Feature Listing: 1991 BMW 850i MK-Motorsports

They didn’t get many headlines, but this past weekend was a significant one for BMW. At Le Mans, BMW’s M8 GTE didn’t fair all that well – but the company did make a splash by parking a production-ready 8-series outside. Will the new 8-series be impressive on paper and in person? No doubt, but it’s nowhere near as significant a leap as the E31 was from the E24.

The E31 was BMW’s first real attempt at integrating lots of computer designs and controls into one of their road cars. The clean-sheet design resulted in a 2-door grand tourer that shared some visual similarities with the great M1, but stood apart as a more practical cruiser. Unlike the E24, the windows could fully drop, revealing a graceful pillarless design to match the sweeping greenhouse. The sharp nose amazingly hid an even larger motor than its predecessor; in fact, it was basically two conjoined M30s. That configuration certainly has some drawbacks, but there was no denying that the 850i had serious presence and credentials with the M70 V12 kicking out 300 horsepower.

However, BMW softened the character of what potentially could have been a screamer. Many were outfit with 16″ wheels for a better ride and tied to an automatic transmission. This was truly a GT car, and not the supercar slayer that BMW teased with its M8 Concept. You had a few options to remedy this. You could wait and get a later 850CSi, or you could turn to the aftermarket to harden and sharpen your 8. And one of the best places to turn was MK-Motorsport.

Though not as well-known as Alpina or Hartge, MK-Motorsport developed alongside its countrymen and raced them, too. They also created a long list of improvements for various BMW models, including the E31. Without doubt, though, their biggest impact was made with the perfectly styled and sized signature 6-spoke wheel. Outfit on this beautiful Mauritius Blue Metallic 1991, they measure a jaw-dropping 18″ x 11″ wide in the rear – and boy do they fit perfectly. But this 8 is more than just a pretty set of wheels:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 1991 BMW 850i

Yesterday, Craig took a look at a very nice and quite affordable E32 750iL. These cars have traditionally been one of the most affordable ways to get into a V12 sedan, and consequently coming across a generally well sorted one that doesn’t require an extensive amount of service is difficult.

But the M70B50 also found its way into the replacement for aging E24. The revolutionary E31 signaled a leap forward in sophistication, refinement and styling from other period BMWs. Minus small details, it still looks reasonably fresh today; something that can’t be said of many 1980s-era designs. The three-quarter view above, for example, is mimicked closely by BMW’s own current 4-series today and the Audi A5. Yet as with the E32, the E31 has been the gateway into V12 Grand Tourers for many with aspirations loftier than their bank accounts. Finding a pristine, early 850i isn’t an everyday occurrence, so this one was certainly worth a look. It didn’t hurt that it’s been breathed on by Dinan, either.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i on eBay

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1993 BMW 850Ci

The BMW 8 series is one of those rare instances where low production doesn’t necessarily mean high cost, discounting the 850CSi, of course. This was the second BMW to receive the V12 engine, debuting in 1990 with the option of a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearbox. It combined a wedge shape with a pillarless profile and sleek, low-rise concealed headlamps. While E31s like this 850Ci for sale in Minnesota are fairly affordable when it comes to big German coupes, everyone knows you have to be committed to endure the high running costs. Someone has to save these twelve cylinder wonders, though.

Click for details: 1993 BMW 850Ci on eBay

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1991 BMW 850i Euro-Spec

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i Euro on eBay

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Coupe Week: 1993 BMW 850i

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Though they’ve spent the last decade or so sitting unused in the back of the enthusiast dream garage, BMW’s E31 8-series has seen a resurgence in interest and appreciation recently. As the most range-topping coupe BMW’s produced, it took the shark-nose look into the techno era and stands out as an impressively clean design in the face of today’s luxury rhinoceri. This example spent its first 22 years with a single owner in California and has just crossed the 100k mark. It’s no show-stopping 850CSi, but that very fact helps it become one of the cheapest ways to get behind a V12 in the world. Well cared for and showing normal signs of age, it’s sweet example of BMW’s megacoupe that is quickly becoming collectible.

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How ///Mportant is the badge? 1995 850CSi v. 1991 850i 6-speed

The question of badges, badge engineering and car’s values are always interesting to me. Obvious car values vary considerably, but some times enthusiasts really gravitate towards one particular year or sub-model within a lineup and choose that model for value. Yesterday’s 1995 M3 raised that point; while it was a neat color and lower mileage with good overall condition, it was the OBD1 status that had some claiming that it should be worth more than later models. In the case of the E31, it’s obviously the big-dog 850CSi that stands out with its BMW Motorsport heritage and build. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there was arguably a nicer example of the lesser 850i 6-speed with some light modifications available at the same time – is the M badge that important?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 850CSI on eBay

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1992 BMW 850i 6-speed

The numbers would suggest that there are many better performance options than the BMW E31. Even in top-spec CSi trim, there are faster, flashier cars that are available for less – sometimes much less. For example, you could have a much quicker 996 Turbo today for less money than the asking price of most CSis. Indeed, if you’d like to save a lot of money, there are other options too; countless AMG Mercedes, 928s – even a stray E24 M6 will give the CSi a run for its money. But the combination of style, presence and the promise of exclusivity have their own draw much as they do with other notorious under-performers, such as the Grand Touring Ferraris. Can you buy a Corvette that’s faster? Yes, but that’s not the point. However, the CSi is still a lot of money for most people to consider, especially for an occasional car. Back down your expectations a notch, though, and you can get 85% of the CSi if you look in the early 850i 6-speeds:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW 850i on eBay

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1991 BMW 850i 6-speed

Yesterday, Paul wrote up a very clean, low mile and celebrity-owned 850Ci. There were some serious positives to that example: the condition of that car is pretty spectacular, it has the later M73 5.4 V12 pumping out an extra 40 horspower, it has the better wheels and a great color combination. However, even though this morning’s example has ten times the miles and the condition admittedly is not as good, it also has some things going for it. First off, it’s a 6-speed manual – the package most enthusiasts who want this car would like. Second, unlike the 97’s CSi-high pricetag, this model can be bought on a serious budget if you’re willing to accept some flaws:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i on eBay

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1991 BMW 850i

I’ve talked about what you could get if you were willing to miss out on the E30 bandwagon, and here’s another example of just how much car you could get. The E31 BMW 8-series is still relatively undervalued; part of that is not yet being recognized as a classic, and the other part is the fear of repairs on this fairly complicated big coupe. That means that if you’re willing to maintain that double-inline-6 motor that those crazy engineers from Munich developed, you can nab yourself a top-rate luxury grand tourer for a song. This example is one of the early M70 motored cars, with 300 horsepower on tap and what I’d consider still a great and underrated design:

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1991 BMW 850i 6-speed

The craze over the E30 is quickly pulling up many 1980s BMW prices, and unfortunately as budget-minded enthusiasts there is a narrowing window to get into one of these cars in good condition. E24, E28 and E30 prices have all crept up rapidly, leaving few options for enthusiasts to turn to. One, ironically, comes from Munich itself, but is often overlooked when judging classic BMWs. Perhaps its that there wasn’t the long-promised “M8”, or that the E31 really saw the advent of BMW’s electronic nannies to help keep the car in check. Perhaps it was the progressive for the 80s, dated for the 90s styling that seemed out of place in the lineup. Or perhaps it was that this incredible V12 grand touring coupe just wasn’t what everyone wanted in a BMW. Regardless of the cause, it’s now possible to get one of these stately tourers for a fraction of the price of a top notch E30. And while silver, black, white and red seemed to dominate the E31 color palate, for me the prettiest examples are blue:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 850i on eBay

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