Manual E32: 1988 BMW 735i 5-Speed – Sold?

Sep 2021 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Free For All Friday

September 30, 2021 Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

September 7, 2021 Update – The private seller just lowered their asking price from $14,700 to $13,990.

It’s amazing how just one stroke on the purchase order can make all the difference in how a car is perceived decades later. The E32-chassis BMW 7-Series may be a fine machine, but it’s not exactly coveted today. However, if you happen to own one with the rare five-speed manual box checked – like this seller does with his impressive 1988 735i originally listed in September 2021 on Craigslist in Northern Virginia – well, you might have a vehicle worth owning. The 7-Series is in excellent condition and listed with an asking price of $14,700 which is obviously quite higher than what is listed in the NADA Price Guide that calls for a top-tier value of $5,675, but a survivor 7er with three pedals isn’t your garden variety luxury sedan.

BMW used to be a fun company. They found a way to stick a manual gearbox in almost everything they sold, even the flagship 7-Series. Engine and transmission recipes were simple, more often than not with a torquey inline-six upfront and a conventional 5-speed manual inside. And, in most cases, you could get a limited-slip as part of a factory sport package, which also typically got you firmer suspension and a wonderful three-spoke steering wheel. These days, BMW wants you to take on a significant monthly payment for the sport package features, and good luck finding an engine that isn’t turbocharged and equipped with an automatic transmission as standard equipment. Few companies have lost their way as significantly as BMW, but as long as suburbanites keeping paying too much money for crossovers, don’t expect it to change.

The Betamax YouTube Channel features this classic BMW 735i Series Commercial for the essentially identical 1987 model:

The description for this classic BMW 7-Series is novel-like in length, and the seller clearly pays attention to the details. The 7-Series was produced in extremely limited quantities with the manual gearbox, with the seller estimating that fewer than 300 examples were configured like his with the optional limited-slip. The list of improvements and repairs is too long to repeat here, so take a gander at it below. The seller describes himself as a BMW collector and enthusiast, and that’s about right for a car like this: with so few made, it’s rare to find one that hasn’t ended up with a marque fanatic. The asking price is strong, and this is a bit of a niche car at the moment. The E32s aren’t worth a whole lot, and while the manual gearbox is certainly a novelty, I’m not sure it’s enough to justify such a significant markup. Still, if you’re someone who’s been hunting for an E32 with the stick, your options are limited. Good luck with the purchase if you bring this rare 735i home.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Thank you for considering this beautifully preserved and cared for BMW E32 735i. You are looking at a fine example of a 7 series with the bulletproof M30 and Getrag 5-speed, believed to be one of less than 300 1988 E32’s with a factory 5-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential (LSD) imported to the United States. So yes, it’s a rare beast, especially in this part of the world, and especially in this condition. There are currently just under 113k miles on the car, but the mileage will be closer to 114k after I drive it to a show in a few weeks. The manual really livens up this car, and I would wager it is one of the top 10 E32s on the east coast, if not in the U.S. Essentially everything that impacts drivability has been repaired or replaced by a world-class European shop. This car has seen under 3000 miles in my 2.5 years of ownership and has undergone a plethora of maintenance and repairs that amount to what I will call a light restoration. I am a fully transparent, avid BMW enthusiast and collector, and this car is ready to serve its next driver and caretaker.

All records and a dropbox link with these files and photos (when available) will be provided to serious buyer candidates. Please ask any questions, and feel free to make an appointment to see the car or just call to share BMW stories. Full disclosure – most of the photos on this ad are from the previous owner. The first photo is the most current, and the car does look different with the 15″ style 7 wheels than the 5-spoke RGPs. I will upload new photos when I receive the car back from my trusted shop, where it is currently receiving a new passenger front wheel bearing and inspection. The car now looks even better than it did in these photos.

I am open to offers and negotiation, but this is not a piece of hot garbage so don’t treat it like one, and don’t waste my time with dumb offers. No, I do not need help selling. No, I am not interested in trades. No, I will not put up with scams, and no, I won’t drive the car three hours round trip just for you to kick the tires.

Exterior: beautiful, excellent driver quality condition. The paint is BMW-schwarz black. There are a few minor door dings here and there, and two spots where the clear coat has started peeling – one on the passenger side A-pillar and one on the passenger side quarter panel. I was told these areas were repainted at some point – but the car has never been in a documented accident, so not sure what necessitated the painting of these areas. The front bumper and fronts of the front fenders have seen a bit of road rash, and the front of the hood has a few rock chips. If I were to keep the car I’d have these areas professionally repainted, and have it blended properly. I’ve personally spent about 40 hours correcting the paint and detailing the car in the past year resulting in an incredible shine. The fog light lenses each have a crack. I do not believe they retain water, and both bulbs work, but if I were keeping the car I would replace.

Undercarriage and other body issues: There is no rust on this car. No other notable body issues. Rubber door seals, hood/trunk seals are all in terrific shape. This car has (and currently is) been garage kept and it shows. I have not driven this car in winter conditions, or when road salt is present. Small scrape in oil pan noted. No rust, no leaks, no issues.

