You don’t see many E32s on the road anymore. Most have been consigned to the junk yard by now. That’s a shame. With this generation 7-series, BMW hewed close to the guiding principles that served it well back in the day, when it offered cars with simple, unfussy styling and a brawny but somewhat subdued road presence. The V12-powered 750iL was marvelous when running right but monstrously expensive to fix when it broke. The “entry level” 735i, on the other hand, was powered by the notoriously robust, inline six M30 engine. Displacing 3.4 liters, it’s the same motor that found its way into the 535i and 635CSi of the same period. With about 208 hp on tap to move around a car weighing about 3,500 lbs, it was no performance behemoth. But it certainly cost less to run than its larger-engined siblings. That makes this nicely kept 735i the perfect candidate for use as an interesting daily driver.
Such was the depth of BMW’s great designs from the 1980s that often the E32 is overlooked. Unlike the E23 it replaced, the scaled-up Claus Luthe-inspired design really worked and the heavy-weight look of the 5-series in a fat suit was met with more aggression, yet still elegantly. As you’d expect from a car intended to challenge the W126, BMW threw the kitchen sink at the 7-series, upping not only the technology, luxury and interior materials utilized in the E32, but the engine offerings, as well – the M70 and later M73 V12s beat Mercedes-Benz to the market with silky smooth and powerful twelve cylinder motors that were the trump card with the Trump types.
Yet while popular and well built, finding good examples of especially early 7s has become quite difficult. Today we have two interesting examples to consider. Both are far from original, though each in their own way is compelling. For those who like subtle speed, there’s a M70-powered, low mileage 750iL Alpina B12 5.0 clone from Japan. If you’re a little more in-your-face and like to row your own, there’s a Racing Dynamics-inspired 735i 5-speed. Which would you choose?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL Alpina Clone on eBay…
The E23, produced between 1977 and 1987, was the first iteration of the 7-series. It set the standard that BMW has followed, more or less, with each subsequent version of its luxury flagship. Large, comfortable, conservatively styled and packed with the latest technology for the time (ABS brakes, an onboard computer, electric seats and climate control, for example), these autobahn cruisers were for those who had arrived but couldn’t quite afford a Mercedes, or preferred the driving dynamics of a BMW. Sadly, very few have survived the ravishes of time and they’re quite a rare sight on today’s roads. And that’s a shame, because these are truly very handsome and classy cars, sharing a lot of styling cues with the gorgeous E24 6-series, including a sharply raked, shark-nosed front end. So it’s refreshing to come across a low-mileage, nicely kept example like this one.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 735i…
BMW introduced the E32 generation 7-series in 1987. The car’s design was a successful blend of the old and the new. Traditional styling cues – the four headlights, square kidneys and angular lines – kept the car looking fairly restrained and clearly part of the BMW stable. But it was also eminently more modern-looking than its main competitor, the W126 chassis S-class. And perhaps a bit less stately too. If the Mercedes was a car for high level officials and diplomats, the BMW was a car for the young, new titans of the 80s and 90s; Wall Street bankers, lawyers and real estate tycoons. Both cars still look good today, and each can give even the most budget-conscious, contemporary owner a frisson of ultra luxury, albeit 30 years after the fact. But there are hardly any E32s left on the road these days. Whether because of finicky electronics, poor paint and interior materials or just wayward owners who didn’t care for them as they should have, most have been left to rot in junkyards. This makes this low mileage, nicely specified car an attractive proposition.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i on eBay…
In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay…
This year marked the introduction of the sixth generation BMW 7 series. I’ll admit that since 2002, I haven’t really followed this executive sedan closely. I, along with many Bimmerphiles, was not a fan of the radical redesign and complex iDrive system of the E65. Subsequently, I stopped paying attention to any of the updates after that model’s intro. One 7 series that intrigued me all these years, however, was the E23. This was a rather small executive sedan in comparison to the S-Class Mercedes of the time, but it was also more of a choice for those who wanted to drive instead of being driven. This 1985 735i for sale in Texas belies its 30 years of age, showing only 77,000 miles on the odometer and having been maintained to what looks like a high standard.
