Many things can go wrong over the course of an endurance event like the Allgäu-Orient Rally 2017, especially when the route branches off onto small, bumpy roads. At times like these, it pays to be able to get yourself out of a muddle or two. Cue an invitation from BMW Group Classic to the teams involved for a crash course (if you’ll excuse the expression) in car mechanics. Professionals were on hand to keep things moving in the right direction.
The one thing everyone expects of a new car is that it will get you from A to B without breaking down. After all, the chances are you’ve spent a pretty penny securing its services. However, that all changes slightly when you’re buying a second-hand wagon – and a cheap one at that. Shop in this neck of the woods and you accept the increased risk of something falling off or going pop. So if you’re planning to set off on one of the world’s toughest endurance races – the 2017 Allgäu-Orient Rally, say – in a used motor that left the factory over 22 years ago, and you only have 1,500 euros to spend, then it’s a good plan to know one end of a spanner from the other. And where better to brush up on your car-mending skills than BMW Group Classic?
Back to school.
It’s difficult to imagine a more charming training workshop than BMW Group Classic’s new digs. Here, customer cars are repaired, complex restorations are carried out and new life is breathed into relics left by others for nature to devour. In these hallowed halls, everything from exquisite pre-war gems like the BMW 328 to pint-sized Isettas and swish BMW CS coupes await critical appraisal. If you work here, it’s because you’re passionate about what you do – and you do it rather well. Adil, Sebastian, Sophia and Andreas are here to call on that knowledge and get on first-name terms with their recently acquired rally car.
Yes we can!
Adil is the organisational brains behind Team 5ever. Sebastian’s job is photos and film. Sophia is studying horticulture at Munich’s technical university and also knows a fair bit about horsepower of the four-legged variety. And fellow driver Andreas is a musician and DIY boffin. They all have some degree of technical inclination and none are strangers to cars. But real experience? Well, it’s thin on the ground. So BMW Group Classic mechanic Axel, who was involved in their BMW 5 Series Touring’s purchase, starts with the most important thing: an oil change. So simple, yet so easily forgotten. The inky black colour of this particular lubricant tells Axel it’s most certainly had its day. Replacing the brake fluid is a touch more complicated; it absorbs water over time and, like oil, needs to be regularly replaced. But this isn’t a job you’ll want to be doing on the roadside. Specialist tools and a ramp are required, and the four team members are happy to let Axel show off his skills.
The professional mechanic has another handy maintenance tip that could spare them a good deal of grief further down the line: “Check your oil and water every time you clean your teeth.” Not a flashy piece of advice, but it might just make the difference between a healthy vehicle and terminal failure. If the engine overheats, it could spell the end for the head gasket (and more). Rely on too little oil and the whole engine slips into the danger zone, beyond the helpful clutches of even a professional mechanic.
Be cool, straight-six.
Something you can sometimes remedy mid-way through a journey is a damaged radiator. Axel shows his pupils how quickly they can remove the radiator and then fit it back in place again. The hoses are only clipped on and their attachments can be released easily with a screwdriver. If the radiator springs a leak somewhere, gaffer tape will often do the trick. Or you can pack a couple of spare hoses, just in case.
It’s also nice to know that original underbody protection for the engine can still be sourced for the first-generation Touring; indeed, BMW Group Classic stocks it as a new replacement part. This hardy metal plate prevents sensitive engine and axle components from bottoming out over rocks and pothole edges. A second’s inattention and this kind of lurking hazard can rip off whole components. That could mean not only an early trip home, but also the risk of a serious accident. Overall, though, the E34 BMW 5 Series is exceptionally robust and it’s rare for one to leave you high and dry.
Changing a wheel is one of the easier jobs, and Andreas and Sebastian are keen to get their hands dirty. Here, with a ramp and wheel gun at their disposal, it’s almost child’s play. But when you’re stranded in a dusty hole in the middle of nowhere – most probably at night and in a rainstorm – with only a jack and wheel wrench for company, you’ll be grateful you know where to start and how to loosen those mud-encrusted wheel nuts.
Master of all things.
As this most instructive of days draws to an end, there’s still the issue of kit and spare parts to consider. Since you’ll never be able to pack everything you might want on an endurance rally, narrowing down the list is an exercise in shrewd decision-making and careful consideration. The right choice of tools can be particularly critical, but tents, fuel cans and thousands of other small items all need to be mulled over, too.
Team 5ever may be wondering increasingly what they’ve let themselves in for, but there’s little sense of anxiousness. Quite the contrary, in fact: thanks to their helping hand from the professionals, they feel exceptionally well prepared.
The prize awaiting the winner of the Allgäu-Orient Rally 2017 is a fully-grown camel. These are tough, undemanding and very even-tempered animals, with powers of endurance matched by few. All of which makes them the perfect role models for Team 5ever and their BMW Touring.