The Paul Bracq designed E23 generation BMW 7-series was released in 1977, right in the middle of the malaise era, but it was far from a floating slow boat that induced thoughts of suicide, particularly with a manual gearbox. Domestic cars might have offered luxury in the form of a vinyl top or total isolation from the road, but the German version of luxury involved a properly fast ride with a manual gearbox, taught suspension, and rear-wheel-drive. The only thing you couldn’t get in a late 70s/early 80s BMW was a beverage holder for your giant American big-gulp. Life is full of compromises, I guess. Find this 1985 BMW 735i E23 offered for $4500 in San Rafael, CA via craigslist.
This next car is a real unicorn and is probably the last chance to drive a manual gearbox wagon if you believe all the Voltswagon hype these days. Electric SUVs and dual-clutch-17 speed transmissions might be the future, but BMW sent the 5-series wagon off with a bang with the E61 generation (2003-2010). They put the twin turbocharged N54 inline-6 attached to a 6-speed manual and sold a car that was a few turbocharger upgrades away from being as fast as the European M5 wagon. The only thing they forgot to include was a set of rear facing jump seats. Find this 2010 BMW 535i XDrive offered for $11,000 in Dover, MA via craigslist.
This next car is close enough from a cosmetic and performance perspective that only you’ll know it isn’t an M5. It was born from the factory as a 525i, but someone put an S52 from a 1999 M3 under the hood, big (but not too big) wheels and some valence/bumper pieces to make it more M5ish. The end result is a car that’ll be only a skosh slower than a real M5. And maybe with the lighter M3 engine/gearbox, it might hang with an original S38 equipped true M5, but it will certainly be cheaper to maintain and insure. This isn’t like a $50 Faux-Rolex, this is more like a $500 Faux-Rolex. Is that so bad? Find this 1995 BMW M5 Clone offered for $13,995 in Phoenix, AZ via eBay.
The E81/E82/E87/E88 BMW 1-series was introduced for the 2005 model year as an entry level BMW to slot under the then current 3-series, but it was really a replacement for the outgoing E46 (1998-2006) generation 3-series, since the E90 (2005-2013) was such a big car (closer in size to an old 80s E28 5-series). Naturally BMW fudged with the model nomenclature and replaced it with the F22 2-series in 2014, but for a short few years, if you wanted that compact sport-executive experience that only a BMW 3-series can provide, you got a 1-series. Find this 2009 BMW 135i E82 offered for $15,000 in Chicago, IL via craiglsist. Tip from Michael.
James Bond (played by a young Pierce Brosnan, the second of his four Bond films) drove an E38 generation (1995-2001) 7-series that had a nifty remote cell-phone controlled driving apparatus, something that was Hollywood imagineering in 1997, but the car was actually controlled by a rear seat mounted steering wheel and a prone hidden stunt driver. That was a cool 7-series, but it didn’t have a manual gearbox or a supercharger like this next beast. Find this 1997 BMW 740iL offered for $18,500 in Tulsa, OK via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!
BMW’s experimentation in the economy car market started long before they acquired the Mini brand — in fact, it started with the Isetta minicar and later moved to rear-engine aircooled BMW 600 and 700 models. This next 700 saloon looks strangely similar to a Glas Isar/Goggomobil T700, but this was before BMW’s acquisition of Hans Glas GmbH and purely coincidence. Find this 1960 BMW 700 with VW engine offered for $10,000 in San Diego, CA via craigslist.
This next car is an interesting piece of technology — it came from the factory with a M57Y twin-turbo diesel engine that pushed 265 horsepower and 425 ft-lbs of torque through a SCR system and who knowns what kind of diesel particulate filter. The result was a clean diesel that pulled like a truck, but todays example has had all of that backpressure increasing stuff removed and pushes over 300 horsepower and 500 ft-lbs of coal rolling black death into the air. Find this 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d offered for $6600 in Rutland, VT via craigslist. Tip from Cory.
I hate to be the crazy guy who shouts things up at your window from the street..again…but here I am. And I’ve got two important things to say. First is, if you want a BMW 2002, get one now before they become stupidly expensive and the second is that somebody should start making high-end modified 2002s in the same way that Icon restores Broncos or Singer restores 911s. Oh. Wait, I think I just figured it out. If builders start making $150k restomod 2002s, then the $5k rust buckets will become $20k rust buckets like 911s or vintage Broncos. Forget I ever said this. I was never here. Find this 1974 BMW 2002 offered for $14,500 in Upland, CA via craigslist.
The BMW 318Ti was launched in 1994 and has the dubious honor of being the first hatchback offered from BMW since the 2002 Touring was canceled in 1974. The E36/5 318Ti is interesting because it uses the previous generation (E30) semi-trailing arm rear suspension and a 1.8 liter 4-banger for the ultimate in “sport compact” […]
I hate to do this to you guys, because this next car is ugly. Real ugly. Uglier than a monkey’s armpit. Uglier than a Kardashian without a corset. Uglier than a mud fence. Uglier than a Bangle butt on a Bugatti. Uglier than a LeCar. U…G…L…Y, you ain’t got no alibi. Feel out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down to the ugly pit. Uglier than a shaved ape in a Birkenstocks. Ugg. Beauty may be skin deep, but ugly is to the bones…this car is bound for the crusher or nearest 24 Hours of LeMons racetrack, you decide. Find this 1989 BMW E34 540i 6-Speed offered for $500 in Glen Burnie, MD via craigslist. Tip from Cory.