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.