Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5k: 337k Miles Young: 1985 BMW 735i E23

The E23 generation BMW 7-series help to cement BMWs reputation in the late 20th century as the builder of fast Q-ships available with a manual gearbox.  Its shark nose styling can be attributed to our favorite mustache enthusiast and car designer -- Paul Bracq, and this next example is the reason why they call these things bulletproof.  Find this 1985 BMW 735i offered for $6,500 in Pacific Heights, CA via craigslist.  Tip from Kaibeezy.

First up is the odometer reading -- 337,000 miles.  It is over a third of the way to a million miles and looks ready to do it again...and again.  When you get this many miles on the car, the odometer turns into something akin to an arcade game score -- where higher is better and if you just keep pumping in the quarters and you'll beat that high score and your 3-alphanumeric signature will guarantee everlasting fame...or until the next power outage.  The seller claims to have purchased it from its original owner sometime last summer and it wears its original California blue license plates.

Power comes from BMW's M30B34,which is a 3.5 liter SOHC "big-six" that puts out 182 horsepower and 210 ft-lbs of torque.  Power goes to a 5-speed manual gearbox that will significantly increase the fun factor in this land barge...which probably tips the scales at less than a brand new 3-series.  The seller also claims the car has been the recipient of a dealer install Dinan suspension package.

 See another 300k+ mile car that only gets better with age? tips@dailyturismo.com


  1. nice one, kaibeezy! - might have to amend my "4 cars" list

  2. Replies
    1. Just me talkin' to myself - can you help me doc? - I really like that car

  3. This is the opportunity I've been waiting for - to discuss further the ridiculous maintenance and parts cost of BMWs...but NOT BMWs! What I want to know is what owners (and surely there are DTers that are) of tiny BMWs - I mean Mini! - are experiencing with those costs.

    It seemed strange to me at the time that BMW would take a car legendarily known for being inexpensive (among other things, I grant you) and selling it as a premium compact. With it seems to be included the legendary high parts and maintenance costs that come free of charge with every German car.

    I'm not even sure what to call the Mini. Is it a British car? German? Briterman? Geritish? I've given up and just refer to the New Mini as a tiny German FWD or AWD British-made car, which is frankly too much of a mouthful.

    Personally, my father has had several of the originals and now a couple of the BMW-era Mini. They've been like night and day, the originals being dirt cheap and easy to maintain (despite occasional parts availability issues) while the German(!) version of these very British cars have been the complete opposite (as in dreadful). I've also had a student that had a similar experience, while another acquaintance hasn't had hardly an issue. So, two out of three cars have been poor and one has been excellent. Using the same example as before, MiniMania has a set of front wiper blades for a New Mini for $35. A set for a Classic Mini runs $20. All of these (BMW and Mini) blades are Bosch...

    Set me right here, folks. I'm willing to change my tune here regarding this one instance of German cars.

    1. Hmmm, must be shopping at the wrong place for wiper blades. Inserts for my '05 Cooper S run $10 a pair at Pelican Parts. I don't recall them being much more at the $tealer. If I feel motivated I will go take a look at my file on my car tonight. I've owned my '05 since new in January '05 and just turned 100K on it last month. I don't think of it being any more expensive than the Japanese stuff I've owned. We won't talk about the Italian stuff in my life...

    2. Gianni, I'll take your reply as a +1 for Minis not being as expensive as the other cars by the parent company. Anybody else want to weigh in?

      Woohoo! Goooo Mini and Volvo!


    3. I love how low Porsche is on the list. I wonder if there's a more fleshed-out study that includes average price premium for parts (and labor fees for qualified mechanics) to create a complete cost of ownership ranking.

    4. I've been happy with my MINI over the last 10 years. I know that others haven't had the same experience, but I can only go on what I have experienced personally.

      I don't take much stock in the JD Powers stuff - are all problems weighted equal or is a Subaru head gasket failure = the battery in your remote dying in your VW.

    5. So effectively 'average' is Lincoln to approximately Hyundai, with Lexus and Porsche the only ones statistically 'better' than average and Jaguar through Land Rover obviously worse.

    6. This doesn't break out the severity of the problems, the kinds of problems likely to occur/recur out of warranty (which is what matters to me), Japanese-built Toyotas vs US-built Toyotas (few are Japanese-built now but you can probably assume they're in the Lexus numbers), etc.

