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CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
4/27/23 10:38 p.m.

I'm almost positive the 530i could be had with a manual. I remember Bimmer magazine (rip) doing an article about it at the time and calling it something like the most BMW BMW.

If it were me, and I wanted an E39 (which I don't, thank god I've been cured of that desire) I'd either want the M5 full monty experience, or the 530i with less (hopefully) maintenance issues.

Run_Away
Run_Away Dork
4/27/23 10:45 p.m.

Personally, I've been eyeing up the idea of 2JZ swapping an E39 530. Or E46. Seems like the right mix of looks, power, and hopefully some improvement in reliability.

 

As for your E39 540 idea, I say go for it. As Keith pointed out, if you buy it correctly you probably won't be losing any money if you decide it's not what you were after.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
4/27/23 11:40 p.m.
z31maniac said:

Motor swap a car with an engine meant for a car that weighs hundreds of pounds less. This will definitely be less of a hassle.

According to Google, an E39 528i is 3200 pounds, whereas the E46 M3 that the S54 came from is 3400... :)

 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
4/28/23 7:00 a.m.
z31maniac said:
Olemiss540 said:

Personally, after owning an M5 and a 540 (both e39), I cant justify the complexity and maintenance issues with either. Give me a 528i with an s54 swap or supercharge the 528i and call it a day. 

Valley pan gaskets, watercooled alternators, hydro steering, cooling systems, valve cover gaskets, control arm bushings, more than I can remember. 

M5 replica front bumper, some decal deletes, and you have a great looking sleeper. Love looking at them just wasnt a big fan of working on them (v8 powered I mean). 

Big car with V8, too much to maintain.

Motor swap a car with an engine meant for a car that weighs hundreds of pounds less. This will definitely be less of a hassle.

 

This is why GRM is great.

You, sir, have apparently never had the pleasure of maintaining an m62.

We are talking arguably BMW's best motor of all time versus one of their worst. We aren't pulling an LS in favor of an aircooled 4 banger here. 

Nathan JansenvanDoorn
Nathan JansenvanDoorn Dork
4/28/23 8:18 a.m.

I loved our e39 530, and bought that as an $800 basket case. Drivetrain was super reliable. Perfect size, quiet, comfortable, and more fun to drive than expected.

I distinctly remember the first e39 M5 I ever saw. I can't say that about very many cars at all. Walking to university, downtown Toronto. It looked and sounded very special. I think I missed the boat on purchasing one, sadly.

Test drove a few auto e39 540i cars years ago, and was disappointed . I expect the manual gearbox would transform it.

calteg
calteg SuperDork
4/28/23 8:43 a.m.
Olemiss540 said:
calteg said:

Put me in the "overhyped" camp. I think the E39 M5 was revolutionary...25 years ago. Now the market is lousy with 400hp + sedans and the M5 has appreciated, there are many cheaper, better options out there 

Maybe, but they became heavy and even more disconnected. 

Also name one that spins your head around as fast as something that looks like this: https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=679358562&allListingType=all-cars&makeCodeList=BMW&modelCodeList=M5&city=Saint%20Louis&state=MO&zip=63101&requestId=2152820002&searchRadius=500&marketExtension=include&endYear=2003&isNewSearch=false&showAccelerateBanner=false&sortBy=relevance&numRecords=25&referrer=%2Fcars-for-sale%2Fall-cars%2Fbmw%2Fm5%2Fsaint-louis-mo%3FrequestId%3D2152820002%26searchRadius%3D500%26zip%3D63101%26marketExtension%3Dinclude%26endYear%3D2003%26isNewSearch%3Dfalse%26showAccelerateBanner%3Dfalse%26sortBy%3Drelevance%26numRecords%3D25&clickType=listing

Now an e28 m5 with 285hp and 3153 lbs and you basically have an e30 m3 mashed into an e39 m5. Love.. :-) E36 m3 sedan with a completely refinished interior may be second place for me. 

The IS-F in my garge does. Heck, I compliment my own car sometimes when I walk out of the store. Also 2nd gen CTS-V, especially if it's a wagon.

My beef isn't with the looks, I think the E39 M5 is the best looking BMW ever produced, and it absolutely nailed the "Navy SEAL in an expensive suit" aesthetic. Nearly every German car I've driven has left me cold, I blame the vagueish shifters for that.

