1983 BMW 528e

My recent coverage of the 5-series BMWs seems timely. Just last week, I looked at a 1982 BMW 528e. Since it’s been so short a time, I won’t reiterate the major highlights of the model again – click HERE if you’d like to read those details. So why look at what many consider the least excited E28 so quickly again?

Well, in part it’s because of what occurred this past weekend. If you weren’t paying attention, a stellar 1988 BMW 535i came up on Bring a Trailer. It was probably the most impressive older 5-series I’ve seen in a long time. So it was expected to bring pretty big numbers when the auction closed, and like looking through the picture gallery, it didn’t fail to disappoint. The final bid was $50,000 – unfathomable to this point for most of the E28 lineup.

Admittedly, the example I have today isn’t as nice. But it shares many things in common. First, it’s not a top-flight model, though again the Eta motor isn’t what many would prefer. So what does it have going for it?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1983 BMW 528e on eBay

1982 BMW 528e

It’s easy when considering BMW’s venerable E28 lineup to skip over most of the production and focus in on two models – the M5 and the M535i/535is. In fact, without intention to do so I think that’s what we’ve done over the past few years. They were the sports sedans that established the benchmark by which all others are judged, notoriously long-lived and arguably still very good value in the used classic BMW market.

Despite that, in the 1980s it was not the M30-equipped E28 that was the most popular. The 533 and 535 models combined for a total of about 34,000 sales in the U.S.. Add in the M5 and you’ve just crested 35,000. In comparison, it was the relatively uninspired 528e that was the sales force for the 5 over the model run. Between 1982 and 1988, BMW dealers sold more than double the amount of 3.2- and 3.4-equipped 5s with the 528e. Just shy of 80,000 of the lowest-spec model made it here, all equipped with what BMW hoped would be the most efficient inline-6 they could produced. The 2.7 liter M20 was de-tuned and strangled to produced just 121 horsepower and a diesel-inspired rev-range. This was achieved by making the stroke longer and installing smaller valves.

Coupled with catalytic converters, the result was a car which met CARB requirements but failed to really excite. 0-60 was a lackadaisical 11.2 seconds. The later ‘Super Eta’ engine added a few more horses but only came at the very end of the run. Yet BMW didn’t want this to be a drag racer; they wanted to make an efficient driver. As a result, the Eta-equipped models had good usable torque down low yet still returned over 20 m.p.g. on the highway. It cost about $30,000 for a modestly equipped model.…

1982 BMW 323i Baur TC1 Turbo

In a post I wrote for The Truth About Cars this past week, I covered a few E30 models that offer affordable and interesting visual and performance alternatives to the E30 M3. One of those models was the Baur TC2, the model which gave BMW a soft-top before BMW made its own in 1985. Of course, the E30 wasn’t Baur’s first foray into convertible 3-series models, though, as they had started with the E21 model. Baur only produced a little less than half the amount of E21s – 4,595 according to Petrolicious – as they did E30 models at over 11,000, but as importation of early 1980s cars was easier, it seems more common to see the E21 Baur than the E30 Baur. Though fitted as standard with no performance upgrades, this unique 1982 example remedies that with a turbocharged M20:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 BMW 323i Baur TC1 Turbo on eBay

1987 BMW 528e

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This beautiful Burgundy 528e is one of the nicer non-M E28s we’ve seen in a while. The red and brown tones come together to underscore what this model is all about. The eta-engined Bimmers of the late 80s were value judgments from the get-go – are you ok with going a little slower in exchange for torque and fuel mileage? If so, you’ll still get the handling and killer good looks of the E28 while being primed to crush long miles without heading to the gas station every few minutes like in my M5. There are some compromises to be made with this particular example as well, like accepting that the real mileage is unknown due to a replaced cluster and knowing there are a couple small spots of surface rust hiding in the Burgundy next to seams. The flip side is extremely conservative bidding on the no-reserve auction for this nice daily-driver quality E28.

Click for details: 1987 BMW 528e on eBay

1986 BMW 325es

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Here’s a chance at an affordable E30 that should be a pretty decent driver. It has the 2.7-liter eta engine which may only return low-20s gas mileage but is definitely a cruiser, as the 2000rpm highway speed noted by the seller confirms. He’s apparently put quite a bit of effort into making the car quite strong, with lots of newly replaced parts and no mechanical issues to note. There are a few cosmetic bits, but they can be forgiven in favor of that sweet early cowcatcher underneath the bumper. The interior looks quite nice other than the typical dash crack. Altogether it’s a tidy E30 that could be a good value.

Click for details: 1986 BMW 325s on eBay

1986 BMW 325e

No matter how tragic it might have been, almost everyone I speak to has a soft spot in their heart for their first car. And so it goes with me and my first ride, which, if I might admit, was far from tragic. That’s because it was a 1988 BMW 325is. Even though the E30 has become a bit cultish in recent years, I still smile when I see one on the street and remember the good times I had in mine. Many I come across these days are in dire need of TLC, but this 1986 325e for sale in California is a real minter. While the E30s equipped with the eta engine might not be the enthusiast’s choice, this one has the 5-speed manual so you’ll be able to make the most of what it’s got.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 BMW 325e on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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The eta-engined BMWs from the late-80s may be maligned, as are automatic BMWs in general, for placing comfort and efficiency above sportiness – a confusing conflict for the Ultimate Driving Machine. As the 80s drift further into our collective rearview mirror, however, any clean example deserves plenty of love. This 528e has survived beautifully with just a few blemishes over almost 30 years and has tons of life left after just 113k miles. Please, someone, buy this as a daily driver or a first car for your kid and keep the E28 population living strong!

Click for details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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The ’80s “eta” engine from BMW eschew top-end screaming power for low-end torque and efficiency and make for great commuters. Today’s 528e is a gem, having covered less than 40,000 miles and looking outstanding in Burgundy over the like-new Natur comfort interior. It needs a few points of attention to be perfect, but I’m not sure perfection is the way to go with this car. As the number of clean E28s still alive dwindles, this is a great candidate to be a fun and reliable DD that stands out from the rest of the bubbles rolling down the highways.

Click for details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay

High mileage BMW E30s: 325is vs. 325es

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A new hunt of mine is finding affordable E30s with solid potential. The cleanest of the quintessential sports sedan have become quite valuable, but there are still some reasonable examples lurking out there. The “s” models, in both “eta” and standard “i” form, provide outstanding handling with varying levels of power. One path for finding inexpensive classics is being open to high-mileage survivors, of which we have two today. Both have well above 200k miles and the “s” package, but one has the venerable 2.5 liter inline-6 while the other comes with the larger-and-slower 2.7l of the 325e. E30s are ripe for many engine swaps, from stock to extreme, so buying a low-price, high-mileage example provides a great foundation for a project.

Click for details: 1990 BMW 325is on eBay

1986 BMW 528e

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After a 5000+ mile road trip in an F350 with a 50-ft trailer, getting to drive my E28 yesterday was a total joy. Low, direct, quick – all of the reasons I bought it become immediately apparent when I climb back in. For those interested in 80s German cars, I highly recommend the E28 for it’s midsize versatility, excellent handling, and clean styling. Today’s 528e brings all of those elements in a commuter-friendly package, rocking an autobox and the efficiency-minded eta 2.7-liter inline-6 in an epically clean package inside and out that belies its 135k miles. And it’s from Tennessee, where I bought my M5. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Click for more details: 1986 BMW 528e on eBay