Update 7/08/19 – After raising and lowering the price several times, this very unique “645i Turbo” is back on the market in 2019 for $19,900 today.
I really love how these cars sometimes send you down the rabbit hole. What attracted me initially to this E24 was that it was a European-spec car and it had a pretty high asking price at nearly $23,000. Alone that wouldn’t be enough to warrant a post, especially given that from the first photo I glanced at, it doesn’t look spectacular.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when considering this car, and it has a lot more to do with the personality behind it than the current condition.
The name Albert Mardikian probably doesn’t mean much to you. Mr. Mardikian is a partner and the Chief Technology Officer behind ReGreen Organics, a company which deals with a lot of shit, for lack of a better term. I’m not being flippant. They’re an organic solid waste management company.
And it is in this capacity that Mr. Mardikian’s philosophy is particularly interesting when considering this car. He proclaims that he has a “passion for bettering our world”, yet his past would seem to have little to do with environmental improvement. That’s because in a past life Mr. Mardikian was also the proprietor of Trend Imports. Ring a bell? If not, perhaps a perusing of the Tom Cruise movie Rain Man would help you out. Mr. Cruise’s character’s subplot – an importer of exotic cars held up by the EPA – is based upon Mr. Mardikian. Because if you were in L.A. in the early 1980s and you wanted a gray market car, Trend Imports was where you went. And just like the main character in the movie, Mardikian got in quite a bit of trouble for the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royce and other models he imported by skirting EPA emissions laws.
Though his troubles with emissions laws dated back to 1981, Mardikian continued to be the turn-to source for ultra-exotics in the early days of importation. He also built custom convertible versions of some of the most famous 80s icons – Mercedes-Benz 500SECs, Lamborghini Countachs, Ferrari 512BBis, Porsche 930s. How about those replica Daytonas for Miami Vice? Mardikian. And he made more more neat creation – he married the turbocharged M102/6 from the European version of the BMW E23 745i with the slinky shape of the E24, creating his own “745CSi Turbo”:
BMW has teased us with competitor’s to Audi’s S8 and the Mercedes-Benz S63/5 AMGs, and there’s no doubt that the current M760i is a weapons-grade executive. With over 600 horsepower and a 3.4 second 0-60 time, drives to you your business lunches will be brief to say the least. But BMW has stopped short of coming out with a full-fledged M7 to this point, and it turns out they’ve been teasing us all along.
The first 7-series was a big step forward for the company, and just like today’s top-shelf offering, the 745i was a turbocharged variant that offered the best performance. That is, of course, unless you were in South Africa. That’s because South Africa got a very special E23, and it all had to do with the right side – of the road, and of the motor. On the M102 and 106, performance of the M30 was boosted by a big KKK K27 turbocharger on the right side of the motor. The placement conflicted with right-drive steering columns, and as a result BMW didn’t build right-hand drive 745i turbos. But South Africa was having none of that, and decided to build their own super-saloon. Instead of turbocharging, BMW SA installed a M88/3 in a claimed 209 of their E23s, matching the performance with M5/6 brakes and a stiffer suspension, along with BBS wheels:
In a star-studded lineup from the 1980s, the BMW E23 certainly seems to be always the bridesmaid. I’d wager that even the E21 is more popular than the first 7-series, and that’s saying something. It doesn’t help that the 7, while bearing a resemblance to the other great Paul Bracq designs from the period, never quite seems to be in the right proportions – especially in U.S. form. But today’s example isn’t a U.S. spec model, it’s the more desirable and much more pleasant to look at European model. On top of that, it’s the turbocharged M102 under the hood, cranking out 252 ///Mvious horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque to match. That was enough to propel the heavy, automatic 745i to 60 mph in the mid-7 second range and 137 mph flat out – numbers that made its competition envious. It’s got lower mileage, condition is great, and overall it appears to be a very nice example. The rarity and obscurity of the model in some part outweighs the less desirable nature of the large chassis among collectors. Yet this car has failed to sell for not one, not two, but now going on five years.
So what gives? Well, there’s only one reason that a car doesn’t sell, and it’s price. The seller of this car has had it for sale on and off again since 2013. We last looked at it almost exactly one year ago:
1982 BMW 745i Euro-spec
Perpetually, bidding runs out of steam between $5,000 and $6,000. That number seems far short of what the seller is hoping for, but we never learn much about what that amount is. A few weeks ago, the seller tried Bring A Trailer. The result? $5,000 in bids. So here we are again, a bit like Groundhog Day, with a new auction for this very nice example of an early 7:
To go up against the established Alpha executive from Germany – the S-Class Mercedes-Benz – BMW’s engineers had to think outside of the box. It wasn’t simply good enough to mimic the go-to large luxury sedan. They’d have to outperform it, to be better than Stuttgart’s best. That was a tall order for the Munich firm, since its last truly large sedans were the 501/2 series cars; the Baroque Angels of the early 1950s. Though they launched at roughly the same time as BMW’s microcar craze, they were really holdovers from another era. The same wouldn’t work in the late 1970s, but primed with the success of their 5- and 6-series models, BMW was ready to face the challenge.
Though the E3 had offered a sizeable sedan, the new E23 really stretched BMW’s platforms. The new 7-seres was 6 inches longer overall, most of which fell in a longer wheelbase versus the E3. It was also wider by a few inches and lower, too. Paul Bracq again provided the styling and it was nothing surprising; it carried the torch of many of the design elements of the 3-, 5- and 6-series cars, and that certainly wasn’t a bad thing. But what BMW hoped would help to set it apart from the competition was technology and performance, along with a high-level of material quality in the cabin. Options included Buffalo leather, an on-board computer system, anti-lock brakes, heated and reclining power seats front and rear, and even an airbag late in the run; standard fare today, but way ahead of the curve in the late 1970s and early 1980s. BMW matched this technology with a thoroughly modern driver-oriented cockpit which made the W116 Mercedes-Benz competition feel immediately antiquated.
Where the E23 really established itself, though, was in keeping with the “driving machine” motto of the company. This was a performance sedan, and consequently BMW brought its turbocharger technology over to the E23. Launched in 1980, the new “745i” derived its name from the 1.4 multiplier for turbocharged displacement, and the M102B32 3.2 liter inline-6 cranked out an impressive 252 horsepower with 280 lb.ft of torque channeled through a 3-speed automatic ZF-built 3HP22 gearbox. It provided effortless highway cruising with a broad torque curve. With a full assortment of luxurious options, a driver-oriented design and pioneering turbocharger technology, these really were cutting edge sedans in the early 1980s:
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.
The E23 7-series is already a bit special, for two main reasons. First, as I mentioned when I wrote up a 733i a couple of weeks ago, you don’t tend to see them on the roads anymore. Second, the beautiful design, which shares a number of features with the shark-nosed E24 6-series coupe, matches anything put out by Mercedes-Benz in the same era in terms of elegance and style. That is not something that could always be said about BMW products, even if they were more fun to drive than their counterparts from Stuttgart. But this E23 is even more special, since it’s a gray market 745i. Not available in the US, this high-performance model represented the top of the E23 lineup in Europe and came with a turbocharged version of the 3.4 liter inline six cylinder M30 engine (here called the M106) and a host of luxurious and high-tech (for the time) accessories. Very few of these come onto the market, and rarely do they do so in the kind of condition shown here.
It’s been a good week for early 7 lovers here, but as Paul’s 1983 733i listing pointed out yesterday, some of them are neat to see but aren’t priced accurately. One such example of this is today’s 1982 745i. Now, off the bat it’s got several advantages over the 733i. It’s a much more attractive European specification model with slim bumpers, but those more interested in performance would rather see what the M102 produced sans catalyst – 252 horsepower, an otherworldly amount in 1983 in a sedan. Heck, that’s just shy of what the E28 M5 and M6 came to the U.S. with! So, what’s holding this one back?
E23s are pretty sweet luxury cruisers, starting the long line of BMW’s 7-series that have provided a sportyish option for businessfolk. While the E38 was the pinnacle and rumors of an M7 seem to have a little more traction than ever before, the original badass was the turbocharged 745i. With the exception of South Africa’s 745i which featured the M5’s M88 engine, the M106 turbocharged the venerable M30 3.4-liter inline-6, giving a healthy power and torque boost for the big poppa. This example doesn’t have the incredible water buffalo leather interior, but it does have lots of chrome – all the way to the wheel arches. The M106 can’t be the easiest engine to maintain, but 136k miles and no reserve, this could be a nice shot at an old-school Euro megasedan.
The E23 has always been a design which to me has been quite polarizing. As with the E12 and E24, Paul Bracq was heavily involved in the final design and it shows – in many ways, the E23 looks like a cross between the two that was scaled up 10%. The results of that in my mind weren’t always good. Growing up, my father had both E24s and E28s, clean looking, well proportioned designs, and when I first saw an E23 I remember thinking it looked a bit ungainly. In U.S. specification, the bumpers were too big and the wheels were too small, resulting in a car which appeared heavy, sagging and sad. When he’s really upset, my son manages to invert his lip and stick it out, tears streaming down his cheeks. It’s a look which nearly mimics the U.S. spec front end of the E23 I now recognize. However, in European trim the E23 made more sense – it looked lighter, smaller and better proportioned. While not as stately as the W116, it certainly looked a fair bit sportier outside and more modern. Couple those European-market looks with some great period BBS RS wheels and the look is just about perfect; throw in the turbocharged M106 motor and you’ve peeked much interest. Of course, unfortunately the M106 was only pared with an automatic transmission – but then, what would happen if you swapped that for a 5-speed?
German cars are know as being exact in their engineering, and even the model designation of the turbocharged E23 7 series takes this mantra to heart. This particular 745i does not, in fact, have a 4.5 liter inline-6 as suggested by the badge on the trunk. Rather, it designates that the turbocharged powerplant under the hood has 1.4 times the power output of the normally aspirated unit it is based on. These E23 7 series sedans had the same aggressive front snout as the beloved E24 6 series and moved the BMW game forward in terms of technology, with service interval indicators, anti-lock brakes and climate control systems appearing during the production run. The 745i Turbo was offered in North America between 1979 and 1986, first with a 3.2 liter inline six and then upgraded to the 3.4 unit that we see here. This example for sale in Georgia is a Euro market model that has the optional water buffalo leather, lending quite a unique air to the interior.