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Tuner Tuesday: 1982 BMW Observer Coupe

The 1980s saw a fair number of interesting and innovative ways to chop the tops off of what would otherwise be lovely coupes; the Carelli 928 and Treser Quattro Roadster are just but two examples that we’ve written up. But long before the Porsche 993 Targa introduced a large sliding glass roof, in 1982 BMW combined with the automotive modeling firm MGA and some backing from The Observer to create a quite unique expression of topless motoring. Think of it as a BMW 635CSi Targa if you’d like; but boy is it unique and well done compared to some other 1980s creations. It’s also on sale, if you have a spare $50,000:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW Observer Coupe on 4 Star Classics

Year: 1982
Model: Observer Coupe
Engine: 3.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 18,243 mi
Price: GBP 29,995 ($46,935 today)


A very special BMW prototype 635 CSi designed with a sliding panoramic roof and rear window.

The result of a three-cornered collaboration between The Observer magazine, Mike Gibbs’s Coventry-based company MGA and BMW (GB) Ltd. The Observer Coupe featured a car with roof and rear screen panels which motor electrically out of sight into the boot lid.

Developed to showcase the innovation and skill of British engineering and designers the car featured on its own huge stand at the 1983 NEC motorshow. Key people were design engineer Alistair Millar, stylist Stephan Ferrada and electrical systems engineer Stanley Daniels.

This video tells the story and features the very car now offered for sale.


Power assisted steering, Electric operated windows, Electric operated mirrors, Prototype body development and styling, Panoramic roof, Trip computer, Electric memory seats, Central locking and, Blaupunkt tape player.

This stunning one off concept car was delivered new from BMW to MGA Developments in 1982 to build the Observer Coupe. Once the newly designed glass sliding roof and bespoke body kit were crafted and completed the car was repainted in two-tone grey and finished off with the white ‘Observer Coupe’ stickers on the side and rear. The car remains in excellent condition with a deep lustful shine. Being a concept car there are a few minor imperfections with some of the details around the panoramic roof.

The black leather interior remains in first-rate condition and the cockpit feels exceptionally airy due to the unique panoramic roof. There is no signs of wear to any of the seats, the steering wheel and gearbox retain their textured finish and all of the plastic trim and dash remain in perfect unmarked condition.

Having only covered 18k miles from new the engine remains in excellent mechanical order and has none of the usual corrosion issues associated with the E24’s on the inner wings and chassis rails. Since arriving at 4 Star Classics the Observer has been treated to a full service including all fluids, filters, plugs and a new battery.

The Observer comes with a unique set of 16″ dished alloys with polished faces. All of the tyres are new and the brakes only show minimal wear.

This car comes with the most amazing history file that takes up three large ring binders and two boxes! Every piece of paperwork has been kept detailing the development, build and all the designs and photographs when the car was displayed at the NEC Motor Show in 1983.

If you have the time, watch the 10-odd minutes worth of period documentary about how they created this particular example. It amazingly looks virtually like it just left the show circuit; it’s hard to detect any use at all and at under 20,000 miles covered, it’s likely one of the lowest mileage E24s in the world too. What’s really neat about this car, especially in comparison to the other headless coupes of the 1980s, is how they were able to fairly seamlessly integrate a neat retracting roof into the normal roofline. Admittedly the trunk treatment isn’t as clean as more modern designs, but it’s much better than the convertible 928 or Quattro for example. Ironically, the most dated aspect are the period correct Centra alloys. I just watched an episode of Wheeler Dealers where they restored a 1985 example that came with these very wheels on it; they harped on how poor the wheels looked to no end. Admittedly, they look better here and I’d keep them as they were the original fitted wheels for the show circuit, but I’d wager that a proper set of old Alpina wheels would really transform the look of this car to something a bit more special. Otherwise, is $50,000 really all that much to ask for a pristine, unique and documented one-off show car? Well, the average enthusiasts probably wouldn’t want this car – but if you wanted a way to really set yourself apart at the BMW shows, I’d wager this would draw more looks than an average E30 M3 for about the same investment.



  1. Vic
    Vic November 18, 2014

    Although the car is beautiful and historically significant, those have to be some of the ugliest wheels ever created.

  2. Carter
    Carter November 18, 2014

    Sorry for the earlier issue with the post, the site should be back and rolling!

  3. Ry
    Ry November 18, 2014

    @Vic – so true, my eyes locked with those rims and I cannot process anything else! They look like an attachment for a dough or pasta making machine. Or maybe the most inner ring on a clutch’s driven disc, you know?

    They make those Saab and early Dodge Viper “tri-inspired” wheels look beautiful in comparison.

    A fun, “period correct” find @Carter! Never heard of it, but so help me god – I would swap those out with Ronal Bears. 🙂

  4. Brad
    Brad November 18, 2014

    I love it when car salesmen attempt to write — having all dropped out by 5th grade. They always sound like they are describing the Queen of Sheba, in general, and not a car. But more specifically one gets nuggets like a “deep lustful shine”; Random Capitalization of First Letters in Some Words; references to a German car being made in Germany; references to A8s having power windows.

  5. Ed
    Ed November 19, 2014

    Those wheels are unfortunetly very common for 80s BMWs from Canada.

  6. atnorman
    atnorman November 19, 2014

    Without a doubt, some fine engineering. But it strikes me as one of those projects that answers the question nobody asked. I’m guessing the only perspective buyers would be MGA or The Observer (put it in the lobby?), or maybe one of the wealthy heirs of someone who worked on this project.

  7. Ry
    Ry November 19, 2014

    A “lustful shine”? Is that a new gross way to say “matte”?

    I feel like there are more “sunroof-max” (eg, more than just a sunroof) solutions than there is desire for them (ya, I’m talking to you BMW 318ti California…and continued Webasto style fabric roofs…). Maybe it’s a primarily German thing.

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