Piston Slap: E39 M5, Labor of Lust?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Still The Ultimate...

Jul writes:

Hey Man, I’d like to have your opinion: What do you think of the E39 M5?

Let me rephrase: What would you think about a 98000 miles absolutely mint condition, owned by an older gentleman with 3 or 4 other cars (the E39 not being his daily driver), with VANOS changed, clutch changed, and everything that could break down been changed as a preventive measure, E39 M5? … For $15K?

Wondering if I would treat myself to a potential money pit here buying this beast (that I already test drove, I’m in Love) knowing that I will not be driving it more than…5000 miles a year for the next two years MAX!


Sajeev answers:

I gotta say, E39 M5s are still the best super sedan on the planet. Sure they aren’t the top performer and lack the necessary gadgetry to spank today’s overstyled iron, but the driving experience is purer in the best BMW sedan ever made. The only flaw was the numb steering on-center. Which I quickly overlooked to fall in love with the rest of the package: I drove the finest E39 M5 (Sterling Gray with Caramel Leather) in 2002 and…well…that car completely changed my life.

Go ahead and buy it, but have about $5000 lying around for the next two years, because you could very well use it. Anything with rubber can and will fail at this age: go price a new power steering hose and see for yourself. The pixels (that always fail) on the cluster will be another few hundred. Anything that can possibly wear will do just that, even if the car sits around for most of the time. Time is not on its side, this will be a labor of love.

No wait…a labor of lust. I would buy this car, but you have been warned.

Jul answers:

Hey Sajeev,

Thanks a lot for the super quick reply man, really appreciate. As far as your answer I think we’re on the same page, unfortunately, if I want to be serious…I ride my motorcycle 90% of the time to commute but once in a while I need 4 wheels…So I guess the M5 would be driven about 2 days a week average, not enough to sit and wear all the rubber and seal components but still… As far as the pixel on the meter cluster screen they already started, it made me laugh cuz you’re right: They always do!

Oh well… I think I’m going to keep enjoying the bike and my old car and will wait a bit for a sport sedan… It’s not like I REALLY need it at the moment, but I liked entertaining the idea I think.

Sajeev concludes:

I really want you to buy this car, even if common sense demands otherwise. One thing we need to be clear on: rubber degrades just by sitting around…and once you heat cycle it a few times because you want to take the M5 on a few trips….boing! Something fails! And that’s assuming that all the electrics, leather, paint, suspension bits are like new. Which isn’t the smartest idea.

Tell me how this turns out for you.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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2 of 46 comments
  • Sam P Sam P on Sep 20, 2011

    Don't. For $15k get a nice E46 330i with a clutch. I admit my bias. I've owned one for a while and really enjoy it. You might even find a nice 330i ZHP for that price. It's the closest thing to a 4-door M3 in the E46 body. Alpina cams, 6800 rpm redline, and a shorter final drive ratio. C&D review here: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/car/03q3/bmw_330i_with_performance_package-road_test

  • Owenstanley Owenstanley on Sep 20, 2011

    Syke said it so, so well. Live. It really is only money. No fair crying about the cost to run such a magnificent car. The car has ears - it hears what you say. Complain at YOUR peril. The car breaks itself when it's had enough of YOU. Buy this car but don't be THAT GUY!! Then the car will behave. Despite the spreadsheet blues I did buy a 928 more than 5 years ago. It took most of 5 years to get it together and running right but it was actually worth it. The car is sublime. It's a source of pride. It's also the source of 17 m.p.g. which used to be 14 m.p.g. I've also made lifelong friends that I'd never have met if it weren't for this most impractical, most beloved thing. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

  • Tassos Jong-iL The Peninsula of One Korea.
  • Eric No, I just share my opinions. I have no use nor time for rhetoric from any side.
  • Redapple2 Jeez. This is simple. I 75 and 696 area. 1 nobody -NOBODY wants to work in downtown Detritus. 2 close to the tech ctr. Design and Engineering HQ. 20 miles closer to Milford.3 lower taxes for the employees. Lower taxes for Evil GM Vampire.4 2 major expressways give users more options to suburbs. Faster transport.Jeez.
  • Clark The Ring (Nürburgring) is the only race track I've driven on. That was 1985 or 1986 with my '73 Fiat Spider (and my not-so-happy girlfriend). So I made the Karussell (today: Caracciola Karussell, which I believe the author meant; there is another one: Kleines Karussell).
  • AZFelix This article takes me back to racing electric slot cars with friends on tracks laid out in the basement. Periodically your car would stop due to lost connections or from flying off the track and you would have to dash over to it and set it right. In the mean time your competitor would race ahead until faced with a similar problem. It seemed like you were struggling harder to keep from losing than trying to win. Fun times.“History never repeats itself, but it does often rhyme.” Mark Twain