Category Archives: Blog

Methodology – Where do these numbers come from?

I frequently get asked “where I got my numbers” for production numbers and other details. Are they from BMW? Did I make them up?

The answer is reasonably simple: several years ago, BMW had a public site in which you could access the build sheets with a public login (eu111111). It looked like this:

With this website, you were able to access build sheets by inputting the car’s VIN, that looked like these:

In addition, I was able to determine the VIN ranges for all of the model codes, based on internal BMW documentation, data published on websites, and educated guesses. With the VIN ranges determined, it was only a matter of acquiring the build sheets. That took several months, but eventually I compiled all of the build information, including Individual Data.

From there, it was reasonably easy to export everything into a database (h/t to SickFinga of MaxBimmer for helping me out with the coding), and start crunching production numbers. Color codes, upholstery, and other interesting information was also now accessible.

However, the system isn’t perfect. Around 0.2% of the records have information I know is incorrect; for example, a facelift 750iL (EUR) with production date of 1987. That’s due to errors in BMW’s database, so they can’t be fixed. Here’s an example. Check the build date:


Another thing I keep track of, in addition to submitted cars, are cars that are For Sale, have been recently Sold, and cars that are Dead (or have been branded as Salvaged). Creating detailed pages for every single E38 for sale would be not only time consuming, but very difficult, given the reluctance of some owners in sharing their VIN numbers.

However, if the car is rare (less than 2000 or so of that specific model produced), or has been ordered through the BMW Individual program, I will usually create a page if one of them is spotted for sale (and has identifying information).

Finally, I’ll list a car as Dead if it shows up at an auction with a Salvage title, or if it’s spotted at a junkyard or breaker, or parted out by someone in a forum or Facebook.

What exactly makes a US-Market 740iL a Highline? And why did some come from BMW Individual?

I see this question popping up a lot. So much that I decided to write a post about it.

The E38 Highline package was a special Exterior Color + Interior Upholstery package offered in select markets. While Europe had four variants (Anthrazit, Carbon, Nachtblau, and Scarabäus), the United States got two (Midnight Blue, and Orinocco [Green]).

It was a no-cost option in the 750iL, and a $3,000 package in the 740iL:

The package was available for the 2000 and 2001 model years, and is characterized by Midnight Blue or Orinoco Green exterior paint:

The seats were either Leather Nappa Ecru with English Green piping, or Leather Nappa Ecru with Marine Blue piping; seat backs, door armrest handles, and inserts were in Ecru, and dashboard, door cards, carpet and center console were either Green or Blue:

The color scheme was indentical among 750s and 740s.

However, the materials for the door cards, dashboard, center console, and seat backs varied according to the model, and this is where the confusion starts. To understand that, we have to first understand BMW Upholstery codes.

This code usually has two parts. Let’s take the Black Montana Leather codes for non-V12 (N6SW) and V12 (N8SW) E38s, for example.

N6/N8 indicates stitching and seam patterns, and it also indicates the materials of those parts mentioned above.

N6 indicates that the door cards, dashboard, and center console are made of plastic/vinyl. N8, instead, indicates that those parts are made of leather or leathrette.

There are other codes, such as N9/P1/P4/P5, but if you’re curious about them, check the Upholstery section. The second part indicates the color; in this case, SW indicates Schwarz (black).

Going back to the Highline, L7EE is Leather Nappa Ecru with English Green Piping, and L7EC is Leather Nappa Ecru with Marine Blue Piping.

These codes, however, were used first in the 750iL. Additionally, L7 is the code for “Extended Nappa Leather”, which would include, at a minimum, a leather center console. In the case of L7EE and L7EC, however, it indicated that it had said upholstery, plus the aforementioned leather/leatherette bits available in the V12 models.

Therefore, since the 740iL does not include those extra leather bits by default, the early 740iL Highlines produced from May 1999 to July 1999 had to be processed through BMW Individual, rather than be assigned a code that could cause confusion in the assembly line:

Here’s the Individual Data, for example, of an early 740iL Highline:

 Sign "BMW individual"
 Special Series

 E38 740iLA US High Line
 analog Polstercode L7EE oder L7EC, jedoch Dachhimmel in grau !!
 0490 Color

 Paintwork "orinoco-metallic" (code 406)
 Z1XX Upholstery

 Upholstery leather nappa ecru including
 rear panel of front seat backs (nb. 2 695 113)
 Following items are in leather Nappa ecru (nb. 2 695 113)
 Door panel inserts (with handle)
 Quilting yarn in ecru (7 000 794), code 0862 F.
 Sewing thread ecru (7 000 797), code 0862 F.
 Leather piping in Nappa englishgreen (8 174 063)
 arrangement as standard piping
 Seam of front and rear seats according to standard option
 leather Nappa (cross-seam)
 Plastic parts of seats in englishgreen
 Remainder of spec. as standard leather Montana englishgreen
 (code N6EG)

However, BMW appears to have sorted out that confusion internally, and late 2000 MY 740iL Highlines were produced with the L7EE/L7EC upholstery codes, starting in November 1999, and lasting until the end of the production run. Note, however, that they still had the regular 740 vinyl door cards, center console, and dashboard pieces.

An introduction – What’s this all about anyway?