Interior: 9/10. Beautiful – A great place to sit – there are no tears in the beautiful black buffalo leather; there are some creases on the driver’s seat which could use a good conditioning and potentially dye in some places, if one wants to be picky. Power seats work. Heater works great. All lights working. Gauges all work and appear accurate. LKM works, no pixels out. It could use new floor mats – I would recommend Lloyds mats for this fine car. The woodgrain is beautiful with zero cracking and has been meticulously treated. I replaced the old shift knob with BMW leather knob and M-technic insert (which took 3 tries to get an OEM oval one from Europe). A previous owner replaced the shift boot with a nice Alcantara boot. Heat works great. Sunroof works and does not leak. Auto-locking system works (just don’t forget that the car locks after startup and can lock you out if you close the door! Happened to me – once.) The Trunk is in near-perfect condition; there is one plastic panel tab missing. Spare tire Is a Michelin Primacy with a 2001 date code that appears to hold air. Toolbox is almost 100% intact only needs one 1/13 wrench to complete. Original Jack and tire iron in perfect shape. Four road flares from 2000 in the spare tire cavity – which upon visual inspection has zero signs of rust.
– A/C: works great, and blows cold air and feels great even during this hot summer. The compressor makes a little intermittent noise, but not annoyingly enough for me to care. Apparently been doing this for the last 3 owners.
– Modification: original head unit replaced with pioneer deck for Bluetooth compatibility. I don’t mind it (nice BMW-orange matching backlight).

Mechanical: 9/10. The meticulous care that was given to the interior and exterior continues with respect to maintenance of the engine and drivetrain. Religious fluid changes, annual inspections, and overall sense of mechanical understanding and love of the previous owners have left this car in exceptionally superior mechanical condition, given its obvious age. There are no indicator lights or fault codes. See below for parts replaced/repaired. Clutch is solid, transmission rows smoothly through the gears, and the M30 pulls with good power as it should. It’s not an E39 M5, but it moves fast enough to get out of its own way and feels lovely at autobahn cruising speeds. My only nitpicky gripe is a faint miss/hiccup during engine cold start/warm up procedure. If it is not the throttle body gasket, I suspect an injector O-ring. This has not impacted drivability at all, has done this for a couple years and hasn’t even bothered the guys at my trusted race shop – so maybe I’m seeing ghosts. I have a replacement throttle body gasket ready for the next owner – quick, easy job to do.

– Modification: A previous owner equipped the car with a Dinan chip. A previous owner cut part of the plastic around the front of the air box… likely for more airflow and induction sound. If I were to keep the car I’d replace the air box with OEM. However, the induction sound the engine makes is wonderful!

Wheels and Tires: Car currently sits on well-kept and not rashed 15” style 7 wheels on new General Altimax all season rubber. I replaced the plastic center caps with genuine BMW parts as the old ones were becoming discolored. I still have the set of 17” Racing Dynamics RGP wheels seen in the PO’s photos but removed these from the car due to a small kick in one of the wheels that I felt and took off (I am very sensitive to vibrations, even small ones). That said, the RGP wheels could use a look over and one needs brought back to round. They are a fairly uncommon model and are becoming harder to find. One previous owner paid $1800 for these wheels. I may consider including them in the price of the car with the right offer.

Known Faults:
• front speakers need re-connected
• passenger rear window regulator inoperable
• passenger power mirror inoperable – suspect switch
• light bulb behind temp gauge just went out
• passenger front wheel bearing sounded a little gritty, so I dropped the car off at my trusted shop. Repair will be completed prior to sale
• front floor mats could stand to be replaced (I would recommend Lloyd mats as I have found no OEM ones)

Other: prior ownership records reflect registration in Oregon, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Maintenance/repairs/parts replaced during my ownership (All BMW OEM):
All four tires
Battery (BMW 65 ah 800 CCA)
Rear differential fluid
Front and rear calipers rebuilt
Coolant flush
Power steering fluid service
Manual transmission service
Cluster backlight bulbs
02 sensor
Both front wheel bearings
Servotronic valve
Steering gear box serviced
Hydraulic brake booster
Brake master cylinder
Idler arm
Distributor cap
Distributor rotor
Ignition wires
Fuel pump assembly
Fuel filter
MAF boot
Front struts
Rear shocks
Valve adjustment
Rear CV joint
Shift knob (old one worn. Could not replicate wood grain, replaced with genuine BMW leather knob and M-technic emblem).
Oil changes (1 per year, Castrol GTX 20-50), Mahle filters
Engine Air Filter (Mann)
Throttle Body cleaned
Idle Air Control Valve cleaned
Intake boot cleaned

Repairs/parts replaced prior to my ownership:
clutch master and slave cylinders
coolant temp sensor
Washer Nozzles
LKM resoldered
Instrument Cluster Caps
Control Arms
Thrust Rods, Bushings, Idler Arm Bushing, Tie Rod Assemblies, and L & R Pitman Arms
Sword Control Switch
Dinan Stage 1 chip,
Full Recharge R134a A/C
New Brake Accumulator
Valve adjustment, All fluids done 4/2012
headlight assembly (broken from stone)”

Do you have a BMW 7-Series story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!


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