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Airplane Hangar Find: 1979 BMW 733I

This 1979 BMW 733i is a survivor we don’t see all that often, wearing very pretty Bahama Beige paint and presenting very well with under 100,000 original miles. Known by its internal chassis code as an E23, the early 7-Series is a great choice for a starter classic that also offers a respectable amount of convenience. Yes, there are plenty of these that are total dogs, but like anything else, buying a good one generally leads to an enjoyable ownership experience. The seller’s car was apparently found slumbering in an airplane hangar where it was parked for 20 years. A good amount of work has been done to revive this 733i, but some additional fine-tuning is needed. Find the 7-Series here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $12,000.

The interior is in beautiful condition, and while these are generally robust cabins, neglected cars readily show their flaws. The dashboards can be cracked, the leather is dry, and the wood trim faded and destroyed. Not so here, as the 7-Series appears to have a crack-free dash – a benefit of being stored inside a dark hanger for two decades – and none of the other flaws I referenced. While the sheepskins are hiding some flaws in the leather (there’s a tear in the passenger seat), I wouldn’t sweat it, especially since those covers are likely OEM BMW accessories that point to first owner who was somewhat fanatical about keeping this big sedan in pristine condition. The seller does point out that the back seat is dry and cracking.

You could get a 7-Series of this generation with a manual gearbox, which is a nice combination for a driver that wants a true four-door but also desires some level of engagement from the car. The E23 utilized the venerable M30 inline-six which is one of the best engines ever built, according to Ward’s. I had the same mill in my 1987 BMW 535is and it is a lovely powerplant, with lots of torque and capable of making some beautiful music. Parts availability is still quite good as BMW used this engine across the product family throughout the late 70s and into the early 90s, so you’re never far away from a virtual parts counter with the tune-up components you need. The seller has addressed the car’s obviously deferred maintenance with new spark plugs, a replacement power steering/brake booster pump, and new fuel system components including the fuel pump, fuel injectors, and new fuel lines.

I believe this color is called “Bahama Beige” which is one of the best ones ever offered on a 1980s BMWs. It’s the one color more than any other I wish my 1987 325is were painted, as it’s like a creamy butterscotch that looks brown in some lights and light tan in others. The BMW sports the typical 1980s “safety” bumpers that remain in good shape but would look much better if they were swapped out for a set of the OEM European-market bumpers that sit much closer to the body and look amazing compared to these appendages. The interior sounds like the biggest of any concerns around this car, and those issues are an easy fix with a visit to the upholstery shop. The price is ambitious, but E23s this nice rarely come up for sale.


  1. alphasud Member

    This car is gorgeous! Too bad there aren’t more interior pictures. I was secretly hoping for the 5-speed getrag transmission. I too miss my 88 535i 5-speed. This is when BMW built some of the best cars. Each newer series lost a little of the original BMW character and by the 2000’s they were great cars that didn’t hold up. Few cars today come close to the sound and feel closing the drivers door. Jeff you know what I’m talking about!

    Like 3
  2. doug

    Probably the best looking piece of junk BMW ever built. They were junk when new.

    Like 2
    • SebastianX1/9

      That someone who likes American cars would describe this treasure as junk is a clear example of pearls before swine.

      Like 1
  3. DelBoy

    My garage had one of these in for ‘restoration’. Could not believe how rusted the underside was. Large chunks of it turned to rusty dust.

    Like 1
  4. Cam W.

    I had a really nice-looking ’79 733i auto-trans (silver w black int) back in the early 80’s. I had previously owned a 320i, that I bought new and enjoyed immensely. I wanted a bigger car, and was expecting an even more enjoyable experience with the 733i.
    My first clue was when a BMW dealership manager asked if In had crashed it yet…. I angrily interpreted the comment as an unsolicited criticism of my driving ability. The manager quickly explained that the 7 series had a bad rep for poor handling in snow (we had recent storms), and pointed to a batch of crashed units awaiting body repairs. I put 4 snows on it, and made it through the winter with only a few close-calls.
    The big problem was the engine….. The head cracked. I then found out that “they all do that”, according to several BMW specialists. I got it fixed, and sold it. It just wasn’t that great of a car. Not that fast, and average(at best) driving experience. A few years later, I bought a newer 5 Series, and it was a great car.
    As a car-guy, one of the things I appreciate about the internet is that I can now easily research problems with various models before I buy.
    To me, this batch of 7 Series was a disappointment, compared to other models.

    Like 4
  5. Troy

    I had a 79 325I I got from a abandon car auction for $400 bucks looked like it had been garage since new, the owner got busted for DUI and was still in jail when the tow yard sold me the car. Very easy to work on and fun to drive I put new tires on it and drove it as my daily for a year than sold it to a dealer for $2500. At today’s crazy market they will probably get their asking price

  6. losgatos_dale

    I own two E23s. Terrible period for engineering at BMW. Most of the systems like the brakes & steering, or HVAC/chassis electrics/OBC became hopelessly interconnected, but not in a sensible way. More like in the Kurt Russell remake of “The Blob.” I don’t believe they should be preserved for posterity either (and they are both turbos!)

    Like 3
  7. Steve Haygood

    Only in the 745 version… if the evaporator goes out…. Pull everything out and when you can see the engine while sitting in the car with the hood closed , then you can start removing the evaporator …

    Like 2
  8. douglas hunt

    never had a bigger BMW, my only BMW was a 2001 e46 330ci.
    loved that car thru 205k miles, then it was punted out from under me and then they bolted from the scene, and i had dropped full coverage due to the age/high mileage so i had to get another car…….im more of a 2 door coupe fan though

  9. Gerard Frederick

    Didn´t these BMW´s have front end problems, what with the plastic bushings going bad at about 125000 miles on the clock?

  10. William R Hall

    Still a better car in lots of ways than comparable new BMW now. For one thing the electronic pieces where much simpler. Now to find a problem you probably need a supercomputer and a tech genius.

    Like 2
  11. t-bone BOB

    Location: Tyler, Texas

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