The 745i was the high performance version of the E23 7-series. Produced between 1979-1986, these autobahn stormers were never officially offered in the US. But committed, well-resourced buyers were able to bring them over via the gray market, which is presumably how this one ended up here. Powered by a turbocharged version of the 3.2 or (later) the 3.4 liter M30 inline six – at a time when BMW’s competitors were using V8s and V12s – these cars came from the factory with a 3-speed automatic gearbox. But this particular example has received a 5-speed manual swap, along with a whole host of other goodies. I don’t normally post heavily modified cars, but this one seemed too interesting to ignore.
While BMW Motorsport GmbH has a lengthy reputation for conceiving and building some of the most legendary icons of the 1980s, since their inception they’ve also had their hand in clever badge-engineered products intended to bring the magic of M to a larger audience. Starting with the E12 in the 1970s and continuing through today, first to hit the market was the “M535i”. Effectively, these were standard 5-series models with M-Technic bits added for a splash of style, but they lacked the higher-performance “S” (or M88/3, in the case of the M5) motors of their more potent siblings. But they certainly looked the part, with hunkered-down exteriors with deep chin spoilers, side skirts and rear valance and spoiler. Special M-Technic wheels were added to the E28 model which channeled aspects of the M1’s Campagnolo design coupled with hints of the original 1972 Turbo concept wheels. Inside a sport interior was met with more M-Tech details. Just as today, though mechanically these cars were appearance packages rather than performance-oriented, they’re nonetheless quite special indeed:
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.
With its sharply raked front fascia, long hood and tapering rear end, the E24 6-series is arguably one of the most beautiful BMWs ever made. The grand tourer first arrived in the US in 1977 as the 630, powered by a 3.0 liter M30 engine that produced a not-terribly-impressive 176 hp. While a series of improvements and changes to the lineup would improve things little by little – the 630 was replaced by the 633 in 1978, then the 635 in 1985, and an M6 would arrive in 1987 – the American models would remain saddled with performance-sapping emissions equipment and engines with lower compression ratios than their European counterparts. It wasn’t the end of the world: the E24 was not really about out-and-out performance anyway. Instead, it was for loping across vast stretches of road in comfort and style while conspicuously showing off your wealth. The US-spec 635CSi appeared 1985, bringing with it the 3.4 liter version of the M30 engine and Motronic engine management. Still underpowered in comparison with its European cousin, it was at least significantly torquier than the 633 it replaced. And the performance gap would close almost entirely by 1987 when power output on US-models was bumped to 208 hp. For today’s post, I’ve selected two lovely looking examples of the 635. Both wear Bronzitbeige Metallic paint and come equipped with manual gearboxes. One is a high-milage US-spec example, the other is a low-mileage Euro-spec car with a significant price premium attached.
Some time last year I pulled into the parking lot of my university’s gym and spotted a student getting out of an E28 535iS. I walked over to compliment him on his ride. It had been ages since I had seen one on the road, and I had forgotten how neat they look. While his was saddled by an automatic transmission and a little rough around the edges, with the paint giving out all over the body, it still managed to look special. Because the iS is not really much more than a 535i with a fancy body kit and sport suspension, these cars haven’t yet begun to command the very high prices of the equivalent era M5, keeping them relatively affordable. I still haven’t yet entered full-on fanboy mode, but this video on Petrolicious, in which a young woman discusses her love for her E28 while driving it through sun-baked Californian streets, nearly sent me over the edge.
With its shark nosed, classically cool styling the E28 is a firm favorite among fans of 80s BMWs, but it’s the M5 and 535iS variants that get most of the attention. It’s not hard to see why. The M5 based on this platform was one of the first super sedans, laying down the classic formula for all modern Q-ships: supreme performance packaged in a stealthy, unassuming exterior. Meanwhile the 535iS appealed to those who wanted a bit of flash but couldn’t quite afford the full cream M-car, and was really just a 535i with firmer suspension, bodykit and sport seats. That isn’t a bad thing. The underlying car, introduced as a range-topper in 1984, was a winner, marrying the bulletproof M30 3.4 liter straight six engine (good for about 182 hp, in US emissions restricted form) with a tractable and responsive chassis. A regular 535i with a manual gearbox therefore offers a fun and relatively affordable alternative to the more expensive E28s out there.
