Classic on the cusp

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When the trade applies the words 'price on request' to their adverts it tells us two things - first, they're shy of advertising a price because they're feeling the market, and second, values of that model are on the rise. Have a look at prices of BMW's 1988 to 1996 E34 5 series - Ms have gone ballistic, but all E34s are moving up across the range with dealers pitching good ones bullishly.But before the supply of low-mileage survivors get soaked up it's worth seeing what's out there at sensible money. 

A private seller in Wigan has a ’90 525i SE auto in Granite with 50k and two owners for £2800 while another in Essex has a ’91 520i SE auto in Island Green with 51k, unused spare and toolkit for £3800. These prices don’t feel heavy for such low-mileage specimens. And neither does the £7995 being asked by Auto Classics in Kettering for a ’94 525i SE auto in Calypso with a mere 21,000 miles, FBMWSH and in ‘time warp’ condition.

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Go for the big engines and high specs and remember that the Tourings are more coveted than saloons. Picks of the range are the ’92-on 540i V8 manual (3203 built), the 1995 540i LE with its M5 interior, six-speed manual and Servotronic steering (300 made) and 540 M Sport (200 built).

The Ercole Spada and J Mays designed E34 was a game-changer for Munich and was the first 5 Series to have a V8, an estate body and four-wheel drive on the 525iX. It was stiffer and more streamlined than the previous E28. BMW sold more than 1.3 million and it won a slew of best-in-class awards.

The E34 was the definitive executive saloon of the Nineties and at the top of every middle manager’s company car wish list. Tough and long-lived there are plenty of E34s that have covered 250,000 miles and they’re surprisingly rust resistant with problem areas limited to head gaskets, water pumps, slipping autos, the usual suspension and steering bushes plus issues with sulphur contamination on the Nikasil bore liners – although most were fixed under warranty.

While there’s a supply of lower-mileage examples still in private hands you could do worse than find a high-spec six or V8 before they get hyped up. Like the Arctic Silver ’95 530i SE manual for sale in Kent for £4250 with 43,000 miles and full history. That one definitely feels like a bargain.