Hello and welcome to my guide! I wrote one a few days ago but when i read it back it waffled too much so here is the mark 2 version! I'm not an expert,just an enthusiastic owner,but i may have learnt something in the last couple of years that can help someone else.If this does help you,please rate it so i know that it was worth writing...
The E32 shape & series was made between 1986 (D reg) and 1994 (M reg),was available with engines from 3 litre upto 5 litres and was very well equipped as you would expect for BMW's flagship model.
Engines as follows:
M30 type straight six cylinder,in two sizes: M30B30 3 litre and M30B35 3.5 litre
M60 type Vee-8 cylinder,in two sizes: M60B30 3 litre and M60B40 4 litre
M70 type Vee-12 cylinder M70B50 5 litre.
These were available like this:
3 litre 6 cyl used from 1986-1994; 3.5 litre used from 1986-1993; 3 litre and 4 litre V8 1992-1994 and 5 litre V12 1987-1994
Power is usually quoted like this: 3L 6 cyl 188bhp (197 from 92 on when the range got catalytic converters as standard),3.5L 211 and 218 bhp, 3L V8 220 bhp,4L V8 296bhp and 5L V12 300 and 320bhp.
Standard equipment/options: If you know BMW then you'll know they don't do L,GL,GLS etc.All E32's had the same basic kit which you then added to from the very comprehensive options list,dependant on year this was very very comprehensive!! Anyway,all cars have: Power steering/central locking/electric windows x 4/electric sunroof/dual zone climate control/on board computer/decent stereo/front and rear fog lights:most have an automatic gearbox(switchable)and most have alloy wheels as well as electric operation/heating for the front seats(mostly in leather)and all also have spare wheel/jack/tool kit/warning triangle/glovebox torch and first-aid kit.
Options can include: rear seat heating/operation,sun blinds/rear controls for stereo and air-con,sports interior,parking sensors,auto stability control,self levelling suspension,remote locking with deadlocks,boot mounted CD autochanger,10 or 12 speaker stereo set-up,alarm with total closure,removeable tow ball,stainless steel performance exhaust systems,various sizes of alloys,bodykits/spoilers and the list goes on and on and on.....
So,what to look for?? Problems you can look for as follows:
Engine/gearbox/axle: As long as regular servicing has been done all the main parts of the drive train will give a long life.The two 6 cylinder units are versions of BMW's famous M20/M30 range,not known for falling to bits and rightly well known for big mileages.They should run smoothly and quietly with just a very light tick from the injectors,any knocking noise is a cause for concern.These don't have hydraulic tappets so any noises have to be investigated,parts aren't cheap and neither is the labour.Buy a quiet one! The two V8's are new units from 92 on,they are good engines and again can have a long life.However,and don't panic,they both can have a potential fault which can lead to early bore wear and failure.They have a cylinder wall lining called Nikasil and this is fine as long as it wasn't exposed to cheap fuel.This fuel was only around in 92/93 and when it was found to be the problem for these(and others using Nikasil)it was withdrawn.This fuel contained too much sulpher and it was this that caused the Nikasil to degrade far too quickly,engines affected would eventually lose compression and fail to start.BMW will have replaced most under an extended warranty period but its possible that a few still survive.Signs of wear include low compression/poor tick-over and excessive oil consumption.The V12 is not affected even though it too used Nikasil,strange but true! You can get the full story by typing in BMW+Nikasil into your online search engine.Axles and gearboxes will also do big mileages,again they need to have been looked after with fluid changes done regularly and the right fluids being used as well!! All the Vee engines should be quiet when running,a brief rattle on cold start can be excepted on higher mileage units or those which haven't been looked after very well.Again,any loud noises will no doubt be expensive to put right.
Bodywork/rust issues: Mainly these are very robust but they can rot but not very badly. A favourite area is the rear wing in and around the petrol flap,almost all of them rot here(as does the e34 5 series of the same era)and it can be difficult to put right properly.Wheel arches will rot if they have had mud flaps fitted,bottoms of doors can go in early cars.Bottoms of both front wings can rot,an easy fix as they are bolted on.The main problem though is previous poor accident repairs,these can make a big difference to a relatively good car as i recently experienced.My first E32(a 92 730i ) had awful front wings and I bought another car(an 89 735i)in the same colour.The 92 car had had replacement pair of wings fitted at some point and they hadn't been properly protected,the older 735i had its original factory fitted ones and they were rot free!!Otherwise rot is rare,especially underneath.These,like modern Beemers,are very well built and generally speaking will be solid all over.Look at an equivalent Jaguar from pre 1994 and you'll understand.....
