E31 840Ci - first ever BMW (and a daily!)

E31 840Ci - first ever BMW (and a daily!)



Original Poster:

102 posts

70 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Image from: collectingcars.com

Hi everyone,
I’ve been a very long time anonymous lurker on the site (12 years plus) and spent this time browsing and enjoying rather than posting. Finally, I’ve decided to contribute and hope it’s of interest to people.

As the title says, this is my first ever BMW, and according to the internet (and my new friendly mechanic – shoutout to P&R BMW) I’ve gone in right at the deep end.

I apologize in advance that the introductory posts are a bit long ─ as I bought the car in January 2020 I have a bit to cover.
My (recent) previous cars were a 1.6 4-pot 1990 Mazda Eunos:

…then moved onto a 3.0 V6 2006 Mercedes CLK 280 Sport. All I did to it was add an aux-out and changed the alloys to 19" OZ Superturismo LMs:

…and now this V8 4.4 840Ci. So, it seems the pattern is to go up in engine size by two and increase the bork factor by about five.

As mentioned, I bought the car in January 2020 and had hoped to do a few miles in it before posting, but COVID put paid to that idea. Considering the hardships some have had to go through in this period, this is a very minor thing, and hopefully it just means putting the foot down once lockdown is lifted!


Original Poster:

102 posts

70 months

Friday 9th April 2021
quotequote all
I’m a visual designer ( www.salman.org.uk), working for an educational institute by day and freelancing at night/weekends. The office is only 6 miles away (but takes 45-60min each way due to London traffic). As a result I only do around 6000-8000 miles a year.

The CLK was comfortable, fairly fast and enjoyable with the top down. On the flip side it only did 21 mpg around town, the road tax was £450ish, and due to where I live, insurance around £700. I decided to sell it once it went over 90,000 miles and the next major service cost was quoted around £1,000.

I bought the car for £7,000 and took a complete bath come selling time, letting it go for £2,000 after 4 years. Ouch.

The hunt
I drew a short list a year in advance (January 2019) and like any Pistonheader worth their salt, tracked prices and availability in an Excel sheet over this period. My criteria had 4 points:

  • lose as little money as possible/ownership cost per mile to be low (especially after the CLK)
  • desirability and/or rare
  • able to be an only-car daily
  • no more than £25,000
So basically an almost impossible criteria rooted firmly in dreamland. This resulted in the following cars being shortlisted:
  • Maserati Gran Turismo
  • Porsche 996 C4S
  • Mercedes CL500 Blue Efficiency
  • Jaguar XKR
  • Audi RS4 convertible
  • Mercedes CLS55 AMG
  • Volvo Amazon wagon
  • BMW E46 M3
  • BMW 840Ci
  • Mercedes R129 SL500
Narrowing findings
As anyone sensible can work out, for the money I had, compromises had to be made on most of the cars above. A further compromise needed was borne out from wanting to buy from a dealership rather than private individual. This thinking was mainly a result of issues with the CLK in the first 3 months of ownership, where the idler pulley came loose (once) and belt snapped (twice). Thankfully the dealer repaired it both times at his expense (London to Torquay!).

My first two options were disregarded as it would mean buying high mileage heroes/leggy cars. The next two were disregarded on bork factor (my neighbour has a CL and cries himself to sleep) as well as pushy salesman (in the case of the XKR, calling at 8pm to say another customer is interested in the car and I needed to get to somewhere near Southampton from London the next morning). It proved difficult in finding a well maintained RS4 and CLS55 at a dealership.

The Volvo Amazon, while one of my dream-five-car-garage cars, was also difficult to find – with a useable example having to be imported from the Netherlands – and lets face it, hard to be used as a daily.

This meant the final three were the 840Ci, M3 and SL500.

I disregarded the M3 next as although it was the best handling, made the best noise, a pure M car, etc I couldn’t find a sensibly priced manual (for example, hello company named after a six-sided polygon and your £30,000+ M3!!)

However, what really swung it for me were the type of people buying M3s/M4s in my area. I’m almost 100% sure this is a local ‘scene’ thing (and a big case of stereotyping), but around here, these cars are mostly driven by individuals who make the exhaust fart loudly at crawling speed and drive at 40mph around residential areas. Again, I realise I’m stereotyping so apologise to all the Pistonheaders here who own these – I promise, it’s just my area.

Final two
Come the third week of December 2019, and it’s a duel between an 840Ci in Hertford and an SL500 in Hampshire.

My first choice was the Mercedes as it was the brand I was coming from (so knew the local mechanic) and as someone I follow on Twitter was an owner and sung its praises (Helen Wakerley, Ferrari UK social guru).

So phoned up the dealership and they the instructions they gave were something along the lines of:

“We can arrange a viewing but our premises are at a secret location. So travel to a field in the middle of nowhere, do the hand gestures we will fax over to you, proceed to drop you trousers and button them up back-to-front, wait for it to rain, and then maybe, just maybe, someone will come meet you and take you to the car”

Cue a polite thank you and I’ll call back in a few hours to confirm.

