1986 BMW 5 Series 535i 3.4L from North America
The most undervalued European car ever
Well this can count for the two of them I've had. I owned identical 535i 5 speeds, '88 and '86, with about the same mileage to start. I put 25,000 miles on the first car, then 25,000 miles on the second, each within a little over a year.
I'll include prices with labor to the best of my recollection:
'86 Starting mileage: 149,000 Ending mileage: 175,000
Starter went out: $220
Power antenna: never fixed
Power locks went crazy: never fixed
Shift linkage (shifter came off into my hand) : $120 (fixed myself)
Three batteries (alternator was OK, but drains?), batteries were replaced free under warranty: $85
Pedal bracket (requires master cylinder too) : $700
Ignition wires: $100.
'88 Starting mileage: 121,000 Ending mileage: 149,000.
Engine crank position sensor (commonly mistaken as a dead ECU) : $225
Pedal bracket (yes, on BOTH cars) : $600
Bad heater blower: Never replaced
Blown headgasket: DEATH.
Haha, where do I begin? I enjoyed the first one so much that I found a second one just like it. Granted, I drove the **** out of these cars... so hard that I have been called by friends as "the destroyer of cars".
What I don't understand is besides regular oil changes and the repairs above, these are NOT expensive cars, these are NOT complicated cars, these are NOT unreliable cars... especially for being 20 years old or more now. GREAT examples can be found for less than $3000.
The first one I had got entered directly into BMWCCA events and got awards... I found the thing on a used car lot in amazing condition for $4k. The second car I got for $2000... the poor guy took great care of it and said no one wanted to drive the thing.
Why are these so undervalued? The e30s don't hold a candle to these things motor-wise... the m30 has a s**tload of torque. These things can drift too, let me tell you. And with a few mods, my first one could take e39 drivers on a regular basis... needless to say, they were shocked. With some weight out, they come in just over 3,000 lbs. You get that, leather, power everything, and a moonroof.
One thing I must say you should do immediately is go with some Bilstein heavy dutys... it will transform the mushy suspension into a better handling car than the factory e28 M5.
For fun, I had taken the entire exhaust off (including cat) and run straight pipes for the track (yes, I tracked both of these cars). This is by far one of the best sounding cars at full tilt I've ever heard... there is motorsport hiding in that ordinary sedan.
These cars should not fall into the hands of pussy-footed "car collectors"... drive these things hard and you will be rewarded with the seeing the soul of an otherwise forgotten "old" car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 21st January, 2009
24th May 2009, 19:11
I bought my for 800 dollars and I've put over 40k miles on it. It's almost at 300k miles :) All I've replaced is the throwout bearing and a water pump.
19th Feb 2010, 13:24
I have a 1986 535i that I bought from ebay. The car is a one owner and is in immaculate condition. Mileage is somewhere in the 300K range; however, the odometer doesn't work.
Since buying it, I have done a complete tune-up, rebuilt the drive shaft (still needs to be replaced at some point), replaced the instrument cluster to remedy a non-functional temperature gauge, put in a new battery and installed a priority start, since the car was draining the battery if not driven for several days.
I also picked up an almost new interior from a parted out e28, and plan on putting that in soon along with a new steering wheel.
Finally, I got rid of the original TRX wheels, and put in some 15" 5-series wheels from the e34, and will be putting in new tires in a few weeks, along with a slight tint.
Overall, this is a great car and in excellent shape for a price of $1800, plus another approximate $1000 to bring the car into top shape.
The AC even blows ice cold, and the car handles like a dream.
These BMWs are highly under rated, and it is quite common to see them on the market at give away prices.
I might have paid a bit more for mine, but in the long term, I am pleased with the car, the condition and color (light blue metallic).
In a city obsessed with new expensive cars, my e28 is a refreshing sight and a testament to classic German craftsmanship and reliability.
I own this BMW along with a 1983 300D and a 1987 300SDL. In all, I am quite pleased with these older German cars - I've owned many newer cars, including a 2004 Audi A4 quattro, and quite frankly, I have been unimpressed with the quality of cars in recent years - all the bells and whistles make the cars so much more susceptible to breaking down - these older cars were simplistic, reliable and got the job done.
14th Oct 2010, 23:42
Excellent reviews by all.
I just purchased an '86 BMW 535i for $1800 at a charity auction. The shift linkage just went out but I can see from the first post that this maybe a common problem. It is an easy fix. I am just waiting for my friend to fix. He is a BMW master tech.
In the short time I drove it, I already have fallen in love with it. There is nothing like it on the road and I can't believe the power it has. I have a 5 speed manual and the power in 1st & 2nd gear is incredible. It is hard to believe from a 25 year old car! One night I dropped the hammer on the Sunset strip a couple times and heard lovely chirps out of it.
8th Aug 2011, 02:28
I have just bought an auto 535i with only 111,000 kms.. It's immaculate... All the electrics work, all of em! Amazing.. love the shark nose shape.