Leslie’s Advent Calendar – December 10

December 10 – BMW 635

I love old cars. No matter whether if it’s a Ferrari, a Ford or an FSO, anything over a certain age automatically becomes significantly more interesting in my book. So strong is my interest in elderly vehicles, in fact, that it is even powerful enough to transcend my ferocious hatred for one of Europe’s leading luxury brands. Yes, that’s right, deep down inside my heart, beyond the burning pyres of overpriced SUVs, flaming pits of poser-cabrios and log jams of speeding rep-mobiles, there is a little space of sanctuary set aside for old BMWs.

By ‘old BMWs,’ I generally mean anything over twenty years old plus mid-1990s M5s. This could well have something to do with the fact I wasn’t old enough to be driving when these models were out on the roads, thus creating a clear divide between the light-flashing, horn-
hooting and tailgating actions of newer München-built motors and the older things I am so keen on.

Chief among these elder statesmen of the Autobahn – in my mind at least – is the old 6-Series, the one that goes by the code of E24 if you Wikipedia it. It’s a big, comfortable two-door coupe, the kind that looks like it could quite happily drive you two hundred miles in two hours without fizzing up the water in your golf bag. The pointed nose (it’s one of a number of vehicles that have acquired the ‘Sharknose’ nickname over the years) and beady headlights give it the slightly incensed look of someone who’s just lost a quarter of a pint of Erdinger in a fierce table-nudging incident. The kind of look that lets you know it’s not going to assault you, but that it is pissed off with you.

A small-scale E24 6-Series

I saw one of these parked outside a restaurant in Tokyo this morning. What struck me as interesting about the example I saw – and I think the same thing every time I see an old 6-Series – is how good it still looked. By that I mean there was no rust, no obviously replaced parts and no pimping modifications. Just solid, standard German fayre. Compare it to how its rivals from back in the day look now and you’ll see what I mean. Jaguar XJSs, unless they’re in prime nick, are one of the most tragic things you can see this side of watching Raith Rovers trying to defend a lead. Merc SECs make you look like the owner of an amusement arcade, and any Opel Monzas still in existence will soon be swept off the streets and taken into hiding by crazed collectors.

For some strange reason I have a soft spot for big cruisers like this. They give the impression of being able to go very quickly in a straight line once they’ve gotten up to speed, but God help you if you ever happen to be in a position where it has to stop suddenly or swerve to avoid you. This is only the impression I get, mind you, and if I ever have the chance to get behind the wheel of an E24 I’m sure it will be a hoot to drive. This is definitely a type of car I’d rather be inside, enjoying the slightly musty smell of twenty-five-
year old luxury and the constant threat of electrical failure and subsequent fire, than outside where risks of mockery or being knocked over are ever-present.

Normally, if you said the words ‘BMW’ and ‘coupe’ to me I’d run a mile or at least spit downwind several times, but I really don’t mind the Sharknose. Rarity, curiosity and the strange allure of faded glamour are, it seems, enough to transcend my brand snobbery.

*Unfortunately the E24 had gone by the time I went back to take a pic of it on my phone, so you can enjoy a slightly shoddy Revell kit of one I put together last year instead.

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Filed under Japan, Road Cars

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