allow me to introduce myself first, my name is Menno, 28 years old, Mining Engineer (MSc) and living and working in The Hague, The Netherlands. As an engineer naturally cars hold a big interest for me, but as a student I wasn't able to own one (and actually didn't need one at the time). Now working a year in my first job the time has come to indulge a bit, spend my first savings and get my first car.
I've always had a soft spot for the E34 M5, maybe as it represented the ultimate saloon in my boyhood years. But I especially like the whole concept of the car, a discrete, luxurious, practical, reliable high performance car. I'm aware that you can't use the potential of the car on an everyday basis, especially not in the congested Netherlands. But the potential is only a part of the attraction for me. I kind of like to compare a E34 M5 to a Rolex (the plain steel ones, not the flashy gold/diamond ones!), it represents a handmade, a high level of craftsmanship, piece of quality engineering which is not flashy or obvious to your surroundings. And how often does a owner of a Rolex dive to 200 meter below sea-level?
Anyway, I've been following the BMWM5.com site E34 forum, learned the BMWE34M5.com site by heart, subscribed to the BMW E34 M5 mailing list. I am aware that basically it is an old car with a lot of potential problems, can be very expensive to run, can drink fuel like there's no tomorrow, but still I believe that with a bit of thorough research, and some patience you can get a good reliable everyday car for at reasonable costs. Some testaments show this, people running this car for 10 year without needing to replace major parts, and even a M5 in France with 400.000 km on the clock. Not bad for a Ferrari-beating saloon...
One of the more attractive prospect of entering into E34 M5 ownership (or are you just custodians of a part of automotive history for future generations?) is the friendly, knowledgeable community that's active on the various forums/sites. Whatever problem, question, suggestion you have it is always dealt with in a helpful, friendly way. With this back-up, M5 ownership should be relative painless, even in the 'darker' moments, and it is comforting to know that all this knowledge is out there and easily reachable.
So after lurking a while, I now take the step of asking some more specific questions regarding E34 M5 ownership, hoping that this will lead to myself joining this club. Although in the end both heart and common sense will make the decision, I hope that the answers will help me to put down the objections that common sense brings forward to to buying this car.
I've divided the questions in segments, some might be more specific for Dutch citizens as they as contain very specific questions. I hope you can find the time to help me answer these questions, if not, thanks anyway for reading this.
Selection of a E34 M5
-First of all, as I live in the Netherlands, the best place to look for a E34 M5 is I believe our neighbour Germany. There is a relative large market of used ones, the prices seem good, and through www.mobile.de
you can get a good overview of what is on offer.
-The car should be at least 9 years old at the time of import in the Netherlands, this places the payable import taxes in a lower bracket, approx 2500 EUR instead of 4500 EUR
-The next question, what should I potentially buy, the 3.6 or the 3.8. My preference goes to the 3.8, the greater torque available at lower revs seem to make it a more 'relaxed' car to drive if one's not in the mood to keep the revs in the 4000-7200 area all the time, for instance driving home after a sh.tt. day at work... However, the cost of potentially potentially replacing the shocks/dampers for an EDC equipped car does scare me bit! Does anyone know if these can be replaced by conventional shocks as an aftermarket modification, especially as according to the various E34 M5 articles the 3.8 EDC cars do not appear to offer much improvement in roadholding/handling/comfort over the conventional shock equipped 3.6 cars. From the forum/website I recall that the shock (&spring) mountings for a EDC car are different to a non-EDC car. The E31 (850i) website however documents a case where EDC shocks have been replaced by conventional shocks, see http://technic.clube31.com/,
can this be performed on the E34 M5? And what is the potential age/milage at what the EDC shocks should be replaced?
-If 3.8, a sedan or Touring, not really sure yet. Like the lines of the sedan better, but as it will be my only car a Touring seems more practical. The doesn't seem to be a very big price gap between the two. Not really an issue yet.
-Price, I'm looking at spending approx 8.500-10.000 EUR. Any comments on the cars in this price range? Better go cheaper an spend money on getting it in a good shape? Or go more expensive and hope this returns in a significant better quality and less repairs?
-What source? BMW dealers in Germany still sell used E34 M5, it looks as this is at a price premium of approx. 1.500-2.000 EUR over the ones offered at mobile.de, although they sometimes still come with guarantees. Is it worth the premium, is the quality really better, or just go with cars from non-BMW dealer sources? Is it better to buy from a car trader, or from a private person, which brings the greatest risk of buying a bad one?
-How important is milage, the ones I'm looking at are mostly in the 120.000 - 180.000 km range. Does say a difference of 25.000 km between two models matter much at this age? Is condition and history more important than mileage alone?
-How about cars with replacement engines/gearboxes or advertisements stating 'can show bill of large engine work'. Does this mean that they are mechanically better than other cars and will eventually save you these costs, or does it commonly point out to abused cars with 'iffy' histories?