A little over 20 years ago, at the 1994 Cleveland Auto Show, I saw an E38 for the first time. I thought the car looked pretty cool, and immediately grabbed a poster to put on my bedroom wall. While I did have the quintessential Ferrari F40 poster, I also made room for this one. I guess the car looked pretty cool for 9-year-old me.

A few years later, I remember watching Tomorrow Never Dies at the cinema with my mother, and being really excited when 007 used an E38 to wreak havoc in a parking garage in Hamburg. As a huge James Bond fan, I was now more determined than ever to own one of these. Small problem: I was 12, and I lived in Brazil. It would have to wait.

Fast forward 14 years, and I’m now living in Canada and looking for my first car… And I decide to check how much an E38 cost. When I saw they were around $5000-$8000, I figured “wow, so cheap, must buy!”. It was my first car purchase, and as such it was a mixture of bliss and pure terror. A steep learning curve, so to speak.

The car turned looked pretty good inside and out, but the engine… Oh my. The engine was awful. Leaked oil everywhere, ran a little rough, but I didn’t care. I paid somewhere around $5000 Canadian, and drove it home a few days after seeing it. I figured fixing the leaks would be cheap.

Yeah… Cheap… Sure.

Long story short, after spending a few thousand dollars at a local mechanic fixing up a bunch of issues, the car’s timing chain guides died a horrible death in a cold Winnipeg morning.

I was devastated, but my father had actually bought an E38 from a local enthusiast. The car was loaded with cool options and retrofits, such as hydraulic trunk, suede headliner, and Steptronic, and seemed reasonably well taken care of.

I bought it off my father for an undisclosed sum, and proceeded to drive the heck out of it until late 2013. Unfortunately, this car also died a horrible death due to timing chain guides, also on a cold Winnipeg morning. Having spent more than $10k to drive less than two years left me quite mad. I resolved that I would research the E38 thoroughly, and only buy one that’s well taken care of, or super cheap, or both.

In late 2014, it seemed like I had found the perfect example: A 1997 750iL Individual, Canadian-spec. Limonit Metallic paint, with a Walknappa Lotus White interior, inlaid wood trim and a fridge! Super classy. I contacted the seller, and anxiously awaited the date we had set for me to view the car.

However… I decided to get a claims history on the car. You know, just in case it was heavily damaged in an accident. I’ll let the following image speak for itself:


Drats! Foiled again!

Luckily for me, a few months later a somewhat clean Black on Black 2001 740i Sport popped for sale, cheap. Unfortunately, it had a check engine light for timing… I decided to make a huge gamble, and drove it home a few days after looking at it. I tried a cheap fix, and lo and behold it worked! I now had an E38 with maintenance history going back more than ten years. I felt I could definitely work with this one.

The car had many cosmetic issues. Broken trim, missing pieces, worn seats, the usual. At least the front cupholder worked and the headliner wasn’t sagging. Mechanically, it was “fine”. Soon after purchase, the water pump gave out, but it was a repair I had done before. One of the pulleys also went out, clattering like timing chain guides and nearly giving me a heart attack. Replaced pulley and belts, and all was fine. Did front brakes recently, and will probably have to replace the driveshaft (ouch) and rear brakes (not ouch) soon.

Unlike my previous E38s, this car has lasted long enough to modify it! I added some replica AC Schnitzer bits and pieces (originals are non-existent on the market), installed Active Comfort seats, swapped in a whole Individual interior from a UK 740i Sport, and even installed a rear fridge out of an E65. I love how it looks now, and it’s been a great learning experience.

But back to the Registry.

I’ve known about the existence of The M Registry,, and the CS Register for several years, and they all served as inspiration in one form or another. They’re super interesting projects, and serve as a repository of information for their respective models. While researching the E38, I noticed no such repository existed for the E38. Sure, there are great resources like, but it’s aimed at the DIY’er rather than at people who want to learn more about the car.

Additionally, I’ve always been curious to see how rare the E38 is these days. I see very few of them around, and given that this car is likely the last good looking BMW 7-series, it’s quite a pity. So I decided to do something about it.

I bounced the idea off of several other enthusiasts (special shout-out to Tim in Australia and Jose here in Canada, for the incentive and suggestions), and bit the bullet in July 2015, and set up a server and a domain.

And started to collect as much information as I could find on the E38.

Currently, we have a few highlights:

– Images of most of the Standard Paint Colors, plus many Individual ones

– Images and Info on most of the Standard Upholstery options, plus dozens of Individual ones

– Images and info on all standard interior trim, plus most of the Individual ones

– 99.99% accurate E38 production data

– Over 70 Registered owners, with several hundred cars accounted for (most of them having been parted out)


Finding the whereabouts of every single E38 ever made will be impossible. Many have been crushed with no records, some were certainly lost to wars (it was quite popular in the Middle East) and thousands more are likely broken and parked.

However, I have an initial goal of accounting for 1% of the production run, which is roughly 3,300 cars.

So, if you have an E38, or if you’ve parted one out, or seen one at a junkyard somewhere, send me their VINs to!

If the E38 is currently operational, send me your first name, country and a few pictures to, and I’ll create a page for it and add it to the list of known running E38s!


Thanks for reading this, and keep an eye on future updates through our Facebook page (link), Instagram account (link) or by simply coming back to the website from time to time.


Valter C.