PH Fleet


Monday 13th August 2012


Harris acquires a crashed M5 as a parts donor but plans swiftly evolve to more exciting schemes...

There are many good things about social media, but by far the best is the shrinking effect it provides for communities of specific old crocks. Like BMW E28 M5s.

Earlier this year we shot a video of my E28 and, during filming, it jettisoned a wheel centre. Normally this wouldn't bother me too much, but it left the rim looking bare and it was compounded by the missing towing-eye covers from the front spoiler. I am not a man for aesthetics, but the car looked like it was missing two front teeth and had its right arm in a sling.

Poor Tim's loss is Harris's gain
Poor Tim's loss is Harris's gain
I asked about on Twitter: "Anyone know of any E28 bits for sale?" As usual, there was much rallying and support, but those specific parts were not easily located. Plan B was to send an email to a very kind chap called Tim Horsley, who helped me with an E34 wheel question earlier in the year. I know, we M-people are a sad bunch. You see he had exactly the same spec. M5 as me.

I asked if he knew of any spares hanging around.

One man's loss
This was his response: "Your timing is perfect as I have also literally just had an incident I'm not especially proud of(!) and mine is properly bent courtesy of a rather large oak tree. Gutted is not the word."

Being a grave digger around someone's recently-pranged P-A-J isn't good form, so I tried to be subtle. Tim said it needed shelling and that now wasn't the right time for him to be undertaking such a job - he was happy to sell the car as was.

Looks like the oak tree won this argument
Looks like the oak tree won this argument
Now, as anyone with something a little bit old and rare will attest, getting hold of random bits to keep it looking and feeling good is the hardest part of ownership. Especially if it's German, because the parts prices of the bespoke stuff becomes confused with the parts numbers over time. That being the only way to explain some of the ludicrous prices quoted.

We did a deal and not long after Tim arrived with his car. Its motor is showing 190,000 miles with only a light top-end having been done in that time. The shell is a mess, as is the left rear corner where it looks like the trailing arm has failed, sending him into that immovable oak tree.

The living dead
Watching him poring over my car - identical in every way to his - was rather painful, but he has promised to get himself another one when the time is right, and he insists that he would prefer his M5 to be a legacy donor to a fit and healthy car. This marks him out as a proper human being, and for that I thank him.

Parts donor or budding race car project?
Parts donor or budding race car project?
I'm not quite sure what to make of the way the E28 handled hitting a tree. The whole shell has buckled and the unions between the window-pillars and the roof panel have twisted like plastic straws. You really wouldn't want to invert one. But Tim's in one piece, so it can't be that bad.

My original plan for the car was simple. Leave it as-is, have the motor out and rebuilt so that when, one day, mine needs some attention, we have a spare. But looking at the car now, other thoughts are forming. One is the same plan, but a hotter motor. I hear some US builders are getting a decent 350hp from 3.7-litre versions - now that in a 1,500kg E28 would make a truly magnificent sleeper.

The other is turning it into racing car. I need to investigate the homologation situation, because as far as I know, despite being a Motorsport product, the E28 M5 was never homologated for competition - in which case it's a non-starter. The third is obviously to build it into another road car, but I think it would be less hassle to have the spares for mine.

The longer I own this car, the more I adore it. Every drive is an event; every day passed it becomes cooler and more significant. Thanks Tim for helping me prolong its life.

1986 BMW M5
Run by: Chris Harris
Bought: August 2006
Mileage: 131,000
Purchase price: £9,500 ... possibly
Last month at a glance: Search for spares results in buying another M5...

Previous reports:
The M5 awakes from hibernation fighting fit


Author: Chris Harris