If I want something faster, I have more reliable options. If I want something that fosters a sense of connection, I have more reliable options. I guess I don't see what itch this scratches, especially now that our dollars don't go as far as they used to

rslifkin
rslifkin UberDork
4/28/23 8:59 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:

A friend who is is a BMW fan - he's got a clownshoe with the hot engine - is a big fan of the Sporty Shorty. Basically, a 540i in a 7 series chassis. 740i M Sport short wheelbase. 

I've got one of those E38s short sports and it's basically just a slightly enlarged E39 (well, the E39 is really a shrunken E38).  They're auto only unless you swap one though. 

It's generally all around what I'd consider a good car.  Handling is quite competent (especially after adding camber plates and a bigger front sway bar).  It rides well, it's quiet, it's a great highway cruiser.  You can pretty much use it as a Camry without the car complaining (as long as you keep up with maintenance), but you can push it quite hard for a big, heavy car.  Compared to some, it almost encourages you to drive it hard, as you don't start to feel like you're pushing it until you're actually pushing it a bit.  With the auto and the shorter rear diff in the E38 sports the comfortable pace of acceleration in traffic is rather quick as well, although I wouldn't mind another 50+ hp on the highway (it's not slow, but matting the pedal at 70 to pass doesn't do anything too impressive either). 

And there's a good bit of room for tire under these cars as well.  The E39 doesn't have quite as much room, but the 255/275 combo on my E38 leaves plenty of room to spare.  I could fit the 275s in front and much bigger in back. 

Steering on the V8 E39s and all E38s is a steering box / center link setup and they steer from the back of the knuckles, not the front.  So it's honestly a pretty primitive setup, but it works.  I'd say the feel is decent, but not great.  The E38 steering is a little bit slow for my taste, but an M5 box swap would fix that (it's not quite a bolt in though).  The variable assist on my E38 was flaky when I got it, then died entirely after a few months, but I haven't missed it.  The steering is a bit numb with the snow tires on, but gains a lot more feel with the wider, stiffer summers.  It's a little on the heavy side in parking lots with the summers, but certainly not bad (I've had heavier steering in other vehicles).  Not enough for me to care about fixing the variable assist (which made the steering pretty light at low speed when it was working). 

6 cylinder E39s are rack and pinion and front steer, so they'll feel different steering wise than the V8 cars. 

Gas mileage isn't too bad for what the car is either.  Including road trips, my lifetime average with the E38 is somewhere around 20 mpg.  On long trips, I reliably count on 23 - 24 mpg cruising at 75, and better at lower speeds.  Drop to 65 and it'll return 27-ish.  Non-sports with the 2.93 diff instead of my 3.15 will get about 2 mpg better at any speed on the highway. 

The one big maintenance snag with any of the M62 or M62TU powered cars (540 / 740) are the timing chain guides.  Plan to need to replace them eventually.  Lifespan before failure varies widely though.  Some have gone by 120k, but others go much further.  Mine is still on the original guides at 194k with no signs of an issue yet (knock on wood).  These engines also love to leak oil, but they're otherwise solid. 

I'll also note that the air conditioning in the E38 is the best I've ever experienced in a car.  I've had mine set to 72* while doing 75 on the highway in full sun, outside temp showing 102* and the A/C drawing outside air (not recirc).  Car was comfortable inside and the climate control was only using a little more than 1/2 fan speed to keep the temperature under control. 

And if anyone with an E38 / E39 is interested in ditching the clutch fan for an electric setup, let me know and I'll post a writeup on the conversion I did (works for 99+ E38s and similar year E39s, anything with the M62tu and the PWM controlled aux fan). 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
4/28/23 9:44 a.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
z31maniac said:

Motor swap a car with an engine meant for a car that weighs hundreds of pounds less. This will definitely be less of a hassle.

According to Google, an E39 528i is 3200 pounds, whereas the E46 M3 that the S54 came from is 3400... :)

 

Considering they are talking about a 540 (but why use the car they are actually talking about). 

 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
4/28/23 9:50 a.m.
z31maniac said:
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
z31maniac said:

Motor swap a car with an engine meant for a car that weighs hundreds of pounds less. This will definitely be less of a hassle.

According to Google, an E39 528i is 3200 pounds, whereas the E46 M3 that the S54 came from is 3400... :)

 

Considering they are talking about a 540 (but why use the car they are actually talking about). 

 

Probably because the original comment was to engine swap or supercharge a 528i. Not buy a 540i with the (comparative) crappy circulating ball steering, 6 speed (non compatable) tranny, water cooled alternator, and V8 and swap in a I6 to it. 

