While I love my W126, I miss the E34 that I sold back in May. Mine was only a lowly 525i, but with its tight suspension and fun-to-use 5-speed manual gearbox, it drove more like a go-kart than I was expecting, when I picked it up on a whim. I hope to own another E34 someday, perhaps one with a bit more grunt than my old car had. So I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the M5 market for a while now. Values on these cars have risen steadily over the last few years, as buyers looking for a bit of old-school, hand-built M GmbH magic have woken up to the charms of this generation 5-series, with its 3.6 liter inline six powerplant. Of course, this means that an E34 M5 will most likely be out of reach before I can afford one. But for those with cash on hand right now, the last year or so has seen a steady supply of neat examples coming to market. Right now, buyers looking for a tidy, daily-driver quality example can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000. Grab one while you can.
The E28 M5 that Carter wrote up the other day was a nice piece of kit. But the E34 remains my favorite version of the M-powered 5-series. Sure, it was heavier than it’s predecessor. But even with the additional heft, the dynamic chassis and dialled-in suspension setup meant it was still a spritely, potent car. It was also subtle, distinguished from lower models only by a few, discreet M-badges, restyled lower valances and unique alloys. That’s no bad thing. Super sedans should be understated, in my view, and the conservatively styled E34 was handsome then and remains so now. That understated exterior conceals a glorious, screaming 3.6 liter inline six, replete with six individual throttle bodies, a motor that was good for just over 300 hp when new.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on eBay
On Saturday I wrote up a gorgeous example of a 500E, the 90s-era super sedan from Mercedes commonly referred to as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” As cool as the Benz may be, the first car that comes to mind when you utter the phrase is probably the competitor from BMW, the E34 M5. Produced between 1988 and 1995, these were hand built at the M GmbH facility in Garching. To the pliable, balanced but twitchy-at-the-limits chassis they added a glorious 3.6 liter inline six with six individual throttle bodies. The S38 motor, whose ancestry can be traced to the unit found in the famed M1 supercar, puts out about 310 hp in US-market guise and swiftly propels the car to 60 MPH in under 6 seconds. Like the 500E, the M5 differed little from its regular stablemates in outward appearance. In fact, it’s probably even stealthier than the W124. There are no flared wheel arches here and only the subtle M5 badges fore and aft give the game away. That’s no bad thing in my book. The E34 5-series, even in base specification, is a classically styled car whose unfussy design still looks good on the road today.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Portland, OR Craigslist
The other day I posted a 500E, which was Mercedes’ take on the Q-ship formula of stuffing a large, powerful engine and race-tweaked suspension into an ordinary looking mid-size executive sedan. What I didn’t mention was that the 500E was, of course, a response to the original (and some would say best) wolf in sheep’s clothing: the E34 generation M5. While I’ve posted a few E34s lately, I’ve so far avoided writing about the M-variant (though my colleagues have written up some really nice ones: see here and here, for example). This is only because my preference is to find cheap daily drivers to share with our readers and, as enthusiasts begin to seek out more affordable alternatives to the E30 M3, these M5s are increasingly becoming too expensive to count in that category. Still, when this lovely example popped up the other day on Bimmerforums.com, I couldn’t resist the temptation to write it up.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 BMW M5 on Bimmerforums.com
In the 1980s, especially in the early 1980s, if you wanted a hot BMW your best bet was to look for a “gray market” car. Equipped with stronger motors and unequipped with emissions equipment and bumper-car bumpers, they were the more pure versions of the original designs. But as the 80s drew to a close, the flood of Euro-spec cars into the U.S. dried up. It became harder to import and Federalize them, and the differentiation between U.S. and Euro versions became smaller. True, there were cars that still had a pretty big gulf; the E36 M3 is a great example of this. And it’s still not usual to see fans of a specific model from any of the marques interested in what was available in Europe – or rather, what wasn’t available to U.S. customers. Take the E34 M5, for example. There were a number of colors and interiors that U.S. fans didn’t have the chance to partake in, but it’s usually the later run 3.8 motor that raises eyebrows for U.S. fans. That, and of course the Touring model of the M5 that debuted with the E34 and wasn’t brought here. But this particular E34 M5 doesn’t have any of those things. It’s an early run car without the larger motor, so the S38B36 is essentially the same one you’d get in the U.S. model. Interestingly, the HD93 U.S. spec car is much more rare than the HD91 European version – 1,678 produced versus 5,877. Rarity also isn’t on the side of the color, as Jet Black 668 with 0318 / L7SW Black Nappa Leather isn’t an outrageous combination. It is more rare to see the four post seat setup which this car has, but the real kicker is the mileage and condition with a scant 500 miles a year covered: