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Two ways of ruining a BMW E9

Regular readers will know that I am a great advocate of retaining originality for classic cars. And when you modify one, you should ensure to it do so tastefully.

I write when because we are hastily reaching the point where more classic cars are modified than kept original. At least that’s the feeling an anxious observer (like myself) can easily get when skimming over classic cars in magazines, at events, shows or even out on the roads.

Personally I think this is violently overdone. But it is a rather common sight and no classic seems secure from this treatment. Or should that be “no youngtimer”?

Lowered, widened (wheels or wheelarches), stiffened, modified for more power, better braking or just better looks. Whatever that is. Once I was rather religious on the subject of originality, but years ago I chose to restore my Triumph GT6 in an Aston Martin-colour (Silver Birch, for the record), inventing a “delete bumper-option” along the way, adding three-eared spinners and probably other stuff I have either forgotten or regretted – or both. I’ve been more tolerant since then.

My old Triumph GT6: Not original, but I like to think the modifications were well judged. Lowered by half an inch, probably less.

And with the acquisition of one be-spoilered and be-skirted Mercedes SLC last summer I can barely keep myself from adding gold BBS alloys to the Seventies cocktail. Which would be rather tasty on the big Merc, I think.

Not mine and not the same bodykit. But white as mine. Today you would NOT use white wheels as well. In the Eighties you would. That’s sort of period bad taste – which is then sort of good?!?

In fact the BMW E9 would be a candidate for some of that same treatment: A beautiful car in itself, regardless of specific model and specification, but many owners (or restorers) add bigger wheels and tires along with some lowering. And when done with a secure hand and kept within limits, it can actually enhance the appeal of the big coupé, I’ll admit. Good taste is key. As is moderation.

Nowadays you may need to revert to old brochures in order to find a photo of a non-modified BMW E9. Then you’ll see a handsome and judiciously chiseled shape – on tall and narrow tyres.

Then I encountered the below monster of an E9 coupé at Retro Classics in Stuttgart: I was not so much blown away by it’s 100,000 Euro price tag, but more so by it’s reportedly 700 brake horsepower. That’s more than three times what any road-going E9 had in period and I understand that this demands further modifications elsewhere. The amazing thing is that these were not that apparant:

Who would have guessed this sleek bodywork hides 700 horsepower?

The new panels were original CSL-parts, alloy and all, the suspension new Bilstein, the body strengthened with steel reinforcements inside and the interior custommade. Under the hood the change to the more modern S38-engine and a whopping large turbocharger was apparant, of course – but it was in reality the only thing seeming out of period on the car.

Nice interior…

…BAD engine.

To my eyes though, this was one totally ruined BMW E9. Using up original alloy panels on a bastard like this? An absolute no-go. Even though the work actually seemed to have been done to a high standard.

Anyway things were about to get worse.

BMW never built an open version of the E9. Probably wise as it was not that solid a structure anyway. But open cars have an eternal attraction and one owner apparantley felt the need for an open E9 – and made one. And there it was at Retro Classics.

Someone chopped the beautiful roof off an E9 – and it was to my surprise not that bad.

Actually, it was not far from working as the shape was surprisingly coherent. Yet open versions of a car whose design is very much defined by its roofline and A and C pillars will of course never work as well as the original.

But at least it was not BAD. I thought – until I looked into the cabin and found horror of horrors: This was even more modified than the bodywork – and not for the better either.

I am sure the offender would claim the interior was “upgraded”, but the correct word would rather be “degraded”. The replacement of the original and supremely elegant interior with something much more chunky out of a newer BMW (I guess a 745i like the drivetrain) had the effect of making the car appear like a fat man in much too tight clothing. While that is never a nice sight, it was in fact even worse in car terms. I simply can not grasp what the offenders were trying to achieve here.

An eyewatering interior.

To make matters worse, both body and paint were in a rather poor state and to my eyes the car just didn’t have much going for it at all. Reportedly it had done 300,000 kilometers since the conversion. I suppose that means it works, but either way: Does that justify such destruction? To my eyes the car as a whole was a zombie. Nonetheless it achieved more than 55,000 Euro in the auction. Truth be told, I don’t know whether the 700 HP Turbo-E9 – which we could call Frankenstein – actually sold for 100,000, but in some weird way it probably was worth double that of the zombie. Regardless, two ruined E9’s!

But in another freaky way, they would actually have made a fabulous couple and almost deserved to be sold to the same owner for an indefinate afterlife.

Anyway, after these two I realised that I really shouldn’t be that concerned about fitting gold-centered BBS alloys to my SLC…

10 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    @ce – there is indeed a fine but problematic line between tasteful and over-the-top modifications. For a start, where is that line, and who decides? Personally, anything more than what you did to your GT6 (which looks great, by the way), Claus, would be too much for me. I can also go along with reupholstering previously fabric seats in quality leather, as I think it adds to the cabin ambience and especially if the original is worn and tired. Otherwise, why tamper with the design that presumably you fell in love with in the first place?

    I half understand the desire to make an old classic perform more like a modern car (though 700bhp is frankly mental in any car), although personally I think it detracts from what for me is a huge part of classic motoring – the period experience, or nostalgia, if you will. Certainly I wouldn’t do it. The line here for me would be to replace the 4-speed ‘box in my tii with 5-speed, just to make it a more relaxed cruiser. Having said that, a combination of lack of suitable ‘boxes and cost mean I won’t bother, and in all truth, I’m happy enough with the 4-speed, and I enjoy trundling along the motorway at a steady 110 – 115kmh.

    I should add here that cars modified (especially back in their original heyday) for motorsport purposes are an entirely different case with which I am completely OK.

    However…the chop-top E9 is a monstrosity, with an unforgivable interior. To do this to such a rare and beautiful car is offensive, and the perpetrator(s) should never be allowed near a classic again.

    The trend of lowering cars within an inch of the road, fitting stupidly wide and cambered wheels which must surely make it a pig to drive, I just don’t get why anyone would do it to any car, let alone a classic. The Audi 100 is a fine car, but the one in the photo looks ridiculous. At almost every show these days there are a bunch of hideously lowered, cambered, be-spoilered and painted cars fitted with ludicrous sound systems. To what end? To do it to a modern car is bad enough; to do it to an increasingly rare classic is sinful.

    Rant over.

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    @tony-wawryk , one day we should meet for a good rant together!

    My GT6 was finished around 2005 as I recall it and today I probably would not do it like that – especially the colour. The other things are all reversible, but today I would have chosen an original shade.

    Which is also a limiting factor on my SLC: It was born white and I can not bring myself to change it into my favourite green metallic. Which would be the way also be fabulous with goldcentered BBS’s.

  3. Anders Bilidt

    Hey, did anyone mention whiskey?? Ha! Count me in… ;-)
    I’ll bring a couple of select Islay Single Malts for us to sample during our rants.

    In the meantime, @tony-wawryk please don’t stop your rant there. After all, the longer you continue, the less I need to type for my own rant.

    Like the both of you, I too just don’t get the current trend for modifying classic cars. In my opinion though, period-correct modifications are a different matter all together. What is period-correct obviously ties in with the automotive culture which we are trying to preserve. A 60’s wooden Nardi steering wheel in your Fiat 850 Spider? It might not be factory, but yes thank you. And Claus, for what ever it’s worth, gold-centered BBS alloys on your SLC are approved as long as you stick to 15″ – any bigger and it’ll look too modern. Equally, my Green Devil (hillclimb/sprint 2002) is of course heavily modified, but as Tony mentioned that is all for motorsport, and furthermore it’s all period-correct and according to FIA appendix K.

    But exaggerated lowering kits, air suspension, bling alloys, silly camber, massive turbos and huge sound systems are all quite distasteful in my opinion. The only thing they achieve is to ruin a rare, charming and historically interesting piece of our automotive culture.

