Home » BMW Made An Epic V16 Super Sedan Out Of A 7 Series And Hid It For 34 Years

BMW Made An Epic V16 Super Sedan Out Of A 7 Series And Hid It For 34 Years

Secret Bmw V16 Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

One of BMW’s most famous sedans was the old 750iL. In a world where V8s were a big deal, BMW sold you a long and stately Autobahn stormer with its V12-powered personal limo. But BMW’s engineers weren’t satisfied and decided to build the ultimate display of what German engineering could achieve over three decades ago. The 1990 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch is the 6.6-liter V16 limo that could have been, and now BMW is showing off its one-off prototype for the first time in 34 years.

This news comes to us from BMW Group Classic, the branch of BMW tasked with preserving the history of its namesake in addition to BMW Motorrad, Mini, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW Group Classic is showing off the one-off BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch to the public for the very first time. You’ll see it in pictures here, but it was also shown off at the Techno-Classica Essen convention in Germany that ran from April 3 to April 7.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The incredible thing is that the existence of this one-off prototype was kept secret from the public for 34 years. Now, we finally get to see what could have been and oh my, it’s bonkers.

Ruling The Autobahn

434032490 800670118764097 378295
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW

BMW was an engineering powerhouse in the 1980s. The company spent the 1960s and 1970s captivating drivers while challenging the might of Mercedes-Benz. By the late 1970s and into the 1980s, this paid off as drivers piled into dealerships to take home an E30 3 Series, an E28 5 Series, or the E24 6 Series. Even BMW’s advertising was a hit out of the park. In 1974, Ammirati & Puris launched “The Ultimate Driving Machine” campaign and it became a slogan so well-known that enthusiasts will still say it today.

The money that piled into BMW’s accounts allowed the automaker and its engineers to dream even bigger. Sure, BMW’s cars were excellent drivers, but what if it toppled its competitors in terms of technology, too? Two majestic vehicles would come out of BMW’s newfound push toward power and technology. One was the E31 BMW 8 Series grand tourer, which cost the equivalent of $900 million. The other was the second-generation 7 Series, known as the E32.

ADVERTISEMENT
BMW

Both of these vehicles were technological tour de forces. E31s offered their drivers an optional self-steering rear axle, variable-speed power steering, stability control, and an electronic damper control. Meanwhile, BMW says the 8 Series was also the first BMW to achieve a coefficient of drag of less than 0.3 and the first BMW to have control systems that networked with each other.

I could write about the glorious 8 Series all day, but for this piece, we’ll be talking about the E32 7 Series, which I have written about before:

In June 1986, BMW followed up the E23 with the E32, which moved the needle even further with technology. BMW’s design head at this time was Claus Luthe. His team, which included [chief stylist] Ercole Spada and Hans Kerschbaum, were tasked with following up the E23, which was designed under Paul Bracq and Manfred Rennen. I think the team gave the E32 a sort of timeless design. Give it a set of halos and it could probably pass for an early 2000s BMW design.

Anyway, BMW introduced even more luxuries with the E32. ABS now came standard and the 7 Series was available with a parking distance control system. These sedans also had dual-pane glass and in 1989, owners could get features like a refrigerator and a car phone. In 1991, BMW tossed in some Xenon headlights, claiming to be the first automaker to do so with a production car.

BMW

Other features I didn’t include in my retrospective were the availability of an in-car fax machine and radio controls for the rear seat passengers. BMW’s engineers put so much thought into the E32 that the vehicle had a system to increase windshield wiper arm pressure so that the wipers didn’t jiggle as you raced down the Autobahn. Many of the features of the second-generation 7 Series would be luxurious today, but this was over 30 years ago!

The highlight of the 7 Series was what was available under the hood. Sure, you could get a straight-six or V8, but the best engine was the legendary V12.

P90046992 Highres Bmw 750i Il E3
BMW

Being a V12 alone was pretty cool, but BMW notes that its V12 was the first of its kind used in German cars since 1945. The 5.0-liter M70B50 also made 296 HP and 332 lb-ft torque under the hood, which was good power for a large luxury boat. Besides, the bigger benefit of such an engine was not just power, but the buttery smoothness of the V12. A Toyota Century V12 isn’t that fast, but you could balance a nickel on its engine.

ADVERTISEMENT

Making a V12 would have been enough, but the competition would get their own V12s, so BMW was not that special. As Hagerty writes, Dr. Karlheinz Lange was the lead powertrain engineer at BMW at the time and Dr. Lange wasn’t content with having one of the coolest V12s. He wanted to go above and beyond what everyone else was doing.

