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Season Finale: End of Beaterland – 1995 BMW E34 518i

Antti Kautonen January 15, 2014 Finnish Line 11 Comments


All good things usually come to an end, and so did my BMW E34 ownership – no matter how much you consider a good thing to keep a nearly two-decade-old German car in the daily grind. I’m writing this piece newly BMW-free, and it feels like a suitable moment to look back on the period in time when I daily-drove the white 1995 saloon.

In the interval between Oct 2012 and Jan 2014, I covered some 24 000 km in the B-M. During that time, it proved itself to be a dependable but frugal cruiser that responded well to enthusiastic driving, even if with the 115hp it had you were required to purposefully wring each one out. Of course, time and the great outdoors had left some marks on it and cut the tightest crispness out of the traditional recirculating ball steering, giving the car the effortless waftiness you get with carefree, one-handed steering – with weather permitting, sideways – but it never felt like a bad car. Not even close.

Consider this, then, the official sendoff.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous Beaterland posts, the car came with its share of little issues and developed some more during my time at its helm. I got it with dying bushings in the rear axle and an even more slacksome steering than with which it departed. The engine, whilst otherwise reliable, turned out to drop tears of oil from the cam chain cover every now and then. A headlight got a rock in it, necessitating the swap of all four – because I wanted it to have a clear line of sight, instead of old stonewashed cataracts.

The instrumentation suffered from a tendency to black out due to an illumination issue, but surprisingly enough, the speed sensor connector started acting up as well after a diff oil change in December. This meant I lost some 40-50km of the total odo reading, and I had the speedometer needle drop to zero for the same short periods. Ugh. A check and cleaning of the connector rid the car of the problem, so a diff rebuild was dodged. The starter motor kept acting up maybe 30-40% of starting attempts, but I advised the buyer of this and calculated it into the pricing. As one does. He also received a second set of 16″ wheels but declined the tow bar.

The bodywork needs a bit of attention again, perhaps a thorough buffing. The appearance is still respectable, but due to the all-encompassing dirtiness around these parts, it just kept on staying dirty for elongated periods. A good wax should bring out the lustre in its flanks. The rust situation was mostly kept at bay, with a few more nicks appearing around the front wheel arches and the rockers – blame the lack of OEM mudguards, if you will. And while the rockers would be sanded and repainted black, one would be wise to catch up on the brownness on a couple of doors. I was happy to see the achilles heel of these cars, the filler flap, developed no rust whatsoever, and that the underbody remained tidy.

So, due to the eagerness for it be maintained, I lost quite a bit of money on the upkeep. I haven’t put the tally up, but we’re talking about a grand at least in parts and labour. But it would be unfair of me to call it an unreliable car. It never let me down – except the once when I drained the battery overnight with the dome light for some implausible reason. But a couple hours on the battery booster brought it up to service again, and it never ever felt down on juice during my ownership.

And man.. during the last couple days I have been listening to Eric Clapton’s live Knopfler collaborations on the SD card, kicking the tail out at every convenience, relishing the feel of having a simple, comfortable, well-built cruiser of a car that gives you undiluted RWD fun at a prod of the go pedal. I feel like I made the right choice by buying the car way back when. And despite getting my purchase price back on the deal now, time will tell if I did the right choice by selling it.

But I shouldn’t feel too bad, as I trust the car went into good hands. The brother of the friend who originally accompanied me, when we drove to get the car, stepped forward a little while ago and told me he had done some calculating, and would be better off selling his 1-series and moving into 518i ownership. He’ll need the car more than I do, as I still have several others. Perhaps I should take the Saab out of winter hibernation?

Here are the previous installments in the Beaterland saga, for convenience’s sake:

Adventures in Beaterland – Part 1

Adventures in Beaterland – Part 2

Beaterland Report: 10,000 Miles in a Cheap BMW

Inspection Time in Beaterland

[Images: Copyright 2014 Redusernab/Antti Kautonen]

  • "He… declined the tow bar."

    Baffling. Perhaps he already had one?

    • Still doesn't make any sense. What if he needs to make a train?

  • wunno sev

    a thousand of any unit of currency is Not Bad over 24,000km. well-bought, well-owned, and hopefully well-sold.

  • Rover1

    Amazing how the first E34 M5 had alloy wheels styled to match those hubcaps but perform better than ordinary alloy wheels
    Not what they would do now.
    <img src=" 350">
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    • dukeisduke

      I remember Car and Driver (I think) commenting how those wheels made the M5 look like it had whitewalls.

  • I will be very sad whenever I have to shut the casket on the Town Cow, no matter how much all its little broken geegaws frustrate me now.

  • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

    Everyone sells a car with an empty gas tank, good road white BM.

    • iAmMe

      one of the first ways to bond with your new car is to fill it up!

  • kingcrowing

    Goodbye! I was looking for a 90s German car to replace my Miata last year and would have loved an E34 wagon, but instead I ended up with a '95.5 S6 sedan, and I know the "joys" of old Germany car ownership all too well!

  • Jeff Bergier

    I never noticed before. Do the continental bmw's show the actual number of liters in the fuel tank? I'm so used to the super strange 0/1, 1/2, 1/1 reading of the imperial ones.

    • Actual is as much guesswork as it ever is with any fuel gauge, but yeah – it reads in liters.

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