5k: Thrifty Thursday: 1999 BMW 528i Touring, E39 5-spd Wagon, Unicorn

Welcome to Thifty Thursday – and today we are going to focus on the cheap, cheap, cheap.  The features on DT today will make your new Ford Fiesta look as expensive and overpriced as a Rolls Royce Phantom and that is just the start of it.  Everybody wants cheap, manual transmission, fun to drive, useable, rear-drive, drivable cars, with working air conditioning — so we are going to obsessively focus on these…with a few riddlers thrown in the mix.  Start the day off right with a hot cup of BMW Touring; find this 1999 BMW 528i wagon with 5-spd manual transmission for sale in San Mateo, CA for $5,000 via craigslist.  Another BayArea BMW from DT logo guru Kaibeezy.

The E39 generation BMW 5-series was introduced in 1996 and was the last BMW untainted by Chris Bangle’s Picasso-meets-Kardashian styling.  It shared inline-6 engines with the BMW 3 Series, but was also available with BMW’s high strung V8 in 540i and M5 trim.  The wagon was also available with the V8, but never with a manual transmission in the USA and only a handful (less than 1000?) of wagons were built with the 5-spd.

The M52 inline-6 mounted up front puts out 193 horsepower and you might think that you’d rather pick up a V8 wagon…but there is more to the i-6 wagons than meets the eye.  First, all E39 V8 models were burdened with a farm-tractor derived steering box setup with the steering feedback similar to using live snakes as tie rods but the i-6 models were equipped with one of BMW’s superb rack and pinion setups, permitting precise apex hunting.  Additionally the i-6 models used an all aluminum front subframe mated with the standard alloy suspension bits for a surprisingly light 3726 lb curb weight versus the V8 wagon at 4056 lbs.

Now that you understand why it isn’t shameful to drive a 528i wagon, we need to point out some specifics on this car.  The asking price seems low compared to what we’ve seen for similar cars on BMW specific forums, but it is well above ‘blue book’ value according to KBB.  However, the car is being sold by someone who may have recently acquired it at around kbb private party value via an auction, but that doesn’t rule it out, because some recent maintenance could easily make it a loser for the seller.  As much as folks tend to malign ‘flippers’ – it is important to note that most do provide a valuable service, that of removing old clunkers from yards & garages, cleaning them up, getting ’em smogged, fixing small things and generally trying to avoid buying/selling a total pile of crap for risk of future business.  The same cannot be said for many owners who do indeed already own a total pile of crap that they are trying to milk as much money as possible from what is often a festering pile. 

Find another non-festering pile you can drive to work every day? Email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com