BMW 850 CSI | Spotted

For £130k you could buy a new BMW M8 Competition… or this. Which is it to be?

By Matt Bird / Thursday, November 19, 2020

With just 10 positions in the PH best buy lists, some good cars inevitably fall by the wayside when it comes to the crunch. The original E31 BMW 8 Series is the perfect case in point; we'd have loved it somewhere in the GT top ten, hailing as it does from a great BMW era and combining great style with some immense powertrains. However, as values have risen, so it has come into direct competition with a lot of other cars. And the Porsche 928 got the nod – by a nose – as the classic option.

Prices of E31s have risen over recent years for a number of reasons. The first is that they were almost scandalously affordable for quite some time; back in 2012 we wrote of a 54,000-mile 850i manual for sale at £9,995. Alarm bells probably should have started ringing then. The original certainly earned renewed attention in light of the 8 Series' return, alongside a general appreciation of BMWs from the early 1990s. As they passed into bonafide classic territory – and one or two M cars sold for ludicrous money – so the world started to notice more the cars from the used to be. A quarter of a century later and with BMW apparently locked on a divisive styling path, it seems a lot of enthusiasts are pining for the days of shark noses, petrol engines and an instantly understandable lineup. The 8 Series ticks all those boxes and more as the brand's erstwhile flagship.

Hence the current values. Where sub-£10k cars were once plentiful, £15,000 now seems to be the entry point for an 8 Series, with £20k and above required for a car without a six-figure mileage. Bear in mind that £35k would have bought an 850 CSI in early 2016 and that now that money gets an 850i auto and it's clear how far things have come.

Then there's this 8 Series. Just when it seemed like every immaculate M car had resurfaced, we get this: a UK 850 CSI, first registered in January 1996 at Barons of Farnborough and with only two owners in those 25 years. The first covered 10,000 miles and moved it on in 2007; the second owner purchased it from the dealership that's now selling it again. There surely can't be a better one out there, or even close.

The M car designation isn't a mistake, either. The CSI was built by M division, and the V12 was deemed sufficiently overhauled – bored, stroked, forged crank, lighter pistons, racier cams and so on – to gain an S prefix. It's as close to an M car, surely, as a BMW is ever likely to be without actually receiving the tricolour.

All of which is rather skirting around the broader discussion point: the price. When we last featured a CSI in 2016, the forum thread didn't get past two comments before the £35,000 asking price was called into question. Well now, four years later and with a car that's recorded less than a quarter of the mileage, the price is up a fair bit. By almost £100k.

Yes, £130,000 for an 850 CSI. Acquired from a collection and very much intended to go into another, the history even includes the personal pound per mile calculations of the previous owner as well as every receipt, tax reminders, the lot. It's a CSI museum exhibition as much as car purchase.

Which doesn't ignore the fact that this is, by quite a margin, the most expensive 8 Series we've ever seen. Not only is it as much as a new M8 Competition, there are more exotic (if more common) contemporaries of the E31 – think Ferrari 550 Maranello and Porsche 911 Turbo – available at similar money and in not dissimilar condition. However, for the right owner and the right collection – one already occupied by various M3s, M5s, 2002s and whatever else – this is going to fit in just perfectly. And maybe snuck out for a drive once or twice, just to see what the fuss is about…


SPECIFICATION | BMW 850CSI

Engine: 5,576cc, V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, LSD
Power (hp): [email protected],300rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm
MPG: 22
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1996
Recorded mileage: 15,000
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £130,000

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