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Fatharris' bargain basement barge (HermanTheGerman)

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With the MG now happily residing with the new owner (air whistle fixed, incidentally!), it is now time to draw my attention back to Herman. 


Herman (he's German!) is a 1998 BMW 728i, looking resplendent in Oxford Green metallic. Having had a Xantia 110 HDi for several months for the weekend commute of a 500-mile round trip (South Cornwall to Wiltshire), I eventually proposed to MrsHarris, to which she accepted. Couple of months later, wedding preps are in full swing, and the Xantia stopped scratching my itch. Whilst a very nice car, it was just that little bit too noisy for the motorway. So, whilst my bride-to-be was investigating wedding magazines, I was nose deep on my phone browsing luxobarges on the sly. My price range was extremely limited - £1000. The offerings were bleak - an Audi A8 seemed promising initially, but the intergalactic mileage and battered bodywork put me off, not to mention the potential repair bills. Same could be said for Jaguar.


Eventually, I widened my search, having the bonus of being able to look at both Cornwall and Wiltshire, and a very brief advert appeared in the Auto Trader, on Valentine's Day of all days. The advert said the car had a full MOT and ultra low mileage - 56,700. I called the seller immediately, who turned out to be located in Plymouth. I received the bad news that someone was coming down from London to view it, so I gave him my number and asked him to call me if it fell through for any reason. MrsH, had been behind me the entire time, rumbling my dastardly scheme. Whoops. She didn't approve of my plans and only stopped short of forbidding it. I spent the rest of the day in a huff.


The next day, the phone rang.

"The buyer is being a bellend and messing me around with couriers, if you can view it today, I'll hold it for you."

I looked at MrsH, with the biggest, saddest puppy-dog eyes imaginable, and she rolled her eyes and let me head down to Plymouth. That was going to be tricky, as it was rapidly approaching noon on a Saturday, and I needed some readies to waft in his face. Mercifully, I found a bank that was still open and willing to give me a grand in cash. I headed straight to my brothers' house in Plymouth, and parked the Xantia on the driveway. I hopped in the SAAB, and we headed over to the sellers house.

As soon as I saw Herman in the flesh, I said to my brother "I'm buying it.". It looked immaculate from every angle and had just been serviced with fresh brakes, started and drove perfectly and had a wadge of receipts.

I didn't even haggle. I even gave him another fiver to drop it off outside my brothers' house to sort out the insurance.



Straight away, I insured Herman (strangely cheaper than the Xantia), and set off back home to Wiltshire with no issues whatsoever. MrsH seemed to like it, which was a bonus, and both our sets of parents assumed it'd be a one-way ticket to financial despair and ruin. During my runs home, I would regularly see 34-36MPG, which was absolutely fine, considering I was wafting along in a quiet, comfortable, safe car, which had a decent turn of pace and really good handling. Fast forward to August, and Herman had an additional duty to attend to:



Since then, aside from routine servicing, six tyres, and some rear control arms, he's only had one snag, which was the drivers' door lock seizing. requiring me to hit the door with a mallet, damaging the paintwork in the process. He's become part of the family, and occasionally MrsH gets to drive him, which proves a shock to oncoming motorists! He now sits at 77,889 miles.


Oh, and some cretinous cow, attempted to murder him just off the M5. He shrugged it off and got repaired under their insurance.


So, the purpose of this thread is to document the ownership of Herman, to see what is involved with running an old luxobarge as a daily driver, and share any heartaches along the way.

As a parting gift, here are a few more shots.








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Okay, confession time.

Whilst the MG project was occurring, Herman became the general dogsbody motor, ferrying and holding all my crap for tinkering, and generally just being driven. Between the MG and work, no real attention being paid to him, with the exception of welding the exhaust hangers back on three days before xmas, when I had a spare day. THANKS BMW FOR MAKING A ONE-PIECE, TWIN-PIPE SYSTEM. THAT WASN'T A SODDING BALLACHE TO REMOVE AND FIT.



This weekend however, I was duty at work, so couldn't leave the base, and MrsH was away for the weekend on a hen party, so I had (pretty much) an entire day free, and I was devoting it to Herman.

So, up onto the ramp




Bonnet up:




...and oil cap off.




BMW are pretty good with access to service items. Oil change?








As I did the last couple of services myself, and I'm not a moron, I didn't over-tighten the sump plug, so a gentle tug of the wrench was all it required to crack.




