I’ll just start by stating the obvious, the E31 BMW 8-series is one of the best designs ever to come out of Bavaria. Indeed, in your author’s opinion it’s one of the best designs ever. Klaus Kapitza’s design is still every bit as sleek and stylish today as it was when he penned it in 1986 and when it was released to the public in 1989. Fortunately for us, the beauty goes beyond skin deep.
Klaus’ Resume is odd for someone that designed something as timeless as the E31. For starters, his two big credits seems to be this and the BMW Z13, there’s almost nothing from the guy besides that. The BMW Z13 by the way, was a small concept powered by a mid-mounted motorcycle engine. Then he went to Porsche for a while and now he works as a design consultant. Something you probably feel like a moral duty to do when you’re the designer of one of the best-looking vehicles on the planet.
While Wikipedia will swear that the 8-series is a replacement for the E24 6-er, in reality it was all just an incredible feat of timing The E31 was never intended as a replacement for the E24. It’d take quite a few years and a Chris Bangle to make a real replacement for that.
The interior may have been snug bordering on unusable for the rear passengers. But the front passengers were spoiled by the goods that the cockpit had to present. The driver centric center-console featured a trip computer and the instruments were very simple white-on-black dials. Useful when the Polizia stops you on the Autostrada and you need to know in just how much trouble you are. Later models would keep the interior paired with the one you’d see on a 7-series. Still a nice place to be while going at Mach 2 to the racing week at Monaco.
Speaking of which, in the skunkworks of BMW’s M Division lives a very special 8-Series. Imagine, if you will, a BMW 8-series that was tuned to be a sports car rather than a touring car. To that extent they’ve added a widebody kit and new tires. The hood, the doors and several other body parts have been replaced with lighter carbon fiber. Under the hood? An early version of the V12 engine that would later power the McLaren F1 to the fastest production car record, here producing 550HP and a ludicrous amount of torque? Meet the BMW M8.
Now say goodbye as they couldn’t make a viable business case to bring the M8 into production and remained an interesting oddity to be shown on very rare occasions. It was already supposed to be a very low-volume halo car as reflected by the sales numbers. Between 1989 and 1999 only 31,062 8-series were produced, the bulk of them being the V8-powered 840i models. Put into perspective, BMW has sold 37,530 BMW 6-series coupes and convertibles since the current model’s introduction in 2011. That’s not counting the 4-door Gran Coupe’s, that’d be cheating. After 1999 it ceased production and the 507-inspired BMW Z8 took over halo car duties.
This lovely 8-er was uploaded to the Cohort by LeSabretooth Tiger, proudly showing it’s pilarless roof design, something you can really only get these days on the Mercedes S-Class coupé. To this day BMW has not tried to replace the 8-series, with the closest thing being the current BMW i8 sports car. Designed to be equal parts fun sports car and halo car for BMW’s new i division, it features a three cylinder turbocharged engine, like a Geo Metro, and electrical wizardry to make it perform on par with vehicles such as the Porsche 911, unlike a Geo Metro. Now if they only made a 12 cylinder version of those.