Treb Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 11:45 a.m.

My wife and I are looking at BMWs for DD use. Not too old or beat up, big enough for four. I think that means we're looking at E39s, at least at the moment.

So, two specific questions, and two general questions.

  1. What do you think of this one? I've e-mailed the guy already. It has some damage in the driver's door -- looks like it scraped a parking barrier or something. I would probably want to replace the door. With the need of a door, and the not-great color, would it be worth low-balling the guy? And what would be a suitably low offer?

  2. I remember hearing about a BMW specialist junkyard -- maybe in SC? Who are they, do they have a website, are there better places to go? Trying to figure out what an E39 door would run.

And the general questions:

  1. What's the price range on these, generally? I remember a few months ago there was a thread about E39M5s getting below $20k -- some of them under $15k. Still a bit more than we want to spend at the moment.

  2. What should I look for, or look out for? My only rule, at this point, is that it has to be a manual transmission. Options/packages to look for or avoid? As always, your thoughts and opinions are much appreciated.

Matt

1slowcrx Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 12:02 p.m.

I've owned several E36's and have worked on many a E39...

If it was me, I would hold out for lower miles. Shop around on bf.com, lot's a fan boi's on there but lots of smart people too. For about 2k more you can find a hugely nicer car that's a lot closer to 100k then 200k miles.

All in all though, they are much more simple to work on then you think and with folks like pelican parts and autohausaz parts are pretty cheap. These cars are always very much more reliable then most people say and they are just down right tough!

Good luck and happy hunting.

bludroptop Dork
Dec. 3, 2009 12:02 p.m.

Not sure if this is the one you're thinking of, but I've bought from Vines and been satisfied.

http://www.vinesauto.com/

I kinda like that color.

Treb Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 12:50 p.m.

Yeah, Bimmerforums does seem like there are a lot of fanbois. Some good stuff, too; but the FS section (at least that I've seen) isn't particularly tempting.

Vines may have been the place I'm thinking of -- got some prices from their ebay store. Thanks. The color looks a little more orange in the pictures I've been sent. And metallic. Not my first choice.

Thanks for the responses!

Matt

stuart in mn SuperDork
Dec. 3, 2009 1:32 p.m.

I think the ideal e39 would be a 528i or 530i with the Sport option (and a manual transmission, of course.) Nicer seats and steering wheel, 17" wheels and tires, a better suspension and some M5-ish bodywork. It's not that hard finding a Sport but finding one with a stick can be a little more difficult. Even more difficult is finding one that isn't silver with a mouse grey interior...I guess that's a popular color combination these days but I think they're awfully boring. :)

aussiesmg SuperDork
Dec. 3, 2009 3:38 p.m.

Earlier link, sorry about my ignorance making it difficult to find

http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/opinions-on-e46-m5/6015/page1/

amg_rx7 Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 4:21 p.m.
stuart in mn wrote: I think the ideal e39 would be a 528i or 530i with the Sport option (and a manual transmission, of course.) Nicer seats and steering wheel, 17" wheels and tires, a better suspension and some M5-ish bodywork. It's not that hard finding a Sport but finding one with a stick can be a little more difficult. Even more difficult is finding one that isn't silver with a mouse grey interior...I guess that's a popular color combination these days but I think they're awfully boring. :)

+1

$4k is a pretty decent price but there are a fair bit of miles on it and pull-me-over-red isn't the best color for that car IMO. Check maintenance items - bushings, coolant system etc.

Treb Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 5:51 p.m.
amg_rx7 wrote:
stuart in mn wrote: I think the ideal e39 would be a 528i or 530i with the Sport option (and a manual transmission, of course.) Nicer seats and steering wheel, 17" wheels and tires, a better suspension and some M5-ish bodywork. It's not that hard finding a Sport but finding one with a stick can be a little more difficult. Even more difficult is finding one that isn't silver with a mouse grey interior...I guess that's a popular color combination these days but I think they're awfully boring. :)

+1

$4k is a pretty decent price but there are a fair bit of miles on it and pull-me-over-red isn't the best color for that car IMO. Check maintenance items - bushings, coolant system etc.

Agreed with both of you. The described car sounds about right -- now I just need to find one. I'd be a lot more eager about the car I posted if it were a bit more subdued -- there's a burgundy color I've seen on E39s, just for example.

Thanks for the suggestions, too. Matt

dmidknight
dmidknight New Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 5:59 p.m.

btw, have you confirmed that the initial ad is not a scam? We come across that price point being used in a lot of scams in the Southeast.

02Pilot New Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 7:33 p.m.

That price does seem a bit low all things considered. I like the red, personally, but it is an unusual color for an E39 and not to everyone's taste.

FWIW, I have a 2001 525i 5-speed w/ sport, premium, and cold weather packages. It has been great for the 2+ years I've had it, but as with most BMWs you need to be willing to spend on the preventive maintenance. I bought the car with 100k miles; at 120k miles (as of this afternoon), I've done the complete cooling system, the CCV system (these two are vital to long-term reliability), as well as some more mundane maintenance items and a few common repairs (alternator, hood alarm sensor). They are very easy cars to work on, and totally worth the effort, but if ignored they become expensive very quickly.

nderwater Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 8:00 p.m.

We've been really happy with our E39 530i sedan. There are a number of common faults with these cars - cooling system, valve cover gaskets, window regulators, crappy cup holders - but DIY repairs have proven a lot easier and less expensive than I feared. As a bonus, the E39's are about as responsive to drive as large sedans get.

lesabre400 New Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 8:02 p.m.

I've been looking at these too, Treb.

