By on July 3, 2015

10 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

When you spend as much time in fast-turnover self-service wrecking yards as I do, you get this lesson over and over: Nothing depreciates like high-end German luxury cars. Once the interior gets a little rough, or the cutting-edge elaborate electrical system gets a bit confused, or the next generation of engine makes an additional 50 horses… well, your big A8 or 7-series or S-class passes through a sequence of increasingly budget-challenged owners, and then there’s another $700 repair needed, and here comes the tow-truck to take it to U-Wrench-It. Mostly I don’t pay much attention to these cars, because the yards are paved with German luxury, but the numbers of discarded V12 E32s peaked about 5 years ago and they’re getting harder to find now. Here’s one that I saw yesterday in a Denver-area yard.
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Because you can get running V12 BMWs for scrap value or less, 24 Hours of LeMons racers have run a few of them. Here’s Speedycop’s 1963 Ford Thunderbird with a 750iL engine (equipped with an extremely janky ammo-can-plenum carburetor conversion).

15 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

How much did this car cost in 1992? Well, the answer is just about as depressing as looking up horsepower figures for Malaise Era Detroit cars: $76,500 MSRP, and a lot more with all the options a proper 7-series owner must have. That’s about $130,000 in inflation-adjusted 2015 bucks.

06 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

V12s are inherently cool. All of us need to start rescuing these engines and swapping them into Edsels and New Yorkers. This one made 296 horsepower, which is 28 more than the 3.5-liter V6 in the ’15 Camry.

14 - 1992 BMW 750iL Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

Yessir, that’s a built-in analog car-phone transceiver in the trunk.

27 men in Munich began a project that became a quest that became a car.

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57 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 BMW 750iL...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    It looks nice there in the junkyard. BMW: The Ultimate Depreciating Machine. The era of German cars having something unique and/or of rare value in the driving experience is long gone. Now they lean to being overpriced, problematic, lease queens for the ‘buy-your-status’ set.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      This was produced right at the end of BWM’s greatness. It was just too complex, running essentially two M20s with their own engine management systems. In 1994, I had the opportunity to sell my 1988 325 for exactly what it would cost me to buy a 1988 750iL I was looking at. I didn’t do it.

    • 0 avatar
      rcx141

      Exactly what I keep saying to my wife but you summed it up a lot better. She wants to replace her 328ix with a X3. I’d sooner get a Ford Explorer.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        The new Explorers actually look really nice on the outside. I don’t know what the hell Ford is doing these days, but it’s getting terribly confusing.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Meh overpriced status lease queens – that’s Range Rover.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      No, this was not something which would have been leased in 1992. It would have been purchased by an executive.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Even in the ’80s, most BMWs were leased. If you are going to buy a new car every few years anyway, it makes perfect sense to lease them.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Really? I didn’t think that was a prestigious thing to do back then, borrowing a car. Especially something this high-spec.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I really don’t understand the attitude towards leasing at TTAC. It is simply a financial instrument. Again, if you are going to buy a new car every few years anyway, and most new BMW buyers then and now are very much in that demographic, then leasing may make sense depending on your financial situation and state laws.

            Those of us who tend to be “keepers” are very much in the minority, especially of buyers in the $40K+ price range. For cars in the $80-100K price range I would bet that many if not most are leased to businesses. But either way, the majority of them are leased, and have been for 30+ years.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There is a strong element of the Puritan here at TTAC. Debt is automatically bad, cash is automatically good, any financial transaction more complicated than exchanging cash for full title to tangible goods is the work of devil banksters. Actual calculations of value are less important than the moral high ground.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I really -did- think leasing was sort of a 90’s invention, starting out in the lower level cars first, and premium marques started doing leasing stuff in the late 90’s.

            I’m not anti-banking blah blah, though I am against incurring more debt and payments than one can afford.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            How old are you?

            Leasing luxury rides is as old as German cars themselves.

            Makes a ton of sense- as this very article shows these cars are worthless out of warranty. That is only worse now with all the electronics.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            For the average person, leasing will probably result in paying too much for a car that was probably out of his or her budget, anyway. The negotiation is also more likely to go against the lessee because of the added complexities of leasing vs. buying.

            There are some exceptions to this, but not many.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @PCH101

            On average, I agree with you – and buying a new car every three years is horrifically expensive no matter how you do it. But most people only care about the monthly payment.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “But most people only care about the monthly payment.”

            Those people get hosed.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Most people get hosed in any large financial transaction. Presumably the joy of a new car makes up for it.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Co worker sold his 2001 Bangle butt 7 series for a new 2012 Aston Martin DBS in 2012. Immaculate garage kept car with 28K on it. Got $15K for it. Unbelievable.

