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Sometimes, looking out of place just can’t be helped. A pineapple at a BBQ; a Mini Cooper in the Sahara; or a mariachi band at a funeral might raise an eyebrow. But a German in Kyoto? Right at home.

Of course, I’m talking about this E24 BMW 635CSi, as built by Kyoto-based E24 specialist Coutner.

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Somehow, Shiro Watanabe’s E24 seems to blend in beautifully with the shabby-chic aesthetic of Kyoto. This is a historic city – Japan’s capital before Tokyo – with many very old buildings still in place, but I personally love the Showa-period architecture which fill Kyoto’s high streets, back streets and residential areas.

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It’s no surprise then, that this 635CSi fits right in, and for a few reasons. The Showa period falls between the 1930s to the 1980s, but generally speaking, people associate it with the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, which is coincidentally the same period Watanabe-san’s BMW hails from. This one is actually a 1989 model, but of course it was designed in the mid-’70s. And it shows.

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Not only is the E24 of the Showa era, but it blends in nicely with the design elements of its Kyoto surroundings. Japanese architecture is full of strong, horizontal and vertical lines, with few embellishments and even fewer curves.

Look at any three-box car design from the ’70s and you could make the same comparison. The E24 does have a few curvy bits, but its long, boxy hood and horizontal body lines that stretch its entire length give it an almost temple gate appearance. Or maybe I’ve just lived in the Far East for too long at this point…

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The E24 design is both beautiful and powerful, making it one of BWW’s greatest silhouettes in stock form. The wide body kit fitted to this car – which was both designed and manufactured by Coutner after laser scanning and 3D rendering – gives the BMW extra presence. It’s almost Pandem-esque, but a little more sympathetically contoured to the original body lines.

Then there’s the custom deep blue paint, which appears black until you shine a light on it.

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Forged wheels, 18×9.5-inch and 18×10.5-inch front and rear respectively, and also designed by Coutner, sit snuggly under the E24’s arches thanks to their fitment and KW Suspensions V3 coilovers, which also feature KW’s HLS lift system. Coutner-made top mounts allow the modern suspension setup to fit the old chassis perfectly. A V-Maxx big brake kit, featuring 4-pot front callipers and 2-piece rotors, provides all the stopping power this street car would ever need.

This E24 is actually one of two in the Coutner stable, the other being a full-blown track car that’s finished in competition white with gold BBS wheels. It’s currently in the midst of an engine rebuild, but as soon as it’s ready, you can count on a feature.

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As the road version of the twin set, this car is powered by its original M30B35, but there are plans for a V8 swap in the future, which would be nice. It is, however, fitted with an FGK stainless header and a full custom exhaust, so it sounds sporty enough for the time being. The stock automatic transmission has given way to a Getrag 5-speed manual gearbox too.

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The other difference between this and the race car is the beautifully appointed interior. Soft caramel/camel suede and leather everywhere – including on the upgraded seats and Momo Prototipo steering wheel – update what was a sumptuous, but dated cabin.

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Again, parallels can be drawn between the luxurious grand tourers built to ferry businessmen through blizzards and heatwaves across Germany, and the comfort and quiet of Japanese grand tourers of the same era. Think Toyota Soarer or the Nissan Cima.

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As I alluded to in a recent story on a resto-modded S15, a new gold standard seems to be emerging in Japan, where no custom build is truly complete without attention having been turned towards the interior. I’m not saying fancy upholstery is as important as mechanical or driving performance, but it sure is nice when it’s done right.

Toby Thyer
Instagram _tobinsta_
tobythyer.co.uk



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