The other day I posted a 500E, which was Mercedes’ take on the Q-ship formula of stuffing a large, powerful engine and race-tweaked suspension into an ordinary looking mid-size executive sedan. What I didn’t mention was that the 500E was, of course, a response to the original (and some would say best) wolf in sheep’s clothing: the E34 generation M5. While I’ve posted a few E34s lately, I’ve so far avoided writing about the M-variant (though my colleagues have written up some really nice ones: see here and here, for example). This is only because my preference is to find cheap daily drivers to share with our readers and, as enthusiasts begin to seek out more affordable alternatives to the E30 M3, these M5s are increasingly becoming too expensive to count in that category. Still, when this lovely example popped up the other day on Bimmerforums.com, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write it up.
All posts tagged BMW
We all look back fondly on our first car. I enjoyed my short time with my 1988 BMW 325is. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t opt for another BMW. Many of the new ones lack the smooth manual gearbox of BMWs of yore and fail to fully capture that “Ultimate Driving Machine” aura. But now, the older models aren’t as interesting to me as they once were. Skyrocketing prices have put many BMWs of the 1980s out of reach of enthusiasts of modest means. In addition, there seems to be a bit of a hipster aura about them, as they have become popular with those wanting to stand out. Perhaps I was an über hipster for driving an E30 back in 1998? Do I care? Not in the least. I buy things more on spur of the moment emotions.
While I scan through countless ads for E30 M3s, E24 coupes and the occasional 2002 or E21, every now and then a BMW from this era grabs my attention. This late model 535is for sale in Utah is one of them. Representing the final year for the E28, this particular 5er has an engine swap, packing a 3.4 liter turbocharged inline-6 from the E23 745i. It’s not an original car, but has had some upgrades and a bit of freshening to make it a bit more appealing. It’s not what you would consider concours, but would certainly make an eye-catching daily driver.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 BMW 535i on Cars.com
The E12 was the first sedan from BMW to wear the 5-series badge. Available in the US only as a six cylinder model, it was sold here in two guises: the 530i (1975-1978) and the 528i (1979-1981). The classic, Paul Bracq-styled design was, and remains, a winner. However, the E12 is mostly remembered for its numerous flaws. Like a lot of European imports from the time, US market cars were burdened by less powerful, emissions-restricted engines and ugly, 5mph crash resistant bumpers. The 528 incorporated thermal reactors as part of its emissions control system and these had a tendency to overheat the engine bay, causing cracking or warping of the cylinder heads. The air conditioning was rubbish. The handling could be twitchy. The gas mileage was pretty awful. The bodies were particularly susceptible to rust, which is why most of them ended up in junkyards long ago. Still, I have a lot of time for these cars mostly because they are so handsome. Since there are so few of them left it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a nice looking survivor like this one.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1975 BMW 530i on eBay
Dismayed that the E30 M3 is priced unrealistically for most? Me too, and we’ve heard it plenty of times. Not only have M3s gotten pricey, but so have low mileage, pristine original 325s and even 318s. But the wonderful nature of the E30 is that you can build one yourself, as the amazing support and knowledge base that exists in the community coupled with interchangeable parts and plenty of gutsy engine options creates a near limitless amount of permutations. While quite a few swappers follow the tried and true S50/2 path with their hotted up 3 series, today’s car goes one step farther with an E39 M62B44 V8 and a 6-speed stuck into an otherwise mostly unassuming 318is:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 318is M62 on eBay
While derided by some for being a bit watered down compared to its European counterpart, there is no denying that the E36 M3 was a wildly popular model and widened the appreciation and market of BMW and the M brand. This particular model alone – the BG93 North American 3.2 Coupe – accounted for 11,793 examples produced. That’s greater than the total number of M products that had been imported to the U.S. prior to the E36 (E24, E28, E30, E34, and 850CSi) and doesn’t account for the 10,000 plus 3.0 Coupes, 6,300 convertibles and and 8,600-odd sedans. You’d expect, then, that finding good examples of the E36 would be quite simple as there are some 35,000 to choose from. But the popularity of the E36 M3 was in part its undoing, too. The flood of the cars devalued the market; many fell into hands unable to maintain them or who treated them like a pinball, bouncing them off every curb, guardrail or other cars. Additionally, the E36’s shift towards mass production did have tangible effects on the long term quality of the product. It’s not unusual to see rusty examples with the trim falling off and headlights so nebulous they’re useless. As a result, finding excellent examples of the E36 is somewhat cause for celebration and really nice ones have been finding a greater appreciation in the enthusiast world. This ’98 Coupe is certainly one of the better quality examples out there for sale today: