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'38 BMW

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Hi Folks -

It's been quite a while since I've been around here, but thanks to a good friend of mine, there's been some progress on my '38 BMW that I hope might interest some of you. First is a photo of the car as it arrived in the US in 1965. It was brought in by my dad who had served in the US Army in Germany. This photo was taken the day the car was picked up from the port in NJ and driven to Westbury, LI.


My dad subsequently disassembled the car in the late 60's and then had 4 kids, so it stayed disassembled for a long time. About ten years ago, he passed it to me and I started working on it, but within those ten years, I've had had two kids of my own. During that time I have been lending various bits and pieces of the car to a friend of mine who is a highly talented craftsman or him to reproduce for his own '38 BMW, which was rather incomplete. In any case, last year he offered to repair the structural wood and do some metal work on the old beast for a most reasonable sum. Pix follow:

Right front frame rail damage


Left front rail - Merry Christmas!


Door post test fit:




Rear wood repair


Rear wood and metal repair


I'm planning to get up to his place over the next few weeks to help with some of the grunt work and learn from him.

Hope you guys don't mind the noob post!


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Thanks for the comments. It is indeed ambitious, but the price was right and the car isn't missing anything terribly major (correct bumpers, taillights, and the clock) . There are a bunch of things that are incorrect because the car was driven for ~30 years but I'm only looking for a nice driver, not a perfectly correct trailer queen. It is actually one of the more solid unrestored 327s out there. Many have rusted much worse than this one though mine shows evidence of a heavy impact to the left front. Dad said it drove straight, the tires are worn evenly, and frame measurements are close to spec, so I'd guess it's straight enough to serve.

Honestly, my buddy's offer came as something of a surprise to me. I didn't expect it at all, but would have been foolish not to take him up on it. He is truly one of nature's noblemen.

@ Steve Braverman - Were you at the AACA show last weekend at Hallockville farm? I was surprised at the number of Franklins there. They seem to be really neat cars!


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My hats off to you. 327s are a real job. Wood was just too close to the body

meaning they rotted together. Then there is the box section frame that collected water and just rotted away from the inside out.

Please know once done you will have a pleasent car to drive. These drive much like a post war American car with better brakes and road holding.

Good Luck.

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  • 1 month later...

It's had more than that. It was pretty well crushed and rebuilt at least once with a number of significant spot repairs evident as well. The car was on the road for over 30 years prior to retirement and survived both WW2 and post war Germany. It may be apocryphal, but the legend that goes with the car says that one PO, A French officer, was killed in it. It'll never be a Pebble Beach car but she certainly has her ghosts.

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Judging by the descriptions of the work done on the car due to the previous collisions that perhaps the severity of the accidents could have taken a life.

I'd say that it's at least plausible. FWIW, my dad kind of had a love-hate relationship with the car. As an engineer, he appreciated what it was and enjoyed driving it, but it kind of gave him the creeps. While he was driving the car, he had a dream that he had been killed in a red car and hasn't owned a red car since.

Edited by juddman (see edit history)
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Yup. BMW started off as a manufacturer of aircraft engines, then started making cars in the late 1920's. The first was called the Dixi, which was essentially the Austin 7 made under license. The 328 and this car were among BMWs earliest high end cars. Max Hoffman began importing BMWs to the US in the mid 60's - about the time my dad brought this car into the country (1965).

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  • 3 months later...

Cowl and side panels off for repair...also to provide access to repair the frame rail on the passenger side (note the newly fabricated battery box):




Rusty PS rail:




Underside of the rear deck:


Rear deck floor - top:


Dashboard - filling non-original holes and cracks:




New side panels for the nose:


Rear fender in primer:


Getting there. As always, many thanks Doug!


Edited by juddman (see edit history)
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Guest Rob McDonald

Great steady work on a lovely car. That nose cone is a delight. Thank your dad for us, for having such fine taste, even if he's in the ghost world now too.

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HI Rob- Thanks for the kind words! Dad is still with us, thankfully. He handed the car off to me when he realized that he wasn't going to get to it. It's a little ironic because he was an engineer with Grumman for about a zillion years and has far greater mechanical skills than I do. I'm fine with most basic tasks, but the bodywork required for the car is well beyond my skill level. On another note, I'm sorry to see that your 525iT was hit. I had two E34 535i's, one of which had a 5 spd, and they're really spectacular cars. Probably the best all-round car I've ever had.

Cheers - CJ

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Just a quick post to note that my friend who is doing the metal and woodwork on my car, Doug Cygan, is available to assist with restoration or fabrication issues.

He is deeply talented with metalwork, woodwork (both structural and decorative), mechanical repairs, and other more esoteric things. For instance, he sand casts aluminum parts, can mold rubber and plastic pieces, and seems to me to be able to make just about anything from sheetmetal. Doug is exceptionally bright, creative, and thorough, not to mention friendly and a genuine pleasure to talk to. Furthermore, he is confident in his abilities but is always learning more and his ethics are absolutely beyond reproach. I have seen his handiwork first hand many times and I am always amazed at both his range of capability and the consistently high quality of the things he makes.

