This V-16 BMW Was Supposed to Slot Above the 7 Series. It Never Did

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In the late 1980s, BMW wanted to push the envelope about what a flagship could be, deciding to build a sedan larger than the 7 Series. You’ve probably heard of the “Goldfish” aka “Super Seven” from 1988 with a V-16 engine, but a second car was assembled two years later. It’s been kept secret for decades, until this month when it broke cover at the Techno-Classica Essen.

We decided to ask BMW about the elusive super sedan since we only had heard about the previous one-off. Featuring an aluminum body, the newer car was built in 1990 and was known internally as the 750iL V16 “Goldfish.” The man in charge of the design was Boyke Boyer, who also penned the E38 7 Series launched four years later, in 1994. That’s why the car looks like a fusion between the E32 and E38.

At the heart of the stately sedan was a 6.6-liter V-16 engine adapted from the “M70” V-12 installed in the 750i E32 that was on sale back then. While the range-topping 7 Series made 296 hp, this prototype had a stout 348 hp at 5,000 rpm. Output was routed to the wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission, enabling an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. That made it slower than its predecessor, which maxed out at 174 mph.

Speaking of the previous Goldfish project seen below, that car had different technical specifications. The monstrous V-16 featured substantially more power, at 402 hp. In addition, BMW’s engineers fitted a six-speed manual gearbox, right before the 8 Series E31 became the first V-12 production car with six gears.

Compared to the original V-16 car, the newer Goldfish had a smoother profile since it did away with the large fiberglass gills and air scoops on the rear fenders. The previous car had them for the cooling system, which BMW moved to the rear since there was not enough room underneath the hood after fitting the massive engine. The engineers continued to work on the project, managing to solve the packaging issues for the 1990 prototype.

Aside from having an unusual engine, the second of the Goldfish cars was also much bigger than the 7 Series E32 of those days. At 214.5 inches long, it was actually larger than the current-generation model. Compared to the G70 on sale today, it was slightly narrower (at 74.8 inches) and lower (at 59 inches).

BMW wasn’t the only German luxury brand to toy around with the idea of an engine bigger than a V-12. Legend has it Mercedes worked on an 8.0-liter W-18 (yes, 18 cylinders) with 490 horsepower. It was reportedly planned for the W140 S-Class in the 800 SEL ultimate version to slot above the 600 SEL, but it never happened. It is believed the three-pointed star also had a more potent derivative with at least 680 hp intended for sports cars.

Mercedes apparently canceled the W-18 at the last minute before reviving the project later in the 1990s for an S80 AMG that never came to fruition either. Years later, there was also some wild speculation about a twin-supercharged, 15-liter V-24 engine (yup, 24 cylinders) for the resurrected Maybach brand with around 1,000 horsepower. It remained at the rumor stage in the 2000s.

BMW dropped the V-16 engine as well unless there are other secret cars we don’t know about. A new flagship above the 7 Series didn’t happen either since there was no need for it anymore. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was created as a wholly owned subsidiary in 1998.

Fast forward to the present day, BMW also owns Alpina, which is likely to be pushed upmarket to slot between the most expensive BMWs and the “cheapest” Rolls-Royces.

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