BMW introduced the E32 generation 7-series in 1987. TheÂ car’s design was a successfulÂ blend of the old andÂ the new. Traditional styling cues – the four headlights, squareÂ kidneys and angular lines – kept the car lookingÂ 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.Â AndÂ perhaps a bitÂ less stately too.Â If the MercedesÂ was a car for high level officials and diplomats, the BMWÂ was a car for the young, new titans of the 80s and 90s; Wall Street bankers, lawyers and real estate tycoons. BothÂ carsÂ 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 themÂ as they should have,Â most have been left to rot in junkyards. ThisÂ makes this low mileage, nicely specified car an attractive proposition.
In recent posts, we’ve both talked about the expense of maintaining an old German luxo-barge and, at the same time, the joy of getting to experience their technical prowess. I mentioned in the Alpina B12 5.0 post that I was lucky enough to experience an E32 5-speed upstream of most of the major repairs they would need if you held onto them long enough. Seemingly in response, suddenly a wave of neat 5-speed E32s appeared. But is the allure of the 5-speed status worth overcoming some obstacles to ownership?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW 735i 5-speed on eBay
This year marked the introduction of the sixth generation BMW 7 series. I’ll admit that since 2002, I haven’t really followed this executive sedan closely. I, along with many Bimmerphiles, was not a fan of the radical redesign and complex iDrive system of the E65. Subsequently, I stopped paying attention to any of the updates after that model’s intro. One 7 series that intrigued me all these years, however, was the E23. This was a rather small executive sedan in comparison to the S-Class Mercedes of the time, but it was also more of a choice for those who wanted to drive instead of being driven. This 1985 735i for sale in Texas belies its 30 years of age, showing only 77,000 miles on the odometer and having been maintained to what looks like a high standard.
Click for details: 1985 BMW 735i on eBay
With two exceptions, to me the 7-series has always been a bit of an awkward sell. The E32 and E38 being the outsiders, for the most part the translation of BMW’s sporting tradition to a large sedan format hasn’t always been a beautiful marriage. Newer models seem large and ungainly, ponderous rolling technological showrooms. I’m sure they’re impressive in their own ways, but since the introduction of the S8, Audi has always done the large sports sedan better and the AMG models have been nuttier than anything BMW offered. But back in the 1980s, the E23 was the large sedan out of place. Looking like a stretched E12 after one too many trips to the buffet, the E23 competed against the technologically advanced Audi 5000 Turbo quattro and the more luxury oriented standby W126 Mercedes-Benz lineup. And while it wasn’t about to get all nerdy to compete with the C3 Audis, BMW did attempt to sway the Mercedes-Benz faithful with upscale versions of the E23 and E24 – the L7 and L6 – to compete against the SEL and SEC. They sported mostly cosmetic upgrades and one heck of a leather-wrap job inside:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW L7 on eBay
I hold out a small amount of hope that somewhere, floating around the U.S., there is a pristine, low mileage and mechanically perfect Audi V8 quattro. Honestly, even though I prefer to find a 3.6 5-speed, I wouldn’t even be bothered if it was an automatic as long as it was the later 4.2. As with all the large luxury sedans from Audi, there are precious few that remain in good original shape with lower miles. A similar situation occurs with the same generation BMW 7-series; the E32. Like the V8 quattro, it was a big step forward in the sporting executive market for the company, yet crumbling residual values and expensive repairs on the V12 models have left precious few in good shape. In fact, the E32 almost seems to disappear in the realm of classic BMWs, such is the concentration on early models or the bargain performance of the E38 and newer examples. So when a lower mile, pristine condition E32 pops up, we take notice: