Opinion on a quarter century old BMW 850i (E31)

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11,660
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NorthEast
Am I completely insane even *to think* about this car? What kind of bank balance would I need per year to keep this one running assuming I find a decent specimen and ignoring the purchase price? I have always had a soft spot for that vehicle since it came out in early nineties. Yes, I understand it looks dated and probably new Camry V6 will beat this V12 at the track but I would rather be driving this than a brand new Camry :-)
 
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13,616
Location
Frisco, TX
I suggest watching the Top Gear UK episode where they buy an 850 and CL500. As cool as those vehicles are, I wouldn't touch them with a 20 foot pole. For the initial cash outlay + regular maintenance + inevitable breakdowns, you could get some pretty awesome gently-used sports cars.
 
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258
Location
Western NY
Looking at the Rock Auto repair index: 'Parts for the 1991 BMW 850I 5.0L cost only 62% of what parts for a 2014 TOYOTA CAMRY 2.5L cost.' But maybe that's because the Camry is so new there's no parts out yet. Looking at a 2007 Camry: 'Parts for the 1991 BMW 850I 5.0L cost 1.66 times the cost of parts for a 2008 TOYOTA CAMRY 2.4L' You can do a comparison at http://www.rockauto.com/repairindex/
 
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47
Location
NC - USA
Totally depends on ownership and maintenance, if the car has been owned by a BMWCCA member with maintenance records, I would think about it, price and where the car has resided it's life would be a factor as well, parts are not bad you just buy from an online source, I own a 1988 M3 so I do have experience with maintaining an older BMW
 
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1,427
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NY
Remember when you replace parts its not like your old chevy. Many times you have to go to the dealer. If you have some extra spending money and a backup vehicle go for it. Go on bmw forums and see what common problems are and the cost to fix them.
 
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JHZR2

Staff member
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46,128
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New Jersey
Originally Posted By: Corvette Owner
Don't do it, mega $, and that's just for parts!
A lot of these cars have parts costs that are quite reasonable, and this is just a wife's tale perpetuated by folks who dont have the experience. Complexity and time to repair can be a whole different story... So, OP, how good of an indy do you have nearby, and what kind of relationship do you have with them? BMW only is the best bet...
 
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36,463
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ME
It would amuse me for you to get one. However, don't do it on my account. That purple one looks so plain-Jane you could probably go 95 all day and never get a cop's attention. The sad thing is though it'd be so smooth it would feel like going 50 in my Saturn. wink
 
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3,870
Location
NEUS
Are you a competent mechanic or do you have a good indie shop nearby? Will this be a weekend car, and not required to be a reliable daily driver? If yes, and you've always wanted one, go for it. I'd have $5,000 available for repairs.
 

Vikas

Thread starter
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11,660
Location
NorthEast
Are we talking about $5,000 per year every year? The car would be mostly for fun driving but would like to take it to work twice a week, so it needs to be reliable enough to not leave me stranded on the road. As far as local mechanic, I don't know; may be once he stops laughing at me, he might be willing to work on it. I saw an episode of Wheeler Dealer where they fixed it up. They fixed oil leak, air conditioning and did some cosmetic work on it. Does it need timing belt every 30K miles? Does the engine needs to come out to replace spark plugs? Valves need to be replace every 15K miles? I mean it is still a BMW and not Ferrari or Maserati and should not have insane maintenance requirement. Or am I mistaken?
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
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46,048
Location
Ontario, Canada
You'll be able to get parts for it through some of the major BMW on-line places for great prices in my experience. Working on it is a whole other matter. If you get a copy of TIS, and have access to a hoist, I'm doubting there is anything on the car you probably couldn't do yourself. But those repairs may be time consuming. It is a beautiful car, and a well kept example will likely be extremely satisfying to operate.
 
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580
Location
st louis, mo
What could POSSIBLY go wrong? Seriously, find an internet forum for 850 owners and learn the common trouble spots and general level of reliability.
 
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3,870
Location
NEUS
I don't think you'll need $5,000 annually, but that's what I'd have saved up as a rainy day fund. Without knowing issues specific to this vehicle, my biggest concern would be electrical gremlins. I personally don't have the patience to diagnose electrical problems, so I'd be paying someone else potentially many hours of labor to crawl around with a meter if that comes up. Find a good indie mechanic beforehand. Replace all of the fluids and maintenance/tune-up parts when you pick it up. Look at all the rubber bits and replace anything in question to get a good baseline. I don't know anything about this particular model, but I bet there's an 8 Series forum around.
 
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1,313
Location
Alaska
I believe these have the dual ecu's that can be a bear to mess with. Sharp looking cars and with a 6 speed they are fun to drive for sure.
 
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4,837
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Central Texas
My indy had a customer with one of those years ago. Not sure if he bought it new or not. He said they were insanely expensive when new, but quickly dropped in value and were expensive to fix, earning the name "Bite My Wallet." He wound up buying the car from the customer because he balked at the repair cost. I think he pulled the engine to fix something. It's been too long ago. He and his wife took it on a road trip to CO though and said it was a blast. Then, he quickly sold it! Up until that time, I never realized BMW ever put a V12 in a car. Beware of electrical gremlins and deteriorating plastic!
 
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19,686
Location
Sunny Florida
Such a gorgeous ride. But I would be scared to death to buy it. My personal experience with BMW was not good. One that old could develop some very expensive problems rather suddenly. But then again, all life is a risk...
 
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7,485
Location
S California
Sounds like you're talking yourself into buying the car. Everyone should have an adventure with with a car like this. It's called an inoculation. It will cure you of ever doing this again. By the way, on a race track an 850 would leave a Camry for dead, somewhere behind it in a cloud of tire smoke.
 
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6,327
Location
KY
Originally Posted By: OVERKILL
You'll be able to get parts for it through some of the major BMW on-line places for great prices in my experience. Working on it is a whole other matter. If you get a copy of TIS, and have access to a hoist, I'm doubting there is anything on the car you probably couldn't do yourself. But those repairs may be time consuming. It is a beautiful car, and a well kept example will likely be extremely satisfying to operate.
Ditto; I wouldn't hesitate to buy a clean example owned by an enthusiast. One that has gone through the hands of several penny-pinching idiots, not so much. The V12 manuals are particularly sweet, I might add...
 
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