How Did I Get Here? 1983 BMW 745i

Do you ever see a once-exotic car in a sad state—or even just in an unexpected place—and ask: How did that get there? Such is the case for this 1983 BMW 745i, a not-for-U.S.-sale, ultra-expensive turbo supersedan that has somehow come to rest in someone’s yard in Sunderland, Maryland, an unincorporated community a few miles west of the Chesapeake Bay. Fortunately for us, it has also come to rest on craigslist, where we can check it out and ponder its $1,500 asking price (archived ad)!

Of course, for many exotic and high-end vehicles, all it takes is a little bit of depreciation, and falling into the hands of that one owner who can swing the initial purchase price but not the ongoing maintenance, and BAM! You’re yard art. Factor in the added challenge of finding—and paying for—those unobtanium bits specific to a car that was never officially sold here, and it’s no wonder that a seemingly high percentage of these Autobahn stormers that ended up in the U.S. (and they did a brisk grey market business in these in the ’80s) look a lot like this naturalized Marylander today.

As for how a grey-market car that probably cost around $50,000 when it first landed on these shores ended up in this little rural corner of the world, who knows? It could have originally belonged to some Washington or Annapolis power broker. As it sits now, it looks like there may be some rust on the driver-side doors and below the taillight on the passenger side—all easily fixed or replaced with fairly easily sourced bits shared with U.S.-market cars—and amazingly, the alloys suggest that this car may still wear original-spec Michelin TRX-sized tires. The exterior trim seems mostly intact, and fortunately this car doesn’t look to have undergone a terribly intrusive Federalization process; some 745s ended up just as ugly as their U.S. counterparts with 5-MPH bumpers.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of the interior, with its unique buffalo leather upholstery, or the turbocharged 3.4-liter inline six—and certainly none of the underside of this car that hasn’t moved in several years. The interior is described as “decent,” while the engine is said to have had new a fuel pump shortly before being parked and will start when hooked up to an external fuel source, but clearly will need some mechanical work. How much work is a mystery, so the question is: with so many unknown variables, is the initial $1,500 price low enough to be worth the gamble? It’s awfully tempting to me–thank goodness this car is on the opposite side of the country, or I might find myself knee deep in an expensive, perplexing project, asking myself, “How did I get here?”


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  1. Jeff Lavery Staff

    Oh man. I want a Euro-spec E23 so freaking bad, especially in turbocharged form. This is frighteningly close to my brother, who lives on the Eastern Shore and has the same affinity for these that I do.

    On a related note, he sees all sorts of oddball stuff like this due to retirees who move from Annapolis or D.C. and then can’t get the cars serviced when they develop some sort of mechanical fault. And then they just stay there, since there are relatively few scrap dealers and/or potential buyers.

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      If you buy this, you’ll be my new hero!

      I remember a similar situation when I was in college in Fredericksburg, VA, 50 miles south of DC. In fact, there was one of these 745s parked for a long time (next to a Bavaria, the model I now own, and I think a Mercedes 450SEL 6.9) outside of a shady used car dealer/mechanic shop outside of town; I used to take a long walk most weekends, just to go stare at those old Bimmers and dream…

  2. Steve M

    Imagine how this would look on a set of style 32s

  3. GearHead Engineering

    Great write-up. I like the way you came full circle.

    As for the car, it is very interesting and tempting. But as many of us will tell you, there is no such thing as a cheap BMW.

    – John

    • craig m bryda

      BMW = brings more wealth to a repair shop.

      • Jeffrey;L. Zack

        I had always heard that BMW = Bring Money With you. In the 80’s, it stood for Break My Window. They were well known for their radios.

  4. edh

    It has all the beauty of a refrigerator of the same year, but the refrigerator would still be working.

  5. DG

    I’ll bet that Euro-spec turbo wasn’t intercooled either.

  6. Jeff Lavery Staff

    For me, the key with the gray market cars is this: if it’s not running, then all of the Euro bits need to be attached. That means the headlights, headlight wiper arms, perfect Euro bumpers, nice interior….and based on the photo, it doesn’t have any of those boxes checked.

    If it was a runner and needed cosmetics, worth it. And vice versa. This one, unfortunately, is neither.

  7. alan

    All 745i cars were equipped with an intercooler.

    • Chebby

      and an interior.

  8. alan

    I did a head gasket job on one 20 years ago and change all the exhaust manifold studs while doing it. They were about as long as 911 head studs. Having a few left over I used them to cross bolt a few joists to support my electric garage door openers. They are still working perfectly.

  9. Tommy

    looks like it got there being pulled out of somewhere by the Chevy pickup in front of it, plant some flowers in it and leave it on the front lawn.

  10. Hot Wheels Calgary

    I’ll take the Chevy truck instead thank you.

  11. Jeffrey;L. Zack

    I have spent many years wrenching on BMW’s. I am a certified BMW Master tech.
    In regards to the “Long in the tooth” gray market 745. My suggestion would be to hold a crucifix high, and back away slowly. These old flagships grow very sharp teeth.

    • bog

      J;L. Z – “hold a crucifix high…” Beautiful ! I’m a current BMW owner, have lived in Germany and drove/saw many different models/cars I’ve “lusted” over…and then snapped myself out of it before getting bitten. That being said, I continue to have a soft spot in my heart (and perhaps my head) for the 501/502 series V8s. They were the “state” and “county” police cars where I lived. Memory says one jurisdiction had grey bodies and green fenders/roof, and the other had a deep blue body with green fenders/roof. Fast, as in very. Just viewed a six cylinder version on Hemmings for nearly 68K…oh, well.

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