Best buys and what to avoid....
Best value for your cash is probably the 735i.A good combination of power and economy,its a liitle bit better than the 730i although,being honest,there isn't much in it.The two V8's,as long as you are aware of possible bore wear issue,are tough and reliable,a little heavier on fuel and engine repairs can be more expensive than the two sixes.The V12.......well,I have one and i bought it cheap.It has many problems but still goes like a rocket when I floor the throttle.However,these are very very complex and if you don't do your homework you may get your fingers burnt.
So,avoid like the plague(unless,like me you're a trained mechanic)V12's with little or no history.for example-the self levelling rear suspension will take around £1000 to put right unless you go for 2nd hand bits,if you can get them.You cannot buy an exhaust for your V12 from kwik-fit/charley browns or anywhere else-only from the dealer.Cost you around £2200 (less discount)for the full system,double that for stainless.Air flow meters,vital if you want an MOT,are £300 each and there are two of them.And those are just a couple of examples,so if you decide to buy one then buy wisely.Pay the extra and get one with a history! Its a similar story with the two V8s,mainly because of its potential for failure as mentioned,so again buy one with history. If you come across either of the 6 cylinder cars with no history its not ideal but not as fraut with danger.For a start there are many more 6 cylinder engines about(the same unit was in the E34 5 series as well)and they don't have any bothersome issues such as bore wear.
Avoid,or bid low,any E32 that runs with a high temp.The temp gauge should be in the middle not up near the red. It could simply be that a new fan coupling is needed but then it may need the head gasket doing.Watch for problems with the dash unit,rev counter etc not working as they can be expensive to put right especially if the PCB has failed.Also be wary of central locking probs,better to buy one with a door staying open rather than firmly shut.To change the solenoid you need the door open,if its locked solid the only way to get it open will involve destroying the door trim inside and you may struggle to get a replacement in the right colour.If you buy one with a failing battery,don't be tempted to replace it with a cheap one-all these cars have a lot of electrics and you really need a good quality battery to cope.Heated rear windows need to work too,mine doesn't and its gonna cost almost £400 to sort it out(it doubles as an aerial too so the radio isn't great at picking up AM stations).Most will have a clunk from the suspension,not difficult to fix as parts are freely available,and quite often there'll be a shuddering from the front under braking and again its just a matter of replacing worn bits.You can bid lower if any of these are showing themselves,or if you don't buy off ebay then negotiate a better deal.
Parts;ebay is a great source of new and used bits,its sometimes better to buy from germany or the states even when you take in to consideration the postage.All service items are available from any motor factor.Most bits are available from the dealer and you'll sometimes get a nice surprise price-wise! Or a shock!! Normal servicing is going to be fairly expensive at a garage,around £300 for a 6 cyl up to £5-600 for the V12.
And Finally.....Alpina.A small number of these were given the Alpina treatment as follows: 735iSe models made into BMW-Alpina B11 3.5 and 750iSe models made in to B12 5.0 These were built at the Alpina factory in Buchloe in Germany: they had expensive engine/transmission/brake/suspension mods as well as trim differences including Recaro seats,unique alloys and body stripes.Also some 735i's and 750i's were converted by Sytner in Nottingham-these had the looks but not the expensive engine mods and were badged as B3.5 and B5.0;all of these are rare and command a price premium.To be genuine they must have two commision plates,one with a BMW chassis number and one with an Alpina build number and to double check you should take the chassis number to your local BMW dealer and they can tell you whether its genuine or not.
Well thats it! Thanks for reading if you got this far,hope you found it helped.If you have any other questions you can ask me through ebay or you can look online,type in E32 or BMW 7series and look at the Alpina Register for info on them.
Good luck and happy hunting,Gary.