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BMW left in garage for17 years

Everyone probably remembers an elderly relative who always “saves things for good” and “good” never comes along. Well my husband is one of those. Seventeen years ago when we returned from an assignment in your we paid to have our European BMW converted to US standards. My husband then retrieved it from Philly where the work was performed, drove it into our garage where it has remained ever since. He did nothing to it such as draining the oil, etc. It just stays there providing a good place to hide Christmas presents. Now we are talking–finally–about getting it running again. Is that possible? Of course it needs a new battery and probably new tires, but what else? It is a 1986 but it has only about 25,000 miles (or is it km?)Is is a 325i

you will probably be advised to forget about it. Someone will fill you in with the details as to why.

Yep, this’ll cost you. Biggest problem is the fuel system, it could be all clogged up with gas turned to varnish. How much do you want to spend on this? Is it a sentimental thing? If it is, then it might be worth having it towed (on a flatbed) to a good BMW mechanic (not a dealer), have him go over it and give you an estimate. You might not like the answer.

Good answer tex; I’m in proces of reviving an old Chrysler that has not run for 15 years. So far, here is a shopping list.

  1. Rebuild brake system, new seals, master cylinder , fluid, maybe shoes.

  2. Cooling system was drained and needs to be pressure tested, probably new hoses, maybe water pump.

  3. Steering system may have seized up, need to flush out power steering and replace hoses.

  4. Tires will likely need replacing. Although only one is flat, the rubber will have deteriorated beyond safe.

  5. The entire fuel system will need to be flushed out; maybe new fuel pump.

  6. Carburetor and choke need to be over hauled.

  7. Front suspension needs to be examined and freed up if seized

  8. The motor may have seized up; need to pour a solvent into the spark plug holes and manually turn the engine over. Then change the oil and filter, run the car and change and filter again.

Your BMW may not have all these things done, but I would budger at least $3000 plus tires if no major damage has been done.

There will be more items, but this car was well maintained until 15 years ago.

The first issue you’ll run into with vehicle is the fuel system. Gasoline that’s been sitting in a gas tank for 17 years is no longer gasoline. But instead a sludged up varnish. So if you’ll have pay someone else to just fix this problem, it’s not worth it.

It would be one thing if you could go in and fix all the things that may be wrong with the vehicle from sitting this long yourself. But if you’ve got pay someone else to go through the vehicle and do the repairs so it’s road-worthy, it could cost more than the vehicle is worth.


WOW! Just like the elderly relative who finally decides to wear the dress that has been hanging in her closet for so many years and discovers it is full of moth holes! I guess hubby and I will need to talk about this again. All of the work must be done by our mechanic. Still, the car is practically brand new even though it is 24 years old, so it just might be worth the expense. I had assumed that it would cost at least $2500 to get it running again. You folks are utterly amazing! I never expected such detailed answers so soon. Thank you all who have written.

Given sufficient time and money (mostly money), yes, you can get the car on the road again, but it’s going to take a lot more than you think.

As you’ve been told, the fuel system will probably need to be cleaned out/rebuilt.

EVERY rubber component (tires, hoses, belts, etc) is suspect and probably not useable.

The biggest problem might be that this is a “grey market” car, converted from European spec to US spec (you hope). Finding the right parts for certain things may be very difficult.

Good luck.

Let us know how much it costs.

Good luck! The odd thing here is the low miles. I could find used '86-'87 325s for $2000-$4000 on, but they all have over 150k miles. You might see if you can locate a good independent BMW mechanic, go visit him with a basket of muffins or box of donuts, and talk over your situation. A set of photos (many with the hood up) would help move the conversation along.

And I echo McP’s concerns over the ‘grey market’ status, that could be a major wrench in the works.

Still, the car is practically brand new even though it is 24 years old,

A friendly reminder that it is aging as it sat there…that’s the problem and some components “age” more when not used. I wouldn’t depend on it even if you got it running.

This is a toy, let the boy have his toy, it is a good one. Sit back and watch, sure you can do alot more, but his frustrations will surpass yours before long. I venture to guess you have been married less than 10 years.

Have the car towed to a BMW mechanic, not a dealer, an independant mechanic familiar with older BMW’s. Perhaps you’ll get lucky and he can revive it within your budget.

If it runs again, please don’t park it in the garage again. Get it registered and drive it at least weekly. Enjoy it. I frankly can’t understand parking a nice car in the garage for 17 years, but whatever just don’t do it again. Drive it and be happy.

Actually it will be 35 years on May 24th. Curious why you guessed under 10 years?

I had a 86 coupe in 87( mine was “bronzit” in color) and I wanted to bring that car to the U.S so bad but alas it stayed in Switzerland. These cars have a loyal following and if running it will sell very quickly. The car will need its timimg belt changed, but if that body is rust free, no question it is probably the only type of 1986 vehicle to bring back to life.

I cannot understand why he did it either. Maybe since I am the one trying to get it run again than I should forget it all and continue to use it as a storage space.

The body and interior are in pristine condition. Looks like it came off the assembly line tomorrow. Not a scratch or a rust spot anywhere. The best I can describe its color is a deep red not a bright flashy one.

No it was arranged through proper channels. And imported completely legally and above board. At the time my husband was a US diplomat. Why would you call it grey market?

Cause after 10 years, you roll your eyes and say whatever. in my experience, congrats.

I think you misunderstand ‘grey market’. It just means that it was made for a different market outside the US, then brought into the US and modified to meet US pollution and safety regs. That could be a problem for you because the particular systems in your car, like the fuel injection system, might not be standard for US vehicles, making repair parts hard to find.

How does it look under the hood? That’s a favorite place for critters to nest, and also to chew on wires.

Don’t know haven’t looked under the hood. You could most likely be correct as our house is surrounded with its own woods and we have many, many squirrels and chipmonks around.

The term Grey Market does not always have a legal connotation; it means that the specifications had to be altered for the new market. Sometimes that gives problems with repairs and service later on, since only the legally required items would be modified.

Mercedes, Volvo and some other firms will sell Americans and Canadians a car in Europe that is an “export model”, and already meets all these North American specs. Your car was properly modified, I assume, to meet all US standards. As such it would NOT be a Grey Market car.

The Grey Market term is usually applied to electronics bought cheaply in Asia and brought back by tourists. In many cases, such as cameras, stereo equipment, there would be no warranty on such an item in the US. The higher selling price in the US covers the cost of warranty. Any electrical or electronic device sold in the US without the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label, would be Grey market.

With respect to cars, my version of a grey market is a car brought back legally by Army or other exempt personnel and not modified to meet US specs. Our family doctor bought such a car from returning Air Force officer and had trouble getting it serviced properly.