1994 850 CSi: George S. Whiteley IV
1994 E31 850CSi #CD00057
5.6-liter S70 V12, 372 hp/402 lb-ft
January 20, 1994
George S. Whiteley IV (since 2010)
It may not have an “M” in front of its model designation, but the 850CSi is an M car all the same. Developed by BMW Motorsport, the flagship coupe’s 5,576cc S70 V12 engine puts out 372 hp and 402 lb-ft, enough to pull this 4,234-lb. GT from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds—not supercar-fast, but rapid enough in 1994.
Motorsport also gave the 850CSi a 6-speed manual transmission, limited slip differential, ASC+T traction control, shorter springs, stiffer shocks, stronger front hubs, and tighter recirculating ball steering with vehicle speed-sensitive power assist. 17-inch M System II wheels were standard on US cars, which didn’t get the Euro-spec oil coolers, Active Rear Axle Kinematics, floating front brake rotors, or aerodynamic rear view mirrors. The cars were exotic and expensive enough without them, priced at $100,950 (plus a $3,700 gas guzzler tax). Only 225 were produced for the US, plus another 1,285 for Europe and Great Britain.
The car you see here, #CD00057, has been owned by George S. Whiteley IV since 2010. Like so many enthusiasts, Whiteley was introduced to BMW while stationed with the US military in Erlangen, Germany in the late 1960s. After leaving the service, he bought a rare DeTomaso Vallelunga, but its unreliability saw him driving his mother’s 2002 more often. In 1971, he bought it from her.
Working for the State of Georgia’s Department of Archives and History, Whiteley spent his weekends at sports car races. In 1973, he joined the BMW CCA and helped to found the Peachtree Chapter. He also bought a brand-new 2002, which he kept for 14 years and 232,000 miles. When he found himself missing it few years later, he bought a pristine 1972 2002 tii, “a car which I truly wish I had never sold.”
Whiteley bought a 1997 840Ci, in 2007. On a 2008 journey to the 8 Series Gathering in Mt. Dora, Florida, George and his wife Sue were impressed by Roger and Marcia Wray’s 850CSi. Two years later, he became its third known owner.
Other than M pedal covers, Euro-spec CSi mirrors and sport steering wheel, Whiteley has left the Bright Red coupe stock. “Although I appreciate highly personalized cars, the 850CSi doesn’t need further embellishment,” he says.
As compelling as it is to look at, the 850CSi is even better for driving. “It’s such a pleasure carving corners in the mountains of north Georgia,” Whiteley says. “The car really defies its weight and girth, and in my mind fulfills BMW’s slogan of The Ultimate Driving Machine. It keeps me on the cutting edge of yesterday!”