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    E34 AND E32 INSTRUMENT CLUSTERS / #BMW-E32 / #BMWE34 / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #Instrument-Clusters / #BMW-Instrument-Clusters

    This is going back in time a bit, well, to 1986 in the case of the #BMW-7-Series-E32 , and 1988 for the BMW-E34 5 Series. Models with the bigger engines (all E32s) and the 525i, 530i and 535i as well as the V8s, had what’s called the ‘high’ instrument cluster. It has digital mileage and the ability to transmit #OBC readings via pixels in the dash.

    Overall, these were superbly reliable compared to what BL and Jaguar were trying to do, but that didn’t stop BMW improving them periodically. Upon launch, the E32 had a cluster with a battleshipgrey backing plate containing the circuit boards. There was a mileage chip that also held car information such as fuel tank capacity, and whether it was an auto or a manual, and this chip was built into a coding plug in the wiring into the cluster. In February 1989, the dash was changed – the backing plate was now white and the coding plug with mileage chip was brown. It plugged into the back of the cluster, secured by a breakable plastic cage, and had a silver sticker on the back with the car’s VIN. This was again superseded (in September 1990) by the blue-back cluster; outwardly almost identical.

    The coding plug was in the same place, but was now a blue colour and not interchangeable with the brown plug on the older cluster. The circuit board is an insane price new – a frankly ridiculous £1,255 (plus VAT) and, at one time, it was even more than that. White-backed and blue-backed clusters can be swapped and interchanged complete, and should your car have the original grey-backed unit, a later cluster will plug in and work, but it will probably display the original mileage. Don’t confuse these early, grey-backed units with the one from the later 518i, diesels and 520i; these are completely different, so don’t plug in and they have a gunmetal-grey metallic back.

    Larger-engined E34 5 Series models were fitted with the so-called ‘high’ instrument cluster, with digital mileage and OBC functionality. A new circuit board will cost a frankly ridiculous £1,255 (plus VAT).
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    Offering some incredibly exclusive alternatives to the hottest BMWs out there for several decades now, Alpina still acts as an extremely worthy distraction for anyone in the market for a sporty German cruiser.

    GILES RAMSDEN’S ALPINA B10 3.5 / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #Alpina-B10-3.5 / #Alpina-B10-3.5-E34 / #Alpina-B10-E34 / #Alpina-E34 / #Alpina-B10 / #Alpina / #BMW-535i-Alpina-E34

    Giles here was kind enough to share his slice of Alpina perfection with us: this stunning #Island-Green B10 3.5 that took on BMW’s E34 5-Series back in the early ‘90s. “I bought it as a shell on a trolley, along with a couple of boxes of bits, after the previous owner lost interest in it.” Giles explains how he took on this huge, yet clearly extremely rewarding project, just a few short years ago.

    Now back to its former glory, practically every part has been bought fresh from either Alpina or BMW. There’s no denying that luxury charm is present by the bucketload too. This one contains touches like signature gold stripes and a sumptuous leather interior. Of course, there's also the re-worked version of the #BMW-M30 #straight-six engine that Alpina took out of #BMW-535i-E34 .

    Only 572 of these super-saloons were ever produced worldwide, so it’s great to see another example brought back from the brink. Top work for saving another modern classic icon from the scrapper!

    TOP MODS: Full nut-and-bolt bare-shell restoration in original Island Green colour, genuine Alpina badging and stripes, original Silver Grey leather interior, #Bilstein shocks and #Eibach springs.
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    LIGHTS AND BRAKES #BMW-E34 / #BMW-535i / #BMW-535i-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW

    My E34 535, which I’ve had for many years, is now not showing the service interval lights properly. Currently, one green comes up, but there was no reaction when I tried to reset them with the tool.

    The Haynes manual warns that the battery may leak and cause problems. I’m probably lucky that it hasn’t already happened! Anyway, have you got a source for a replacement light module?

    One other thing. During last year’s MoT, the tester had a problem to get sufficient handbrake effort; he managed it, but only just. Later, I removed the discs to examine the installations and, actually, they both seemed to be quite alright. So I cleaned-up the handbrake drums and the linings just to be sure, then re-assembled everything.

    On the road the brakes didn’t feel much different. However, I do have the #Autocar issue from May 25, #1988 , which includes the 535 road test. In that, the brake test shows 26% for the handbrake and a braking distance of 116 feet from 30mph.

    So, I’m wondering if there’s anything sensible that I could do to improve matters? I’d hate to see the old girl get grounded for this.
    • The E34 doesn’t have batteries in the SI board, but the green lights can fail with age. New circuit boards from BMW are an insane price (£2000+) so, iThe E34 doesn’t have batteries in the SI board, but the green lights can fail with age. New circuit boards from BMW are an insane price (£2000+) so, in my opinion, the best thing to do is simply leave it alone, especially if the rest of it still works.

