Date: Sun Aug 1 13:51:05 1993
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: 635 Net Wisdom (and euro in general)
>This is a comment on Euro market cars and the federalization work. If
>it came in under the EPA exemption most of this may not apply.
>Take a good look at the federalization work. It may need to be done
>over; some of it is really bad.
>I have a Euro car (can I say what it is if it isn't a bimmer? OK, it
>is an '85 MB gas wagon). The federalization work was done poorly.
>They had added a lambda feedback loop connected to a jetronic unit
>flopping around under the trim panel above the drivers knees (no
>mounting at all), had used cheesy microswitches for WOT detection, had
>not used the fuel damper that goes with the lambda frequency valve,
>resulting in a buzzing that was louder than the engine at idle, had no
>temperature sensors for the Jetronic for warm up (just had them
>indicating warmed up all the time). Also, the fuel pressure for the
>CIS was set wrong, but that could have been due to fiddling trying to
>get this mess working OK.
While that advice is good, I take exception to making it sound like
shysters were the rule in the gray market. I imported many cars in
the early 80s and still have an 80 635CSI. I know quite a few other
people in the biz and none of them performed as the above article
First off we bought only cars that fit in the EPA's grandfather exemption
for emissions. That meant no hacks to the engine, european performance
and simplicity. Second, we bought only from private owners, typically
from classifieds. My partner had lived in Germany for 10 years, spoke
the language and knew Stuttgart like the back of his hand so that's
where we concentrated. Third, we lined up buyers in the US for the cars
before we actually bought the cars in Germany. This was necessary to
get around EPA's no-resale rule. The title transfered directly to
the new owner. To be able to do this required a very good reputation.
Typically we'd have standing orders for particular cars. Last, we
bought only air conditioned cars, a rarity in Germany. These were invariably
well taken care of.
My BMW is a perfect example. I wanted a bright red 635. We found one in
the Stuttgart classifieds. A wealthy dentist had special ordered the
car from BMW with A/C, Ricarro seats, all leather, special paint and a bunch
of other goodies at a cost of DM160,000. It had 10k kilometers on the clock.
He had an 8 car garage and the rest of the bays were filled with Porches.
He said he'd gotten tired of paying the luxury tax on the BMW. the only
tragic part is I had to give up the wonderful Euro headlights in order
to get the car federalized.
The most important thing is to find the original importer and talk to him.
DOT made us put a plate on the driver's side doorjamb that listed the
name of the importer. This name was the customer's and not us.
Owning an Euro car has not been a maintenance problem at all. In the
beginning the dealers were very hostile to gray market owners.
I've had more than one refuse to sell me parts. Things are different
now. They have microfiches on the Euro cars and have no problem
selling me the right part. Third party parts are no problem ether.
Sometimes I have to look at another model to get the right part.
That taught me to keep a log. My rear brake pads, for example, are the
same as a 1980 533. The independent shop where I occasionally farm out
work tells me even the body panels are the same.
The absolute worst part has been not being able to find an English
shop manual for the car. Since my wife works for a german company, it is
only a minor hassle to get stuff translated.
I would not advise an Euro car for someone looking for a transportation
appliance. But if you know the difference between a sparkplug and a master
cylinder, an Euro is a good deal.
Date: Sun Jun 12 11:41:55 1994
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: "Gray Market" paperwork help
>I finally have the title for a '79 733i Euro BUT...
>the EPA/DOT papers have been lost somewhere along this unfortunate car's
>life. Does anyone know where I can write/call to get a copy of these papers.
>The car has no emission stuff on and testing is just around the corner in
>Pennsylvania. The driver's door has a plate with among other things says it
>conforms to US safety standards, it was imported by Charles Moore, and it
>weighs more than twice as much as my Renault <- sheesh, what a tank!!!
If your car is stock, it should pass with flying colors. My 80 gray
market 635CSI did. They didn't use cats then and the limits aren't
strict. If you have some doubt, why not go have it sniffed in advance
of the test? Blow the $20 or so just to see.
I doubt you can find the papers. The whole EPA process was a sham
back then plus it is overwhelmingly likely that the car was imported
under EPA's grandfather provision so that the car didn't even have
to be certified. All I got was a certificate from EPA saying it met
all applicable standards. EPA might still have the certification
(filed by VIN) but not likely. I had to submit copies of all that
stuff to the state (TN) the first time I titled it here so the state
might possibly have it but not likely. Your best hope is probably to
figure out what the name of the conversion shop was and contact them.
The shops tend to retain the records longer.
A couple of buddies and I imported dozens of mostly M-B and porsches
with a few BMWs sprinkled in. Everything we bought was imported
under the EPA exemption. Our conversion shop could do everything required
including the paperwork in a day. Hell, we even did it legit and
sold the car before importation and had the owner apply for the
exemption. It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime personal
exemption. Lots of people just crated up small fleets of cars,
broght 'em over, sold them while they were under Customs Bond and
then hinked the paperwork to make it look like the new owner had
done the importing. Lots o fun and profit while it lasted.