Live Auctions

3,800 Miles: 1979 BMW 733i 5-Speed

For a few months, I was hot on buying an old-school 7-Series. I even looked at a decent 1986 L7 up in New Hampshire, that I thankfully did not buy. Still, like an unrequited love, I can’t help but look at E23-series 7s and think it’d be fun to own one, for a little while. This 3,710 mile example here on craigslist is out of my price range, but if you’ve got an FJ40 collecting dust, the seller is considering trades for a vintage ‘Yota.

Now, the trouble is, these old VDO odometers (or it could be a Motometer) tend to break. I’m going to assume that, with an $18K asking price, the seller has confirmed this one is operational. The condition certainly backs up the mileage claim, as the chrome on the bumpers looks fantastic, every original manual and brochure is included, and the OEM (and rare) first-aid kit is still with the car. Those are the types of details that are hard to fake.

Then, you check out the engine bay. The clear coolant tank, the bright red fan (typically faded to pink, on most cars), the unstained valve cover – heck, even the rubber dust caps above the struts still appear lustrous. The only item said not to be original is the battery, and the seller claims even the very complicated HVAC system is still working. Leather seats do appear to be quite nice, and I should mention that 5-speed equipped 7-Series of this vintage aren’t exactly common. This car is definitely in unicorn territory for the BMW enthusiast.

An un-cracked dash is nice to find, and although the interior pictures are horrible, you can see the leather seats and stitching are in great shape and the heel pad on the carpet looks like it’s never had a foot resting on it. My biggest gripe is the price – it’s a rare car, but finding someone who’s dying to own a mint E23 7-Series, to the point that they’re willing to lay out close to $20K, is going to be a tough buyer to find. Price it s bit closer to $13-$14K and someone will gladly take it home; I wish it could be me!


  1. Jason

    Certainly looks nice. The super low mileage is weird, especially for a car like this that was designed to be a mile muncher.

    • Dave

      BUT THE DASH IS FROM A 1982 ONWARDS E23. The correct dash would have 3 main dials with the large speedometer in the middle.

  2. steve m

    The car is sick cool, kinda beyond cool if you are a BMW guy like myself, but 18k……that is steep money for an e23 no matter how good. 18k buys you an E28M5, an E30M3, a VERY nice tii, and maybe if you look and wait a Hartge, or Alpina car………..Its very cool but Id rather have the same car with 100k on the clock with good paint for 6k

    • Todd Zuercher

      18K doesn’t buy you an E30 M3, VERY nice tii, or Alpina anymore.

  3. bluzemn1

    please lose the email popup. thank you

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      If you have cookies enabled, you should only see it once.

      • Chris

        @Jesse, Just a thought but the email link has a “utm_campaign=Newsletter” which you could detect on your side and disable the email popup.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Great suggestion Chris. I’ve added the rule so that should help some people who receive the email, but have cookies disabled.

  4. TiiTommy

    This is not a 1979 drivetrain. The 1979 still had EGR and thermal reactor exhaust, c-tube intake runners. This one has the service reminder bars in the dash and what appears to be a 5-speed shift knob. It has to be be a 1982 or newer 733i. That said, it is super clean looking and there is a pretty good chance that the mileage is legitimate. Those odometers typically didn’t brake with that few miles on them.

    • olddavid

      Tom-The ad says 1982. You have a good eye. Nice car, but I’m in the group that would buy one with many needs, make it the way I want it to be and save $10k. Plus, this wasn’t that good of a car in ’82 let alone today. Sure it was about as sharp a handler as a large saloon could be, but not much power, skinny tires and astronomical entry price made them untenable in 1982. The people I knew with this money bought a Merc SEC.

  5. Howard A Member

    Being the self appointed “mileage guru”, apparently, there’s nothing to indicate this mileage isn’t true. It sure looks nice. That “very complicated HVAC system” would have me running off screaming into the night. A Pinto HVAC system ( window crank) is so much easier and cheaper to fix. These Beemers are such nice cars,,,however, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole, sorry.

  6. sylv

    poor hopeless pictures, that should not deserve the honor of Barn Find

  7. Terry

    I really enjoy this thread and the comments but have to agree. How can I stop email pop up. It’s every time.