      Handbrakes will need new shoes and clips, plus new drums, if they’re going to work properly. Correct adjustment is also very important, and entails fully slackening-off at the handbrake lever inside the car, and setting it up on the rear discs/drums, before adjusting on the lever to finish it off.
        More ...
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    / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-540i-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-525iX-E34 / #BMW-525iX / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #1994-BMW-525i-SE-Auto-E34 / #BMW-525i-SE-Auto-E34 / #1995-BMW-540i-LE-E34


    When the trade applies the words ‘price on request’ to their adverts it tells us two things – first they’re shy of advertising a price because they’re feeling the market, and second, values of that model are on the rise.

    Have a look at prices of BMW’s #1988 to #1996 E34 5 Series – M5s have gone ballistic, but all E34s are moving up across the range with dealers pitching good ones bullishly. But before the supply of low-mileage survivors gets soaked up it’s worth seeing what’s out there at sensible money.

    A private seller in Wigan has a ’1990 525i SE auto in Granite with 50k and two owners for £2800 while another in Essex has a ’1991 520i SE auto in Island Green with 51k, unused spare and toolkit for £3800. These prices don’t feel heavy for such low-mileage specimens. And neither does the £7995 being asked by Auto Classics in Kettering for a ’1994 525i SE auto in Calypso with a mere 21,000 miles, #FBMWSH and in ‘time warp’ condition.

    Go for the big engines and high specs and remember that the Tourings are more coveted than saloons. Picks of the range are the ’1992-on BMW-540i V8 manual (3203 built), the 1995 540i LE with its M5 interior, six-speed manual and Servotronic steering (300 made) and 540 M Sport (200 built).

    The Ercole Spada and J Mays designed E34 was a game-changer for Munich and was the first 5 Series to have a V8, an estate body and four-wheel drive on the #BMW-525iX-E34 . It was stiffer and more streamlined than the previous E28. BMW sold more than 1.3 million and it won a slew of best-in-class awards.

    The E34 was the definitive executive saloon of the Nineties and at the top of every middle manager’s company car wish list. Tough and long-lived there are plenty of E34s that have covered 250,000 miles and they’re surprisingly rust resistant with problem areas limited to head gaskets, water pumps, slipping autos, the usual suspension and steering bushes plus issues with sulphur contamination on the Nikasil bore liners – although most were fixed under warranty.

    While there’s a supply of lower-mileage examples still in private hands you could do worse than find a high-spec six or V8 before they get hyped up. Like the Arctic Silver ’ #1995 530i SE manual for sale in Kent for £4250 with 43,000 miles and full history. That one definitely feels like a bargain.

    COST NEW £23k
    VALUE NOW £4000

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    STEFAN BUTLER #BMW-E34 / #BMW-525i-E34 / #BMW-525i / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34

    Stefan’s smart, Orient blue E34 started out life as an SE but since becoming his property is now adorned with front and rear Sport bumpers, with smooth trims, a boot spoiler and replica M5 mirrors. Eibach springs have been partnered with Monroe shocks to deliver a nice drop over a set of staggered 18s, and behind those sit 540i brakes, while Sport anti-roll bars have also been fitted. Inside you’ll find an extended Sport champagne leather interior along with a rear roller blind while under the bonnet there’s an air filter, and a stainless steel exhaust has been fitted along with a set of Ultra Racing tower and lower braces. Stefan says that his future plans include a rear axle and steering box swap plus fitting a set of door blinds.
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    / #1992 / #BMW-E34 / #Alpina-B10-Bi-Turbo / #Alpina-B10-Bi-Turbo-E34 / #BMW-E34-Alpina / #BMW / #Alpina / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-E34-Alpina-B10-Biturbo

    ESTIMATE £30,000 - £40,000

    There’s no getting away from the fact that the B10 Bi-Turbo was the daddy of all the E34s and this example looks like an absolute peach. It’s been in the UK since 2002 and has a low mileage of just 55k (88k km) and has been obviously loved throughout its life and has £15,000-worth of bills in its fi le to prove this. It does have a high estimate, but if you want the best you need to dig deep.
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    CONTINENTAL DRIFT

    It’s become an international sensation but the heart of drifting is in Japan. That’s not to say you have to use a Japanese car, however; you just have to get a little creative… 400HP E34 M5 V8-powered drift 5 Series S62 V8-swapped E34 drift machine. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan.

    Drifting has come a long way from being the sole preserve of mischievous Japanese outlaws sneaking out for touge battles after dark. The sport has spread like wildfire across the globe, consuming everything in its path in a fug of dense tyre smoke. Of course, there are drifters and there are good drifters; any fool can kick a clutch and light up the rears but the true connoisseur has an ingrained knowledge of entry angles, balletic transitions, and all those technical tricks that are earned and learned rather than simply assumed.

