Most BMW geeks will be able to tell you about the E23 745i. Using a turbocharged 3.4-litre inline-six in later models, it’s arguably the most desirable of its kind. That is until you learn a second, rather different 745i exists…
A deep dive video by Cars.co.za unveils all on the scarce super saloon, speaking with Dr Walter Hasselkus - managing director of BMW SA from 1984 to 1989 - along with others involved in the development
Being a right-hand-drive market, the turbocharged 745i wouldn’t work - with its big snail being mounted on the right-hand side of the engine bay. Thus packaging is an issue, leading to BMW SA finding an unconventional solution.
Instead, it took a tweaked version of the M88/3 3.5-litre naturally-aspirated unit found in none other than the E28 M5, related to the dry-sump version used by the mighty M1 supercar. Here it produces 282bhp and 251lb ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels through a choice of a four-speed auto or a five-speed manual.
It wasn’t easy though - having to be mounted at an angle to fit with the front axle. After all, this was an engine designed for a mid-engine application.
Only 255 examples of the SA-special BMW 745i were made, though BMW did also homologate it as a race car for local use - said to be designed especially for Kyalami.
Check out the full video for the full story on how South Africa’s secret BMW M7 came to be.