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1979 BMW 520 Dinan 3.9

This post is in our archives. Links in this post may have been updated to point to similar cars available to bid on eBay.

An interesting conversation erupted in Andrew’s post about the 2003 BMW 540i M-Sport yesterday. Andrew suggested that the E39 was not only the best looking 5-series, but perhaps the best looking sedan ever produced. I think for many that opinion will depend on the generation that they grew up in; for example, I bet you could find some folks who would contend that the early fourth generation Lincoln Continental (early 60s) or even the Bugatti Royale was better looking. But taking a break from arguing the best looking ever, how about within the 5-series? There are a lot of E28 fans out there, our own author Nate being one since he owns a M5. I grew up with a ’88 M5 in the family, too – but for me the E28, while a definitive and landmark step for BMW, was not as “pretty” as the E12 which preceded it. That’s especially true of the early E12s, but in terms of motivation there aren’t many that can match the punch of the later M5 and 540i models. To solve that problem, one owner took the pretty look of a 1979 Euro-market 520i but ditched the M20 inline-6, replacing it with a Dinan built 3.9 M30 with accompanying upgrades. The result is certainly impressive:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1979 BMW 520 on eBay

Year: 1979
Model: 520
Engine: 3.9 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 86,359 mi
Price: Reserve Auction

Stance Works did an article on this very car and everything that needs to be highlighted about this car Mike Burroughs has done nicely in this article. Here is a link to the article posted April 18, 2014
The pro photographer that took the pics of the car also did an excellent job. Our very amateur photos are just to show that we in fact have this exact car in our possession and that the condition of the car hasn’t changed. This is a BMW enthusiasts opportunity to own a unique piece of BMW history.

Some other quick highlighted features:
Dinan built engine cost about 30k to build.
Limited slip rear differential.
KW Coil-over suspension in all four corners.
Recaro seats.
Dog leg 5 speed transmission.
2k on build.
Stainless custom exhaust.
Authentic BBS wheels.
Triple 45DCOE Weber carbs.
Used to be Ron Perry’s car.

People tend to have difficultly conceptualizing how much it costs to build a top-notch motor, but to me it’s no surprise to hear that Dinan charged $30,000 to build this 3.9 M30 originally intended for a E9 CSL. No power figures are supplied, but some searching of the web suggests that similar setups run about 300-360 horsepower depending on tune. Linking that car to the ground are KW coilovers which look pretty much identical to the Ground Control setup I have in my Coupe GT; I think the seller may be wrong, since most of the KW Coilovers I’ve seen run yellow springs and purple perches. The BBS RZ wheels are pretty wild and look impressive, though honestly I think they’re a touch overdone. In my eyes, 16″ wheels would have worked better with a bit more sidewall to match the more delicate look of the E12. The bling, though, matches the chrome adorning the outside well! Inside is a great Recaro interior that was rebuilt, though this car is far from as luxurious as the later 5-series would be. It’s a lean, mean stripped street fighter – and very cool in Sahara Beige. With downsized wheels it would really be a complete sleeper but remain quite a unique hot rod. But there’s a price for all of this work, and the seller has opened the auction at quite a high price with the reserve on. Is this car worth over $20,000? I can certainly recognize the work performed has not been cheap, and this car is certainly more unique than even a well-modded E28 M5 for about the same money. However, I still think it’ll be a hard sell at that price – but to me, it’d be worth it. You could recoup a bit on the wheels, raise the right height just a tad and have one heck of a special 5-series.



  1. MDriver
    MDriver February 8, 2015

    this looks to be an example of opening up your wallet to build what you envision…
    I remember my uncle’s E12…he brought it back from Germany, so it had a manual, and the first thing that hit me was how the dash had that curve towards the driver…almost like a cockpit…it was all business…this particular car looks good even in Sahara Beige….
    will be nice to see if & what it finally trades for…

  2. Brad
    Brad February 8, 2015

    The stance looks juvenile.

  3. Bushwick Bob
    Bushwick Bob February 8, 2015

    Too much stance. Why bother with the great engine if you’re going to have to put it in first and drive sideways over speed bumps, potholes, driveway ramps, regular roads…

  4. Howard S
    Howard S February 9, 2015

    I am on the fence with the wheels myself but thats it. After that I am on board with everything. I love the car. I think its worth every penny of $20 grand but above that we will have to see what the market says.

  5. RonP
    RonP February 9, 2015

    I built this car for myself and no one else. Most of the parts that are on the car, I had been saving for many years. The build on the motor alone was $50k! It is fast and handles very well. Many don’t know, but the e12 is the fastest appreciating car in the world right now. Here is an example:
    While you may think that $20k is high, try and build one for that. The e12 is outpacing the 300SL Gullwing. Do some research, I have offered a taste of it here. My last e12 sold for $43,500. It’s 2015 folks, times are changing. I sold my 3.0CSL Batmobile in late 2012 for $225k, a year later in 2013, two more sold for over $400k. The current owner is based in Santa Fe New Mexico and is unable to get the car running right for the altitude.

  6. Greg
    Greg February 9, 2015

    I love everything thing about this car except the ride height. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks this slammed/stance look is silly, but then again I am not 20 years old either… Adjust the ride height and camber settings to normal and it would be perfect. The starting bid amount of $20k is high for a non-M535i e12.

