I truly think that the BMW 8 Series is one of the most under-rated GT supercars out there. When talking to a group of people about great GT cars and future classics of the automotive world, the 8 Series never comes up. Why is that?
The E31, or 8 series, BMW was introduced in 1989 as a 2+2, 2 door coupe. The 8 series replaced the original 6 series coupe from the 80’s but was not made to be a successor to the 6 series. Rather the 8 series was designed as a whole new offering to compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. The all new 8 series was set off to be the new flagship car for BMW with a premium price tag, M1 looks, and a slew of new technology. The price tag today, adjusting for inflation, would be over $110,000 which is well above even the M6 of today.
What made this new GT Supercar offering from BMW so super? How about your choice of a V8 or V12 engine, electronically limited top speed of 155mph (up to 186 with limiter removed), a 6-speed gearbox, electronic “fly-by-wire” throttle, and a multi-link rear axle. These might not seem like much to the supercars of today, but in its time BMW was the first, in many cases, to put these technologies into a production car. The 850CSi was the pinnacle of the 8 series often referred to as the M8 that was never built. Tuning the 5 liter V12 from the 850i and increasing the capacity so significantly that its engine was given a new engine code, the 850CSi had a 5.6 liter V12 with a 6-speed manual gearbox producing 375hp. It also included stiffer springs and dampers, sat lower, stiffer steering, wider wheels, better aerodynamics, and four -round stainless steel- exhaust tips in the rear of the car. Production was halted in 1996 because the engine could not be re-engineered to meet demanding new emission regulations.
So with its amazing numbers for its time and amazing technology, why is the 8 series so distant in the mind of even car enthusiasts? Sales of the 8 series were affected by the global recession of the 1990’s. This was a time when energy prices were spiking to an all time high, and environmental emissions standards were getting more and more strict. The 8 series never really had a chance to make the true claim of a GT Supercar before it was pushed into oblivion. From 1990 to 1999 BMW sent just over 4700 of the 850’s, 850Ci’s, and 850CSi’s to the United States and Canada. Finding one used in good shape can be a challenge, but I think that 15 to 20 years out these cars are going to be great classic cars to have in your collection.