Why is it so special?
The BMW 8 Series, codenamed the E31, featured a futuristic design that set it apart from the competition during its production from 1990-1999. A wedge-shaped front end reminiscent of the legendary M1, pop-up headlamps and a sleek profile means that today good examples are highly sought-after. This specific model though is unique and not only due to its looks. The 850 CSi started production in 1992 as the flagship 8 Series model, in 1996 production was halted due to the enforcement of stricter emissions policies. This prematurely ended the production of the CSi, of which only 1 510 units were ever produced at the factory in Dingolfing, Bavaria, making it one of the shortest production runs in BMW history. By comparison over 200 000 examples of the 850 i / 850 Ci rolled off the production line.
That classic cool feature: Small changes, big potential
The 8 Series never claimed to be a sporty driving coupe instead it was designed as a luxury high performance GT, indeed a long distance cruiser that combined comfort and speed. Although the regular 8 was a special vehicle, the 850 CSi had the 5.6-litre V12 engine fettled by BMW M, an engine which served as the basis for the ground-breaking McLaren F1. Producing 280 kW/550 Nm, the CSi offered 40 kW over the regular Ci thanks to an upgraded fuel-injection system. Interestingly, only a manual option CSi was available. Upgraded suspension included stiffer springs and dampers with a lower ride height. European bound models featured four-wheel steering too ensuring stability at high speed for those Autobahn blasts.
Can you get it today?
Out of the 1 510 examples of the V12 model, only 160 units were produced in right-hand drive, of which, none were sold in South Africa. Buying one though is not impossible and with the help of a specialist importer, your dream car may become a reality if you have the cash to make it happen. One will need the resources to keep it maintained of course and there’s no doubt the correct parts will be difficult to source locally.