Who Wants…A Crusty Euro E28? 1985 BMW 520i

If you grew up in the time when the North American car market was only able to access foreign automakers’ full menus via the gray market, and later not at all, being limited to underpowered, big-bumpered versions of those cars, you can’t help cast a longing glance at a gray-market car. And if you’ve really got it badly, you’ll look at any gray market car that way, even the most clapped out heap of an example. Interestingly, the more worn out they are, the more they represent how they would be likely to look in their home markets, if they were even still alive and on the road. You can find an authentic piece of Euro-scrap in the US – the E28 interpretation being fairly rare compared to its E30 and Mercedes W123 brethren – if you look hard, which is how you’ll find this 1985 BMW 520i for sale for $995 in Emeryville, CA.

1985 BMW 520i left front

With an original 123hp and 130 lb.-ft. of torque from the factory, a contemporary 4-cylinder Alfa (or even some BMWs) of equal displacement would probably equal this car’s M20B20 by the numbers, and better it in fuel consumption, but that would be ignoring the joy of an inline six. While it was probably a good deal back when new to purchase one of these, versus the US-only 533i, at this point the larger-engined car is probably an equally good deal unless you’re primarily after the oddball cachet. A manual conversion would likely do wonders for the driving experience, but you’d have to put up with people asking you why.

1985 BMW 520i left rear

This particular car has suffered mightily for being the bottom of the six-cylinder barrel, with faded paint, some odd rust above the driver’s tail light, and most recently having its nose bashed in (interestingly, the 2002 you see in the picture here has received the same nose job). The car is said to have a V6 (the only BMW to have one! ever!), automatic, sunroof, and a $1000 stereo system. Buy a stereo system and get the car thrown in for free? The mileage (125,000) suggests that this car had a federal speedometer installed after laying down some kilometers in another part of the world.

1985 BMW 520i interior

While the driver’s seat is said to need replacement, there is no picture of the actual seat. The car also needs an oxygen sensor to pass smog (look up the history and you’ll see it’s failed several times for a tampered emissions system), along with several hundred in back fees at the DMV. So before you rescue this thing to do a 5-speed conversion, full body and paint, and source a new front bumper, make sure the car has all the appropriate BAR/CARB and EPA paperwork and stickers. Do it and be the only one at the local BMW show.

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