1978-1987 BMW 7-series

The 1978-1987 BMW 7-series was the Bavarian automaker's first foray into the German four-door luxury market previously dominated by the mid- and top-range Mercedes. It was BMW's most ambitious car since the V-8-powered 501/502 "Baroque Angels" of the early '50s.

1985 BMW 735i sedan, part of the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series line of collectible cars
1985 BMW 735i sedan.  See more pictures of BMW cars.

The 1978-1987 BMW 7-series had the typical BMW appearance. Its suspension included front MacPherson struts, rear semi-trailing arms, all-round coil springs, and motive power was supplied by a largish single-cam straight six in various displacements. Introduced to Europe in 1977 with 2.8- and 3.0-liter carbureted engines, the American version had a fuel-injected 3.2 (733i), which was later supplanted by a slightly more potent 3.4 (735i).

Manual and automatic transmissions were available throughout. Though we concentrate here on the American 733i/735i, you may run into "gray market" 728s/730s, which are fine as collector cars but create some added problems for collectors stemming from their "unauthorized status" Stateside. They are easily spotted by closer-fitting bumpers, one of the few major differences from their American cousins.

The 1978-1987 BMW 7-series was significant for successfully taking BMW's "sports sedan" ethic upmarket. It made way for the sleeker, much-improved new-generation 7 Series of 1987-88.

Pluses of the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series:

  • Fine handling for size
  • Spacious
  • Handsomely appointed
  • Available with stick shift -- unusual for this sort of car

Minuses of the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series:

  • Not as quick or agile as second-series 7s
  • Still more "used cars" than sure-fire collector's items
  • Ratty examples can cost a bundle to restore
  • Engines need lots of TLC to hold up

Production of the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series:

Specifications of the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series:
Wheelbase, inches: 110.0
Length, inches: 191.3/197.4 (European/U.S.)
Weight, pounds: 3,375-3,770
Price, new: $23,575-$42,500 (U.S.)

Engines for the 1978-1987 BMW 7-series:

ohc I-63,210 cc
177 1978-1984
ohc I-63,430 cc

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