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1985 BMW E28 520i - Going to be for sale for sure (I think)

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Placeholder topic for now. Currently in @Steve79 mums garage but hopefully transported sometime this month. Mostly down to when @worldofceri passes by next. No rush as I have plenty of other projects on the go, just with Spring coming up quick, I'm looking forward to buzzing around in this. So don't expect anything too exciting to happen for a few weeks yet.

I was hoping the Dolomite would be drivable by now but that's not looking likely. So I'll have to either do the work on this on the drive, cart the Dolomite down to storage over spring/summer or send this off to a professional for it to be sorted. It'll need an MOT anyway, but I'd like to get some of the key things sorted before then.

Main issues for the MOT:

  • Dash clocks don't work. Battery has leaked in the original board and damaged the traces. Have another set of dash clocks here and I hope to make a good one out of the two. Something I'll definitely have to do as most mechanics won't want to touch soldering up PCBs.
  • Brake pedal doesn't fully go to the top of its travel, unless you assist it by pulling it up. I believe the Rev mentioned corrosion at the top of the pedal or something that just needs cleaning odd.
  • Cambelt. This one scares me everytime the engine is started. Label under the bonnet says last changed in 1998 and that's almost certainly true. Steve has done a few hundred miles on it two years ago, but I don't have the guts or will to do a cambelt roulette myself on it. Plus I don't believe they're that difficult to change.
  • Possibly needs some welding on the NSF. I'll clean the area up and if it's small I may do it myself. Alternatively let my local garage pickup on it at MOT time and let them sort it if it's a problem.

So hopefully a quick project to get back on the road. That's the intention anyway as I don't have time for too much more, given the Dolomite is taking my time up and the others need fettling too (1100 front calipers and also selling it, MGB service). Likely scenario is getting the above list done so I can drive it to the MOT station and let them sort anything else out needed for that if anything other comes up.


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Current shopping list:

  • Cambelt + tensioner (127 or 128 tooth?)
  • Aux belt
  • Water pump
  • Dizzy cap + rotor
  • Ignition leads
  • Sparking plugs
  • Oil filter + oil
  • Coolant
  • Thermostat
  • Viscous fan tool?
  • Coolant drain plug
  • Sump drain plug
  • Heater valve
  • Radio surround

Most of that probably can from autodoc as it's the cheapest place and I'm not worried about delivery speed right now.

Only question mark is if I need a 127 or 128 tooth cambelt. Searching online isn't clear on when there was a change over and to what.

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Just now, dome said:

I had a manual 535 SE from this era and it cemented my love for old BMWs. Looking forward to seeing to this one back on the road

I would love one of them but they're big bucks now. Likewise anything E30.

This one is not only affordable but a manual gearbox 6 cylinder. So hopefully has the key parts for making the magic recipe to the golden age of BMW vehicles. 

Strangely the E28 doesn't quite have the value of the E30. They're a larger car but not that much larger in the grand scheme of things. 

Never driven a BMW before (well had a hire car Bini once but they're modern FWD BMW), so not sure what to expect yet. 

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I had a white 520i DNO844X (?) in 1998 kept it for about 6 months. Had moon miles on it and wouldn't go into 5th, accelerator pedal was just a rod sticking through the carpet.

Loved it, but MoT looming and a house purchase on the cards I flogged it in Loot for Spears or Reapers.

Shortly after I got a phone call from the old bill asking why I'd just driven away from a petrol station without paying.....

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Ooft! Love these, looking forward to updates.

Good luck with the thieves and liars at Autodoc. Personally I would go anywhere else in preference, but your choice.

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17 minutes ago, Crispian_J_Hotson said:

If it's got standard suspension then it's a unique ride. I think the E30 is added scene tax and they are an easier car to live with. These early, big models spook people out.

Just checked the dimensions and these are quite long cars. Only 10 cm shorter than our 2010 A4. A lot narrower though. But then it's a lot wider than my pre-80s cars. Actually a fair bit wider than the Clio II I have (admittedly that is a small modern car)

Hopefully not being squashed in will make this feel a bit more modern classic. This is good as I might get a bit more acceptance with Mrs SiC on this than travelling in my other cars!

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5 minutes ago, Skizzer said:

Ooft! Love these, looking forward to updates.

Good luck with the thieves and liars at Autodoc. Personally I would go anywhere else in preference, but your choice.

Usually I don't have the patience for them. Last time, pre-Brexit, they took a good 2 weeks for delivery. However they have a lot of parts for the BMW and are a very good price too. I find it as the usual German company customer service - happy to take your money but after sales support and experience is something that they're still very slowly learning. Hopefully everything I need from them should be pretty much bread and butter parts. 