    Interestingly, the rise of the modern obsession with drifting neatly overlaps the demise of what archaeologists of the future will probably call ‘the fibreglass body kit era’. The modding fraternity’s enthusiasm for bolting massive, extravagant plastic addenda to humdrum shopping hatchbacks rapidly tailed off when they started seeing footage of big-power RWD cars atomising their tyres at high speed. And the timing of the fall of one phenomenon and the rise of the other is no coincidence. And Jeek Federico, owner of this slightly scary E34, straddles the two scenes rather effectively.

    Now, it’s all very well teaching yourself to drift and honing a few cheeky skills, but it’s not like you can just do it out there on the Queen’s highway. You’ll be tugged by the fuzz in short order. And if you try to hang the tail out at Brands or Silverstone, you’ll be black-flagged straightaway, and probably blacklisted, too. But thankfully there’s a place on these innocent isles where such smoky shenanigans are actively encouraged: Driftland. It’s up there in Lochgelly in Scotland. Oh, and by chance, Jeek just happens to be the owner of the place. Handy, eh?

    Driftland is the UK’s only dedicated drift venue, and it caters to all levels of enthusiasts who prefer to do their driving while looking through the side windows; seasoned veterans are welcome, but Jeek also runs a fleet of 15 or so E36 Drift School cars. Naturally he needs something pretty boisterous for his own car as well, to act as a showcase for all the place offers. And that’s where this E34 comes in. “I was looking for something to replace my E39 540i drift car that I’d owned for years,” he recalls. “I tried a few different Japanese models but hated them all. I’d known of this particular car for quite a few years and it came up for sale at just the right time; it had all the best bits of a big V8 German beauty that I loved, mixed with the agility and weight of a nimble Japanese car.”

    Aha, you’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Because, you see, this isn’t just a strippedout travelling salesman special – it’s a custom-engineered lightweight with a German heart and a Japanese soul. The front end of the car is pretty much all Nissan S14 200SX, converted to run a JDM steering rack rather than the heavy old steering box. And the commitment to weight saving throughout the car is extensive and farreaching; even the single-wiper conversion runs an E46 Compact motor to shave off a few grams.

    But don’t go wringing your hands just yet. It’s not all Japanese. Take a look at what’s going on under the bonnet, for example: the eagle-eyed and nerdy of engine code will have recognised this as an S62B50 – the hyperactively enhanced variant of the solid-as- a-rock M62 that you’d usually find under the bonnet of an E39 M5 (or, for those of a more exotic persuasion, the retro-futurist Z8 – y’know, the car James Bond sawed in half in that questionable 007 movie). This is a mighty motor, offering 400hp in factory tune; it’s got eight individual throttle bodies, hollow camshafts, and it’s just peachy.

    “These engines don’t need a lot of modification,” Jeek assures us. “I’m running Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds and an Alpha N map with MAF delete but, aside from that, it hasn’t been messed with and it makes a solid 401hp.” He’s got it running through a five-speed manual ’box with a super-lightweight flywheel (this isn’t like a lazy, rumbling American V8, it’s an eager revver), while a Helix paddle-clutch makes short work of those fourth gear clutch kicks.

    As you might imagine, the chassis that underpins all of this culture-clash fury is a bit of a mixed bag – part German, part Japanese, but all awesome. “The brakes are from an R33 Nissan Skyline at the front,” Jeek explains, “along with an E36 M3 Evo pedalbox and cylinder. The rear end is all E34 540i – it’s running zero camber to give perfect tyre wear and maximum grip from those 265/35s at 15psi.” Custom Apex coilovers suspend the thing, and you’ll find a variety of oriental flavours in the mix, too, from the likes of Tein and Doritech among others. The overriding theory behind the build is to ensure that every element of the car is focused on doing its job correctly; there’s nothing superfluous here, it’s all just hell-bent on destroying tyres in the most aesthetically alluring way possible. “The plan with it was always just to have fun, wreck tyres, and do huge top-of-fourth-gear smoky skids, all while advertising my business,” laughs Jeek. And his sense of fun is palpable throughout the E34. Sure, it’s aggressive and mean, but it’s also a little bit mischievous.

    The choice of wheels presented a bit of head-scratching, not least because the car’s running different PCDs on either axle: 5x114 front and 5x120 rear. “I have always been a fan of dish and width,” he says. “My old E39 ran 10”-wide Rondels all-round, so the new car’s wheels had to be beefy specs, as well as being easily replaceable in the event of one getting damaged. I opted for the STYLE49 wheels from 7Twenty, in 10x17” on the front and 10.5x18” on the rear.”

    They certainly complement the gorgeous paintwork very well. If the colour’s left you scrabbling through your memory banks of all the paint codes, it’s actually a Citroën shade named Whisper Purple. “I originally bought the car from my mate at Jankes BMW Spares,” says Jeek. “It was high off the ground, had crap wheels, and a terrible paint and sticker scheme. I had the body and paint all sorted out by the good guys at Toole Design. Along with the paintwork, the car was lowered and received a set of side skirts and a 1980s Zender splitter. The paint’s definitely my favourite thing that’s been done, as it looked rubbish before.”

