Category: Automotive

A year since I updated my blog!

By , October 9, 2016 1:34 pm

songcircularWith the popularity of social media, not much gets posted on my personal website these days. My friends pretty much follow me on Facebook and my professional associates follow me on LinkedIn. Those are really the only two outlets I use on a regular basis. These services combined with the power of a smartphone doesn’t leave much space for other mediums.

In fact, I’ve stopped carrying a dedicated camera and I use my iPhone 6S plus for everything. I’ve done the comparison and the camera in the iPhone is just as good as a DSLR from back in the early 2000’s (that’s the last time I got a dedicated camera). So now, everything is one that iPhone. Heck, with 64G that’s a lot of stuff I may never go through again.

As for the 1984 BMW 633csi I got last year. It is now my daily driver. All of the kinks have been pretty much worked out and I can confidently drive it anywhere. During the past year I have met a great community of enthusiasts who have helped me in the car’s restoration. Cars with a strong following like this will only go up in value. I had the same experience with my Porsches, Pantera and Ferrari. But anyone that knows me, knows that I get a hankering for another vehicle in short order. I’m not sure what is next but I do know that it’ll be a while as I am preoccupied with my job at

BMW 633CSi

The car one year later after numerous updates including all new suspension.

My work keeps me ridiculously busy. I am finally at a company that has a super solid business model and there’s still room for growth. I run Engineering, Products, IT and Marketing. It’s a lot to cover, but my past has had stints in each one of those areas. I am excited by the future and spend pretty much all my time working. It’s a profitable startup and that’s a rare beast in the Silicon Valley. OK, until next time. I hope everyone is doing well.

So much new in the BMW

By , October 9, 2015 5:35 pm

I’ve been doing so much work on this car and I have been documenting most it of at the BigCoupe forum. The reason for this is that this forum is full of enthusiasts and if there’s a question, they have someone who know the answer.

As a result, I haven’t spent so much time on my own site. Major new things such as the steering wheel,  fuel system and the cooling system, stereo and seats have been replaced or repaired.

I’ll try and put information on my site sometimes, but truth is that it’s too much work to type it in two places.

So hop on over here to follow along my story:

I’ve put about 200 miles on the car since I got it. Most things are working quit well now and there are only occasional completely annoying things.


New Kenwood Media player matches the interior lights quite well.

New Kenwood Media player matches the interior lights quite well.

Click on the image above for a much larger version.

A 30 year BMW rises again

By , September 15, 2015 8:11 pm

There has been so much done to this car since the last post that I don’t even know where to begin. I have begun to put things into buckets depending on the priority required to get it usable as a daily driver. I’ll document some of those things here.

Getting it Licensed

The first order of business was getting the title transferred to me. Not an easy task when the registered owner is no longer with us and the car is an inheritance, but the title is not yet transferred. But before we can do anything is California, we must get it smogged. This required multiple trips to DMV as we have to get a moving permit (remember it hasn’t been driven in over 5 years).

Getting smogged after 5 years of being idle.

Getting smogged after 5 years of being idle.

The good news is that it passed smog with flying colors! All I did was put in fresh gas and drive it around the block a few times. It wasn’t without incident as a coolant leak happened during smog and then the radiator failed! I was able to make it home though.

New Radiator

Well, this was an obvious one after the smog incident. Not only did I put in a new radiator, I decided to replace key hoses, the water pump and also do another coolant flush while all the stuff was out.

All new cooling system in place. Now if the temp gauge worked...

All new cooling system in place. Now if the temp gauge worked…

New Wheels!

One of the more exciting developments is the new wheels that I got from a 5-series. I learned that I would need something called hubcentric rings as there was a 1.2mm difference in the central diameter of the hubs. At least the offset was correct and I loved the style. The new tires 225/55 x 16″ are much larger than the stock 195/70 x 14″. Not only was I able to get new wheels, but the spare was also part of the package!

Really like the look of the new 5-series wheels on the car.

Really like the look of the new 5-series wheels on the car.

The Interior

The next order of business was various parts of the interior. The faded leather was hard and losing its’ color. It was also beginning to crack and the speaker pods on the rear deck was unsightly. I got some leather dye and Groit’s Leather rejuvenator and after 3-5 treatments, the interior is taking shape quite well.

eBay score!

eBay score!

One of the issues with the interior was the peeling leather on the steering wheel. It was a pain to have to see and feel that every time I was in the car. I bid on an eBay auction and won the wheel above for only $35! What a score!

The Instrument Cluster

This is by far the most annoying thing. I have been struggling with it for weeks. Basically my gauges do not work. After much research, I knew that a printed circuit board was at issue and that the nicad batteries used had leaked acid and damaged the board. I tried many things including a bypass, but have met with limited success. In the process I replaced a broken odometer gear, got brighter lamps for night lighting and learned way more than I needed about the wiring diagrams of these cars. Right now I have a working speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and tachometer! Broken still are the temperature gauge, economy indicator and the service interval computer. Also my onboard computer is dead.

Rewiring the SI computer board to just bypass the SI computer!

Rewiring the SI computer board to just bypass the SI computer!

Wallah! A working (mostly) instrument cluster.

This made me happy. After two weekend's wor, I mostly have a working cluster.

This made me happy. After two weekend’s work, I mostly have a working cluster.

Final cool picture – the original license registration

During all this madness, I was able to get finally get the new registration tags. I took the picture below as I thought it a milestone that I was able to get the original tags in view before putting on the new tags! It was a nice nostalgic moment.

The car will live again!

The car will live again!

So true to my word to the previous owner, I will get this car back on the road. There is still a huge list of things to tend to, but I should have it pretty much fully driveable in the next month. I plan to keep slowing fixing critical items and then one day I’ll be able to commute with confidence in this car.

Thanks for staying with me this far. The shark will rise again.

The Madness Begins – a 30 year old “New” Car

By , September 1, 2015 12:42 am

1984 BMW 6-Series

All my friends know that I love to tinker on cars. Very much by chance, I came across an old car that had been sitting for over 5 years, inoperative. The car was originally owned by a dentist in Santa Cruz and was a one owner vehicle. The dentist had passed away and left his home and a few cars to his kids and his grandson. The car did not run and the grandson (who inherited it) didn’t know what to do with it. So he put it up for sale as a “Mechanics special”. I like a challenge like that.

I went over to check out the car and thought it looked pretty good considering that it’s 30 years old and hasn’t run in 5 years. There was potential. I made a deal that if I could come work on the car over a few weekend and get it running, I would buy the car. If I couldn’t, then they get a lot of new parts and free service.

This was the car when I first saw it after the cover was removed. It looks pretty good. I like it!

This was the car when I first saw it after the cover was removed. It looks pretty good. I like it!

Here’s the rear 3/4 shot of the car. Classic lines and a pretty rust free and straight body was hard to resist. Open the door (when the keys and locks actually work) and decades of old gas, oil, drying leather and a few rodent droppings permeate the air. Yuck! This will need a thorough cleaning.

The lines are nice and all the bits are there. Hmm.

The lines are nice and all the bits are there. Hmm.

So I kept my word and spent a day on each of the next 2 weekends fixing up the car. After lots of research on the web and some falling back on my general car knowledge, I updated the following.

  • New battery
  • Change several hoses in the cooling system.
  • Changed the thermostat.
  • Flushed and filled cooling system.
  • Changed the oil and oil filter.

To my delight, on the second day, I turned the key and it fired right up with the 5 year old gas in the tank. True to my word, I purchased the car.

Now getting it home was another matter. It was not licensed so a special permit was needed. It belonged to a deceased guy, so lots of paperwork to be filed. No one knew if the tires, brakes or electrical was any good. The driveway was blocked by a dumpster that wasn’t moving for a few weeks. It was going to be an adventure.

Fast forward 2 weeks. I get all the paperwork done and I need to move the car as the owners are having a moving sale. The only time I can move it is going to be at night. Hmm, do the lights even work? What about the rest of the electrical not to mention the very old brakes. Oh, and the tires are an odd metric size that is very difficult to get. New wheels and tires will be part of the equation. I’m still excited to get it done. Will I get stranded at night in a 30 year old car?

I arrived in the evening and quickly discover that many lights are not working. Luckily I brought extra bulbs. I changed them by the light of a flashlight and then check the coolant and oil levels. What? The coolant tank is empty. I thought I fixed the leaks! Darn, I fill the tank with plain water and cross my fingers that I’ll make it home.

I fire up the car and start to back it out into the streets, hoping that the brakes actually work, the old tires don’t explode on me and the suspension is still ok. Slowly I drive it along the residential streets before venturing onto a freeway. It’s at this time that I realize that the speedometer and lots of the instrument lights are dead. Oh great, top that off with a flashing warning light on the dash and this is a recipe for fun.

Well, that was a long 15 minute drive to my house. The good news is that I made it. The car is safely in my driveway and I go out there on occasion and make a long list of things that need to be fixed. This car will fill my spare moments for the foreseeable future.

Interior is rough but serviceable. I always wanted to learn upholstery work. ;)

Interior is rough but serviceable. I always wanted to learn upholstery work. 😉

So the madness begins. There’s so much that needs to be done to this car, but the important thing is that it is relatively rust free, accident free and it runs.

Major things to fix:
1. Instrument Cluster.
2. Fix the door locks – keys don’t work in them!
3. Upgrade wheels and tires.
4. Fix the A/C, fix the fan control.
5. Fix the radio, speakers, pods, etc.
6. Sunroof and headliner (falling)
7. Get power seats working fully again.

Yeah, it’s going to be a project. Let the madness begin!

There’s something really great about bringing an old car back to life. Come back and visit for spurious updates on the progress with this car.

Safely parked in it's new home. I will have to give this car a name. Hmm.

Safely parked in it’s new home. I will have to give this car a name. Hmm.

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