Rare Rides: The Incredibly Rare 1981 BMW 735i Touring

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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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.

  • Clay Toyota Land Cruiser FJ60 had manual choke through 1987.Also, just started daily driving my 1992 Volvo 240 that I picked up in September and brought back to the road. Some fresh studded tires + RWD, bring on the snow!! Old Volvos make me smile
  • Lou_BC My son already has a Scout EV. Well, okay, RC....
  • The Oracle I was in WNY when this went down and it is likely a medical issue and/or some type of rolling domestic. That car was flat out with air bags deployed before it even left the ground. It was a spectacular wreck. The couple made a 7-minute stop at the Seneca Niagara Casino before the fiery launch, and something went terribly wrong in those 7 minutes.
  • Lorenzo A union in itself doesn't mean failure, collective bargaining would mean failure.
  • Ajla Why did pedestrian fatalities hit their nadir in 2009 and overall road fatalities hit their lowest since 1949 in 2011? Sedans were more popular back then but a lot of 300hp trucks and SUVs were on the road starting around 2000. And the sedans weren't getting smaller and slower either. The correlation between the the size and power of the fleet with more road deaths seems to be a more recent occurrence.