Photography by: ©2016 Toni Avery
Following the one-off 1963 Ford Ranch Z-06 Wagon feature, Mr. Martin of Full Scale Hot Rods & Customs offered another one of his unique rides for a story. This time, not American or even a one-off, but something quite rare.
About 36-37,000 BMW 840 and 850s were produced when new and out of those, roughly 7,000 were powered by V8 engines. Sure, those don’t sound like numbers to qualify this car as rare, but Mr. Martin has done what BMW wouldn’t for the American market; he converted his 840 to a manual transmission (about 300 were produced with manual transmissions for the European market). As it sits, this 840 is one of about five in the United States running a manual.
Mr. Martin purchased his 840 for $3,0000 and immediately started on improvements. Bilstein and H&R Sports replaced the old shocks at the front and the entire suspension was rebuilt (5-link rear end) for improved ride quality and handling. The heater core was replaced due to a bad leak in addition to the radiator, front idler, steering wheel, and the wood inlay in the dash was replaced with a simple black look. The exhaust system was swapped for a Magnaflow for improved sound.
When Mr. Martin decided to take on this project he began the search for a donor car and landed on a 540 Sport for $800. It had nice wheels and a few other pieces but over all had some issues, but the most important item on the list was the manual transmission. While the donor car had over 150,000 miles on the odometer, Mr. Martin took a chance and traded labor with a friend on the trans removal in exchange for the rest of the car. The motor mount and transmission (540 sport e39 six-speed) were too long for the 840 and had to be shortened while the drive shaft has to be lengthened to fit with the new, smaller transmission.
Other than the transmission and above-mentioned modifications, the car is entirely stock. Mr. Martin plans to upgrade the 274 rear end to a 315 for better off the line performance and mileage.
My drive behind the wheel of the 840 was short and while I look forward to feeling the difference off the line with the new 315 rear end, it was a uniquely cool experience to drive something so rare. It’s not a lightweight car, tipping the scales at about 4300 pounds and that comes through when steering unless at speeds above crawling. The steering system utilizes a recirculating ball unit, which causes the 840 to feel as though it has play, but this is more characteristic for this unit on this car. The manual transmission is incredibly smooth to shift and really compliments the cars performance.
There isn’t much I would change on this rare 840. Mr. Martin is slowly working on getting it to the condition he wants and in the meantime his wife is enjoying tearing up the local canyons in the 840 on her way to and from work.