Quintessentially an 80s car (though designed in the 1970s), the BMW 6-series offered performance, elegance, presence and practicality to the 2-door luxury market. While the Mercedes-Benz SEC might have enjoyed a better reputation and the Audi Quattro was technically more exciting, the E24’s resilient staying power has meant that some 30 years after production wrapped these lovely coupes are still eye catching.
While the really nice 6’s to look out for the in the states are the late 635s, this one comes from fairly early in the run. But 1982 was an important year for the E24 – though, not in the States. European customers enjoyed the E28 chassis refinements and a new 635CSi emerged with the M30B34 rated at 219 horsepower. America would have to wait 3 more model years for the 635, and when it arrived it was nearly 40 horsepower down on its Euro counterpart. So this lovely ’82 Euro example not only has the better motor, it has the better bumpers too – and that’s not all:
Update 11/17/19: This beautiful Euro-spec E28 528i that I wrote up over the summer is still for sale. The seller contacted us and let us know it is still available and you can email them directly by clicking HERE. He’s willing to entertain reasonable offers and answer any questions about the car and work performed. GLWS, Gary – we wish we had room in the garage to grab this one!
The E28 will undoubtedly go down in automotive history as one of the most-loved chassis from BMW. Like its even more versatile little brother the E30, the E28 was a huge step forward in performance, driving dynamics and build quality from the E12. Classic looks defined the brand, while multiple different engines allowed a variety of budgets to experience the Teutonic design. And, like the E30, the E28 introduced the world to the first full M branding, raising the bar and defining the luxury sports sedan full-stop.
Some 31 years on from the last E28s rolling out of showrooms, prime examples still are stealing the stage in the classic BMW market. Pristine M5s still lead the charge but even very clean custom E28s can bid to high numbers. Today we have just that – a very clean, Euro-spec ’84 528i with some period modifications in a color combination that really helps it stand out:
Update 9/13/19: This 535iS sold for $7,000.
There’s always a bit of confusion about “M” branded models from the 1980s, since there was a difference in nomenclature between the E24 and E28. While the M6 and M5 co-existed in the United States market, they did not in Europe. This left the M635CSi to be the equivalent of the M6. I talked about this recently in a M635CSi post:
1985 BMW M635CSi
But the same was not true of the M535i. This model was sold as a more affordable alternative to the M5; most of the look of the Motorsports model but without the bigger bills associated with the more exotic double overhead cam 24 valve M88/3. Instead, you got a 3.4 liter M30 under the hood just like the rest of the .35 models. The recipe was a success, selling around 10,000 examples in several different markets – but never in the U.S..
Instead, the U.S. market received the 535iS model. The iS model was specific to the North American market and gave you the look of the U.S.-bound M5, with deeper front and rear spoilers, M-crafted sport suspension and sport seats. But as with the M535i, there was no S38 under the hood – rather a stock M30 3.4. It, too, was quite popular – between 1987 and 1988, just over 6,000 examples sold in the United States alone, and of those, a little more than half were the preferred manual variant. One of the nice aspects of the 535iS was that if you enjoyed colors other than black you were able to order the lesser model in any shade you wanted, unlike the M5. Today’s 535iS is still in a dark tone, but here it’s 181 Diamantschwarz Metallic accented by a Euro bumper swap…but that’s just the start:
From the top-tier of the BMW performance catalog in 1985, we’re shifting gears to what was just about the slowest BMW you could procure in the 1980s. The E28 of course had a base model – here it was the 528e with the M20B27 good for just over 120 horsepower. But European countries and Japan got an even pokier version, the 518 and 518i. The 518i had the fuel-injected M10B18 looking a bit like a lost puppy cowering under the long hood, rated at 103 horsepower. It was capable of gently motivating the E28 to 60 in 12.6 seconds and had a top speed of 109 mph. Hardly thrilling, right? However, it wasn’t intended for speed – it was intended for economy. The 218 horsepower M535i you’d like to be reading about consumed 9 liters of fuel at 120 kph over 100km, while the 518i sipped one less. Not impressed? Around town, that same M535i churned through 15 liters for 100 km. The 518i? 9.9. Even though gas was relatively cheap in the 1980s, that still adds up when you’re sitting in traffic.
But today if you’re looking at a classic BMW E28, you’re not thinking of fuel economy. What are you thinking of? Condition, condition, condition:
The M5 might not have been the original super sedan. It wasn’t even the first hot 5-series. But just like the GTI is synonymous with the hot-hatch segment, the M5 became the standard by which all other super-sedans were judged the moment it rolled onto the scene in 1985. Power seemed other-worldly; 280 plus horsepower from the race-derived M88/3 hunkered down with beefy suspension upgrades and huge (for the time) alloy wheels linked with a limited-slip differential. At a time when “fast” cars had 180 horsepower, BMW’s first M-offering in the sedan range might as well have been a space ship.
