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The Road to Racewars

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We all know the chassis of a 1990s BMW 5-Series is divine; a true testament to German design and precision engineering. But it’s not just the underpinnings that make these cars stand out. The entire E39 package managed to tick a lot of boxes for motoring enthusiasts that other manufacturers simply couldn’t match. The importance of a good driving position is a characteristic which shone through when I went 1,000km adventure last weekend. Whether its a quick blat to the shops, or a four hour drive down to the South Coast, there is no back ache, or sore knees, no ringing ears. You arrive at your destination feeling as fresh as when you got behind the wheel. The E39 5-Series is the perfect grand tourer.

What makes this article a little different is this car isn’t borrowed, it’s not a feature car we’re writing a piece on. It’s the latest addition to the Cummins’ Garage - Think Jay Leno’s garage but with 99% fewer cars but with 100% more Iron Lion Holden 5 Litres. Here’s how I came across the 5-Series and threw it in the deep end almost immediately.

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A few weeks back, on the hunt for a new daily driver, I was sent a link from Gumtree by a mate. It had been posted within the last 15 minutes and I was straight on the phone organising a time to come and inspect (read:buy). That afternoon I showed up with my rose-tinted glasses and cash in hand. Nothing was stopping me from buying this car, it had over 250,000miles on the clock, and was showing countless indications of wear and was unquestionably well past its prime, but none of that mattered. I was about to get the keys to a BMW Tourer with a manual gearbox, a combo rarer than the proverbial hen’s teeth.  

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The previous owner had purchased the car in 2007 when he was living in the UK. After several years of traversing continental Europe, using the wagon to transport his family to places most people dream about, he decided it was time to come back to Australia. Obviously, the beloved estate-car-come travel souvenir was coming with him. Being a cast iron 530D it had proven to be indestructible.

I was sold as soon as I saw it, the only thing it was in desperate need of was an oil change.  Aside from a split fuel line on the first day of ownership, it has been absolutely perfect since signing the paperwork. Averaging 7.5L per 100km being daily driven, its comfortable, quiet and smooth. Better still, it was the perfect mobile home for the bender of a weekend that is known as Racewars - a three-day racing event down on the South West coast I’d just been booked in to attend… in less than three weeks.

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One week out, reality set in. Racewars was just around the corner. I need to get a car ready for the 1000ish kilometre trip there and back, which means it’s time for a full oil service. A quick trip tp Repco for some fresh 10w40, filters and a pair of wiper blades and I’m ready.

…The weekend quickly rolls past with so much as a swung spanner...

By the following Friday, less than 12 hours separate me from leaving my desk at work to be driving through the gates of Albany Airport. The wagon has yet to be loaded and still isn’t serviced. It's now or never. That night, I get home start to load it up with the necessities for the weekend.

Once the beer was safely secured, I realised I didn’t really need anything else other than my camera and the address for Ash’s hotel suite. It was time to tackle some service items. Albany, as always, had been showing signs of rain, so I decide that wipers are an absolute necessity. I chop out and install the drivers side, no problems at all. Move over to the passenger side, take out the old one… Disaster, turns out those wonderful Germans decided that the passenger wiper blade needs to be about 2 metres longer than a standard blade. The new wiper blade covers about 1/8 of the arm. It’s time to go back to my roots, back to the backyard mechanics of years gone by. The last notch on the wiper arm gets wrapped in a chux cloth and some cable ties.

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By this point it was 9pm and I was due to be out of the house at 2am, service wasn’t going to happen. But the car is loaded, I’ve had a massive week at work, time to get some shut eye before the early start Saturday.

A few hours later, I’m out of the house and on the road to meet up with Westwood and Cox at Mundijong Service Station. A quick fuel stop and a chocolate bar, lets go. I’m about to do a 400+km trip in a almost 30 year old BMW Diesel with over 400,000km on the clock that’s due for a service… What could possibly go wrong.

We set off through Jarrahdale, the E39 leading and Ash in the X5, up through the winding roads sitting cozy everything seems to be going well. A bit of spirited driving through the bends, saw the E39 hold the road so well while the lumbering V8 behind seemingly struggling to negotiate the twists and turns anywhere near as well.

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Turning on to Albany highway to head down, high beams gleaming, I see the bright reflections of eyes in the bushes, Kangaroos, and lots of them. For the next 20-to-30km, there are plenty of roos, foxes and even a wombat both sides of the road, crossing the road in front of us, it's enough to keep you awake and alert. But after a few hairy close calls, we made it with zero issues, rolling into Albany Airport at 7 on the dot. Two trips into town later, I filled up the Wagon. It took 33 Litres and had travelled 286 miles (460km). That’s about 7.1L/100.

It may be slow, and may not be in perfect condition, but it doesn’t matter. The whole spirited drive to Albany, through the alpine roads and then all the way back to Perth and it didn’t miss a beat. It often takes a long period of ownership to cement a love for a car, with the E39, it only took a 1000km trip with a few mates for me to realise this is going to be a forever car. This E39 Touring is something truly special.

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