      The Chrysler-to-Dodge split is interesting, as is the presence of 'Ram' way up the list while Jeep is way down at the end (and I don't see Fiat listed at all.) Sometimes a survey like this is as much a function of buyer expectation as it is of actual product failure.

    7. I knew I'd throw you guys with that graphic.

    8. I have an E46 (2003) convertible. While not high mileage, it has been bulletproof reliable for 11 years. After warranty (where the dealers rebuild the cars on every visit to screw the factory), I have put in the following:

      Front Control Arm Bushings: $80 done on the garage floor
      Rear Shock Mounts: I think those were $40 the pair and done on the garage floor in about a half hour
      Brakes and Rotors: One set. With new brake hoses. $380.
      Wipers = $15 (IIRC)
      Cabin Filters = $20 each - changed annually.
      Fuel Filter = @ $30 (IIRC)

      All sourced from Pelican Parts. (not advertising for them)

      The car sits on a battery tender when not in use for more than two days. Keeps it from eating $180 batteries. Current one is 7 years old and still strong.

      That's it. The key to German cars (or complex Japanese cars) is the obvious.... maintenance. Change your fluids. Antifreeze, oil, brake fluid, oil, trans and diff fluids. Use high quality parts (OEM supplier, not made in China crap) and you'll have far fewer problems than if you just ride it hard and put it away wet.

    9. Anon-e-mouse - the "where the dealers rebuild the cars on every visit to screw the factory" hasn't consistently been my experience with BMW - though the dealer DID in fact keep my M5 for two weeks of diagnosis, under warranty, to fix a whistle in the HVAC - but it was CERTAINLY true of our Q45, where the dealer would change the entire dash to fix a bubble so minute that the service writer had to point it out to me.

      I miss that experience. There was an Eddie Murphy movie where he played some kind of prince and when he scuttled off to the bathroom he clapped for his wipers, that really was the Infiniti warranty experience back in the day.

    10. Just to keep apples and apples, oranges and oranges, Bosch to OEM...Pelican Parts lists a set of Bosch wiper blade set for an E46 as $34.50.

      To address the several cries of, "Hey I got my wiper blades at a local national parts place for a significantly lower price!" I have no doubt that you did. But I'm comparing OEM parts prices (in this case, a set of wiper blades) from recognizable, well known and respected parts online suppliers. It's for illustrative purposes only.

      What I'm asking you to ponder is why is the Bosch rubber more expensive than just about any competitor's? Does it last longer? Can it make a cup of coffee? You KNOW the answer is no. You KNOW the reason that German parts are more expensive is because...they think they can get away with it. Does that sit well with you? I can't answer that, only you can. It doesn't with me and I'll continue to raise a stink about it. Much to your relief, I've probably run out of things to say on the matter. I said my peace and changed nobody's mind and, well, that's just fine! I don't really care but they ain't getting my EXTREMELY hard-earned money. Those DTers that worked so hard to figure out what I do for a living know exactly how hard it is for a person to make a living doing what I do, putting food on his family's table (forget about having a retirement fund).

      Unless you go for the now internationally famous, "K2 Mystery Car M3 Challenge"! Then, you could change my mind forever! German cars rule and they're the most reliable, cheapest to maintain cars in the world, hands down, bar none!

      And really, how could you not go for that?!? Seriously. Cameron Frye, pleeeease.

    11. Bosch wipers haven't been made in Germany for ages. For a long time the top-line models came from Belgium and all the rest were Chinese, for all I know now they're all Chinese. But you bought the Bosch blade assemblies for the nicely designed articulation, not for anything about the rubber.

      FYI the last set of BMW dealer wiper inserts I bought were Mexican-sourced. And they were quite reasonably priced.

      Here's the thing: many if not most BMW dealers mark parts prices up mercilessly at the counter. Less on high-volume or very high-value stuff, much more on a percentage basis on small-dollar special orders. Most if not all manufacturers' dealers do this. The good thing on the BMW side is that because parts pricing is somewhat more open than other manufacturers and there's vast competition in the online space between dealers and third-parties (if any BMW lawyer ever thought about trying to get outfits like realoem.com shut down their dealers who sell online and wholesale to outfits like rmeuropean would have a fit, because these days every buyer comes fully equipped with part numbers, it costs them nothing but warehouse-picker time to service the order and the volumes have to be huge.)

