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Didn't convert, but back in the '70's, I owned a 2800CS auto for 2 years and a 3.0 CS 4 speed for ~5 years. I am not opposed to automatics in general - had a lot of them - currently 4 cars in the garage, have them,(but the MB 560SEC will be leaving soon, as it sold on BAT yesterday).
The early BMW automatics weren't very 'sporty - a bit like the Buick dynaflows of the the 50's. The manual was so much more fun to drive. My current '74 has the 5 speed OD trans, and I really like that - just another gear for quieter highway cruising with 20% lower engine RPM's than the 4 speed.
I converted my first 2800Csa to a 5 speed and couldn't believe the change in personality... as others have said, you won't regret it. The market (if you care) for E9s does not value originality when it comes to transmissions and even engines (except for some specific exceptions).
I don't have issues with automatics. My daily driver is an auto, as is the kid hauler. My jeep was an auto, which is preferred by many including myself for rock crawling.
While I don't have any experience with e9 autos, I have found old German automatics to be slush boxes in general. Old autos are nothing like a new transmissions. The amount of power and fun that they rob from the car definitely steers me away from owning one. I wouldn't have any reservations about buying an auto and converting it however.
My '73 had a trans that occasionally wouldn't go into reverse, back a couple decades ago. I was faced with a $1700 rebuild, or ... something.
I was cued to a crashed '80 528i with a four-speed, so another guy and I split the cost. Out came the auto trans, in went the four-speed. The difference in sensed torque and acceleration was amazing. Apparently the AT and/or torque converter wasted a LOT of energy between them.
Later I was made aware of two '81 528i that each had five-speeds. This time I bought by myself and after stripping the few interchangeable parts, the City took what was left. There wasn't any change to note since 4th in a 5-speed equals 4 in a 4-speed, but the nearly 20% rpm reduction in 5th was nice. Still and all, on an island 20 miles by 30....
I would never go back to an AT on a coupe, but then going to a manual trans made mucho economic sense at the time.
Back when the auto trans started to die (around 180,000), I asked the wife what she would like to do with the car (it was her daily ride). Would she like a manual or rebuild the auto box. She says manual was good. (I trained her to drive a stick on a tii and a fiat spyder early on when we got married). A rebuild auto box was in the vicinity of $1800 to $2000. The manual conversion bill came to about $3,500. It was high because I had the a/c evaporator replaced as well as the heater core since they were going to tear the console up. When I got it back, WOW! It was day and night. It totally transformed the coupe. Now it is a beast compared to a laid back lazy coupe. I didn't change the diff, so get up and go is even better than if it had a regular 4 spd. RPMs dropped to 3000 at 70 mph compared to 3600 with the auto box. Now that is a quiet fwy cruiser. At times, I'm lazy to shift, so I start off from 2nd and it'll go with playing the clutch a bit without hesitation. Have over 130,000 miles on the conversion and still on that original clutch. I'm in my 60s but I enjoy the shifting, even in traffic.
my 2 cents...bought my Coupe in 1988. went for best structure and general overall condition. Found one that had rust removed, painted, upgraded, even had roof removed and replaced with electric sunroof, and beautiful Baikal paint. But it was a CSA. Did not dwell on that as I also enjoy my Austin Healey 3000 BJ8. VERY standard, tons of torque, so, I do have options. But as the years go by, or perhaps as I get older, I do appreciate the comfort in traffic that the auto box affords. True, I can pursue the 5 speed swap some year, but as time goes on, I feel less and less motivated to do so. If I really want to spin wheels and slide sideways, I will take the Healey out for the day and satisfy that urge. Really, it is the exquisite elegance of the E9 Coupe that is captivating. Getting to own and drive one with any transmission is a luxury unto itself. Best of luck with your decision. Mike
Thank you all, what a great group of guys, Keep the comments coming please
I have decided early on to stay with automatic since I have owned plenty of standard 02s, I recently got a transmission from sfdon with very low miles that works great thanks to him.
I have no problem with my auto specially since my side draft install and correct cable adjustment it has a lot of get up and go and works great
I'm going to do the swap. Traffic is not an issue for me, I don't drive to work, and when I'm in an accordion I just row away and it's pretty unconscious really. If I did drive to work in LA or SF everyday, I'm sure my feelings would be closer to those of bluecoupe30. However I do drive in mountains a lot, and the automatic really kills the joy of twisty hills for me. The swap I did on my E34 Touring changed the car radically for the better.
One interesting current aspect of manual versus auto (DCT) is that the overwhelming proportion of high performance BMW M3s have been sold with DCT.
The figures are taken from - https://www.howmanyleft.co.uk/browse/bmw/bmw_m3
and relate to UK numbers.
The official numbers recorded for the Limited Edition 500 series show 391 DCTs and only 15 Manuals.
The figures show that the Monte Carlo edition show 98 DCTs and 3 Manuals.
Have to chime in that recent M3 buyers are a different demographic, and the M3 is a different car, bought for different reasons. Manual trannies are going the way of the dodo, an AT gets better 0-60 time and better mpg, IN A MODERN CAR.
They have recently built standalone mangement boxes for BMW DCT transmissions.
BMW e9 3,5L DCT.. I have to say, that idea has entered my mind, the problem is that the DCT transmission is huge compared to a regular 4 or 5 speed Getrag.