1994 BMW M5 Touring E34 vs. 1975 BMW 2002 Turbo E20
Two compelling BMWs from very different eras – which makes the better classic buy? That’s the £65,000 question...
Words: Guy Baker
Photography: Hexagon Classics
Classic BMWs are enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment, with cars built in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s most in demand. More affordable than many older classic BMWs, finding parts is often less problematic too and if you invest in a performance model – like this month’s two engaging contenders – then you can enjoy driving your classic BMW every bit as much as you would a more contemporary BMW. These two stunning- looking classic BMWs command different price tags, but good examples of both are set to appreciate in value over the next few years. And whether you choose the introvert M5 Touring or the extrovert 2002 Turbo E20 every journey will put a smile on your face.
Only ever produced in left-hand drive form, BMW’s E34 M5 Touring is their last hand-built M Car and provides a relatively affordable route into classic BMW ownership. The first M5 to appear in Touring estate form, BMW’s E34 was also the last six-cylinder M car to be made with an estate body and it’s a rare beast too – with just 891 examples produced between 1992 and 1995. Relatively understated angular styling with only subtle M5 badging means many other road users simply aren’t aware of the car’s potential performance – and that adds to the E34’s appeal.
With a 3795cc S38B38 inline 33bhp six-cylinder engine, originally developed from the unit in BMW’s M1 supercar, a bespoke M suspension and an enhanced braking system, the E34 M5 Touring offered power and driving pleasure beyond anything else in its class at the time. Top speed was limited to 155mph, whilst the benchmark 0-62mph time was just 5.9-seconds, making the E34 M5 the quickest estate car in the World at the time. This rev- happy S38B38 motor produced 295lb ft of torque at a heady 4750rpm.
With no proper production line set up the car had to be hand-assembled in Garching, and came with a rear limited-slip diff, a compound braking system and a durable five (or six-speed from 1994) manual transmission. In addition, BMW also fitted a bespoke adaptive suspension as standard. Compared to lesser E34 models the M5 also claimed unique front and rear bumpers and side rocker panels, plus a range of interior upgrades including a unique gearshift surround and rear headrests. Some first owners also opted for a Nürburgring Handling Pack which included switchable dampers, wider rear wheels, and a thicker rear anti-roll bar. And although the M5 is all about performance, there’s plenty of rear passenger and boot space, making the E34 Touring one of the most capacious M5s.
Twenty years older than the E34 M5 Touring – and only produced in two-door Coupé form – the 2002 Turbo is everything the M5 isn’t. Unashamedly outgoing, its boy-racer looks, angular shark-nosed silhouette, go faster stripes, riveted on arch extensions, big kidney grille and boot spoiler all say “look at me”. And with a ‘Turbo 2002’ front bumper sticker mounted backwards so that it can be read by the car in front this Coupe’s intentions couldn’t be clearer!
And woe betide anyway who didn’t get out the 2002’s way, because it was one of the fastest accelerating cars around in the early 1970s. As the first European turbocharged production car its performance was comparable with the Porsche 911 of the day, and the turbocharged 1991cc four-pot motor that was good for 168hp at 5800rpm and 178lb ft at 4000rpm. Produced with both four- and five-speed manual gearboxes, standstill to 62mph arrived in just 7.3-seconds, whilst the Turbo’s top speed was 130mph. But the 1973 World oil crisis ensured that the 2002 Turbo’s production run was short-lived, with only 1672 cars built worldwide. And that means it’s nearly as rare as hens’ teeth – we believe there are only 20 left in the UK, making it one of the rarest BMWs you can buy. And that scarcity has driven values sky high: expect to pay well over 100,000 for a decent example.
BMW only produced the Turbo in two colours – Chamonix White and Polaris Silver – and its seminal K,Kand K (Kuhnle, Kopp and Kausch) turbocharger kicks in at 4000rpm adding an additional 40hp to the 2002 Tii- sourced unit, plus plenty of excitement. BMW also added an oil cooler, bigger brakes, a limited slip differential for better high-speed cornering, and high-speed tyres – but still kept the kerb weight down to just 1080kg.
Both our classic contenders hark back to yesteryear, when everything was simpler – and that’s especially true of these cars’ interiors. Settle down into the driver’s seat of the E34 BMW M5 Touring and your faced with a sea of 1990s black leather and hard plastics – with plenty of ashtrays! And though at first sight it’s not as inviting as more modern fare all the controls are obvious, with simple instruments and chunky switchgear that’s easy to use and feels like it will last forever.
The driving position is actually very good, with supportive seats that keep you in place and the plain steering wheel means your focus is always on the road ahead. More engaging to drive than many modern BMWs in Touring guise the E34 M5 is refreshing low profile, whilst the manual transmission which redlines at 7000rpm isn’t really geared for low-down acceleration doesn’t like to be rushed. But the throttle response and growling performance at the higher end of the rev range are still very much there, with plenty of grip when needed – and a rear end that can be easily controlled if you choose to step out. And the steering really lets you know everything that’s going on.
Our Diamond Black 1994 shoot car – currently for sale at Hexagon Classics for £39,995 – is a great example of what you could buy, although cars like this don’t appear for sale that often. Recently restored it comes with Black leather, a sunroof, the Nürburgring Handling Pack, heated seats, the six-speed manual gearbox, headlight wash, a rear LSD, and those definitive throwing star M alloys, the interior light package, BMW Business radio/ HiFi and was originally supplied new by BMW Munich, before coming to the UK in 2012.