      Sure, there's the occasional bit of weirdness in BMW parts pricing - they've been jacking up some stuff, especially plastics, massively. There's an E39/E53 sunroof drip tray - a piece of plastic three feet long and three inches wide that's not much better than a throwaway-packaging grade molding - that used to sell for $60, a year ago they jacked it up to $150.

      The flipside of this coin has been the bastards at Ford, who've not only gone out of their way to obfuscate parts prices and maintain iron-fisted control over parts information but are also the worst in the industry at obsoleting parts. I'm very skeptical of ever buying a new Ford product, at least something like a Focus ST that doesn't sell in F150 volumes, because Ford is so aggressive about NLAing parts.

    12. Thank you. More proof for whatever the German word for pudding is.

    13. I will note that the window seals in the Atlanta-build (but not Chicago-build) first-gen Tauruses came from France, and the steering intermediate shafts came from Liechtenstein, the upholstery all came from Mexico, most of the plastics came from Canada and most of the motorized stuff came from Japan.


    14. Speaking of wiper blades, I drive a 2013 Toyota Sequoia for work. Stealership quoted me 90 bucks! For a pair. Bout crapped my pants....for the owner of my company. Went to Napa and got wipers for less than 40, but they streak....what a pain. Glad I live in CA, where it never rains

    15. Ouch! That's horrible.I'm sorry the dealer was so ridiculously high and I'm sorry the aftermarket blades streak. The dealership should be ashamed and those aftermarket blades shouldn't do that. I have ZERO doubt you're telling the absolute truth. I'd mention that I used to work for Toyota but nobody give's a rodent's behind. Dealers overcharge. ALL dealers, that is. How I feel about that is another topic entirely, which I doubt anybody would read so I'm not going to bother. Needless to say, it's a far more complicated issue than "They overcharge!"

      Again, to keep oranges to oranges with the comparisons I've already made (online retailer prices for OEM parts)...Toyotapartsestore has them for $12 a pair. That beats even the IPD price for my V/S blades.

      It's also interesting to note the lack of response regarding my call for Mini ownership maintenance costs. Other than one positive (thanks Gianni!), I've gotten none (did I forget somebody?). Which leads me to believe that the Mini is what I thought - just another BMW with all of the great things and all of the really not so great things that come along with that nameplate. A quick glance at Carsurvey indicates that if you buy one, you've got a roughly 50/50 shot of getting a car that doesn't cost you an arm and a leg in maintenance. BTW, this is exactly what I think of Chrysler products. So I'm not JUST anti-German cars. But you didn't ask so I didn't tell you.

    16. It fascinates me that not a single person asked me, "If you were to buy a German car, which one would you consider?" Nope, not one. You're probably all just assuming that I've written of the entire country in terms of their cars (it's a lovely country, I've been there and I'd go back in a hot second). That's fine, if a bit disturbing that there's no curiosity going on there. Ack, it's just the way of the world.

      Once again, my main problem with this is that I'd think by buying a premium product I'd get a...premium product. Not one that nickel and dimes me to death over the years. That I expect from a lesser product. Why pay more for the privilege when I can find equally exciting products at a lesser price? Where is the quality and robust design if it falls apart in your hands through normal usage? And then I've got to pay premium prices for parts on top of all that?

      I'm not suggesting what someone (sorry, I forgot who) stated; buy a premium product at a lesser price just because of the higher part prices. No. I think if you can charge higher prices for your product and it's worth it, GREAT. Do it. But then, if you're going to charge more for parts, then they should last longer (they don't - the wiper blades are a perfect example and that's why I picked them - rubber is rubber is rubber). Or just do what the rest of the world does - be competitive with your pricing. Simple. Pick one. Maybe my usage of online suppliers is not a good gauge. But we can't use dealer part pricing, by your own admission(s). So what does that leave us? It's too wide of range then and we can't be realistic in our conclusions. For that matter, why not just go steal a car? Then ALL the parts you need are free!*

      AGAIN, I'm not saying YOUR car does this and I'm being admittedly biased towards gross over-generalization. But what else does a person do when buying a new/used car? Comments like "I'm not driving that. It's a grandma car," are a ridiculous way to think about cars. But that's how whomever said that thinks and that's their prerogative. It's their money and they get to buy whatever they want. We don't live in Mother Russia back in the day where you get what you get and you have to be happy with that. Long live capitalism!