    • 0 avatar
      gasser

      I agree that the value of these cars is like the value of stale bread. They are sold as Luxury Cars to a small slice of the monied class. When they are old and dinged up they really aren’t luxury any more, so they need to compete with other used cars on things like performance, ease of repair, size. Good luck with the repairs. Anything under 4 figures is a bargain. The value of all these cars was undercut by the proliferation of other models from each manufacturer. In the 1970s if you wanted a “Mercedes” and couldn’t afford a new one, you had the choice between a used big one or a small one (?S and 280 series??) Then the 190 arrived and soon it begat the 250/300/GLK/ML/etc. Now you can buy/lease a smaller new “luxury” car, so why bother with a used money pit? This doesn’t even count the BMW and MBZ deserters who now opt for Lexus, Infinit or Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Sounds about right. Look up their problems.

      I go through this cycle probably every 2 months. I hit CL and type in “745i”. Then I get excited and say “wow I can afford this… let me look up some common issues”. And then the flood starts and I am snapped back to reality.

      The biggest issue on those cars is the transmission, but that’s far from the only issue. They are best enjoyed visually.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    These 750s were already dirt cheap 15 years ago. An acquaintance had one. I remember one time he called me to check a service code online (before phones had internet). I don’t remember what his actual code was, but one of the 750-specific codes was “rear ashtray malfunction.”

    The owner’s manual mentioned that your driver should be rested and well-fed.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I love how that V12 basically looked visually unchanged for essentially its entire life. 296HP was actually not bad for 1992 — I mean what was the range of average cars back then, somewhere in the 105-190HP range?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I preferred the E38, but this is a nice car. But yeah, that engine…

    BMW probably could have done themselves some favours by offering the M30 (in this car) or the M52. They’re not stellar, either, but they’re not nearly so terrifying to keep up.

    I’ve always wanted an E38 728iL with a manual. That would be nifty.

    • 0 avatar
      glwillia

      They did offer this car with the M30. Until 1993, your two engine choices were the M30B35 Big Six or the M70B50 (this V12). You could even get the 735i with the manual.

  • avatar
    GS 455

    15 years ago when I was younger and more foolish I succumbed to the siren call of the cheap German flagship and bought an 89 BMW 750iL. It was a magnificent driving car with the best ride and handling balance I’ve ever experienced. An 89 Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac Brougham looked like they were from a different century compared to the 750iL. It was all fun and games until it blew a head gasket. If I’d bought an 89 Town Car it would still be on the road today.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Back in ’96 I answered an ad for a 750iL priced at $10,000. The owner was especially forthright about how much fun he had while driving it, and even went so far as to honestly say it was going for that little because the engine and transmission both needed a rebuild and that was going to be somewhere in the 5-figure range once completed. I thanked him with a polite “Oh, IDFTS” and went on my way.

    BMW took a page from the Rolls Royce book on automobile breakdowns with this model: never transport one of their flagships without first loading it up on a flatbed, then carefully wrap the entire vehicle so noone could definitively say “look, one of those high-buck cars and it’s already being towed!” Unfortunately for the towing crew, they often forgot to cover up the bottom half of the 750iL’s unique wheels, which is why out of my first 5 sightings, 4 of them were being hauled back to the service bay.

    I later read the most common problem with early 750iLs was the lock cylinder de-icing system; an interesting idea now obviated by modern keyless entry systems.

    The Littleton yard? What a tragedy; I remember what that place was like before its high-turnover transformation and you could stumble across some seriously fun stuff there. I’m still forbidden to reveal how little I paid for a pair of near new A8 seats for my project – but the car they came from was totalled out by the insurance company even though it suffered almost no damage.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    This is what makes old Lexus LS and GS such incredible bargains, all the luxury with Toyota reliabilty at a depreciated price. As for 7-series, I’d still like to own an older V8 base-model without any air suspension or other not-ready-for-production options. And V12s, I’d love to see them get put into old Caddies and Lincolns, that would be cool.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      ^^ This. The V8 and I6 models are still quite well loved in the UK. German luxobarges have the same image baggage and depreciate just as heavily over here as they do in the US, but there is a perceived wisdom that the older generation of German barges like the E32 7-series and W140 S-class are just about manageable to maintain cheaply if you’ve got the skills and equipment (or a trusted mechanic who specialises in these cars). There are even a few manual transmission cars alive and running on this side of the Atlantic.

      Anything newer like the E38 7-series or W220 S-class is too much hassle. Too many computers, troublesome air suspension, rusty fuel tanks on the E38, rust all over the whole body on the W220.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      @Lightspeed, I like the way you think. :)

  • avatar
    skor

    “your big A8 or 7-series or S-class passes through a sequence of increasingly budget-challenged owners, and then there’s another $700 repair needed, and here comes the tow-truck to take it to U-Wrench-It.”

