Running In The Family: A Father And Son Own This Pair Of BMW E31 8-Series
Photography by George Colbeanu
The BMW E31 8-Series is one of the more unique road cars in the Bavarian brand’s history. They are elegant grand tourers that have aged well, and while they do require more fastidious maintenance and less-cheap parts than a basic car that gets it done, E31s are patently pleasant to drive when they’re taken care of. The naturally aspirated V8s and V12s deliver smooth power, and while they are happiest wafting along at Autobahn speeds, the E31 chassis still gamely responds to harder cornering for a car of its heft. Together with these GT merits, the car’s styling has placed it squarely in modern classic territory. When I first saw one a few years ago, I knew I had to find an opportunity to do a proper photoshoot of the iconic big Bimmer.
Fast forward and I had two of them in front of my lens. The father-and-son owner of this pair are ardent E31 enthusiasts. Their cars—an 850CSi and 840Ci Sport—are both painted in Oxford Green metallic. They look good on their own, but together they just look too mint. Seeing them driving in tandem through the arcing country roads of Kent at sunset was to be back in the 1990s all over again—in this case, on set for the brochure photos. That’s how it felt anyway, chasing these two pristine slices of German engineering through the scenery. As darkness fell, the low-slung forms disappeared into the night with the illuminated strips of taillights lending a sinister aura to the otherwise handsome forms. The owners are as happy as they come though, and eager to share the story behind their beloved BMWs.
The obvious place to start is with the highest cylinder count, in this case the V12-powered 1996 850CSi. The 5.6L motor is good for 372hp and 402lb-ft of torque, and when properly taken care of (which this one certainly has been for its 87k miles of life), it is a formidable piece of propulsion. It’s not brash and aggressive, more like the assured shove of a Rolls-Royce but in a totally un-stodgy package. Speaking of which, Tahmid’s 850CSi is not only painted in the very rare shade of Oxford Green, it is the very last E31 to ever be painted in the color.
Like all 850CSis, Tahmid’s makes good use of the extra on-board computer by cramming in all manner of cutting edge technology for the period, from all-wheel steering to electronically controlled window shades. Externally, the car is also fitted with the sport bumpers and staggered “throwing star” BMW M-System wheels.
Like the genuine enthusiast that he is, owning the top of the line model has done nothing to dissuade Tahmid from the V8-powered E31s, and his 840Ci is nearly the twin of its bigger-engined brother anyway. It is also Oxford Green over grey, and it is similarly optioned to boot, with seemingly every box having been checked when it was new. It isn’t quite as powerful as the CSi of course, but the 4.4L V8 isn’t a slouch either, with 282hp and 310lb-ft of torque available for comfortably quick cross-country travel.
Tahmid and his father, Kiron, have been interested in cars for much longer than they’ve been collecting them, which means they’ve had a lot of time to determine what to look for. These two E31s are just part of what they’ve chosen so far, so expect to see more of their cars in the future. For now though, I simply wanted Tahmid to explain how they got into collecting, and his take on these two ‘90s grand touring icons.
When did you start collecting?
My father and I have both always loved cars, but it was at the start of 2018 when we bought our first classic, a Porsche 944 for £4000. A 944 being the car of choice simply as we were reminiscing on the 944 we had when I was only a few years old. The intention was to start off small and trade our way up to eventually buying a supercar, something which has since fallen off the table as it is no longer the case. We like to own what we like, not just what we think will be worth the most money.
Still, it is preferable when both are true! For instance we enjoyed that 944 for a short while and then sold it on without doing any work on it, doubling our money in the process. This set the way for what was to come.
Countless number of cars followed, somewhat around 40 cars have passed in and out of our hands since then, and many we retain today, collecting only the best examples we can find of each model. Most are ’80s and ‘90s BMWs, but there have also been many Porsches, such as 944s and 993 and 996 911s. Of course there were also some Mercedes-Benz models too, like 190E 2.3-16 Cosworths, special W126s, and so on.
Our aim moved from the end goal of owning a supercar, to owning all the iconic BMW M cars ever made. We’d also like to do something similar with 911s, but we will see what’s possible.
How many BMWs have you owned so far?
At the time that the E31s came to us, we had two E24 M635CSis in the collection, but no other M cars. We were still actively searching for an E28 M5 and had seen a quite a few but no deals could be struck. Likewise, with the 850CSi, there were a handful known for sale but priced north of £50k. The numbers had to work out. If there was one thing we had learned in the last two years, it is as my father always says. ‘Something better will come along, just be patient.’
And he was always right! Patience paid off for us, and we’ve owned I think five of the best E31s in the country over the last year alone, our first being the most special. It was a 1997 840Ci Sport from BMW’s Individual program, with only 14,000 miles. It was Cosmos Schwartz with individual gaucho leather, authenticated with a document to say this was fitted to just two cars ever out of the whole ~30,000 built worldwide. This was a special one, but as you can see, we are always looking for the next one. So we enjoyed it for a few months, then set it up for sale, selling it within 24 hours of the listing going up. I like to think we made another patient soul happy with that one!