    While the look may be pin-sharp and ready to mingle with the heavies, it’s important to remember that this E34’s real party piece is its extraordinarily light weight. “It weighs just 1150kg wet,” Jeek explains. “To put that in context, that’s about the same as a new Fiesta.” Just absorb that fact for a moment: imagine a new Fiesta with 400hp, then consider the fact that they’re not even rear-wheel drive… the dedication to weight saving has been relentless and ruthless here.


    “The theme for the interior was, quite simply, race car,” he grins. “There’s nothing in there that the car doesn’t need. That steering wheel is actually a genuine carbonfibre item from one of Ken Block’s M-Sport Focus rally cars. There’s also a pair of Motordrive seats with Driftland-branded harnesses (because sometimes you need to scare a passenger), a hydraulic handbrake, extinguishers, and that’s pretty much it.”

    Which, of course, is just as it should be. The base car was a non-sunroof 530i but there’s not a whole lot of that left here now, aside from the essential silhouette. The attention to detail stretches way into the recesses that you wouldn’t spot, too. All the underseal has been scraped from the underneath, which has been painted grey, while the insides are a complementary grey and blue. Everything about the car screams purpose, but at the same time it’s a very considered build. The perfect tool, in fact, for advertising Driftland.

    Is it the ultimate BMW drift car, then? Has Jeek nailed it this time? “Ah, I don’t know,” he considers, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “I often think about what the next car might be, but I’m not sure what could be better – this engine in a 1M shell maybe? Or maybe some V10 M60 goodness?”

    It’s a moot point for now, however, as this shouty workhouse is a harsh taskmaster. “It got quite crashed up this year, so it’ll be getting some fibreglass rear quarters made up, and at the same time the car might end up a different colour, as well as going a little lower,” he confirms. “And, hey, if money were no object, a flat-shift sequential and a supercharger would be nice.” Well, if this E34 is as effective an advert as it is a drift car, those dreams may well be coming true before long.

    The plan was always to have fun, wreck tyres and do huge skids, all while advertising my business.

    Interior has been stripped-out and fitted with a Huxley Motorsport roll-cage plus a pair of Motordrive seats

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-S62 / #BMW-V8 Drift / #BMW-E34 / #BMW / #7Twenty / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series-Drift / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-E34-S62 / #BMW-E34-V8 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-E34-Drift

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre #V8 #S62B50 / #S62 , #Alpha-N map, new shells, Huxley Motorsport exhaust manifolds, #Doritech exhaust system (with V-bands for quick removal), #TTV-Racing lightweight single-mass flywheel with custom paddle and #Motorsport-Helix cover plate, 35-litre alloy tank underneath rear floorpan with #Bosch-044 pump and pressure gauge in bay, five-speed #ZF gearbox, 3.23 welded diff

    CHASSIS 10x17” 5x114 (front) and 10.5x18” 5x120 (rear) #7Twenty-STYLE49 wheels, #Nissan-GTS 320mm fourpot front calipers with ventilated discs, 540i rear calipers with ventilated discs, rear subframe reinforced with adjustable camber and toe, #Powerflex bushes, front subframe modified to use Nissan steering rack, bottom #Nissan arms, front Nissan knuckles with adaptors to use #BMW wheels, #Doritech knuckles for extra lock, #Tein tie rods, #GKT-Tech castor arms and GKT Tech lower arms, hydraulic handbrake with 0.650 Wilwood pump, #Apex custom coilovers – 10/8kg damping adjustable

    EXTERIOR E34 530i non-sunroof shell, Citroën Whisper Purple paint, underside painted grey, inside painted grey/blue, side skirts, #Zender splitter from the 1980s

    INTERIOR #Huxley-Motorsport roll-cage with extension to front turrets, #M-Sport/Ken Block carbon fibre steering wheel, E34 #BMW-M5-E34 instrument cluster and kick plates, #Motordrive seats, #Driftland harnesses, Coolerworks gearshifter, power steering cooler, #Lexan windows, flocked dash, M3 Evo servo and pedalbox, extra gauges for oil/water temperature/oil pressure/fuel, flick switches, custom wiring with fuse/relay panel, single wiper conversion running E46 Compact motor, #Zero-2000 plumbed-in extinguisher, 1kg hand-held fire extinguisher, small battery with fibreglass box and cut-off switch
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    THE REVENANT SLICK E34 540i Stunning classic Five

    Back once again with another of his greatest hits, this stellar 540i is the latest hot Beemer from… ah, but that’d be telling, wouldn’t it? Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Henry Phull @ Slam Sanctuary

    Gorgeous E34 540i

    “The strangest part about being famous is that you don’t get to give first impressions any more. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.”

