“Life is full of mystery.”
Frequently derided as the default answer of the intellectually lazy, one could chalk up a lot of our modern life to that clichéd axiom. The vagueness of declaring something part of life’s mystery, however, lends to its flexibility. “Mystery” explains the force that removes one of your socks from the laundry. It speaks to why voters frequently cast a ballot against their own interests. Mystery also allows me to create a narrative around this terrible Craigslist ad that is, incongruously, blessed with fairly decent photos of a now somewhat rare car in seemingly very nice condition.
Per this ad for a 1995 BMW 525i Touring, the car was purchased by a potato farmer’s son in northern Idaho. After eschewing potatoes and multiple failed attempts to sow citrus trees deep in the heart of spud country, the son used this 525iT for his newly created mobile bull insemination and public notary service. This was more successful than one might think. In fact, that incredible success allowed him to fastidiously maintain this rare example of Bavarian longroof. The car’s condition actually supplied his company’s motto: “No rust and a true beauty.”
Along the way, the car gained some modifications. The expense of adding E34 5 Series sport seats, E39 540i Style 66 wheels, and swapping in a proper three-pedal manual transmission were easily absorbed as business expenses. They made his long hours behind the wheel seeking out lonely bovines with legal needs more comfortable, more stylish, and with better fuel economy (respectively).
Years and miles passed, and the son sold his beloved wagon. He wanted the Touring to go to a true caretaker, rather than just another owner. The young lady – who in 2017 looked like a combination of the B52s’ Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson circa 1982 – relocated the car from the Pacific Northwest to the Bold North, landing in Minnesota but inexplicably registering it in Wisconsin.
The only part of the preceding three paragraphs your friends here at Totally That Stupid can confirm is the line “No rust and a true beauty.” And that’s only because it’s one of the two sentences in the whole damn ad. Luckily, we can tell a lot by the images.
It’s Oxford green, because they all are. The paint is shiny everywhere including the bumpers, but the badge on the tailgate is in the wrong place (a pet peeve) so look for evidence of paint work. The side marker lamps appear unbroken, the headlights are intact, and it has the OEM front license plate filler. Despite the seller’s point about no rust, any potential buyer should still look for rust along the bottom half of the entire car. The Style 66 wheels are a good look; The offset appears a little shallow in the rear, and hopefully someone installed hub centric spacer rings. Finally, while it’s a bit hard to tell in the photos, the leading edge of the dual-panel sunroof looks a little askew. Definitely a thing to check, since a broken sunroof can lead to a (wet) world of hurt.
Inside we immediately see the sport seats and row-your-own stick that make this Touring so compelling. The front chairs are twisted, but that’s usually a pretty easy fix. From what else we can see, the interior looks remarkably unworn. The passenger side airbag cover isn’t too warped, and the two visible door pulls don’t appear to have been chewed on by honey badgers. Even the tailgate area isn’t completely disgusting; Many look like the scene of a ritual killing but this one is mostly not that. Near the top of the tailgate we can see where the headliner is making its escape, and since two of the door thresholds are shrinking we can assume the other two are as well.
About that third pedal: In the U.S. market, all BMW E34 wagons came equipped with an automatic transmission. But fixing that error is parts-bin engineering at its finest, and easier than an advanced Lego Technic set. Heck, it probably takes about the same amount of time as building their Porsche GT3 RS.
Come to think of it, that’s kind of an interesting thought experiment. I know a local guy who claims he can swap the mechanical bits for an E46 5-speed conversion in about three hours. Programming, he says, adds a little more time. Could a Lego Master Builder assemble the 2,704-piece GT3 RS in less time? I’m doubtful.
The M50B25TU inline-six (photo for illustration only – the seller shows nothing oily) made 189 horsepower when new, though one suspects after 170,000 miles some of those horses may have escaped the proverbial barn. A fresh 3.2-liter long-block from a U.S.-market M3 would slip right in. As long as we’re making up stories, let’s go ahead and assume the seller already did that, along with cams, injectors, a larger air mass meter, and some software. As it sits it must be pumping out over 300 horsepower! Which is about right for a daily wagon, I think.
I’m not actually annoyed by the lack of verbiage. I know enough about E34s in general that if I were in the market this woefully brief ad wouldn’t put me off. What I do think is a little aggressive is the $8,500 ask. But maybe I’m just living in the past, and maybe this is what an apparently clean E34 Touring with a stick swap and some minor needs now sells for. There are not a huge number of examples for sale right now to compare. So maybe it’s worth it?
Call it the Radwood effect, call it rose-tinted 20/20 hindsight, or just chalk it up to one of life’s mysteries.