Yesterday, Craig took a look at a very nice and quite affordable E32 750iL. These cars have traditionally been one of the most affordable ways to get into a V12 sedan, and consequently coming across a generally well sorted one that doesn’t require an extensive amount of service is difficult.
But the M70B50 also found its way into the replacement for aging E24. The revolutionary E31 signaled a leap forward in sophistication, refinement and styling from other period BMWs. Minus small details, it still looks reasonably fresh today; something that can’t be said of many 1980s-era designs. The three-quarter view above, for example, is mimicked closely by BMW’s own current 4-series today and the Audi A5. Yet as with the E32, the E31 has been the gateway into V12 Grand Tourers for many with aspirations loftier than their bank accounts. Finding a pristine, early 850i isn’t an everyday occurrence, so this one was certainly worth a look. It didn’t hurt that it’s been breathed on by Dinan, either.
The BMW 8 series is one of those rare instances where low production doesn’t necessarily mean high cost, discounting the 850CSi, of course. This was the second BMW to receive the V12 engine, debuting in 1990 with the option of a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearbox. It combined a wedge shape with a pillarless profile and sleek, low-rise concealed headlamps. While E31s like this 850Ci for sale in Minnesota are fairly affordable when it comes to big German coupes, everyone knows you have to be committed to endure the high running costs. Someone has to save these twelve cylinder wonders, though.
Euro cars always hold a special appreciation for me, especially from the 1970s and 1980s. First off, they were much better looking, generally with slimmer bumpers and larger, more clear class lights. There were colors and interiors that we didn’t get in the U.S. as well, helping to set yourself apart. Sometimes there were low-spec engines not imported, but usually the output of the motors that were similar to U.S. cars was higher, giving more performance to enthusiasts. Sometimes that gulf was huge; while usually around 10% higher, a great example is the Quattro which was a full 25% more powerful in Europe than the U.S. restricted version. But as we got towards the late ’80s, the gap inbetween both the looks and performance of the Euro models versus the U.S. models closed steadily. True, in some cases we still didn’t get the full-fat versions of cars like the M3 until the E46 chassis. But for most models, there was a negligible difference. When it came to the BMW E31, in fact, there were almost no differences between the U.S. models and European models; styling was exactly the same, as were the wheels, most of the colors and interiors, and the basic suspension and engine. So, it’s just not nearly as exciting to see a European-spec newer model like this ’91 850i pop up for sale, though it is a bit odd:
Though they’ve spent the last decade or so sitting unused in the back of the enthusiast dream garage, BMW’s E31 8-series has seen a resurgence in interest and appreciation recently. As the most range-topping coupe BMW’s produced, it took the shark-nose look into the techno era and stands out as an impressively clean design in the face of today’s luxury rhinoceri. This example spent its first 22 years with a single owner in California and has just crossed the 100k mark. It’s no show-stopping 850CSi, but that very fact helps it become one of the cheapest ways to get behind a V12 in the world. Well cared for and showing normal signs of age, it’s sweet example of BMW’s megacoupe that is quickly becoming collectible.
The question of badges, badge engineering and car’s values are always interesting to me. Obvious car values vary considerably, but some times enthusiasts really gravitate towards one particular year or sub-model within a lineup and choose that model for value. Yesterday’s 1995 M3 raised that point; while it was a neat color and lower mileage with good overall condition, it was the OBD1 status that had some claiming that it should be worth more than later models. In the case of the E31, it’s obviously the big-dog 850CSi that stands out with its BMW Motorsport heritage and build. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there was arguably a nicer example of the lesser 850i 6-speed with some light modifications available at the same time – is the M badge that important?
