1995 BMW 525i

1995 BMW 525i

I recently sold my E34 525i and replaced it with a W126 300SE. I’ll post a write up on my new car next week. I love it, but let’s just say I learned a few valuable lessons about buying cars sight unseen from the whole episode. As potential buyers came to view my BMW, a funny thing happened. The more I explained my ownership experience while they test drove it, the more I began to wonder why I was selling it. In fact, I concluded, if space and money had allowed, I would have preferred to keep it alongside the Benz. In one year of ownership, I put an unusually high number of miles on it while doing a mega commute. During that time, it never once failed to start or gave me any reason to worry. I replaced some suspension parts that were worn out. But other than that, all I did was drive it and feed it fuel and oil. It was remarkably fun to drive, which I credit to the 5-speed manual gearbox and sweet chassis setup. Sure, it wasn’t terribly powerful or fast, but it was certainly fast enough for me. And it made for a good commuter, getting 28 MPG on the highway. In all, I think the E34 525i is an under-appreciated gem. I’m sad I let it go.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 525i on eBay

1992 BMW M5 Euro 3.8

1992 BMW M5 Euro 3.8

It really does feel as though the market is finally waking up to the E34 M5, as values on nicer examples continue to climb. Bring a Trailer recently sold a U.S. spec ’93 with only 14,000 miles for what seems like a staggering $68,000! As they should have, considering the package. The E34 is a surprisingly great driver’s car, even in non-M guise. But in full blown M5 spec, it’s sublime, a throwback to an era of hand-built sport sedans that offer a satisfying analog driving experience. To make it, BMW sent the regular E34 chassis from the production line at Dingolfing over the geniuses at M GmbH in Garching, who dropped in the screaming, six cylinder S38 motor with six individual throttle bodies. In US-spec form, the 3.6 liter motor put out just over 300 hp, although a larger, 3.8 liter unit became available in Europe from 1991 onwards, which increased power output to 335 hp. The 3.8 never reached US shores by official channels, though these cars are now old enough to be imported without the need for expensive modification

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW M5 3.8 on eBay

1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

On Saturday I wrote up a gorgeous example of a 500E, the 90s-era super sedan from Mercedes commonly referred to as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” As cool as the Benz may be, the first car that comes to mind when you utter the phrase is probably the competitor from BMW, the E34 M5. Produced between 1988 and 1995, these were hand built at the M GmbH facility in Garching. To the pliable, balanced but twitchy-at-the-limits chassis they added a glorious 3.6 liter inline six with six individual throttle bodies. The S38 motor, whose ancestry can be traced to the unit found in the famed M1 supercar, puts out about 310 hp in US-market guise and swiftly propels the car to 60 MPH in under 6 seconds. Like the 500E, the M5 differed little from its regular stablemates in outward appearance. In fact, it’s probably even stealthier than the W124. There are no flared wheel arches here and only the subtle M5 badges fore and aft give the game away. That’s no bad thing in my book. The E34 5-series, even in base specification, is a classically styled car whose unfussy design still looks good on the road today.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Portland, OR Craigslist

Craig’s 1991 BMW 525i

Craig’s 1991 BMW 525i

The time has come for me to part ways with my E34, and I’m reluctantly putting it up for sale. As readers of my posts will know, I’ve been on the hunt for a W126 Benz for a while now. A lovely example has fallen into my lap, and living in DC without off-street parking makes keeping both cars impractical. Hence the sale. It would make me very happy if it went to a fellow enthusiast looking for a reliable and cheap commuter, so I’ve written it up for today’s post.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 525i on Washington, DC Craigslist

1995 BMW 540i M-Sport

1995 BMW 540i M-Sport

1Towards the end of the E34 run, the 540i was offered in the US with an M-Sport package. This added sport seats, an M-tech body kit and mirrors plus suspension and steering components borrowed from the M5. Only 200 units were produced, and of those only 139 came equipped with the 6-speed manual gearbox.  So equipped, the 540i is an attractive and cheaper alternative to the M5, whose values we’ve seen creep up lately as the M-enthusiast crowd has rediscovered their love for the E34. This clean, low-mileage example is one of those manual cars.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 540i M-Sport on eBay

Tuner Tuesday: 1989 BMW 535i Dinan Turbo – REVISIT

Tuner Tuesday: 1989 BMW 535i Dinan Turbo – REVISIT

Here at GCFSB, we feature a lot of cars. Since I started writing for this site, I’ve composed some 1,773 articles, a fair amount of which cover more than one car. So it would be easy to forget that you’d already seen a car. That would especially be the case if a fair amount of time had passed since you last saw it and it was a relatively plain-jane looking model.

Enter this 1989 535i in Cirrus Blue Metallic. Outside of Hartge wheels, it’s pretty unassuming. That is, except for the “Dinan” badge on the left side of the trunk.

It’s that Dinan badge which unlocks a world of performance that otherwise is the domain of M models, and this sleeper package with low reported miles seems to be a pretty compelling alternative. Immediately, I recognized this car but knew it had been a bit since I last saw it. Since it was originally featured in March of 2014, very little has changed – the seller utilized the same photos and much of the same description from the original ad, disappointingly. He reports about 500 more miles in two and a half years, and unsurprisingly the price has dropped little. The auction is no reserve with an $11,250 starting bid – only about $750 less than the original ask. As the market on E34s really hasn’t improved greatly since then outside of some exceptional M5s, I’d wager this automatic 535i – even with the Dinan provenance – will have trouble this time around, too.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 535i Dinan Turbo on eBay

The below post originally appeared on our site March 11, 2014:

Tuner Tuesday: 1990 Alpina B10 BiTurbo

Tuner Tuesday: 1990 Alpina B10 BiTurbo

While I’ve recently covered quite a string of impressive Alpina models, the reality is that all of them leave me a bit wanting. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, or full of incredible and beautiful detail. It’s not that they’re in bad condition, misused or abused. It’s not salvage titles, accident history or even poorly presented advertisement. No, for me, it’s what you get for your money. I understand the nature of exclusivity and certainly the Alpinas offer that. They, for the most part, also back up that exclusivity with well-engineered increased performance, so while the appearance package helps to set them apart, few Alpinas are posers. But when the asking prices for aftermarket E30s are $50,000, $60,000 – even $90,000 dollars, for you not to question the sanity of the market would be seriously worrysome. That’s especially true since you can get Alpina’s arguably most impressive product from the same period for less:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Alpina B10 BiTurbo on eBay

1993 BMW M5 3.8 Euro-spec

1993 BMW M5 3.8 Euro-spec

1Long overshadowed by both the E28 and E39, I think the E34 version of the M5 is in fact one of the last definitive M-cars, and is certainly worthy of the kind of attention that it now seems to be getting among M-enthuasiasts (especially those priced out of the E30 market). On the outside it’s modern but understated, a little conservative even, with only a few external features distinguishing it from an ordinary ’90s 5-series. But underneath that utilitarian exterior lies a screamer of a straight six engine, the S38, which has a lineage traceable to the race-bred motor in the iconic M1. While production of this generation M5 ran from 1989 to 1995, cars outside of the US received a revised version of the motor in 1991. The new unit bumped capacity from 3.6 to 3.8 liters and pushed power output from 311 to 335 hp. This particular car is a European-spec example equipped with that larger 3.8 liter motor. It also comes in a rather fetching color.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 BMW M5 on Bimmerforums

1995 BMW 540i Dinan

1995 BMW 540i Dinan

4The California-based tuning company Dinan has been providing performance upgrades for BMWs since 1979. There’s no shortage of newer cars on the market that purport to have some kind of mods from the firm; 20 cars come up in eBay right now under a search for Dinan, and Carter wrote up this neat ’08 550i M Sport Dinan the other day, for example. But it’s even more interesting to stumble upon an example of an older car with some Dinan components, like this ’95 540i.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 BMW 540i Dinan on Bimmerforums

