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From digest.v7.n1281 Wed Mar 11 09:56:10 1998
From: Tom Austin <>
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 18:29:20 -0500
Subject: re low cost e34

Andrew T Vincitore writes:

> I am currently looking for an E34 5er. Love to have a 5spd but all
> considered. Sorry can't afford minted out prepped and massaged. $ dictates
> a solid driver with reasonable mileage. _at_ 80-100K.
> Can anyone offer tidbits on E34 idiosycrysies? Checked the FAQs in the
> digest but very little specific E34 stuff. I'm a former owner of a 76 2002
> and 85 528e 5spd. Not in the club now but was for 7 years. Yearning for an
> excuse to rejoin.
> Thanks,
> Andrew Vincitore

I can't claim to be an e34 expert, but I bought an 89 535ia w/ 80 k alost two years ago. Now has 112K. I'll probably get another one in a year or two. Here are my prejudices.

  1. Check out the obvious stuff -- brakes, shocks, exhaust etc. Shocks seem to last around 80 k, exhaust a little longer. Brakes depend on the type of driving. None of this is a big deal, but you could blow $1000 +.
  2. Realistically, you're looking at three engines, early 525's w/ the single cam m20 motor, later dohc m 50 525's (starting in '91), or the big six 535's from 89 to around 92. The M20 the same block as your 528e, but rev's willingly and puts out almost 50 more hp. Many consider it underpowered for the e34, especially with an auto. Keep in mind that the timing belt only lasts around 60k, and if it snaps, it causes MAJOR damage. Otherwise, I like the M20 motor. I don't have much experience with the M50, but have never heard any serious complaints. I love my big six(m30). Lottsa low end torque, but it sings when you wind it up. The basic design has been around since the Dark Ages, so it's pretty bug free. (Mine needed a new head gasket $500-600 at around 100k, which is not uncommon.) I'm still pissed BMW discontinued it for the V-8's which I'd stay away from due to the cost and the cylinder wall problems.
  3. The M20 and M30 used the 4HP22 auto trans (or a stick). These don't seem to last forever. (Mine's still OK). I'd be very wary of a 4HP22 that had not been faithfully serviced. Better yet, find a stick, though they're somewhat rare.
  4. The front end of the e34 is less troublesome than the e28's. Still check out the control arms etc with some care.
  5. The e34 is a great car. A little heavy, but a good alternative to the e-30 and e-36 if you need the space. Good luck.

Tom Austin

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