Want to Buy a Classic BMW? Here’s Your Comprehensive Guide

The desire to own a classic car is a strange urge that hits a lot of us from time to time, and yet it’s one that’s hard to explain to the significant other, or perhaps even your close friend. It just… hits you, and when it hits, it really hits.

But buying any classic car (let alone a classic BMW) is like stepping into a dense minefield. However, if your heart is well and truly set on getting a classic BMW, then read on, as we show you what to pay close attention to in order not to completely drain your wallet. Get everything right, and you’ll only partially drain your wallet!

First things first, if your only motivation to purchase a classic BMW is a profit-spinning investment, then be extra careful. The harsh reality for classic cars, in general, is that a lot of them end up costing you a pretty penny in upkeep – think of them as cars on a life support machine. You have a classic car for the passion, not for the money.

With that out the way, it’s important to note there are many ways into the world of classic BMW ownership. You need to evaluate what works best for you by reflecting back on how much spare time, money, and enthusiasm you have for your future pride and joy.

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is how ‘hands-on’ you’ll want to be with your classic BMW. For example, you could attain a ‘barn find’ car that needs a load of love and attention, or you could buy a pristine classic BMW that’s had the restoration work done to it already. Let’s focus on the barn finds first, though.

A ‘barn find’ is the colloquial name given to old cars that need major tender loving care, mainly because they are traditionally found in barns, left to rot. Barn finds BMWs can make for a fantastic hobby – the cars themselves are often dirt cheap (or sometimes even free if you’re lucky), and from there it’s completely down to you in terms of how the car is restored regarding quality and time.

Be warned though: it’s very easy to bite off more than you can chew. Restoring classic cars is a costly process for both your free time and your bank balance. If you work a full-time job and have a loving family who you value spending time with, you may find yourself with little to no time to actually work on the car. Your classic BMW, therefore, becomes no more than a space-taker in your garage, left to die a rusting death.

BMW E12 530 MLE before restoration. BMW Group.

But what if you find a barn-find BMW that you just couldn’t resist turning away from, and yet you don’t quite have the mechanical prowess to give it the restoration it truly deserves? Believe it or not, but you’re in luck, courtesy from BMW themselves.

E12 530 Motorsport Limited Edition (MLE) after a year of restoration at BMW Group Plant Rosslyn.

Specifically, the BMW Group’s Classic division will take in your classic machine and expertly restore it to its original glory. Not only that but the completed restored car will come with a stamp of official certification, giving you the peace of mind that your BMW was rebuilt using original parts by expert mechanics. As you can probably imagine, this kind of job is far from cheap, but some would argue that you can’t put a price on perfection.

BMW 1600 GT Convertible from 1967, restored by apprentices at the BMW plant Dingolfing. BMW Group.

While you can’t really get much better than getting the original manufacturer of the vehicle to restore your pride and joy, that’s not to say there aren’t any other options out there. Munich Legends, based in the UK, is an independent BMW restoration specialist, and while they don’t have any official ties to BMW themselves, they have an impressive portfolio nonetheless. They have been responsible for Niki Lauda’s BMW M1 Procar restoration, and they are BBC Top Gear’s official port of call for BMW technical know-how. It’s safe to say they would make good, caring work of your barn find.

BMW M1 Procar at German Grand Prix, Hockenheim in 2008.

Let’s say you’re not a fan of the whole restoration business, though. You want a classic BMW that’s already perfect, and you will keep it in your temperature-controlled garage, and perhaps even throw a cheeky blanket on it, if you’re feeling particularly generous. What’s the best route to take here?

Like buying a normal used car, you can also make use of Autotrader to search for classic cars as well. The condition of cars featured on Autotrader can vary massively, so be sure to pay massive attention to the description, and don’t feel afraid to contact the seller for further details. On Autotrader, you can find cars on the brink of being scrapped, to pristine examples that look like they’ve never left the showroom. When it comes to these perfect classic examples, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the pricing, because the price will be set to whatever the market can bear – even if that does mean a six-figure sum.

Another method of buying your classic BMW is an auction. These can be great fun, seeing all the cars pass through and the crowd of people getting excited at the fine machinery. Be warned, though, that auctions give you limited time to walk around and inspect the car beforehand, so placing the winning bid can be incredibly risky.

You could go ahead and purchase privately or from a dealer, but either way, you’re going to be looking at a hefty markup of the price if you’re wanting a ready-restored BMW. Dealers and even private parties are going to want to turn a profit, and they know classic machines are in high demand, so their prices will reflect that.

Whether you choose to bring a rust bucket to its former glory, purchase a showroom-condition beauty, or buy something roughly in the middle that just has a few rough edges, be sure always to have the car professionally inspected, and, more importantly, take care and enjoy your piece of beautiful Bavarian history.

If you’re looking for even more ways to express your love for BMW, be sure to check out our TeePublic shop for a variety of designs and products featuring your favorite BMW models. From t-shirts and hoodies to phone cases and stickers, we’ve got you covered. So head on over to our shop and take a look!

Jack Cooper

I'm a professional automotive content writer with a genuine passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of the auto industry. I hold a first-class honours degree in Journalism, a Distinction level Automotive Journalism MA, and work in communications for one of the largest vehicle brands in the world at their UK headquarters.

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