My first experience with a 5 Series BMW E39 ended up being a very short one.
Back then I was just searching for something to begin a project, to rebuild and learn along the way, and didn’t have any make, model, body type or fuel restrictions. In fact, the only condition was that it had to be cheap.
One night while driving back home, I spotted a car that I have seen before in an online sale. The weather was not in my favour but since I was looking forward to add some troubles into my life, decided to go and check it anyway. After a quick look around, 3/4 of the car seemed fine so I took down the phone number and went away to give it a try on the next day.
I previously said that there was nothing wrong with 3/4 of this car, right? Well, that’s because it had been involved in some kind of accident and there was severe damage to the front left side, which the guy who was selling had fixed with…ropes!
Yes, you read it right, the whole suspension was tied together but apparently it was a job well done because after a bit of negotiation and a 4 kilometers drive back home, everything was still in place…
I had the 520i for around six months and during that period I barely touched it, being traded in for a two year younger 530d in a much better shape.
Allow me to skip the second chapter of the story because I will talk about it in depth in another article.
Along the years while I was watching pictures to get some inspiration and ideas for the sedan, I also found a lot of cool wagons and wondered “What if?…”, so fast forwarding to October 2020 and I’m currently on my third E39 iteration with another 520i, now in a different body type.
Working on this Touring is kind of a trip down to memory lane because I was doing the exact same thing 10 years ago to my 530d. I still have all the parts from when I was playing around, experimenting here and there before reaching its current and final state and that was also one of the reasons I decided to get yet another E39.
This one surely is far off its best days but still in a much better condition than my first. A bit of rust but no dents, the absorbers are shot but still uses proper bolts to keep everything together, the interiors are not that bad and the engine pulls great, althought it is idling a bit high but I already managed to pin point the issue and got it sorted.
I have the habit of writing down all the details of my cars in separate notepads, alongside with what have already been done, at what mileage and all the costs involved so I’m basically following the guidelines I took for the 530d here. The first change I made to the sedan was to replace every single interior and exterior small bulb to LEDs, so it was no different with this one.
I’m not a big fan of doing the same to older cars like, for example, the 5 Series E34 or the Volkswagen Thing because this technology was not available back then, only arriving to the car industry in 1993. But some cars came equipped from factory with LED lighting, either on higher spec models or as an optional and usually also expensive extra to any version, being the E39 BMW 5 Series one of those cases.
It was a very easy and cheap mod to do, mainly because I already had all the required bulbs, otherwise the total would had been around 20€. In the end, I think this shaves a couple of years from any car and looks great!