The E31
Immediately rang the E31 dealership and it was a much more straightforward affair. If memory serves me correctly, I phoned the last Friday before Christmas 2019 and organised a viewing on Boxing Day. Coincidentally I also bought the CLK on a Boxing Day.

The dealership in question was Old Colonel Cars, and I met Andy Miller, who came across as a nice enthusiast. On the day of my visit he had an old school Bentley, some more BMWs (Alpinas, a 635csi, E39s, another E31, etc) and a few Porsches. He works out of a farm which I found quirky but proved most useful in testing out the cars handling and comfort.

It’s very cliched (and completely against the ‘don’t buy the first car you see’ advice), but as soon as I saw it, I knew I was buying it. Mainly, as it had been detailed and the sun was shining so looked resplendent in Cosmos Black. Started it up and it purred into life, I turned on the pop-up headlights and in the drivers seat I felt like a giddy 9 year old.

We had a 30-45min test drive along rutted unpaved roads, single track paved roads and the motorway. It felt tight – although obviously being the first E31 I’d ever sat in (let alone driven) I had no reference point. To somewhat alleviate this, I gave it a very thorough going over with a few buyers guides in hand, and there was very little wrong with it.

Here are some pics:

(Images from advertisement on Old Colonel Cars and Collecting Cars)

(As an aside, before Andy sold it, it was put on auction at Collecting Cars and failed to sell. Hopefully this is just because it didn’t meet the reserve (and not as a result of something being discovered) – on the longshot anyone can shed some light on this – I’d be very curious!)

Edited by salmanorguk on Tuesday 13th April 16:37


Original Poster:

102 posts

70 months

Friday 9th April 2021
quotequote all
The condition/specs
Another thing that drew me to the car was its condition and specs.

When I viewed it, it had only done 51,000 miles, was recently serviced, and prior to that had had a light recommissioning following a long period of storage.

It is supposedly a car with quite rare specs/options list – although I have no way of confirming. This is partly due to it being generously optioned but mostly due to the Nürburgring suspension system. According to other forums this is a package in addition to the EDC system and gives beefier anti-roll bars, springs, etc. The EDC is nice but increases the bork factor.

The full options list is:
  • S216A Hydro steering-servotronic
  • S223A Dynamic Damping Control
  • S243A Airbag for front passenger
  • S245A Steering wheel column adjustment electric
  • S320A Deleted, model lettering
  • S353A Front and rear window green wedge
  • S401A Lift-up-and-slide-back sunroof, electric
  • S416A Roller sun vizor, rear lateral
  • S423A Floor mats, velours
  • S428A Warning triangle and first aid kit
  • S431A Interior mirror with automatic-dip
  • S459A Seat adjuster, electric, with memory
  • S481A Sports seat
  • S494A Seat heating driver/passenger
  • S500A Headlight wipe/wash/Intensive cleaning
  • S528A Automatic air flow control
  • S540A Cruise control
  • S669A Radio BMW Business RDS
  • S676A HiFi speaker system
  • S694A Provisions for BMW 6 CD changer
  • S710A M sports steering wheel, multifunction
  • S715A M Aerodynamics package
  • S775A Headlining anthracite
  • S782A Suspension system Nürburgring
Things that were wrong with it
It was not all sunshine and roses – there were one or two issues:
  • It had a weak starter motor – I didn’t notice but was pointed out - Andy would replace this before sale
  • It had a faulty oil sensor – this showed on the computer readout - Andy would replace this before sale
  • The wheels had kerb rash and in some places the paint flaked off
  • The rear window was delaminated at the lower corners – apparently an E31 thing
  • There were one or two scratches in the paint work
  • There was wear to the drivers seat bolster and the rear passenger armrest/centre console
Bork factor
As the internet will have you believe (rightly), a bad E31 can be a money pit – and the forums are littered with examples of hapless men (its always men) living out their own 2008 financial crisis in a bid to get the car fixed.

As I really didn’t want to tempt fate and didn’t possess an ample titanium undercarriage, I also bought an Autoprotect warranty for the year for £400. (Spoiler alert – this proved to be a prudent decision)

The sale and collection day
With all the above I managed to get a £1,000 discount on the sale price and left on Boxing Day having given a deposit to secure the car. Collection was to be in the first week of January 2020 after the oil sensor and starter motor were replaced.

Cue the third week of January 2020, and after BMW had dispatched the wrong starter motor THREE times from Germany, I finally collected the car.

Prepare yourself for one of the most horrific sentences to be uttered in classic car/enthusiast ownership circles.

I immediately started to modify the car.

But before everyone remembers what I did to my Mazda Eunos and recoils in horror, this was a much more sympathetic approach with a goal of making the car liveable as a daily.

Head unit
The first change was to replace the head-unit/phone holder. As much as I loved the quaintness of the original tape deck and Nokia phone holder – it didn’t have Bluetooth or an aux jack. I read online you could retrofit the Nokia for a modern phone but this proved difficult to obtain. When deleting, I had hoped this dealer-fit option would have been sticky-padded on to the centre console but lo and behold, three screws were used instead. FFS.

