Tuesday, June 16, 2015

10k: Almost Classic: 1991 BMW M5 E34

As the E34 generation BMW M5 continues its inevitable ascent to overpriced junk...don't say we didn't warn you.  A few years (months?) ago a 200k mile E34 M5 wouldn't have been worth much over a few grand, but as low buck collectors and mid level flippers look for their next ride, the low production number cars with premium badges from the 80s/90s are getting snapped up.  Don't plan on making money if you buy this car, just assume the engine is three miles from giving up the ghost and the second gear syncro more distressed than Pooh Bear getting attacked by Africanized honey bees.  Just don't be surprised in 5 years when you can't afford a 300k mile version of this car.  Find this 1991 BMW M5 E34 offered for $9,000 in Berkeley, CA via craigslist.  Tip from FuelTruck.  

The e34 generation M5 was the last of the 'hand-built' BMW M-cars and was only sold in the US market from 1990-1993.  If you want something with an M badge for cheap, this is second only to the E36 M3 in terms of being inexpensive to purchase.  If something goes wrong...you are screwed, but at least the purchase price was low.

The North American E34 M5 left the factory with a 3.6 liter S38B36 inline-6 that puts out 307 horsepower and 266 ft-lbs of torque into a Getrag 280 5-spd manual gearbox.  No auto was offered for the M5 in the E34 body style making it easy to find a good example for your daily commute/hooning.  Additionally they were all equipped with a limited slip differential out back and a good old-fashioned steering box setup up front (no rack & pinion).  The resulting car requires heavy inputs to go fast and drives like a '60s muscle car with proper shock dampening.  It never does let you forget that it weighs 3800 lbs, but it eats up corners and straightaways with equal vigor.

See a better ///M badged white knight for less? tips@dailyturismo.com


  1. With all due respect to our resident e34 M5 owner, I just don't understand the number of owners that replaced the wheels on these. On this particular car, they weren't just ornamental tire holders, they were designed to direct air towards cooling the brakes. I get that the early turbine covers were rather, uh, polarizing, but that was easily fixable by replacing with the throwing star covers. Just seems like a shame to have form win over function on a car like this.

    With that said, I looked super-heavily for a nice one of these in the low-mid teens over the past 6 months, and they just flat out are not out there like they used to be. It's not that they were priced out of my range, they just weren't any decent ones for sale, period! I wonder if current owners are in a holding pattern right now, waiting for this massive e28 M5 bubble to bleed over into these?

    1. Frankly, as far as the wheels go, the turbines are fugly and the brake-cooling functionality is incremental at best, the throwing stars are much much nicer, but in either case if I had a set of the original M wheels I'd throw them in boxes and put on something else just for durability/preservation.

    2. It is the rare individual who has a genuine concern about brake cooling. High-temp brake fluid, then high-temp brake pads will solve the problem for most of those. If you still have brake cooling problems, then fitting cold-air ducts on the inside of the discs, scooping the airflow from under the car, is a far more effective solution.

    3. Understood completely---to clarify with both you and mrkwong, my point is not that it's the ultimate brake cooling solution, but that it's unusual in that it's an integral element of the car, not just from a design standpoint, but from an engineering one as well. It's just unusual to me that on a "purist's car" like the e34 is, so many have tossed that element aside in the name of aesthetics.

    4. Honestly I would have kept the throwing star (M System II) wheels on my car if it came with them, but it did not. They were replaced by the previous previous owner. The 3-pc ACSchnitzer TypeII wheels that it did come with have grown on me like mold on brie.

      I took the DTM5 to a local track day a few months back and the brakes did get a bit soft after 4 or 5 sessions of driving at 8 to 9/10ths. Brake fluid was ATE Super Blue, but pads and rotors are of unknown provenance. I can understand the need for brake cooling on these things but only if they are being driven quite hard.

      Full writeup coming soon!

  2. These are well up into the top 10 of Desirable All-Time Postwar BMWs, and in US-market form I'd rank them well above the E28 M5 (I don't do black cars, then you've got the bumpers and the suffocated engine and etc...)

    The Holy Grail of E34 M5s is of course the later-model Tourings, of which there are a few floating around the country...

  3. I came very close to buying one last spring but it was expensive and far from perfect. Most likely another car that I missed the boat on.
    Some of the last hand built BMWs, so great.
    If you haven't watched it in a while look up the chase scene in Ronin.


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