A replacement for the New Six (E3), the first-generation BMW 7 Series spawned not one but two 745i models. While the European version was turbocharged, South Africa had a different version with a naturally aspirated engine. Not just any NA, but the M88/3 that traced its origins in the mid-engined M1 supercar. The sports sedan eschewed the turbocharger of the Euro version because it had to be right-hand drive and there wasn’t a 745i with forced induction and left-hand drive. Why? Because the turbo was mounted on the right-hand side of the engine bay, therefore creating packaging constraints.
A new video featuring the man who signed off each and every 745i SA produced tells the story of how the rare sedan came to be. Just 255 units were ever manufactured, and each one was driven at least 75 miles (120 kilometers) before being handed over to its rightful owner. Under the hood, a 3.5-liter inline-six sent 282 hp and 251 lb-ft (340 Nm) to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
The unofficial M7 went on to spawn a race car homologated by BMW SA Motorsport. The track-only variant is a local legend thanks to racing driver Tony Viana and mechanic Kobus van der Watt. Aside from getting an aerodynamic body kit, the M88/3 engine was further modified and bored out to 3.6 liters to produce a higher output of 444 hp. The race-spec engine worked with a Getrag five-speed manual and a limited-slip differential.
The “Frankenstein of sedans,” the pricey 745i SA wasn’t the only special BMW born in South Africa as there were also 325i and 333i variants during the 3 Series E30 era and a 530 MLE, which some consider to be the first M car. The 5 Series Motorsport Limited Edition came before the M1 and served as a homologation special with only 218 units ever built during the days of the E12.
Source: Cars.co.za / YouTube