From a young age, the 1970’s captured my imagination and heavily influenced my life through the music, aesthetic styles, and most importantly, the cars from the era. The Grateful Dead was an iconic band from the decade that resonated heavily with countless followers, myself included, as they embodied the musical taste of the ten years that followed Woodstock. Their music inspired a generation and in 1977 they released Terrapin Station, which is still one of my favorite albums today. The record feels distinctly like an identifying piece of that decade and represents the split personality of the culture at the time. BMW in the 70’s shared the same identity crisis. The result was the E23, the first 7-Series, which held true to their sporty roots but was aimed exclusively at the upper-class customers to be the pinnacle of luxury. Today, like the Grateful Dead, these cars are appreciated by die-hard enthusiasts with a penchant for the quirky, unique, and quite blatantly retro style. That is just what Monaco Auto Collection, the owners of this beautiful E23 730i European import, wanted when they brought the car from Germany in February of this past year.
With only 103,000 kilometers on the dash, this E23 is more than just a special model that BMW introduced to the elite motoring world as a luxury saloon. This car is a time capsule that encases the spirit of the decade. The green velour seats cushion its passengers and transport them to an interior that could easily be an executive’s sitting room outside his New York top-floor office suite. Their comforting embrace reminds its occupants of the couch their grandmother refused to sell, the one that left the biggest imprints on your face if you fell asleep on it after a relaxed Sunday lunch. Even the oddly U-shaped headrests are tailored to the idea of comfort in the 1970’s, which is to say, effective at cradling your head and not necessarily protecting it from any whiplash.
Moving through the rest of the interior, the E23 introduced several creature comforts that have since become commonplace, but in 1978 they were the ultimate standard of luxury for the brand. This BMW has powered mirrors, but it was clearly purchased by its original owner to fall more to the side of driving pleasure, not to lose himself in a world of extreme poshness. The manual crank sunroof and windows, manual seats, and buttery-smooth four-speed manual transmission hint that the first driver of this car cared about the driving experience as well as the fashion trends that were only acceptable in the 1970’s. This car is easily at home rowing through the gears on the back roads thanks to the minimalist equipment and tech, but still carries its occupants in plush comfort surrounded by real wood trim, green leather, and more velour than Zap Brannigan’s wardrobe.
When you step out of the car and turn to look once more at its striking green body, the lines, and distinctive Hofmeister-Knick are just as 1970’s as the interior. Still, the car’s appearance is somehow timeless and modern. When BMW built this car, they hoped to produce something that was future-minded in both features and appearance. Today, something about the car feels like Wes Anderson’s interpretation of a contemporary style with vintage inspiration. It looks completely at home anywhere, while still being something so eye-catching you can’t help but stare in amazement and wonder how a time existed when these cars were on the road regularly.
Everything about the car feels classic, but also modern and functional. It has all the features you would need; windows, a sunroof, a straight-six with enough power, relatively convenient equipment, and a spacious interior. The car is not the same land yacht that its descendants became thanks to the culture in which it was born, as it more closely resembles the feel and usability of a late-model sports sedan. In this condition, the car feels as usable as a boring family hauler but boasts the attitude of someone you would expect to listen exclusively to Mumford and Sons. Mustache wax and a tweed jacket should be included with the purchase of this E23.
The car has been fitted, appropriately so, with Ground Control coilovers and BBS Style 5 wheels sourced from EWheelWorks.us that show off their polished finish well in contrast with the metallic green exterior. The perfect fitment, a more recent stylistic trend in European vintage cars, offers a touch of modernity to the overall stance of the car, while it remains inspired by the original wheel designs the late 70’s brought to motorsports. Aside from those recent additions, the car is completely stock and has only received a new diagnostic check panel to replace the original faulty unit. This feature, the ability to monitor select vehicle functions, was the first time BMW introduced the technology that would come to define BMW ownership and inspire the iDrive systems we see today.
While the entirety of this E23’s features are definitively mechanical, nothing about the driving experience feels overly analog. It does feel connected and driver-centric, but at no time during the short jaunt did I think anything was dated or irrelevant. This BMW is still completely usable, even something you could daily drive, without making any sacrifices. No, it doesn’t have predictive steering, blind spot monitors, hand warmers, an espresso machine, and it definitely will not read the news to you while you sit and stare blankly out of the self-driving cabin, but it does award occupants with a pleasurable drive that completely stands out in regular commuter traffic.
BMW’s timeless design is proven here in 2018 with the fashionably boxy E23 730i and its harsh angles juxtaposed against an understated overall appearance. The color scheme, a combination that has recently returned in-vogue, inspires a new generation of enthusiasts with a taste for decades about which they have only read. The fact that a stuffy German company could produce something so brash and aim it at the financial elite still boggles my mind. It is now something the rest of us can appreciate since it has survived through time and become available and affordable to many. The enthusiasts who are only just beginning their journey towards a lifelong love of vintage cars could do worse than find inspiration in this E23. This car, like the Dead and Company who includes new musicians alongside original members, plays all the hits with the nostalgia we want and the freshness we need to remain enthralled by something now over forty years old.
We would like to say a special thank you to Monaco Auto Collection for providing this pristine example of the BMW E23 730i for us to enjoy. Monaco specializes in sourcing and selling unique, rare, and specific cars from all around the world, and would be happy to help you find your own time capsule or extension of your personality. Monaco Auto Collection is located in Wadsworth, Ohio and their website and inventory can be found here: