Fast Friends: Dave Little’s E34 BMW M5

If fast and luxurious cars are what get you going, then BMW’s M cars are still a great bet, although after having researched, photographed and travelled in this feature car I can’t help but feel like they’re not quite what they used to be.

See, this is the e34 M5, a car that represents many lasts for BMW – but probably the most significant was that this was the last M car to be truly hand-built.

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Dave’s car, just like the other 12,253 examples produced, was hand-built on a production line from BMW’s Motosport division in Garching, Germany. Separate to the manufacture of other E34 5-series cars, its production was tasked by a small, dedicated team from BMW’s Motorsport division.

Each example is said to have taken around two weeks for either one individual or a small, dedicated team from BMW’s Motorsport division to complete. Many – but not all cars actually featured signatures from the employees that built each car (don’t believe me? Take a look over to this forum thread!).

It was even said that BMW’s test drivers, who rigorously tested each e34 M5 before it arrived with its owner, claimed that they could tell which M technician had built each example just from the way it would drive. Whether you choose to believe that or not is down to you – but nothing can steal the thunder from this awesome video which shows various M5s being proudly pieced together.

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Snarling through six individual throttle bodies, the 3.8 litre straight six engine that graces Dave’s M5, knocked out 340hp and 300lb/ft of torque when it left Garching in 1994. Officially known as the S38B38, the powerplant can trace its roots back to the 24-valve lump found in the E28 M5 and E24 M635CSi/M6 models. Another famous car to use a variant of this engine was BMW’s M1.

Performance was revolutionary at the time and still isn’t to be sniffed at. Official figures state the big six will propel all 1,750kg of Bavarian bahnstormer from 0-60 in either 5.9 or 5.7 seconds depending on which manual transmission (5 or 6-speed) was fitted.

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Let’s have a word with Dave about his car:

So Dave, what was it about the e34 that got you?

Aha well, I wasn’t even in the market for another car, a friend came to me with a car that they were convinced I’d buy the following weekend

And did you?

Yep, I’ve always had a thing about purple BMW’s (Dave also has a Madeira Violet E36) and so when this car came up I was instantly attracted to it. When I looked further into its ad I found out it was also the rare six-speed model with the M Hurricane cloth interior. I quickly realised I was probably never going to find a car like it again and so the deal was done

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Staggered M Parallel wheels were standard on all cars built after May ’94

It’s clear this car is rare but how rare are we talking?

Well, this is one of very few right hand drive cars that got the larger, more powerful engine and six-speed box. (According to the BMW M Registry, this is one of just 159 saloons produced in that spec)

Is it true your parents don’t know about this car?

Ha! Yes, it’s true; I still have to hide it in other people’s garages and driveways

Errr, okay! I won’t ask..

My parents feel I spend too much money on cars as it is, trying to say that I’m just buying a 4th in case the other 3 don’t work wasn’t going to cut it

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Eeeshh, what’s the most you’ve got out of it?

I’ve taken it to 140 when travelling across Germany in the car last year

So, I’ve heard these cars are notoriously dear to keep together, can you give us any examples?

Take the suspension, for example, it’s a system that is nearly unique to the late M5 (the 850csi shared it also) It was a self-levelling system that was electronically adjustable between two damping settings. They’re notoriously expensive to maintain and feature hydraulic and electronics running to each shock

Sounds expensive already, how much are we talking?

You can no longer get original dampers and rebuilding an existing shock is likely to cost between £900 and £1,000 a corner.. Luckily, the units on my car were replaced not long before I purchased it
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That’s a relief! So, people familiar with these cars might be looking at the front of yours a bit funny, why’s that?

I swapped the wide nosed kidney grille for the earlier, narrower part. It’s a matter of personal preference but I never liked the later part – and the fact it didn’t have an M5 badge only made things worse

You’re also pretty particular about the audio setup in this car, aren’t you?

When I went to view the car I was eager to see how original it was, from the chat I had on the phone with the current owner it sounded like the car had been meticulously maintained right up to his ownership. Unfortunately, he felt he had a good understanding about car ‘professionally fitted’ audio systems.

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Oh dear, a bodge job then?

Well, on the drive home I hit the brakes and an underseat subwoofer flew out and hit my passenger’s legs..

Right, so you’ve replaced it for an OE spec radio?

I couldn’t deal with the Halfords special in my dash and – after much research – I discovered the unit I wanted. Known as the BMW Bavaria C Professional RDS, it was made by Becker and made it into most flagship models and press spec cars.

Surely they don’t come about too often?

God no, after scouring the internet day and night I finally found a mint set of the 10 speaker HiFi speakers in Lithuania. The gold mine was finding ALL the Bavaria equipment in one auction from the Russian federation WITH a fully uncut wiring loom, that’s not been available from BMW for more than a decade already..

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Dave’s relentless efforts to find original audio equipment finally paid off

Go on..

This is a fully custom setup with every part of the system being bespoke and unique to the itself. The head unit (tape deck) RDS unit (brains and dual radio tuner), CD changer, Alpine amplifier with 10 speaker output. The sound reproduction was ground breaking for its day..

Christ, Dave, you’re going to put my readers to sleep, how much did all this cost you?

Around £500..

Around £500 for untested 20 year old audio equipment. You sir, are a special kind of mental! I’ve got a feeling you’re pretty attached to this car, will you ever sell M118NOD?

I’m at a stage where i’m not attached to the car yet. Once the radio is fitted and the various little things that need fixing are done I intend to get an agreed valuation and classic insurance. Of course, If someone was to offer me the right money then anything is possible.


Enjoyed this article? Here are a few more:

Fast Friends: Tom Parson’s 650hp Nissan GT-R

Fast Friends: Matt Horgan’s Lotus Exige Sprint

Fast Friends: Alex Hope’s Mazda RX8


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