Rare Rides: The Singular 2000 BMW L7, by Karl Lagerfeld
Today’s Rare Ride is a one-off bespoke build of an already very limited-run car. A 2000 7-Series BMW was not enough for one Mr. Lagerfeld, so he sat down with BMW Individual to work his car into something very special.
The result was intense Germanic luxury with a heavy helping of Regency Elite. Let’s go.
In spring 1994 the E38 7-Series entered production, in what became (to date) BMW’s last good-looking 7-Series. Through the 2001 model year, the E38 was offered in regular and long-wheelbase versions and was always strictly rear-wheel drive. The standard-wheelbase version used a 115.4-inch wheelbase, extended by 5.5 inches for long-wheelbase cars.
Engines varied by market, and included cylinder counts of six, eight, and 12. Six-pot models were inline arrangement whether gasoline or turbodiesel, with all other engine sizes using a V layout. Eight-cylinder cars ranged from 3.0- to 4.4-liters in displacement. The sole V12 available was a 5.4-liter, good for 322 horsepower and 361 hefty torques. Transmissions varied as well, and were either five- or six-speed if manual, or five-speed if automatic.
BMW introduced the special L7 version E38 for the ’97 model year, as a continuation of its prior 7-Series naming scheme. L7 was always the most expensive, most luxurious 7-Series when offered. This time the L7 featured a super-extended wheelbase: An additional 9.8 inches over the 120.9″ of the regular iL version, for a grand 130.7 inches. L7’s came with plenty of overall length, at 211.4 inches.
Given its luxury limo intentions, the 12-cylinder engine was standard. Unlike prior L7s it was not offered in North America. Sales occurred in the Middle East, Europe, and Southeast Asia. An update in 2000 brought optional privacy glass to separate well-heeled passengers from the servant upfront. Always intended as a low-volume model, 899 L7s were produced.
Karl Lagerfeld bought one of those 899 but was certainly not prepared to settle for a standard L7. A fashion designer of his own brand as well as Fendi and Chanel, Lagerfeld wanted his own take on the L7. He specified many visual changes over a standard-issue L7. When completed, a two-tone ombré paint scheme featured an orange-gold metallic that deepened to chestnut brown. The exterior look was finished with wheels from a 740i Sport, which were not an option on L7.
Inside, chocolate brown leather was selected for most surfaces, complete with contrast orange stitching. Unlike any other BMW of the time, a most un-Germanic button-tufted leather design was chosen. The dash and all door panels matched in brown, and even the mobile phones (front and rear) were brown. The headliner was of a lighter chestnut-colored suede. Walnut wood displayed a “Designed by Karl Lagerfeld” script, along with his brand logo. And that wasn’t all, as Lagerfeld specified the accouterments of the rear passenger area. In addition to the expected phone, there was a fax machine and TV-VHS setup. A small valuables safe took the place of the fridge which was normally offered in the L7’s rear.
It’s unclear how long Lagerfeld owned and enjoyed his custom BMW, but it passed back into BMW’s ownership at some point (he died in February 2019 at age 85). The special L7 is presently on display at the Danubian Gallery of Contemporary Art in Slovakia.
[Images: BMW Individual]
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