Tuner Tuesday: 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1

Tuner Tuesday: 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1

It’s hard to imagine being the bottom of the totem pole at Alpina, but the 3.5/1 might just be that car. In part that’s because the E34 lineup was so robust, featuring the cool 3.0 Allrad and the Learjet-channeling BiTurbo. When BMW ceased the production of the M30, V8 powered 310 and 340 horsepower 4.0 and 4.6 models replaced the inline-6. In comparison to those headliners, the 254 horsepower B10 3.5/1 seemed like an article more suited for the corner of page 2. However, consider for a moment that the B10 3.5/1’s power numbers were nearly identical to the contemporary super-saloon S38-powered M5 and it helps to restore some clarity to the impressiveness of the products rolling out of Buchloe. Today one of the 572 3.5/1s produced is up for sale in Illinois:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Alpina B10 3.5/1 on eBay

1991 BMW 535i 5-speed

1991 BMW 535i 5-speed

3A 535i with a manual transmission is probably the third most desirable version of the E34 5-series, after the M5 and the 540i/540i M-Sport. These cars came with the 3.5 liter “big six” M30 engine (technically a 3.4 liter mill) and represented the top of the non-M lineup until they were replaced in 1993 by the V8-powered 540i. While manual 540s are a hoot if you can find them, they are not without their faults (somewhat thirsty, and susceptible to the nikasil issue, in which the sulphur content of 90s era gasoline had the tendency to eat away at the nikasil lining of the block, requiring a replacement engine). The six-cylinder manual 535 on the other hand, which is perhaps even harder to find than a manual transmission 540, is torquey, smooth, reliable and fun to drive while returning decent fuel economy.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW 535i on Bimmerforums

1992 BMW 525iT with S52 Swap

1992 BMW 525iT with S52 Swap

The touring version of the E34 5-series maintains the restrained and boxy good looks of the sedan while adding the cargo-carrying versatility of a longroof. The result is a cool and understated hauler that flies under the radar. Unfortunately, these cars were let down by the rather uninspired engine choices that BMW gave US customers. Only two versions of the touring were available here: the 525i and the 530i. The 525i was a little slow (although the 2.5 liter inline six is otherwise a gem of an engine) while the 3.0 liter V8 that came in the 530i was a bit of a dud. It had all the thirst of V8 but with fairly meagre power output (around 215 hp). The far more desirable versions of the touring – the 540i and M5 – were never sold in the US. This means that if you want one with something special underneath the hood, you have to get creative. Which is exactly what this seller has done, transplanting the engine from a ’96 M3 and adding some M5 external styling accessories.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 BMW 525iT with S52 Swap on Bimmerforums

1991 BMW M5

1991 BMW M5

2The 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.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Bimmerforums.com

1990 BMW 535i

1990 BMW 535i

7Only yesterday I was lamenting, once again, the dearth of nice condition E34s on the market. Well, as if to prove me wrong, another neat example has popped up on eBay. When these cars crop up in this kind of condition, they serve as a reminder of just how handsome an E34 can be when cleaned up. The lines are crisp and unfussy and the overall impression given off by the well-proportioned design is of a purposeful sport sedan. This particular example is an unusually specified 535i with ultra low miles. Unfortunately, it also has a rather ambitious price tag.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW 535i on eBay

Canadian 1994 BMW 540i 6-speed

Canadian 1994 BMW 540i 6-speed

1I’ve posted a couple of non-M E34s recently (see here, and here), since I’m a fan of this iteration of the 5-series (I even daily drive one myself). I’ve noted before however that it’s quite hard to find one in good condition. While it’s relatively easy to find an inexpensive, equivalent-era Mercedes Benz in nice shape, BMWs of a similar age in the affordable sector of the market are often tired and worn. Perhaps it’s because Stuttgart simply made better cars during the period. Perhaps it’s because many Mercedes owners seem to feel it’s their responsibility to steward their cars into the future, and take care of them accordingly. In any event, when a nice E34 pops up it’s always a nice surprise.

Thanks to our reader Corbin for suggesting this Canadian 540i 6-speed. Not only does it look like a clean example, it’s a well equipped car with a few tasteful modifications.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1994 BMW 540i 6-speed on Kijiji