-First of all, as the cars are all located at some distance from me (minimum 3/4 hours drive), is it useful if I can get the seller to fax me a copy of the car's service records, to see the service history of the car. Or are these easily faked and relatively worthless? This would give me potentially a first selection to filter out the bad cars or cars with a missing history. What to look for in these service records? What other records could be asked in advance to get an idea of the condition of the car?
-Check of mileage. Can the mileage on the odometer of an E34 M5 be easily changed? Is there a way, apart from looking at the service records if these are original, to verify the mileage of the car? Is there a central database in Germany that records the mileage of every car that comes in for a service, like the national car passport in the Netherlands. Can I get an idea of the car's history through BMW?
-Once actually looking at a car, fom the website I believe the some of the most important issues to look at during a walk-around and testdrive:
No leakage of oil from the gearbox seals
Hope for a minimum of oil leakage from the engine, any specific points to look at? But in general some oil leakage seems to be unavoidable on the S38 engine.
Check for signs of cooling water in the oil and vice versa, look for any brownish/yellow residue in the oil filler cap, or oil floating on top in the coolant water reservoir.
Check for no leakage near the master brake cylinder
Start the engine and check movement of the resonance flap
Look for stable idle running after being warm, only a little 'hunting'.
Check ik al the electrics are working
Check if the climate control/AC/heating and fan is working
During drive try to feel the steering, any 'play', this might indicate worn components?
I know the gearbox can be a weak point, what is the easiest way to check the condition of the gearbox during driving?
If driving a 3.8 EDC car, how can the condition of the shocks be determined?
Try to find out the condition of the exhaust system/catalytic converter, any tips on what to pay attention to?
Try to check the condition of the timimg chain, any tips on how to determine this, and at what mileage should I be looking at replacing this?
-Try to get an idea of the owner, young 'boy-racer' or genuine car nut. Why is he/she selling?
-If really serious about a car, perform a compression and leakdown test. No idea yet how to read the results of these tests and draw any conclusions, your help would be welcome here at this time. Maybe take the car to a local, preferably larger, BMW dealer to perform the 120-points check they seem to perform when they themself accept an used BMW for re-sale. Any idea of the costs of the tests and checks? Possibly also a emissions check to see if it will pass (Dutch) legal requirements.
-In general, I expect to repair/change various components in the beginning of my ownership. I will try to avoid replacing some items though, these being the items I would try to avoid through a thorough pre-purchase inspection:
Engine and related items (crankshafts, camshafts, valves, pistons, piston rods, cylinder head, head gasket, timing chain)
Gearbox, and/or internals
Exhaust system and/or catalytic converter
Shocks on an 3.8 EDC car.
Export/import and transportation
-I believe the procedure for exporting a car from Germany is relatively easy. Anybody got any experiences?
-Transportation to the Netherlands. I believe you can get 7-day licenses and insurance ('Z-plates'?) in the Netherlands to import a car. Otherwise arrange a car transporter (as Raymond has done for his E28 M5) to transport the car to the Netherlands.
-The procedure for importing a car into the Netherlands and getting it on the road is well documented on the customs and Dutch D.M.V. (RDW) website. Any potentialy nasty surprises here, a good pre-purchase check should result in a car good enough to get it accepted in the Netherlands. Any potential problems with emissions check?
-As stated earlier, I expect to replace various components in the first few months of ownership. Will try to get a good relationship quickly with my local BMW dealership.... If there's no record of a water pump change, this will be an item to be replace quickly to prevent nasty damages.
-Fuel, not gonna be easy, but I know what I'm getting in. I expect a liter per 6/7 km on average, with a highway average cruising at normal (legal) speed approx a liter per 10 km. The car can run on EURO 95?
-Insurance, on basis of my first analysis of E34 M5 purchase and ownership this appears to be the bottleneck for me, and is the largest obstacle I see. Quotes so far have been approx 130 EUR for limited coverage ('WA + beperkt casco') and 350 EUR full coverage ('WA + volledig casco') per month. Any Dutch M5 drivers have any tips for me about a good (cheaper) insurance agent or policy, is anything available through the Dutch BMW club?
-Inspections, the BMW services are on a 'dynamic' mileage interval I believe, any idea of what kind of intervals I should be looking on average. What are the approx costs of these inspections/services. Probably good idea to give it a big service (Inspektion II?) soon after getting it on the road in the Netherlands.
-In general I believe that with a wise purchase and good regular service/maintenance the running costs of an E34 M5 should be containable, and the car should last about 250.000-300.000 kilometers.
-Can anybody quote the average yearly running costs they have, not taking into the equation taxes, insurance and fuel?
You see, all in all a lot of questions, but I hope you can help me with some of them, In general, I'm very postive to the ownership of an E34 M5, and expect that with some patience and effort I will be able to get a good one which will function as an everyday car at reasonable costs. The largest obstacle I can see, and which patience and effort can probably only change slightly, is the insurance costs.
I have also post this message through the E34 M5 messageboard, so apologies if you're confronted with all these questions twice!
Thanks for reading this long piece, and thanks in advance for any possible answers/tips you might have.