Sauber Seifenstück: 1995 BMW 525iT (E34 Wagon)

The clever German title above translates to “clean bar of soap.” I’d also like to remind readers that Sauber is the Formula 1 team that BMW owned from 2005 through 2009. They had mixed successes, but it was the debut team for 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel – where he started his F1 career as a test driver. It seems like Vettel is an old master now, but I was present to see his first F1 race ever, at Indianapolis in 2007 (just yesterday, really). I find it fitting that this wagon not only resembles the proverbial bar of soap (and matches the white BMW Sauber F1 livery) but that it is a clean slate for modification, from mild to wild. Find this 1995 BMW 525iT E34 wagon for sale in Portland, Oregon for $3,500 via craigslist.

Regular commenter mrkwong has alluded to a strong desire to buy an E34 Touring (wagon in BMW-speak) and stuff in an E-Rod LS3 or the like. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, except maybe to say that I’d be just as tempted to transplant an S38 inline six as found in the E34 M5, including our DT project car, the DTM5. The LS3 would be cheaper to maintain, would cost as much new as a decent rebuild for an S38, and would make epic V8 rumbles as it melted the rear tires to oblivion. But the S38 is a true racing engine, hand-built at the Motorsport facility in Garching, with individual throttle bodies, stainless headers, and 315bhp from the factory. It’s strong, smooth, and responds instantly to throttle inputs – downshift blips, for example.

But let’s face the facts – I’ve mentioned powerful engines and F1 teams – however, the reality is that the car shown here was the base model E34 wagon. As a 525i model it has the M50B25 inline six, a fine and durable engine if cooling system weaknesses are addressed. It makes great torque for its 2.5L displacement and linear power – just shy of 200hp. Our Black Iron Racing E36 Brougham d’Bavaria had one, and although underpowered in its old age, the thing just kept taking beatings, as if it liked the abuse. In a heavy wagon and with a slushbox it will certainly be slow.

At $3500 this seems like a great deal for someone looking for a clean, last-year E34 longroof. The interior upholstery and wood goes towards the blonde look but seems to be in great condition for the age and price. Paradoxically, the seller says: “I needed a wagon, and picked this up to replace my Mercedes, and after a week of driving this, makes me wanting to keep the Mercedes.” If that’s not a glowing endorsement of the BMW, I don’t know…wait, no, it’s more like an underhanded condemnation. As a midsize ’90s German luxomachine, the E34 is a great driver’s car and excels at long distance travel. I wonder which Mercedes the seller is crawling back to, and would caution potential buyers to make sure there isn’t a nasty surprise that’s the real cause of the quick sale.

No engine photos are provided but we do get this nice rear shot, highlighting the cool split hatch feature of the E34 Touring. The glass lifts up for easy access to small stuff in the back, or for tossing a few bags of groceries in. Need to load the dogs and go-kart? Throw up the whole rear door and put the dog gates in place – split folding 60/40 with the rear seat, no less.

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