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Thread: The Vault: An E39 Touring Story

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Branford, CT

    The Vault: An E39 Touring Story

    As some of you know, owning an aging BMW with more miles on its odometer than a trip to the moon takes some dedication, skill, money, and luck. Most of you are well aware that my ZHP has been busy during its time with me, having taken it from 75k in 2010 to over 312k as of last week. The more I drive it, the more it shows its age, not necessarily mechanically (with one big exception), but cosmetically. It's beat up pretty badly. Mechanical things are more likely to bring my car down for service for longer periods as the bigger ticket items need attention, an engine rebuild being one of them. Being my only car, that could only have meant one thing: I needed a second car.

    Enter, "The Vault". The Vault is an E39. The Vault is large. The Vault is quiet. And, more importantly, The Vault will give me freedom for when I decide to give the ZHP some much needed mechanical and cosmetic love. Oh yeah, and save my ZHP from the perils of things such as airport runs and salty roads...

    I found The Vault while bored at work on a Friday afternoon, just window shopping for cars like I sometimes do. My sights are usually set on things I can't afford... F31's mainly, but also with plenty of searches for E46 Tourings and things that make actual sense, like... Hon*yawn*das. I didn't have much of a budget because I probably wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway, but I digress.

    I found this beastly creature on r3vlimited, of all places. R3v is an E30 enthusiast forum... yeah, an E39 listed on an E30 forum. What are the odds. The listing was posted back in August. Fat chance of that still being around, especially for the asking price of $2500. What the hell - sent a message to the seller via text and went about my day. He responded and said it was still available. Crap.

    The next evening, it was in my driveway, assistance provided by the usual suspect (Charlie). Kudos to him for dropping his plans on working on the Speed Sled to help drive Wobz back from Jersey so I can transport The Vault across the [state] border(s). Yeah, my cheapass talked him down to $2000, though that was a figure he was already considering anyway. I'd like to think that was my sharp negotiating skills, but I'd be lying to myself.

    What the hell is The Vault, anyway? That is what this thing turns into when you close the door. You feel like you've sealed yourself into a bank vault with nothing but your thoughts, and of course your thoughts of money flying out of the pockets trying to get this thing back into shape. This thing ain't exactly what I'd call mint, but I didn't buy a cheap car because I wanted something mint.

    Flawless paint? -- Nah.
    Tip top service history? -- What's that?
    Gobs of power? -- Dream on.
    A manual, at least?? -- Actually, ye... no.
    Surely, a winning color combo? -- I laugh in your face.

    This is The Vault, a silver-on-grey E39 525iT with a glorious Steptronic automatic transmission. This is what dreams are made of, folks.

    Mmmmm, woooooooooood... ish.

    I will tell you this... the seller took a lot of photos. For those who need meds for their psychotic condition, you can check out the full album at the following link, but for the more sane of us, I'll just post the juicy bits later on.

    (Full for-sale album)

    Here's some juicy stats:
    * It's an '01, so I can take comfort in it being a facelift. Facelift > pre-facelift, any day of the week.
    * This puppy had 162k on it when purchased on 11/03. It now has a little over 164k. Don't you worry - I'm dailying the ZHP now that the E39 has only 3 usable tires out of 6 left.
    * Self-leveling suspension in the rear means I'm halfway there to baggin' 'dis bee-hotch!
    * There are some nifty options on this sucker:
    --- Xenon headlights (not Bi-Xenon, unfortunately)
    --- Heated seats, headlight washers, and HEATED STEERING WHEEL!
    --- Park Distance Control
    --- Sport suspension (no sport seats though, which is fine by me)
    --- Style 5's... yeeeeeeeeeeaaaahhh buddy!
    --- A lovely juicy tidbit: I've had a set of E39-fitment Style 32 wheels in my mom's garage for years... now I can use them! Remember these from when you bought that Step Orient/NB ZHP, Shawn??
    * 3800 pounds and still manages 29mph highway, and 24-26 mpg mixed. How the hell?

