1991 BMW 850i


After living through a decade of austerity, some of our younger bidders might find it hard to imagine a time when the automotive car parc was so rich that a significant number of potential BMW customers found the 6-Series a bit too cheap, a bit too slow and a bit too, well, a bit too common.

Which is where the E31 8-Series came in; it was fast, impressively complex and far more exclusive than almost all of its competitors, meaning it found favour with uber-celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Eric Clapton, George Michael, Rod Stewart and Prince.

As a two-door, pillarless coupe with pop-up headlights, the 8-Series still looks as fresh as the day it left the factory; if modern classics are quite the thing - and why wouldn’t they be because not every classic car owner wants to sacrifice air-con, ABS brakes, and modern-day performance in the name of style - then there are few nicer ways to indulge your inner rock star than in one of these.

The Vehicle

Having spent most of its life in Hong Kong, this 1991 example is in fabulous condition with a barely believable-but-utterly-true 47,000 miles on the odometer and only one previous UK owner.

As a result, it is in fabulous condition with only a very gentle patina to the outside driver’s seat bolster to distinguish the interior from a new vehicle. It is also free of serious mechanical faults, with the V12 engine pulling lustily throughout the entire rev range and changing gear smoothly and imperceptibly via the four-speed automatic gearbox. The owner also tells us that it handles superbly after a recent suspension refresh and new tyres.

On the Outside

The metallic red paintwork is in very good, but not perfect, condition according to the seller, having a few stone chips on the front and the odd small car-park dink. He went on to tell us that the car would ideally benefit from a professional detail and machine polish, which he thinks would smarten the coachwork up no end. Looking at the pictures, he might be a touch picky…

With the bad news out of the way, we can confirm that the panels are straight and feature the sort of tight shutlines that are a BMW trademark. The sunroof remains leak-free and the headlights pop up as smartly as they did when they left the factory. As is often the case with cars from the Far East, there are no signs of rust or bubbling. The red paintwork is a welcome change from the more usual sombre metallics that are more commonly seen and suits the car’s aerodynamic lines perfectly.

The alloy wheels are free of scuffs and scratches and are shod with four new quality tyres.

On the Inside

The seatbelts are built into the front seats (and yes, we know that the Range Rover Classic beat them to it by twenty years…), the four-way steering wheel adjustment is electrically operated, the air-conditioning is programmable, and the rear-view mirror dips automatically: be in no doubt, the 8-Series is as sophisticated inside the cockpit as it is underneath the bonnet.

Yet, this example wears its 46,000 miles lightly with only very gentle creasing and fading to the leather of the offside driver’s bolster. Rarely seen in black, the rest of the leather interior is fresh and a testament to the quality of the materials used and the care with which it has been used and maintained over the past 26 years.

Interestingly, it stills sports the original six-cassette holder between the front seats, although the head-unit has been upgraded to a modern Sony CD player and radio. All of the electrics work as they should.


The 5.0-litre V12 engine develops 300bhp and 332ft lbs of torque, enough to whisk the 850i to 62mph in 6.8 seconds, which is mightily impressive considering the BMW’s 1,790kgs kerb weight.

But the 850i was no low-budget bruiser. The 8 Series was the first production car in the world to feature a drive-by-wire throttle and the engine had not one, but two computers to control it. Fear not, though because all of that technology conspired to produce a very reliable car, even after two-and-a-half decades of use. The combination of a very low drag co-efficient (the same as a modern Porsche 918…), that mighty V12 engine, the seamless automatic gearbox and one of the nicest interiors of its generation make this the ideal grand touring car in which to whisk a loved one across Europe.

The suspension has recently received two lower inner ball joint arms, two top ball joints, two droplinks and associated bushes, a new steering arm and four new tyres. It has also just been professionally serviced prior to the start of the auction, ensuring that it is raring to go when its lucky new owner collects it.

The only mechanical fault is a small amount of play in both rear suspension arms. The underbonnet area could also do with detailing to remove the oxidation that has furred some of the alloy components but with that done, the engine compartment would look as good as the rest of the car.

History Highlights

The BMW 850i comes with a stamped service history from its time in Hong Kong, confirming its status as a low-mileage, cherished example.

It is now registered in the United Kingdom and comes with the relevant import records, UK MOT history, some old invoices, and a clear HPI check.

There are currently 77 photos in the Gallery, photos will be added very shortly of the car's service history and other paperwork.

What We Think

With prices of the iconic E24 6-Series coupes having soared beyond the reach of mere mortals, the E31 8-Series has taken its place as the Go To coupe for lovers of Bavarian heavy metal. Great example, low-mileage with provenance, good colour, good, and rare, interior colour – why keep hunting?

This means that prices have started to creep up over the past few years, especially for low-mileage, potential museum-quality examples like this. Yet, we predict this example will fetch between £15-18,000, the reserve, as ever, is less. Why so low? Well, we have seen a slight softening in the value of even the best examples in the past few months and so this listing represents an outstanding opportunity for someone to get behind the wheel of BMW’s classic super coupe at a very reasonable price point.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this car can be seen in Essex; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car, AnyVan for transporting it, and Footman James for classic car insurance.

If needed, Footman James classic car insurance and Classic Concierge offer storage options plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at those vehicles which are delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Upminster, Essex
  • Seller Type: Private
  • Odometer Reading: 47000
  • Engine: 5000
  • Gearbox: auto
  • Colour: Burgundy
  • Interior: Black Leather

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