It had to happen eventually.
A recent trawl through the classifieds confirms that early examples of the ‘E39’ generation BMW 5-series have dropped below the magic £1200 mark at which one can reasonably anticipate bagging one after waving a grand in cash under the owner’s nose.
Dirt-cheap E39s have been around for a couple of years, early versions are approaching their 13th birthdays after all, but until recently they tended to be the dodgiest of the dodgy – cars with visible damage, starship mileages or with the strong possibility of being stolen non-recovered.
Suddenly there are seemingly dozens of decent-looking ones out there for a ‘trader’s thousand’, with some even boasting full service history, a respectable number of owners and mileages in the low 100,000s.
Most of the cheapies are 520is, meaning the smooth-but-gutless 150bhp 2.0-litre straight six, but even that brings the upside of mid-30s mpg when used with appropriate respect. And, after digging a bit deeper, I found a promising-looking ’97 528i SE saloon for £1250 for anyone prepared to take a bet on its 205,000 miles.
Of course, after my recent experience with the £1000 Mercedes W124 that I ran for a story, I should really know better than to be seriously considering ploughing my hard-earned into another cheapo German exec – with these cars, the initial purchase tends to be just where the spending starts. But I’ve always regarded the E39 as the ultimate exemplar of the pre-Bangle BMW, and with prices like these I’m seriously tempted.