Buyer's Guide: BMW E39 M5 - Six Figure Club Member

At Monterey this past summer, a late-model BMW M5 sold for $176,000, more than a hundred grand north of its original MSRP. Okay, what just happened?

Most of the biggest surprises of the week were for cars that were fresh to market, had driven relatively few miles, and were largely original,” explains Jonathan Klinger, Vice President of Public Relations at Hagerty. “Car collectors continue to become more discerning, paying eye-watering amounts for very specific examples and refusing to even offer a bid for similar but lesser models.”

How many miles had this particular 2002 M5 covered during its 16 years on this planet? Just 437. In this case, someone bought a stellar example of a stellar model. The E39-chassis M5, sold stateside for the 2000-’03 model years, does everything nearly perfectly. It’s more than a warmed-up 5 Series sedan. Think of it as a slightly larger, more practical M3.

BMW built about 20,000 units total, with half of them coming to North America. The cars are out there. That Monterey sale just adds some data to other recent eye-opening transactions. Bring a Trailer sold a 21,000-mile, Dinan-enhanced example for $60,000. A stock one with just 10,000 miles sold soon after for $51,000. For a car that’s actually been driven, though, budget very high teens to about $40,000–for now, anyway.

Why You Want One

■ The M5 is definitely worthy of the M badge on its tail. Power comes from BMW’s S62 engine, a 4.9-liter V8 fed by eight individual throttle bodies. Engine response is razor sharp, while total output nudges 400 horsepower, a very strong figure for its day.

■ Handling, for a sedan, is sporty, lively and confident. Compared to the standard 5 Series, the M5 is lower, stiffer and stronger.

■ True to its mission, BMW only offered the car with a six-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.

■ The M5 offers room for five along with a generously sized trunk.

■ The looks are timeless–stately yet reserved. Expect to find many in toned-down colors.

■ For history buffs, one more thing to love: It’s the first M-badged BMW to get a V8 from the factory.



Sales manager Bavarian Autosport
(800) 535-2002

The BMW M60, M62 and S62 V8 engines have a nasty habit of eating their timing chain guides. The specific culprit is the large V-shaped assembly that guides the chain down from the cams on bank one–below the V8’s middle valley–and back up to bank two.

The base of this assembly is a very high-pressure wear point, as the chain is being pulled down, across, and back up the V. The plastic anti-friction surface gradually wears away, exposing the bare aluminum underneath. Once this happens, you’ll hear chain noise. If you ignore it, shortly thereafter the chain will become loose enough to jump timing. At that point, bent valves are likely.

The repair, if made before the wear is bad enough to cause a timing jump, runs about $800 to $1000 in parts–all-new guides, tensioners, chain and gaskets. The labor is around 6 to 12 hours, depending on who’s doing the work. Common mileage for replacement is in the 100K–150K range, although we’ve seen some timing chains last much longer. We feel that oil change intervals and type of oil may have a bearing on this.

The S62 engine employs the BMW Double VANOS variable camshaft timing system. Both the intake and the exhaust cam timing is controlled by the VANOS system. As the system components age, the seals on the VANOS pistons wear and harden, reducing their seal and wearing the pistons themselves. This causes a rattling noise, rather like a diesel sound. Additionally, the VANOS control solenoids can wear and fail, requiring replacement. The VANOS piston assemblies can be rebuilt at a moderate cost–for an M model–and a few hours of labor.

The drilled passages of the secondary air system can clog and prevent the air from being delivered to one or all of the ports. When this happens, a fault code for insufficient secondary air injection will be generated. If the cause is indeed clogged passages, the heads must come off and the passaged drilled to clean the built-up carbon. This fault is more prevalent on engines that have a lot of short-trip or city driving versus long-distance highway driving.

The E39 M5 enjoys the same common rust issues as the standard E39 5 Series cars. The high-occurrence areas include the underside of the rockers, lower door edges at the skin-to-frame crimp, around the taillights, and the rear wheel arches.

Sold: 2002 BMW M5

■ Less than 500 miles from new and billed as a time capsule find.

■ Sold for $176,000 by Gooding & Company at its Monterey sale.


Bavarian Autosport 
(800) 535-2002

(877) 639-9648

(800) 467-9769

FCP Euro 
(860) 388-9001

Korman Auto Works 
(336) 275-1494

Redline BMW Performance 
(954) 783-7003

The Werk Shop 
(847) 295.3200

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