    Yup. I had a chance to buy one of these from my supervisor a few years ago. Nice body, nice interior, low miles, engine needed work. He was asking $1,500. I checked the cost of parts, and surfed a BMW enthusiast forum for an hour or so, and politely declined.

  • avatar

    Speaking of German sportiness (though 300hp for a v12 is hardly so). I just found a Porsche 924 at the junkyard the other day (can be seen clicking my name) – while thats the entry model, I’m surprised it made it there.
    I’ve always heard these high end BMWs were expensive to maintain. Which is why I always passed when looking at cars on Craigslist. It seems tempting… but even if I do the work myself – which I do – the parts will be rather pricey!

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I had a look at your blog.

      Regarding that Impala with the bees sign, my first local wreckers foray included spotting an E34 with this message splattered all over it: CAUTION SYRINGES.

      Needless to say, the car was untouched. Not even the wheels.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Do you see many Lexus LS models from that time period in salvage yards?

    • 0 avatar
      Bee

      Here in Los Angeles there are some of the highest turnover yards and the 90-94 LS400 is extremely common, along with the early pre-facelift SC300/400. Up until a year or two ago the 95-97 LS was still worth enough to keep a poor example on the road, but they have started to show up in consistent numbers. Of course there are tons of Germans, mostly late 90’s Audis and 80s/90s Mercedes/BMW.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The interior is pretty stripped but the engine untouched, somebody’s keeping E32s on the road (probably 730s).

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I’m surprised nobody has posted this yet:
    http://my750.com/introduction.htm

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Although I don’t doubt the poor value proposition of a modern high end BMW, I’m not sure that the decade-old complaints of a guy who bought a 7 year-old 750iL in 1996, unhappy that BMW won’t pay for his repairs, are going to drive the point home.

      • 0 avatar
        PeriSoft

        What the heck is wrong with that dude?! You’ve got to be beyond delusional to think that a car company has some kind of obligation to maintain every car it sells ad infinitum regardless of who owns them…

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    It doesn’t bother me when I see a dead Audi, Lexus or BMW but I was quite disturbed when I spotted a pearl-white W220 Mercedes S-Class in a truckload of crushed cars during my 7 AM commute to work.

    Its fate had to be a wreck or, more likely, an owner that had no finances, know-how or motivation to maintain it, in that order.

    I have a suspicion that I’ll suddenly start seeing tons of newer Audis sandwiched in these truckloads. They’ve depreciated a whole lot to the point that high school and college kids with enough diligence to sock some money away from a summer job are buying them. And we all know after buying rubber-band tires, rims, turbos and what have you that a lot of them seem to have will leave nothing for maintenance and the expensive repairs that will be required.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    If you think the output from this BMW V12 is sad, look at an 80s Jaguar XJ-S!

    Also, I thought the 850 made a little more than that…at least over 300.

  • avatar
    banerjba

    It always saddens me to see a fine car like this in the junk yard. In Canada, these high end rwd sedans were rare and were staggeringly expensive new. This car, when new, represented a lot of success and hard work for whoever bought it and now it is worthless. These were over C$100K fully loaded – you could buy a very decent small house in a number of communities within a 90 minute drive of Toronto for that kind of money.

    And of this vintage, the BMW was really the car to get. The MB S Class had gotten bloated and the big Audis were not really widely available yet. So it was this, the mighty Lexus LS400 or the sleek last gen Acura Legend. No one really bought the very capable but oddly styled Infiniti Q.

    The 7 series after this was even better looking and the last really sleek full sized BMW. The bloated Bangle butt versions and the new technology laden ones I think miss the magic of these beautiful older cars, at least to me.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The V12 7-Series and the S-class (S600) were a cut above the LS400 and the unpopular Q45 (didn’t even offer V12), and two or three cuts above the Legend (didn’t even offer a V8). You really can’t compare those.

      The ’92 W140 S-Class was a marvel in technological innovation, and it was -supposed- to be gigantic. The S-Class was the car to “get.” Still is.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Had a 1998 Tupac Shakur model I bought in 2005 for $12k (down from $98k new, as I recall). Those were boom years so there was no call for slightly over the hill luxury cars. Also, the market was pressured by very aggressive leasing campaigns by the Japanese.

    That V12 (327 hp by then), was nothing to sneeze at. I loved it.

    I remember giving my kid a passing lesson while following a semi going maybe 50 mph on a two-lane road: Me: (in my best Dad voice) ” Now check your mirror, signal, then briskly accelerate past the truck”

    We cleared the front bumper at about 100mph.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    JB’s article deserves a repost here. Sums up why so many German luxobarges end up in the junkyard (or exported to Russia/wherever).

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/no-fixed-abode-gotta-rich-cheap-car/

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