Individually-specified BMWs will always hold a special place in my heart, especially when they have the bones of a rare beast like the E31 850CSi. That was one of those BMWs that, when I first saw it, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at, but I knew I liked it. It reminded me of my favorite flame-throwing Procar—the M1—even though the ultimate extension of the first 8 Series was the E31 M8 Prototype.
The 850CSi was many BMW enthusiasts’ poster car, and for good reason. It had a slick drag coefficient of just 0.29, a three-pedal Getrag manual transmission, and of course nostalgia-inducing pop-up headlights. The monster V12 develops an impressive 381 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque out of a 5.6-liter displacement.
That very same boundary-breaking essence is what has made the 850CSi a collector’s dream, and consequently, greatly influenced the resale value of well-maintained examples in the market.
Recently, the E31 market gained yet another well-specced specimen: a Dakar Yellow 1995 850CSi with 83,812 miles on the odometer. This particular BMW Individual example was sold on Bring a Trailer (BaT) in 2019 for a whopping $101,500, before being re-listed this month with a hefty premium that brings the ask up to $149,990.
According to the original BaT listing, this particular 8 Series coupe is one of the 787 original German-market examples produced from 1992 through 1996. While it was originally assembled and purchased new by its first owner in Germany in 1995, it was later brought stateside in 2002 and registered in California, following a brief layover in Texas, where it was federalized.
With only 1,510 850CSi’s ever produced, the BMW Individual paint adorning this specific example’s exterior makes it that much more rare. Per the 8Coupe online registry, only 203 850CSi coupes were ordered in a BMW Individual color—eighteen of which were Dakar Yellow, according to the unofficial registry. According to the original seller, however, the Dakar Yellow exterior, when paired with the black Nappa leather interior, makes this 850Csi one of seven ever produced in such a combination.
In other words, it is insanely rare. You can debate the price all you want, but where are you going to get another one?
Despite the very low production numbers, there is one caveat that may subtract from its collector value: It is not entirely original. The auction listing indicates that a factory re-manufactured 5.6-liter S70 V12 was installed by Callas Rennsport of Torrance, California, in 2011 for $30,000, along with a new six-speed manual gearbox by Sterling BMW in Newport Beach, California, in 2018. Additional services were also documented meticulously, including attention given to the undercarriage, a repaint of the front spoiler, and the addition of a rear spoiler with an integrated third brake light.
Collectors will be thrilled to know that this example, while partially restored through the procedures above, still retains its original European-spec goodies, including larger front rotors, engine and differential coolers, and BMW’s Active Real Kinematics four-wheel steering.
While this striking Dakar Yellow coupe is certainly a piece of BMW history, is its Individual status enough to warrant its six-figure, premium price tag?—Malia Murphy
[Photos via the original Bring a Trailer auction listing.]