My story starts a little differently than others.
It starts 13 years ago… with a different kind of BMW than the one that I now own. One that, in my opinion, is by far the finest thing to come from Germany in a very long time… The E30 M3.
I owned that icon for 11 memorable years, and still marvel that I was fortunate enough to own something so pure in it’s DNA, something that rewarded your driver input, and never punished you when you got it wrong. But, as this is a post about the E39 M5 I now have, let’s fast forward to November, 2010.
It’s a date I’ll never forget as it was my birthday, the 16th of November, a Sunday. I awoke to find an empty space in my parent’s driveway where the M3 usually resided – STOLEN.
After my insurance claim was processed, and I had provided all the necessary documentation, I received a payout that just showed what an appreciating classic the E30 M3 had become, it was more than double what I originally paid for it!
I now needed a replacement. A few inquiries later, and I knew that I was priced out of a clean example (in my 11 years of ownership, I have become so knowledgeable that I knew more about what to look for and therefore possessed more specific knowledge than the “so called specialist” mechanics and dealers themselves)!
I have been a BMW enthusiast since I was about 15, so I was aware of every Motorsport model since the M1… I needed something that was as close to the E30 M3 in terms of “collector appeal” and also had a limited production run so it would hold it’s value when I came to re-sell in the future. But there was one more important caveat – it needed to be something that my wife could drive, you read it right the first time, my wife could drive!
Women Driver + 400BHP = A White Knuckle Ride?
You see my daughter was on her way into this world, and the luxury of storing, let alone owning 3 cars was not very realistic. So, the Mini Cooper S that my wife owned would too have to go, and we needed something… something… it pains me to say it practical… okay so I said it!
Queue the E39 M5.
The road to find this car would be long, just under a year in fact. I viewed several examples, from M specialist dealers to traders, and to my surprise, the best examples were from private sellers! Here are some photos of a car the same color and year as Ryan’s, but with a big difference – it had only 56,000 miles!
It turned out that after viewing this car on the Munich Legends website, the car had an immaculate interior, which definitely looked consistent with the mileage. The engine was also mechanically sound, and whilst that car felt solid on the test drive, the exterior showed signs of accident damage, and also had signs of a poor respray – it was priced at £14.000!
I dragged my brother to two more Silverstone Blue examples that were also way overpriced, a Titan Silver one that was very low spec with no Sat-Nav… things were looking grim on the quest for the E39 M5!
I came across one in Edinburgh (approx 500 miles to the North of England), Le Mans Blue, one meticulous owner, all the important options, concours paintwork – this looked so good I was making traveling plans to fly out and get this baby bought! It had sold two days before I contacted the seller ;-(
Six months into the search now, and I began to think that there were no clean examples left in the UK… A month later I came across the ultimate example, it was metallic black, had a BMW INDIVIDUAL package on the interior, in Champagne leather including the upper dash and every option on the list, it had 52,000 miles and a FBMW Service History, it was priced at £14,500 which I think it was worth all day long. The problem was that it was TOO clean an example that I could not bring myself to introduce it into family life, and risk damaging that lovely leather with the likes of a child seat!
I was getting seriously worried that there were NO E39 M5’s in the UK:
Searching the Internet for another three moths helped. Late one Friday evening I come across a specialist dealer start-up. They have a trade in (part exchange) with full BMW service history. It’s a 2003 example, 118,000 miles (yikes), all the desirable options, Le Mans Blue and here’s the best bit… it was priced at £9500.00.
This what it looked like the day I went to view it and put it on the ramp…
I had complied a checklist of 76 points that needed to pass before I would even consider purchasing, and it passed 70 of them. The test drive was the fastest I had ever experienced (even then the E30 M3 as I was not used to left hand drive)! After one hour of negotiations with the partners of the specialist garage, I managed to negotiate £1000.00 pounds off of the sticker price, so I left a deposit.
Part of the agreement was that an inspection would be performed, and that a full valet of the interior and the exterior would be detailed. So I left them a week to do that whilst I got the funds organised.
I went back three days later to collect the vehicle, and they assured me that all the work had been carried out. I took a quick test drive, and then the painful part (parting with the money)! I was now the proud owner of this beast!
The drive home was AWESOME, as it was about 80 miles on a motorway most of the journey, so I got to flex my right foot and open up the V8 lump!
It felt rock solid compared to the R56 2006 Mini Cooper S we had at the time – but no more planted than my E30 M3, just slightly heavier in the steering. The brakes had just been replaced (discs AND pads), front and rear some 600 miles prior, so I got to experience them, and revel in their ability – you never feel they aren’t up to the job.
I also remember being VERY impressed with the optional BMW sound system. I was pleasantly surprised at how tight and how much bass response there is (comparing it to the Alpine system that I had installed in the E30 M3, which I had believed to be exceptional).
And there we have it, the start of the current chapter!
After getting to spend some quality time with the car, I was able to really investigate at length what the condition of the engine components and fluids was. I found that the power steering fluid was at the minimum level in the reservoir (but was a bright cherry red color, which my experience with the E30 M3 had taught me was a healthy sign), and there were NO oil or other fluids leaking from the sump or steering rack (more good news).
Mechanically, the gear lever selector linkage was very worn, and slack to the point that changing gear was like a “lucky dip”, the clutch whilst not heavy had a very “stiff” action towards the bottom (it did not feel like the other E39 M5’s that I had test driven), the clutch pedal also had some side movement and a slight squeak when pressed.
Other items that had worn or were missing were the headlamp unit rubber gaskets that clip on top, the volume knobs on the Sat-Nav screen, the gear lever leather gaiter, the floor mat clips and washer rings, and finally the leather interior had lost all its natural oils that keep it supple (I believe this was not at all helped by the specialist dealer giving the interior a full valet as he used far too aggressive cleaning agents).