    Kristen Stewart said that, and she knows a thing or two about being recognised on the street. When you become well known in any given field, it’s impossible to stop your personified reputation from strutting ahead of you, thereafter colouring all of your future achievements with the rainbow-like splendour (or, conversely, bilious taint) of all that you’ve done before. It’s subjective, of course, but when you see Tom Cruise appear in a new movie, do you take him at face value or does your brain start wondering idly about scientology? Yeah, precedent is a dangerous thing. So we’re not going to tell you who owns this car. We’ll let you judge it for what it is.

    So, since we have no weight of precedent to bother us, the first thing that lures us in is that cheeky registration number. ‘U AS5’? Well, thanks a lot. But yes, perhaps it’s an appropriate snap judgement of the average bystander’s character, because a lot of people who tangentially know what they’re talking about will see a tidy E34 like this and immediately say: “Shame, it’s not an M5.” And that’s a mistake. Because the 540i is a phenomenal machine, and in certain arguable respects superior to (or at least more desirable to some than) the celebrated M super-saloon. Particularly when it has a rare-as- hen’s-teeth six-speed manual gearbox, as this one does. And, of course, while the 540i yields 50hp-ish to the M5, it does come packing a rumbling V8 rather than a straightsix.

    If a bent-eight torque-fest is what keeps you up all night, this is the E34 for you. It’s certainly the E34 of choice for our mystery protagonist. Indeed, it’s not the first one he’s owned; the last one became an engine donor for his E30 V8 project, with the rest of the car being broken up for parts and scattered to the winds – and this is clearly a state of affairs that’s rankled with him ever since. A combination of factors ranging from the implacable pang of yearning for a lost car to the spiralling values and increasing scarcity of one of Europe’s great V8, manual-’boxed cruisers meant that his keenness to find another one was pretty strong. Indeed, he was fairly dogged and single-minded in his pursuit – having set his sights on a bona fide 540i/6, there was little that could get in his way. Even such trifles as geography and language couldn’t put up any sort of barrier.

    After scouring the UK market to no avail, stumbling through boneyards of knackered 5 Series with little excitement to offer, our shadowy hero cast his sights and his nets further afield, and eventually turned up a likely-looking candidate in Poland. Okay, so he doesn’t speak Polish, but that wasn’t a problem: he merely deputised somebody who could speak the language to fly out there, check it out, arrange the purchase and drive it back to the UK. Like you do.

    Sounding improbable? Well, that’s just the fairytale world that this master of secrecy inhabits. After all, the 540i now finds itself sharing driveway space with, among others, a Lamborghini Diablo, a Ferrari Testarossa, and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Why should this scenario be more unusual than any other day in his whimsical life?

    Now, if you or I were to attempt such a manoeuvre, we’d inevitably end up with some sort of colossal heap parked on the drive, having paid top dollar for a cut-and-shut 518i with a last-minute paint job. But no, that sort of thing doesn’t happen to this guy. What he landed was actually a catch, its Polish owner having clearly expended a decent wedge on its upkeep, sitting it on a set of 18” RH splits and retrimming the whole interior in black leather – including the fancy front seats which, if you’re a particular sort of BMW nerd, you may recognise as the Recaros from the Winkelhock Edition M5, of which just 51 were built. Pretty neat selling point, that.

    It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, though. The universe isn’t that kind. While the aesthetics were tip-top and the spec was just-so, the chassis was a baggy. Bushes had been allowed to wither, suspension components were showing their age, it all needed a refresh. So that’s exactly what our man did. And no half-measures either – the suspension was handed into the loving embrace of BC Racing, who decked the 540i out in its sublimely fetching ‘Extra Low’ BR Series coilovers, imbuing the OEM+ aesthetic with a certain rakish aggression.

    It’s the sort of car you’d expect to see ferrying miscreants about in 1990s car chase movies, all slab-sided imposition and lowslung menace. And then, of course, it was time to address the area that many consider to be the most important… the wheels. The genius of what lies beneath this E34’s arches is in their relative stealth. To the uninitiated, they’re just a set of standard BMW wheels. To those with a little knowledge, the owner appears to have swapped on a set of M5 Throwing Stars. But when you learn the truth, you’ll appreciate just how deep the mystery spirals…

    It all started with a chap in the US by the name of Rimal Chand. Around about the time our E34 owner was sizing up his wheel options, Rimal was sharing a few pictures online of some custom split-rims he’d made using M-System Throwing Stars and 8 Series Turbines, and this was something that really caught his eye. With barely a pause, he’d made contact with Rimal and requested a set of his very own one-off Throwing Star faces to be fabricated and shipped to SS Autowerks in the UK, to be built up and fitted to the 540i. The finished result is a set of 18” wheels – 9.5” wide at the front, 11” out back – which few would suspect as being anything particularly special. But to those in the know, they’re the product of some sort of celestial master of the craft. In effect, the wheels imbue the build with the ultimate in OEM+ chic; to 95% of people this is simply a clean old 5 Series. To those who know what they’re looking at, however, this car is something very alluring indeed. The numerous other subtle upgrades – the smoked lights, the Heckblende (y’know, that reflective thingy across the boot), the rumbling exhaust system – somehow merely accentuate the subtlety of it all. This really is a cerebral and considered project.

