The Executive Sports Sedan of the Eighties – 1988 BMW 535i For Sale Now

Bid to – $36,500

Sleek, elegant, and on the cusp of the technological future, the 5-series – since its introduction in  1972 – worked hard to inject enjoyable performance in a typically dull market area – the sedan. Then nine years after its original inception, the 5-series underwent some minor cosmetic and mechanical surgery to keep up with the changing times. Retaining its large windows, crisp lines, Hoffmeister kink, and classic quad headlight and kidney front grills, the new 5-series perfectly fit the part of an evolutionary progeny to its forefather. However, underneath the suave, yet subdued styling were some big chassis and technological innovations that thrust BMW’s executive saloon deeper into uncharted territory.

By the middle of the decade standard equipment, specifically in the United States market, was pleasantly comprehensive. Power windows, central locking, air conditioning, the new ABS system, a sunroof, cruise control, fog lights, and more items chalked up a satisfying standard equipment list. BMW had done such a spectacular job designing, building, and marketing the 5-series during the eighties that they were rewarded with well over 700,000 sales orders by the final year of production, 1988. As luck would have it, we have just that year of 5-series coming on our auction block today and what a beautiful example it is.

Originally a California car, this 5-series moved to Georgia in 2014 and was sold to the current owner in 2017. After returning the car to California and putting roughly 500 miles on the odometer, he has elected to put the 5-series back up on the auction block. BMW painted the 535i in option 139, Bronzit Beige Metallic, and the paint is still in an unbelievably sublime condition to this day. Factory VIN stickers still attached to the hood, doors, trunk, and fenders and verify the paint color and options.

While the color and most of the options are still present, previous owners have done some cosmetic upgrades to the exterior which have greatly intensified the aesthetic attractiveness. For starters, European chrome front and rear bumpers were installed to replace their larger, more unsightly U.S.-market counterparts. The front bumper also benefits from the addition of a chin spoiler with functional air dams. This was done to further establish an allure of unassuming athletic prowess for this 535i. Meanwhile, the side mirror housings have been color-matched to the body, happily removing some of the excessive black plastic that BMW elected to use for trimming. In 2011, the front windshield was replaced with an OEM glass piece and a new gasket. All of the lenses remain crystal clear with the front headlight wiper blades functioning as expected. All over the body, trim pieces and badging are well secured and undamaged.

One area of the second generation 5-series that saw the most significant improvements was the suspension. A double-jointed front axle helped reduce front brake buffering from the ABS and semi-trailing arms out on the rear axle smoothed out the ride. This 535i has been modestly lowered with Suspension Techniques springs and matching Bilstein sport shock absorbers. Together they nicely decrease unsightly wheel well gap without being too detrimental to the ride quality. 17” BBS Style 5 wheels wrapped in newer Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires play flawlessly into the sporty eighties appearance. Plus, an additional BBS wheel with tire is included in the purchase. As an unexpected surprise, beneath the wheels are period-correct brake calipers from an E28 M5 to boldly boost stopping power. Those units were rebuilt with new gaskets and seals by a previous owner while control arm bushings were being replaced.

When BMW revamped the 5-series, electronic fuel injection was another innovative enhancement incorporated into engine design and development. Backed by a five-speed manual transmission, the fuel injected 3.4-liter M30 straight-six produces around 182 horsepower with 214 lbs-ft of torque on tap. To keep the motor racing at its peak, new fuel lines, a radiator with hoses, motor mounts, battery, a factory replacement new exhaust system, plus a clutch slave and master cylinder were all recently serviced and replaced. In 2017, an oil and filter change was conducted at the request of the current owner.

Service records show that previous owners have had no issues keeping this 535i in pristine condition including the air conditioning system. Converted to R134a refrigerant with a Sanden compressor, a new drier, fresh lines, and sealing rings, this BMW blows cold during even the hottest temperatures. Kept in original condition, the engine bay, aside from a polished aluminum strut tower stress bar, is in an exterior matching immaculate condition.

Entirely more enjoyable with the cool air conditioning temperatures, the inside is a luxuriously well-appointed place to be seated. Up front, the original comfort seats have been replaced with factory supplied electronically adjustable sports seats. To match the rear seat’s leather covers, the new front seats were recovered in coordinating Llama leather (option 209), and both sets of chairs show virtually no wear. Another revision includes the installment of an M-Tech three-spoke sports steering wheel that has a BMW Motorsports tri-color band around the southern spoke. A rearview mirror with a map light and black and tan Coco floor mats complete the alterations inside.

To broaden the technological assault on the 5-series, the E28 was further emboldened by BMW with on-board informational computers (to the right of the instrument cluster), electric windows, electric mirror adjustment, and an electronics function test panel. The factory installed AM/FM radio with cassette player has recently been restored, and a dealership installed alarm system is connected. All instruments work as expected, and the current mileage on the odometer reads just a touch under 85,000-miles.

Given the apparent attention to details and care it should be no surprise that over the past decade, this 535i has received no less than eight Concours awards including first place victories from BMW CCA and Legends of the Autobahn. In 2013, this car was also prominently featured in Bimmer magazine for its retention of original materials and period-correct modifications. As such, the factory tool kit is still complete, unused, and has the original BMW branded microfiber towel and replacement bulb set in foam.

Next, to the tool kit are the original spare tire and jack, plus the factory supplied first aid kit, which is still affixed to the side of the trunk. A BMW front sunshade is also included with the sale alongside a binder full of service records and invoices dating back to 1993. Complete with the factory owners manual and books, the trophies, a clean Carfax report, and a clean California title in the seller’s name, you will not likely find a better example of BMW’s executive sports sedan from the eighties.

See the BMW auction here!

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