The E34 is arguably the best-looking 5-series BMW has ever produced. It may even be one of the top ten most elegant four-door designs of the last 50 years. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe 535i could let you get in on all those good looks. We’ll just have to see how attractive its price proves to be.
You know, considering that yesterday’s 1978 Cadillac Seville represented the brand’s first major attempt at a smaller car, it was a bit disappointing that the present-day seller couldn’t see fit to show even one image of the car in its ad that didn’t crop off one or more of its ends.
That cut-rate photography, however, was compensated for by an equally cut-down price tag, and at $3,250, the little-Caddy-that-could took home a pretty sizable 58 percent Nice Price win.
As I had noted yesterday, the Seville was Cadillac’s answer to the Mercedes, Jag and BMW models that were, at the time, changing car buyers’ perceptions about what a luxury automobile should be. There was a level of engagement in the European cars that was totally missing in the domestic competition, something that the Seville acknowledged only by way of a slightly firmer suspension.
Today’s 1991 BMW 535i is only a decade and a half newer than that Seville but it’s most likely head and shoulders above it when it comes to driver engagement. Hell, it even has a clutch pedal and a manual gearbox for all your driving pleasure.
Now, that admittedly is a pretty rare combo for even BMW standards. The seller claims to have heard that only about 600 examples of the E36 535i with both stick shift and an LSD were ever brought to America. That, the ad boasts, makes it second only to the E34 M5 in rarity.
Okay look, we don’t really give a shit about whether it’s one of two cars in this color with that pattern interior and the optional reverse-pattern sisal mats or whatever. The question to ask yourself is this: is this car optioned the way I want it?
In the case of this Bimmer, that answer is likely yes. Along with the posi-pumpkin and 5-speed Getrag 260 arm exerciser, there’s the 3.4-litre, 208 horsepower M30 that lives under the hood. Less powerful than the contemporary 540’s V8, the inline-six is appreciably lighter and gives the E34 a different personality than its big brother. We’ll get into some more details on this particular engine in a minute, but first, let’s look at the rest of the car.
The seller claims that the 157,000-mile 535i has spent most of its life in California and Oregon, having only more recently made the move to the midwest. It now sports a few indicators of both the miles and the states. First among that is the silver paint, which shows substantial peppering on the nose. You’ll also note the obligatory black-painted kidney surrounds while you’re poking around up there. Both hood and boot-lid are said to sport new badges, which is nice and calls attention away from the clear coat fading away on the bumpers below.
The interior—which gloriously is blue throughout—looks to be in terrific shape. Yes, there’s some age showing in the wood trim, but that’s to be expected when it’s real wood. And who doesn’t like real wood?
That, along with an un-cracked dash and pixel-perfect digital displays are among this car’s perks. On the downside, the passenger-side front door won’t lock, the glovebox appears to be for aesthetic appeal only, and there’s seemingly some age showing in the aftermarket and slightly lowered suspension.
On the plus side, the car is said to show evidence of regular maintenance over its life and supposedly has a Dinan chip to add some ponies to the pack.
Yeah, that last one may be something—along with the struts and springs—that a new owner gives the heave-ho as soon as possible. Aftermarket alloys on spacers fill the wheel arches with authority, although the original baskets come with the car and may very well be a better choice when new tires are next called for.
Okay, one thing that the seller notes in the ad—and props to the seller for doing so—is an issue that was discovered with the engine, specifically the cooling system. That, it is claimed, showed signs of stop-leak which if you don’t know, is bad mojo. This isn’t Samcrac and his $20 Range Rover, it’s a car with a present and a future.
The seller says that the cooling system was backflushed and pressure tested to check proper function and that the pump, thermostat, and radiator were replaced to ensure a clean bill of health.
Again, kudos to the seller for mentioning this in the ad. Hopefully, the issue is in the past and the sale is not being driven by a bigger problem having been found in the process of the fix.
With a supposedly clean bill of health and a clear title, the asking price on this 535i with its rare stick and LSD is $6,500. Suffice to say, you’re not going to find an M5 of this era for anywhere near that price. The question for us, however, is whether this particular car could command that much.
What do you think, is this well-kitted 535i worth that $6,500 asking, as it sits? Or, is this a Bimmer with everything, including a premium price?
Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at email@example.com and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.