Click for details: 1985 BMW 735i on eBay…
With two exceptions, to me the 7-series has always been a bit of an awkward sell. The E32 and E38 being the outsiders, for the most part the translation of BMW’s sporting tradition to a large sedan format hasn’t always been a beautiful marriage. Newer models seem large and ungainly, ponderous rolling technological showrooms. I’m sure they’re impressive in their own ways, but since the introduction of the S8, Audi has always done the large sports sedan better and the AMG models have been nuttier than anything BMW offered. But back in the 1980s, the E23 was the large sedan out of place. Looking like a stretched E12 after one too many trips to the buffet, the E23 competed against the technologically advanced Audi 5000 Turbo quattro and the more luxury oriented standby W126 Mercedes-Benz lineup. And while it wasn’t about to get all nerdy to compete with the C3 Audis, BMW did attempt to sway the Mercedes-Benz faithful with upscale versions of the E23 and E24 – the L7 and L6 – to compete against the SEL and SEC. They sported mostly cosmetic upgrades and one heck of a leather-wrap job inside:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW L7 on eBay…
I hold out a small amount of hope that somewhere, floating around the U.S., there is a pristine, low mileage and mechanically perfect Audi V8 quattro. Honestly, even though I prefer to find a 3.6 5-speed, I wouldn’t even be bothered if it was an automatic as long as it was the later 4.2. As with all the large luxury sedans from Audi, there are precious few that remain in good original shape with lower miles. A similar situation occurs with the same generation BMW 7-series; the E32. Like the V8 quattro, it was a big step forward in the sporting executive market for the company, yet crumbling residual values and expensive repairs on the V12 models have left precious few in good shape. In fact, the E32 almost seems to disappear in the realm of classic BMWs, such is the concentration on early models or the bargain performance of the E38 and newer examples. So when a lower mile, pristine condition E32 pops up, we take notice:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 735i on eBay…
Much like the E23 that it replaced, we just don’t seem to see a lot of good condition E32s cruising around these days. In comparison to the E34 that was launched at the same time and shared much of the technology, it’s interesting that this is the case; is it that 7-series owners just didn’t care for their cars as well, or expected something different from them? Certainly the German ultra-luxury market witnesses the greatest depreciation this side of a Nissan product, resulting in expensive cars in the hands of those who sometimes can’t afford or aren’t willing to maintain them. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of 750iL wrecks, for example – cars that just could never be brought back from the brink. But it still surprises me that we don’t see more of the 735i, especially the fairly rare 5-speed variants. We’ve listed them before, and I think one of the comments was “does a 7 series really fit with a manual?” Having grown up with one in the household, I can say it’s an emphatic yes. It may not have been the preferred transmission for the E32, but it transformed it from a sedate luxury car to a sports sedan with a luxury bias. It felt much quicker than it probably should have and drove more of less just like a heavier version of the 5 series – which is to say, quite well. But they’re very rare to see, so when this 1987 European-spec model popped up I was sure excited:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 735i 5-speed Euro-spec on eBay…
When the conversation comes around to talking about BMWs from the 1980s, the E30 and original M3 would no doubt be a centerpiece of the discussion. The E24 6 series coupe, however, is fast becoming a collector favorite as we saw from our recent highlights during Shark Week. But what about this sleek coupe’s saloon sibling, the 7 series? Long forgotten and overshadowed at the time by the beloved W126 Mercedes-Benz S class, the E23 is a car longing for some attention. Unlike the 6 series, there are few left in mint condition, as most were used by executives and VIPs who moved on from them rather quickly, which left these cars in the hands of second hand buyers who picked them up on the cheap and were less than fastidious with care.
This 1987 735i for sale in Missouri, however, is an awesome example of the last year of this model and has well under 100,000 miles on the odometer. This car is a serious treat for any executive car enthusiast of the era.
Engine: 3.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 86,864 mi
Price: $7,000 Buy It Now
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 735i on eBay
This is a time capsule, pristine BMW E23, 735i with only 86k miles. all original, clean title. All maintenance is up to date.The car drives/handles perfectly. A/C blows cold and has been converted to R134. It has an Alpine head unit w/iPod jack. I have most maintenance records for the car and some of it its listed below:
3/10 Replaced driveshaft, rear suspension links, new front coil springs.
4/11 Repair both power headrests
5/11 Balance tires, adjust valves, install Bosal exhaust.
6/11 Rebuilt fuel injectors, cleaned throttle body
7/11 New Kumho tires.
9/11 Oil filter (Mobil 1, 5W-30)
2/12 @ 79K Brake fluid.
It always seems that whenever I come across an uncommon car to feature on GCFSB, another one follows shortly thereafter. We featured an BMW 735i in May with a rare manual transmission. It was a quite clean example even though it was closing in on 200,000 miles. Now here comes another 735i 5-speed manual for sale in Tennessee with slightly less miles but looking just as mint as the one featured two months ago.
Engine: 3.5 liter inline six
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 173,000 miles
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed Manual on eBay
Excellent condition. Engine runs strong. Clutch is strong and transmission shifts smooth. New BMW OE wheels and new tires. Manual 5-speed transmission is factory original. Only about 1,200 manual 735i models made. Upholstery is good and leather seats are perfect. Dash is perfect and no cracks. All gauges and switches working and air is cold. After market stereo with Bluetooth. (Original radio is available) Many new parts. Paint is good and no rust. Any questions call 423-584-1689. More pictures available upon request.
The 735i 5-speed we featured previously was for sale at $4,800. While this car has less miles, it isn’t a whole lot less. These E32s can test both your patience and your budget, so $6,500 for a big luxury sedan with a third pedal and limited market in this country is probably a big ask. But, similar to the one we featured back in May, the exterior and interior look quite tidy. Like the 300SE featured last Tuesday, a big saloon with a manual transmission like this is exactly what I would want for those long haul trips.
