While many celebrate the E38 as the highpoint of 7-series design, I prefer the look of the E32. Perhaps that, in part, is because I was lucky enough to live with one for some time – one of the rare ’88 5-speeds, it was a car that I always enjoyed driving and especially enjoyed looking at. Granted, you could rightly claim that the E32 was stylistically not much more than a stretched E34. Is that such a bad thing, though? To me, the design language transferred really well and the E32 was well proportioned, modern looking and yet immediately identifiable as a large BMW,and yet muscular flares and a slight tick up in the body line towards the trunk was a built-in spoiler. The E38 took this design and refined it even more, with sleeker lines and a more dramatic drop in front – probably one of the main reasons, along with some killer wheels, that people prefer the later design. But outfit an E32 with lower suspension, a deeper air dam and some killer wheels, and the design is pretty awesome. The stripes don’t hurt, either – nor does the top-tier name Alpina painted all over:
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Though Germany has gained a reputation as a nation of drivers, the reality is that in both pre and post-World War II periods, the average German couldn’t afford many of the cars that are synonymous with German engineering. However, the “German Economic Miracle”, in part assisted by the Marshall Plan as an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of what had created World War II in the first place (thanks, Versailles Treaty!) put Germany at the forefront of European economies as the 1960s got rolling. It was then that we saw the growth of the German automobile industry into what we associate it with today. BMW also grew during this period, from near collapse in the 1950s to a viable – albeit small – company in the 1960s. At least part of that success is thanks to the development of the 700. Rear engine, air cooled and powered by a BMW motorcycle “twin” flat-2, the body was penned by Giovanni Michelotti – responsible for some of the most celebrated designs from Ferrari, Maserati and Triumph. However, he’s probably better known by BMW fans for developing the Neue Klasse designs including the venerable 2002. To my eye, though, the simple BMW 700 in Coupe form was the best looking of the Michelotti BMW designs:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1960 BMW 700S on eBay
I can’t shake dreams of the E38 as a great way to get mega luxury and sportiness for bargain prices. Today’s final-year example comes with the Sport package, forgoing the best suspension tweaks bringing the outstanding visuals of Shadowline trim and M-Parallel wheels. Your 6-foot-plus friends will appreciate the rear legroom while you can enjoy crisp handling, smooth V8 power, and a sumptuous leather interior with decent, pre-iDrive technology. Especially handsome in this Steel Blue metallic and practically new with less than 60k miles, you can get that CEO look for mailboy money here.
Click for details: 2001 BMW 740iL on eBay
To me, part of the insanity regarding the E30 M3 pricing revolves around the other important BMW models that you can get for much less money. Take this M6 for example; the E24 was a landmark design for the company, making BMW even more popular in the refined personal luxury coupe market. If the argument is that the E30 shared race-bred DNA, so did the E24 M6; it was the car that replaced the legendary CSLs on the race track, flying the BMW colors in the European Touring Car Championship and FIA Group 2 (later Group A) competition. The motor was also race bred, having derived directly from the original M car, the M1’s legendary M88 mill. It rolled on race-inspired BBS wheels and, like all M-products back in the day, was manual only. The M6 also added a seriously healthy dose of luxury, with leather trimmed interiors, rear air conditioned compartments and fit and finish second to none. This was no buzzy entry-level, junior-executive ride – this was a car designed to grab headlines and attention. Why, then, hasn’t the market on these super coupes appreciated?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M6 on eBay
Euro cars always hold a special appreciation for me, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. First off, they were much better looking, generally with slimmer bumpers and larger, more clear class lights. There were colors and interiors that we didn’t get in the U.S. as well, helping to set yourself apart. Sometimes there were low-spec engines not imported, but usually the output of the motors that were similar to U.S. cars was higher, giving more performance to enthusiasts. Sometimes that gulf was huge; while usually around 10% higher, a great example is the Quattro which was a full 25% more powerful in Europe than the U.S. restricted version. But as we got towards the late ’80s, the gap inbetween both the looks and performance of the Euro models versus the U.S. models closed steadily. True, in some cases we still didn’t get the full-fat versions of cars like the M3 until the E46 chassis. But for most models, there was a negligible difference. When it came to the BMW E31, in fact, there were almost no differences between the U.S. models and European models; styling was exactly the same, as were the wheels, most of the colors and interiors, and the basic suspension and engine. So, it’s just not nearly as exciting to see a European-spec newer model like this ’91 850i pop up for sale, though it is a bit odd: