Bargain or Nightmare: 1979 BMW 635CSI


There are some cars that give you hope true bargains still exist, but more often than not, there’s some ugliness beneath the surface that warrants the low price. I am trying to figure out which category this 1979 BMW 635CSI falls into, as these genuine Euro-market cars are usually worth more than the $1,500 asking price as seen here on craigslist. But it sounds like rust is lurking throughout, which changes everything.


First, the good news: this 635 sports the more desirable M90 motor, which offered better acceleration and far less restrictive emissions equipment than what the U.S. cars were saddled with. It’s hooked up to a dog-leg manual 5-speed transmission and a limited slip rear end, an ideal mechanism for putting the 215 b.h.p. and 224 lb. ft. of torque to work. The seller says the radiator is shot, which makes me wonder if it overheated. On the outside, you get the more svelte chrome Euro bumpers, which also fetch good money.


On the inside, the BMW comes standard with the desirable Recaro sport buckets, which are looking a bit tired at the moment. Still, these go for good money in almost any form. The seller claims the speedo is in kilometers and there’s plenty of German language on the dash, further validating his claims of this being a genuine gray market car. Here’s the rub: he says the floors are severely rusted and doesn’t include photos. That’s never a good sign, as these cars rust even under the best conditions.


Overall, there’s lot of good parts on this car and I’d like to see it restored. But the odds are against it, especially depending on how bad the non-pictured rust is. With the dead alternator and radiator, combined with the seller’s mentioning that it will also need brakes and a new battery, I think he has priced it fairly at $1,500. But whether this car returns to the road as a whole vehicle or is stripped – well, I’m not sure of the odds either way.


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  1. Eric Merkle

    I’ve been looking at this since last night… 20 minutes from home. OH if I had a warehouse. .

  2. Luki

    Smokin Deal.

  3. B

    I had one of these back in the 80s.
    Loved the car but I finally gave up on it. The rust never sleeps.
    They rust almost as bad as the 2002s.

  4. L.M.K. Member

    Must have been an attractive deal to the purchaser…..


    Move on…..

  6. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Wow. That went fast. I’d agree it was a steal.

  7. Aaron

    Now he wants $2000…

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Aaron, did you get in touch? I’m guessing he was flooded with inquiries, way more than $1500 worth of parts on that car.

  8. RicK

    If it was an automatic I’d pass (since those cost $$$$$ to replace) but its a 5 speed, grab it, even for $2K

  9. Dolphin Member

    Worth it for the Euro parts alone. Not surprised seller wants more.

    If the bad radiator led to overheating you would want to know if the head warped. Quick way to get an idea about that would be to do a cold compression check. If cylinders are within 5% it might be OK. If 1 or 2 are down it could be a warped head/bad head gasket, or need a valve job. Would probably still be worth the asking even if in need of engine work.

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