1985 BMW 735i 5-speed: Be The Manager

This will not turn into a Mercedes-Benz versus BMW war. This is not some point/counterpoint concerning which large German sedan from the 1980s is a better – or worse – idea. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest with my blog mate over the fact that W126 Benzes will always be tubby cars best suited for extremely large German banker managers. Or, in the case of the 280SE, assistant bank managers.

I submit that if you want a large but fun German sedan from three decades back, why not go straight to the source? The well, if you will, that gave us the BMW 7 Series.

1985 was the last year of the row-your-own 5-speed 735i (E23 chassis) in the US market, and I’ve had a crush on them for a long time. My uncle bought one new, and my cousin took me for an e-ticket ride through the woods of Easton, CT in it. It didn’t handle like it weighed almost two tons. It felt small and relatively nimble, which was weird, even to a 12-year-old in the passenger seat. Several years later, when I first got behind the steering wheel of a BMW (a 1984 325e), the driving experience in my mind was very much the same.

Lately I’ve been perusing online classifieds looking for some version of a 5-speed E23 7er. Which brings me nicely to this, a 1985 735i, a hotrod of sorts.

I love most everything about this car. It has a great stance without being dropped to the deck, courtesy of suspension modifications whose parts wear the correct names. The BBS RC wheels look fantastic. With the E.A.T. computer chip, M5 clutch, and limited-slip differential it probably goes just like it looks.

Any BMW from the 80s looks so much better without the humongous aluminum bumpers. While the spoiler doesn’t do a lot for me, I do appreciate how they resprayed the car in the original Bronzit beige, a color that can be very nice when it isn’t sunburned and cracked. I’m a little surprised the seller didn’t go for the full-Euro look and replace the US-size headlights with the great looking and effective big-n-littles.

Everything in the interior looks quite clean, including the door panels, wood trim and dashboard. The seats and steering wheel are downright terrible, but those are easy fixes. The seller doesn’t mention if the heating and air conditioning system works. That’s important, because troubleshooting and repairing the byzantine system of vacuum hoses and dashpots, not to mention the control boards and thumbwheels, is a job best left to retired NASA engineers.

I’m all about this car. The seller has already dropped the price once. Maybe you could get this classy retro bahnstormer for something closer to the $6000 the Benz seller is asking. Why be the assistant when you can be the manager?

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5 responses to “1985 BMW 735i 5-speed: Be The Manager

  • Elan Bush

    Nice stuff. And that really is a beautiful, comfortable and fun car. But as I recall, the one I took you for a drive in was in 1980. Much like my current car, it was a way more capable machine than I was a driver.

  • Jonathan Bush

    Jerry’s 528i may have been a 1980. The 735i was a 1985.

  • Reed Hitchcock

    Jane, you ignorant slut.

    Actually, I loved my E23 5-speed. Very different experience than a W126, and admittedly they appeal to different audiences. That said, the Benz will last longer – or better. Every time.

  • Nick

    Fresh 735! I like that a lot of BMWs of this generation had the centered twin exhaust pipes.

  • Damien A M

    Got a 735i in 1997 car yard $999- bargain fading bonnet& boot in gold Boss bought it 4 me it was a euro model when undercovers were following at night i could change the shape of the brake lights on display to half there bye they couldent figure which was the car they were following + i could lean on it and it and it was gone even behind the tv stations between dienella&mirrabooka thru the S.ses give it the scandenavian flick on each corner my girl thought i was a rally exponent car made me look good loved that car & comfort + bargain &” CHEAP “

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