Whilst it was still in the air, I clambered onto the ramp and removed the oil filter:




The air filter is changeable without any tools, so it was swapped out quickly and easily, with the chamber being cleaned out for good measure.




A push-click and she's secure. I do love working in Herman's engine bay, the large area makes everything really accessible.




Engine cover off, a while back I sheared one of the rubber mountings holding one post on. It's on the to-do list.



At this point, I noticed the time and noted the fact I had to be somewhere for work in a little over an hour, so the pace got ramped up, and logical order went out the window.


The new sump plug went back in.




The fuel filter lives under this panel. I only replaced it 18 months ago, but for the sake of less than £15, I'd rather do it.




An allen key bolt holds it in position, and two hoseclips liberate the pipework.




All refitted. The priority at this time was to finish all the work on the underside so I can lower the car and get around it quicker.




Next, spark plugs. Again, for the sake of £25, I change them every time. 2 10mm bolts hold each coil pack on, and the electrical connection must be removed before removing the coil pack from the hole.




Given that Herman is mainly used for short journeys, I'm happy with them.




All out and ready to go, again, because I service the car, I copper grease where required and don't over-tighten.




New ones all greased up!




Holes suitably stuffed with plugs, the coil packs go back in and are nipped up/connected:




Cover back on.




Oil filter element and filter bowl o-ring replaced:




...and refitted.




Oil cap was a bit gunky from all the condensation associated with short journey driving. I gave that a clean in the parts washer.









Ready for the slippery stuff!




Once the correct level was achieved, the cap went back on and the service complete.




Normally I do the pollen filter at the same time, but for some reason,. the motor factor wanted £41 for one, and the assembly takes two. Will browse elsewhere for that and sort them out at a later date. They were changed at the last service anyway.


A frantic change of clothes and I made it to work with minutes to spare. Busy morning, but an hour later, I was free once again for the afternoon...


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So, back to the car club in the afternoon.




As I mentioned before, Herman had been used as a portage storage locker for crap. The cavernous boot was crammed to the rafters with rubbish.




On top of that, several months ago I scraped the sill on a very high kerb, so I slapped on a load of kurust along the length, even across parts were there was no visible metal, just in case.




With all the rubbish removed from the boot, I found the spare wheel well wringing wet. Amongst the debris fin the boot were several water bottles from November, which had punctured. This was about the same time a bottle of car polish cracked in the boot and my car shampoo emptied itself in the boot, and I simply didn't have the time to get it sorted.


The amount I mopped out speaks volumes.




Weird crystal-like deposits on the spare wheel. Brushed them off.




Left it out to dry in the sun, which provided a lovely backdrop for working!




The aforementioned boot carpet. As you can see, absolutely disgusting, with dried on polish, car shampoo, and various rusty bits of metal.




A blast with the pressure washer and the results were excellent, the shampoo acting as a pre-wash!




Eventually, all the floor mats in the footwells got the same treatment and were left outside to dry.




With all the rubbish removed from the now-dry boot...




...and another coat of Kurust, It was time to focus on the interior. Driver's footwell was the worst, but not really that bad.




A hoover and a bit of a scrub later and all was well again. 




Herman's body is remarkably very good in terms of rust, the only bit being the boot-seal lip, which I previously primed, painted and lacquered to give it some protection. Unfortunately, it came back a bit, so it was time to break out the Kurust again.




With a final coat of Kurust applied to the sill.




Once the Kurust dried, the primer was applied:




As well as touching up a couple of areas of chipped paint. This was next to the front passenger kickplate and hasdn't rusted, but I figured I may as well protect it whilst I'm there.




Another area I touched up which wasn't pictures was the rear edge of the bonnet where the wiper blade body caught it. Again, not rusty, but why chance fate?


Whilst the primer was drying, I greased all locks and hinges, using spray on grease. Makes a bit of a mess, but it's well-lubricated for the foreseeable future.




I then applied underseal to the sill scrape, to give it some decent protection. Pictures aren't good, but you get the idea.




Much better.




At this point, I was merrily cleaning away, wiping down all the door shuts and hoovering out dead leaves from apertures, when the CD changer threw a wobbly and started giving me error codes. Nothing seemed to work, removing/inserting the cartridge, changing CD's, eventually the stereo froze all together. Eventually, in the midst of working out what was wrong with it, I turned the ignition on and it became apparent what the issue was.






A dry spare wheel was refitted into the wheel well and the primer painted over. Despite this being an Oxford Green car, Halfords Boston Green touchup stick is a pretty decent match, and it'll be hidden away anyway.




