1989 BMW 525i

At first glance this may appear to be nothing more than a very clean E34 525i, but look inside and you find out that this car is quite unique. It’s not the pristine cloth interior that I bet still smells good or the OEM tape deck. No, what makes this ultra low mileage E34 so unique is that it’s a import from the Land Of The Rising Sun. That’s right, this is a LHD BMW Japan E34 525i. I’m not an expert on BMW interior history but from what I’ve been able to find, the steering wheel in this vehicle is also unique to foreign markets as is the leather surrounding the shifter. Someone please correct me if I am wrong but so far as I can tell all the U.S. spec E34 5 series had a hard shifter surround, not padded leather which I think is a very nice touch.

Aside from those things the interior is the same low key environment you’ll find in any E34, simple ergonomic design that is focused on the driver. It’s always such a pleasure to see vehicles of this era with such sharp interiors because it really exemplifies how on point they were. I’ve been in a bunch of E34’s and never really appreciated the cabin as most of them had been well worn, sticky surfaces from spilled coffee, cracked leather, that stale smell of two decades worth of shutting people around. I hope that the person that takes this thing home realizes how special it is to break in 26 year old car and really enjoys the process of doing just that. It’s great that this 525i has such low mileage but I’d say it’s time for it to be somebody’s daily driver.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 BMW 525i on eBay

Year: 1989
Model: 525i
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 17,917 mi
Price: Reserve auction

You may call this car a “time capsule” or say it is “museum quality”, but the fact is that this BMW is as clean and original as a 26-year old car can get. It still has a new car smell from 26 years ago; simply amazing.

It is a 1 owner car that we imported from Japan. Garage kept since new. It is a Euro spec car so the seats are velour with manual adjustments. It has power windows, mirrors and locks as well as automatic transmission.

We have some service records that came with the car. We know timing belt was replaced in 2010 due to age. Also, we installed brand new tires (old ones were dry rotted), changed spark plugs, distributor cap and the rotor. Despite ultra low mileage, we felt like these items may have had to be replaced due to the age of the car.

This car looks brand new from every angle. The undercariage is still covered with cosmoline, which is what the Germans used to protect the car before shipping outside of Europe.

This BMW has not been sitting for years. It has been regularly driven but on very short distances. It had active registration until was shipped to the US, which means it was actively driven and serviced.

This BMW has clean FL title and now it can be titled and registered anywhere in the US with no issues.

I dare this car could not be duplicated or found in similar condition with similar mileage.

Please, not the odometer is in kilometers, not miles.

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With proper care these cars will crest 200,000 mi without breaking a sweat. They might break a timing belt every 60k or so but that’s an easy fix as are most of the parts on the M20 motor. The ’89 525 saw a bump up to 170 hp and with an performance chip and tweaked air intake system you can squeeze a little more juice out of the 2.5 liter inline six. Of course flat out speed isn’t what this car is about, it’s about efficient, stylish transportation. Again, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better color combo than this blue over grey cloth. It’s grown up without being stiff and with a 5 Series that’s what I’d be looking for. Of course it would be infinitely cooler if it had a 5-speed manual but as with the E28 535i I wrote up, but I don’t think that it’s a deal breaker. Ultimately this car would make a very solid ride for a commuter and there’s nothing wrong with having an auto for the daily grind. Bidding currently sits at $5,200 and I would expect the reserve to be set somewhere around $7,500 or $8,000. Even with the extremely low miles and the added uniqueness of its Japanese origins, I don’t think this car will start a bidding war. It is a cool car but it’s a very niche market that would see it as such and therefore I wouldn’t think it’d go for more than $8,000.

Cheers,

-Andrew

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3 Comments

  1. The “leather” (actually vinyl) on the shift console was the standard fit. Almost all US imports got the wood option of wood strips on the dash and a wood panel on the console. Since this has cloth seats, it’s likely it wasn’t heavily optioned when produced and bought.

    As far as ” They might break a timing belt every 60k or so but that’s an easy fix as are most of the parts on the M20 motor.” – well, depends on what you feel is “easy” – the M20 engine is a collision engine. If the belt breaks the valves impact the piston crowns. At best you’re looking at a new set of valves. At worst – a new engine. The belts should be changed religiously at the factory spec’d intervals. It was one of BMW’s poorer ideas, corrected later in the M50 series engines with a timing chain. The M20 engine is also somewhat underwhelming for this vehicle. It is not a quick BMW. Again – the M50 engine was a much better match, or the 535i with the M30 (big-6) engine. There is little difference in performance between the M30 and M50 engined models. There is a significant difference between either of those and the M20 (little-6) cars. It is a big heavy vehicle.

    It might be a very nice clean E34, but it’s not an exciting E34 (as either the E34/M5 or E34/535i were. We’ll leave the problematical V8’s alone..)

  2. Thanks for the info Don, I couldn’t quite tell if it was leather or vinyl, vinyl makes more sense as this was a lightly optioned car.

    As for the M20, that’s what I figured but I’ve never driven an E34 so I don’t have a butt dyno frame of reference. Sounds like this example would be prime for an M50 swap 🙂

  3. I’ve only seen one E34 with that lack of option package.. but it stood out since the lack of wood trim made it rather unique, as did the cloth seats (which are wonderfully grippy.)

    The ideal conversion is to get a later model E34 that used the M50 engine and drop an E36/M3 S52US engine in. Direct drop in. All the wiring hooks up, the ECU understands it, and it gives a very nice bump in power over the M50 engine. It makes it pretty much competitive with the E34/M5, which is probably why BMW never did this. (Just saw you reviewed one once with this conversion.. a lovely red one.)

    One clue on spotting the M20 vs M50 engine 525i’s – the M50 engined ones, the “525i” on the rear is in italics. The M20 engined are not.

    The E34’s were one of my favorite 5 series – not a lot of excess baggage, not too complex, and the suspension was SO good – could go over speed bumps at amazing speeds and never even feel them. Plus vs the E28 – they had capable HVAC. Only real weak points I can think of are (1) lower control arm bushings – which every 5 from the E28 to E39 had issues with (2) door checks – if lubrication is neglected they would flex the steel where they went into the door eventually fatigue cracking the door. Fix was a screw-on reinforcing plate before this happened. Brett Anderson used to sell a kit.

    Just avoid the V8’s. The 530i Touring (V8 wagon) was amazingly blah. Added complexity with no net performance gain over an M50 powered E34, plus the auto-transmission was very poorly matched to the engine.

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