BMW Built a V16 7 Series in the ’80s That Never Made It To Production

It was nicknamed “Goldfish” for its gold paint and rear cooling vents that looked like fish gills.

byNico DeMattia|
BMW News photo

Deep within the bowels of BMW Group Classic's museum are some of the coolest Bimmers that never got the green light. There's a V12-powered E31-generation M8 prototype, a V12 BMW X5 Le Mans with a manual, and an E46 M3 GTR with a motorsport V8, to name just a few. But one of the stranger cars in the collection—and one that we wish BMW would've produced—is an E32-generation 7 Series with a V16 engine.

In the '80s, BMW and Mercedes both had big V12-powered luxury sedans and were in a bit of a competition to see who could make the coolest one—which pretty much meant building one with the biggest engine possible. So BMW decided to try out a V16-powered 7 Series and, in typical German car company fashion, it's hilariously over-engineered.

Under the hood is a V16 engine that wasn't made the way you'd expect. At the time, BMW had two perfectly good V8s it could put together lengthwise to make a V16. However, instead of doing that, it decided to lop off the first four cylinders of one V12 and the last four cylinders of another and sandwich those together. It almost seems like German car companies invent new ways to make things more complicated. Looking at the engine under the hood, you can actually see the seam where the two engines were put together, which is kind of neat.

Making this V16 7 Series even better is its manual transmission. This prototype's combination of brown-over-brown color scheme, V16 engine, and manual transmission make it the ultimate car nerd fantasy.

Since the massive motor took up the entirety of the engine bay, BMW couldn't fit a radiator or cooling system under the hood. So all of that was put in the trunk and massive air intake vents were added to the rear fenders, just behind the rear doors. Air was fed through those vents, through the radiators, and out the back of the car through a massive vent between the taillights. Those side vents are what earned the V16 7 Series its "Goldfish" nickname, as one of the prototypes was gold and the side vents were reminiscent of a fish gills. The massive V16 produced 408 horsepower and made it capable of 174 mph (280 km/h).

Obviously, BMW's "Goldfish" never reached production, but it's hard to not appreciate the fact that BMW tried. Can you imagine if BMW did sell it, though? In an idyllic world, BMW would have built the V16 7 Series and it would have opened the door to more V16-powered sedans from brands like Mercedes and Cadillac.

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