BMW

Dr. Lange met up with Adolf Fischer, the lead engineer behind the aforementioned M70 V12. Together, they would create an experimental 7 Series with an engine even better than the V12. Mercedes-Benz wasn’t even going to touch them. On July 8, 1987, Dr. Lange asked Fischer to get him a new flagship engine, and stat.

Fischer decided to deliver on the mission of a bigger, badder engine by using the existing M70 V12 as a base. As BMW Blog writes, the M70 was fresh in 1987 and a relatively low-cost project that robbed the BMW parts bin. Specifically, the M70 used connecting rods, rocker arms, and valves from the M40 straight-four. On top of this, the M70 had a block made out of Alusil silicon alloy plus had rocker fingers and hydraulic tappets that actuated the valves. The M70 also featured advanced electronics in the form of drive-by-wire and redundancy in the form of two independent fuel injection systems.

Bmw 750il 3 Scaled
BMW

BMW’s engineers made the experimental V16 by making a new, extended aluminum silicon cylinder-block casting. This allowed for the addition of two extra cylinders, bumping displacement from 5.0 liters to 6.6 liters (6,651cc). Power bumped from 296 HP to 408 HP and 461 lb-ft of torque. BMW says that engine stand tests were conducted from January to February 1988 and by May 1988, the engine was in a current 7 Series and driving. Oh, and the prototype got a six-speed manual transmission from the 8 Series coupe.

It would appear that some of the time between February and May was just figuring out how to get the bigger engine into the 7 Series. See, the new engine was nearly a foot longer than the V12 it was based on. There already wasn’t a ton of room for the V12 in the 7 Series, so the engineers had to get creative to fit the V16. They got around packaging problems by filling the entire engine bay with the V16, which required the vehicle’s cooling system to be moved to where the trunk would normally be. The radiator was changed from a single unit to two small radiators that could fit back there.

ADVERTISEMENT
Bmw E32 7 Series V16 3
BMW
Bmwv16 05 5000rear
BMW

Now, there’s a lot of heat involved with a V16, so the engineers had to cut massive fiberglass scoops into the trunk of the vehicle to suck up air. They also had to cut large heat extraction vents into the rear, which called for a reconfiguration of the rear fascia as well. The result was the 1988 BMW 767iL Goldfisch, also called the “Secret Seven.” That Goldfisch name, German for goldfish, was a nod to the car’s gold paint.

Dr. Lange and Fischer achieved their goal of showing the engineering might of BMW. Reportedly, the engine was even installed into a Bentley Mulsanne for testing as a potential upgrade from the turbo V8. Sadly, the Goldfisch never went into production. It was easy to see why. Reportedly, at Autobahn speeds the V16 gulped down fuel at 9 mpg. At the very least, the beefy personal limo was said to hit 60 mph in 6 seconds and raced on to 175 mph.

1987 Bmw 767il Goldfisch 1 1536x
BMW

Then there was the price, which would have been about £57,100, or £152,198 today ($192,582). For years, it was thought that the original 767iL Goldfisch was likely where the V16’s development ended.

The 1990 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch

434456965 800669068764202 850529
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW

However, thanks to BMW Group Classic, we now know that the engineers gave it one more try. This vehicle was completed in 1990, but while the first Goldfisch was known to exist as recently as 2019, BMW stored the second one-off for 34 years. Finally, we get to see what a V16 7 Series might have looked like in production form.

This car is sort of an oddball, straddling the E32 7 Series, which was in production, and the E38 7 Series, which began development in 1988 and was released in 1994. The 1990 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch reportedly rides on a development prototype of the E38, which at that time apparently looked like E32 in the middle of evolving. Look closely and you’ll notice that the Hoffmeister kink, roofline, mirrors, and headlights are new here.

ADVERTISEMENT
Bb1l9isk.img
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW
434030085 800670418764067 143127
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW

Of course, you probably quickly noticed the lack of scoops and vents on the back. Well, that’s because the engineers used the long schnoz of the prototype to fit an ever so slightly smaller 6,646cc V16 engine. Somewhere along the way, the smaller engine also lost power, now making 348 HP. That was still more than the V12, but less than the 402 HP 1988 Goldfisch. On the plus side, the engineers were able to fit the entire cooling system up front, leaving the trunk to be a trunk. BMW doesn’t say, but I wonder if there just wasn’t enough cooling to keep the 402 HP.

Another sad hit came to the transmission, which became a five-speed automatic. BMW nerds will be quick to point out that the 1990 M5 made 315 HP from a 3.5-liter straight-six, so 348 HP from twice the engine isn’t impressive. Also remember that this was just two years from the launch of the 5.6-liter S70B56 V12, which made 381 HP without any funny business with the engine bay.

