It’s been grey all week in our nations Capitol. This type of weather makes no one happy, no one at all, ever, in the history of the world. What it makes people do is go mad and make irrational decisions that they would later, undoubtedly regret. Unfortunately that’s where this My Car Monday takes its inspiration, the car I will introduce to you is the equivalent of these grey and dreary skies that have been looming above, so sit back and enjoy.
1997 BMW 740 iL
Ironically enough, it was around this time five years ago that I acquired this flagship BMW from an auction for $3500 which, in all things considered is a mighty good deal, or so it seemed like at the time. Before we get into the nitty and the gritty, I would like to preface this article with a bit of history, I promise to keep it short.
There are several factors that determine what we, as people like and adhere to, food, clothes, music and same goes for cars. Geography has a lot to do with this, people from the southern states typically like country music and pick up trucks, just like everyone in Portland OR drives a Jeep Wagoneer and listen to Indy pop. Being that I was born and spent a good amount of my childhood in Ukraine I am automatically wired to love German cars, no questions asked, and if you didn’t like them, then you didn’t like cars at all. All imports where so much cooler than what the locals were driving at the time, which were mainly ancient Ladas and Moskvichs. Since Japanese and American cars were much more difficult to import, we got a lot of second-hand VW’s Mercs and BMW’s in Ukraine, and I gravitated toward quickly. So that’s where my love for all things German but more specifically BMW formed. I remember seeing my first E28 and instantly being captivated, the nickname for the car was “akula” which translates into shark, it was named so because of the angry nose. It was love at first sight. As if the E28 sharks weren’t cool enough in 2003, the Russian movie Bumer came out, the main character of the film was a mean, black, BMW E38, after that, the popularity of the car went astronomical, and I knew that someday somehow I had to own one, and when that day finally came I was overjoyed.
Before we get to the bad, let’s go over the good, because it is the good that made me overlook a lot of the bad for a very long time. First of, the thing looks magnificent, the classic edges give of a very strict appearance, it demands attention, and screams “Get out my way peasant”, it’s pushed to the edge in every sense and it knows and its proud. The long body and larger than the front rear doors add to the equation. Mine had the E65 19 inch wheels, which made the presence of the car that much more grand. The driving dynamics of the car were also fantastic. It handled superbly for its size and its ability to devour miles quickly was evident from day one. The big V8 had no problem pushing the needle well north of 100 and it did so frequently. The transmission delivered crisp shifts and was geared perfectly for a mix of spirited driving and highway cruising. When working in unison all the parts of this machine were extraordinary, the only problem was that it rarely ever happened.
Having 160k, on the clock my expectations were low for the flagship BMW, but apparently not low enough. After about a month or so the problems started coming like relatives after you hit the Mega Million. The top valve cover gasket started to leak oil onto the exhaust and every time the car would heat up there would be a lovely smell of burning oil throughout the cabin, once fixed I discovered another oil leak toward the bottom of the block, that went unfixed. Then, the fuel pump fuse kept blowing, which lead to a new fuel pump, and filer. Then I had to replace the O2 sensor, and ABS sensor. One day the sunroof decided it wasn’t going to close and the pass window decided it wasn’t going to open. Inside the car was the same story, the glove box handle only worked every other time, the fragile/useless cup holder broke after the first month and the seat adjuster button would not stay on. Driving the car with the windows down constantly loosed the headliner and it eventually began to sink, so the whole car felt as though it was melting around you. Basically, this car was a complete mess, and I could no longer overlook its shortcomings, two years later I sold it for $3200 losing $300 and my love in the process.
The whole experience was made worse by the empty dream that BMW sold with this car. Yes, I know it was old when I bought it, and yes it was probably treated inadequately before me, but that makes no difference. In 97 the BMW 740 iL cost $75k when it was new, that’s $112k in today’s money, and yet it delivered almost nothing that came with that giant price tag. The BMW faithful will scream with outrage, but unfortunately it’s true. Think of someone who owns a 90’s V8 powered German sedan, now think of the last time that person told you their car was without issue, if they did that person is liar, because it simply does not happen, and that makes me a bit perplexed. Why is a Toyota Corolla able to go 200k miles with little preventative maintenance but a flagship German sedan cannot? Some say it’s an elaborate plan from the Germans to keep the consumer coming back to the dealer for service others, that German cars are just dreadful in general, I have no answer for you here. What I do know is like that cup holder and sunroof my heart was broken. The car of my dreams turned out to be a nightmare and like this awful and grey weather this makes for a very sad My Car Monday.