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
4/28/23 12:18 p.m.
Olemiss540 said:
z31maniac said:
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
z31maniac said:

Motor swap a car with an engine meant for a car that weighs hundreds of pounds less. This will definitely be less of a hassle.

According to Google, an E39 528i is 3200 pounds, whereas the E46 M3 that the S54 came from is 3400... :)

 

Considering they are talking about a 540 (but why use the car they are actually talking about). 

 

Probably because the original comment was to engine swap or supercharge a 528i. Not buy a 540i with the (comparative) crappy circulating ball steering, 6 speed (non compatable) tranny, water cooled alternator, and V8 and swap in a I6 to it. 

Sorry I just looked at the thread title. Not about my house I hand built or how I'm awesome/terrible at my 9,000 jobs.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
4/28/23 12:48 p.m.
Nathan JansenvanDoorn said:

I loved our e39 530, and bought that as an $800 basket case. Drivetrain was super reliable. Perfect size, quiet, comfortable, and more fun to drive than expected.

I distinctly remember the first e39 M5 I ever saw. I can't say that about very many cars at all. Walking to university, downtown Toronto. It looked and sounded very special. I think I missed the boat on purchasing one, sadly.

Test drove a few auto e39 540i cars years ago, and was disappointed . I expect the manual gearbox would transform it.

I have driven very few E39 540is and I recall the clutch throw was pretty long. Just enough to be a little annoying.

 

OTOH I kind of prefer clutches with a hair trigger engage/disengage so you work the clutch by pressure feel instead of travel, so YMMV.

Racingsnake
Racingsnake Reader
4/28/23 3:30 p.m.

I enjoyed my 540 6 speed for the most part. I had a 2000 model that I bought in 2016 with 100k on it and put another 50k or so on it over the next 5 years including daily around town use, regular highway miles between San Diego and Orange County and a road trip from San Diego to Dallas. It handled all of that well, especially the road trip which was swift and comfortable and still got high 20s mpg. 
Pretty good fun to hustle round corners and generally hoon around in too for what it is. Would have benefited a lot from an LSD and I hated the drive by wire and traction control.

Only stranded me once when the CAI sucked up some water on a flooded freeway but I got fed up of the electrical niggles that needed sorting.  I was thinking about getting another one recently but they've got more expensive around here and I'd rather spend a bit more and get something older without all the electronics.

I would recommend trying one and seeing how you like it.

m4ff3w
m4ff3w UberDork
4/28/23 3:31 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
Olemiss540 said:
m4ff3w said:

I loved my 540i/6 and the 545i/6 that replaced it.

Guys! Found him! Found the masochist right here! 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/reader-rides/5384/

heart

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 HalfDork
4/28/23 3:57 p.m.
m4ff3w said:
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
Olemiss540 said:
m4ff3w said:

I loved my 540i/6 and the 545i/6 that replaced it.

Guys! Found him! Found the masochist right here! 

https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/reader-rides/5384/

heart

A man of my heart. I would love a motor swapped biturbo. Owned an 84 with basically zero miles and have very fond memories from the twice a year shakedown sessions between hibernation.

As a teen, the turbo boost at full throttle was like being at six flags.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/28/23 4:06 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
Nathan JansenvanDoorn said:

I loved our e39 530, and bought that as an $800 basket case. Drivetrain was super reliable. Perfect size, quiet, comfortable, and more fun to drive than expected.

I distinctly remember the first e39 M5 I ever saw. I can't say that about very many cars at all. Walking to university, downtown Toronto. It looked and sounded very special. I think I missed the boat on purchasing one, sadly.

Test drove a few auto e39 540i cars years ago, and was disappointed . I expect the manual gearbox would transform it.

I have driven very few E39 540is and I recall the clutch throw was pretty long. Just enough to be a little annoying.

 

OTOH I kind of prefer clutches with a hair trigger engage/disengage so you work the clutch by pressure feel instead of travel, so YMMV.

IIRC there's some sort of valve in the 540 clutch system that you want to remove for smooth engagement. I remember a friend doing it on his car, but I never did a before/after drive.

Byrneon27
Byrneon27 HalfDork
4/28/23 4:12 p.m.

^ Clutch Delay Valve its a cancer on all post E36 BMWs

Also look into the longer pedal stop available from everybody including Tractor Supply Racing Parts 

ojannen
ojannen HalfDork
4/28/23 4:16 p.m.

