If you’re a BMW enthusiast, you know the interesting story behind the elusive Goldfisch. It was a 7 Series prototype presented internally back in July 1988 with a mighty V16 engine. However, the project wasn’t approved for production. To our surprise, the German luxury brand didn’t abandon the idea of cramming sixteen cylinders under the hood of its flagship car. It appears there was another car, built two years later.

Making its public debut this week at the Techno-Classica Essen, this 1990 7 Series prototype seems to be in a timeline somewhere between an E32 and an E38. The latter entered development in early 1988 but didn’t go into production until February 1994. While the previous V16 Goldfish had fiberglass ducts on the rear fenders for the radiators mounted at the back, this packaging issue was seemingly solved with the subsequent prototype. It has a cleaner profile, without the bulges above the rear wheel arches.

The V16 engine used in the newer car was a 6646 cc unit that made 348 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Output was channeled to the road via a five-speed automatic transmission in a 7 Series that was able to reach 155 mph (250 km/h). It’s worth nothing the previous Goldfish based on the E32 had a slightly larger 6651cc engine with 400 hp on tap. In addition, the older prototype dubbed 767iL (aka “The Secret Seven”) came with a six-speed manual gearbox instead.

Those outputs might not seem much by 2024 standards considering the M340i packs 382 hp from just six cylinders. However, during the E32 era, the 7 Series 750i with the V12 engine had only 296 hp, so 400 hp would’ve been a huge jump in power. Let’s keep in mind those large-displacement engines were naturally aspirated as opposed to current turbocharged units.

Production cars with V16 engines have been few and far between, with the most popular being the Cizeta-Moroder V16T from the early 1990s. Later this year, Bugatti will unveil a new hypercar equipped with a brand-new V16 that will replace the venerable W16 used by the Chiron and Veyron. [Source: BMW Group Classic / Instagram, BMW Group Classic / Facebook]