Coupé E31 840Ci Sport (1996-1999) BMW’s sharp-nosed 1990s super coupé is now an appreciating classic and, if you can find a well-maintained 4.4-litre 1996-on 840Ci, then you could be on to a winner. More reliable than the gas-guzzling 850 V12, the ‘entry-level’ V8 looks just as cool – with its pillarless side profile and classic pop-up headlights – and performs damn-near as well. But you must avoid the early 4.0-litre M60-engined version (1992-1996) which suffered from Nikasil bore-wear issues.
The later car’s 4,398cc V8 produces 286hp at 5,700rpm and a stonking 310lb ft of torque at 3,900rpm, and came with both six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions. The 0-62mph sprint can be accomplished in just 6.2 seconds and, in early 1997, a Sport version arrived with lowered suspension but no more power. Away from the core models, you’ll come across so-called ‘Individual’ versions, with special colours and contrasting seat piping.
I spotted this 1997 automatic, Velvet blue, 100,000-mile example at Nottingham-based prestige specialists, Maranello Cars (maranellocars. co.uk), which would make an ideal buy. Advertised for £24,949, it claims a full BMW service history and just four owners – and the spec lacks for nothing.
Nikasil bore-liner erosion problems mean you should steer clear of that original, M60 4.0- litre V8 unless you’re certain the engine has been properly rebuilt – I’d stick to 4.4-litre models. Ignore the ubiquitous ‘sealed for life’ automatic transmissions statement, and get a good independent or automatic transmission specialist to change the fluid for you at least every 100,000 miles. A gearbox rebuild will cost you £2,000-plus. Any smoke from the engine could indicate poor fueling, inlet manifold pressure control valve problems, worn valves or worn piston rings. Timing chain tensioners need replacing at around 100,000 miles, and check that the temperature gauge needle sits in the centre, and that the heater blows hot air. Also look for leaks from the auxiliary water pump. Sport models have smaller mirrors, a rear splitter and a lower front spoiler that’s easily damaged. Watch out for rust, especially on the sunroof’s leading edge, around the jacking points and on the lower sections of the rear wheel arches. Also, check for worn suspension components, failed wiper motors and tired interiors.
The E31 8 Series offers a healthy dose of old-school cool which is hard to resist. Just make sure you buy the later, 4.4-litre car. Left: This 8 Series is gaining solid classic car status now, and looks good from every angle. There’s retro-charm aplenty inside the E31 8 Series and, unlike all the others here, good examples are appreciating.
1997 BMW 840Ci Sport Automatic M62 E31 spec
ENGINE: 4,398cc V8
POWER: 286hp at 5,700rpm
TORQUE: 310lb ft at 3,900rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual/5-speed auto
0-62MPH: 6.2 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph
Fuel consumption: 21.6mpg (combined)
£25,000 buys you: 100,000-mile, 1997 BMW 840Ci E31