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The Lost M7...

2007-05-21 11:39

Rainier Vermaak, Pretoria

Our first Reader Test is in! Have a look at what Wheels24 reader Rainier Vermaak had to say about his prized BMW 745i.

An Auspicious Start

It must have been frustrating for BMW. In 1979, it developed one on the great engines of that era - the 3,5-litre 24-valve M88 engine - which was installed in the M1, BMW's first, and only, car with a mid-engine layout.

It produced a lazy 206 kW at 6 500 r/min in road trim, compared with the Procar engines which produced 600 kW at 10 000 r/min. When production ended in 1981, the M88 engine slipped into disuse.

The BMW 745i was launched in Europe in 1983, but BMW decided the slightly harsh and decidedly sporty nature of the M88 engine was not in keeping with the nature of their luxury flagship and fitted it with a 3,3-litre turbo engine. This model could not be produced in right hand drive form and this left the door open for BMW SA to re-acquaint enthusiasts with the M88 engine.

South Africans only

The South African 745i was the first saloon car fitted with the M88 engine, putting out 213 kW at 6 500 r/min and 340 Nm at 4 500 r/min. The M5 that followed in 1985 used the same engine, making the 745i the only car fitted with the M88 engine that did not receive an M designation.

A Truly Great Drive

Being 22 years old and with 258 000 km on the clock, my 745i could have wished for a quiet retirement. But the opposite is true. The engine is something special and I can understand why BMW initially decided on the turbo engine, for the M88 engine has a rough edge that is lacking in the modern six cylinder cars they produce.

But having been over engineered, it is bullet proof and still very enthusiastic about spinning to the red line. Because of the multi-valve head it only really wakes up at 4 500 r/min, but the last 2 000 r/min happens quickly. And all the while the distinctive straight six sound keeps you company, from a slightly uneven burble at idle to a beautiful howl at full throttle.

The ZF four-speed gearbox is not ideally suited to the engine, and the 17 manual versions built makes more sense - but only in a hooligan sense. The auto 'box allows you to waft along in serene splendour, and the engine is surprisingly tractable. But in the end this car is about performance, and 132 kW on the back wheels after 258 000 km shows a remarkable lack of power degradation.

Tests done with a manual version in 1985 showed a 0-100km/h time of 7 seconds and a top speed of 236 km/h.

A Leathery Experience

So the drive train is truly great, but the interior runs it a close second. Numerous bovines sacrificed their lives to cover almost every inch of the 745i interior with sumptuous leather. It is almost decadent and while driving I sometimes have the urge to open my window and shout "Let them eat cake!!"

In 1985 the 745i cost R73 000, at that time an obscene amount of money. But in hindsight it was worth the asking price, maybe even more.

If you'd like to submit your own reader road test, e-mail it to us at feedback@wheels24.co.za.

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