From The Driving Seat header car on road
1986 BMW 635 CSiA with wind turbines in backgraound

DIARY OF A BMW 635CSiA: aka ‘HELGA’ – Part 1

September 1997-May 2010 transcribed from Jeremy Walton’s log.

This BMW has become well known to readers of Roundel in the USA through features recording misadventures and a number of European tours through Spain, France, Belgium, and Germany as well as a romantic wooing episode to Guernsey! Helga has also appeared in Classic Cars, Classic Cars for Sale, and BMW Car Club’s UK magazine – now titled Straight Six.

The previous owner’s documentation (bills etc.) - before I purchased Helga in September 1987 from underneath an apple tree - recorded all the service stamps to over 50,000 miles. The original handbook reveals a posh Park Lane sale as a new BMW in 1986, and the chassis/engine numbers are matched for 1985 manufacture.

The vehicle originally listed at £29,950 but cost over £30,000 with options including automatic transmission, and Recaro sports seats with blue leather trim. The metallic Cosmos Blau exterior is the original colour, resprayed as new wings and other body panels fitted during my ownership, followed by a total exterior respray. A lock up fourth gear allows up to 28.5 mpg routinely, but below 20 mpg in shorter run/urban use. Oil consumption, negligible between services [5000 to 7500 mile intervals on the indicator]. The straight 6-cylinder engine is rated at 218 bhp in this 6/7 Series form at the more reliable 3.4 litres of later models.

DIARY (from 86,000 to 153,000 miles)

September 1997 (86,025 miles): Acquired for £4000 from previous lady owner in Berkshire. Price reflected need for two new wings and camshaft.

October 1997: Delivered to Altwood BMW, Maidenhead for top end motor rebuild, full service, replacement steering items including transverse drag link. New Front discs installed with fresh rockers, followers and camshaft, all supplied by BMW Bracknell, a policy for my ownership. Cost - £1093, but some items ex-BMW are quoted in November wings/camshaft bill, below. Picked up November 26 1997.

November 3-11 1997 (86,900 miles): Henley Tyre Services and Wargrave Coachworks took turns to rectify wheel balance, identify a split suspension bush and identify intermittent ABS braking light warning. Coachworks, including painting and fitting wings. Labour, £534.63, also covered first restoration (of three) on rear wheel arches. BMW parts bill of £1349.92 to cover two wings (£523 each, now over £600!), and camshaft with ancillaries

November 29 1997: Four new Avon CR28 tyres replace original TRX 390 Michelins (more forgiving and half price) with fitting, balancing and alignment. Bill - £700.18.

December 10 1997 (87,301 miles): Bang! Amtrak van twisted front ‘shark nose’ and bumpers whilst parked. Company reps kindly stopped the van driver’s getaway and claim was eventually settled via third party insurance claim of more than £800, back to Wargrave Coachworks December-New Year 1997-8.

January 27 1998 (88,432 miles): MOT and replace rear ABS sensors, rear hubs, swine of a job, £288.84 including £140 labour. Cosmos Blau tiny touch-up paint - £7.07!

March 13 1998 (90,165 miles): Appeared in Classic Cars, magazine reckoned total spend including purchase now £7483.36.

April 1998 (91,116 miles): Brands Hatch feature with Munich Legends racing CSL.

April 31 1998 (93,223 miles): Altwood BMW Inspection Oil service. Bill £101.80.

September 1998 (95,300 miles): First Anniversary mileage.

October 20 1998 (96,300 miles): Boot lid internal counterbalances failed. Tidied, unrepaired.

January 8-27 1999 (98,133 - 98,153 miles): BMW Inspection service, and fails MoT. Whitehill Service Station, Henley, detected more suspension and steering components wear. Fitted parts and retested successfully January 29. Bills - £348 includes repainted [cosmetic] boot lid.

February 13 1999: JIW 9112 plated.

February 25 1999 (99,857 miles): Cosmetic body work for rear bumpers, and side sills at Wargrave Coachworks. Bill - £116, parts only.

May 1999 (100,652 miles): Wargrave Coachworks, service (£259.93), and MORE panel works (£940.88) on rear arches (second attempt - cut out and fillet steel and filler lasted nearly ten years), rear subframe mounts and replacement exhaust items. £436.24.

December 1999 (103,656 miles): New rear Avons, align front - £225.

January 29 2000 (104,437 miles): Failed MOT: Driver’s seat frame had to be replaced, passenger side welded, screenwasher pump replaced, more steering links replaced. BMW agreed some reduction in parts prices: Final bill was £382.57.

February 2000 (104,506 miles): Corroded fuel tank replaced. £472.75.

May 2000 (106,000 miles): Full Service at Whitehill, Henley. £356.03.

July 5 2000 (107,200 miles): Rust repairs at Tabbitts Coachworks Henley (Wargrave closed), attending to sills, jacking points, boot and lower B pillar joint - £447.00.

