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Rescuing a Classic BMW E39 Touring Sport Wagon

It’s been nearly five months since I last posted a video on YouTube. It was a fun video where I just drove around in our E53 X5 during a blizzard here in Connecticut. That was early February, 2021. Check it out below:

It was around this time that I came across a very sad 525iT which was just listed for sale locally on Craigslist. With several feet of snow piling up during a tough New England winter, there wasn’t much to do but indulge in the pastime we all love: browsing online car ads for old BMW’s.

It wasn’t long before I saw the touring ad on Craigslist Fairfield. It had been advertised for $1,600 which seemed like a steal at first glance. That was of course, until I saw the car in person. It was definitely the worst condition car I’ve probably ever seen, let alone purchased.

Meeting with the Seller

Nearly everything was broken and needed replacing. Service engine soon light illuminated. Seats torn. Driver seat not moving. Interior disgusting. Rust. Dents. Dings. Sunroof stuck closed. Curb rash on every wheel. Valve cover gasket leaking. One hundred and ninety thousand miles on the clock. Recently failed emissions test. Missing side mirror and rear wiper arm. It also sported a mystery battery drain issue, which later turned out to be a bad DSP amp sucking juice from the battery overnight.

But somehow, none of that mattered. I had never seen an E39 touring wagon in person, nor had I owned one. Perhaps that’s a testament to how rare they really are; only around 5,000 525i Touring cars were imported to the US.

As a staunch E39 enthusiast, I was really excited at the prospect of owning a touring, without spending $10,000 for a nice one. You may be shocked at how much they’re selling for on Bring a Trailer these days. Check out the market today, here.

540iT Sold for $27,500 March 9, 2021

I did decode the VIN number with a BMW VIN decoder to see what options it had, which were unique. Xenon lights, self-leveling sport suspension, DSP premium sound system, rear sun blinds, sport premium package, convenience package. A clean CarFax report revealed only two owners and no accident history. It also had a clean Connecticut title.

Upon inspecting the car, a box in the trunk offered a glimmer of hope. Inside it revealed a 3” thick binder of BMW dealer service history since 2001 along with the original window sticker. There’s always something inspiring about finding the original window sticker and service records. Next to that were the monster two-volume E39 Bentley manuals. The service history was exclusively performed at BMW dealerships which added up to over $20,000 invested since 2001.

Recent work for big-ticket items included: new rear air suspension springs, new front struts, oil pan gasket, and a $750 BMW windshield replacement done at BMW. The original owner really loved this car.

The 525iT’s Original Window Sticker

I then did something I had never done before. I told the seller I would consider it and get back to them. Usually, I come prepared to jump on a car deal right away, which one should always prepared to do. But this time, I really didn’t want a project of this magnitude. So I waited two days. I really didn’t want it. Honest. But someone had to rescue it. After all, this was the police car used by the Berlin Polizei in Germany from 2001-2004. More on that later.

I floated an offer of $900 to the seller, which they immediately accepted. They wanted to see it get rebuilt on YouTube, and they knew it was going into the right hands if I bought it.

Blizzard Begins as the Touring arrived home

I was supposed to be done rescuing old BMW’s. Yet here we were, with a tiny suburban driveway full of future projects and a blizzard ready to drop several feet of snow.

As we enter the July 4th weekend of Summer 2021, I am finally beginning to edit YouTube videos again. I’ve been filming every detail of every repair on this Touring rescue over the last five months. Nights, weekends, and sometimes during the day, only if I’m blessed with a long enough baby nap.

As a full-time stay-at-home Dad, my channel has been on the back burner this year. I look forward to bringing you this E39 Touring rescue series in the coming weeks on YouTube. Thanks for sticking around.

Looking for more E39 content? Check out my last E39 rescue series from July 2019 on YouTube here.

1 Comment

  1. Can’t wait to see what you have done to the wagon. I have an ‘02 e39 525i wagon myself and am slowly bringing the cars reliability up to snuff. It’s my daily and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Hope to incorporate techniques that you have completed on yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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