If you tend to shun the limelight, then the 2002 Turbo probably isn’t the classic BMW for you. One of the most recognisable BMW designs the external ‘boy-racer’ styling -with Motorsport stripes, a boot spoiler, wide arches and aggressive bumper-less front spoiler – leaves other road users in no doubt as to the car’s intentions. But driving one on the road these days invariably provokes admiration, rather than envy. Just 43 official UK cars were imported. The classic 1970s cockpit is even more rudimentary than that of the E34 BMW M5 Touring and dominated by the red trim surrounding the three main circular instruments. There are also two additional displays in the middle of the dashboard – clock to the left, turbo pressure to the right – whilst perfectly placed sports seats and a leather steering wheel were standard.
Needless to say, you won’t find a digital trip computer or any drink holders in the 2002 Turbo, and the controls are all simple to use — but showing its age the car does claim three ashtrays! The ride is fairly firm and the steering quite heavy but the 2002 is wonderfully engaging to drive, with the whistle of the turbocharger dominant as you push beyond 4000rpm. And you can enjoy steering on the throttle whenever the mood takes you. Our stunning Polaris Silver metallic 1975 shoot car is in mint condition and claims a five-speed gearbox and Black leatherette upholstery. With a lowly 41,000-miles it has been maintained with no expense sparred and is currently advertised for sale at Hexagon Classics for £109,995.
Accompanied by an original handbook, brochure and workshop catalogues it is available to view at Hexagon’s London showrooms.
Owning either of these classic BMWs would be a highly-rewarding experience but buying the best example you can is essential — if you want to see a return on your investment. Wise buyers always research any potential problems first (we’ll give you all the major issues you should be aware of) and befriend a trustworthy BMW specialist to help them inspect potential purchases. The later can also provide expert ongoing maintenance — and advise you on how best to store your classic BMW once you’ve bought it. Set aside a fighting fund to deal with any maintenance and repair issues too and only ever buy a rust- free example, with a pristine provenance. That said, if you have the wherewithal you can pick up an E34 M5 Touring in need of restoration for less than £25,000 – but if you don’t have restoration expertise then stick to mint examples, which currently start at around £40,000. Recommissioning a tired M5 can cost as much, if not more, than the car itself, with rust and corrosion potentially affecting almost all areas of the car.
And it’s not just the bodywork that could need attention, would-be E34 buyers should also look out for timing chain issues and failing steering linkages, as well as perished bushes, warped discs and misbehaving electrics. make sure that everything functions as expected, including the ventilation controls, seat adjustment, and check that the M5-specific instrument cluster is present and correct — it should have red needles and an oil temperature gauge.
Proper maintenance is essential, but routine E34 servicing at a specialist isn’t especially expensive, particularly, but checking the valve clearances can be overlooked — they should be inspected and adjusted every 15,000-miles, or annually.
Worn bushes and shot ball joints cause sloppy handling and you should inspect the radiator and water pumps for any signs of leaks or overheating. A rattle from the front of the engine could indicate a tired timing-chain tensioner and the dampers used in the EDC system are very expensive to replace – a specialist refurbishment is usually the best option.
As with the M5, the biggest potential issue for 2002 Turbo buyers is rust – lower values in the 1990s meant some older restorations were carried out on a budget, using non-original parts and patching up corrosion instead of repairing it properly. So, beware – even if the 2002 you’re looking appears pristine on the outside, it might still be hiding all sorts of problems underneath.
Reported hot-spots include the rear spring boxes on the inner wheel-arch housings, outer arches, inner and outer sills, the four jacking points, front inner wings, the lower outer and inner front panels, inner front wing box sections and the floor of the car. And although most panels are readily available, it could still prove prohibitively expensive to buy a 2002 Turbo with a rusty shell to do a full restoration.
Other known issues include worn valve stem seals, worn cylinder bores, cooling issues – the aluminium cylinder head can crack if it overheats — blown head gaskets and worn rocker shafts and rockers. Front wheel bearings on the 2002 Turbo need regular greasing, whilst dampers eventually leak, and suspension springs can crack. Most of the electrics however tend to last remarkably well.
The finest 2002 Turbos have almost all been recommissioned – so check the provenance with a fine-toothed comb. There should be pictures, loads of paperwork and even videos – plus a history file. 2002 Turbo prices range from £65,000 for cars in need of TLC, right up to £140,000 — with most good examples between £100k and £140k.
Owning either of these classic BMWs would be a highly-rewarding experience
MODEL PERFORMANCE DRIVING EXPERIENCE STYLE MAINTENANCE COSTS FUTURE VALUE
- M5 TOURING (E34) 4/5 4/5 3/5 4/5 3/5
- 2002 TURBO (E20) 3/5 5/5 4/5 4/5 4/5
TECHNICAL DATA E34 M5 Touring (1992-1995)
- ENGINE: 3795cc six-cylinder
- POWER: 335hp at 6900rpm
- TORQUE: 295lb ft at 4750rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual
- 0-62MPH: 5.9-seconds
- TOP SPEED: 155mph
- PRICE RANGE: £25,000 — £65,000
TECHNICAL DATA E20 2002 Turbo (1973-1975)
- ENGINE: 1991cc four-cylinder turbo
- POWER: 168hp at 5800rpm
- TORQUE: 178lb ft at 4000rpm
- TRANSMISSION: 4/5-speed manual
- 0-60MPH: 7.3-seconds
- TOP SPEED: 130mph
- PRICE RANGE: £65,000 — £140,000