Doug has a website at: 1938 BMW 327 Cabriolet

He may be reached by email: dougcygan@metrocast.net

Mailing address and phone are:

PO Box 267

Belmont, NH 03220

(603) 267-7540

In short, Doug is a great guy who really knows his stuff!



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Guest Rob McDonald

CJ, thanks for noticing my recently updated signature. Suffice it to say that a incredibly stupid teenage son, a slippery road, and a low book value have resulted in the loss of the best car I've ever owned.

I'm handling my sorrow with a flight to Las Vegas on Wednesday, to pick up a black-on-black 2006 530xiT (e60) with 60,000 one-owner miles. If it's as satisfying as has been our dearly departed e34, we might someday let the kid out of the basement.

PS. Doug sounds like a god.

Edited by Rob McDonald
remaining relevant (see edit history)
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Hey, I'm glad your son is OK - rather lose the car than him. We were all young and dumb once...at least I was!

The E34 is perhaps the only car I've had that I'd go back to. BMW really got it right with those. The only thing I didn't like about my 535's was the fuel consumption. They were good looking, reliable, really comfortable, they handle beautifully, and the old M30 lump could lay down the power pretty well and sounded good doing it. I'd love to transplant an M30 /5 spd into a Touring... Good luck with the new 530!

Doug is pretty close to it. Adding to any feeling of inadequacy, he just does this as a hobby and is self taught. His day job is completely unrelated - he uses his extensive knowledge of botany and entomology for that. As I said, he's brilliant.

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Again ..... My hat is off to those that ttake on and complete a 327. They are a big job compared to the sports cars 315/1-328. These have a simple round tube frame compared to the 327s box sections. The tube frame cars have an easier wood design too.

Old age and illness has forced me to find guys to do wood and body work.

Here you can see their efforts on our one off 315/1 Weinberger roadster: http://www.flamingarage.hu/projects.html?proj=42


This leaves free to do engines and build small parts

Again guys keep up the good work.

327s are a joy to drive. Weather and wind tight:) The stop and steer with very little effort

Edited by RU22 (see edit history)
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Guest Rob McDonald

HIREK, that little Cushman is hilarious!

CJ, I've just about closed the Vegas deal on BimBox2 but I'm too busy at work to go get it before next week. Anticipation is half the fun, right?

Fuel economy was one of our favourite features of our 525i. The M50 engine is a marvel of advancements, with variable valve timing and direct ignition. I was pleased to learn that the later 530xi's have a development of the same engine, with about 40 more horses and even better mileage.

They're now casting the block out of some exotic aluminum-silicone cocktail (uh, oh, did someone say, "Chevy Vega"?). It results in an almost perfect 51/49% front-to-rear weight distribution for the Touring. Ooo, I think I'm going to like this car.

Too bad the e60's look like a bloody Pontiac at the front. For styling, nothing can touch the e34, especially the wagon. Mark my words, it's going to be the 5-6-7 Nomad of the future. I will so regret losing mine.

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Guest Superboss

Great car!!.. And the hell of a family piece of history... Im brand new in this forum but i just wanted to give youmy thumbs up in this beautiful project...

BTW..im a spanish laguague speaker guy so be patient with my english mistakes!

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@ RU22 - Thanks for the encouragement! My dad described the way the car drove as surprisingly modern with excellent chassis dynamics and brakes, however lacking in power.

A funny story: In order for him to be able to register and drive it in Germany with a US military registration he had to show that the car had seatbelts and that the brakes would lock all four wheels in a panic stop. To do this, he had to take his immediate superior for a brief ride and demonstrate. When the sergeant ordered him to punch the brakes, dad hesitated for a moment because he remembered that he had a 5 gallon jerry can full of fuel in the luggage compartment behind the rear seat on the passenger's side. He mentioned this to the sergeant, telling him that he was worried about the can coming forward and mashing him against the dashboard. His sergeant disregarded this and told him to follow the order, which he did, obtaining the anticipated result.

Your website is pretty neat; who would have thought one would find an Edsel in Poland? One day I'd like to see eastern Europe. I work with several Poles and a couple of Romanians and in my admittedly limited experience, the're truly great folks & pretty funny too.

@ Superboss - Thanks!! (and your English is perfect!)

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It's not my site but the guys that are doing cars and trucks. BMW315, Diamond T Panel and '40 Ford are mine. 40 was chopped by Sam Barris and

is powered by a blowen Ardun.

The shop is in Hungary Not Poland.

If you'd like a little power you can get a two carb EMW manifold. I use cams Isky makes special for us... and 34ICH Weber carbs.

Some 327s came with 328 engines from the factory.... these 327/28s are still rather slow. I have driven one on Elkart Lake about like a 120 Packard very nice

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Hey there -

I know about the Weber / EMW setup and I have an EMW downdraft manifold, but the Isky cam is entirely new to me. I actually plan to build my engine close to late 501 specification and use a Laycock de Normanville electric OD in hopes of getting somewhere around 75-80 hp and a cruising speed ~60-65 mph. Might you be able to provide more info on the cam? Please Email to christopher.m.judd@gmail.com or post here , whatever you prefer. Thanks!