Bb1l9llq.img
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW
Bb1l99ap.img
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW

But, remember what I said earlier about some high-cylinder being about a drive as smooth as glass, not tire-shredding performance. Still, the new 750iL V16 Goldfisch was still able to hit 155 mph.

At the very least, BMW’s engineers did amp up the luxury of the new Goldfisch, adorning the interior with wood and with technology like power everything and a telephone. Sadly, BMW doesn’t say why this vehicle wasn’t put into production, but it does say that the V16 wasn’t the only engine to never leave the prototype stage. The automaker says it also made a wee three-cylinder based on this engine architecture but it too never reached production.

Bb1l9ism.img
Gudrun Muschalla/BMW

If anything both of the Goldfisch one-offs are physical proof of what engineers can do when they’re allowed to have tons of fun. The BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch may not have gone into production, but I’m glad such a silly car exists in the first place.

ADVERTISEMENT
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
17 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
2 months ago

The first thing I noticed was those weird headlights, looks like a strange photoshop in that top picture. Cool car still.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
2 months ago

Apparently, Mercedes-Benz believed the rumour that BMW was planning to
offer the V16 engine for its E32 or E38 7-Series. Mercedes-Benz reportedly developed the 8-litre V16 engine for its W140 (800 SEL/S 800) and built several running prototypes (probably between 80 and 100 units). However, the economic downturn following the Gulf War and the increasingly environmental awareness in Germany nipped the V16 in the bud.

Mercedes-Benz had looked into the second engine for its 800 SEL/S 800: 8-litre W18 with three banks of straight six engines like the stillborn Mazda’s Amati W12 and Bugatti 18/3 Chiron W18 concept car.

https://www.auto-motor-und-sport.de/oldtimer/mercedes-800-sel-w18-m216/

https://www.autobild.de/artikel/mercedes-800-sel-w-140-s-klasse-mit-8-0-liter-w18-motor-16164113.html

https://mercedes-world.com/s-class/mercedes-benz-800-sel

https://www.autobild.de/videos/mercedes-800-sel-1989-motor-konzept-geruecht-16223925.html

By the way, BMW did develop the 9-litre V16 engine for Rolls-Royce 100 EX and 101 EX concept car as to evaluate the owners’ opinions. Many of them rejected V16 as too much “power” (estimated by the press to be 700 bhp and 950 Nm).

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
2 months ago

I’m always impressed by more cylinders. Maybe I’m too easy. Mazda MX-3 V6, Passat W8, shit, even a 5cyl Golf gets grudging respect from me. The current trend of less cylinders is depressing. That said, I’m a bit disappointed by the numbers on this V16. Yes, not for tire shredding, I get that, but if the engineers are able to go crazy, I’d expect a little more, especially from the house of M. If I remember it right, didn’t Mercedes also do a design study for a V16 in their S class?

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

Great write up! But why do I somehow feel like I just did a couple lines of cocaine after reading this? Must have been the available fax machine…

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
2 months ago

If you go wild, might as well go all-in. This would be an ideal platform for a shooting brake. Move that rear window backwards, clownshoe’s big brother style. Now where’s Adrian to fix this?

Terr_d
Terr_d
2 months ago

Looks like they added trunk lid mounted taillights on the 750 to make up for the ones displaced by a cooling system on the 767.

Mike F.
Mike F.
2 months ago

Thanks for an interesting article, Mercedes. Nothing practical about either of those cars, but the engineers must have had a blast working them up.

Slower Louder
Slower Louder
2 months ago

This article got me thinking about the absurdity of cramming a very long engine into a car, which led me to recollections about the mad hotrodders of my youth, and specifically to dragsters with Allison V12s. Which led me to PJ Potter in the video linked below.

Problem: Engine too long but you really love that engine?
Solution: Drive from the back seat!

https://youtu.be/VoMGFut2AoI?si=zcvPYdGVI8uLp-6C

V10omous
V10omous
2 months ago

I’d buy one.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
2 months ago

“Being a V12 alone was pretty cool, but BMW notes that its V12 was the first of its kind used in German cars since 1945.”

Yes, some of the pre-1945 stuff is a little…awkward to talk about.

EVDesigner
EVDesigner
2 months ago

You are definitely Reich about that.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
2 months ago

Yeah, most of the big engines that heil from that era went in planes for some reason.

Maymar
Maymar
2 months ago

I don’t care that the original has no trunk, it just looks so much better than the second which looks like a PS1-era background vehicle.

BunkyTheMelon
BunkyTheMelon
2 months ago

I miss clean, unfussy interiors like this.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
2 months ago

I kept reading BMW 750iL V16 Goldfisch as BMW 750iL V16 Goldfish

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
2 months ago

Well you were technically correct. In the article Mercedes mentions that Goldfisch is Goldfish.

17
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x