How Bad Could It Be? Journalist Buys $700 850i 6-Speed

Some of us just can’t resist a good deal. You know how it goes; you’re casually browsing the online classifieds and come across a gem. Sure, it’s a bit rough, but it’s clearly got at least a few qualities that drew you in, and the price just happens to be too good to ignore.

A BMW 850i (the one with the V12) which happens to be one of 847 six-speed-manual examples sold in the U.S. is the kind of car many of us would break some of our self-established rules for. The E31 8 Series is notorious for draining the wallets of owners, but with an entry price of less than $1,000, it seems safe to say that more than a few of us would be finding room for another project, even if that project will quickly cost a few multiples of the purchase price to make usable.

This was the case with Brian Silvestro of Road & Track, who recently purchased a non-running 1992 850i six-speed. The car cost him a mere $700 after some negotiation, but before it had even arrived home, it was already beginning to extract more money from its new owner, in the form of a $160 tow fee. Two new batteries moved the tab up another $320, and the car still did not run yet.

Silvestro knew what he was getting into. He currently owns an E60 M5 (the one with the V10) that he bought for $10,500 via a Craigslist ad. Still, it would cost him another several hundred dollars to get a set of fresh fuel pumps installed in the 850i, a process that also required removal of old, varnished gasoline. This allowed the M70B50 V12 engine to come to life for the first time in at least a year or so, a milestone that was followed by the first short drive around the shop parking lot.

A myriad of problems remain, like brakes that may need complete replacement, including calipers, a dashboard full of fault lights, and the fact that the car bears a salvage title from a front-end collision long ago—damage which was repaired using parts scavenged from a red 8 Series. Silvestro isn’t giving up, though, and he’s already got additional maintenance items and tasks on the agenda. Follow his story here.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]

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