Rare Rides: The Incredibly Rare 1981 BMW 735i Touring

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the incredibly rare 1981 bmw 735i touring

Today’s Rare Ride is one of just a handful of custom-built 7 Series wagons, created by a coachbuilder who wanted flagship BMW luxury with additional cargo carrying capabilities.

Come along as we check out this large BMW wagon.

The E23 7 Series was the first of its name when it replaced the smaller “New Six” E3 for the 1978 model year. Compared to its predecessor the E23 took a much more modern form; one which remains instantly recognizable as a BMW to this day. Its design was developed by then-director of design Paul Bracq, a man who shaped many BMW and Mercedes-Benz sedans over the years.

Long before the long-wheelbase and V12 era, BMW made do with a selection of inline-six engines. In the 7 Series, they ranged in displacement from 2.5 to 3.2 liters in naturally aspirated guise, and 3.2 to 3.4 liters if turbocharged. Base models with smaller engines had carburetors through the late Seventies and were later available only to government agencies or by special order. Transmissions on offer included three- and four-speed automatics, as well as four- and five-speed manuals. The E23 was the first BMW to implement Bosch Motronic fuel injection, ABS, and to be offered with an airbag (1985).

In the United States, being the luxurious and discerning place it was, only higher-end 7 Series cars were imported. Models in the US were limited to the 733, 735, and the ultimate L7 fully-loaded model. Complying with regulation meant US-bound 7 Series cars had different sealed beam headlamps, big bumpers, and lower engine compression ratios than their European brethren.

Up until the late Seventies, German manufacturers hadn’t bothered to create large family wagons, as that was not their vibe. The disinterest opened up a small market for coachbuilders to modify sedans into wagons for the well-heeled, which is where today’s 7 Series comes along. The sedan you see here was transformed into a luxury wagon by a company called Euler, which spent most of its time creating different versions of the early 7 Series.

Turning the sedan into a wagon required a completely reworked rear end. In addition to its unique hatch, rear doors were redesigned to be larger and more upright and lost their Hoffmeister kink. Lots of rear glass matched well with the new squared-off cargo area, which was lined in luxurious parchment colored carpet. The exterior utility look was completed with some roof rails straight off a contemporary Mercedes-Benz wagon. It also sported an Alpina front bumper for a more aggressive stance.

Euler made only a few of its special 7 Series wagons, eventually giving up the ghost as the OEMs themselves offered larger wagon options for consumers (albeit not a 7 Series). The E23 remained in production through 1986 before it was replaced by the E32, a generation with which you all are undoubtedly much more familiar.

Today’s Rare Ride has quite a history. It was imported to the US shortly after its creation and was federalized thereafter. At some point, it was put in storage where its condition degraded generally. Languishing and with its value much depleted, it was subject to an estate sale in 2010. At that point, it migrated back to its homeland with its new owner and was refreshed and generally restored within the last few years. It’s now for sale in Switzerland for $136,000.

H/t to Jay Ramey at Autoweek, who drove and profile this BMW in 2016.

[Images: seller]

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4 of 34 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 18, 2020

    4th picture, center console: Q: How much real space can we take up with just an e-brake lever and A/T shift selector? A: *This* much.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Dec 19, 2020

      Seems an oversight the tunnel in the middle for the brake isn't padded, and had no arm rest.

  • DenverMike DenverMike on Dec 19, 2020

    Really? Crank windows? If you said this was a '71, that seems about right. Milking the old carcasses became he shtick of German carmakers. Yeah I know. If you have to explain, I wouldn't understand.

    • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Dec 20, 2020

      Probably doesn't have A/C either. Frugal Swiss looking to save a Franc on their custom BMW wagons.

  • Arthur Dailey Is most of your driving in stop and go urban traffic?Do you have kids, who you have to drive to and from their activities? Sometimes with their friends/teammates.Do you have pets? Do you have some mobility issues?Can you perform maintenance yourself?Do you have a discretionary fund for unforeseen repairs?Do you have another car, so that you only need to use this on weekends or rural/highway trips?Check your answers to the above. They may tell you that as nice as this car is, you might be better off with a new, boring but more practical SUV.
  • DungBeetle62 Before everyone dumps on California and their tax structure and Gavin's hairstyle, my recent road trip (which didn't get to California) was as follows when tanking up Super Unleaded.Texas - Fort Worth area Costco : $3.36Texas - Amarillo Sam's - $3.46New Mexico - Albuquerque Costco - $3.75Arizona - Flagstaff Sam's - $4.25Nevada - Henderson Costco- $4.72Oil is oil is oil is oil. State taxes vary, transporting the refined product varies, but a friggin BUCK AND A HALF more a gallon (and we're talking Costco to Costco here) ain't passing the smell test as you get out west. No, count me in with thinking someone out west is going for a bigger bite of the apple and figuring people will blame Newsom.
  • Tassos Whoever pays $23,000 for this 15 year old unreliable car will regret it. I would not pay half that.Go get an excellent E55 AMG, also 2008, and pretty close HP-wise, with far higher Torque, and a proper luxury interior..
  • VoGhost Why would anyone want to save a car dealer? No really - what actual value do they provide?
  • FreedMike Really nice example, but these are LEGENDARY for being money pits.