    Oh, and the name behind it? Okay, some of you will have guessed. This car belongs to noted retro BMW egghead Nick Sahota – he of the ‘PUR35T’ bagged orange E30 M3, among many others. But if we’d told you that at the start, none of the fastidious attention to detail or excellence-at-all-costs motif would have come as a surprise. As Robert De Niro once said: “The hardest thing about being famous is that people are always nice to you.” But Nick doesn’t need your preconceptions to form any sort of back-slapping judgement – much like every other car in his collection, this 540i speaks entirely for itself.

    “To those who know what they’re looking at, this car is very alluring indeed”

    “This really is a cerebral and considered project”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E34 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-V8 / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #M60B40 / #M60 / #BMW-M60 , custom #Hard-Knocks-Speed-Shop stainless steel exhaust system, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 11x18” (rear) #M5-M-System-II-Style-21#Throwing-Star ’ alloys converted to split-rims with 225/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) tyres, #BC-Racing ‘Extra Low’ #BC-Racing-BR Series coilovers

    EXTERIOR E34 Heckblende, smoked Hella headlights and tail-lights

    INTERIOR #Winkelhock-Edition-M5-Recaro seats, full black leather retrim including dash, black headlining
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    / #1988 / #BMW-E34 / #BMW-Alpina-B10 / #Alpina-B10-E34 / #Alpina-B10 / #Alpina / #Alpina-E34 / #BMW-Alpina / #BMW-E34-Alpina / #BMW / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-5-Series-Alpina / #Alpina-B10-3.5-E34

    ESTIMATE £6000-£8000

    Sitting somewhere between a standard E34 535i and an M5 or Alpina B10 Bi-Turbo lies the naturally-aspirated B10 and this looks like a nice example with 125k miles on the clock and one owner for the past 13 years. It’s just passed an MoT with no advisories so should be in fine fettle. £6-£8k looks like value for money, but it was on the Damaged on Condition Report in 1993, though it’s not listed on the HPI register. Perhaps a fine way into the rarer side of E34 ownership.
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    The Last Hurrah Road test SA M5 E34 / #BMW-M5 / #BMW-M5-E34 / #BMW-M5-SA / #BMW-M5-SA-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW-SA / / #BMW / #BMW-South-Africa

    We go for a blast in two South African-built E34 M5s to see if they vary from the Euro versions.

    The last BMW-5-Series to be produced at the Rosslyn plant in South Africa was the E34 and the last of the E34s to be made there was the mighty M5. We profile a pair of 3.6-litre examples Words: Johann Venter. Photography: Mahomed Abdulla.

    Over the years BMW Car has covered many of the unique BMW models developed for the South African market. If memory serves me correctly the E12 530 MLE was the first South African model to be featured (in the November 2007 issue) and deputy editor Sebastian de Latour paid us a visit in 2012 to sample several models all unique to the SA market and a few other specialties in-between. His report back from his expedition culminated in eight features to the delight of all BMW enthusiasts in SA.

    Resident editor, Bob Harper, has also had the pleasure of sampling our South African fare, enjoying an immaculate, uniquely South African Henna red E28 M5 one afternoon in Sussex, revealing all in the October 2014 issue. The car in question was chassis number 17 and most written sources – including those on the internet – indicate that 96 of these machines were built in SA, although my BMW contacts insist that in fact 150 were made – a debate for another day…

    It is therefore fitting to have a look at the last M car to roll off the Rosslyn production line; the E34 also being the last 5 Series to be manufactured at the plant. Out of approximately 12,250 M5s that were assembled by hand by teams of technicians at the Garching facility in Germany, from E34 535i bodies shipped from the Dingolfing factory, 265 were assembled at the Rosslyn plant by hand from Complete Knock Down (CKD) kits. According to BMW folklore, Garching was under such pressure that some of the M5s were actually assembled at Dingolfing.

    BMW had significantly increased production over the previous M5, of which only 2241 were produced. In fact, BMW’s hand was forced to build the first M5 by its more influential customers, initially it thought it could get away with appeasing a select few. The E34 M5 was quite a different story. Production was increased and lengthened due to the various special editions which included the following: 22 Ceccotto editions, 51 Winkelhock editions, 20 20th anniversary Motorsport editions, 15 Naghi editions for the Saudi Arabian market, 50 Limited Editions signifying the end of the right-hand drive production for the UK and 20 Italian dealer specials, the ‘Elekta’ Touring models.

    Although production of the M5 started in September 1988 in Garching, South Africa was once again lagging behind. Assembly got underway two years later in September 1990 and was short-lived, ending in March 1993. Traditionally 5 Series production had always lagged behind its German counterparts with the E12 starting in 1974 (compared to 1972 for Germany) while the E28 kicked off in South Africa in January 1985 three-and-a-half years after the German start of production in 1981. By December 1991 the world was ready for a feistier M5 in the form of the 3.8-litre model, which even included a Touring, with a limited run of 891 units. All of the world that is, except North America and South Africa, instead enthusiasts here were pacified with the E34 540i six-speed manual, more on that later.


