Unlikely Lang: 1979 BMW 733i Euro Limousine

Update 1/17/19: After failing to sell at $14,999, this oddball limo has been relisted at $9,999.

In terms of German marque limos, it’s safe to say that Mercedes-Benz pretty much has the segment cornered. Andrew has recently covered a crazy supercharged stretched E-Class, a classic if poorly executed W126 S-Class, and of course the market-defining Pullman. Even an unlikely G-Class made the ranks of stretched Benzs.

So it would appear that few are looking for “The Ultimate Driving Machine” for a vomit-inducing ride to the altar, the prom, or some Garth Brooks tour date with six of their closest college buddies. Yet that hasn’t stopped someone from trying. But to me, if the marque was unusual, the model which they chose is even more strange:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 733i Limousine on eBay

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Twofer: 1984 BMW 733i (plus spare car)

4By now we’re used to the idea that flagship, luxury sedans should look like bloated warships, with bulbous styling, semi-autonomous aids to insulate the driver from driving, and triple-glazed windows to insulate plutocratic passengers from the hoi polloi outside. But once upon a time, top of the range cars were simpler, crisper and cleaner in their appearance and design and much more involving to drive. Luxurious, yes, but swollen, no. For this reason I’ve always had a soft spot for the E23 generation 7-series, now near forgotten, especially since so few of them remain on the road and so many of them now rot in junkyards. This one is a nice looking survivor. It also comes with an added bonus: a donor car with a manual gearbox, ready for a swap.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 BMW 733i on eBay

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1984 BMW 733i

1 A couple of weeks ago I binge-watched Stranger Things. Sort of a mashup of The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, The Goonies and E.T., it’s a sci-fi/horror show about kids chasing monsters set in the early 1980s. It’s fantastic. The producers have clearly gone to great lengths to get the period details correct: the hair, the clothes and the music are all spot on. As are the cars; the show features an impressive lineup of cool 80s iron that had me wondering whose job it is to source cars for TV and film, and where they get them from. Do studios keep a stock of mint, vintage cars on hand? If so, I’d love to see that garage. Anyway, in the show one of the major characters (a teenager, rather improbably) drives an E23 733i. You don’t see many of them left on the roads these days, so it was a delight to see it on screen. A quick search online turned up only a few for sale, but this one in particular caught my eye.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1984 BMW 733i on eBay

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1983 BMW 733i

Following on from the final E24 we featured on Tuesday, here’s another big BMW from the 1980s. Here and there we’ve seen a few nice E23s, including the uncommon Alpina B10 3.5 Carter featured last week. This 733i with its 3-speed automatic is more of a relaxed cruiser than that Alpina special, but this has to be one of the lowest mileage E23s left in existence, showing just over 12,000 miles on its odometer. While it’s not the ultimate iteration of the E23, it’s certainly a flashback to the beginning of a golden era at BMW.

Click for details: 1983 BMW 733i on Hemmings Motor News

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1982 BMW 733i

Back in February, we came across a mint condition 1978 BMW 733i for sale. At that time, I opined how rare it is to come across an E23 on the road, let alone one that has been kept in good shape. Lightning has struck twice, as this 1982 733i for sale in Oregon matches that prior example for originality. Unlike the 4-speed manual variant we saw in February, this particular example is equipped with the 3-speed automatic gearbox (the E23 would not see a 4-speed automatic until 1984). Originally an Arizona car, life in the western parts of the US has been kind to this 733i.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 733i on eBay

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1984 BMW 733i

The E23 7 series always struck me as bit of an oddity in the history of BMW models. This luxury sedan didn’t have as much presence as the E3 “New Six” that preceded it, nor did it have the option of serious size and muscle as the V12 powered E32 750iL that followed it. This has planted the E23 in relative obscurity amongst collectors, as it was never quite as visible as its domestic rival, the Mercedes-Benz W126 S-class. Thus, it is a bit of a bargain in comparison to other period BMW models. This 1984 733i represents the last year for this particular model in the US, succeeded by the 735i the following year before this generation would disappear altogether after the 1987 model year.

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1978 BMW 733i 4-speed manual

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There’s a website How Many Left? that tracks the number of examples of any particular vehicle still on the road in Great Britain. If their numbers are accurate, then the BMW 733i is almost extinct. I can’t remember the last time I spotted an E23 on the road, let alone an early 733i. These early 7 series are not a darling of the collector set. Around 285,000 were produced over a decade span. I’ve seen plenty of E23s in rough condition and if that’s anything to go on, then many have taken their final trip to the scrap heap. This 1977 733i for sale in Vancouver, British Columbia, however, has escaped that fate.

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1980 BMW 733i

We featured a pair of BMW 733i sedans back in July and I thought it was rather curious these cars surfaced almost simultaneously. Unlike the E24 6 series, 2002 and E30 3 series, these cars just aren’t out there in volume like some of their more popular stable mates. Just a few months later, here we have another 733i with a 4-speed manual transmission for sale in Florida.

