If you were an American raking in plenty of money during the late 1980s (perhaps you were arranging “dead cows for dead horses” deals at a conveniently deregulated S&L, for example), then it was expected that you would buy a big, powerful European luxury car. Mercedes-Benz offered the W126 S-Class and its mighty V8 engine, Audi responded with the V8 in 1989 (yes, V8 was the model name), and Jaguar sneered down at those eight-banger losers from a showroom full of V12-engined XJ-Ss. BMW introduced the second-generation 7 Series — the E32 — in the United States for the 1988 model year, and it could be purchased with a V12 engine both more modern and more powerful than the one under the Jag’s long hood. Here’s a once-resplendent 750iL, found in a Northern California boneyard recently.
Cars like this were a lot more expensive (when you adjust for inflation) 33 years ago than they are now. This car’s MSRP was an even $70,000, or about $164,577 in 2022 dollars. You’d have to stack gold bars in the trunk of the most expensive new 7 Series today (the i7) to get the price anywhere near that level.
The king of the S-Classes in 1990, the 560 SEC coupe, cost $81,500. That’s about $190,450 in 2022 dollars.
I’d show you the engine, but a junkyard shopper bought it before I got here. It was a 5.0-liter V12 rated at 296 horsepower and 332 pound-feet. Mercedes-Benz answered back with a V12 of its own a couple of years later, in the 600 SEL S-Class (renamed the S600 during 1993).
It appears to have been fairly straight and clean when it arrived here, but the junkyard vultures have made a mess of the interior.
BMW claimed that this car was so good that automotive journalists ran out of adjectives to describe it.
It spent some time in Pennsylvania when it was about 10 years old.
The contouring of the underhood soundproofing is impressive.
BMW was an early adopter of the electronic odometer, so we can’t see the final miles total for this car.
In the end, what matters is the car beneath the luxury.
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