My 1977 BMW is priceless - Mwesigwa

What you need to know:

Having acquired a friend’s BMW M60 520 1977 model, Mwesigwa has been on a journey to restoring it. Although he says it has been a long and expensive one, it has been worth all the effort and money.

The first time I saw Amos Kasule Mwesigwa’s 45-year old car, a BMW M60 520 1977 model, I am amazed by how he has kept it roadworthy. This original BMW 520 was among the very first ones to be manufactured in the BMW 5 series.

A donation from his late friend, Prof James Katorobo, Mwesigwa would often admire the car while it was parked in Prof Katorobo’s compound. While the two friends had never talked much about the car, Mwesigwa was disheartened to one day visit his friend’s home and find that the BMW had become home to ducks and other poultry. He asked the widow for permission to take it and when it was granted, he towed it to his compound.

Restoration journey

Restoring the 2000cc manual transmission engine and four-seater saloon vehicle started in 2019. Mwesigwa says although the journey has been long, it is still ongoing, especially since this is a vintage car with registration number plate 299 UAG. 

“The first thing restored was the engine. After this, the mechanics started restoring the brake and electrical systems. Also, since it had been parked for years, the body was damaged and the seats were dirty and old and needed reworking. It is a work in progress,” he says.

Unlike most cars, Mwesigwa’s BMW is electrical and manual. For instance, whereas most cars have one brake tube, his has three tubes per tyre. If one of the 12 tubes is not functional, the car will fail to brake in the affected tyre. However, its system will allow you drive a distance of 10 to 20kms to find a garage or mechanic.

“One day, two of the 12 tubes got damaged as I drove from Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala. I nearly caused an accident but I still drove to Kaleerwe where my mechanic works. It took him a week to find the tubes to get the car back on the road,” Mwesigwa recalls.

Challenges

Mwesigwa says the biggest challenge has been the fact that most parts are not available. However, he says, he has had to use some parts from Toyota brands such as the Toyota Camry to run the BMW until he saves enough money to order original BMW parts.

The improvised parts include the central lock switch and the fuel filter. It has three fuel filters and one of them is complex and needs time to source. Some parts of the indicators and lighting meant to be on the boot became brittle and break easily when touched.

All these, Mwesigwa says, need to be replaced.

“Other parts are functional because they are less electrical and more mechanical. Besides, there are many parts connected to the metal and rubber tubes. The car needs to be driven once in a while to ensure these parts do not break,” Mwesigwa explains.

“I consider putting a price on this car a joke. It is simply priceless,” he adds.

Fuel consumption

Manufactured with a speedometer of up to 220km/hour, Mwesigwa’s BMW has a fuel tank capacity of 70 litres. He has driven it to from Entebbe through the expressway, to Jinja and Bujjuko on Mityana Road, among other places.

He fills the tank and when the gauge gets to half or slightly before, he tops up. It has five gears, with the fifth gear directly opposite the reverse. The dashboard is partly leather, with a soft wooden strip and cardboard.

The fuel gauge is partly functional. However, when it moves to half tank, it means the tank is still full. The temperature gauge, odometre and speedometre are all still functional. 

Sourcing for spares

Mwesigwa stopped sourcing for spare parts himself. He often sourced them from BMW spare parts dealers in Ndeeba, Kampala, and other places. However, two things would happen; he would either be cheated or be given wrong parts.

“My mechanics love this car as much as I do. So, when they find the parts I need, they negotiate on my behalf and I pay them,” he says.

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