Really, there is no good reason to buy the first BMW 5 series. It’s too old to be modern and it’s too new to be vintage. It does nothing that the classic 1980s second generation doesn’t do better. And yet, now you will want one.
Jalopnik alum Sam Smith wrote this about the little-famed First Five, known to hardcore fans by its BMW-internal chassis code ‘E12.’
The E12 is the only 5-series that I’ve never driven. I’ve worked on them, ridden in them, and pushed them across dingy parking lots, but I’ve never climbed behind the wheel. I even almost bought one once — a rusty, nasty 530i with a leaking head gasket — only to be talked out of it by a friend who pointed out that there were other, smarter things I could do with my time, things like nailing my fingers to a piece of dirty drywall and getting slop-ass drunk in front of public officials.
But as you watch this E12 528, perfectly restored by BMW itself, rotating in some Big Lebowski dream sequence cleanliness, you begin to wonder if it really is a Goldilocks intermediate between the so-new-it’s-boring and the so-old-it’s-hopeless. You see everything unblemished, forgetting the pointlessness and the rarity.
The smart person buys an E28. The emotional person buys a 2002. The mad person buys an E12.