Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A classy German who doesn't look her age

When I first encountered this big German lurking on a Boerum Hill street I thought it might be the Moonlighting edition 6 Series that Bruce Willis drove in his TV debut. While that car was a 1985 635CSi, this is the even more mighty 733i.
Dating these cars exactly is incredibly difficult (and frustrating for me as I pride myself on this sort of useless knowledge). My best guess is that this car was sold new in the inaugural year of 1977 and that the color is Coral Red.
I really like the '80s and earlier BMWs that had the body color surrounding the center kidney shaped grill openings. If this were a European spec car the inboard lights would be slightly smaller (and most likely yellow).
That big shark-nosed front leans forward aggressively as if it's ready to pass anything on the Autobahn. The engine is a 3210cc straight-6 cylinder good for 194 horsepower and 210 ft lbs of torque. While these numbers don't sound terribly impressive it was tuned beautifully and by all accounts these cars did anything you asked of them in just about any condition.
This Bimmer has some period correct BBS rims on it. When this car was new it cost $21,365 which is a whopping $86,827 in 2016 dollars! For that kind of money the target market consisted of well-heeled folks who valued driving over being driven. A '77 Cadillac is a huge beast listing in the corners and diving towards the earth when you stomp on the brakes. The BMW remained balanced and poised even in the most spirited driving.
She's been around as illustrated by the orange peel spray paint touch ups dotting her surface. That's okay though because any car that spends decades worth of winters in Massachusetts and still looks this good gets a little leeway.
Inside is well appointed in the European style. Bucket seats that surround and support you were not the norm for domestic cars, especially in the luxury realm. Likewise power window controls in the center console were super foreign. It's hard to fathom now but in '77 buying a foreign car wasn't as nonchalant a decision as it is these days. Other than the Beetle and the still funky looking Toyotas and Datsuns there weren't many common choices. Mercedes Benz had been around forever but this represents BMW entering the U.S. full-size luxury market for the first time.
Styling didn't change much if at all from 1977 through 1982 when the 733i was replaced by the 735i (not that you'd notice the difference between the two externally and they did overlap for a couple years). To see a car from 39 years ago that looks right at home on a modern street is nothing short of remarkable.
There is a fantastic short story by Roald Dahl called the Hitchhiker featuring this exact year, make, and model 733i. It's worth a read so if you have a few minutes you can find it right here. Willy Wonka and the like made him famous but his adult fiction is wonderful too.
The BMW logo is missing or faded completely from its location on the trunk. One word about that logo; most of the world assumes is represents a propeller as the Bavarian Motor Works got their start building aircraft engines. That misconception started with an advertisement from the 1920s showing a plane flying and the spinning propeller shows the logo. The logo itself predates that notion however and simply displays the colors of the Bavarian flag.
Well we'll leave this capable beast here for now. This is one of those "classic hidden in plain sight" as most cars this old look dramatically different than others on the road. It's a testament to the timeless design of this automaker which continues at the highest level today.

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