The Other BMW V16 You’ve Never Heard Of

Last week we recalled one of BMW’s most interesting and compelling projects. The E32 750il-based and V16-powered Goldfisch continues to fascinate BMW enthusiasts over 30 years after it was unveiled, but what about when BMW tried it again in 2004 with the Rolls-Royce 100EX concept? Created to celebrate 100 years since the meeting of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, the 100EX was unveiled as a drop-head coupe at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, and, along with the Phantom which debuted for 2003, would set the tone for Rolls-Royce styling in the new millennium.

During development of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, BMW originally intended for a V16 engine to be used, but after construction of more than a few differing prototypes, the decision to stick with a model-specific (or bespoke in Rolls-Royce tongue) version of the corporate V12 was made. This resulted in a few of the sixteen-cylinder prototypes sitting around and collecting dust, one of which was used for the 100EX concept in 2004.

In 2008, noted motoring enthusiast and and previous McLaren F1 owner Rowan Atkinson, who had recently accumulated over 80,000 miles in his Phantom, requested that BMW install one of the old V16 prototypes into the 101EX, which is a hardtop grand touring version of the 100EX that appeared in Johnny English Reborn, in which Atkinson starred. The Rolls-Royce pictured above is the 101EX, confirmed by the presence of a conventional roof instead of the convertible setup on the 100EX.

To date, unlike the M70-derived engine of the E32 Goldfisch, very little is known about the V16 of the 100EX. Just a few details exist on the Internet, and they describe a 9.0-liter V16 (likely based on the period N73) with twin-cam heads driving a total of 64 valves. Output is quoted as 770 horsepower at 5,900 rpm, with an astonishing 1,100 pound-feet of torque arriving at 2,900. Performance figures don’t exist, but a six-speed automatic transmission—the technology of the era—was used, and the 100EX measured over 220 inches in length. Compared to the 6.7-liter SOHC, 32-valve Goldfisch engine, which produced just over 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, enough to propel a long wheelbase E32 7 Series to 175 mph, the Rolls-Royce V16 represented another realm of performance—too bad they were never put into production.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG, Yanko Malinov.]

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