September 25 2000 (107,865 miles): Returned from its second classic car gathering in UK.

October 2000 - March 2001: SORN and stored off road. Used a new Alfa Romeo 156.

March 2001 (107,870 miles): New personal garage, battery charged. Full service, re-activate electric windows, brakes freed off: corroded brake pipe replaced. Passed MOT, Whitehill.

April 3 2002 (108,920 miles): Attacked twice while parked at a Berkshire beauty spot. Door and boot damage, windows smashed as alarm activated. Autoglass Reading replaced side glass passenger side. £258 + VAT. Subsequent insurance repair of door at recognised (Tabbitts, Henley) specialist.

May 2002 (109,400 miles): Front discs replaced and rear subframe mount bushes, parts obtained direct from BMW GB.

June 14 2002: 4-day tour, Guernsey.

August 2002 (114,008 miles): Door repaired with new seal fitted. Insurance paid.

September 27 2002 (115,220 miles): Two new rear Avons fitted and balanced - £220.

November 27 2002 (116,021 miles): Starting failure rectified by Autotechnic-Snows BMW, Portsmouth. £53 (solenoid), instruments flickering.

January 19 2003 (116,600 miles): Rectify wiring loom-instrumentation failures, Autotechnic, £165. Si electrical board needed, obtained direct from BMW GB. Fitted 3/2/03-116,741 miles. OK. £87.42p no parts charge.

May 21 2003 (118,838 miles): Toured Cherbourg peninsula/D-day sites, France.

July 2 2003: Logbook and ownership passed to partner. Returned to JW ownership 12 months later. Under 1000 miles before 2004, not taxed for 6 months and battery removed..

July 29 2004 (120,936 miles): Full service, new wipers, plugs and fresh MOT. £331, Autotechnic-Snows. Subsequently, replace front struts with new factory items (legs and collars) direct from Mobile Tradition-D after three week wait. £547. Plus £210 to replace front ABS sensors, warning light on.

July 2004 (120,585 miles): New AA battery, warranty, early failure of a Unipart. AA replacement lasted until 2009, new HD Bosch.

September 8 2004 (122,050 miles): Air conditioning overhauled prior to Spanish Tour via Bilbao and Rioja country. Returned at 122,668 miles. Indicated maximum speed 135 mph.

November 2004-April 2005 (122,900-123,050 miles): Mostly SORN off road - owner had diesel BMW several years.

Winter: Kendell Premises, Hants. ‘Jo’ resprayed exterior for £1035, including side stripes. Subsequently removed bonus stripes across boot.

April 13 2005: Lost rear wheel! Post-respray, not been tightened.

April 20 2005 (121,105 miles): No damage and replaced all nuts, plus inspection at Autotechnic. Full service and safety checks, £332.

May 20-26 2005 (123,802 miles): MOT passed after new BMW-supplied rear exhaust, another steering link. £647. All via Autotechnic-Snows, Hants.

September 27 2005 (126,500 miles): Auto gear selection failed, limped home three miles in third. Bit of drama with AA who could not restart, so it was piggy-backed to Wellsway BMW, Bath.

October 19 2005 (126,569 miles): Returned from Wellsway, superb service - one mech still remembered 6 Series as new. The DME relay to box had failed.

January 1 2006 (127,000 miles: I had covered 40,970 miles in the car, averaging 4,821 miles per year.

April 3 2006 (129,063 miles): Cold fuelling line (rubber) perished, leak and smell, diagnosed online by Big Coupe Group, and rectifed with AA assistance at home.

April 25 2006 (129,459 miles): MOT (easy pass), replacement screenwasher, and Wellsway major BMW service and safety inspection, post fuel pipe - £444.45.

September 26 2006 (133,620 miles): Indygo refinishing, Semley, Wilts, rotted side sills and new steel rear arches/inserts for MOT standard, £1062.85. CD picture record of work (not supplied). Issues over colour matching driver’s door were met with second visit at no charge.

October 2006 (134,005 miles): Four new 17 x 8 inch BBS wheels with Conti Contact 2/ 235 section tyres.£1060. Similar cost to just Michelin TRX for original rims (owner retained TRX wheels/Avons: set of 5). Subsequently bought a single 17 inch BBS Conti 3 for spare.

January 1 2007: Now 49,215 miles by this owner.

March 13 2007 (136,210 miles): Cosmetics. New Roundel (£8 at Bath & West Show); realign bumpers and re-paint door, all at Indygo. FOC door, £65 additional (see above). Recaro driver’s seat out, take to a Mere specialist. Re-stuffed base and repaired split in piped bolster - £40.

