If you grew up on Hardy Boys novels like myself, you may remember Chet and his ‘old jalopy’ that would occasionally cough, smoke, wheeze, and rattle its way into the crime-solving duo’s stories. This was my introduction as a child to the idea that you could so comfortably rely on something so obviously dilapidated and old that it becomes a part of your identity. The jalopy spurned a lifelong love affair with broken and aging cars that I don’t foresee ending in the immediate future. I am clearly not the only one who prefers something with more ‘character’ to drive around, as my subject of scrutiny today is Zach’s 1993 BMW E32 740i.
The E32 was introduced in 1987 as the second 7-series and the successor to the E23. Technically, for you BMW nerds, the E32 is the third 7-series if you count the old Bavaria. The E3 Bavaria eventually split to become both the 5 and 7-series after it ceased production in 1977. This example is one of the later model E32s, and at a spritely 25 years old, it is barely beginning to show its age.
The E32s were offered with a 3.0 liter straight six, BMW’s first ever production V8 in 3.0 and 4.0-liter versions, and the top-of-the-line 5.0 liter V12 for which the model is most widely known. Anyone familiar with BMW M7x 12-cylinder engines knows why they are both fantastic marvels of engineering and also most undesirable as the power source for your beater BMW. Since Zach has plans to use this fine example of German luxury as his winter daily, the smart move was the 740i with the M60 4.0 liter V8.
Speaking of the engine, this one is 211,000 miles young and still provides eye-widening acceleration when you put your foot to the floor. The beauty of this car is that it produces (or did when it was new) close to 290 hp, yet it does so with a quiet dignity. It seems to say ‘oh alright if you insist’ and then takes off in a manner most surprising of a quarter-century old road boat. While it does burn oil (quite dramatically) and suffers from a ‘DIY transmission service’ that makes shifting gears a coin flip, it does not feel like it is in the throes of death. It does feel like it might consider the idea of death, though.
The fun surrounding cars like this is the duality of the whole purchase. You are sitting in something that is still a luxury car, by definition. One that demanded eye-watering retail prices when it was new thanks to its mile-long equipment list and over-engineered solutions to problems that didn’t exist. These cars were opportunities for the designers and engineers to build something without limits; something they knew did not have to be accessible to the vast majority of the population. The E32 is still a one-percenter’s car, but it now costs less than your average Mercedes-Benz oil change. This is champagne priced like beer. It may be a little flat and the bottle might be dusty, but hey, who can argue with that?
I spent an afternoon with Zach’s car and tried my best to get a feel for what it would be like to drive this car daily. Here at ECS, we love old BMWs and jump at any chance we have to drive them. This one was yet another excuse to get behind the wheel of my favorite marquee, so I happily agreed. Old BMWs, no matter the condition, all fall into about the same category: fun but exhausting. You find yourself instantly having fun in the driver’s seat, benefit from a few moments of excitement, and then the car is broken in some catastrophic way that demands a full rebuild. This one, an unrestored example that has been a daily driver for its whole life, is no different. Nothing could spoil the fun of driving, though, even a catastrophic failure. Who cares if there are squeaks, rattles, and the smell of trans fluid? The fact is, owning and driving something like this E32 makes life, and your commutes, entertaining.
For those commutes, the E32 offered the pinnacle of comfort in its day. When it was new, the interior was a comfortable sitting room of leather with individual climate and stereo controls for passengers. Now it is still that, but the standards of luxury have definitely shifted. It takes a special kind of person (one as stupid as myself) to get into a car and not think ‘what, no seat massagers, autopilot, and apple car play?’ If you have read this far, you probably share my sentiments that cars are meant for driving and enjoying. All the technology, gadgetry, auto-functions, and ‘convenience’ features found in even the most basic commuter cars these days kill the experience. This car is an example of the most luxury you can imbue upon what is essentially still a driving enthusiast’s car.
Back to the fun of an old car, this one displays qualities every beater should have: it runs despite myriad mechanical problems, always requires work, puts a smile on your face when you drive it, and gives you a carefree feeling that comes from not worrying about the car staying perfect. The last fact is the most important since that is the point of a beater. You want something that you don’t have to worry where you park it or wouldn’t shed tears over should a rival mobster decide to redecorate it with explosive devices. The E32, at the price equivalent of a second-hand iPhone, gives you all of that and more.
Stylish dignity, refined power, excessive amounts of blow-by, and a finicky transmission make this E32 7-series nearly the perfect daily driver and old jalopy beater. Though it is extremely obvious that the car is 25 years old, it still feels like something you want to drive. There are plenty of sacrifices driving old broken cars forces you to make, but at the end of the day, getting where you are going in an old luxury car with tons of character is much more exciting than driving something new that always makes it to the destination. We love old cars to the point that many would consider us masochists for what we are forced to endure in owning them, but their disapproval will never outweigh the fun to be had with something that has a soul and a carefree attitude. Stay tuned to see more about this car and some other beaters in an upcoming series we have yet to announce! You can see it all right here at ECS Tuning.