BMW promised limited production for the U.S. market, too – and, indeed, only 1,239 were produced for the U.S. with the slightly de-tuned S38. Unfortunately, that was 700 more than BMW had promised to make, and that led to a lawsuit. It also wasn’t very long before the M5’s power reign was eclipsed; first by its replacement E34 model, then by the whole range of new V8 models emerging on the market, from the 1992 Audi V8 quattro to the 500E. Values quickly fell as these old-looking (even when new) boxy rockets fell out of favor, and they remained there for quite some time.
But recently there’s grown a much greater appreciation for all things 80s M, and though the E30 has grabbed the headlines as the market star, outside of the M1 it is the E28 M5 that was brought here in fewest numbers. Even fewer have survived, and finding clean, lower mile examples can be tough. This one appears to tick the right boxes:
We sometimes get accused of bias in our coverage towards one marque or one model on these pages. Fair enough, I’d fully admit that I’d rather look at another Audi Coupe GT than a BMW 325e. But in the interest of being introspective, I occasionally check up on our coverage to see if we’re doing a balanced job and I’d like to share the results with you. To date this year, we’ve written up 10 Audi related posts, 10 BMW related posts, 9 Volkswagen related posts, and 12 Porsche posts. If we’ve been out-of-balance, it’s been our coverage of Mercedes-Benz models, which account for 26 posts this year so far.
Since our inception, we’ve written 907 Audi posts, 1,963 BMW posts, 1,598 Mercedes-Benz posts, 2,322 Porsche posts and 982 dedicated to Volkswagens. We’re sometimes at the mercy of what’s available at any given time. All things considered, it’s not a bad balance overall.
But one thing did strike me as I put this information together – February has, so far, passed without a BMW gracing our coverage. That simply won’t do, and so I thought I’d check out this M6. The classic E24 lines coupled with the stellar S38 engine and BBS wheels have always been a favorite of mine. Now, this particular M6 is probably not the best one out there I’ll admit up front. But the combination of colors, stance, presentation and asking price all grabbed my attention and made it worth sitting up and taking a further look:
Let’s say you want to start a car collection, and for ease of argument’s sake, let’s say you’re really into BMWs. Which is the model you want? You could be a 507 enthusiast, love the classic 3.0 CSL or 2002, envy every E30 or lust over the modern muscle the company produces. But odds are if you’re reading these pages you, like me, gravitate towards BMW’s Motorsport models.
Within the Pantheon of classic models, there then comes the difficult decisions. How do you choose between the E30 M3 and the 1M, for example? Well, Enthusiast Auto Group has a suggestion. Why not have them both? Or, even better, why not assemble all of the greatest hits from BMW’s M division over the past 40 years and put them together into one curated, turn-key package?
We’ve certainly seen our fair share of fake Alpinas come across these pages, but this one makes no claim to be authentic. Instead, it’s inspired by Alpina but takes its own route and character. I originally looked at this car back in 2014 and it’s been on and off the market since. Now showing “8,800” kilometers, the side Alpina decals gone and with a $10,000 increase in asking price since the last time we saw it, will the market appreciate this custom-built E28 this time around?
As ’80s-All-Things-M-Mania’ has continued, getting into a clean E28 M5 is increasingly difficult – and expensive. Decently clean original M5s now start around $30,000 and can head up from there, with really exceptional examples selling for $50,000 or more. Didn’t this used to be the “cheap” M? Those days have passed and don’t show signs of returning soon.
What’s an enthusiast to do? Well, you could build your own. It’s not cheap or easy, but hey – if you’re in it to win it, why not see if you can source all the parts yourself? Or (and this is a much better option…) you buy one that has already been converted to M-specs. To maximize your investment, look for one with a rare set of parts attached, and preferably in European guise. Luckily, today we don’t have to look too far:
Last week’s M5 was a bit of a roll of the dice. While it was claimed to be low mileage and all original, it had undergone some modification and wasn’t in the best condition. Little was disclosed about the running condition of the motor. Worse, there was an undisclosed gaff in the history – it appeared that the odometer had been replaced at some point, and it certainly looked like the car might have more than the mileage claimed when you looked around it.
Here, we have the opposite. While that M5 was all go and less show, the E28 M535i is the appearance package incarnate; all the M-Tech bits are really just for looks here. Still, it’s a very appealing model. This M535i appears to be well documented, fully serviced, and in great shape. I’m also glad to see that it’s a shade other than black. The Arktisblau Metallic paint shines well, mileage is lower, the original and unique TRX wheels are sporting newer Michelins, the M-Tech body kit is all in place, and the interior condition is very good. What’s not to like?