(This German-American has also been requested to make a return appearance) A BMW 7 Series CC is long overdue, and when I spotted this one catching some of the last rays of the season, I thought the time had finally come. The E23 was a milestone car, BMW’s first really big one, to properly take on the Mercedes S Class. Of course big is relative, as this 7 Series is substantially smaller in every dimension than a new 5 Series. Inflation is relentless. But I’m not inflating its identification arbitrarily; according to BMW’s traditional numerology, this really is a 757. Here’s why:
Ironic; the V12 Jaguar from the other day still has its original engine, and this 733i now sports a Chevy 350/350 power train. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; is there any model car in the world that hasn’t had a Chevy small block implanted? It just caught me a bit off guard.
From a modern vantage point, it’s true that the US-spec 733i wasn’t exactly brimming with power. One hundred eighty-four horsepower, from 3.2 liters, to be exact. Actually, that wasn’t bad for the times, which were not kind to high outputs. The biggest, baddest Chevy V8 available (outside of the Corvette) in 1983 was the 175 hp 305 (5 liter). And the Corvette’s 350 (5.7 liter) had all of 200 hp. So I’m assuming that the 350 burbling under this one’s hood is at least a healthy one.
Or maybe that wasn’t the point, and someone just got fed up with that exotic German engineering under the hood: the Ultimate Driving Machine was not necessarily the Ultimate DIY Repair Machine. To some folks, a four barrel carburetor on a lump of cast iron designed over half a century ago trumps all the high-falutin’ Motronic-Digifant-Einspritzer Wirbelwannen-Brennraümen that the world’s most famous engine builder can summon. For that matter, is a BMW, which stands for Bavarian Motor Works, still a BMW without its motor? A CMW?
So that leaves the question of why bother with what it took to make the transplant. A lover of Paul Bracq’s design; one that has aged quite nicely over the years? The 7 made quite a splash when it arrived in 1977, especially compared to the rather ponderous big Mercedes W116. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the overly boxy 5 Series too.
How I lusted after one of these when they first came out. At the time, we had some friends who were a bit older and a lot wealthier than us, and she drove a silver BMW E-3 3.0 sedan, this car’s immediate predecessor. It kept Klaus, its German mechanic very well well fed indeed. I get it.