In the late 1980s, BMW wanted to push the envelope of what a flagship could be. It decided to build a sedan larger than the 7 Series. You've probably heard of the "Goldfish" aka "Super Seven" from 1988 with a V-16 engine, but a second car was assembled two years later. It's been kept secret for decades, until this month when it showed up at the Techno-Classica Essen.

We asked BMW about the elusive super sedan since we only had heard about the previous one-off. Featuring an aluminum body, the newer car was built in 1990 and was known internally as the 750iL V-16 "Goldfish." The man in charge of the design was Boyke Boyer, who also penned the E38 7 Series launched four years later, in 1994. That's why the car looks like a fusion between the E32 and E38.

1990 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfish

At the heart of the stately sedan was a 6.6-liter V-16 engine adapted from the "M70" V-12 installed in the 750i E32 that was on sale back then. While the range-topping 7 Series made 296 horsepower, this prototype had a stout 348 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Output was routed to the wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission, enabling an electronically limited top speed of 155 miles per hour. That made it slower than its predecessor, which maxed out at 174 mph.

Speaking of the previous Goldfish project seen below, that car had different technical specifications. The monstrous V-16 featured substantially more power, at 402 hp. In addition, BMW's engineers fitted a six-speed manual gearbox, right before the 8 Series E31 became the first V-12 production car with six gears.

Compared to the original V-16 car, the newer Goldfish had a smoother profile since it did away with the large fiberglass gills and air scoops on the rear fenders. The previous car had them for the cooling system, which BMW moved to the rear since there was not enough room underneath the hood after fitting the massive engine. The engineers continued to work on the project, managing to solve the packaging issues for the 1990 prototype.

Aside from having an unusual engine, the second of the Goldfish cars was also much bigger than the 7 Series E32 of those days. At 214.5 inches long, it was actually larger than the current-generation model. Compared to the G70 on sale today, it was slightly narrower (at 74.8 inches) and lower (at 59 inches).

1988 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfish

1988 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfish

BMW wasn't the only German luxury brand to toy around with the idea of an engine bigger than a V-12. Legend has it Mercedes worked on an 8.0-liter W-18 (yes, 18 cylinders) with 490 hp. It was reportedly planned for the W140 S-Class in the 800 SEL ultimate version to slot above the 600 SEL, but it never happened. It is believed Mercedes also had a more potent derivative with at least 680 hp intended for sports cars.

Mercedes apparently canceled the W-18 at the last minute before reviving the project later in the 1990s for an S80 AMG that never came to fruition either. Years later, there was also some wild speculation about a twin-supercharged, 15-liter V-24 engine (yup, 24 cylinders) for the resurrected Maybach brand with around 1,000 hp. It remained at the rumor stage in the 2000s.

BMW dropped the V-16 engine as well (unless there are other secret cars we don't know about). A new flagship above the 7 Series didn't happen either since there was no need for it anymore. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was created as a wholly owned subsidiary in 1998. In the mid-2000s, BMW revisited the idea of a V-16 car but for Rolls-Royce. However, the 100 EX and the 101 EX with their gigantic 9.0-liter engines were left on the cutting room floor as well.

Gallery: 1988 BMW 750iL V16 Goldfish

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