    So what's wrong with The Vault? Welllll, let's just say it's never heard the terminology "service history". Apart from a new water pump and some belt tensioners, I don't know what's ever been done to this car. Did I at least put that sucker up on a lift? You're damned right I did, even if it was after the purchase. But... details, details. The findings was a mixed bag of the shits and sighs of relief.

    The bad:
    * I've got enough oil coating the underside components to properly lube the sex industry for the next century. Despite this, it STILL doesn't consume nearly as much oil as my barely-leaking ZHP does, but whatever!
    * Some of my sway bar end links, front and back, don't really want to do their jobs. I see layoffs in this car's future.
    * Brakes. Need 'em. All of them. Rotors, pads, sensors, you name it. Probably fluid too.
    * While the rear suspension airbags are still functional, the rubber on 'em look like they've seen better days.
    * This one's got the infamous auto tranny that could at any point decide it doesn't want to engage reverse anymore.
    * There's a nasty rust spot on the passenger rocket panel. Wait, rocker panel... WTF??? Yep, the rockers on the E39's are METAL and part of the car's structure.
    * The LCD on the radio unit is... let's just say, illegible.
    * Since purchasing, I've been chasing SES light after SES light. I never signed up to play 'tag', man! I've replaced the intake boots, resolving one set of codes. Then the light came on again for something else, a fuel tank breather valve flap stuck. Replaced that valve, another code came on. Oh damn it, I didn't quite put the intake boots back on correctly... cleared it again! Phew...
    * There are (4) Style 5 wheels with tires, and (2) Style 42's. (2) of the Style 5's are mounted in the front with... 'okay' tread all-season tires that are 7 years old. The (2) Style 42's are on the back, with winter tires that are... let's just say... scary looking. One of them has a gash so deep in it, I can see the steel belt through the crack. How the hell is this thing holding air? Let's not even talk about the completely bald inside edges of these two. Why aren't all four Style 5's mounted? I'll tell you why. One is bent and doesn't hold air, and the other has a tire mounted on it that is beyond corded. Was the car drivable? Yep. Is it drivable now? Nope. One of the fronts decided to let all its air out and I can't fill it back up.

    The good:
    * New water pump... yay, I guess?
    * New tensioners... I'm supposed to yay, again, right?
    * A LOT less rust on the underside than I expected. The underside components actually look like I could service them without cussing up a storm and blaming Canada. (I'm looking at you, Spenser!)
    * The auto tranny has been properly trained in engaging reverse, so it is doing its job dutifully at this time.
    * I've got the 'low' OBC instrument cluster, which means no pixels to die off. This display looks almost exactly like the E46 one, and I do not believe has the typical issues E39 clusters tend to have.
    * It is remarkably clean on the inside, and the clear coat issues on the outside are limited to only the plastics. The rear peeling clearcoat is just plastic trim that SHOULD HAVE BEEN BLACK! I guess that's one facelift feature I'm not too enthused about (body-colored bumper and door trim), but this can be solved with some elbow grease and some trim paint.
    * Looks like I have won the SES battle. Haven't had a code since, so looks like everything else is working properly.

    And now the section you probably scrolled to because you were too lazy to read everything above this... Pics! These were all taken by the seller, so cut me some slack.

    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2016
    Greensboro, NC
    Emma - 2005 BMW 330ci ZHP 6MT Estorilblau Individual

    Sportline 8s 18x8.5F - 18x9.5R | APEX ARC-8 18x8.5 Square | aFe Intake | 135i Brembo F/R Calipers | 26mm Front/20mm Rear Sway Bars | Z4 Mirror
    M3 Dead Pedal | Lexus ES300 Yellow Fog Light Retrofit | Koni Yellows/H&R Springs | Llumar CTX 40% | Coby Tri-Stitch Wheel & Boots

    Awaiting Install: M3 Wing Mirrors

  3. #3
    *Shrewd negotiator

    I was really expecting to see * ASTEN EAT BELTS* on the dash. That is hilarious!