It’s been a good week for European specification BMWs here at GCFSB, with the ultra-clean and original E28 and unique E34 the other day. Today is a more desirable model to many, because beyond offering the slimmer bumpers the rest of the world enjoyed, through the mid 1980s if you wanted any real performance from your BMW the Euro versions offered a substantial bump. Through 1984, the top of the heap on U.S. shores was the 633CSi – power had steadily improved since launch, but only slightly – from 176 horsepower in the 630CSi to 181 in the 633. Running concurrently in Europe, however, was a hotter 635CSi. With 218 horsepower on tap from the enlarged 3.4 liter displacement, coupled with a lower weight, these sharks offered much better performance than the U.S. bound models and it was quite popular in the early 1980s to import them. However, in 1985 BMW brought it’s own semi-neutered version of the 635CSi to the North American market, meaning the flood of European models slowed to a trickle and it’s fairly rare to find any post 1985. Today’s example is from that changeover year, and looks splendid in black over tan with BBS wheels:
Sellers of automobiles – specifically, most second hand dealers – always interest me. It seems that seldom they do the research to properly sell a vehicle. Perhaps when it comes to a brand new Kia, research just isn’t really necessary – but a 30 year old classic German car? Is some description better than no description? Sure, I guess at least there was an attempt made. But, if very little to none of the information actually applies to the model, I guess I’d err on the side of maybe it would just be better off with no description and just some pretty photos. At least in that case, I’d be annoyed that no effort was made to explain what I was looking at, but an effort made that misrepresents the product or just shows a lack of attention to detail? Now, that I find even more annoying. It’s much like plagiarism; I’d rather receive a poor quality essay on the right topic than an award winning lifted essay on the wrong topic. So, let’s look at this strangely portrayed E24:
I know not everyone agrees, but I think that the U.S. mandated 5 m.p.h. bumpers that were fitted to many of the 1970s and ’80s import cars were just horrible. Some manufacturers had sorted it out by the mid 1980s; Mercedes-Benz and Audi, for example, had managed to integrate the new bumper designs well into their updated large and small sedans so that by 1985 there were only minor differences between the ROW models and U.S. models – and importantly, the bumper covers didn’t look like an afterthought. But BMW seemed to stand in defiance, refusing to update any of its models until nearly the end of the decade. The result of that was that by 1987 BMW’s lineup looked quite dated in comparison to the competition. While switching those BMW models to the ROW bumpers doesn’t necessarily update the look, it certainly refreshes all the models and brings them closer to their original design – something I’m personally a big fan of. While all of the 1980s BMWs benefit from this, one of the most popular to swap European trim onto seems to be the E28 5 series. A classic since new, the great package that was the E28 is lightened and tucked in Euro guise, making an already good looking design sportier and more compact in just the right ways:
It’s been a while since we took a look at the M5’s grandfather; the E12 M535i. Produced for a short time, the M535i was really the M-division’s first attempt at a production road car. It was more than just a prettying up as many of the “M-sport” packages are these days, too – featuring a limited slip differential, a close-ratio 5-speed manual, a host of not-so-discrete aerodynamic upgrades, some great BBS Mahle wheels to dress it up and heavily bolstered Recaros to keep you in place, the M535 looked like a natural racer. Back in the days when 200 horsepower was considered much more than adequate, these were one of the fastest sedans in the world, and one of the best handling, too. Rare to see for sale in North America, this particular model is available in Canada on Ebay today:
I’ve recently been fascinated with the 80s Bimmer “is” models as more affordable substitutes for the astronomical-and-climbing E30 M3 and E28 M5. The 325is is looking more and more like it will be my first foray into BMW ownership, but I keep getting hung up on the 535is. It has all the looks of the M5, and while it’s down about to the Vader M by about 100hp, it still produces a healthy and torquey 185hp with suspension upgrades. It also eschews the M5’s Ford Model T-esque color choices for some great colors, like today’s well-maintained Royal Blue example.
Description and a long list of “taken care-of’s” from the seller:
I am selling a excellent example of an E28 BMW. This 1988 535iS is Royal Blue with Pearl Beige interior. It has a 5speed.
It came from BMW with Electric Sport Seats, OBC, MTech Spoiler, AC, P/S, P/B, P/W
I am the 3rd owner and I have ALL the paperwork for this car since new. It was bought in San Francisco and came to Las Vegas with the 2nd owner.
This is the work done since I have had the car (June 2010)
Front Euro Plate
Fan and Fan Clutch
W/S Washer pump and cap
Brake Fluid Flush
Sisal Floor Mats
Redeye Seats and Console
New Tweater Speakers
New Cowl Vents
New S/R Seals
New Rear Window Seals
New Trunk Seal
New Fuel Injectors – Bosch Gen III 19lb
New Radiator temp switches
New Auxiliary fan
New AFM intake couplers
New AC switch
New Diff fluid
New brake res.
Reader Jaymes forwarded us his buddy’s listing from the MyE28.com forums for this unique 528 project. It’s been through a few owners and iterations as is thoroughly documented in the ad, and while it has definitely been a work-in-progress, it looks to be fairly well set-up for driving at the moment with great potential if you’re looking to continue the project.
It started life as a standard 528e and stayed that way for most of its 25 years, staying with the first owner until 2001. A friend of the seller bought the car in 2004 and apparently let its condition slip a little, so when the current owner bought it in 2008 it was ready for a refresh. The seller sounds very thorough and honest, coming clean about the few rust spots but assuring the reader that it’s still better than the vast majority of E28s. Since then he’s done some work inside and out, highlights being Euro bumpers, an M30B34 swap with a 3.23 LSD, and some suspension work. It’s not a beauty queen, but it’s no ratrod either; I like the style of rugged aggression.
At $4000, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. The seller seems to have his head on straight when it comes to E28s and Bimmers in general and I like what he’s done to it so far. My main reservation is that, despite a thorough and detailed ad, I can’t quite tell how much the car is going to need in the near future. Swaps always sound to me like there will be significant work in the future to keep it all square, but perhaps it’ll be no more work than any other 25 year-old BMW; I just don’t know.
I like the look, the power, and the price, but it’s up to you if the work is worth it!…