BMW 520i (E28) 1981–1988
The Opel Monza drank like a bad stepfather and had more issues than Corey Feldman. You take a gamble with a classic and sometimes, you’ll pay the price. I had to jump ship and so I had landed once again in search of the next retro motor. Looking for something with more stability, with more available parts, whilst retaining a unique look is a difficult task but the hunt is actually one of my favourite things about classic car ownership.
I was immobile and needed wheels fast, but In the meantime I borrowed a Mercedes SL350. An all singing, all dancing modern car with more buttons inside than KITT itself. But instead of offering advice on the ladies or providing backup when I needed it, the female computerised voice assistant often remarked on the fact that something was out of date or that it couldn’t find the given location.
Self-closing doors, rain detecting windscreen wipers, heated seats and climate control are all well and good, when they work perfectly. Whoever thought of keyless entry into a car worth many thousands of pounds obviously had no idea about hacking amongst other things. Merely supply a car with decent locking features in the first place and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble later on. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about how ‘progressive’ design features have hindered functionality and maintainability on today’s vehicles. I’m here to talk about this;
The shark nosed, quad light, BMW E28. A beautifully crafted, well rounded machine which no doubt paved the way to the slogan ‘The ultimate driving machine’.
I picked up my E28 purely for looks but underneath I was quietly confident about the well renowned German craftsmanship, the owners weren’t lying. The E28 ran from 1981 until 1988, arguably the golden era of motoring, although the model names are about as exciting as a picnic in the rain. The 518, 520, 524, 525, 528, 535 etcetera. Unlike the Japanese, who were still naming their cars by apparently choosing words at random from a dictionary. The German methodical and formal approach was tried and tested.
The first thing you notice about the car when you sit in it, is the perfectly formed and well positioned, everything. Driving a BMW from the 80’s makes you wonder if they had paid designers from other manufacturers of mass produced vehicles, to purposely integrate awful design features so they could climb the top of the proverbial status ladder.
The 520i was the entry level six cylinder engine as the 518 was the fairly underpowered four cylinder fuel injection. The iconic sound of BMW’s M series engines produce something quite euphonious and delivers power effortlessly. My car in particular had Alpina style alloy wheels and an uprated exhaust, it wasn’t too far from the factory spec and that's how i like it. Driving with the windows down became quite common, it wasn’t loud but produced the perfect soundtrack to a decent midnight cruise. Inside, the car lit up with a soft red haze on the minimal dash, I paired this with an aftermarket stereo unit with a red illumination and this became a welcome sight on a night time journey. To finish off the two tone brown velour interior are lightly tinted windows all round, making the world look that little more nostalgic.
The drive home was certainly less nerve racking than the previous motors, the faultless journey was a sign of things to come. As the bodywork was so good anyway, I decided to develop my skills in the restoration of paint and practice my waxing skills. Previously I had learned all that I know from trained killer and chop stick wielder, Mr Miyagi. It was time to get off the starting blocks. Mastering the art of automobile cleaning and restoration is a little like martial arts in the way that no matter how good you think are going to be, you’ll look like shit when you throw the first punch.
Rinse down, clay bar, wash and wax, these fundamentals, once attained will stick with you and are easily applied to other areas of automobile maintenance. If you are a car enthusiast you will have heard the old lore that cleaning will provide extra HP? Well I can’t disprove it. Who doesn’t talk to their car at night?
The 80's five series is practical, functional, easy to maintain and effortlessly driven. The 520i entry level six cylinder produced a little over 120 hp, the top of the range was obviously the M5 and if you were lucky enough to own one of these, the M88 engine kicked out over 280 hp.
Before you all start asking whether or not I'm being paid by BMW to talk about the brand, I sold it.
Yes, even with the silky smooth running gear and quintessentially 80's styling, i missed the brutal power of three litres. To this day i regret the sale of the BMW but it went to a good home and is being showcased in magazines from time to time. The five series looks like it has a purpose on the road, they are now admired, modified and cherished as anything built this well should be.
Catch next month's article when I relive some memories of Chase HQ!