We’ve bought an armoured BMW 7 Series so you don’t have to
An everyday car, for an everyday man: an armoured 7 Series
Internationally renowned photographer Mark has been working with TG for many, many years. When not taking photos he’s buying inappropriate cars. Here he shares his addiction with the world…
'You do realise that’s not normal?’
These were the words muttered by my girlfriend, moments after telling her I’d be popping out that evening to do ‘car’ things. Obviously, there’s more to this than going to use a jet wash. But I fear the more detail provided, the more factual her statement seems.
Mainly because I was off to collect another old car. And this particular car was being dropped off by a transporter all the way from Bulgaria, just to throw up another red flag.
To explain, it wasn’t so much a car I’d bought, rather a tank disguised as a 1993 BMW E32 750iLP. And if that model number looks like a typo, it’s not – the P stands for protection. Bullet and bomb proof levels at that.
Armoured vehicles are nothing new, but few look quite as cool as the BMW 7 Series. James Bond had one in Tomorrow Never Dies, although this vehicle’s last owner belonged to the Bulgarian National Service. Which is why it’s also got an onboard oxygen supply, PA system, five-layer thick glass and a small explosive in the windscreen in case of an emergency.
How do you go about getting hold of something so weird? Facebook Marketplace, obviously. It’d been listed in an ‘Interesting BMWs For Sale’ group and was priced at around €10,000. Seeing as an E32 will fetch that kind of money with a V8, getting four more cylinders plus an additional 1.2 tonnes of armour and gadgets seemed like a bit of a bargain.
It did mean sending many thousands of euro to a random man in Bulgaria, through PayPal, and never speaking nor seeing the car bar a few candid shots. It had all the makings of the world’s easiest scam, and there I was acting like a 75-year-old widow hoping to help a Nigerian prince get his wealth back.
Not that I needed to worry too much. The man I was speaking to, Dani Velkov from Redline Deals Bulgaria, turned out to be an avid Top Gear fan and equally as enthusiastic about weird and armoured cars. He was selling it on behalf of a friend, who’d acquired several armoured vehicles a few years back when a fleet were auctioned. Definitely not some form of tax scandal from the armoured car builders, and definitely not a subject worth Googling.
But the main issue would be figuring out how to get it the 1,800 miles from Bulgaria to the UK. “Don’t worry, I know a man,” Dani told me. “He can do you a good price.” By this point I had already paid for a car I had no idea even existed, so stuff it – why not lose some more money.
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And then, at around 8:00pm on a Thursday three months after buying it, I get a call from a Bulgarian man announcing he was just a few miles away. Casually using a six-car transporter to bring a 3.2-tonne armoured 750iLP 1,800 miles to its new home in Northamptonshire. And it was at that point I realised my girlfriend’s initial statement was 100 per cent accurate.