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You can fit a 501 quench head.

You have to mill off the front of the head and fit a piece that copies the 327 water pump well at the front.

My cam card is thousands of miles from me. I'll keep your address and send the specs when I see it next

EMW manifold is good ICH Webers are the best to fit.

Petronix will make a giant difference too

High speed driving. Go to a chilled iron Sprite tappet You must make new pushrods and drill the tappet a couple more times to help oil the cam

If you find an AC Bristol oil pump It will take a 5-main MGB pump kit but you most make a spacer..... It is REALLY worth the effort

If you can find a 3.44:1 diff the engine likes pulling a tall-high speed gear

If you use a Volvo O/D make sure you modify it to let you use 3rd O/D too

It's a nice round town gear

The 327 engine can make more power than a 328 BUT the 327 is heavy

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  • 1 month later...

More love for the ancient BMW. Rust repair in the right front frame rail near the a-post.

Rust out: note the crack center left - my dad drove the car for several years not knowing about that - scary!


Remnants of a nest (ick!):

<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/HI19i3guPNa2UEaLmn1gb9MTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-4FaEPJ9audA/T5yXoYt6mnI/AAAAAAAAA6o/fjF2jFcq5HI/s800/DSCN7325.jpg" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/christopher.m.judd/BMW327?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">BMW 327</a></td></tr></table>

Stripped cowl placed on chassis (not welded in yet)

<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/PRyiuzzKfYhweZoYfB1JnNMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=embedwebsite"><img src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-ETOIJP85els/T5yXomayUeI/AAAAAAAAA6o/NUwhqiaiNiE/s800/DSCN7329.jpg" height="600" width="800" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="https://picasaweb.google.com/christopher.m.judd/BMW327?authuser=0&feat=embedwebsite">BMW 327</a></td></tr></table>

From another angle...boy this thing took a hit.


Metal in - to be ground smooth soon:


Thanks yet again, Doug. (BTW, Doug has updated his site a bit for anyone interested. It may be found here: http://home.earthlink.net/~dougcygan/index.html)

Edited by juddman (see edit history)
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Really enjoyable thread, thank you for continuing to share your progress! Your father will no doubt be very happy to see this car returned to the road, assuming he no longer has any trepidations caused by his dream. I would suggest you have exorcised those demons by lavishing such love and attention on the car!

Doug is a man after my own heart, it seems he can find a solution for any problem that may arise and probably looks forward to those challenges. I noticed on his site a sandblasted glass clock face, you may wish to pass along another method that he (or you) may be interested to try. Use a blank vinyl decal sheet that he can either print a digital template from his computer or draw on by hand as he did previously, and cut out the image using an x-acto knife. Then use a glass etching gel (gel and vinyl sold at many craft stores or online) that can be brushed on, usually in two opposing directions to eliminate lines or a "grain", and cleaned off after about 30-seconds each application. The result is finer lines, less depth of the cut lending to an overall more elegant finish than sand blasting.

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Thanks for the comments and advice! If I had to do it, I'd probably use hydrofluoric acid as well. I've worked as a chemist for >20 years and have both access to and expertise in dealing with nasty chemicals. Doug made the clock face a couple of years ago after I lent my gauges to him so he could replicate faces and such. I was actually missing the clock entirely, so he worked out the font using the other gauge faces as templates.

Dad will happily ride in the car as long as it's not red, which I think is a fairly wretched color for the car anyway. I'm leaning towards a dark blue The car was originally "Enzian blau", and allegedly BASF (aka Glasurit) has color codes for prewar BMWs, but I've had a hard time digging up any particulars on them - and I am employed by BASF, which is otherwise an excellent company for which to work, BTW. I suspect a trip to Ludwigshafen is in order.

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  • 11 months later...

Thanks for asking - there has been some progress. The main body's been primed and is undergoing continued repair. Right now the structural wood pieces have been made and are being fitted. The driver's side door is actually not the one that's going to go on the car - it's a mess - but it's being used to guide the location of the hinges and such. The hinges also needed some help. They were apparently drilled with larger pins inserted. Luckily Doug found tome bushings that were the right size and is cutting some drill stock for pins.

Next up: patches on the left rear wheel well and patterns for the metal on the cowl.

She'll never be a top grade car but I think that she will look nice and work well. I don't have a problem with the car being something of a 'bitsa' an showing some history. It was on the road for more than 30 years, had lived through a war, and was wrecked at least once, so she's earned her scars.

Here are a few photos:














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Thanks for the update, I think all that really matters is that you SAVED this one and she's going back on the road. Good on you my friend!

I only take about 20% of the credit. Doug, who is the one with the crazy skills, gets the bulk of the credit along with my dad who was smart enough to realize what he had when he bought it for the equivalent of $200, keep it, then pass it to me.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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