BMW’s E31-generation 8 Series is the quintessential grand tourer. While it wears its sporting pretensions on its sleeve, it’s also very much the sort of car that would effortlessly waft you from one end of the continent to another in one torque-rich leap, allowing you to ooze from the cockpit in stylish unruffled form and casually amble to the bar to slip into a dry martini. A car which is sumptuously appointed and fabulously refined, that also happens to be magnificently powerful and unexpectedly agile. Almost Rolls-Royce-like, in fact – everything you need to affirm your solid life choices, backed up by the sort of deep swells of power you may well never even require.
Developed at enormous cost to carve out a new luxury GT niche in the model range, the E31 was CAD-designed and extensively wind tunnel tested to ensure that it was as slippery as a buttered eel – after all, with such massive engines planned, and the idea being to create a desirable machine for long-range road-tripping, maximising the aerodynamics of the fundamental shape was key so as not to use up all the Earth’s natural resources in one fell swoop.
At launch, buyers were offered a 5.0-litre M70 V12 in the form of the 850i; with 296bhp, it had the grunt to back up the dramatic looks. Oh, and it’s a devastatingly attractive thing to look at too, isn’t it?
The sale of this car represents something of a turning point for the current owner. He’s owned it for a number of years, quite a lot of which has seen the car sat in storage as it waits its turn; there are quite a number of other cars in the collection, and with various different projects requiring attention the 850i has sat on the back burner. It was always intended to be a keeper, being such a solid and original car with good history and a fabulous spec… but unfortunately, as covid has a habit of changing plans for many of us, so the decision has been made to reluctantly let the big Beemer go. It’s with a heavy heart, but needs must.
The V5 is present, verifying this as a 1992 model. The original manuals are here, along with the service book which shows a reassuring number of stamps: following the pre-delivery inspection at Sytner Leicester in August ’92, we see regular service stamps up to 2005, when the car was evidently taken off the road. The MOT history shows the car being tested in February of this year, and prior to that in 2019, and there are service stamps for both of those years as well.
Also in the file are a number of receipts showing how much the seller has spent on the car very recently: a custom cat-back stainless steel exhaust system was fitted in February 2020 at a cost of £750, and January of this year saw over £870 being spent on a power steering pipe replacement, which involved work to the lower subframe, steering box, arms and heatshields.
There’s a whole world of blue in here. The original owner obviously had a keen eye for style – on paper you mightn’t think that a blue-over-blue colour scheme would be a goer, but it looks fantastic. The seats (which are very supportive and generously stuffed) are trimmed in a tasteful blue hide, complemented by a blue dash and blue carpets. Inside the rear armrest is the original first aid kit, and a desirable option is the electric rear window blind, which is fully operational. The factory-fit radio-cassette is in place, and the whole interior is unmodified and correct. The windows all work as they should, which is of course vital to the character of the 8 Series as it’s pillarless – so it looks great with all the windows down! Aside from some very minor wear to the bolster on the driver’s seat, the cabin is in outstanding condition. The only issue in here is that there’s a fault (possibly electrical) with the gauge cluster – the digital display along the bottom is all working fine, but the dials are currently non-operational.
Inside the boot it’s all clean and tidy, with the correct jack mounted on the left side and the CD changer on the right. The toolkit inside the bootlid features the original tow eye, tools and warning triangle.
The icy blue paintwork suits the imposing profile of the 850i to a tee, the crisp shade helping to pick out the sublime coachlines. Naturally a key element of the visual drama is attributable to the pop-up headlights (let’s face it, every car with pop-ups is a cool car), and they’re working correctly. The paintwork has received professional correction at some point in the car’s history, and the seller has indicated this may have not been done to high standard – saying that though, we see no evidence of excessive scratches, scuffs or dings, it looks incredibly tidy on every panel (Aside from the odd age related mark of course!). All of the right badges are in place, and the light lenses are all in good condition with no chips or cracks. The window glass is all good, with just a little blooming along the edges of the rear screen. The car is fitted with 18” wheels in the proper staggered widths, and it will also come with a set of BMW ‘throwing star’ alloys. A pair of black-and-silver show plates are fitted for our shoot – the everyday number plates are in the boot.
It really is an enormous amount of engine, isn’t it? The M70 5.0-litre V12 is a characterful, sonorous and frankly colossal unit, serving up its deep swells of grunt with effortless ease. It’s perfectly mated to the robust 4-speed auto, and it’s recently been serviced and is in fine fettle. The engine starts on the first twist of the key, idling evenly with the fan cutting in as it should (as you can probably imagine, the fan is similarly huge), and pulling strongly through the revs. The recently-fitted stainless steel exhaust system is a high-quality job – it’s whisper-quiet at a cruise, but if the desire should take you to bury your shoe into that blue carpet, the sound of the V12 through those quad tails is extraordinary – almost race-car-like. The pressure hose assembly has just been replaced (an expensive and involved task), and the car has received new brake discs and pads, two new calipers and a front hub. With all of this done, no mechanical issues are known and it reportedly drives like a dream.
This is one of the most stylish chapters in BMW’s history, and it’s truly impressive how much E31 8 Series you get for your money these days. Look at this 850i: it’s got all the engine you could ever dream of in the form of that jewel-like V12, simultaneously smooth and raucous, cosseting and colossal, playing Jekyll-and-Hyde according to the angle of your ankle. The interior is a wonderful place to be too, swathed in blue splendour and ready to caress you across continents. And then, of course, there’s the class and style of the design: pillarless coupe, pop-up headlights, slinky hips, it’s a symphony of splendid ideas.
There are few certainties in this world, but we’d be willing to bet good money that you wouldn’t regret having a blue-on-blue V12 cruiser in your life.
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