The E31 8-series (1989-1999) was available inÂ 840Ci, 850Ci and 850CSi guises. The 840 came with aÂ 4.0 liter V8 (later upgraded to 4.4 liters), while the 850 was powered by aÂ 5.0 liter V12 motor. This engine was bored outÂ toÂ 5.6 liters for the range-toppingÂ CSi version. (The cousin of an abandoned project to build anÂ M8,Â the CSi also came with aÂ 6-speed manual gearbox, stiffer steering and suspension, and a model-specificÂ bodykit.) Low slung and sleek, with pop up headlights, no B-pillars and a wedge-shaped profile, the 8-seriesÂ was undeniably gorgeous. It was also incredibly expensive, both to buy and to repair, and a little underwhelming, particularly in entry level form, where the car’sÂ performance never really matched the highlyÂ exotic exterior. That last criticism now seems a little unfair,Â since these carsÂ wereÂ sold asÂ grand tourers, not out-and-out sports cars. Still, the 8-series hasÂ remained somewhat under appreciated. AsÂ a result, entry level models can be found for a fraction of their original cost. This car is indeedÂ a base modelÂ 840Ci, but it’s definitelyÂ not cheap. That’s because it carries a number ofÂ desirable features and upgrades, including some more usually found on the CSi model.
I’ve made several references comparing the BMW 8 series to a few Ferraris, suggesting that it was perhaps a budget alternative to running a 456GT, for example. However, the E31 isn’t the only Ferrari-esque design to come from Munich; in many aspects, the E9 coupe shared some visual DNA with the Ferrari 330 2+2 from the 1960s. Now, for some that may sound like heresy and I can appreciate that; but take off the Rosso-colored glasses for a moment and look at the side profile of a 330 GT versus the E9 coupe; it’s nearly identical. The rear end treatment was quite similar as well, and while the grill on the BMW was obviously quite different the two even shared a quad-headlight setup. Obviously, underneath the Ferrari had that wonderful Colombo V12 versus the rather pedestrian inline-6 in the BMW; but pound for pound the BMW punched hard, especially in CSi trim. With 200 horsepower on tap it was certainly no slouch, especially in the midst of the oil crisis which neutered most V8s in America. It would take another two generations for the Big Three to break back into the 200 horsepower realm with nearly double the displacement of the E9. But the E9 wasn’t about straight line performance; it was a whole package – a speedy grand touring coupe with luxurious appointments and gorgeous looks:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1974 BMW 3.0CSi on eBay
In Paul’s recent M6 Roundup he celebrated the many different colors that the M6 came in, including a rare Bronzit example. It’s one of the many reasons I prefer the M6 over the M5. The second reason is the particular look of the updated 88 examples; with slimmed down bumpers, they look a bit closer in my mind to the original design than the other U.S. spec cars. Of course, in an ideal world I’d want a clean Euro example – with small bumpers, the right motor and perhaps an even more rare color combination, such as this Alpine White with Buffalo hide leather 1985:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW M635CSi on eBay
People don’t really give BMW enough credit as a risk-taking company, in my opinion. First came the M1, a mid-engined supercar from a company that was producing primarily economy sport sedans. Audi has been applauded for bringing the brilliant R8 to the market, but BMW did it nearly 30 years prior. Then they introduced that same M88 motor into their mid-range sedan and big coupe, changing the definition of sports sedans and bringing GT cars to a higher level. The M3 helped too, and forced Audi and Mercedes-Benz’s hands to make higher performance small sedans that enthusiasts have enjoyed for a few generations now. More recently, the i8 has gone from concept to reality, and stands as one of the most game-changing designs in history. But one that was often overlooked was the i8’s spiritual predecessor, the E31 8 series. A soft, big and angular departure from BMW’s styling in the 1980s, the E31 received a tremendous amount of development and accolades when it was released, but enthusiasts remained skeptical – partially because it seemed the 8’s performance didn’t live up to the promise of the design cues from the M1. Enthusiasts hoped for a high-performance “M8” that magazines taunted but never came. Instead, we received the heavily M-division-modified 850CSi:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 850CSi on eBay
Earlier in the week I wrote up a pristine, lower mile E12 528i that was a very pretty color combination and rare to see. The early generation cars of the 1980s – the E12, early E24 and E21 – are still in collector no man’s land; they’re in general not sought after enough to justify expensive restorations, and they’re not valuable enough for people to keep in pristine condition. They’re also not the best performers that BMW has produced; but in spite of that they’re all pretty cars and when well presented it’s a reminder of how clean and desirable some of these early BMW designs were. Few are as pretty as the original Paul Bracq designed E24 with it’s low, lean and long stance. Bespoilered later in life the design become increasingly cluttered and more aggressive, and while that has a certain appeal the early cars really do express the original design better. Today there are two examples, surprisingly, of the early run 630CSi – in your choice of original or modified “extra-spicy”. Which would you prefer? Let’s start with the modified version: