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BMW 735i

BMW 735i Published: 27th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

BMW 735i
BMW 735i
BMW 735i
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Jeff Bailey on why his 735i is for keeps when other classics come and go

Regular readers will know by now that I’m always extolling the relative value of big classic saloons. This is mainly because you get a lot for your money after the first one or two owners have stumped up for the massive depreciation, and it’s often not viable to restore them so they end up in a poor state as old smokers. Not so with my 1989 Luxor Beige BMW 735iSE with just 54,000miles on it. This E32 model has been garaged all its life and until recently, only serviced at BMW main dealers. In fact, it’s in time warp condition and the reason for this is that it’s been in the family since new, with me as the latest custodian. When I picked it up, as it had never been out of the BMW service network I duly booked into my local main dealer. It couldn’t have been more helpful at the booking stage and when it went in I gave a list of a few small faults I’d noticed so they could tackle these as well as the major Inspection II service I’d asked for.

Imagine the huge disappointment when the main agent presented a bill for £475 for the service but hadn’t tackled any of the faults. The usual computer problems in BMWs of this age were manifesting themselves and they seemed stumped as to what to do. A new control board was all they could suggest at £470.

Going out and starting the car I was then confronted with ‘Brake Linings’ on the dash readout. Surely these were OK as they had just been inspected? Sure enough they were, but they’d failed to reconnect the sensors. Not what you’d expect from a main dealer, but sadly technicians used to simply plugging in modern cars are pretty much stumped when faced with a 30 year old analogue model.

The trouble is, I really needed to get the computer gremlin fixed as it was making all kinds of ‘bonging’ noises that sounded like Zebedee was permanently in the car, which was bloody annoying. Thankfully someone recommended M-Tek BMW in Northampton so I took a ride there and it was refreshing to find someone who understands older Beemers. These guys are dab hands with BMW electrics and they very kindly sorted the problem with a new SI board in the dash. Here’s the best bit – they only charged £90 as opposed to the massive £470 the main dealer wanted. Guess who is going to get my ongoing business?

Making a good car even better

Whilst the dash was out I decided to install a modern stereo. I chose an Alpine mech-free unit (ie no CD or moving parts) which incorporates Bluetooth and MP3 capabilities and very good it is too. The main problem with the installation was down to incompatible wiring of the unit vs 30 year old car, but armed with a wiring diagram from a Haynes manual and a circuit tester, I managed it in an afternoon and it works a treat. Even looks a bit retro with colours matched to the red of the 7’s dash.

The ultra-rare original BMW/BBS split rim cross spokes that look so good aren’t so easy to keep clean. Over the years, corrosion has got to the alloys and ideally, they need a refurb, but at £250 a corner that will have to wait. Problem here is they have to split the rims to refurbish them and then renew 25 or so rim bolts on each wheel. Labour intensive and not cheap! However, new tyres have been necessary and that meant fitting 235/40 ZR 18 front and massive 255/35 ZR 18 rear Goodyear F1 Eagles for the princely sum of £840.

One fact that fascinates is there’s just 25 of this model and year still on UK roads. Compare this with the 635 Coupé models, of which 96 remain and it’s clear these are very rare cars now – an endangered species even. The 80’s 6 and 7 Series models were built so well that they could take massive mileages at low cost and consequently most ended up as motorway hacks and old smokers, only to be scrapped when they broke.

However, if you can find a good one, these older 7 Series are great value and they still look the business – this one always gets a second look, especially as it’s the only one left in this colour.

Who needs a modern equivalent?

One thing that is a concern is the availability of certain spares. Having issues with the electrics again, M-Tek suggested replacing the ECU and after some searching, sourced one as far away as Latvia! The same with the windscreen – two weeks to source and a cost of £1600! Thankfully, BMW keep a stock of most mechanical parts in Germany, but they ain’t cheap.

On the road, it’s rock-solid with a great ride/handling compromise and a lot of fun to hustle along quickly. The four-speed ZF auto box was cutting edge in its day, but now feels a bit dim-witted after all the eight and nine-speed modern Tiptronic marvels out there. Still, with the well-stocked dash and the cream leather cabin it’s a wonderful place to be spending time; many still consider this era to be optimum for cabin ambience and one sit in a current BMW confirms it.

The E32 7 Series is a real classic near-concours luxury car that has everything a new one has – except depreciation. In the meantime, experts in older BMWs tell me this one should fetch nearer £10k on a good day and top condition cars are actually rising now. No matter, it’s not for sale. The insurance is on a classic basis now it’s 30 years old and costs a trifling £178 comp, so that isn’t breaking the bank, either. And that’s the whole point of this car; I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see the latest model 7 Series on the road; the sheer massiveness of the financial loss on a monthly basis must make any owner’s eyes water. As for me, I’ll just continue shrugging off the ogre of depreciation with a very wry smile indeed.


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