Entrepreneurs’ cars: BMW 840

Breaking any flash cars stereotype is car park payments King, RingGo's Harry Clarke, whose “unashamedly 90s” car is in his signature purple

Name: Harry Clarke
Company: RingGo
Focus: App to book parking spaces
Car: BMW 840
Typical RRP: £9,000

When an entrepreneur enjoys success, the stereotype is they buy a top-of-the-range, ultra-modern supercar to provide a gleaming visual reminder of their self-made wealth. Not so for founder of web-based parking app RingGo Harry Clarke, however, who admits his BMW 840 is “unashamedly of the 90s”.

But despite its age, Clarke says there is a lot to recommend the BMW 840. The BMW 8-series cars were conceived on the back of a 1.5bn Deutschmark budget in the 1990s, as part of the German manufacturer’s quest to create the ultimate businessman’s grand tourer – and Clarke says this is reflected in his model’s “superb quality”, “relentless German reliability” and “great value”. The retro look of the car gets a mention, too, which he claims is “distinctive – but mainstream enough not to be seen as trying too hard.”

Asked further about what features he likes the most, the colour gets a mention – “it’s my signature purple” – and the ultra-quiet experience of driving, with “no wind whistle or V8 wuffle, just silent surge when you want it.” Unlike some top-of-the-line, ostentatious supercars, Clarke says the 840 does not provoke mean-spirited comments about its owner, either – because it is a “mainstream” model, it is “not offensively exclusive”.

But what Clarke keeps coming back to most of all is the low cost of purchasing and running the BMW 840, as well as its healthy appreciation in value. Clarke bought his 840 two years ago for just £2,850 (although he admits he spent a further £6,000 to return it to its “original driving excellence”) and the market price of the cars has “recovered nicely” since, as the distinctive models are increasingly seen as collector’s items. In addition, he pays just £225 annual road tax and “cheap” insurance premiums; despite its four-litre engine, the BMW 840 qualifies for a tax reduction because of its classic status.

Despite his evident fondness for all things 8-series, Harry Clarke says his BMW is not the car he visits RingGo’s local authority clients in, as although he feels the image of the car is “judicious, uncompromising, and unashamedly rooted in frugality,” he admits the style of his 840 is “too ‘Flash Harry’” for their tastes.

Because of this, he keeps a 1999 Audi A4 2.8 Avant Quattro in reserve – because whilst it is “similarly German, purple and purposeful”, with “much the same toys” as the BMW 840, its more understated looks mean most assume it is just a “1.9 turbo diesel dog wagon”.

Clarke reveals he shopped around before choosing his beloved BMW 840, test-driving the high-end Alfa Romeo Brera Q4 V6 sports car – but it wasn’t to his taste. “It was too new, too made to a price, too lacking in relentless German reliability – and no purple ones were ever produced!”

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