If someone knows of a good UK classic BMW part retailer, I'm all ears though. 

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27 minutes ago, SiC said:

If someone knows of a good UK classic BMW part retailer, I'm all ears though. 

BMW Supply is worth a look: https://bmwsupply.co.uk/part/groups?series=e28&typ=4051&view=ogindex

Not cheap, admittedly, but better than buying two or three times from Autodoc and having them attempt credit card fraud as they did with me.


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The brake pedal not returning is likely a partially seized linkage, it runs across the bulkhead under the bonnet and through a series of pivots etc. Lube them up and work it a few times and it should free it off. 

Cambelt is easy but obvs don't let it break, loads of valves to bend, and they will, I know, and getting the head off is just physically hard work.

The viscous fan coupling can be knocked off with an adjustable and a few sharp taps with a hammer.

ETA, I've also got a distant memory of something that partially fouls the brake linkage, maybe a bundle of cables under the dash or bonnet.

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2 hours ago, SiC said:
  • Viscous fan tool?

An instance where my interests in bicycles and cars overlapped.

32mm headset spanner will do the job.


Since when did bicycle tools get so expensive...?


Anyway, I've deployed this method successfully on two different E36s so far. Just remember it's reverse-threaded.

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Oh, I *do* love an E28. If that has the same M20 engine my E34 520i had, they're fabulous. Under hard acceleration they 'howl'...

Don't they have a mechanical brake servo?

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4 minutes ago, Dave_Q said:

I am fully moist for this, is it Bronzitbeige? Does it have the greenish interior and dash?

It does! @Steve79 original thread is here:

I probably should link this up at the top post. 

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Nice one!

An unusual case of me not buying one when I viewed a 1986 525e (wierd but cool long stroke economy engine ) some wierd rust underneath where @cort16 knows all about put me off. 

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Just now, HMC said:

Nice one!

An unusual case of me not buying one when I viewed a 1986 525e (wierd but cool long stroke economy engine ) some wierd rust where @cort16 knows all about put me off. 

That's the engine that revs about as fast as a modern diesel does, but very clever with it, no?

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1 hour ago, Skizzer said:

Ooft! Love these, looking forward to updates.

Good luck with the thieves and liars at Autodoc. Personally I would go anywhere else in preference, but your choice.

Just ordered something from them this morning damn it.

At least I have a thread about this excellent Bavarian to read whilst i wait...

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5 minutes ago, HMC said:

Nice one!

An unusual case of me not buying one when I viewed a 1986 525e (wierd but cool long stroke economy engine ) some wierd rust underneath where @cort16 knows all about put me off. 

Don't forget he lives up in Scotland. Everything rust up there!

This has a few patches of rust, but nothing like on BL stuff. There is a decent level of undercoating out of the factory that protects it providing that doesn't get damaged.

This one has had welding in the past but only a few localised MOT patches. I may or may not remove them and redo them. These are at the age where you can still get away with that. In a decades time those patches will become a problem if constantly used in all weathers and not kept clean. Basically what my Dolomite has suffered from. 


7 minutes ago, spartacus said:

Also have a feeling that the cam belt could be square edged teeth, or rounded. I'm plumbing the depths here though.

I think your right as I remember reading something similar on an E30 forum. Unfortunately without the car here I can't tell exactly. I believe also the tensioner or belt has the number of teeth needed printed on it too. 


2 minutes ago, R1152 said:

Would RealOEM help?

I've tried that. I don't have the VIN yet so can't do an exact search. Based on model year, I get both listed. So either it doesn't know or there is a crossover point. 

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14 minutes ago, R1152 said:

If it is of that era, have laptop with Carsoft 12 and round connector on it for diagnostics, but also ISTR the service interval indicator is very easy to reset on these.

Way too early for that. The ECU is pretty much analogue in its signal processing.


Service interval PCB in the dash is needing some love after the usual Varta leakage that 80s electronics suffer from...

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I've had 3 of them 520i, 525e and m535i . The rust isn't just a Scotland thing, that last time I looked the South of England wasn't in a desert with 0% humidity. 

There's mounts under the sills that look like jacking points but aren't. They all get jacked up on these, which they shouldn't and it splits,  lets water get in and it rusts out the floor.

it's not immediately obvious until you lift the carpet. Hopefully you'll be lucky,  even if you're not it's worth it as they're great cars.


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They're known for hiding rust well! Especially in the front footwell area and the rear subframe mounts.

These engines often don't 'self bleed' when you change the oil, so the oil light will flicker. Filling the filter before a change is the way to avoid this, the positioning of the filler makes this tricky though.

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