Contrasts And Continuations: Spending An Evening With Two Very Different BMW M6s
Photography by George Colbeanu
On a cold and foggy September evening, a friend and I head out of London for the better driving topography of Kent. We reach a wide six-lane bridge and I hear our subjects before I see them, the distinct sound of a BMW straight six with a baritone addition of a modern turbocharged Bimmer V8.
My friend looks over at me and smiles as we exit the motorway as a trio and head toward some corners. The original 6er is leading our pack, our M240i is in pursuit, and the sizable and prodigiously powerful F06 is waiting patiently in the back for the next stretch of straight with a passing lane.
We chase each other to our destination and then immediately hop out only to recount the last few minutes with each other. The owners of the M6s, my friend Tahmid and his father Kiron, are always good for a fun drive, and before I get my camera set up we’re already planning the next one. The light is perfect but fading, so I let them handle the planning as I get to shooting.
The E24 only seems to get better looking with time, a handsome and no-nonsense design that was born in the 1970s but perfectly defined the best of the 1980s. This particular M635CSi was almost part of another decade, seeing as it was registered on the 31st of December 1989. It’s one of the last of the original M6 production line, and though it’s been visually tweaked a bit it does not show many signs of its three decades of age. This car came just before things went all plasticky, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect these cars and have them stay happy. The M88 under the hood can be a particularly expensive beast to mend if you don’t take care of it, but this car has clearly been the opposite of neglected throughout its life.
Between the M635CSi and the US’s S38-powered version (simply called the M6), BMW made quite a few of these cars, but there were only a total of 524 righthand-drive versions built in total. This particular one is a clean pairing of diamond black metallic over a grey nappa leather interior that wraps just about every surface of the cabin, up to and including the headliner. The only thing it’s missing for full 1980s opulence is the refrigerated center console box. Save the coke jokes for Italian supercars with white leather interiors.
As you can see from the wheels and kidney grilles, there have been some subtle modifications to the car over its lifespan, including a full stainless steel Fritz Bitz exhaust and manifold which amplify the exhaust note without losing its original aural character. The BBS OEM metric alloys have been swapped for 17” BBS RC090s to fill out the arches and more importantly, give access to a much wider selection of modern tires.
And on the subject of modern, we have the much younger relative parked next to the E24 that started the 6er lineage. It’s easy to see why a diehard early M (or Motorsport) fan would be turned off by the F06 M6—the four-door aspect being just one point of purist contention—but it’s impossible to argue against what it can do. Even with its aggressive bumpers and steamroller shoes, this car is still a sleeper in relative terms. By every quantifiable measure it’s a totally separate car from the E24, but it does an admirable job of fitting the original idea into the contemporary world. Like every M6, it’s a luxurious grand tourer that’s in its element passing Volkswagens on the motorway, but also more than capable of delivering a good time when the corners come.
It’s pretty easy to guess that the E24 will continue to age better than all of its successors in the aesthetic department, but there’s an appeal to the newer stuff, too, especially when you don’t force comparisons with the past. The attractiveness is an entirely different sort, but it’s also very much in the spirit of early M road cars. Transmission options and unavoidable electronic gizmos aside, the F06 still clearly represents the idea of taking a road-going BMW and packing it with a level of performance that belies its packaging. It’s not a wholly subtle car, but indicators to its true nature—like the massive brakes—are still lost on the majority of the driving public who’ll see it in passing.
As I shoot the cars, I ask Tahmid how they came into the family, to which he replied, “The shark nose shape has always been the iconic BMW era to me. The menacing but mature looking front end, the straight lines going down the length of the body, and those beautiful interiors with the Recaro sport seats. I like all the BMWs from the era, but the E24 has always stood out.
“At first my father and I were only looking for a 635CSi to purchase, but this itself proved difficult. As values fell to their bottom around 10 years ago, many cars were left to be scrapped and uncared for as they were financially unviable as the repair costs mounted up and the values dipped. You used to see sad E24s sitting in the back of many a mechanic’s lot. So, to find a solid 635CSi proved hard enough that we spent over a year looking with no luck.
“After viewing countless examples, none of them came home until one night, an advert for a M635CSi came up. It looked excellent, so we booked a visit for the next morning and made a 300-mile round trip out of the day. I Still remember arriving at the owner’s house, he raised the garage door, unlocked the car and fired up what would soon become my prized possession. Despite all the 635s we looked at, I had never even seen an M635CSi before, and nor had my father to his own recollection. From that very moment, we both knew that we would not be driving away without making a deal. A few hours later, we came to an agreement, and came back with the car. That was a little more than two years ago, but barring any major life changes it’s not going anywhere else!”
The newer M6 is well loved for all the reasons you’d expect anyone to enjoy a four-second 0-60 car that’s built to eat distance at speed, and while Tahmid and Kiron aren’t about to trade that one in anytime soon, the E24 ticks much more than just the nostalgia box. It’s a car that connects the two to the era that made them BMW fans in the first place, but putting all that aside and it’s still a special machine for its driving characteristics in a vacuum. Shifting the buttery but confidence-inspiring Getrag, winding the M88 into the upper rev range it feels so comfortable in, and just enjoying the view from the upright windshield are more than enough reasons for these two to keep this one for the long haul.