With the head-unit, out came the Business RDS deck and in went a Pioneer DEH-80PRS. As someone who enjoys music (and aimlessly goes out for drives listening to it) I focussed on getting a quality head-unit, and reviews suggested this was nice. My first choice was a Sony RSX-GS9, but at £1,300 I couldn’t justify the cost (especially as other components should also really require upgrading to take advantage of it). To get around this I purchased an Astell & Kern SR25 digital audio player to play songs from.

Floor mats
The next were replacing the floormats. As much as I loved the light, airy, parchment interior - cream floormats are very hard to keep clean. Cue some model specific mats ordered from a UK company – black with cream piping.

The last, and probably most frowned upon mod, was a sticker. For some weird reason I became obsessed with naming the car, and decided it was a bit of a “Bruce” car. I wanted a phrase that alluded to Bavaria and a female name, so came up with “Brunhilda the broody Bavarian beast”.

As I previously mentioned, I’m a visual designer ( www.salman.org.uk) and handily my freelance work tends to be around automotive subjects (e.g 50+ illustrations for Blipshift, two-stage illumination MX5 dials, etc), so rather than farm out, I fired up Adobe Illustrator and came up with my own design.

I didn’t want to have M colours (as its not an M car and those colours are so played-out anyway) and I also didn’t want any Blackletter font styles (due to Nazi and current racism connections). Having researched a bit, this led me to the Bavarian flag colours, which turned out to be (light) blue and white. So washed-out BMW colours. Drat.

I finally settled on the Munich flag for the colours (connecting with BMW’s location) and a condensed variant of “Akzidenz Grotesk” and “Din” for the fonts (as both originated from Germany).

From the outset, I wanted a simple roundel that complimented the simple lines of the car and could be tucked into the rear quarter window, and below is the result:

Yes, not only is this magnificent bd my only car at the moment, I also street park the thing. Runs for cover…

Chapter 1 - done
I’ll leave it here for now – and if anyone has any questions, happy to answer them.

(This is at my sisters - who has a garage!)

(In the snow)

(outside the house)

Edited by salmanorguk on Tuesday 13th April 16:37


1,073 posts

115 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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What a fantastic car. Should have the depreciation-proof brief nailed with that.

Doubt many can say their first BMW was an 840! Looks like a great purchase.


295 posts

133 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Absolutely stunning OP, what a brute!

Look forward to updates and hearing more about a warranty that actually pays out on an old classic, too.


8,460 posts

123 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Nice car. You won't lose a penny in value (excluding maintenance)


487 posts

58 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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WhisperingWasp said:
What a fantastic car. Should have the depreciation-proof brief nailed with that.

Doubt many can say their first BMW was an 840! Looks like a great purchase.
Not the same, but my first BMW was an E3 3.0S, didn’t get my next for nearly 40yrs


4,489 posts

50 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Wow; great car cool

Thought I was brave back in 2011 buying an E38 728i as my first ever BMW; but yours wins hands down wink

Fantastic buy, will be watching this thread biggrin


23,101 posts

158 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Very, very nice. cool

The shape is one of my all time favourites. I love it. smile

Enjoy it. thumbup


268 posts

149 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Very nice, these have aged so well.

Enjoyed the read too, thanks for posting, and please keep the updates coming.


2,652 posts

199 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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The E31 is one of my absolute favourites. There's a chap on YouTube who has mildly restored a few of them. The channel is called M539 Restorations. Well worth a watch.

Good luck with it and keep us updated.


390 posts

62 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Plenty of cool points here, looks great


6,830 posts

137 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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I love that! I’ve seen one in real life and love in love with them! One that I would love to own.


415 posts

179 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Really like these. Considered one about 5 years ago but the fear of expensive repairs meant I went for a 645ci instead. No regrets as it was a great car but I still really like these old beasts.
I’m guessing it was circa £15k and will be interested to see what occurred that means you are pleased you bought the warranty! Lovely car - bookmarked.


535 posts

29 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Beautiful looking car, I'd love to own one one day


495 posts

48 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Jebus thats a great looking car. I still kick myself for not buying one when they were cheap a few years ago.


14,403 posts

187 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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KelvinatorNZ said:
I still kick myself for not buying one when they were cheap a few years ago.
Me too. A really good one with low miles was less than £10k and I had the cash sitting around, but I wasn't in the right place in my life.


19,355 posts

169 months

Friday 9th April 2021
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Congrats, fantastic cool

Mr Tidy

17,365 posts

105 months

Saturday 10th April 2021
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That's jumping in at the deep end - but when you get to own a V8 8 Series why not?

Stunning car. thumbup

Paul S4

1,140 posts

188 months

Sunday 11th April 2021
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Great cars, timeless design and way ahead of anything else around that time.
Presumably yours is an auto ( IIRC most of them were). A friend has a P reg e38 740iL with that engine, which is brilliant. His needed a replacement fuel tank as they are steel, but I reckon that the E31 has a plastic tank (?)
You may know already but the timing chain guides on the V8 are plastic, and over time they harden and eventually break. Something to be aware of.
There is a guy on Youtube in Ireland who is restoring one of these and there are loads of videos on E31s, some are better than others !