  8. duke

    very extremely nice example of a great car!
    your wish for a fj40,,,not so much-as an EX toyota dealer, ive owned 6 of them through the years from new to used plus two fj55s and as i’ve found them to be eye appealing- however their attraction to rot and rust is extreme -they also being painfully slow and beyond thirsty – i’d guess if its a sunday driver and using it as not what it would be intended for you’d be good to go as long as its kept in a zip lock bag type of storage year round.-best of luck

  9. flmikey

    …sorry….too many doors….

  10. Bob in Bexley

    car’s maintenance will become identifying leaking seals & replacing as necessary should frequent miles rack-up.

  11. Mr. TKD

    I’ve always wanted a 7-series with a third pedal. The cost of entry on this is steep, so I’ll pass. But, somewhere, there’s one out there with my name on it. It’s sitting in a junkyard and is just a shell of its former self, but it’s out there. #HopeSpringsEternal

  12. misterlou Member

    Ending up on BaT in 3…2….

  13. Mike Burnett

    I had a 1984 or 5 (memory is fading) 733i once. Bought it when just 4 years old. The most unreliable car I ever had. In the space of 5 months;

    Rust blisters in the centre of the door panels
    2 electric window motors failed
    13, yes 13 cracks in the cylinder head
    Engine core plugs burst out (the only car I ever has that did this)
    Radiator sprang a leak and the whole thing had to be replaced as the core was made of plastic and could not be repaired.
    Silencer (muffler) split along its seam
    ‘Sealed’ headlight bowls collected rainwater and rusted the woefully thin chrome out.
    The thin chrome on the bumpers blistered with rust.
    After just over 800 miles the cambelt broke, breaking one valve, bending some others (I forget how many) and the broken valve head got slammed into the combustion chamber and piston, wrecking them both.

    Maybe I was unfortunate in buying a car that had been abused by the previous owner, though the car came with full service history. Whatever the reason, it put me off BMW’s for life. I now stick with Mercedes and have nothing but good to say about them.

    • steve m

      Sir, all due respect you know nothing of these cars. There were no cylinder head cracks due to design flaw in M30 engines after the 1981 model year. The car did not have a plastic radiator core, it was aluminum. The car had aluminum bumpers not steel so they did not rust. The M30 (only engine available in the e23 has a timing chain not a belt. The only way for your claims to be even close to accurate is if you owned a VERY early 528e euro with euro bumpers (steel) and euro lights (non sealed beam), and the m20 engine (cam belt). There is no way you had the above problems with an e23

      Like 1
      • Dave

        I agree.

  14. motodog

    These U.S. market bumpers are anodized aluminum so there is no chrome to rust.

  15. Greg Member

    There’s a 1983 one on Hemmings with 12,000 miles and they’re asking $38,950! Makes this one look like a real bargain…

  16. Karl

    Most if not all BMW’s from that era have broken plastic odometer gears. The plastic was prone to cracking. Just sayin’. There is even a company that specializes in their replacement.

  17. David Miraglia

    Nice Bimmer

  18. Mike Burnett


    I find your comments on my posting personal, insulting and ill informed. I admit not being familiar with US spécifications on these cars but you seem to imply that I am either ignorant or lying, neither of which is the case. I clearly remember the bills I had to pay for all these repairs. Are you suggesting that the garages who fixed them were all lying to me? I admit that because I had a high profile job at the time I did none of my own repairs on the car (not feasible anyway living in Central London at the time, without access to my own garage)

    I have been following Barn Finds for some time and it seems to have gone downhill recently with writers feeling more and more free to insult other members. I am seriously reconsidering my continued subscription.

    • Brian

      Steve’s comments weren’t a personal attack and shouldn’t be taken that way. He simply pointed out that some of the issues were not possible: belt/chain, chrome/aluminum, etc. Stick around and enjoy the banter. This site is worthwhile and most members are very respectful.

    • Howard A Member

      Here, here!! Keep a stiff upper lip, ol’ chap. This site gets better everyday. I never owned a BMW, because I thought they were not the best either. ( and I think the Germans build some of the best cars)

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