      But still, if you buy a Rolex you expect a Rolex. If you buy a cheap knockoff or a Seiko, you expect a cheap knockoff or a Seiko and are pleasantly surprised when the darn thing lasts a lifetime.

      *DT and the author of this comment do NOT endorse stealing cars.

    17. I don't know much about cars, but I do know a thing or two about watches. My Seiko SKX007 cost under $200, is built like a tank, and is widely acknowledged to be likely to remain maintenance-free for decades. My dad's basic Rolex is a fussy little bugger, just getting someone to open the case costs more than the Seiko, and he's always nervous about handing off such a "valuable" item.

      The analogy is obvious, and when applied to watches that -- let's face it -- don't exactly have the performance variables a car does, it's even easier to see what's behind people's choices: taste, fashion, even vanity. Cars give us a lot more angles for justifying our decisions, for better or worse. Do the totally awesome seats in my 540 justify a $40 oil filter?

    18. My wife made the grandma car comment in the MWMU a couple of weeks ago. Arguing with her on that is not a hill I'm willing to die on. ;-)

    19. No. For sure. Just using that as an example. She's 100% right - for her. And that's my point. People get stuff in their heads for whatever reason and it's not for us to argue with. ESPECIALLY when it's your significant other. But it's funny because as car guys and gals, we know it's a tiny bit silly. Perception is nearly impossible to overcome and why bother - in this case, there are so many cars to chose from! It's not worth trying to overcome her perception when I gave you such a monster list. She's got her pick, with your expert guidance!

      What cracks me up is when I talk to DUDES (and I mean to scream that out) who proclaim they'd NEVER drive a minivan and then hop into their Honda Pilot. Or somebody in a Highlander how wouldn't be caught dead in a Camry.


      Or whatever, you know as many ridiculous examples as I do.

      I guess the whole thing could boil down to this; are you happy with a perfectly serviceable, low maintenance cost Seiko or is a higher initial and ongoing cost Rolex a MUST have? How much is that nanosecond accuracy measurable once every ten years? That a personal decision, obviously. I get both sides of that coin.

      A happy wife is a happy life. Repeat after me.

    20. @kaibeezy - Does your 540 have the sport seats? If so, "yes" is the answer. Some of the greatest OEM seats ever IMHO.

      @K2---at the risk of sounding like a jerk (although not intending to), the reason I'm not asking you about your preference in German cars is akin to the reason you wouldn't ask me about cold fusion---I don't know much about it. When you're quoting $15k prices for $90k 911 RSA's, along with some other inaccuracies I've let go, it just indicates that your opinions are based on dated intel at best, and preconceived notions not rooted in fact at worst. Either way, you're entitled to them, and I'm okay with you maintaining them, so we'll converse about other non-German brands (which you are clearly well versed in) when the time comes, and on the German stuff I'll just keep moving past when you make the invariable cliched jab at them. cheers

    21. @ftb - that's what the vin report (and my butt) tells me - 98, 6sp, last pre-vanos, black/black, big subwoofer - aaaaand it might be for sale - want more info?

    22. True! All true, FTB. But you still didn't ask, so I can't start that conversation with you or anybody else unless I spray it out into interwebspace like the stunk out of a skunk's trunk. I broadcast enough (clearly - too much for many, I'm sure) and I'd like to balance that with receiving other peoples' thoughts and information.

      I am a bit stuck in the 80s/90s, for sure. The updated information/corrections are appreciated! I'm bound to be more inaccurate on DT (and life) because I'm interested and curious about things. Many things. Keep your mind G-rated, people! Maybe an occasional foray into PG-13, at most.

    23. @kaibeezy----Funny you ask.......I'm currently pondering two options that are local to me. A silver/black 2000 M5 with a couple small needs for $12k, and a 2001 540i-6 in mint condition with Dinan options for $7500.

      The 540i seems like the no-brainer, but i keep having that nagging thought that if I went that route, based on my past luck it would be the catalyst that immediate sent e39 M5 pricing to $20k+.

    24. So I didn’t really finish where I was going with what I wrote above.

      If you actually say something and strive to a real person online, you open yourself up to leeches and armchair quarterbacks. One of the great things about online is that you can be whoever you want to be. One of TERRIBLE things about online is you can be whoever you want to be. Often, people chose to act atrociously. I don’t feel like I’m out of line in saying that’s why so many people currently enjoy DT; there aren’t any trolls yet. I know I’m waiting for that day and I’m sure many of my fellow DTers are too. But we’ll cross that bridge (narf) when we get to it.

