BMW and its fans came together last weekend at BMW's Bavarian home to celebrate the 8-Series' quarter-century, joining a parade of as many as 120 cars. The event was put together by the BMW 8-Series clubs 8er.org and ClubE31 Worldwide Owners Group, with added support from the BMW Club International Office. Owners and fans got to enjoy a tour of the Dingolfing plant, where the 8-Series was produced throughout the 1990s.
The 8-Series was a clean-sheet design for BMW, aiming to combine performance, luxury, innovation and elegance. Like many BMWs, it's often known by its model code--E31--and first debuted in 850i format. Its V-12 engine was borrowed from the similarly-badged 7-Series, producing 300 horsepower and 332 lb-ft through either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox. At its fastest, this helped the 850i reach 62 mph in 6.8 seconds, but a later 850 CSi cut that to less than six thanks to a 5.6-liter, 381 hp and 406 lb-ft version of the engine. The regular V-12 was renamed 850ci when the CSi made its debut.
At the same time, in 1993, an "entry level" 840i V-8 joined the range, with 286 horses at its disposal. Around a third of the 30,621 8-Series ever produced used the V-8, while just a fraction of buyers opted for the top-end CSi, at 1,510 cars. This used the six-speed manual alone--an option chosen by only one in six 8-Series buyers. The CSi also became one of BMW's famous art cars, when British artist David Hockney applied his touch to a specially-painted vehicle.
The 8-Series introduced plenty of new features to BMW's range. Among its technological offerings were a seat-belt system integrated into the seats, an electrically adjustable steering column with memory function, an automatically dimming rear-view mirror, remote-control central locking and a high-performance onboard computer. The 8-Series, with its frameless windows, was also the first BMW to retract its windows slightly when the doors were opened, and raise them again as the doors shut--providing a tighter seal between window and door frame, improving refinement and silence inside the car.
Perhaps the 8-Series' greatest contribution though was its V-12 engine. Visitors celebrating the car's 25th anniversary at Dingolfing got to see a special 8-Series prototype, its V-12 tuned by BMW Motorsport to 550 horsepower. A development of this powertrain later went on to power one of the greatest ever supercars--the McLaren F1. If nothing else--and there's plenty about the 8-Series to like--that contribution to the motoring world is something to be thankful for.