1985 BMW 745i: When an S-Class is Just Too Milquetoast
We’ve talked before about how Jonathan is more the BMW guy here at TTS and Mercedes-Benzes are more my thing. While that is certainly true both by the sheer numbers of the respective brands we have each owned over the years, as well as our pedantic knowledge of them, it’s not an absolute. He has had a couple of Mercs in his fleet over the years, and I have indeed periodically dipped my big toe in Bavarian waters – to varying degrees of success.
In my personal BMW fleet have been a couple of E28 5-series, a few E3 sedans, a couple of E30 convertibles, a couple of manual transmission E39s, and my favorite: an E23 7-series. In my case it was a 1984 733i with a 5-speed. Mine was blue on Natur leather, but I share this picture of a good friend’s Canadian version because I absolutely covet this low mileage, Delphin Grey on Cardinal Red 733i stick with heated seats, but he won’t sell it to me (yet…) so I have to peruse the internet for other cars. I found this 61,000 mile 745i here on Craigslist in Kirkland, Washington with an asking price of $22,000.
While you may think that’s a lofty price for an old, tubby BMW, in the world of E23 7ers, the 745i is by far the most exclusive, and in this era of BaT+Gen Xers with money, the rules have changed. With just 16,168 produced, the 745i represented on 5.6% of total E23 production. Despite having a 3.2 or 3.4 liter 6-cylinder motor (depending on year), the 745i was thusly named considering that with its turbocharger output was more in line with an engine approximating 4.5 liters. To compare apples with apples, a European-spec 1985 735i was good for 215hp and 229 lb-ft of torque, while the 1985 745i (they were ALL Euro-spec) delivered a remarkable 249hp and 282 lb-ft of torque, all thanks to the magic of forced induction.
745is came very nicely equipped from the factory as standard, with just a few options such as reclining rear seat, heated seats, rear remote radio control, integrated phone, and buffalo leather upholstery. This car does have the rear radio controls and the buffalo leather, which can be identified by the brown variegated color and unique perforations. Buffalo leather is fabulous when it’s in good shape, but needs to be cared for just like any other leather. It’s thick and wears well, but I’ve seen a lot of dried out, torn up buffalo hide over the years. Thankfully, in this car the upholstery appears commensurate with the low mileage. It doesn’t appear to have the heated or reclining seats or the telephone – which wouldn’t work anymore, anyway!
Transmission options for the 745i were automatic or automatic: 3-speed for 1980-1982 and 4-speed for 1983-1986 – meaning this car has the ZF 4HP22 4-speed automatic with switchable modes. These transmissions are not 2023 smooth, but they work okay and if you’re like me and prefer a manual but don’t mind rowing automatics through their gears, they can be good fun. They do need maintenance, and will require rebuilds at some point, but I’d wager this one has a fair amount of life left before that happens.
To further illustrate the point, this example has had steady, long-term ownership that is well documented, and recent service including the “it’s gonna need it eventually” brake accumulator, thermostat and water pump, fan clutch, brakes, and even a rebuild of the self-leveling rear suspension system. It comes with factory documentation, multiple keys, and even factory microfiche – which is great if your 1980s museum has a microfiche machine.
The E23 was originally conceived as a competitor to the Mercedes-Benz W116 S-Class, and still held its own against the slick W126 that was released in 1980 – four years after the E23. To me, BMW has always been the cooler yet troubled younger brother to Mercedes. Billy to Mercedes’ Jimmy Carter, Roger to Mercedes’ Bill Clinton. He’s probably a lot more fun at a party, will likely get you into trouble, and will ask you for bail money at some point. That’s this car, in its day, in a nutshell: it’s capable of super-legal speeds – more than enough to land you in the pokey – handles well especially given its size, and represents one of the first true German Q-ship sports sedans. I wish it was the color scheme of my friend’s car above, but this combination works pretty well. Shame about the side marker lights, but that just shows it was Federalized back in the day. The little bumpers are fantastic, and I’d be perfectly happy to drive this on the next Turtle Rally or just about anyplace else. A lot of money? Sure. Show me another one as good for sale right now. Bet it gets more than that on BaT or any of the other big online auctions….
“The heavy doors shut like a safe, something you don’t find on cars these days”.
I sort of just want to rent it for an hour so I can take a nap listening to the tick-tick of the mechanical clock….
I know that sound!!!