1993 BMW 850CSi E31

1993 BMW 850CSi E31

You can keep your rare Ferraris and Lamborghinis because if you really fancy a true one-off machine, you need an original owner with imagination and a little bit of help from BMW Individual.


ONE-OFA-KIND

Words: Bob Harper

Photos: Michal Fidowicz


There are few BMWs cooler than the E31 8 Series, and this one-off Individual 850CSi is something really rather special.

1993 BMW 850CSi E31

Over the years, BMW has produced several low-volume machines, mainly with an M in their name, and while the 850CSi definitely falls into that category, it’s not the rarest of the rare. In a four-year production run, 1510 examples were produced, but just over 10% of those were right- hand drive, making those models a rarity among M’s greats.

And despite not bearing an M logo in its name, the 850CSi was very much an M product. It has an M engine, indicated by the S in its S70 designation, and the first three letters of each CSi’s chassis number started with WBS, as per all M cars. While M had very much wanted to produce a full-on M8, the BMW board canned the model due to it being too expensive to produce, but lessons learned while developing the prototype were put to good use in the CSi.

despite not bearing an M logo in its name, the 850CSi was very much an M product. It has an M engine, indicated by the S in its S70 designation, and the first three letters of each CSi’s chassis number started with WBS, as per all M cars

The S70B56 engine was based on the 850’s M70 V12, albeit with a raft of changes. The bore was increased by 2mm to 86, and stroke was increased from 75 to 80, enough to raise capacity by 576cc to 5.6 litres. The compression ratio was increased to 9.8:1, lighter pistons were fitted along with a stronger crankshaft, more aggressive cams, revised engine management and an engine oil cooler was also fitted. These changes resulted in 380hp and 406lb ft of torque, good enough for a 0-62mph time of six seconds and a top speed pegged to 155mph. The BMW rumour mill suggests 180mph would have been possible if the CSi was derestricted.


1993 BMW 850CSi E31

While the rest of the 8 Series range could be ordered with a manual ’box, the vast majority were autos, but for the 850CSi, the only option was a six-speed Getrag manual paired with a limited-slip differential and ASC+T traction control. The suspension had a makeover, too, with stronger front hubs, stiffer shocks and shorter springs resulting in a 10mm lower ride height, and the CSi was also the first 8 Series to be fitted with AHK, the hydraulically-controlled rear-wheel steering setup.

Servotronic speed-sensitive power steering was fitted with a quicker steering rack, too. There were bigger brakes with four-piston calipers up front and 17” ‘Throwing Star’ alloys, upgraded to 18” M Parallels in the latter part of its life. The aero kit completed the look. Where the press had been a trifle lukewarm towards the rest of the 8 Series range, the CSi received almost universal praise. Georg Kacher, legendary scribbler for Car magazine, wrote: “Porsche 959 excepted, no car betters this 380hp BMW for stability. The body doesn’t seem to lean at all, even through fast sweepers it remains utterly flat.” Top Gear loved its looks, writing: “It’s the most beautiful thing to come out of Germany since Marlene Dietrich,” while it reckoned that the S70 V12 was like having a Tornado engine under the bonnet. Performance Car said: “Effortless cruiser or sharp-suited muscle car? The 850CSi is both thanks to its awe-inspiring V12 engine… It’s more refined and as stimulating as a Porsche 928 GT, better looking than an XJR-S and more involving than a Mercedes 600SL. Indeed, it’s everything that the 850Ci should be.” So, the 850CSi was, and still is a great car, and a rare one too, especially in right-hand drive.


1993 BMW 850CSi E31 - M70 engine

The mighty 5.6-litre S70 V12 makes 380hp and a massive 406lb ft of torque


But the one pictured here is a true one-of-a-kind machine. Its owner, Tahmid Haque (@m635bmw) tells us its story. “It’s painted in Aqua metallic Individual. This is the only RHD 850CSi painted in this colour, and it was specially ordered by the first owner,” he tells us. “The interior is a one-off example in Ice blue and Magnolia leather, again to BMW Individual spec, and when it was ordered, it had to be approved by those in higher places at BMW HQ.”

This type of spec is unusual and it was originally ordered back in 1993 by Laura Davies, the former number-one female golf player. It was ordered at Barons BMW, where Laura sat down with the sales staff and went through every aspect of the car’s spec. Tahmid still has the original documents with diagrams and printouts of the interior and handwritten annotations depicting the colour of every interior piece that was chosen by Laura. He also has letters between Laura Davies and the BMW sales exec stating that they had to ask permission and get authorisation to be able to do all the exclusive features for the car, as they don’t just do this for anyone. There were several letters going back and forth to get authorisation every step of the way.

