I feel like I’ve reached the lowest of lows of my search for my next car. What started out as a reasonable search with a list of rather reliable cars has spiraled out of control and landed me face to face with a car that is, to me, the equal of that girl in high school you always wanted, but thought you never had a chance.
The E39 M5.
Granted, I listed the E39 5 Series on my original list I posted here on Oppo, but those were non-M cars. Now, I’m sitting here at 11:15 PM looking at buyers’ guides, reviews, and forum posts learning what I need to know in order to make this decision. How did I even get here?
How did I even get here...?
Well, it all started when we got that CTS-V in last week.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but the first gen CTS-V has been an affordable dream car ever since I totaled my 2003 non-V CTS. It always felt like the logical next step. But, after finding out that this CTS-V in particular was a massive headache waiting to happen, I backed out, thinking that I was just going to bide my time and wait.
While telling my friends about the failure of that CTS-V, one of them dropped the question.
“Why don’t you get an E46?”
I looked at that message on my phone with the most serious look of contempt, confusion, and curiosity. My response was a rather reasonable “Too much to take care of financially.” But then my brain got to thinking about the possibilities of owning E46s and whether or not it’d be plausible. Then a very dim lightbulb went off in my head and I typed my next message.
“If I’m getting an E46, it’d be an M3 before they become completely unobtainable.”
Ahhh, the E46 M3. BMW’s The Wall. I think everyone who’s ever had a drop of enthusiast blood has had a hard-on once in their lifetime for this car. You may have learned about it in magazines or a kid, or drove it for the first time on Need for Speed: Most Wanted during a pizza and Mountain Dew-filled binge on a weekend when you were eleven. I think we all have that moment we first recognized the E46 M3 as the magnificent machine it truly was.
For reference, mine was the reveal of the Competition Package in Motor Trend, displayed in a gorgeous medium blue color.
Nevertheless, instead of the chastising I expected my friends to give me, I instead got a bunch of cheering on. A lot of “Yeah you should go for it”s and “I don’t see why not”s. So I started looking, found a few, cursed when SMGs were listed as “6-speed manuals,” and posted a few prospective buys. Then I decided to post it publicly.
That was a mistake. Or, maybe it really wasn’t.
Another good friend of mine that isn’t involved in these group chats saw my post and immediately made it his prerogative to DM me immediately, practically throwing up “STOP” on a big neon sign. He immediately told me how troublesome an E46 can be, ranging from the obvious VANOS issues to how expensive and difficult some of the underpinnings can be to maintain. I heeded his warnings and the search was over. The last thing he told me was that if I really wanted an M3, that I should go for an E36.
I don’t like the E36. I don’t like it at all.
I think the styling is hideous. The interior is rattly and ugly. I don’t like how BMW neutered it for the American market. Basically, this car, to me, is the biggest total runt of the M car saga, and yet, his recommendation managed to stick in my mind for the strangest reason. The E36 is easier to maintain than a lot of newer BMWs, it is a lot more reliable, and they’re super easy to find. There’s just the nagging feeling that I’m settling for less if I buy it.
But, out of curiosity, I put the word out for people to tell me what they know of the E36. Nothing too harsh, nothing too unmanageable. But then, as is the trend with this story, a member of our group said this to me.
“Look, for the price of the best E36 you can find, you could get a decently maintained E39 M5 and end up with a much, much better car.”
I want to hurt that man for being so right, and for putting more bad ideas in my head.
So, I’ve been reading buyers guides, including one made by internet fan favorite Tavarish, I’ve been looking at forum posts, and I’ve been watching videos by the great guys over at E39Source, and I’m finding myself realizing that maybe the E39 M5 isn’t that hard to take care of after all. Yes, it will be expensive, and yes, certain things will be difficult to take care of, but it’s honestly no different than the Subaru I currently own or the Cadillac before it. And to top it all off, it’s one of my dream cars.
I’m probably insane.
I’m definitely insane. I have seven million psynapses cracking right now telling me no. But my heart is saying yes, and my mouth is saying, “God damn it.”
Besides, I always preferred Dark Side of the Moon anyway.