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Video | My Cheap BMW 850i Is Unrepairable -- but I Love it Anyway

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author photo by Tyler Hoover January 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen of Oversteer, I have found myself the perfect car. My recently purchased BMW 850i has brought me back to loving the Bavarian brand, as it's everything I ever wanted in a car -- except that it's a total dumpster fire mechanically. After paying to fix numerous issues, a mechanic told me this car was unrepairable -- but believe me, the 850i is so worth the headaches.

For the repairs of my BMW, I cheated on my main mechanic, the Car Wizard, and took this 850i to an import specialty shop I've used in the past. I spent a few thousand dollars replacing a few spent steering parts, addressing some leaks, performing basic maintenance and replacing the AC compressor. The air conditioning worked fine beforehand, but the compressor sounded like a bag of marbles when it was running. After the repair, the AC refused to kick back on. The mechanic working on the car couldn't figure out why, and couldn't find a wiring diagram to hunt the issue down. So he just gave up on this disaster of electrical engineering, and moved on to other cars that could actually be fixed.

For weeks, my BMW sat languishing in their parking lot. Since the mechanic had rage-quitted on the car, and probably never wanted to touch it ever again, I decided to pick it up without functional AC -- and a few new surprises. Apparently, this BMW also has an electrical issue that drains the battery if it sits for too long. The previous owner probably knew about this, as he told me the batteries were replaced last year -- and he gently encouraged me to use the battery tender he included with the sale when the car was parked. The mechanic was able to overcome his frustration with this BMW to give me a quick jump start, and I was on my way.

Unfortunately, the 2 full-sized batteries in the trunk seem like they will never recover from being drained at freezing temperatures. I tried charging them overnight, but they still didn't have the juice to turn over the mighty V12. I don't really want to kill another set of batteries until the issue is fixed, so I've been driving it around town with a jumper box in the trunk. One unintended benefit of this problem is I had zero anxiety dropping it off at the detailers, as it's much harder to steal in this condition.

At this point, you're probably wondering why anybody would put up with an albatross of a car like this -- but I find myself gladly enduring the embarrassment of jumping my old BMW in a Target parking lot just to experience the majesty of this fantastic machine. Personally, I think the body is a work of art. With its unique shark nose and pillarless roofline, I can't help but turn around for a second glance after parking it -- and it's not just because I'm worried it might catch fire. The rich, amber glow of the instruments in the aircraft cockpitlike interior is similarly intoxicating, along with the rich leather smell that new cars have long since lost.

This 850i is a huge departure from the typical DNA of BMW, as it feels more like a luxury land yacht than the "ultimate driving machine" -- and land yachts are right up my alley. This early V12, with only 296 horsepower, was never built for high performance. The 850i fills a niche that's been abandoned by nearly every automaker except the top shelf-- like Bentley or Rolls Royce -- cars built with a focus on smoothness, silence and comfort. At the time, crafting a vehicle with comfort as a priority made more sense to BMW than forcing an oversized coupe to compete with a Porsche 911 -- or internally with a BMW M3.

As you can tell, I'm pretty smitten with my 850i, even with the issues- - though I bet the Car Wizard will be able to fix the unfixable. Unfortunately, there's another European luxury land yacht that has to get out of the wizard's drydock first, so I will probably be hauling a jump box around for a while longer.

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Video | My Cheap BMW 850i Is Unrepairable -- but I Love it Anyway - Autotrader