Which E34 would you go for?

I came upon an interesting dilemma today: Two red E34s with very similar power outputs selling for within $2k of each other on eBay. One, a higher-mileage but painfully clean M5, the other, a nice 535is with a Dinan turbo setup. So, do you go for the factory sports-car assassin in a business suit, or a beefed-up and modified lesser model that flies only slightly less below the radar?

Let’s do a quick breakdown:

Engine: Unclear as to whether this is a S38B36 or B38, whether it has 305 or 335hp makes little difference in the decision; it’s hard to say no to one of the sweetest 6-cylinders ever made. The Dinan turbo is great and helps the sub-100k mile M30 reach 325hp and looks cool under the hood, but nothing’s better than “BMW M Power.” I’ll take the S38.

Exterior: Again, a fight of subtle modification against impeccable factory production. The removed-high beam look can work on rat-rod Bimmers and horsepower monsters, but here it just looks like it might need fixing. A few scratches on the 535 tip the scales towards the M5, which has a few scratches of its own but looks amazingly rich and clean for the mileage. Those Hamanns are nice, but they’re not enough to take down the M5.

Interior: The M5 looks nearly showroom-ready inside, while the 535 looks clean and complete but shows more age. Apparently an extra 2 years make more difference than 50k miles. A pattern is emerging… M5.

Price: Looks to be a clean sweep, which I was not expecting when I first looked at these cars. The M5 has a Buy-it-Now of just under $10k, a great price for a really clean M car, even if it is the forgotten son. The 535is comes in closely behind with a Buy-it-Now of $12k, not bad money for a well-done turbo swap in a clean car. Just got undersold by the M5.

So the M5 takes all categories, but the 535is was nipping at its heels the whole way. Just goes to show that it’s hard to beat BMW’s M department from the 80s and 90s, which leads to another feather in the cap of the M5: long after the 535 has become a once-great tuner car, the M5 will live on as a piece of history, garnering cache and cash. Go for the 535 if you want to turn the boost up and have some fun; otherwise, it’s all M5.
-NR

Well-Traveled but Clean 1988 BMW 535is for sale

Before I take the big plunge to E28 M5dom, I could definitely see myself learning the ropes by enjoying a 535is for a while.  With essentially the same styling and plenty of fun to be had from the venerable M30 3.5 inline-6, the “is” provides a nice middle ground between the normal 535i and the fantastic M5.  535is prices also trend much closer to the 535i than the M5, making it perhaps the best value of the bunch.  Today we have a very clean but high-mileage example off eBay.

With a no-reserve starting price of $3,995, this 245k-mile 535is could be a great starter.  The body is very straight, the interior is mostly great with some medium bits, and the paint and wheels look fantastic.  There are enough little issues (trunk doesn’t stay open, broken cruise control, etc.) in addition to the high mileage to keep the price low, but it’s a lot of car.  The M30 block is widely regarded as one of the more bulletproof engines out there, and this one seems to be running strong and well maintained, so that mileage is much less of an issue than it would be on most other cars (Benz and VW diesels excluded).  If it stays around $5k, this could be a great way to enter the sporty E28 market without breaking the bank.

-NR

2 E28s for the price of 1 on eBay

Hooniverse led me to this eBay ad, selling a 1984 533i with a Dinan turbo system.  I love E28s with their could-only-come-from-the-80s styling.  Whether it’s the best looking 5 series is a matter of personal preference, but the negative rake on the front and rear and the pronounced Hofmeister kink reek of good times with 80s junk bond money and listening to Genesis.  I can’t quite wrap my head around the Dinan work on this one… 400 hp out of a 533i?  Terrifying.  The bonus here is that if you bump into something, it comes with a running parts car!  I like the 535is a lot with its M5ish body kit, and free is a great price, even if it has an automatic.

The Dinan car looks to be in good condition inside and out, though the body kit from the 535is/M5 would make it much sexier without losing much of its sleeper status.  The engine bay is amazingly clean, though 183k miles on a turbo engine, even the solid M30, is a lot.   The 535is looks fine if a little rough, also having worked its way pretty far up the odometer.

This is not going to be a work-free purchase.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad one; if you’re prepared/experienced for some E28 maintenance, this could be an awesome find.  I can’t help thinking the Dinan car would be better served if it were advertised by itself, as I spent more time confused by the weird 2-for-1 deal than in awe of a 400hp E28.  Also weird, though cool, is the option to choose what wheels come on the cars (go for the BBSs!).  Weirdness aside, they’re cool cars that could give someone a fun time, though they sit on eBay at $8,000 at time of writing with no bids and 2 days remaining.

-NR