Tuner Tuesday: 1990 Alpina B11 3.5

I’ve shown in several recent Alpina posts that you really need to watch what you’re buying. As it’s still possible to get all of the parts from Alpinas and even replica dash plaques can be forged, it’s the details that help to establish that you’re barking up the right tree.

The last E32 Alpina we looked at was the replica B12 5.0. While it looked the part and featured correct Alpina parts, it was not an original build – something that makes a difference in the pricing. Yet that didn’t slow down bids the second time around, as a slick picture gallery and glaring omission that it was a later build from parts netted a $23,600 sale. For a non-original E32, that was seriously strong bidding. For example, we had featured a real B12 5.0 with very low mileage in pristine condition for $29,900 in 2016.

Today we have another E32, but this time it’s the lower-spec B11 with the M30-derived 3.5 liter inline-6. Looks wise, there’s little to differentiate these two models. While the E30, E28 and E34 models usually steal the headlines, I absolutely love the brutish look of the even larger 7 adorned with the signature Alpina treatment. So is this B11 the real deal, and is it a better deal?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Alpina B11 3.5on eBay

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1990 BMW 735i

Update 4/20/2018 – the asking price of this neat 735i has dropped from $5,995 in December to just $3,995 today.

Following up on yesterday’s Audi S8, I’m reminded just how good the 1990s were for large executive sedans when considering this E32. Sure, the W126 S-Class led the way in the mid-80s, with BMW and Audi playing catch-up. But catch-up they did, with the unorthodox V8 quattro and sporty, luxurious E32 7-series. Both models were followed up with improved models, too – the E38 and D2 are as much fan-favorites (if not moreso) than their predecessors. And while I’m not as much of a die-hard fan of the 3-pointed star, universally the W140 is seen as a worthy successor to the legendary flagship at Mercedes-Benz, too. All around, it was hard to go wrong with these super-executives in the 90s.

While I did own a V8 quattro and pine over the innovative Ingolstadter, my formative driving years were spent with an E32 in the household. It was a great car; the Claus Luthe styling was refined and carried the size and weight of the new 7 much better than the E23 did. It was more potent, too, with the punchy 3.5 liter M30 rated at 208 horsepower, while you could go upscale to the new 5.0 V12 750i kicking out 295 horses. Both could be specified in long wheel base, too – something Audi did pull off with the V8 quattro, but not for the U.S. market.

Yet, like the Audis, the large BMWs don’t have quite the following or the market appeal of the Mercedes-Benz. Perhaps it’s because they’re more finicky, or that parts are harder to find. More likely, it was that they didn’t have quite the same ‘old money’ buyers originally and were more disposable than the inheritance-quality Benz models. Certainly it’s the case that in the economically hard times of the late 80s and early 90s, they just didn’t sell as well as the competition. Those factors combine to make finding one like today’s example extra special:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 735i on eBay

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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

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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

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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

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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. It’s a southern, claimed rust-free example with disclosed maintenance in mostly original condition. At time of writing, bidding is only at $15,000, so there’s still plenty of value with two days to go.

Click for Details: 2008 BMW 328i Coupe

A little more modern, but this 2008 BMW 328i Coupe offers you a lot of style for a budget-minded commuter. This one avoids higher pricing by forgoing the manual, sport options and X-drive, but at the end of the day it’s still a nice color combination, a pretty design and a reliable option that’s affordable to run. Bidding is only at $5,000 with a few days to go on the no reserve auction.

Click for Details: 2005 Audi S4

Debate still rages over which generation of S4 was “best”, but the appeal of the 3rd generation model is understandable. You got a 340 horsepower V8, available with a 6-speed manual, and great form-fitting Recaro seats. In fact the whole package is quite attractive, but the big drawback is the BBK 4.2 is known to suffer chain problems. This one is claimed to have a lot of chain noise, but it’s otherwise in great shape and appears ready to undertake the engine-out service. While it’s not for the faint of heart (or wallet), the bidding on this car is only around $3,000 – perhaps making the endeavor worth it for a mechanically inclined individual.

Click for Details: 2006 Audi A8L

Rather have your Audi turn-key? Here’s a D3 Audi A8L that’s come to market in a no reserve format. Again the color is black outside, but matched with a lovely nougat-colored interior. Miles are higher and these A8s certainly aren’t the most simple car on the block, but they also offer you a lot of car for the money. Current bidding is below $5,000, making the luxury liner a compelling option.

-Carter

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

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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

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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

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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

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