    2003 Blue ZHP Sedan @ 210k
    Dead due to damaged valve. We will save her soul for future use, but the body will go to car heaven...or another owner...who may or may not turn her into a race car...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Lexington, KY
    Properly done Botond!!

    Yes! The price is right, and that wood! Immediate love right there, and all that properly lubin' of the sex industry for the next century (I read everything), that is a must with so much ... wood!
    325i, 2005, 5MT, Silvergrey, leatherette, Sport package; CDV delete, KONI STR-T & KYB Excel-G, Weisslichts, Stewart H2O pump

    328i, 2010, 6MT, Spacegrey, dakota leather, M-sport packages; all stock][IMG]

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Picton, ON
    Congrats, BP! I love it. Auto and all!! It’s awesome. And half the miles of the ZHP... LOL!!

    I have a set of crazy E39 comfort seats that have every adjustment known to man.... you can have them for cheap if you want. They’re black.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    2018 Subaru BRZ RS 6MT

    2015 VW Golf TSI Comfortline 5MT

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Austin TX
    Congrats !
    2005 IR / black / 6MT
    150,000 miles

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Branford, CT
    Quote Originally Posted by 704sw View Post
    Hopefully just for the entertainment, 'cuz this bad boy is unlikely to get any real mods.

    Now where have I heard that before only to see that plan blow up the next day? "This car is going to stay stock"... hmm... I think it had something to do with a Porsche 911 Turbo. What's that guy's name again?

    Quote Originally Posted by DeathTrap View Post
    *Shrewd negotiator

    I was really expecting to see * ASTEN EAT BELTS* on the dash. That is hilarious!
    Man, as much as I would love to get a daily comic trip looking at my cluster, I'm not sure I can handle two displays with text in an extraterrestrial language.

    Quote Originally Posted by Oli77 View Post
    Yes! The price is right, and that wood! Immediate love right there, and all that properly lubin' of the sex industry for the next century (I read everything), that is a must with so much ... wood!
    Very wood. Such awesome. Wow.

    Wood Doge approved.

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    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Branford, CT
    Alright, I'm sure y'all saw this coming. My laptop has already had its way with The Vault's OBD2 port. Maybe some of that oil from the bottom of the car was involved, I dunno...

    It turns out the E39 doesn't have quite as many useful coding options as the E46. Bummer, because I've gotten used to a lot of them.

    I will say the #1 thing on my coding wants list was to get rid of the idiotic US brake light scheme. You know all 'dem 'Murican cars with a single red light for braking and turn signals? Yeah, that's how this Beater Sled was coded from the factory. What in the motha'stinkin' hell were you thinking, BMW??? That means these lights came on for both brake lights and for turn signals, the top part and bottom part below the LED running light strips in the middle:

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    Nah bruh, I don't play that. While there isn't anything I can do about the red turn signals (which still pisses me off) without swapping to euro tails, at least I got the brake lights and turn signal lights separated now. This at least is significantly safer than having both bulbs do both functions.

    Other coded items include:
    * Comfort close all windows
    * Unlock all doors with single button press
    * Ignition acoustic disabled
    * Seat belt acoustic disabled
    * Fog lights with high beams enabled

    Now, if I could only figure out how to properly correct the built-in reedonkulous speedometer error. The hex values I found online didn't do anything to recitfy the problem. I want to know precisely how fast I'm going, damn it! Keep on diggin'...
    2005 330i ZHP / 6MT
    Imolarot / Naturbraun

    It's not the car you drive, it's how you drive it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Portland, OR
    Solid choice, BP! I'm having serious nostalgia of my father's E39 540i. It was such a comfortable car. I miss it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Frankfurt, Germany
    Welcome to the E39 world! These are hella good daily drivers and having a ZHP as well is a winning combo.

    One of the first things I always do on an E39 is headlight upgrade with new projectors and lenses. Stock projectors are just crappy and adjuster always break due to age so there's an idea.

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