I think I am going to echo many of the other comments.  I took a serious look at a 540i sedans and wagons a while back.  I was not a fan of the recirculating ball steering.  It felt the same as my e28 5 series.  The steering rack in the 6 cylinder cars felt so much more modern.  These days, I would prefer a 6 cylinder with one of the centrifugal semi-bolt-on superchargers you can get for the m52 era engines.  You lose low end torque but you also get to skip all the weird v8 only issues with valley pan gaskets and weird oil leaks.

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
4/28/23 4:48 p.m.

Driving BMWs with the CDV makes me feel like I can't drive. It took me a solid hour in an E36/8 to drive competently. But it's an easy fix.

Coming from my E36 and XJ the clutch throw on the E39 feels short and soft.

CyberEric
CyberEric Dork
4/28/23 6:13 p.m.

Yeah CDV delete is a must on all of these. E36 and E39. So is a bigger clutch stop. The travel is crazy long. I don't know what BMW was thinking.

Driving a Miata is a revelation! 
 

I like the idea of a supercharger on a I6 E39. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/28/23 6:18 p.m.

Interestingly, the E39 M5 comes with the CDV deleted from the factory. So BMW apparently agreed.

rallyxPOS13
rallyxPOS13 Reader
4/28/23 6:30 p.m.

Can't comment on the E39, but I owned an E34 540i/6 for ~4 years.

I really like the way it drove, it had enough power, torque down low, decent power up top.  It did that weird BMW thing where it seemed like it had more power in higher gears.  It just ate up highway miles, I was long distance dating my now-wife, and racking up 6 hour drives every other weekend.  The sport seats were super comfy on long drives, but supportive on fun roads.

Loved the way it looked, handling was great on Bilstein Sports.  Was fine on 7 or 8/10 backroad flogs, but a bit too big and heavy on an autoX course.  The only thing missing was an LSD!

There was some impressive engineering going on there.  The V8 wasn't meant for that chassis:  the brake booster was tucked in behind the headlight, the alternator had a complicated cooling duct, as the motor mounts wore, the fan would contact the intake on hard launches.

The downside was the rarity and BMWness.  The seat adjustments would occasionally bind and lock into place.  All the hardware holding on the oil pump just backed off into the oil pan, the response from the forums "Oh yeah, they do that".   It took >8qts of specific oil, When I'd go to get fluids and parts at the $tealership I couldn't get the time of day if I was in my 240.  The info center under the gauges would start every drive with a litany of complaints.  Relatively minor things, but more and more of them: "your turn signal voltage ist nicht optimal!"

The final straw was when the throw out bearing let loose when a friend was borrowing the car.  I realized there were <1200 of these things with the row-your-own option in North America, it was looking like over $2k to source and sort a new flywheel/clutch/etc.

I bought my first subaru for 1/4 the cost of that clutch fix, and have used those as dailies for most of the time since!

Racingsnake
Racingsnake Reader
4/28/23 9:07 p.m.
 It did that weird BMW thing where it seemed like it had more power in higher gears.  It just ate up highway miles,

Definitely agree with this

Slinds99
Slinds99 New Reader
4/29/23 3:40 p.m.

Bought a nice one and replaced damn near everything. It was a bucket list car.

I listed it for sale here a while back. I wish I had a bigger garage and could have kept it. 

Love the e39. Always wanted one. Got one. Loved it. Hated driving it in the daily traffic commute. The thing that killed it for me was the steering. It's like 8 turns lock to lock. Old gear box and pitman arm linkage. 

It is awesome on the freeway.

If you find a car that needs parts my buddy would probably sell my old car. It got rear-ended pretty bad and it's just sitting in a garage outside of Detroit.  

repoman
repoman New Reader
4/29/23 4:44 p.m.

As some others have said, I would budget a little more for an M5 or stick with a 530i 5-speed. The 540 is in no man's land -- doesn't really have the specialness of the M5 but has all the drawbacks and then some (steering box with a slower ratio, engine runs hot and is hard on the cooling system and timing chain guide plastics, heavy). 
 

I bought my M5 four years ago .. out of this, my E46 M3 and NA Miata it's the last one I'd sell. Awesome on long highway trips and still a great time on mountain roads. I was really hunting for a 530i but they are hard to find in good shape, seems people generally didn't treat them like the classics they're now understood to be. 
 

A guy in the UK sells a module now that turns the stock nav unit into a wireless apple carplay display with a touch screen -- really nice modern touch for a 23 year old car. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
4/29/23 7:34 p.m.

In reply to repoman :

That replacement infotainment thing is actually from AliExpress. Seems like a pretty sweet unit. Looks totally stock. 

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