1980 BMW 733i

1980 BMW 733I 4-door sedan. Florida owned, stunning gray exterior, parchment leather trimmed interior. 3.3 fuel-injected inline six engine, Getrag 4-speed manual transmission. Additional creature comforts include supple leather, AM/FM stereo cassette player with power antenna, full power accessories like mirrors and windows, power sunroof, climate control with A/C, check control panel, central locking system, heated rear window, tilt steering column, trunk mounted tool kit, central hydraulic system, double pivot front axle, 6-way manual adjustment front seats, removable rear headrests, alloy wheels and more. You are bidding on a pristine 1980 BMW 733i with just 28912 miles.

The best 733i out there might fetch around $10,000. With the manual transmission, this car may or may not be more appealing to certain folks, but it’s a shame this car has the 4-speed gearbox and not the 5-speed. With a starting bid of $7,500 and the reserve not met, I would say there isn’t much room here to go up. If anything, this might be a $6,000 to $7,000 car all day long.

-Paul

1981 BMW 733i

When it rains it pours. After featuring a clean BMW 733i 5-speed manual a few weeks ago, another one has come to our attention by way of Sam over at Check out this Car. This one is two years older with 185,000 miles on the clock and was driven regularly until put in storage five months ago. The period orange metallic color suits this cruiser well and it was the recipient of an engine rebuild in 1995. Currently, the car is located in Massachusetts.

1981 BMW 733i

The seller of this vehicle bought it for himself at Mid County BMW in Tenafly, New Jersey to mark an exciting new chapter in his career back in 1981. The fact that he chose a BMW and has kept it this long says a lot about the superior quality and charm of this modern classic. The E23 chassis was produced from 1977 to 1987. It is notable for being the first generation of BMW 7-series, and was their flagship vehicle. Powered by a range of 6-cylinder engines and rear-wheel drive, these were as sporty as they were luxurious and comfortable.

The styling is courtesy of a Frenchman named Paul Bracq and is nothing short of iconic. Although he only designed a couple of vehicles for BMW, his vision both built on the past and looked boldly to the future for the brand. The E23 7-series is riveting. The forward-leaning “shark” nose is instantly menacing, and the combination of quad-round headlights and narrow twin slot BMW grille give the front a a semi-human, semi-robot look, mimicking eyes and nostrils that are perceptually flared and alert. The whole shape of the car is easy on the eyes. In person it’s actually smaller than you’d think, about the size of today’s 5-series, and with careful use of sheet-metal it gives off a lean, frugal look. In fact, early 7-series didn’t even come with passenger side mirrors. The seller added a mirror from a later model car for better visibility.

This ’81 733i survivor is blessed with a clean and straight body. The most striking aspect of the exterior is the condition of the paint, a raspberry-orange color that just pops out in sunlight. The seller repainted the car in its original color in 1997. It’s still deep, glossy and nearly flawless. There is no visible rust on the exterior, and only some bubbling on the bottom of the passenger side rear pillar. All panels line up seamlessly. There are no dents, dents or even any major scratches on the paint. The car seems to have never been in an accident.

The seller rebuilt the engine in 1995. The odometer currently reads 185,097. This car was driven regularly all its life before being put into storage 5 months ago. Mechanically, it starts, runs, shifts and drives fine. The engine doesn’t put out a lot of horsepower by today’s standards but has a lot of low end gusto. What really makes the driving experience special is the rare manual transmission this car has. Since American drivers preferred automatic transmissions, especially on larger sedans, most 7-series were shipped with automatics. The combination of torquey engine, stick shift and rear-wheel drive can still make this vehicle a sprightly performer.

The seller rebuilt the engine in 1995. The odometer currently reads 185,097. This car was driven regularly all its life before being put into storage 5 months ago. Mechanically, it starts, runs, shifts and drives fine. The engine doesn’t put out a lot of horsepower by today’s standards but has a lot of low end gusto. What really makes the driving experience special is the rare manual transmission this car has. Since American drivers preferred automatic transmissions, especially on larger sedans, most 7-series were shipped with automatics. The combination of torquey engine, stick shift and rear-wheel drive can still make this vehicle a sprightly performer.

The interior is in remarkably good condition considering the age and miles. The seller replaced the driver’s seat with the original leather. There is still usual wear from normal usage, but the build quality and craftsmanship still shines through. BMW interiors of the ’70s and ’80s were some of the best out there and have stood the test of time. They were specifically designed to be as functional as possible. Not surprisingly, usefulness also led to good aesthetics. Every switch, dial and button is perfectly sculpted to be pleasing to the touch, work well and look good. The large steering wheel has a funky ellipsoid center. The instrument cluster houses three crystal clear analogue gauges of white numerals over black dials. The center console is angled towards the driver for ease of reach and vision. The wood is real wood. It’s these kinds of things that make you realize why this brand commands so much respect. Sitting inside it is like being a member of a club. The interior actually has this wonderful musky scent of vintage leather and plastics.

