1993 BMW E31 850 headlights - Our Shed

By: Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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bmw 850 bmw 850

Ed Guido gets to grips with the weirdness of 850 lighting

It’s almost a year since muggins got the keys to the Bimmer 850 and, overall, it’s been a pretty good experience. There’s no doubt the V12 monster makes you feel special when you’re on board.

However, it wouldn’t be an old car if it didn’t throw out a few challenges. So picture this: We’re happily cruising down the freeway one night, when the cap for the left-side pop-up headlight starts flapping around. Now I’ve got a dirty great semi up my date, so jumping on the brakes isn’t an option. And before I can pull over the offending part breaks free, slaps the side of the car on the way through and disappears into the gloom. Bugger – that’s the last we’ve seen of that.


Replacements aren’t all that hard to find and, being in a pessimistic mood, I order the one new replacement that can be found at reasonable money, plus a spare set from a wrecker. All of the bits come from the USA, which seems to have the world’s biggest pool of parts for these things.

So what caused the loss of the original cap? It seems that at some years back in its possibly colourful life, it had been in the hands of the Philistines. The trick to removing the cap (so you can change a bulb) is to undo the single screw at the rear, then ease it forward – something that a little patience would reveal to a normal person. But no, someone had forced it up, breaking the retaining tongues on the complex and hideously expensive plastic cage that holds the lamp assembly together. They covered up the error by glueing it back into place, with the inevitable results.


I’ve come up with a dodgy, but far more workable fix, by effectively creating new holding tabs, and will eventually have to wear the cost and get a replacement cage.

The same gorilla may have changed the parking lamp on the driver side. After they’d damaged a couple of mounting tabs on the assembly on the way in, they forced in the incorrect bulb. Eventually (possibly years later) it starts to act weird. Because this car is wired with early multiplex, the fault is not isolated to the parker lamp, but also takes out the instrument lights and some of the rear lamps. A fresh bulb and all is right with the world.

The moral to the story? There are some people who should not be allowed near complex machinery. No matter, it’s all character-building…


From Unique Cars #457, Sep 2021

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