1996 BMW (E34) 'DIY' M5 TOURING - OWNED BY CHRIS HARRIS

Bear with me here, there’s a bit of a story to tell. The least successful car ownership experience of my life occurred many years ago with a troublesome E34 M5 Touring. I had always wanted one, and they weren’t much money back then, so I took the plunge and it proved to be unreliable, very costly and eventually nearly died in an accident, whereupon I sold it for peanuts. It’s probably worth twenty times that sum now.

But I always promised myself I’d revisit the E34 Touring thing because, on-paper, it’s just about my perfect car. One of the great estate car shapes running one of the great powertrains - what’s not to love? Well, apart from the prices of them going a bit silly.

Fifteen years and many very expensive, new, fast estate cars later, I find myself at the end of a lease deal for an E63 S estate and grazing for a replacement. I love fast estate cars. All the new equivalents are becoming so expensive, and then one night I spy a DIY M5 Touring for sale. It’s a 525i SE shell into which someone has wedged an early 3.6 litre motor (all real Tourings are 3.8s) and it has a 5-speed gearbox. A quick bit of mental maths confirms that the purchase price would be less than the ceramic brakes and fancy leather fitted to the Mercedes. Given that in my hands an estate car is routinely disrespected by adults, children and animals - something older, cheaper, rattier and yet still more interesting seemed a sensible decision.

So I bought the car two years ago and it was, and it has been, a special thing to own and knock about in. It’s in what I’d call perfect condition for a workhorse - that being just scruffy enough to mean you genuinely don’t worry about what happens to it in any given situation, but not so shabby that people assume you’ve lost your job and taken to petty crime.

Mechanically I can’t fault it. The motor is fit and strong. I have no idea how many miles it has done, but clearly nothing like the 180,000 miles showing on the odometer - I’d guess around 100k. The 3.6 has less torque than the 3.8, but for me it’s a much more interesting engine because this one just loves to rev and yelp out to 7000rpm. Yes, it means the old boat needs some stirring to justify the looks, but when you do, it goes very well indeed. I’ve always suspected that when the engine was installed someone cracked it open and fitted some slightly naughty cams but, again, I can’t confirm it either way. It has a slightly naughty exhaust that does drone a little at idle, but once under way makes good old fashioned M car noises. 

The gearbox has a short shifter fitted which I’ve never especially liked, but the way of the modern world means that if the lever had a longer throw it would foul the ash tray, which is where the fag lighter lurks (this is an English auction) and of course where I charge my telephone. So we shift short in this car to be able to charge devices. I know, weird world.

The throttle pedal is heavy, the clutch is light. The Clifford alarm is fine so long as you don’t upset it. Then it could make a Catholic swear.

The chassis is interesting. I’ve done nothing to it despite promising myself from day one that I would change many things about it. The car rides lower than a proper M5 Touring, which helps the way it looks, but it is softer and, if you really push the car, has less control. The upside is that the ride comfort is miles better than the real thing too, and that snuck up on me over time. I’m an old sod now and I don’t drive like that, so the comfort was worth more than the occasional flabby response to a steering input, so it’s stayed the way it arrived.

The shell is now twenty five years old, so there’s plenty of life, lumps and bubbles in it, but I’ve kept on top of it all, most recently with a rear wing having some rot dug out of it and the roof rails - which were the ugliest part of the car, all peeling paint and mung - being sorted alongside a service earlier this year. Total cost £4,729.11. My car bills keep my accountant amused. And perplexed.

The exterior of the car is, to my eyes, indistinguishable from a real M5 Touring. There may be worse geeks than me out there who can prove me wrong in this matter, and if so I defer to them. I suppose the roof rails may be the tell-tale? Inside is a different story. The seats are all real M5, the dash structure isn’t, the instrument cluster is, and there’s no radio or air-conditioning kit. The motor is stronger without it and I’m amazed at how little I miss either. Air-pods or a Bluetooth speaker do me fine. It’s all a bit tatty and wotnot, but could easily be made to look a lot better. All the electrics work, including the rear window demister, which was inoperable for the first winter and annoyed me greatly.

The roof-lining reminds me of an especially lazy corn snake I once kept which was terrible at sloughing its skin and left the scaly frock hanging from its flanks like a loose fitting sweater. The snake was called Will. He was a nice snake who once found his way into the ventilation system of my late mother’s Renault Espace. He was certainly nicer than the roof lining in this Touring.

The tyres are good, the glass is good, the brakes are good. I can’t think of much more to say about it.

Except to explain why I’m selling it. Put simply it’s a case of life logistics and pets. Like many men, I have too many cars and not enough places to store them - but this rarely leads to any disposals because I hate selling things. The tipping factor here is the pet. I always had an estate car for my beloved Weimaraner, Boz, but he sadly passed away a few months after I bought the car (cracking innings of 14 years), and his replacement, an English Bull Terrier by the name of Pip, doesn’t do estate car boots, instead spending his time in the cabin with the humans. So I don’t need an estate car as much any more. And when the need to drive an old M5 arises, I’m lucky enough to have an E28 to slither about in. So when I recently forced myself to work out which car to sell first, assuming I really MUST sell something, the fake Touring was first on the list. Night of the long knives.

So, in summary. It’s not real, it’s mechanically very good; cosmetically patchy. Neil from Rally Prep has looked after it and will tell you the good and bad. It will give someone 99% of the experience of owning a real E34 Touring whilst sitting on the correct side of the cabin and not costing £60k. Happy bidding.

The description of this auction lot is, to the best of the seller's knowledge, accurate and not misleading. Collecting Cars requests a range of detail about the lot from the seller, and performs a level of due diligence. However, bidders must satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of the description, and conduct any research they feel is necessary before committing to a bid. Please see our Terms and Conditions for full details.

All UK-registered cars and motorbikes on Collecting Cars are run through an online HPI check. On the HPI report, this vehicle shows no insurance database markers for damage or theft, and has no finance owing.

Car Overview

  • 180,514 miles
  • manual
  • RHD
  • Cosmos Black Metallic
  • Grey Leather
  • 3.6L
  • VINWBAHJ52070GC87077


Lot Overview

  • Lot #04514
  • private Sale
  • Bristol, United Kingdom

Seller

  • Collecting_Cars

Exterior  (72)

Interior  (85)

Mechanical  (14)

  • List for FREE
  • Sell for FREE
  • Hassle Free
Sell with Us