My V8 roots have me lusting after the 540i, with a manual transmission. The sport package is standard with this combo, I believe.

From what I've read, the V8 isn't the best way to go as far as reliability, cost of maintenance and the purists don't seem to care for them but you can't beat that sound (once you modify the exhaust, that is).

Having said all that, I worked with a guy who bought a 540i brand new, had it for about 10 years and experienced little if any trouble. Said it was the most reliable car he'd ever had and he'd sampled many different brands over the years.

Cooling systems can be an issue (plastic water pump impeller) and I've read about issues with the Double Vanos system needing resealing (symptoms include reduced power, bogging, rough idle, high fuel consumption).

Treb Reader
Dec. 3, 2009 8:05 p.m.

Nice looking car, 02Pilot. I take your point as to maintenance -- that's something I'll look at when buying, and keep in mind when owning. I'm a total DIY-er, and the fact that they have a rep as DIY-able is a big part of the attraction.

dmidnight, not sure if the car is a scam. But it's supposed to be in Lexington, where I live. So if I can't test drive it within a few minutes of my house, I'll call that one a scam and move on.

Matt

petemc53555 New Reader
Dec. 4, 2009 11:11 p.m.

Any thoughts on the self leveling suspension on the E39 wagons? What to look for on a >100K miles example?

mad_machine SuperDork
Dec. 5, 2009 1:52 a.m.

I have to say this.. the E39 was one of the prettiest BMWs every made. It is just the right size, with the right degree of aggression and beauty to make it an instant classic.

dyintorace Dork
Dec. 5, 2009 8:57 a.m.
petemc53555 wrote: Any thoughts on the self leveling suspension on the E39 wagons? What to look for on a >100K miles example?

I wasn't aware that the self leveling suspension made it to the e39 era. I thought it went away with the e34 chassis.

Dec. 5, 2009 9:24 a.m.

Your thread has gotten me thinking about 5 series cars too.

A couple things about the 5 Series, V8s have recirculating ball steering, even the M5 though the ratio is shorter.

Other than that I can't think of anything that would make them less fun than a smaller car. One thought though is do the sport package cars have a limited slip diff?

I really want a Porsche, but because of the family situation (3 kids) a Boxster is out of the question.

I think a 530i with the Sport Package is what I'm going to be looking for. I'm researching now lol.

Dec. 5, 2009 9:34 a.m.

God they are sexy!!!

02Pilot New Reader
Dec. 5, 2009 9:55 a.m.

No limited slip except in the M5.

Dec. 5, 2009 12:07 p.m.

Now you make me wonder how costly a swap would be!!!

More searching...

nderwater Reader
Dec. 5, 2009 12:56 p.m.

I really wish our 530i had lsd. Coming hard out of corners it's either traction control bog or (if disabled) smoking one tire - and neither of those things is fast. This isn't really a big deal for a family car on the street, but just knowing the car has a lot more potential is aggravating.

mad_machine SuperDork
Dec. 5, 2009 1:11 p.m.

They are tempting. Personally, I would stay away from the M5 and 8 cylinder cars. The Maintance is incredible once you get beyond the I6s

VWguyBruce HalfDork
Dec. 5, 2009 1:17 p.m.

I shopped for my E39 for a little over 2 months before I found the right car. Looked at more than a dozen cars and paid for 2 pre-purchase inspections, one winner, one loser. Bimmerforums can produce some nice cars but patience is key, lots of guys selling poorly executed project cars.

I actually scored my car after the owner, a BMW tech, had purchased a 2001 M5 for $16,000 with only 40k miles on it. I ended up with a '97 540i/6 for $7,800 showing 99k miles. PO had installed nearly all M5 parts to the body minus the motor, late model headlights, tails, seats, cluster, sways, Eibach springs, etc. M5 rear end more than makes up for the NON-VANOS motor in the 1997. Later cars with poor fluid service can make for a noisy VANOS pump. Even on the 540 service seems reasonable, I blew out a water pump gasket 2 weeks after I got it, yes a water pump gasket. Not rocket science.

In the end, I ended up with a one of kind car. I was shopping for stock 540i/6's though. PO was happy as heck that it went to an enthusiast. My wife loves it and I flog the crap out of it. I bounce off the rev limiter regularly due to the M5 rear end. This is the first DD of mine that my wife will drive. I see about 18mpg around town and 24mpg on the highway which I find reasonable for a nearly 300hp BMW. I should also note that my car had a "rebuilt" title, didn't scare me since I actually got more of the service records than any of the other cars I looked at.

M bumpers and wheels transform the look of E39's. There's a pic of mine in my what car thread: http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/wrecked-my-e34-need-replacement-opinions/5446/page3/

02Pilot Reader
Dec. 5, 2009 2:02 p.m.

The 540s are tempting now, since they've depreciated even more than comparable I6 cars, but the maintenance costs are higher (water-cooled alternator, anyone?) and they do have some significant issues that cost more than the common failure points on the I6s. The V8s seem to have a pretty consistent problem developing with age wherein the plastic timing chain guides start to come apart. Further, their CCV is mounted inside the front of the engine, requiring quite a bit of disassembly to replace. And of course their cooling systems last even less time than those on the I6 cars; figure 60-80k miles for a V8 vs. ~100k miles for an I6.

VWguyBruce HalfDork
Dec. 5, 2009 2:55 p.m.

Another of the reasons I finally decided on the 97 for the V8. No watercooled alternator or VANOS pump. I shopped hard to find a car that had all of those maintenance items accomplished prior to my purchase. Not scary to work on IMHO, some quirks but "nuts and bolts" on the whole.

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