    First let us get acquainted with these two stunning examples and see how they stack up against their European counterparts. The Glacier metallic blue is a very early example, chassis number 19, originally sold by BMW – JSN Motors on 4 February 1991. The service manual reveals the JSN address as Anderson Street in downtown Johannesburg – at one stage there were up to three BMW dealerships in the city centre, today there is only one. Chris Theron is the fourth owner, yet the odometer only shows 64,500km (40,100 miles).

    Chassis number 214 in Ice white was registered in March 1993, making it one of the last 50 to be produced. It belongs to Andy Ackerman, again he is the fourth owner. With 267,000km (165,900 miles) on the clock, it has enjoyed the life of a gypsy on both the east and west coast of SA and returned to the Highveld in 2012 when Andy acquired it.


    From the exterior these cars look identical to those produced at Garching, with a 20mm lowered suspension and a minimalistic M Technik aero kit which comprises of a front air-dam, side skirts and rear diffuser, all painted in a contrasting Diamond black metallic. The Ice white M5 has retained the original M-System I ‘Turbine’ wheel, designed in BMW’s wind tunnel to increase airflow by 25 per cent, allowing for better cooling of the brakes. These wheels are a bone of contention as they create a whitewall effect, though I personally think it is an innate part of what makes the M5 such an icon.

    The M-System II ‘Throwing Star’ wheel only became an option in the last three months of production in 1993 and they enhance Glacier blue colour of Chris’s M5. Buyers in SA had very few options, but like the previous generation M5, local cars came virtually fully spec’d, which included an extended Nappa leather interior, with unique leather doorcards. The only anomaly is the cheap carpeting used in the boot. One of the few factory options available was the boot spoiler, fitted to the white M5. Not a box I’d have ticked, as I think it interferes with the clean lines and rids the car of the ‘sleeper’ effect.

    There are, however, some notable differences between the SA cars and those produced for the European markets. In the early ‘90s emission regulations were not as well enforced globally; local cars were not fitted with a catalytic converter (with lambda sensor). This also applied to the Middle East and South East Asia. Significantly the latter M5s were developed with a lower compression ratio of 9.2:1, whereas the SA cars had the same compression ratio as those in Europe: 10.0:1. The auxiliary air pump is also not connected, it is simply used as an ‘idler’ to tension the AC belt. Local cars were also not fitted with a sump guard, only the splash cover.

    Underneath the bonnet, though, is where it matters most – the SA M5 has the identical 3.6-litre S38 B36 motor as found in European cars. The engine is a refinement of the M88 24-valve in-line six-cylinder, as found in the previous M5, with capacity up to 3533cc. With an improved Bosch Motronic 1.2 engine management system, providing better management of the air and fuel mixture and electronically controlled butterfly valves in the inlet manifold, the engine is able to develop 315hp (232kW) and 266lb ft (360Nm) of torque. Further enhancements included a new forged steel crankshaft, improved camshafts, flywheel and equal length stainless steel headers all of which upped the compression ratio. The M5 set a time of 6.4 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, tapping out at an electronically limited 250km/h.

    Before I get behind the wheel it’s worth having a look back at how local Car magazine summed up the M5 back when it was new: “The M5 is really an impressive car which sets new sports sedan standards in terms of performance, ride, road-holding and comfort. Not a car for those who are not keen on driver involvement, but certainly one for the enthusiast who knows what he wants, in all likelihood the best sports sedan in the world.”

    The Ice white M5 is a very tidy specimen, with even the self-leveling suspension still intact, Andy points out that the engine has been completely rebuilt. Engage the ignition and you are greeted by a throaty roar, definitely giving off more bass than I am expecting. It is revealed that the centre resonator has been removed. The sound is fantastic and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Thanks to these Sport seats I am able to get down really low in the cockpit and the side bolsters offer superb support.

    As I amble along a narrow lane to connect to the freeway, it gives me time to observe my Germanic surroundings. Everything is still in working order; these cockpits were built to withstand a nuclear catastrophe. Once on the open road I ignite the fuse under my right foot and this ’bahnstormer comes alive. The engine pulls freely to the redline, spinning with the intensity of a Singer sewing machine. The noise from the exhaust building into an exploding crescendo, so ferocious, it tingles your spine.

    Gear changes are very precise, the shifts are short and tight, exactly what is needed at these unlawful speeds. At a 160km/h I overshoot the turn-in to the B-road where my arrest for enjoying this M5 is less likely to happen. The B-road is peppered with patch work and the gradient on either side of the white line rather steep. My best option is to use the middle of the road – for the next 4km I have a clear line of sight, then the road banks sharply to the right.