When it was introduced, the E32 7 series would finally be the car that would allow BMW to take the executive car fight right to Stuttgart’s doorstep. It’s predecessor was long an afterthought amongst luxury car buyers, rather, it was more for the extrovert that wanted a bit of sport in his big sedan package. The E32 changed that in 1988, offering short and long wheelbase models and choice of engine options, which included a series of six cylinder engines, a diesel variant and the ultimate 5.0 liter V12 750iL. This was an era where you could still order a manual transmission in most BMW models, and you could certainly have one if you wanted in the 735 model. It was a rare option indeed, and one rarely seen in the US. However, this 735i for sale in California has the 5-speed manual gearbox and looks to be in pretty decent shape after covering almost 200,000 miles.
Engine: 3.5 liter inline six
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 192,900 miles
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed Manual on AutoTrader
1988 735i BMW rare 5-speed. Very clean all original black paint and leather interior. BBS wheels. Hofco III alarm. Power locks, seats, windows and mirrors. A great car to add to someones collection. Purchased from Newport Auto Center dealer with 6,061 miles in June 1988. All maintenance records available.
Normally, most people would run like the wind at the mere mention of a 7 series with high mileage, but this has worn its age and mileage well. According to the seller, the paint is original and all service records are available. One good thing about this 735i is you won’t have to worry about the headaches and cost of maintaining a 12 cylinder engine, so running it on somewhat of a budget should be within reason, save for errant electrical gremlins.…
The other day I was driving next to an older woman in a light blue E30 325i. I glanced at it, ready to move on as the ubiquity of the 3-series makes it hard to get excited, but I couldn’t stop looking. It was perfect. The chrome trim, the paint, the panels and stock basket-weave wheels were all immaculate. Seeing it offered a rare glimpse into how attractive these cars were brand-new, gleaming at a BMW dealership, itching to take the everyday sports-sedan to a whole new level. Time, dirt, and neglect too often relegate older cars to forgettable “old beater” status, completely separate from how great they once were.
Today’s 735i is one such car, a shining example of how great 80s BMWs were completely stock. The original owner drove it for 1 year and 11k miles and traded it in, where the seller’s parents picked up and kept it in perfect condition while driving it just 33k miles over the last 24 years. It’s not the most collectible vintage Bimmer, but it is a gorgeous example of the North American flagship.
The description from a dutiful offspring:
This 1986 BMW 735i is a rare find indeed! Always kept in a garage and never driven hard. Only 44,500 pampered miles. I am selling this car for my parents who have kept this vehicle in immaculate condition since purchasing it in 1987 from Frank Hilson BMW in Fort Lauderdale. The original (and only other) owner traded it with 11,000 miles. All service records, owner manuals and brochures have been impeccably maintained for the next owner.
The Bronzit Beige Exterior and Perl Beige Leather Interior are a classic BMW combination. Bubinga wood trimming on the doors and instrument panel. Even the toolbox in the trunk lid is flawless.
A find from the bargain bin here. This grey market 735i is up for sale on eBay with no reserve and a price currently well under $1,000. Sure the car has over 200,000 miles on it, but the seller seems very confident in its reliability. Several things set this 7 series apart from others including the Zender style body kit, limited slip differential, 5 speed manual, and the unique euro only interior appointments.
The car has a few things wrong with it, but nothing you couldn’t leave and just enjoy the car as is. A nice looking ride that will sell to the highest bidder.
I’ve admitted it before, I’m not a big fan of sport utility vehicles. Coming across this rare BMW prototype reminds me why I like wagons so much. I remember seeing this 735i Touring on eBay about a decade ago, and now it’s current owner in Newton, Massachusetts has it up for sale again on eBay, with no reserve.
The seller states:
1980 BMW 735i Touring with 9,042 miles today. This is a Euro model and eBay does not like the VIN which is WBA68410007432544 It was built in June 1980 and is titled as a 1981.
Per the site stationwagon.com http://www.stationwagon.com/gallery/198x_BMW_735i.html
“This car was built on the BMW production line for display at the Frankfurt Auto Show. There were only two cars made like this. It was built on the 735i chassis – and is a European model. This was never a production car. Details include – – 8,179 original miles, tan cloth interior, a manual sunroof and windows, roof rack, alloy wheels & automatic transmission. The car was imported to the US and brought up to DOT and EPA standards in Ohio.”
This car was purchased on eBay in 2000 with 8,179 miles and was amongst a collection of approximately 100 cars owned by a noted collector in New Hampshire. It was then purchased in 8/2003 with 8,300 miles from the collector’s estate sale until it was purchased by me in November 2010 with 9,002 miles. I had service performed on the car, tuned it up, replaced mechanical and safety items and brought the car back onto the road. It runs and drives fine. It is currently inspected and on the road with a Massachusetts December 2010 inspection sticker. I would have no hesitation using this car as an everyday vehicle.