A Good E32 Is Hard To Find: 1992 BMW 735i
When I started looking for an alternative to my beleaguered and disappointing '08 Civic Coupe, I originally wanted an E32. I relished the idea of trading a flimsy late 2000s Japanese econony car for a bank vault-like 80s/90s German sedan. What I didn't realize was how few E32 there are left in reasonable condition, especially in New England (where I currently reside). It's basically impossible. And when I did stumble on a clean example, the seller wanted absurd top dollar.
Not that I entirely blame them. The 1988-1994 E32 remains a high point in BMW history. True, it marked a shift towards the "Lexusization" of the brand, when it grew in size and weight from its predecessor the E23 and abandoned manual transmissions. But it was also before the overly complex E38. The E32, then, is the best of both words: contemporary size and space and operable on a manageable budget.
The most desirable E32, in my opinion, are the early 6-cylinder versions which BMW stopped offering in 1992 and replaced with the infamous Nikasil-plagued V8. Sure, you'll get more power with the V8, but worse fuel economy and the possibility it could die at any time (slight exaggeration but still). The 6-cylinder is no drag racer, but it will get the job done and last you a long time.
The exterior styling by Ercole Spada working under Clause Luthe is another highlight. It is an absolute masterpiece, a sculptural icon of the late 20th century, combining industrial form over function, classic BMW cues, and slight art deco-esque flair. The L-shaped taillights, where the trunk lid seemingly cuts into the taillight form to emphasize closure, have been copied many times by dozens of manufacturers. Spada and Luthe took everything that was good about previous BMW designs and leaped into the future, but kept a firm hand on tradition. How they were able to do this balancing act is still a mystery to me, especially as designers are utterly failing to do so today.
Inside is one of BMW's best interiors. The instrument cluster consists of crystal clear white-on-black gauges that illuminate red at night. It's also got a nifty analog fuel economy gauge tucked under the tachometer, a remnant from the fuel crises of the 1970s when consumers and automakers alike paid special attention to thrift and conservation. The center console is a stack of rectangular boxes angled towards the driver for ease of reach. And everything tactile is black to deflect from stains and wear.
This particular survivor is looking unusually clean and crisp in rare light metallic pale blue over tan leather. The seller says this is a one-owner car that was given up due to health issues, and has a 144,200 miles on the clock. They also say it has the premium and cold weather packages, but make no mention of the mechanical status of the vehicle. I'd give it a rigorous test drive and ask for any and all maintenance records. Since it's located in Colorado and wearing Colorado plates, I'd also check for rust. The mileage is high, but this could easily hit 200k without any major problems if it's well cared for. You're getting a solid, stylish, and comfortable cruiser for under $5k. Not bad.
Available on the dealer's site here in Greenwood Village, Colorado for just $2,500.