Spotless E24 Survivor: 1986 BMW 635CSI

A few days ago, we featured a very low mileage 1988 BMW M6. It was expensive and had some red flags due to a seemingly unnecessary repaint, along with wear on the driver’s seat that seemed unbecoming of a survivor car. This 1986 BMW 635CSI strikes me as a much better option, despite the fact that the mileage is higher at near 60K. The difference? It has undoubtedly been loved, unlike the questionable Motorsports edition. Find this survivor E24 chassis example here on eBay with bidding just over $3K and the reserve unmet.

Now, mechanically, this isn’t going to be nearly as thrilling as the M6. The 3.5L mill, also known as the M30 or the “Big Six” in BMW circles, is a fairly utilitarian motor. A great motor, nonetheless, as Ward’s referred to it as one its “Top Engines of the 20th Century,” and with good reason. This car is extremely original, down to its metric wheels and tires, the latter of which the seller just serviced with a pricey set of TRX replacements. The body on this 635CSI looks fantastic and the paint is said to be original.

Right off the bat, things are better inside this car than the 20K mile M6. The seats show virtually no wear and the OEM floor mats are as fresh as can be. The seller maintains that this was a fair-weather only car and extensively maintained by the dealer. The automatic is a bummer – absolutely – and will hold this car back value-wise a bit. But it also likely played a role in this 635CSI being used as a leisurely Sunday driver and not as a backroads bahnstormer that was used up by 50,000 miles. Though the seller says it needs nothing, I’d still inspect the control arms and shock mounts for wear.

The good news is the M30 inline-six should be relatively low-cost to maintain. This is the other upside compared to the M6 with its holy-grail S38 motor. Yes, the Motorsports engine is the one we all swoon for but it’s also known for extremely costly rebuilds. This engine will provide years of driving enjoyment and cost very little in the in the meantime, aside from normal maintenance like fluid changes and cooling system updates. Will it ever give the same experience as the M6? No, but it’ll be far easier to live with over the long-term.


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  1. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    In the early 2000’s I owned a classic car dealership so had the opportunity to drive many exotics including a BMW 635 CSi. On one occasion I had to show a Ferrari 328 to a buyer about ten miles away up a very steep, winding, narrow mountain pass road, to his Lion Park. After viewing and driving the Ferrari he asked if it would be possible to bring him the BMW the next day. This I did and after the test drive he decided to buy the Ferrari as it would seem to be a more favourable investment. After having driven both the cars, quite vigorously, I personally would have bought the BMW. My feelings were confirmed a few months later when the Ferrari buyer popped in to see what I had in the way of new stock, and he confided in me that he should have bought the 635 after all as it was a much better drivers car, and a lot cheaper to maintain!


    This one is nice except it’s an automatic. These cars are like night and day with a stick.

    Like 1
    • Will

      I’ve had 3 of these over the years and a B6 bring back in 86. Great cars and the 5 speed swap is easy.

  3. Walker

    Nice !

  4. UK Paul

    Always had a thing for these ..

  5. Joe Haska

    What a nice car, I am sold , I always liked these. I very curious to see what it sells for, I think I will be sick to my stomach, that I didn’t try to buy it. Timing is everything!

  6. Bob

    I am totally in love with the styling and the road handling ability of the 6 Series coupes. My first was an ’81 633CSI, and I have never grown tired of the coupes. I presently have an ’88 635CSI with the manual transmission, and I don’t anticipate ever selling it.
    Someone is going to get a fine car.

  7. Adam T45 Staff

    I have always loved these, and anyone who underestimates their performance capabilities is a fool. These were the absolute giant-killers in International Group A touring car racing in the early to mid 1980’s. In (very lightly modified) Group A trim, a 635Csi would produce around 300hp. They humbled a massive range of cars including the Jag XJS, the 5-litre Holden Commodore and Ford Mustang (fox body), the Volvo 240T, the Mitsubishi Starion and the Maserati Biturbo (to name but a few).

    The Group A example pictured was run by the JPS BMW Team here in Australia. It won seven out of ten rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1985, along with four out of five rounds of the Australian Endurance Championship in the same year. The only thing that stopped the car scoring a clean sweep in the Endurance Championship was an off-track excursion into a sand-trap after another car dropped oil on the track directly in front of it.

    These truly are one hell of a car!

  8. dan

    how much were these $$ new?

  9. Martin Sparkes

    Goin’ smooth at 90 feeling good to be alive….

  10. Dolphin Member

    It’s good the see people with experience with special BMWs comment here with comparisons and opinions. I decided years ago that I would always have a BMW for the duration, whether I bought or sold other cars that I might own as time went by. Most BMWs, and especially the M cars and special cars like this 635 CSi, are very satisfying to drive, and have a real feel of precision when maintained properly and well.

    This car seems like an excellent example of a ‘Shark’ and is about as well kept as you could expect any 32 year old car to be. I might quibble with the ‘brand new condition’ claim since the car has about 60K miles, but I can understand the dealer’s enthusiasm for the condition of the car.

    The one thing I might quibble with is spending $1500 for new TRX tires, which are ’80s technology. They are a unique size, and require dedicated wheels that will not accept any other tire. I would have bought an alternate BMW wheel that would accept your choice of various brands of modern rubber, which would make replacement far easier and be cheaper in the long run.

    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      Dolphin, I absolutely agree with you that the investment is a poor one with little ROI for the seller. However, I will say – now being used to seeing E24s with modern tires / rubber – the TRX wheels are a very handsome design. They fill out the wheel arches nicely. Too bad they paired them with obsolete engineering.

  11. Del

    I cannot see the Barn or the Farmers daughter here 😎

  12. mikeH

    This is one of the most beautiful cars ever produced. I was tempted until I saw it was an automatic. Why oh why would anyone order a car like this with an automatic??

    • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

      Maybe because some of us live in heavily built-up areas where a stick shift is a definite pain in the rear.

  13. Wayne

    Being a former BMW service manager. I had the opportunity to drive many samples. Most were nice to drive. Age and miles are hard on front suspension bushings and joints. The rear diff. bushings go bad and make clunking noises.
    I was able to drive a hopped up Euro version M6. WOW! what a car! I have driven 930 Porsches, Turbo Quattro Coupes (20 valves) GM R&D Corvettes, etc. But that M6 left a very long lasting impression. I have always liked the body style (without the US bumpers). But still prefer the 3.0CS coupe style and weight.

  14. Wayne

    Since I live in the open spaces of Nevada where we can open them up. And I love to do it regularly. So I still prefer a manual. I have been stopped on the interstate in the middle of Reno for 100+ in an M6 5 speed. (I had just shifted into 4th at about 105 mph when he turned on the lights) I was just told to slow down a bit by the motor cop that had parked on my bumper. (no ticket!)

  15. Maestro1

    Love these cars.

  16. Jose Delgadillo

    These are definitely on my must have list. Alongside that is a Mercedes SEC coupe. These are just the right size, much trimmer and athletic than the 60’s Rivieras that I’ve owned. This is a nice one. Both the Bimmer and Benz have worked them selves down to buyers who will often thrash and trash them. Good examples are scarce. Just an aside, some early examples of the BMW used a thermal reactor system that was well known for cracking exhaust manifolds. Later editions went to a less problematic catalytic converter.

  17. Geof

    To this day one of my all time favorites. I have been in love with these from first sight.
    Some day, I will have to have one. And I will probably never let it go like the last one I came close to. It just touches all the right senses for me. Swoon!

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