Rare Righthooker: 1990 BMW 735i SE

The 7-series never really developed the cult following of some of its countrymen or the rest of the BMW lineup. It wasn’t as luxurious as either the W126 or W140 Mercedes-Benz competition. It wasn’t as clever as the Audi V8 quattro. It wasn’t as good a driver as the E30 or E34. There was never a Motorsports division version, and it wasn’t quite as good-looking as its successor, the already legendary E38. As a result, the E32 was – in many ways – a disposable luxury car, much like some of the Audis of the period. They’re mostly gone and forgotten, but every once in a while a really neat one pops up and is worth a look.

I grew up in my formative driving years with a 5-speed 735i E32 in the family stable, and it was a wonderful car. It rode well, it was comfortable, the 3.5 liter M30 was turned up over 200 horsepower and so it was plenty quick. Generally speaking, the U.S. spec 5-speeds are the most highly sought E32s here and it’s easy to understand why. But this particular E32 turns the desirability up a few notches:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i SE on eBay

1988 BMW 735i

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.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i on eBay

Outstanding E32 Face Off: 1988 BMW 735i and 750iL

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

Ending Soon: What We’re Watching

Last week’s What We’re Watching post seemed to be a hit, so I’ve lined up another group of auctions. This time, they’re all affordable no reserve classics (or soon to be?). Care to wager on what each will sell at? Let’s start with a 5-speed Euro Porsche 928.

Click for Details: 1981 Porsche 928

It’s far from perfect, but here’s a 1981 Porsche 928 5-speed in Euro trim. The BBS wheels might look more at home on an early E39 540i, the paint is tired and the engine hasn’t run in some time (and what the heck is up with that shifter surround???) but hey, at time of writing the whole package can you yours for $3,000. Certainly it’s worth at least that in parts?

Click for Details: 1960 Volkswagen Bus

I said “affordable”, right? Well, with VIN tags of 23 Window Sambas selling for upwards of $11,000, this no reserve auction on a lovely restored ’60 seems like a deal. The color combination and condition are spot on, and it will be interesting to see where it ends.

Click for Details: 1993 BMW 740iL

Back to great values, and this 1993 BMW 740iL seems ready to please. It’s got lower mileage, the great E32 shape, a nice color combination and very good overall condition. Usually the big money has been reserved for the follow-up E38, so I think someone will get a great deal on this very nice ’93.

Click for Details: 1988 BMW M5

There’s been a lot of speculation on the 80s BMW M market, so seeing a no reserve auction on an M5 is both rare and offers us the chance to litmus test the market. Usually the cars that come up in no reserve format aren’t the nicest ones out there, but this one generally looks great.…

1994 BMW 740i

The E32 7-series is a rare sight on today’s roads. And that’s a shame. These big-body behemoths from Bavaria exemplify a design language that’s now firmly in BMW’s past: menacing yet restrained, large but well proportioned, mixing brawny lines with classic cues like round headlights, angular kidneys and the Hoffmeister kink. On Friday, Carter wrote up a 735i. It was, he admitted, a bit sad, with oversized wheels and a tired look. While the 5-speed manual transmission made it tempting, I’m not sure it was enough to redeem the car, especially given the asking price. A neat alternative would be a clean, late model, bone stock V8 740i, if you can find one. The 4.0 liter M60 engine is relatively stout (apart from the Nikasil problem, which by now is unlikely to be an issue) and, putting out about 282 hp, sufficient to propel the car quite nicely to cruising speeds. While it may not give you the bragging rights associated with the V12 in the 750, it’s generally less of a headache to maintain.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 740i on eBay

Roll the Dice? 1990 BMW 735i 5-speed

Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is certainly not the nicest E32 on the market. With 190,000 miles on the clock, there’s plenty of evidence of the 27 years that have passed since it entered service. The leather is tired, the pinstripe is faded and under the hood looks quite dirty. It’s got blacked out windows and sits on wheels some three inches larger than the stock units. It’s not the best color combination, nor is it the biggest motor available in the chassis. So why the heck is this 735i up here? One reason – the transmission. Like Audi, BMW took a gamble that a few select drivers in the early 1990s would want to row their own gears, so for a brief period you could opt for a 5-speed manual in your large executive sedan. This is one of those original cars, but is it worth a roll of the dice?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i 5-speedon eBay

1994 BMW 750iL with 19,000 Miles

There’s something completely captivating about a time capsule car. It makes you wonder: why didn’t anyone drive it? Where has it been sitting all these years? And it’s especially compelling to find a time capsule example of a model that you don’t see on the roads anymore. The E32 generation 7-series is such a car: very few of these are left, with most having been retired to the junk yard. Unlike Mercedes-Benz cars from the same era, they just weren’t really built to last. Which is a shame: the E32 is a big old bruiser, with classic boxy styling based upon traditional BMW design language, with angular kidneys and four round headlights. The 750iL was the plutocratic range topper, powered by a 5.0 liter, V12 motor.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 750iL on eBay

1990 BMW 750iL

The E32 750iL is a bucket list sort of car. You know you probably shouldn’t buy one. But life is short and soon you will be dead. So why not? Everyone should own a V12 at least once in their lives. This may be one of the most affordable ways to do so, at least in terms of initial outlay. The E32’s design has aged well, and still commands an imposing presence when seen on the road today (an admittedly infrequent occurrence, since many now reside in junk yards). Taut, handsome, brutish and much more modern in appearance than the W126 S-class, the flagship was the 750. Available only in long-wheelbase iL form in the US, it was powered by the 5.0 liter V12 M70 motor also to be found in the 850i, good for about 300 hp. The engine itself is fairly stout. It’s the electrical components and control modules that will kill these cars. When they fail, they are absurdly expensive to replace. For that reason you can buy these cars very cheaply.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 750iL on Greenville Craigslist

1988 BMW 735i 5-speed

1BMW 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

1988 BMW 750iL

6Last week I wrote up a clean and low-mileage E32 740i, noting that examples of this generation of the 7-series rarely come to market in such decent shape. A few days later, Carter shot me an email with a link to this lovely looking ’88 750iL. The flagship of the E32 lineup, and available only in LWB form, the 750 was powered by a hulking 5.0 liter V12 unit, essentially two six-cylinder motors stuck together. They crop up from time to time on Craigslist and on eBay, but mostly as basket cases, with shot exteriors, torn up interiors and numerous electronic and mechanical gremlins. This car, on the other hand, appears to have received the kind of love and attention that these old cruisers really deserve.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 750iL on eBay