This first generation M5 was introduced in the mid-1980's as an answer to those who needed the practicality of four doors and the performance only a BMW Motorsport car could offer. The car was built by hand, one at a time, at BMW motorsport using the standard BMW 5 Series body shell. From this shell, special equipment including the M1 derived engine, heavy duty transmission, lightweight suspension parts, larger high performance tires, M sport seats, and extended leather interior were built into the car.
The M5 was a one-of-a-kind vehicle. It was never officially made into a race car although, had there been some sedan competition, surely would have been a winner. Today, first generation M5's are becoming collector items for those who enjoy the combination of a roomy interior and quintessential BMW performance.
The BMW M5 is a performance version of BMW's 5-Series and created by BMW Motorsports. First introduced at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1984, the M5 has been made from various 5-Series versions throughout the years, including the E28, E34, E39 and E60. Originally, the M5 was hand-built utilizing the 535i chassis and a modified BMW M1 engine. When introduced, it was the fastest production saloon car in the world.
In 1984 BMW offered multiple versions of the M5 to accommodate the different markets and the rules that governed the production of vehicles in each of those areas. There were Left Hand Drives, Right Hand Drives, Euro Specs, North American Spec (NA), and South African (ZA) Spec M5. The North American M5 versions were equipped with a catalytic converter which degraded the horsepower from 286 to 256. With the 286 horsepower engine, the Euro spec M5's could race from zero to sixty in just 6.2 seconds. The North American specs accomplished the sixty-mile-an-hour run in 6.5 seconds.
The production of the M5 on the E28 series platform lasted from 1984 through 1986. From 1989 through 1995 the M5 was produced on the E34 platform. For the North American market, production of the E34 M5 was from 1991 through 1993 and continued the tradition of being hand built usually in teams and transpiring over a two week time period.
Under the hood was a modified inline-six cylinder engine from the E28 M5 and the E24 M635CSi. The bore and stroke were enlarged to a total capacity of 3535 cc and a compression of 10:1. Unique to the M5 engine were a new forged steel crankshaft, camshafts, and electronically controlled butterfly valve. The result was 3.6 liters and 315 horsepower. The US and Switzerland versions received catalytic converters and a lower horsepower rating, 310. Power was dispersed to the rear wheels with the help of a Getrag 280/5 five-speed manual transmission. Standard was a limited slip differential with a maximum locking of twenty-five percent.
The engine was further modified in 1992 to 3.8 liters, except for the North American market which retained the 3.6 liter unit. Power rose to a respectable 340 horsepower for the Euro Spec engines. A six-speed Getrag gearbox, introduced in 1992 for the Euro Spec M5, continued to improve the performance of the M5.
Four specialty packages of the E34 M5 were produced with the Cecotto Edition being the most exclusive with only twenty-two examples created. BMW approached two racing individuals, Joachim Winkelhock and Johnny Cecotto, for their input on the production of the M5. Cecotto requested luxury items while Winkelhock requested a lightweight version of the M5. Cecotto's versions was adorned in luxury items such as leather heated seats, wood trim, power sunroof, servotronic power steering, headlight washers, power headrests, and more. The Winkelhock Edition, of which there were only 51 examples produced, were void of luxury items in favor of a lighter vehicle. The batter and gas tank were reduced in size, and there was less sound deadening materials. The rear power windows, fog lights, headlight washers, vanity mirrors, and rear headrests were all removed. Wider tires and alloy wheels were added to the vehicle to amplify the handling. The front seats were replaced in favor of a stiffer sport seat that could hold the driver in place while accelerating through corners. All fifty one examples were painted Jet Black wth Sterling Silver metallic lower body panels.
The Jahre Motorsport Edition was built to celebrate BMW Motorsports 20th anniversary. Only twenty were created in 1992, all with European-specs. The Jahre Edition's were outfitted with the Nurburgring package and Recaro SR Sport seats adorned in special M cloth. The dash and door panels were constructed of Carbon fibre resulting in a lower overall weight. The wheels were M System II and the rear view mirror was an M Technic unit. The door handles were highlighted with 'BMW Motorsport' lettering. All of the Jahre Edition vehicles were pained in Mugello Red.
The final special edition M5 built on the E34 platform was the UK Limited Edition which celebrated the end of right-hand drive M5 production. Fifty examples were created in the early part of 1995 and offered in two colors including Rosso Red metallic and Orinoco metallic. The interior of the Rosso Red metallic versions were given natural poplar wood trim while the Orinoco metallic versions had maple wood trim inteior. Fifteen of the Rosso Red metallic were created and 35 with the Orinco metallic. The interior of the Limited Edition was outfitted with power sunroof, power front seats, headlight washers and air conditioning.
In 1998 at the Geneva Motor Show, BMW introduced the E39 M5 which stayed in production until 2003. It was built at the Dingolfing factory located in Germany and unlike it E34 version, was not hand built but rather, constructed in an assembly line. This resulted in 20,482 examples of the E39 being created.
There were three versions of the M5, the European Left and Right Hand Drive versions and the North American version. Under the hood was a 4.9 liter eight-cylinder engine producing 400 horsepower for the Euro Spec and 394 for US variants. The response time of the engine was greatly improved though the incorporation of Double-VANOS technology which varies the intake and exhaust valves for the two cylinder banks. It also allows for individual throttle butterflies for each cylinder.
Standard was a twenty-five percent maximum locking limited slip differential, a six-speed manual Getrag Type D gearbox and a reinforced clutch. The Motorsports department modified the 5-series suspension, reducing the spring hight and applying thicker anti-roll bars. Other improvements meant a stiffer ride for the occupants but less body-roll for the vehicle as it was attacking corners. Large ventilated disc brakes on all four corners meant excellent stopping power. The recirculating-ball steering system was improved, lowering its overall steering ratio and allowing for quicker response times.
Throughout its five year production lifespan, the E39 received updates both aesthetically and mechanically. Performance was rated at 5.3 seconds for the zero-to-sixty run with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. At the time, it once again captured the title of fastest production four-door sedan in the world.
In 2004 BMW introduced the E60 M5. This highly anticipated version continued BMW's tradition of performance style, and luxury with its 5 liter ten-cylinder engine producing 500 horsepower. A seven-speed SMG III electrohydraulic manual gearbox was a perfect match for the V10 engine, offering quick shifting and performance on demand. The weight of the vehicle was reduced through the use of an aluminum chassis, greatly increasing the power-to-weight ratio.
Without the electronically limited top speed, it is reported that the vehicle is able to reach 205 mph. The zero-to-sixty time of 4.7 second is equally as impressive.
The M series of BMW is truly the pinnacle of luxury and performance that can be ascertained from a sedan. The M5, with its four-doors, lightweight shell, modified suspension, brakes, steering, and mechanics is the reason the vehicle has continued to be successful in the marketplace.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2019