BMW built over 280,000 E23 7-series, but a good number have succumbed to rust and been junked. You rarely seem them on the roads anymore. Examples that are still driven have usually have had multiple owners and dubious history. This is a unique opportunity to acquire a one-owner 733i in very good condition and with a rare manual transmission. This car was one of the best cars money could buy in its day. Times may have changed, but it’s still a good car for what will be a fraction of the original sticker price. Just as the car was originally bought in celebration, it’s waiting to be enjoyed by the next owner in the same way.

The vehicle has been stored at and is currently located in Seekonk, Massachusettes at Seekonk Car Storage.

The 733i we featured earlier this month had 15,000 less miles, was two years newer and priced $400 higher. It seems then, if you want a presentable E23 these days, prepare to spend between $4,000 to $6,000, which isn’t too unreasonable, considering how usable these cars are thirty years on. Given the one owner provenance, engine rebuilt, a respray in its original color and refurbishment of the driver’s seat leather, $5,400 seems like an attractive deal for this big Bimmer.

-Paul

1983 BMW 733i

The BMW E23 7 series was a continuation of BMW’s drive to standardize their model designations and continue their drive to be a true competitor to Mercedes-Benz in the luxury car arena into the 1980s. Introduced in 1977, the 733i produced 181 horsepower by 1983, being superseded by the 735i in 1985. These cars were ahead of their time, offering such features as service interval indicators, on board computers and eventually anti lock brakes and a driver’s airbag. You still see an occasional first generation 7 series on the street, but typically, they are well worn, as collectors prefer to collect its two door brother, the E24 6 series. This example of one of BMW’s early executive sedans comes from our reader John in New Jersey.

1983 BMW 733i

This car has been my daily driver, but I will soon be going away and can’t stand the idea of leaving it sitting for long periods of time. That is terrible for all cars, especially vintage BMW’s. I’m the third owner and so far I’ve had this car for about a year and it has been reliable, and a blast to drive. The transmission shifts smooth, the breaks are good, the ac blows cold, and all the electronics work. If you’re looking chances are you already know a lot about this car, and that they can last for hundreds of thousands of miles if they’re maintained well. This one has been, and I have several folders filled with records to prove it. The car was purchased at Open Road BMW in Edison, NJ in 1984 and the same female owner drove it until 2008. She then sold it to a mechanic whom I brought it from in March of 2011. Since having it I have put about 5,500 miles on it and some of those trips have been about 400 miles with no problem. The car is reliable and I would not hesitate to take it across the country.

This car is not a grey market import; it was made for the United States. This makes it even more rare, as very few US-Spec manual transmissions were made. The advantage of a US Spec is apparent when you try and insure the vehicle, and when you try and get it inspected.

Highlights

– Five Speed Manuel Transmission (Very Rare for E23)
– 4 New German Made Goodyear Eagle RS-A’s 225/55/17 ($220 each)
– 17-Inch M Wheels
– No Mechanical Issues
– No Leaks
– No Burning of Oil
– Spare Stock Wheel and Spare M Wheel
– Stock Wheels Also Available With Firestone Tires On Them With Decent Tred Remaining
– AC Blows Cold
– Non-Smoking Owners
– No Electrical Problems
– Only Use Mobile 1 Synthetic Oil
– I get 17 MPG in Town and 26 On The Highway
– Passed NJ Inspection In November
– Has original tool kit and is only missing small pliers.

Recent Work

– Brand New Stock Muffler
– New SI Board
– New Antenna (Not Pictured)
– New Kenwood CD Player with IPod+Pandora Support (Not Pictured)
– Rebuilt Alternator
– New Shift Knob
– New Clutch Master Cylinder
– New Clutch Line
– New Transmission Cross member
– New Blower Motor
– New Fan Blade and Fan Clutch
– Installed Parking Sensors
– New Drive Belts

Things To Keep In Mind

– Shocks/Struts are starting to wear and could be replaced if you intend to drive this car very spiritdly, it does not sag or bounce but it is fairly soft

– Headlights and High Beams function however one of the check relays has gone bad (Means light flashes on Diagnostic Check Unit)

– Stain on headliner in the back right that is due to the sunroof being left open about half a centimeter while it was raining, the car does not leak.

– Outside temperature gauge just stopped reading accurately

– There are a few rust spots on the lower right side of the car. They are barely noticeable and minimal considering the cars age but I included a few close up shots of them. The rest of the car is rust free!

The car is reliable, and the fact that it is a manual with a near perfect interior, and exterior in such good condition makes it extremely rare. As it ages it will only more rare.

The seller has provided quite a comprehensive history of this 733i, and these manual transmission E23s are certainly a rare find. With one owner for a long time, the original paint and a comprehensive history, this would be a fantastic usable classic of a BMW that hasn’t garnered the most popularity amongst enthusiasts but is an important BMW in its own right.

-Paul