The BMW 8 Series (chassis code: E31) is a V8- or V12-engined 2-door 2+2 coupe built by BMW from 1989 to 1999. While it did supplant the original E24 based 6 Series in 1991, a common misconception is that the 8 Series was developed as a successor. However, it was actually an entirely new class aimed at a different market, with a substantially higher price and better performance than the 6 series. It was BMW's flagship car and had an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h).
Design of the 8 Series began in 1986, with construction starting in the same year. The 8 Series debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in early September 1989. The 8 Series was designed to move beyond the market of the original 6 Series. The 8 Series however had substantially improved performance, as well as a far higher purchase price.
Over 1.5 billion Deutschemark was spent on total development (2008 USD nearly $1 billion). BMW used CAD tools, still unusual at the time, to design the car's all-new body. Combined with wind tunnel testing, the resulting car had a drag coefficient of 0.29, a major improvement from the previous BMW M6/635CSi's 0.39.
The 8 Series supercar offered the first V-12 engine mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox on a road car. It was also one of the first vehicles to be fitted with an electronic "fly-by-wire" throttle. The 8 Series was one of BMW's first cars, together with the Z1, to use a multi-link rear axle.
While CAD modeling allowed the car's unibody to be 8 lb (3 kg) lighter than that of its predecessor, the car was significantly heavier when completed due to the large engine and added luxury items—a source of criticism from those who wanted BMW to concentrate on the driving experience. Some of the car's weight may have been due to its pillarless "hardtop" body style, which lacked a "B" post. This body style, originating the in United States in the late 1940s, was abandoned by Detroit in the late 1970s.
Sales of the 8 Series were affected by the global recession of the early 1990s, the Persian Gulf War, and energy price spikes. BMW pulled the 8 Series out of the North American market in 1997, selling only 7,232 cars over seven years. BMW continued production for Europe until 1999. The ultimate worldwide production total was 31,062.
Source: Wikipedia, 2012