IT SEEMED LIKE a perfectly simple task. I was about to load the old 633 Bimmer (42 years old and counting) on the boat to Tasmania, to join in the Targa Classic Rallye. Not the race, but the more civilised cruise that follows it.
Only problem was, there were a few niggling electrical issues that would have been good to sort out before we took off. Now I’m short of time and patience in the best of weeks and with deadline looming just before the boat sailed, there was no way I was going to get to it. So I flick-passed the job to my neighbour Gus, who’s retired and earns a little pocket money fixing some of the local transports of delight.
So, his list was: bolt a fire extinguisher into the cabin, then sort the radio, fan, and rear demister, please, all of which were on the blink. No dramas, quoth he. Oh so young(ish) and innocent!
What we hadn’t figured on was the innate bastardry that is old cars. The extinguisher was easy, but sorting through the diabolical tangle of wiring lurking in the dash proved to be a whole other nest of vipers.
Gus is very capable and brave, and has a fair bit of experience with old BeeEms, but this was testing him. The first issue was the wiring layout was clearly unique to this model – not a single BMW diagram from its contemporaries went close. After some phone calls, I managed to snap up an original ring binder factory manual for a little over 100 bucks. Bargain!
Maybe. It had a wiring diagram alright, but it was lacking the real detail we needed. Oh, and there was this sneaking suspicion that, while it may have been accurate on the day of publication, could the design have been changed on the run, seconds after the ink on the workshop manual had dried? Entirely possible.
Just to complicate things, this is a very, very early Six and it wasn’t assembled by BMW, but Karmann. So documenting exactly what should be there is going to be a loose operation. Oh and let’s not forget that some previous owner – aka The Wiring Butcher – had got in there and done some pretty baffling things, like hook the radio into the nearest power feed, which was intended for an entirely different part of the car. Great. Thanks very much.
Then there was the radio itself, which went to lunch, then came good, then proved to be a fire hazard. Gus, having a deep suspicion of old electronics, born of experience, decided to test the unit before he reinstalled it. It was powered up and left alone for half an hour. Sure enough he came back to see the thing on on the verge of glowing and clearly hot enough to do a nice roast.
Here’s another thing: ever worked inside and under the dash of a car? It’s the world’s most uncomfortable place. I don’t know why the CIA is so fond of waterboarding when they could just make people fix old car wiring.
Anyway, some days of swearing later, we have a working fan and a box full of mysteries. I guess the rest is a job for when we get back from Tassie. Wish us luck...
Guy ‘Guido’ Allen