    The M5 handles the patch work with ease, soaking up the uneven surface, yet still maintaining a straight line and all the while I am pressing into the redline.

    All too soon the bend is upon me and I veer to the left to avoid whatever is coming my way. Once through the bend the accelerator is given the full might of my right foot. Hurtling through the countryside at a rate of knots meant for the autobahn, I spot a sleeping policeman just in the nick of time, and I press my foot heavy on the brake. The stopping power of the M5 is still phenomenal; ABS comes to the rescue, preventing the car careening off the road.

    The country road has meandered into suburbia, time to return the M5 whilst still intact. As I reluctantly hand back the keys to Andy, he explains that the gear linkage mechanism has been overhauled and that the bushes have been replaced with bearings. An upgrade worth doing, as gear shifts are now very slick.

    On to the Glacier blue M5 then. I am yet to come across a cleaner example and doubt whether there is another on the Continent to rival it. I am mesmerised by this car, I could stare at it all day, it has such a hypnotic effect on me. Factory fresh, is a term often bantered about, but this road going M5 deserves a new term – even the inside of wheel arches, engine and undercarriage look brand new. Lifting the handle on the driver door; it gives off a solid thud as the latch mechanism releases, inside the smell of new leather permeates throughout the cabin. Firing up the engine there is that initial high pitch and then it settles into that familiar M5 low growl.


    I follow the same route as I did before, first getting familiar with my surroundings as I follow the narrow lane. Everything in this car looks and feels brand-new and the engine feels tight, like it is still being run-in. Onto the freeway and once again the hammer comes down. At about 4000rpm things really start to happen and the M5 accelerates into the redline before you can blink. With the accelerator at full tilt the resonance flap inside the plenum chamber opens at 4120rpm and remains open until 6720rpm, which brings about the intoxicating ‘warp speed’ effect. Onto the patch work of Tarmac and this M5 feels even more solid.

    There are no rattles or squeaks just the wailing sound of the engine and the cacophony from behind. This time round I’m not caught out by the sleeping policeman, but like before I need to turn around once I reach suburbia to entrust this icon to its rightful owner. It’s been an enthralling morning, I can only imagine what it must be like behind the wheel of the final 3.8-litre incarnation of the M5.

    It’s unclear why the 3.8-litre M5 wasn’t available in SA, instead a 540i six-speed manual dressed up as a M5 3.8-litre was offered from September 1995.

    Production ended in January 1996 and only 72 units were produced at the Rosslyn plant. BMW Motorsport aficionados in SA were once again offered a fully kitted-out E34 range topper which included an M5 body kit including boot spoiler; M-System II ‘Throwing Star’ wheels; extended Nappa leather (with the MColour stripe inserts); M Sport steering wheel; sunroof; rear sun blind; car phone and ESP.

    The 540i even came standard with stiffer springs and uprated dampers and somehow the cheap carpeting in the boot didn’t get left behind. Enthusiasts however were disappointed that electronic damper control, the illuminated gear-shift, M steering rack and brakes were not options.

    There is the argument that Jaguar started the age of the fast saloon with the Mk2 in the ‘60s – the infamous getaway car among British robbers. BMW, however, gave rise to the age of the Super Saloon with the introduction of the E28 M5, a title which is still relevant with the current F10 M5. Since its inception the M5 has kept a few Italians and I suspect even more Germans up at night. Unfortunately, the production of these Super Saloons at the Rosslyn plant has long ended; in fact, from 2018 the plant will no longer produce the mid-size sporting compact saloon in the form of the 3 Series – instead it is tooling up for the production of the X3. It is indeed the end of an era.

    THANKS TO: Ron Silke

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-E34 / #BMW-M5-3.6 / #BMW-M5-3.6-E34 /
    ENGINE: #S38 / #BMW-S38 straight-six, DOHC, 24-valve
    CAPACITY: 3535cc
    BORE/STROKE: 93.4/86mm
    COMPRESSION RATIO: 10.0:1
    MAX POWER: 315hp @ 6900rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 266lb ft @ 4750rpm
    0-62MPH: 6.4 seconds
    STANDING KILOMETRE: 26.0 seconds
    50-75MPG (FOURTH GEAR): 7.6 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 23.8mpg
    WEIGHT: 1670kg
    NUMBER MADE: 834
    • Another correction Whoops, we seem to be making a habit of this! In the September issue, in the Last Hurrah feature, we stated that the E34 M5 was thAnother correction

      Whoops, we seem to be making a habit of this! In the September issue, in the Last Hurrah feature, we stated that the E34 M5 was the last M car produced at the Rosslyn plant in South Africa. This is, in fact, incorrect: the E36 M3 was the last M car to be assembled at the plant, production started in the third quarter of 1993 and ended by mid-1994. Thereafter M3s were directly imported from Germany. The M3 four-door Saloon, however, was manufactured at the Rosslyn plant, starting in the third quarter of 1997, with production ending in the latter part of 1998. Apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
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