1986 BMW 535i

When I look through the history of E28 5-Series I’ve written up, it’s not hard to notice a pattern. Most are modified, and most feature European-style modifications. Perhaps that annoys the purists and I’ll start off by saying a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to all of them, but here we go again.

I do like a really clean standard 5-Series, but it seems to always be the modified examples that catch my attention. Here we have a ’85 525i, which it is quite easy to see is not stock. Beyond being lowered, it’s wearing European-specification headlights and bumpers, big BBS-style wheels, and a few other odds and ends that make it worth a closer look. It doesn’t hurt that it’s the lovely Arctic Blue Metallic, either:

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1988 BMW M5

Neither the E24 M6 nor the E28 M5 need an introduction on these pages. Legendary even when new, they both captured the imagination of generations of German car enthusiasts and established the benchmarks for sedan and GT performance in period. Both went through a relatively long downturn in value, as well. And today, as each has moved firmly into classic status and the market ///Madness continues, each has increased in value considerably over where they stood a few years ago.

But with so many shared components, which is the one to get? While a lot of that boils down to personal preference, more so than ever it’s also dependent on your budget. We’ve seen asking prices for nice examples of each chassis hovering between $50,000 and $80,000 depending on mileage and condition, and with a hot market there’s no letup of good ones to choose from. Today’s example is not the most pristine or low mileage on the market by any means, but it does balance that out with some desirable mods:

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1988 BMW M5

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:

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1988 BMW 535i

When I look through the history of E28 5-series I’ve written up, it’s not hard to notice a pattern. Most are modified, and most feature European-style modifications. Perhaps that annoys the purists and I’ll start off by saying a half-hearted ‘sorry’ to all of them, but here we go again.

It doesn’t take a much of a look to tell that this E28 has undergone the same series of modifications that the last ’87 535iS I looked had; namely, European headlights and bumpers and BBS Style 5s. But unlike that example, this one is done. As in, really, really done. If you’re looking for an as-new 535i with some stellar mods, check it out – but first, move the coffee away from the keyboard, especially as you get to the ‘price’ section:

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1987 BMW 535iS

As I mentioned in the M635CSi post in August, there is some of the confusion about these “M” branded models came from the 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. 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. 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. This particular 535iS has some cool mods to give it a bit more style, too:

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1982 BMW 635CSi

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 E24s 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:

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1984 BMW 528i Euro-spec

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:

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1987 BMW 535iS

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:

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1985 BMW 518i with 23,000 Miles

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:

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1988 BMW M5

The M5 might not have been the original super sedan. It wasnt 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, BMWs 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 wasnt very long before the M5s 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 theres 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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 BMW M5 on eBay

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