//Motivated: 1987 BMW 525i M5 Clone

Market speculation about M values is nothing new. Indeed, head back to the launch of the U.S. M5 and you’ll find evidence immediately. In Europe, the M5 launched for the 1985 market year and was so successful, BMW announced in 1986 they’d bring 500 of the M5s over. They immediately were all spoken for, and consequently when the production actually started in 1987, BMW made more – not a lot more, mind you, but the 1,340 produced for North America was nearly triple what was originally forecast.

Consequently, owners who felt the collector value of their M5 had been dashed by this glut of examples sued the company in 1991. Further, the model was relatively abandoned by all but the most devoted enthusiasts in the 1990s for bigger, badder and faster modern sedans. But today it’s back with a vengeance, with clean examples fetching more than what they were priced at new. It therefore makes a little bit of sense that someone would have gone through all of the trouble to mimeograph the transformative super-sedan’s blueprint onto a lesser example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 BMW 525i on eBay

Year: 1987
Model: 525i
Engine: 3.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: “100,000” mi
Price: $14,500 Buy It Now

This BMW was imported by a friend of ours from overseas and since we processed the importation documents as well as the title work, it is being sold under the name of our company. This is a very close clone of an M5. In fact, it has the S38 M5 engine as well as a dogleg manual 5-speed transmission, M-Sport seats, sport Bilstein suspension and a complete Euro-spec M5 body kit. The only thing that gives it away is the BMW plaque in the engine bay that says 525iA.

The good: The S38 motor feels strong and sounds great. According to the person that did the swap, it has less than 100k miles on it; same with the transmission. The clutch feels nice and strong; the suspension is also tight. The body is nice and straight although the car has been repainted at some point. The quality of the paint is good, and the car has very few imperfections on the body, but there are a couple of small flaws (see photos). The Euro bumpers and headlights make the car look great. The interior is very nice. The seats, dash, door panels and the headliner are clean and free of major flaws. The car has a complete new exhaust with a Borla muffler. It is loud and sounds mean. The car is rust free. It spent all its life in a hot climate. The instrument cluster was swapped from a US car and it works fine with all gauges and control lights.

The bad: Although the previous owner was apparently happy with the conversion and the motor swap, in my opinion the work was not quite complete in some areas. There are some sensors that are not connected (oil level, washer fluid, coolant, etc), the AC was not connected either. Although the car runs and drives, under the hood looks a bit chaotic. A few light bulbs are burned. Some will consider this car a turnkey and some will say it needs more work.

The car will be sold with a clean Florida title and it can be registered in most states without problems. If you live in CA, please check your state pollution requirements.


Okay, let’s go with the good first: I personally think that the European-specification bumper setup and valances of the E28 are much prettier than the U.S. spec cars. I know not everyone agrees with me in that regard, but it’s hard to look at this car and think it doesn’t look quite purposeful at the very least. The BBS RC wheels are a bit too new for the design, though they’re very high quality and remarkably lightweight designs. Under the hood, this is more than just a sheep in wolf’s clothing, as the S38 has made its way in, matched with a Euro 5-speed. It’s unclear what rear end, and if it is limited slip, resides in the car. The suspension is claimed to be Bilstein and is quite clearly lower than stock, but springs are not mentioned. The Borla muffler should sound great, too. The interior, while not a typical leather interior, looks neat with manual sport seats. Also interesting is the manual sunroof.

Now, the bad. The swap’s details are pretty sketchy, and the notoriously wallet-thirsty S38 motor isn’t one to trifle with. Actual mileage isn’t disclosed, nor is any maintenance. The swap has some shockingly lax details, too – like the lack of oil sensor, for example. The chassis appears to have multi-hundred thousand miles but it’s not clear if the cluster is original to the car. The VIN decoder confirms this is a DA31 (European, left drive) model but doesn’t indicate what market it was sold in. It is, at the very least, the original Diamond Black Metallic, though it appears clear at least parts of it have been repainted. A fair amount of orange peel seems visible in many shots. Despite being claimed a rust-free example, there is clearly rust depicted on the undercarriage and perhaps around a few of the deteriorating seals. The aftermarket head unit looks quite out of place, and the air conditioning isn’t hooked up. The spoiler is downright horrible. The cold air intake’ is sucking hot air out of the radiator, a few under-hood items look like they’ve gotten quite hot previously, and the blacked-out Bro lights are a bit over the top.

Should we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Well, one certainly needs to be careful approaching this car. However, if a compression test proves the motor to be healthy and the visible rust is more surface than deeper-than-skin, it might be a project worthy of completion. Bidding has been quite active and has already passed $12,000 – what a higher-mile M5 sold for only a few years ago. Considering what the parts are worth alone in this case, someone might be getting a good value. But, it’s a mighty big ‘might’.


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  1. Back in 1990 I bought a brand new e30 M3. At the time I really wanted an e28 M5. There was a BMW dealer not far from me who had a new e30 M3 and a used e28 M5 in stock. When I went to see the cars the M5 was just out of my price range at the time. They also refused to discount the M3 a dime. M3’s were not exactly a hot seller when new. I ended up buying the M3 down in Florida brand new with a nice discount. I still miss the car and wished I kept it. The e28 M5 is still a bucket list car. Looking at this car, and reading the listing there is nothing attractive about it for me. Motor and trans of unknown miles and maintenance, very shoddy paint prep work which is showing bubbling all over which means plenty of rust. Dubious and poorly fitted body mods. No real info about much at all. I do like the manual cloth M5 seats. Thats about the nicest thing I can say about this collection of ill fitting and tatty nuts and bolts. PASS

  2. @Howard – great story. My father bought a lightly used M5 in 1993; at the time, it already felt pretty old but was still quite potent. From memory the prices fell on them quickly with the introduction of the E34 M5, and I want to say he paid well under $20,000 for his then.

  3. Hehe. My father bought a m5 new in 1988 with gold bbs wheels on it. It was a beautiful car.

    Before he sold it he let me take it to my junior prom. A friend of mine and I planned to take our dates to a surprise dinner locale so we had placed them (blindfolded) in the back seat. With four of us in the car we hit 155. My friend peered over at the speedometer and his eyes got wide. He was shocked. The two girls in the back never stopped talking and had no idea we weren’t just putting along at 60. Bugs were leaving foot long streaks on the windshield upon impact.

    Obviously a stupid decision by a 17 year old, but what a memory!

    It’s the e28 m5 more than any other vehicle that hooked me on cars for life. Just an amazing car.

  4. it looks good in pictures but I’d be more than leery about this…and at the end of the day it still isn’t an M5…
    never had an E28 M5…but in 89 I bought my M3 new from a local dealer…I paid MSRP..partly because I was hot for the car and the dealer knew it and also because they were not east to find in my neck of the woods…
    move along gong nothing to see here

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