And it’s quite some spec, as Tahmid explains. “This is the highest specified E31 8 Series to ever leave the factory,” he says with a smile. “It is a completely exclusive order with every optional extra and has stage three leather. Stage three leather means everything was covered in leather. This included the following: leather dashboard, leather door cards, leather pillars, Alcantara headlining, leather rear parcel shelf, leather telephone, leather ashtray, leather seats, leather seat backs, hand-stitched leather steering wheel, leather steering column, leather centre console, factory matching floor mats with leather piping and more.” Back in 1993, it cost £97,000, with the interior alone costing £12,700 plus VAT.


1993 BMW 850CSi E31 - interior

Tahmid already has a very impressive BMW collection, including several M5s – E28, E34 and E39 – three generations of M3 along with an M635CSi and an Alpina B12, so why did he feel the need to add the E31 to his collection? “I’ve always loved the E31 8 Series shape due to its pillarless styling and pop-up headlights,” he says. “And having owned a total of 16 E31s in the last few years, this car I have now is my ultimate car and the most special ever built.

“I found the car in the summer of 2022, just three days after I got married – I saw an advert online and within an hour of the advert going live, I called up and left a deposit for the car. I went to see it the next day and agreed to buy it there and then. The condition of the car wasn’t great, and I knew it needed a lot of work, but because of its rarity, I had to buy it.”

Since he bought the 850CSi, Tahmid has embarked on a program of restorative maintenance to return the unique machine to its best. “The plan was to bring the car back to its former glory. Since then, I have spent £1000s to get the car to how it is now, but I’m not finished yet. I did a full mechanical overhaul, which was needed due to it not getting a lot of use in recent years. This included looking at the braking system, a major service including all the plugs, leads and all new fluids. The clutch was also replaced as it was on its original item, and this cost £2500 in parts alone as the parts are NLA.”

Once it was mechanically in fine fettle, Tahmid lavished attention on the car’s bodywork, which included having it fully wet sanded to bring the lovely paintwork back to its former glory. The paint was then protected with a ceramic coating, and the tyres were replaced with new Michelin PS5s. The wheels are original, BBS RC009/010s in a staggered setup up and these were a factory option to the Throwing Stars when the car was new. The bespoke interior was thoroughly deep cleaned, which included stripping out the seats and revitalising all the carpets. The full detail on the CSi was carried out by R&R Detailing in Lingfield. The CSi is number 16 of the 160 RHD examples built and, bar a Magnum Supersprint exhaust fitted by the previous owner, it’s completely standard.


1993 BMW 850CSi E31

As far as Tahmid can work out, every option was ticked by Laura Davies so its full spec includes the AHK rear-wheel steering system, heated seats, electric rear blind, cruise control, auto climate and air conditioning, that leather-clad BMW telephone, electric steering column, electric memory seats, electric sunroof and EDC. It wasn’t used a huge amount by its previous owners, racking up just 39,000 miles in its first 29 years, but since Tahmid has owned it, he’s added around 2000 miles to its odometer. He loves driving it, but with a garage full of M cars, he’s hard-pressed to put significant mileage on any one car.

After all the work, the plan was to take the car to shows and share it for everyone to see. And over the past year or so, that’s exactly what Tahmid has done; “It was invited to be on display at London Concours 2023,” he tells us. “It was on display for three days, and it was then invited to be shown at the Hampton Court Concours d’Elegance. Here, it won a judges favourite award, which was a huge achievement for me and the car. It then went on to be displayed at the NEC Classic motor show in November 2023, where it won the Lancaster Pride of Ownership award for favourite car. Again, a huge achievement for myself and the car and really showed the appreciation the car was getting.” That’s not the end of its display duties, though, as it’s just been prepared by Topaz Detailing for its next task. It is currently on display in the BMW Group 1 Hindhead showroom from now until the summer. This dealership was formerly known as Barons BMW, and it was the supplying dealer for the 850CSL “It is a great pleasure to display the car in the showroom,” says Tahmid, “please do check it out.”


1993 BMW 850CSi E31

It’s fitting that this unique machine is returning to where it was originally dreamed up all those years ago by Laura Davies. We’re pretty sure that getting a car built to this kind of spec would be more or less impossible these days, so it’s great that this example has survived and will look forward to a long life in the hands of its new custodian. There are rare cars, and then there are true one-offs — and this is one of them.

The CSi is number 16 of the 160 RHD examples built and, bar a Magnum Supersprint exhaust fitted by the previous owner, it’s completely standard. As far as Tahmid can work out, every option was ticked

TECHNICAL DATA 1993 BMW 850CSi E31

  • ENGINE: 5.6-litre V12 S70B56
  • MAX POWER: 380hp @ 5300rpm
  • MAX TORQUE: 406lb ft @ 4000rpm
  • TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
  • ACCELERATION 0-62MPH: 6.0 seconds
  • NUMBER MADE: 1510
  • YEARS: 1992 to 1996
  • BASE PRICE WHEN NEW: £77,500 (1993)

This one-off 850CSi is one of Tahmid’s favourite cars among his extensive BMW collection

The interior is a one-off example in Ice blue and Magnolia leather, again to BMW Individual spec, and when it was ordered, it had to be approved by those in higher places at BMW HQ

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