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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:
I think that one day we’ll look back upon the E36 generation 3-series and regard it as a classic. The “dolphin” body shape continues to age well, and sits atop a finely balanced chassis that makes for a spritely and engaging drive. The six cylinder motors found in these are smooth, stout units that offer satisfying (if not blistering) performance and return decent fuel economy. When they do go wrong, they are quite simple to work on and spare parts are relatively cheap and plentiful. The M3 of this generation is already quite desirable and is a bit of a performance bargain, especially since it remains cheaper to pick up than the E30 and E46 versions that sit either side of it. But clean, low-mileage non-M cars often get overlooked, and I think this is a little unfair. Take this 328i for example. It’s a convertible and an automatic, both potential turn-offs for some. But a 3-series in this configuration is not supposed to be a track car or a street racer. It’s supposed to be a classy little boulevard cruiser. And on that score it’s a winner.
I have a bit of an interesting comparison today, and I think in many ways it’s harder than it would first appear to be. If you said to most enthusiasts “Would you rather have a manual or automatic?”, the collective ire of autophiles towards self-controlled cars is akin to suggestion a revision to the 2nd Amendment at a NRA rally. And outwardly, today’s two E39 5-series wagons seem quite similar. But they represent two different directions for BMW and I think it will be interesting to see which foot enthusiasts land on. So, what would it be, then – a 5-speed 528i Sport Touring or a 5-speed (automatic) 540i M-Sport Touring?
Here’s a sweet little 325is that is deceptively unique. With no trunk badges, a first glance at the side skirts may lead you to believe it’s a 325ix, but a closer look reveals an E30 that has been given quite a bit of attention. Under the 9 year-old repaint, the side skirts are actually BBS, and the front and rear M-Tech I valences have been integrated into chrome Euro bumpers. It’s also lacking the M-tech wheel arches, but I don’t miss them. Inside, E30 M3 seats in Natur are a nice touch (though I’ve never liked the bulbous M-Tech II steering wheel), and the mechanicals seem to have been thoroughly maintained and upgraded with nice bits like a Conforti chip and Dinan Stage 2 suspension. With no reserve, it’s time to let the eBay junkyard dogs feast.