  7. Dallas
    Dallas February 9, 2015

    Ah, “stance”. I guess that’s what I had on my ’79 Honda Accord after the rear struts collapsed 😀

  8. Carter
    Carter February 9, 2015

    Hi Ron,

    Thanks for chiming in, appreciate your input on the car. Could you clarify if the suspension is Ground Control or K&W Coilovers from your build? Regarding the E12 being the fastest appreciating car in the world, I think that’s perhaps a bit harder to prove considering the recent sales of some exotica like the barn-find Ferrari California, and even amongst BMWs the might M3 seems to still rule the roost – witness the $86,000 example I wrote up in November:

  9. RonP
    RonP February 9, 2015

    I can’t find my issue right now, but it was the June 2014 issue of Roundel that spelled all out.
    #1 BMW e12
    #2 Mercedes Gullwing
    #3 BMW M1
    #4 BMW CS Coupe
    #5 Alfa Romeo Spyder

    The coil overs are a hybrid of Ireland Engineering hardware and H&R springs.

  10. Chris
    Chris February 9, 2015

    Hang on, so top dollar is being asked for a car that does not run?…thanks for disclosing Ron. I have great respect for your work, and I can appreciated some salesmanship on a previously built car….but it doesn’t run…tuning? and when was the seller going to disclose this seemingly insignificant fact? With regard to E12’s going parabolic, true, a very select few have seen some higher prices, but that’s a very thin market, esp for a 4 door saloon car. I think the Roundel can get carried away sometimes with their bias. There are some inconsistencies I note…The Stanceworks article says the car was built with B&G springs, and in the Ebay ad they are clearly marked as Eibach. Also, in the stanceworks photos, the airbox has a ‘DINAN’ etching on the top quite prominently…why is it not on the Ebay photos? Its a nice car, and I hope the poor marketing with details omitted and facts misstated doesn’t put buyers off. Personally, it makes me wonder what else we don’t know.

  11. RonP
    RonP February 9, 2015

    Well, this is the second “worst” eBay ads ever. The car runs fine, but if you bring a triple Weber car to 7000ft above sea level, it is not going to run. Sorry, I have done so many cars lately that I forgot what springs they were. When we did the Stance/Works photo shoot, it was sitting on B&G springs that were cut to get the correct ride height-bad move as they kept slipping off of the perch. That is when I yanked them out and did the coil overs. They beauty of the coil over is you can set the ride exactly how you want it. There are very few really nice e12s out there, so I am sure Roundel took the rarity into consideration. There seem to be a number of Gullwings out there for sale. When you look at the percentages, I am sure that is how the e12 gained the #1 spot. Yes, they were Eibach springs on the later build. Ireland has a great relationship with them.

  12. Carter
    Carter February 9, 2015

    Due respect to the Roundel and it’s writers, I have serious doubts about the scientific nature of their listing the top 5 appreciating vehicles with three of them being BMWs and four of them German. It doesn’t take much searching to find several examples of vehicle appreciation over the past few years that has far outstripped the vehicles listed. Also, to Chris’s point, just because a few outliers have sold for a high price does not necessarily indicate that they are on a stead 400% increase in value as a whole. It’s amazing that list could be complied and not include any Porsche models, for example, amongst many others. The information also directly counters Hagerty’s assessment of the current market conditions, which put the E12 market dead flat from 2010 to current – when many other notable collectable cars are tripling or quadrupling in value over a short time. For example, the Ferrari 250GT California market over the same time goes from 3 million to 12.6 million average value (with a 16 million dollar sale just the other day). Other notables follow, including the early 911s and M3 – even the RS America has dramatically increased in value over a short time. The M1 has approximately tripled from ~$150,000 to ~$400,000 today, but isn’t following quite as steep an appreciation curve as the early Lamborghini Countach, which quadrupled in value in a little over a year from ~300,000 to ~1.2 million.

    I guess, long story short, I think the E12 is pretty awesome but I doubt that the Roundel got their facts straight on that one, personally.

  13. Enzo
    Enzo February 9, 2015

    I believe some individuals commenting here are making too much of the “stance” of this vehicle, you guys and gals do realize that coil overs are adjustable right? You simply use a tool to raise the suspension to the height that suits your particular taste. BTW, what we here in the US call “stance” in Europe is called DTM. Ever seen a DTM race? If so, then you understand that “stance” is not new, nor is it “ghetto” or has anything to do with JDM. Anyway, the e12 here is amazing! I’d love to have it in my collection. I’d crank it up a few notches, put some period 16″ wheels and tires, maybe even 15″ on it, and drive the hell out of it.

  14. Dallas
    Dallas February 10, 2015

    Hi Enzo,

    >BTW, what we here in the US call “stance” in Europe is called DTM. Ever seen a DTM race? If so, then you understand that “stance” is not new, nor is it “ghetto” or has anything to do with JDM.

    Yes, I think most of us commenting here are familiar with the DTM series. Here’s one of my own all-time favorites – the Alfa 155:×704/images/bildergalerie/2014/02/Alfa-Romeo-155-V6-Ti-DTM-Faszination-02.jpg

    Those are race cars, yes they run low, but note the moderate suspension geometry… even on DTM cars you don’t see the ridiculous negative camber “tuck” so beloved of the current VW tuner scene.


  15. RonP
    RonP April 21, 2015

    Gabriel Rubio: I don’t know why the VMG Facebook page is down, not my doing. Probably John Barlow. I am on Facebook as Ron Perry, so you can message me and I will send you my email address.

  16. Gabriel Rubio
    Gabriel Rubio April 24, 2015

    Hey, Ron!

    Can’t find You, “Ron Perry” – there are lots!?!


  17. RonP
    RonP April 24, 2015

    Sunset Beach, Ca.

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