My first M car was a ratty 3.0-litre E36 M3 - tough as old boots and damned fast. This was replaced by the king of bork, otherwise know as the E34 M5 Touring, which was marginally less expensive to run than Concorde. The arrival of children and family dog persuaded me that Garching's limited edition estate car would be the perfect combination of practicality and subtle speed. But looking back - given how often the pooch actually travelled by M - I should have bought an E28.
A few months after the E34 left someone told me about a recently restored E28 that might be for sale. There was virtually no history but it was clean - that was the information. It turned out to be an absolute stunner but still with zero provenance, which in cruel market terms is a bit of a problem. But, much like Marty McFly being called a chicken, I cannot stand certain market conventions, especially ones where bits of paper become more valuable than the cars they supposedly document and they spur me into rash purchases. Balls to convention - the car was a minter. A few months later, I bought it.
What is it about the E28? It's the first of its type from the modern era. An ostensibly normal saloon car using the hottest engine BMW could find. For people who enjoy classic BMW styling the E28 is the exemplar: the hip-kink, the top-forward grille, the driver-centric dash. It's a fantastically proportioned car. But most of all, every time I drive it I imagine what it must have been like to be a roadtester in 1986, when a seriously fast saloon car might just crack 22 seconds from rest to 100mph and suddenly BMW produces a car that looks little different to a 535i and will do the same in 15.6 seconds. It would keep a 3.2 Carrera very honest.
I love the fact that it's rare - apparently only 187 came to the UK in RHD form. It also feels like a car that was handbuilt - the quality of the interior is remarkable, the leather is thick and robust, the plastics durable.
The driving experience is even better, helped no doubt by a set of Avon tyres that are far superior to the original Michelins. With 286hp pushing a little over 1,500kg it isn't in the same league as a modern super saloon but the flip side is that most people are staggered how fast something that looks like a taxi can cover ground. The driving position is good, the wheel a little too far away, so you bring the seat close and push the long-travel throttle right into the footwell. It sounds good at idle, then builds and builds and then above 5,000rpm it makes the classic, yelping, M straight-six noise.
Meanwhile, in the real world
I have no idea what the car's worth now, nor in fact can I find any confirmation of what I paid for it in 2006. I know it was between £9.5K and £10K. It's the best value car I've ever bought because it genuinely is a dream purchase for me - a machine I lusted after as a child and never believed I would one day own, something steeped in significance and specialness. Everything else in that bracket is now six figures. These are still well under £20K.
As for the present, things aren't quite as rosy. I didn't use the car last year, and always being accustomed to leaving it for months and having it rumble into life on the key, two weeks ago it refused to start. It might be the ECU. Anyways, I'm about to take it somewhere for a bit of a birthday, so if anyone has strong feelings as to who the best people for an E28 M5 are, please share the information.
Car: 1986 BMW M5
Run by: Chris Harris
Bought: August 2006
Purchase price: £9,500 ... possibly
Last month at a glance: Attempted rouse from slumber, with no sign of life. Off for some TLC!