Yes, yes, we know, two BMWs in two weeks. Thing is, BMWs are generally very good cars when new and sometimes very good Shed material when not, so we're not going to pass up on a tasty candidate just for the sake of marque repetition.
Shed's been eyeing up a 740 that's been on the PH Classifieds for a few weeks now, and last week was looking like the right time to home in on it, but a 330i Touring mooched in out of nowhere to steal the Seven's thunder. No matter, thought Shed, we'll do the big 'un next week - ie this week - but that turned out to be a week too late as the 740 now appears to have sold. Typical.
That 740 was a little bit beaten-up, to be honest. This 728 (from the last year of the E38s) is too, but it's more of a stealth beating up, in three specific places. The rest of it looks top hole. If you're the sort who can happily accept some localised non-structural biffery in exchange for a majestic motoring experience, this low-mileage three-owner car could be bang on.
Banging on has definitely been a part of this car's life at some point. At least one of its three owners appears to have had an issue getting it into his garage, as the nearside has taken some abuse, specifically to the front wing fillet below the headlamp, the front fog/driving light, the leading edge of the rear wing and the trailing edge of the rear door, which is also missing a lower trim piece.
Shed reckons an original used front wing in this rather gorgeous Stahlblu (or Steel Blue, another random BMW colour guess by Shed there) will be about £100, and that some accurate and patient keyboarding will bring in all the parts you need at under £300. Add in a bit of labour and you'll be the proud owner of a lovely example of the E38 breed, one that looks better than good on the offside and better yet on the inside, which is fresh, clean and only lightly creased, a bit like Shed's gentleman's area. The wheels are unmarked and there's plenty of meat on the tyres.
The E38 came out in 1994 and was the first European car to offer an integrated satnav, five years after Lexus did it in their LS400. Don't go running off with the idea that the 728 range-bottomer is going to be short of puff: a thousand drifters can't be wrong. Even with an auto gearbox and 1,800kg to carry, the 190hp E38 schmoozes up the road with an ease that belies its size and if you don't lean on the pedal too much you can genuinely expect cruising mpg figures in the low to mid 30s.
That's if you don't have the Seven's dreaded rusty fuel tank. Then you'll be looking at Top Fuel dragster-style numbers. You'll get a good idea where any tank leak might be by the point at which the needle on the fuel gauge stops dropping like a stone. If you fill 'er up and twenty yards later the gauge is reading a quarter full, the leak is likely to be a quarter of the way up the tank. assuming you can find a suitable replacement, sorting it is not a cheap fix. £1,500 maybe. Still, once that's done, your retching Transporter clients in the boot will thank you for it.
Road tax will depend on when the car was first registered. Shed doesn't have that info, but his feeling from the MOT test dates is that it is on the cusp of the March 2001 changeover date. If it's pre-March it will be £265 a year: post-March ramps that up to £325.
Because this example is definitely post-1998, it will have proper (ie not Nikasil) cylinder liners, but Shed isn't sure that BMW's surprising use of plastic in high-traffic items like the radiator had been rethought by 2001. White streaks down the rad may indicate a crack around the top hose connection. Other coolant system issues you might notice are splitting expansion tanks and seized-up viscous fan clutches.
Malfunctioning PCV (positive crankshaft ventilation) valves will lead to sludging or an oil leak. If that leak comes from the rocker cover, the spark plug holes can fill up with oil, causing a misfire. Heat in the Bosch ABS control units will sometimes shut down the system, but extinguishing the warning light is easy: you just sit around eating sandwiches until normal service is resumed.
Boot supports, door actuators and adjuster motors for the (excellent) seats all fail, and despite what Shed said earlier this is still a big car, so the front suspension and brakes do take a whacking. 7 Series steering shimmy, typically at 45-55mph, is a headscratcher for many, with no single obvious cure. Like herpes, if you've got it, it's about learning to live with it.
Apart from his normal look at this 104,000-mile car's MOT history, which reveals a ticket to next May and nothing more scary than slight play in the steering, Shed has done a spot of online sleuthing about the vendors, Schiele P&P Cars in Chertsey. The reviews (which don't look fake) suggest that Martin, the boss, is a straight-up sort of guy who is keen to look after folk as long as they play fair with him, which is surely all that most of us want out of life. He notes that there are no strange noises in the car. Clearly he's never had Mrs Shed in it.