April 2007 (137,000 miles): Intermittent erratic brake performance, as if ABS control interrupting action. Auto Services, Warminster, Brembo brake agents, installed higher grade standard size front discs and appropriate pads - £302. There were other hidden problems, Brembo brakes deteriorated and 635 failed an MOT on brake performance 12,000 miles later.

April 24 2007 (137,169 miles): Heavy service at Emtec (ex-Wood BMW staff) covers MOT, rear bushes (persistent rear end ‘clonk’ - more later) also improved handling ‘wander‘ - £399.87.

June 2007 (137,451 miles): Classic Tour, Brittany in high temperatures, AC nice!

October 30 2007 (140,300 miles): Subsidiary oil pipe replaced - £67. At 140,616 miles, stopped by police for silver on black (old style plates, would not trigger police ANPR cameras). Changed for legal current style. Fined £30 and £15 for new plates, fitted in Warminster car park November 1 2007.

January 1 - February 26 2008 (142,000 - 142,583 miles): Order in new parts, get estimates for considerable work. Fails to start until March 27 when driven to Emtec, Salisbury to tackle power train, MoT and separate [Elite Coachcraft, Salisbury] body issues - £1,828 (see bill copy for fuller details). These including bonnet, and front end stone and scratches plus underbody welding (£250 in main total) at front to pass MOT after first-time failure. New starter motor fitted.

July - September 2008 (145,125 miles): Trying to resolve gradual perforation of exhaust system (two-sections); researched cheaper custom stainless steel systems, but settled for genuine parts ex-BMW Wood of Salisbury. Managed target £600 budget, fitted at Auto Services Warminster for total £598.07.

July 26-27 2008: Silverstone Classic Retro Run

November 14 2008 (146,000 miles): Headlamp dip failure rectified, new unit and flasher bulb replaced - £79 including parts.

November 18 2008 (146,949 miles): Red light at 85 mph, snapped belt to power hydraulic assists for brakes and steering. Recovered by AA, delivered to Emtec Salisbury. See £585 bill, Emtec included £70 on automatic transmission drain and refill to improve shift quality (always has improved things). Following 9/08 sale of an M3 convertible, owner’s decision to keep 635 only for BMW marque.

January 1 2009 (147,285 miles): New Year runs to Bristol, Farnborough and Oxfordshire, with just another front flasher bulb failure. Also replaced wipers.

January 5 2009 (147,450 miles): To Aidy’s Body Care, Wilts, for sunroof surround rust rectification and rear wheel arch inserts (bubbling again!) - £660.

March 31 2009 (148,370 miles): Emtec for £331 service Inspection2.

April 23 2009 (148,789 miles): Back to Aidy for underbody welding both sills, re-making jacking points both passenger and driver side, MOT preparation - £250. Also participated in Drive It Classic day that month, Hagerty, Silverstone and surroundings. Brakes (front), huge vibration at 149k

May 14 2009 (149,183 miles): Emtec - £927 bill for German Tour prep. MOT, full service; ex-5 Series Limited slip differential (Frtiz Bitz, £320, Somerset). Failed MOT first time, Brembo brakes, MoT caution - replaced with new standard front discs/pads ex-BMW. FOC rectification of earlier Elite panel work on bonnet. New Conti 2 rears to pass MOT. 15,179 miles covered by old tyres.

June - July 2009 (to 151,081 miles): Completed UK-France-Luxembourg-Germany-Belgium, 5-day tour, stay on Mosel. Ventilation blower jammed on high, brake master cylinder piston popped. Occasional non-starts, just a click… Emtec invested hours to fix blower fan - not the obvious Rheostat. Strip out under dash and motor bay bulkhead to access burnt transistor relay. £215. Starter motor (Lucas!) replaced under warranty after carrying it round German tour.

July 30 2009 (151,690 miles): AA called to insulate and re-crimp Solenoid wire to starter. OK.

August 18 2009 (151,882 miles): Long stay at Emtec, replace shattered centre propshaft bearing - £145.16.

Autumn 2009 (151,986 miles): Peter Jenkins, Auto Services, Warminster sorts underbonnet electrics, replace all perished hoses. New, bigger capacity, Bosch battery. Misfire, HT lead failed, new HT harness came from Wood BMW. Total £643, most effective work recently. Runs more smoothly than ever..

December 2 2009: Acquire new Conti to rotate with one worn front - £129.99 Protyre, Westbury. Failed to restart, resolved after 10 minutes owner fiddling with fuses and resetting alarm.

December 4 2009 (152,774 miles): Charged new battery after prolonged idleness (full alarm system needs juice!). 7649 miles in 2009 and £3351.56p spent 11/08 to 1/2010.

2010 to May (154,005 miles): The major work was to finally trace the cause of non-starting to a worn out ignition switch. Prepare for MOT with £200 spent in two separate body work sessions to rectify surface rust, engine bay, passenger door sill and under chassis floor/rails.

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Click HERE for Part 2 of Helga’s Diary