The numbers would suggest that there are many better performance options than the BMW E31. Even in top-spec CSi trim, there are faster, flashier cars that are available for less – sometimes much less. For example, you could have a much quicker 996 Turbo today for less money than the asking price of most CSis. Indeed, if you’d like to save a lot of money, there are other options too; countless AMG Mercedes, 928s – even a stray E24 M6 will give the CSi a run for its money. But the combination of style, presence and the promise of exclusivity have their own draw much as they do with other notorious under-performers, such as the Grand Touring Ferraris. Can you buy a Corvette that’s faster? Yes, but that’s not the point. However, the CSi is still a lot of money for most people to consider, especially for an occasional car. Back down your expectations a notch, though, and you can get 85% of the CSi if you look in the early 850i 6-speeds:
Yesterday, Paul wrote up a very clean, low mile and celebrity-owned 850Ci. There were some serious positives to that example: the condition of that car is pretty spectacular, it has the later M73 5.4 V12 pumping out an extra 40 horspower, it has the better wheels and a great color combination. However, even though this morning’s example has ten times the miles and the condition admittedly is not as good, it also has some things going for it. First off, it’s a 6-speed manual – the package most enthusiasts who want this car would like. Second, unlike the 97’s CSi-high pricetag, this model can be bought on a serious budget if you’re willing to accept some flaws:
I’ve talked about what you could get if you were willing to miss out on the E30 bandwagon, and here’s another example of just how much car you could get. The E31 BMW 8-series is still relatively undervalued; part of that is not yet being recognized as a classic, and the other part is the fear of repairs on this fairly complicated big coupe. That means that if you’re willing to maintain that double-inline-6 motor that those crazy engineers from Munich developed, you can nab yourself a top-rate luxury grand tourer for a song. This example is one of the early M70 motored cars, with 300 horsepower on tap and what I’d consider still a great and underrated design:
The craze over the E30 is quickly pulling up many 1980s BMW prices, and unfortunately as budget-minded enthusiasts there is a narrowing window to get into one of these cars in good condition. E24, E28 and E30 prices have all crept up rapidly, leaving few options for enthusiasts to turn to. One, ironically, comes from Munich itself, but is often overlooked when judging classic BMWs. Perhaps its that there wasn’t the long-promised “M8”, or that the E31 really saw the advent of BMW’s electronic nannies to help keep the car in check. Perhaps it was the progressive for the 80s, dated for the 90s styling that seemed out of place in the lineup. Or perhaps it was that this incredible V12 grand touring coupe just wasn’t what everyone wanted in a BMW. Regardless of the cause, it’s now possible to get one of these stately tourers for a fraction of the price of a top notch E30. And while silver, black, white and red seemed to dominate the E31 color palate, for me the prettiest examples are blue:
A pertinent point that may explain some of the details on this car is that the seller is named Cornelius. While it’s not the highly sought-after CSi, it still possesses a lovely BMW V12. I was going to call into question the overall styling, but it’s really just the large gold wheels that polarize potential buyers. The repaint in its original color is gorgeous, and on stock wheels it would just be a fantastic E31. The wheels are a pleasing design, you’d just have to be a gold-rims kind of guy or gal. This 8er really has been given the royal treatment though, with few issues or aging parts left unturned.
Engine: 5.0l V12
Transmission: 4-speed transmission
Price: No-reserve auction
100% FULLY RESTORED BMW 850I, PLEASE CALL CORNELIUS WITH ANY QUESTIONS. THIS CAR HAS TO MUCH TO LIST YOU WILL HAVE TO CONTACT ME IF YOU ARE SERIOUS BUYER. ADDITIONAL PHOTOS SHOWING THE FULL RESTORATION AND NEW HEATING CORE OF THE CAR ARE AVAILABLE. ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION HAS BEEN FULLY SERVICED AND RESEALED. CAR HAS NO LEAKS AND NO MECHANICAL OR ELECTRICAL ISSUES.
14K FULL ORIGINAL FACTORY REPAINT
NEW BMW 850i FLOOR MATS
ALL NEW RUBBER AND TRIM PIECES FOR DOOR SEALS
NEW STEERING WHEEL (FROM A 850 ALPINA B6 CSI)
NEW GEAR SHIFT LEVER
NEW SEAT BELT FASTENERS
NEW SUNROOF MOTOR AND RESEAL
FRESH TRANSMISSION SERVICE
FRESH ENGINE FULL SERVICE
POWDER COATED MANIFOLDS TO MATCH CAR
NEW PAINT JOB (ENTIRE CAR)
UPGRADED BREMBO BREAKING SYSTEM
MK FRONT SPOILER
4 BRAND NEW TIRES
CUSTOM PAINTED MK WHEELS
2 NEW CATALYTIC CONVERTERS
CUSTOM PAINTED REAR TRUNCK SPOILER
8500 SOUND SYTEM iPOD INTERGRATION
GPS NAVIGATION (UPGRADED HEAD UNIT IN GLOVE BOX)
CUSTOM PAINTED MK REAR VALANCE
CUSTOM PAINTED MK FRONT NOISE PIECE INSERT
BRAND NEW UPGRADED SPRINGS EIBACH
NEW ONBOARD COMPUTER READOUT UNIT
UPGRADED FACTORY GERMANY CD PLAYER UNIT
FULLY CHARGED AC UNIT
ALL NEW SUSPENSION AND BALL JOINTS
FULLY UPGRADED SUEDE HEADLINER
2 KEYS AND MANUALS
ALL SERVICE RECORDS AND RECEIPTS ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
That is the most creative use of the divide in a 4-seater I’ve seen yet. Sure, some cars have beverage coolers or writing surfaces, but this has a WOOFER. Despite wheels that may not be for everyone, an automatic, and questionable woofer placement, this is one of the most active auctions I’ve ever seen, with 45 bids at time of writing and plenty of time left. A pretty good indication that overall, despite a few head-scratchers, this is a very good value for a very pretty E31.