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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