic” script on that piece of plastic makes it look official, but I’m not biting. Not sure if this car’s owner wants to make it look like an M, which don’t have those in any case. At least it’s body coloured – a black item would have been quite a bit more offensive to the eye.
And a glance inside proved that this is definitely not an M variant – that there’s an automatic, the antithesis of M in those days. From a purely esthetic point of view, I can’t say this BMW’s interior is all that pleasing, either. The centre stack is a mess of irregularity, with panes sort of angled towards the driver, but seemingly at random. At least it’s as obsessively clean as the rest of the car.
As much as I find things to object to when looking at this car, it’s still a ray of sunshine to see something this old and in this condition being used regularly, which this one certainly is. I found its lair one evening and couldn’t photograph it for lack of light. Came back a few days later in the morning, but it was being taken out by its owner, so I had to return yet another time.
I did not talk to the owner (I rarely get to, as most folks here don’t tend to speak any of the languages I do), but from what I saw he was an impeccably dressed older gentleman, probably in his 70s. This 635 is more than likely his pride and joy since that fateful day when he collected it from the BMW dealership, back in 1985 or thereabouts.
Even in its most unadorned and original 1975 iteration, the Series 6 was not necessarily BMW’s greatest addition to the automotive landscape. It was needed – impossible to imagine a big swanky two-door not sitting atop the range, it was the Great Personal Luxury Coupé Era after all – but it soon gathered ugly add-ons in the shape of spoilers, fat bumpers and lost whatever mojo it had to start off with. Bracq’s BMW saloons always seemed better balanced to me, not to mention inherently more practical. Just lop 100 off this 635 and get me a Series 5, please.
COAL: 1983 BMW 633csi, Beginner’s Luck, by Matt Spencer