BMW M5 (E34) 1988-95: Future classic

Presented by

The E34 M5 - the first of its type to be sold new locally - ticks the boxes for collectability

BMW M5 (E34) 1988-95: Future classic
Future classic: 1988-95 BMW M5 (E34)


1988 - 95 BMW E34 M5

At any given time there are likely to be no more than half a dozen BMW E34 M5s advertised for sale in Australia. Released in Europe in 1988, the M5 was launched here in July, 1990. At the time this spellbinding hotrod commanded $168,900 plus on-road costs, at a time when a reasonable house in Sydney's inner West was similarly priced (Mine was $140K).

et’s run through the criteria for classic car collectability. One: lasting desirability. Two: rarity. Three: brand status. The E34 M5 – the first of its type to be sold new in this country – surely ticks all three, remembering that M is a more special brand than even BMW! It’s hard to believe, then, that you can buy an excellent example for $20K.

The M5 seems to attract dedicated owners and many have been the subject of major restorations. Maintenance costs are a definite downside but if you buy a car with good history you might be pleasantly surprised. A quick online search discovered one example with over 500,000 kilometres on the odometer!

While it is quite easy to understand why HSV models of the early to mid-1990s are not highly prized, the M5’s lack of high status is bewildering. Perhaps its time is almost right, as I read recently in an English classic car magazine that 25 years is the tipping point, as those old enough to have coveted a car when it was new reach the stage of life where they can afford it. The best Aussie illustration of this is the XY GT-HO Phase III.

Where HSVs of the 1990s were little more than mildly warmed-over Commodores with tasteless trim and garish badging, any BMW that has a second name beginning with the letter ‘M’ feels like its own car.

I tested an E34 M5 when it was new and it was easily the best thing I had ever driven. In the 1992 James Hardie 12-Hour, in which I raced a Citroën BX 16-Valve, I got lots of opportunities to watch the M5 of Neville Crichton/Alan Jones/Tony Longhurst go by. It may have lacked the pace of the turbo RX-7s – especially up the mountain – but its balance and reliability were brilliant. In the end, despite a fastest lap time much slower than the Mazdas’, the M5 finished second, just three laps behind the first-placed RX-7 – without a turbo in sight.

The initial E34 M5 had 232kW and 360Nm from 3.5 litres when a VP Commodore mustered 127kW and 293Nm from its 3.8-litre V6. It was hard to get one’s head around any peak power number starting with a ‘2’. Think of it as a race engine, with a zest for revs and a lovely hard mechanical note.

Europe received a 255kW, 3.8-litre update in 1991. It’s believed one was delivered to Australia for BMW to evaluate. From 1994, a six-speed manual gearbox was also available.

Most Australian M5s seem to have been cherished, and if you can think of a better way to spend $20K, please let me know.


More reviews:

 > BMW E28 M5 review here

> Buying tips: 1999-2003 BMW M5 review here

> Buyer's Guide: BMW E34 5-series review here

Search used:

>> Search BMW cars for sale


Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition