Michael Jordan’s low-mileage 1991 BMW 850i heads to auction

One of the most iconic BMWs of the 1990s, once owned and driven by basketball superstar Michael Jordan, has appeared on auction site Bring A Trailer. Even better, this sleek, spotless buzzer (also known as “E31”) shows just over 30,000 miles ticking after 33 years.

Following the introduction of the M1 supercar in the late 1970s, BMW entered the 1980s selling countless 328i spinners and M-series sleepers that matched American and European high-performance cars and seemed to achieve BMW’s “ultimate Drive the Machineā€ slogan.

As the exciting 1980s drew to a close, the 1990s began with a new pinnacle for the BMW range: the 8 Series machines, the 840 model with a 4.0-liter V8 engine and the 840 model with a 5.0-liter V-12 engine producing nearly 300 horsepower. 850. These cars were an early product of BMW’s computer-aided design (CAD) and also featured an electric “ride-by-wire” throttle, another rarity now common in many cars.

The 840 and 850 stood out from other BMWs of the 1990s with their elegant design, with their tapering sloping nose and hidden eyebrow-style pop-up headlights, reminiscent of the M1 of a decade earlier. Eliminating the B-pillar enhances the smooth lines. Available only as a two-door coupe, the 840 and 850 actually seat four people and are well-appointed and luxuriously styled. In 2017, car enthusiast publication Petrolicious produced this beautiful video tribute to the 850:

But persistent fuel problems with early V12s damaged its reputation, and that was before the days of cheap and easy firmware flashes to fix bugs. Despite their sporty looks, 8 Series cars are heavy, and while they’re powerful, they’re not the hot rods some people think they should be. BMW envisions the 8 Series as a sporty yet luxurious “Grand Touring” or “GT” car, with long legs and designed for the open road rather than the drag strip. Featuring a then-rare six-speed stick shift, many may have thought otherwise and were disappointed. They were reportedly great driving cars, and some German-market models even came with four-wheel steering. The car also has a sizable trunk.

The V-12 eventually grew to 5.6 liters and nearly 400 horsepower – supercar power at the time – but in 1999 BMW quietly turned the lights on the 8 Series, with the final top-spec “S70” 850CSI model selling just 1,510 units , such as the model in the video above has been completed. For a while, the 840 and 850 seemed to be forgotten by time and found cheap.

In 2014, interest in the halo cars of the ’90s began to rise with the introduction of the 850’s spiritual successor, the exotic i8 hybrid, a line-up that paid homage to the old 850. In 2018, BMW restarted the 8 Series product line, but the new car does not seem to have the handsome and unique style of the 840/850. Today, clean 850s often sell for over $100,000.

Mr. Jordan’s sky-blue 850i was sold at some point to an apparently conscientious but unnamed conservator, and is mostly stock except for a few aftermarket AC Schnitzer wheels and a Magnaflow exhaust. The interior has tan surfaces and the seats are covered in gorgeous beige leather. The interior seems untouched, right down to the original BMW cassette deck in the center stack. The expensive optional CD changer is in the trunk.

Illinois legal documents showing the car was owned by Jordan and signed by the Chicago Bulls legend were kept in a frame. The Illinois license plate reads “M AIR J,” and a photo on the auction site shows the car parked outside the “23” door of Jordan’s home. As of publishing, with four days left before the auction ends, bidding is just over $60,000.

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