Opinion needed: 2001 E38 740i "Shorty" - thoughts?

shanon

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Gruppe,

The other day a very, very stunning Black on Black, 2001 E38 740i (SWB) with the V8 and M wheels caught my eye. It is for sale by owner in a parking lot. I have no experience with 'modern' BMW's (my E9 and E3 only). I have heard both great and horrifying reports on these lovely 7s. Sure does look alot car for pennies of the original cost.

I love my E3 and a modern version of that people with luggage mover with real AC is appealing, especially for the ask.....

Should I run like hell or go it poke with a stick and give the beans?

TIA
 

lip277

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I have about 500,000 miles in two E38's. I love them. They are truly the best car you can drive and soak the miles up in, but they are not without their issues.
Originally, the M60 motors (back in the day) had the nikasil issue. There is plenty of info out there on that - I'd get familiar with that - but not get too worked up on that subject.
Now, 30 years later - that potential has pretty much wound its way to the sideline (similar to the IMS on the flat 6 in the early water cooled Porsche).
The M62 ('improved' M60) in the later E38's and E39's are a bit better - but are not trouble free by any stretch of the imagination.

Vanos, deferred maintenance (from previous owners) and general complexity mean that, IMO - these cars are not for everyone. I just had the struts replaced in my 2001 E38 (for the second time). That work and an alignment and such was near $5k. But - the car has near 250,000 miles. Driving it home - I was smiling. That reminded me why I have had these cars since about 2005. When I did the struts back in the early 2010's, I removed the EDC (electronic dampening control) struts and associated springs and installed 'regular' Bilstein struts and sport springs. Back then the EDC struts were $1,500 each. I don't want to know what they are now. LOL.
As expensive as the new ones here were for me - they were a fair bit less expensive than new EDC parts would have been.

I group E38 and E39 in the (nearly) same bucket. Engines are the same. Transmissions are the same (automatics). Suspensions are very close. Interiors are 98% the same (from the front seat point of view). I would be a bit leery of looking at a car that does not have service history or such. The old saying that the most expensive car you will see is the one with the cheapest 'for sale' price in the window comes to mind here.

If you have any specific questions - just holler (here or offline).

Good luck
 

Arde

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I do not know the E38 from any direct experience, but 280 horses seems a bit low to get the adrenaline up. Perhaps an E39 M5 from the same vintage is better at 400 horses....
 

dbower

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We had a 2001 shorty sporty (in Imola) for 4 years. It was a wonderful car for us. Really swallows the miles. I concur with all of lip277's comments above. So many of these are on their 4th (or more) owners who bought them cheap and did no maintenance, driving them into the ground. I try to "buy the owner" when I buy a car -- find an owner with the means and the motivation to maintain a car properly. It's a travesty that the depreciation on these is so drastic.

BTW, I sold mine to a tech in California who installed a complete E39 M5 drivetrain. Massive fishtailing burnouts.

IMAG0191.jpg
 

lip277

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On a side note - Here is a pic of my first E38. It was earlier bought by a friend of mine from a local BMW dealership (as a used car) knowing it had failed the leakdown test so it would get a new short block. It was a first year E38 (1995) 740i (short), so no 'sport' package was available at that time, so - he built his own. LOL
He put a limited slip differential in it, lowering springs with sport shocks, M-parallel wheels, SSBC brakes in place of the original, a shift kit for the trans, chip in the ECU, Eisenmann exhaust.... All in Calypso. FUN car.... Really fun.... There were aspects of it that were a bit 'too much' for me - but all in all, was great. He had a business change and he needed to move to a place more appropriate for a truck (plus he had several other cars) - so when he let me know he was selling it - I pounced on it.

I had no intensions of letting go of that one, but... My dad bought one of the very very last E38's available in California. My dad bought it the day before the E65's were to arrive at the dealership. The dealer was under orders from BMWNA that no NEW E38's were to be on the lot when the new E65 7's arrived. So - he got a DEAL on that one (plus it is a friggin awesome car anyway).
After my parents passed away - that 2001 iL came to me. I had both cars for a couple of years but then realized I needed to let go of one. As much as I loved the red one, the dark grey iL my folks had was special. So... that is the one I have now. I have sunk a fair bit of $$ into it to keep it in top shape, but... will probably let it go in the next two years.

See below pic of two of the cars I don't have any longer. I miss the E38 - but I never should have sold the 2002. LOL
 

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dang

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I've always thought they were one of the best looking luxury BMW's, but in my opinion they have two too many cylinders.
 

vince

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I've always loved the e38s, especially the shorty sporties. The best looking 7 ever.

I have a huge soft spot for e39s, we've had 6 over the years - 2 M5s, 3 wagons, and one 530 sport package. Still have the one of the M5s; low miles, Dinan car from new, in my favorite color - Lemans Blue. Out of my three BMWs; the coupe, the M3, the M5 is the most fun to drive and for sure the most comfortable.

The E39 530 is the sweet spot, almost as much HP as the 540 but with the lower maintenance of that sweet 6.
 

Ohmess

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I've owned an e39 540 6 speed since 2000, and love it. As Kevin notes, it is practically the same car as the 740. That particular e38 is the best of them all, short wheelbase, black trim, sport package, etc. And the best looking e38 too. In addition to the normal beware of deferred maintenance comments, there are a handful of specific things that are problematic.

First, BMW's plastic hose necks/expansion tanks did not last long in these cars. If you buy one, plan to get rid of this crap and get a Zionsville aluminum radiator/expansion tank. Second, front lower control arms are maintenance items. They take a beating on our roads and need to be replaced regularly. The X5 version is more robust. Third, these cars were built to be recycled, and alas, they are now at the point where they are recycling themselves. By way of example, the foam underneath the felt on the parcel shelf disintegrated on my car, leaving the felt flapping in the wind. And as you might expect, the electronics in these cars do not hold up to the elements. Don't buy a car that has been parked outside at any point during its life - you will be chasing electrical gremlins all the time if you do.

If you want to do the 6 speed conversion, Doug Dolan had this done on his e38 at VAC in Philadelphia. They had done it once before he went there, so having done two, they probably have as much experience as anyone in the US on this.
 

shanon

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Thanks for the responses all. I appreciate the food for thought, certainly lots to chew on... cheers.
 
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