      But if you actually take a stand and express your thoughts online, you run the risk of people jumping down your neck. And that’s sad because I’m sure it stops lots of guys and gals from speaking up and adding to the conversation in a positive way.

      So, I beg all of my fellow DTers and remind myself in the process; if you see something you think is wrong or incorrect, try to come up with a nice, pleasant way of writing your disagreement. On the flip side, don’t NOT say something!

    25. More.

      I see it every day; people paralyzed by the fear of getting something –anything- wrong. That’s no way to live. Better to throw caution to the wind and learn something new!

      In fact, there’s so much value in getting something wrong and learning from it that it’s priceless. I refer to it as “reverse-engineering” sometimes so that people will at least try and I do it purposefully all the time myself. I tell you, it’s a real relief to the ego. It takes the strain and pressure off of being The Knower of All which we all know really means The Master of Nothing. It’s okay to say, “Huh, I did not know that,” or “Well, that’s new!”

      Try it, you’ll like it.

    26. @ftb - where approximately are you located? - delivery distance from NorCal by any chance?

    27. @kaibeezy---probably not----I'm in Nashvegas.

  4. Pacific Heights is a district of San Francisco, possibly the most expensive corner of town, where Feinstein and the Fatcats live.

    As for this car...okay, these are nice cars, and it'd be nice to see someone grab this thing and keep it up...but...but...but...if you're looking for value-for-money and just not specifically an E23 then you can get a lot of E28 or even E34 for this money.

    1. I'm agreeing with your assessment of the car. I gotta tell you though, in recent years, I have seen 5-7 e28's in great mechanical and cosmetic condition for every 1 e34 that meets the same standards. It's bizarre....I would daily drive a sub-$10k 100k-ish mile e34 535i manual all day long, but I think that car is all but extinct.

    2. forgive my nitpicking, mrkwong, but doesn't feinstein live in presidio heights, or even technically presidio terrace / lake street?

    3. kaibeezy - yeah, you apparently like to pick nits.

      We're talking barely the length of a dragstrip difference, aren't we?

      Okay, now you'll come up with a Google Map that shows it as .31 miles, so then I'll have to come in and suggest we include the bleach box...


    4. FTB - hmm...haven't really experienced that but I don't dispute your experience I once passed up a clean E34 530i wagon, which although a slushbox would have been a PURRRRRRRRRfect LS3+T56 swap candidate as well as slaking the jones for an E34 M5 Touring.

      But, realistically, until I finish what I've got laying around here, there's no way I can tackle anything else, and things like that seem to take me three years at BEST.

    5. perhaps you confused Mrs. Feinstein with well-known PacHts domestic employee Mrs. Doubtfire ;)

  5. I came in here expecting 17 interesting comments about history or past experiences of this car. And nothing! Well anyways to my main point. Who the hell would pay for a 300,000 mile bmw for $5,000. Signed bmw fan, poor college student. - FabianW

    1. Well, me for one. I don't have a commute, so I wouldn't be racking up miles. I like a bit larger car but prefer a stick. I'm not interested in electronic doodads or over complicated engineering. Older classic style suits me. And I appreciate the commitment to maintenance this car has enjoyed. Bit of a haggle and I'd get a price I could deal with.

    2. Anonyony, you make valid points about new DT lurker expectations. What you need to realize is that we probably have discussed this car and cars like this at length before you showed up. There may be simply nothing left to say on the subject. Unfortunately, that's not DT's fault but a side effect of the format. That's why the search field is just to your right. You'll find a wealth of knowledge if you utilize it.

      Also, it's been historically a conversation killer if you add your personal experiences. Folks pour out their memories...what are other DTers supposed to say? "Yeah, what you said," just doesn't seem appropriate.

      I'd suggest you do what nobody else does and do something so shocking that you're sure to get the information you seek...ask a question. If you thought you did above that was not the case. You need to be a bit more direct. The brain trust called DT is massive and you're sure to learn things here you won't anywhere else. BTW, 17 comments...there are 40 comments. How does that add up to "nothing"?

      +1, Kaibeezy!

    3. Maybe you should call ahead so we know what to prepare especially for you. Sorry I can't help myself in posting this snarky comment, but sheesh.

      +100 on K2 and KBZ's posts.

    4. A suit jacket and tie are required if you will be dining with us this evening. But no pants.


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