GRR

This JPS BMW 635 Group C is a timeless Aussie touring car icon

29th July 2017
Ethan Jupp

How do you take an iconic shape like that of the original BMW 635 and make it more knee-quiveringly beautiful? A good place to start would be to flare the arches out, prepare it for Australian Group C touring car racing (turbine wheels and all) and drape one of the most iconic motorsport liveries of all time across its timeless lines.

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If all the above are completed to a sufficient standard, you might end up with something nearly as beautiful as the JPS 635CSi Group C that we’re spending most of the Silverstone Classic dribbling over.

The car was originally conceived for the Australian Group C touring car class in 1982 at the John Player Special Terrey Hills facility. Its original specification was sub-350bhp courtesy of a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine delivered through a five-speed Getrag transmission to the rear wheels, shifting 1,285kg. Group C was a long way off the featherweight festival of sophistication that was the Group A class to-come.

It enjoyed little success, achieving a solitary top-10 position of 9th in the 1982 Better Brakes AMSCAR series, before being upgraded to 24-valve circa-420bhp spec’ in mid-1983. This power boost, as well as more aero and tyre, took the car’s performance on some way, with Australian Touring Car ace Jim Richards taking the 635CSi Group C to 5th, 3rd and 2nd in various Australian enduros throughout 1983 and 1984.

In 1985, however, the car would be overhauled ready for the world-wide Group A formula. In the opening round of the Australian Touring Car Championship, it would tail the victorious Jim in second making it a 1-2 for the 635CSis. Following that, as a Group A car, it would be sold off and remain in Group A spec for the next 30 years. Following active duty the car would pass through multiple owners' hands before finding its current loving custodian, Peter, who has accompanied this wonderful machine for its first ever outing in the UK here at the Silverstone Classic. 

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Who better than period jockey and all-round Australian Touring Car legend Jim Richards to tell us the story of this car’s return to its glorious and rarified original spec’ and how he would be at the wheel on track at this year’s event.

“In about 2006 roughly, it ended up in New Zealand, when Peter bought the car in Group A form. He didn’t know anything about Group C. He rang me out of the blue and asked if I'd come and have a drive of it for him. I said yeah no problem. I said I think this is the Group C car that was converted to Group A. About a year later he said I’ve been studying it, I think I might convert it back to how it was when it was first built! We’ve been racing it like this ever since”.

Astonishing how the realisation of this car’s long lost origins by the man who peddled in period lead this car to be rebuilt to its former glory. It’s been a beloved regular of Historic Touring Cars New Zealand Grids now for five years or more, since its restoration as lead by period JPS Team BMW head mechanic, Pip Parker. When we asked Jim what it’s like to drive? No hesitation: “Oh it’s terrific”. Jim was keen to stress how behind the curve Group C was compared to its Group A and supertouring successors and what stead that would stand him and the 635CSi in during the race but we’re just glad to see it out in action being driven in anger. 

One last thing. We struggled to get in for a chat with owner Peter, as he processed a veritable queue of stunned youngsters who were chomping at the bit for a seat in an old coupe from way before their time. There couldn’t be much more of a testament to this car’s timelessness than that.

Photography by Tom Shaxson

  • silverstone classic

  • Silverstone Classic 2017

  • BMW

  • 635 csi

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