Following that, we had a string of rare-specification 840Ci Sports, often with BMW Individual color options. We even had one that was bought from BMW itself, an Estoril Blue example with silver leather and blue seat piping. It’s fair to say we love the E31 chassis, and it was only a matter of time before we found the right V12 CSi model.
And how did you find the one pictured here?
I attended an auction with the intention of buying a 190E Cosworth, but at the same auction this 850CSi grabbed our attention. Having seen the estimate for the car, it was far out of our budget. I still wanted to check the car out for curiosity’s sake, and it presented very clean and original, but I had no airs of taking it home.
We ended up winning the auction for the M-B, and it was even below what we thought we would pay. I remember being on the phone to my dad, as he couldn’t make it, and we were both extremely excited to have bought our first Cosworth. Already it was a night well spent.
Shortly afterwards, the 850CSi was up, I called my dad once again, and we paid rapt attention. The room was full of people, but not many of them were bidding so we took a gamble and ended up being successful with our bid. As soon as the hammer went down, I went to the desk and asked for the keys. Having then had a proper look at the car, it was even better than I thought it was upon those first glances. We were ecstatic at our luck.
I returned the next day with my dad to collect the cars, and that experience will never leave me; the two of us drove home through central London with the biggest smiles on our faces! We were in two of our dream cars, just feeding off of each other’s excitement at that fact. That was a special day, to put it lightly.
And how did you find this particular 840Ci Sport ?
With the UK on lockdown due to COVID-19, this made buying cars extremely difficult as you could hardly go anywhere, and even if you did, you could not really inspect the cars the same way. But still, there was an auction in April, and there was a 840Ci Sport with only 21,000 miles on the dash. Once again, we tried our luck with it and managed to successfully buy it. One of the cleanest cars we have ever seen. This was our sixth E31 in two years.
It was a great car, but we were pretty set on finding one in the matching color to our 850, so we went out looking for the rarer shade of Oxford Green. I’d only seen a handful in our years of tireless searching to date, but one advert caught my attention a few months ago. No photos, barely any description, it read: “Documented mileage, 95% perfect paint, no known faults, green, three owners.” It also stated the mileage and price and that was it. “Green,” was the key word here, but when I called the number there was no answer, nor answering machine.
I emailed the ad-generated address to follow up, but had resigned myself to continue the search. However, later in the evening I was happily surprised to receive a call back from the owner, an elderly gentleman who more or less lived out in the countryside with barely any telecom support. I could barely make out a word that he said, but he didn’t have much to say either. After repeating himself a few times, I got his message: “The car is an 8-Series, you know what they look like, that’s what it is, if you like it, then buy it.” Ok then! What a peculiar response that was. It left me speechless and amused at the same time. Perhaps he didn’t really want to sell it after all?
Still, I asked what color this “green” was, thinking it would be the less desirable Barbados, but he responded with “Boston.” This piqued my interest as it was similar to Oxford, but not the same, unfortunately.
He then rang me back with his landline, and I could see it was a local number. At that point, it was worth just going to view the car. The next morning my father and I drove to the man’s house, and we took the 850CSi. Why not?
When we pulled up on his driveway, there it was, another Oxford Green E31. I lifted the bonnet to confirm the right sticker was there, just in case it had been repainted. It was all original, as stated. We couldn’t believe our luck. After some hours of negotiating, we agreed on a deal and came back the next day to collect the car. It just goes to show, some of these “no photo” ads are worth following up on.
How do the two cars differ?
Having owned four 840Ci Sport models before the 850CSi, you could say I was quite familiar to them. Driving the 850CSi out of the auction hall at 7pm in February was quite the experience. It was my first time driving a 850CSi, I was beyond excited despite driving in the frigid dark. The manual gearbox made the car seem much larger in size somehow, although that could have easily been the doings of the tighter London streets.
Power-wise it is clearly a big step up from the 840Ci, to the tune of nearly 100hp. Hitting the motorway on the way home, I realized immediately that the 850CSi was born for high-speed cruising in a way that its V8 counterparts can’t match past a certain speed. The V12 just keeps pulling, and outside of a sparsely trafficked section of unlimited Autobahn, you’d be hard pressed to find a place where the speed eventually levels off. It’s not fast in the way sports cars are, it’s more like a two-seater train. The 840s are great GT cars, but having the six speed manual and 12 cylinders just adds another level of potential.
Which do you prefer and why?
The 850CSi without a doubt. Besides the cost of upkeep, it just does everything better. The sound it makes compels you to play around with the rev range, and the whole car just feels like more of an “event” that you’re a part of. It’s not as understated as the 840Ci Sport that my dad prefers, but it’s still a very mature and elegant car. Of course, we love them both, but no matter how special the cars are to us, the fact that we can take them out for a drive together is what’s truly important.