Rare Rides: The Singular 2000 BMW L7, by Karl Lagerfeld

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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]

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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  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.