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Discussion Starter #1
I'd like to hear from anyone driving one of these monsters in the midwest, particularly up north where we get crap weather (like now). I'm in Chicago and I'm possibly considering one of these cars for a daily driver. I own an E12 M535i that I've posted some pics of on this board, that I'm finishing up an extensive engine rebuild on. When the money stops flowing into that car maybe I can convince my wife that I need something better for a daily driver. ;) My Jetta diesel 5spd with 90hp just isn't cutting it for the "fun-to-drive" factor.

Info about my situation:

I put about 20K miles on a year from my commute, mostly highway, but still subject to Chicago stop-and-go bad traffic. They salt the hell out of our roads here in the winter, so how is the E34 M5 in terms of rust-proofing? I am a fanatic about getting the salt off of my cars with frequent touchless or self-spray car washes in the winter. Undercarriage and body.

The car will unfortunately have to sit outside. We have a two-car garage and my E12 M535 isn't going out in the winter, no way, no how, and my wife's E46 gets the other garage spot because that's just the way it goes! :)

Chicago has emissions testing which wouldn't matter for a US-spec E34 M5. But, I would like an E34 M5 3.8l for the extra power and exclusivity, and I wonder about how it will do with emissions down the road. Simply passing the federalization requirements to get into the US won't help me if it won't pass the stupid Chicago DMV idiot testing with a roller under the rear wheels and a sniffer up the tail pipe every two years. I saw catalytic converters are frighteningly expensive. Do they have a certain lifespan on 3.8l or 3.6l cars?

I would have to run snow tires on an E34 M5 in the winter due to our crap weather. Will 16" wheels fit over the brakes, assuming it isn't a '95 with the Nurburgring package? Or do I have to use 17"'s?

How "DIY" friendly are these cars? I do 80-90% of the work on my E12 and I love it for its simplicity. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty on stuff, but I shy away from electronic gee-whiz stuff on newer cars. On my Jetta I replace the fuel filter and change the oil at the recommended intervals, that's all I've done. It's mainly an appliance to get to and from work. I don't mind handling the care and feeding of a hand-built M-car as a daily driver, but I don't want to get stranded when it won't start one day either. I also don't want to take it to the "stealer" for repairs at their $110/hr labor rate.

I know prices are all over the board and blue book kind of sucks for valuing these things. (go try to find an E12 M535i for sale in the US, and you'll have some real fun. With 15-20 of the cars in the country, just finding one for sale is an accomplishment). So what is a "good price" to pay? In the teen's? What regular maintenance is a plus or major bonus to have documented recently in a car's life that will add value to the asking price? I saw that someone said the timing chains and tensioners can go to 200K miles or more, so I guess just check for regular maintenance and water pump replacement?

That's all I can think of for now. The analness in me would feel bad about taking someone's garage-kept baby with low miles and stellar maintenance and subjecting it to Chicago winters and sitting in my driveway instead of in a garage. But at least I would keep it well-maintained and cared-for. And I would of course want to buy the best car I could afford.

Sorry for the length and all the questions.
 

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Adam:

I'll make an attempt here at giving you my opinion but I need to tell you that I'm one of the least qualified on this board to answer your questions. I also approach car ownership from a very different perspective. I don't do any of my own work except detailing and I'm very willing to pay the long dollar to have work completed to my satisfaction.

My car is a 95 Euro M5 with about 50,000 miles. I purchased it a little over two years ago after driving as daily drivers a 91 535ia, a 95 540ia and a 95 540i six speed in succession. I drove each of the cars about 3 years and put probably 90,000 miles on each.

I obviously really liked the E34 and decided that the next one needed to be the ultimate E34. When I purchased my first E34 I didn't even know what an M5 was.

I owned my M5 for less than a year before I realized that it was very different from my previous E34's and did not make a good daily driver for me.
Mine is now an extra car that I will only use for recreation or when one of my other cars needs maintenance. I think the 95 540i six speed was a far superior daily driver. It has all the performance of the M5 yet it is much easier to drive and the maintenance cost is lower even with the aluminum block problems. The switchable traction control actual makes it a very good car on snow and ice.

Don't get me wrong, the M5 is a great car. I think the closest you can get to a porsche and still have 4 doors. It's got a wonderful sound when you get on it. Very few cars feel so good when excelerating through the gears. And it handles magnificently.

There is a price for this however. The EDC III suspension costs a fortune to maintain as you will see from several posts here. It's a relatively big car and consequently puts a lot of wear and tear on suspension and drive train components.

The engine if maintained can be driven to higher mileages but have anything fail and a rebuild is again very expensive. Also, regular tuneups need a competent technician who is familiar with the engine.

My car has had a little evidence of the beginning of surface rust at the bead at the inside bottom of one door and the same area at the inside bottom of the trunk lid. In general you will not see a lot of rust on these cars.

I believe that most any euro 3.8 M5 that you would find in the states would have the EDC III suspension and so would not accomodate less than 17 inch wheels. If you are going to buy an M5 I would recomend that you look for a US spec 93 without EDC III. This would save you a ton on suspension issues and also you wouldn't have to worry about passing the emission test.

There is not an emission test requirement where I am so I don't know how difficult it would be to pass. I do know that many of the importers had a difficult time passing the test for federalization and that it was no uncommon to have to return more than once after making some adjustments.

I hope this helps. If you travel my way your more than welcome to stop by and go for a ride.

Regards, John Z.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi John,

Thanks a lot for the great writeup, that was good advice coming from someone owning a euro in the colder climates where we are. If I lived in a nicer winter climate, I wouldn't give it a second thought when considering a euro 3.8l version. But, yes, I have read some of the posts about the EDC III suspension (including yours detailing the costs involved to replace it, omigod!!) and that would be something that wouldn't make my wife too happy. In addition, I'd rather put my own shocks and springs on the car and I would feel guilty about modifying a bonafide euro 3.8l with the EDC III suspension.

Perhaps a '95 540i 6spd will be a consideration after all, even with the nikasil/alusil block fiasco. Or a US-spec 3.6l. I luckily have access to some very competent mechanics here in the Chicago area who know these cars. One is a CCA member who is the only one to touch my E12 M535i besides me, and the other one is Don Dethlefson's shop up in Lake Bluff (north of Chicago). He is the one who did the two ceylon gold 2002's that were featured in Roundel about two years ago.

Again, thanks for the info and advice, John.
 

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Good Luck. Let me know if you make a purchase. I sold my 95 six speed to the mechanic who maintained it for me. It was a great car.

John Z.
 
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