Duty called once again, and I disappeared for a couple of hours.


On my return, the paint had dried enough to apply the lacquer, and the engine bay was given a quick clean up to remove the dust and dirt.




After a bit more faffing and cleaning, the carpets were refitted, boot filled up with the not-so-crap stuff, and Herman was dragged outside for a twilight wash.




And returned looking pretty damn shiny.








Then, to put the dampener on my day, a couple of hours later after I parked him up, I popped out to finish the last part of my duty and found:






Over the next month or so I'll be carrying out periodic preventative maintenance including thermostat and coolant change, transmission oil and filter change, ancillary drive belts change and probably a brake fluid change. Corrective maintenance will include replacing a couple of control arms at the front courtesy of a friend to replace the ripped dust covers, a couple of brake hoses to replace the ever so slightly perished hoses at the rear, and dismantling a door to replace a handle pull-cable that's stretched.


Thanks for reading.



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Typically braw efforts so far.


one thing to note- the 728i has a differnt fuel tank to the rest of the e38s(I think!)


and they can be awffy prone to rotting out and pissing fuel everywhere- so give it a right good going over!

Thankfully, the history suggests most of Herman's life has been spent in London, and the underside is testament to that, its truly immaculate under there, tank included! The only bleb of rust is the boot seal lip.


The MOT history makes for interesting reading, specifically the year all 4 tires were advised to be in poor condition, and the next year's MOT failure for all four tyres being totally shagged, aside from that, a very good history!


The paintwork is totally buggered on the driver's side though, bad enough for me to consider shelling out for a respray down that side. I've found a spray place I trust enough to do the job (they did an excellent job with the replacement wing on the insurance), but the £800+VAT pricetag means it'll be a hard sell to MrsH!

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Baaaahhhh want stupid barge again nao.


If I'd had slightly bigger baws and Mason had been just in a sliiiiightly better condition (and possibly sliiiiightly newer), I'd have held onto him and tried seeing how long I could do site visits around narrow country lanes in a rural district before I ended up wiping out a hamlet or two.



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Not much of an update, but times are hard and spare time is lacking so I'm accumulating bits and bobs in order to splurge on a major garage tinkering sesh.


One thing that couldn't be ignored however, was Herman's electricity, or lack thereof. Three times this week, he required a jump start, his battery rendering itself incapable of even illuminating the climate control panel. Despite a spirited drive for 30 miles in order to top up the battery, the result was invariably the same. The alternator was charging the system correctly.


The only culprit was the battery, and being a sealed maintenance free unit, I couldn't simply top his water up and hope for the best, which meant new battery time. Those of you who have seen the size of an E38's battery will know my feeling of dread when I rang my local factor for a quote.


£77 all-in, thank God for my trade discount. Only tool required is a 10mm spanner, handily held in the tool kit in the boot lid.


Ten minutes later and Herman started and ran with his usual Germanic efficiency.






Only two pictures I took, and they were the old battery, new one is a Yuasa, I noticed a bit of paint blistering and light surface corrosion in the adjacent area, so that'll get put on the to-do list and sorted in due course.

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Nice car, and in the best colour for one of these IMHO.


One of the annoying things about these older BMW's is the headlights getting misted up where moisture is trapped inside the unit. The way to keep these clear is to leave the back of the headlight (the plastic part, it wont go anyway) unclipped, its just enough to allow some heat from the engine in and keep those headlamp units clear.


Very nice car though, whens the raffle?

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White front, one vertical crease right down the middle pointing outwards.


Bell bottoms are simply an outward crease down the centre of the front and back of each leg, sadly the bells have shrunk in size over the years.


As for the blue collar, still three creases, two outboard creases pointing outwards, central crease points inboard, or as we say: "Two tits, one fanny!"

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My memory is obv incorrect about the square necked shirt. 


Am sure our BB's needed the horizontal creases. I remember doing 'em. It was a long time ago. You had 5, 7 or 9 creases and each one alternated. It was a right faff.


Glad I got the blue collar right lol.


I loved getting it all prepped :)


Just googled the horizontal creases! I was right lol, but that was a very long time ago lol++++

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Nothing has really happened on Herman recently, not even been cleaned - he runs well.


However, this afternoon, he did fulfil the role of recovery for my friends' daily:




Sadly, the rear diff shat itself, so it was towed to a car park where it'll get squared away at a later date.

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