Junkyard Find: 1986 BMW 735i

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The very first BMW 7 Series cars were sold in North America for the 1978 model year, and production of the E23 continued through the middle of 1986. With a build date of March of that year, today's Junkyard Find (in a Colorado yard between Denver and Cheyenne) is one of the last E23s ever made.

junkyard find 1986 bmw 735i

This car was a big, fast status symbol when new, selling for $38,280 (about $104,085 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars). Perhaps enough Bolivian marching powder was snorted in this one to cover the hood as the snow does today (actually, the E24 6 Series was even more cocainey).

The hood was frozen shut, literally, so I couldn't shoot photos of the 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment. A five-speed manual transmission was standard equipment, but very few American 735i buyers wanted to work a clutch pedal; instead, they paid $795 extra (about $2,160 today) for the four-speed automatic. Those raised chrome shift-indicator symbols look cool.

In Europe, BMW shoppers could get this car with a turbocharged engine and 745i badges. They missed out on the luxed-up L7 version, however.

Leather upholstery was standard, naturally.

The back-seat passengers got their own air vents and cigarette lighter. The 745i had a separate sound system in back.

I've found just a single junkyard 7 Series with a manual transmission. Note the cassette dispensers in the console.

The gauge cluster was gone when I got here, so there's no way to know the final mileage on this car. The interior looked like it might have been nice enough upon arrival in this car's final parking space.

What are the chances that these switches still worked at the end?

I still find some examples of the E23's successor, the E32, in car graveyards, but the E23 has become very rare.

This yard was once the location of the old-school Martin Supply, an amazing place with hundreds of 1930s and 1940s vehicles. Now it's much neater and easier to navigate, but this BMW was one of the oldest cars I found on my visit.

This car's body looks to be in pretty good shape, but few enthusiasts seem interested in keeping E32s alive.

[Images by the author]

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2 of 18 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Dec 06, 2022

    The E23 here is wearing steelies - so is it because it arrived at the yard wearing winter shoes, or because someone swapped the factory alloys for steelies (either before or after it arrived)?

    Fun fact - the turbocharged 745i was called the 745i because it used the 3.2l six with a turbo, and at the time, F1 was using a 1.4 multiplication factor for turbocharged engines to arrive at a computed displacement. So, 3,210 times 1.4, divided by 1,000 equals 4.5 (rounded up from 4.494). The 745i was way cool, with its big 7" round low beam headlights paired with the 5-3/4" high beams.

  • Randy in rocklin Randy in rocklin on Dec 07, 2022

    I had a 82 733 at one time. It was an awesome car. Good power and great handling. Smooth shifting and ride.

  • ToolGuy The [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]XJ platform[/url] is super interesting to me, more so after owning one and working on it some (but not a lot, because it didn't need a lot). The overall size is almost perfect; add more space to the back seat (and carry it to the wheelbase) if we are starting over.One could argue, if one knew anything about vehicles, that the 4-door XJ is a major reason why U.S. fleet [all of everyone's vehicles averaged together] fuel economy is so bad in 2023.
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy can't solve all the issues raised here tonight, but this does remind me that I have some very excellent strawberry jam direct from Paris in the fridge.
  • ToolGuy Cool.(ToolGuy supports technology advancement, as well as third-person references)
  • MaintenanceCosts Oddly enough, I bought a metal-roof convertible for a bit less than $20k last year. But it's not on your list; it's an E93 335i, manual, Sport package. Really really nice car to drive, and (while it's been a short time) it's been flawless so far.
  • FreedMike IS350 all the way. The Benz and the BMW are going to be money pits.