All this Ronin talk has gotten me thinking about the values of the E34 M5 relative to other German classics these days. Full disclosure: I own a 1990 Euro Spec E34 M5 which has been documented in Oppoland previously.
Been spending lots of time on Bringatrailer lately and it’s crazy what E30 M3s, air-cooled 911s and, recently, E28 M5s are going for these days compared with 10 or even 5 years ago. I started wondering what the next German classic will be and whether the E34 M5 is poised to start appreciating in value. Personally, I think that the E24 M6 is another car that’s gonna shoot up in value soon; they’re lovely cars with fantastic styling and underrated these days.
Not that it matters: im planning on owning this car for the rest of my life possibly and giving it to my son someday but I’m just curious about your thoughts, oppo.
Now my car will never be collectable (not original engine, high mileage, too many upgrades/mods) but I bought it to drive and enjoy, not as an investment. The main selling point for me was the fact that it had a new S38, a 2.5 inch thick binder full of all services, upgrades and parts and that it was only $9500. The mileage is high (282k kms) but with the new engine and the fact that everything has been replaced previously and all weak points were addressed (crank hub, headliner, timing tensioner, SLS delete, etc) it drives like a much newer car and doesn’t feel tired or dated. The M5 isn’t my daily driver: I have a 335xi 6 speed that serves that purpose.
Anyway, here are my thoughts on both why the E34 M5 may see an uptick in future values and why it may not, Pros and Cons style:
PROS (or why it might appreciate in the near future)
• Last hand built M car
• Fantastic build quality
• Last hand built Motorsport engine
• S38 engine traces a direct lineage back to BMW M’s Motorsport activities and racing. Last M5 with a classic BMW straight six that has its origins in the M88 used in the classic M1. Not to mention that the S48 is an amazing engine, both performance/sound wise and looks-wise. I’ve never once popped the hood of my 335xi to just stare at the black plastic-covered N54. But the S38 just looks incredible. See for yourself:
• Fantastic styling - IMO, the ultimate evolution of the classic BMW styling ethos with the four round headlights, narrow kidney grilles, tidy rear end and forward-opening hood
• Generally undervalued at this time, at least relative to classics like the E28 M5 & E30 M3
Fairly Limited production in the U.S. market. Only produced in North America from 1991-1993.
• Relatively simple to work on compared with later models. Not too many electronics or things to go wrong usually.
• Omg. The noise of dat straight six at high revs is amazing!
CONS (Why it might NOT appreciate significantly)
• Cost of parts/maintenance. The cost of an S38 motor is enough to make the most well-heeled enthusiast think twice. I’m fortunate that mine has a new S38 in it with less than 60k miles but older, high mileage ones can lose compression if not well-maintained. The engines also require more maintenance than most modern engines: valve adjustments, special synthetic oil, periodic balancing of the six throttle bodies, allowing the oil to fully warm up before revving it hard, etc.
The SLS suspension parts are also laughably pricey and very difficult to find these days. Thank goodness mine has the SLS deleted. Many parts are NLA or have very limited availability from BMW, including the Turbine wheel covers.
• For daily usage, the M60 V8 plus six speed manual is a much cheaper option if you can find one.
• Limited availability. Both a pro and con. Because the E34 M5 was only offered for a few years here, and was never offered with the 3.8 S38 variant or M5 touring models that Europe got, many people don’t know about it. It didn’t necessarily have the same impact of the original M5 or the mass popularity of the E39 M5.
• No true motorsports heritage like the E30 M3. The M5 was never a factory homologation special like the M3 (though this is true for all generations of M5).
• Performance isn’t a huge improvement over the original due to the E34’s extra pounds and is not on the level of the E39 which can still smoke most modern cars.
• The E34 M5 is kind of the awkward middle child in between the E28 and E39. Seems like it gets forgotten about sometimes when discussing M5s. It’s also probably the most understated looks-wise compared with the E28 and E39. For many though, this is part of the appeal. I still maintain that the E34’s basic design looks better than the E39 or E28 in plain-Jane non-M5 or M-sport guise.
• The car may not be old enough yet to have fully started appreciating. Right most, the E28 and E30 are old enough that those of us who lusted after them are willing to shell out the big bucks to buy a piece of our childhoods. Remember that the E34 chassis was produced right up until 1995 so they’re not as “classic” in some people’s minds. This may change, given a few years.
• Due to the taller gearing and rev-happy nature of the S38, it’s hard to enjoy at legal speeds. I can hit 140 kms in 3rd gear at redline, at which point I’m looking at losing my license. The N54 in my 335xi has way more low end torque and a close ratio 6 speed manual gearbox that’s much easier around town.
• Fuel economy borders on criminal for a daily driver.
• Again, in North America, the 540i with the M60 V8 and a six speed manual makes more sense to many as a daily driver. More torque, less maintenance and much cheaper to replace the engine if something goes wrong.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I’d love to hear yours on the E34 M5 and what you think is the next big German classic that will take off in value. Maybe the Mercedes 500E? Thanks for reading this wall of text