    And when it comes to upgrading for more performance – even that I don’t really get. 700hp in a classic BMW E9? Honestly, if you’re that obsessed with going fast, then why not buy a brand new BMW M4? It’ll no doubt be a better and faster car with superior handling, and as a bonus, it’ll cost you less than the E9.

    Just look at that E9 brochure in Claus’ article. Subtle, stylish and beautiful. How can anyone be so naive as to think that they can possibly improve on perfection?

  4. RK

    Not ALL period modifications are acceptable. E.g. musclecars of the ’70s do NOT look good jacked up in the rear with too wide tires.

    Wheels can easily be replaced and purely subjective. Interior mods should be limited to tastefully modernized seats with OEM seat patterns and maybe a modern stereo and a period steering wheel. Anything more like the ‘vert E9 is just bad.

    But then again, we don’t want all of our cars looking like everyone else’s, do we? Unless it’s some Ferrari 275GTB4 or a Lamborghini Miura, or a Pagoda R113, nothing wrong with a few mods here and there. Some cars can get away with it. Porsches, BMWs, Minis, etc. Many others as aforementioned, nope. No BBS wheels on a Merc 280SE

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    Looking forward to that meeting, @tony-wawryk and @anders-bilidt .

    I must admit, though, that I am probably more tolerant than you: While I would never begin an engine swop-project like this myself I have seen other E9’s with other later (naturally aspirated 12 or 24V) 3.5 engines, and that would actually NOT put me off an otherwise good car for a good price.

    The same philosophy led me to my non-standard SLC as well: I’d have preferred the original clean shape, but beggars can’t be choosers and I thought that any SLC is better than no SLC. Now I’ll go with the flow and get the best out of it.

  6. Moray

    I got in trouble from the classic car gestapo for putting red carpets & red seatbelts in my CSi ???

  7. Anders Bilidt

    I have to agree with you on the arse-in-the-air stance for 70’s muscle cars. Period or not, it just does not look good.
    However, I don’t agree about modern stereo systems and most certainly also not about modern seats in a classic. Personally, I think it never fails to look totally out of place and thus ruins the whole ambiance in the cockpit.
    But as you rightly say, we don’t all want to be the same! If everyone shared my impeccable taste (tongue-in-cheek!), we would all be driving largely stock pre-’74 (as to have round rear lights) BMW 2002’s in red. And yes, even I would quickly get rather bored with that! Varying taste and opinions is what makes our hobby interesting. Only, please don’t ruin classic cars by chopping them up…

    Next time we meet up, I’ll make sure to bring a couple of black permanent markers so I can rectify those seatbelts, and a whole bagful of dark blue permanent markers for your carpet! ;-)

  8. YrHmblHst

    Well, couldnt help but chime in here.
    The big powered BMW is quite OK with me ; it LOOKS standard basically, and the installation is VERY tidy. I understand the authors objection[s], but i havent the same attachment to the cars as he obviously. BEAUTIFUL cars, but pretty underwhelming [as I remember – had an acquaintance with one years ago] in the performance department.
    The droptop conversion is an abortion and the doctor responsible should be hung.
    Im completely fine with dropping cars and putting on bigger tyres and wheels, in fact I oft encourage it, but this ‘stance’ stupidity where you cant drive it and the things are so cambered out as to make them undriveable is ridiculous. Nice cars that have been violated such should be taken from the perpetrators.
    Hafta disagree with the white wheel thing – DEFINITELY looks good, in period especially. The gold centred BBSs will work nicely too, but personally I like the ones in the photo. Of course, i have classic new wave on the satellite radio as we speak…

    oh, and jacked up musclecars… yeah, too much air in the Hi Jackers doesnt look good, and it does foul up the drive, but it IS period. If you werent there, you wont understand, but if you were, itll make you smile… :)


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