Helping making choice for my 2nd car - 1997 M3 (4dr) vs 1998 540i

Hello All, It's been a while since I've posted in the a.a.b newsgroup. I cannot begin to tell you how much money the advice from some of our 'members' has
saved me over the past few years.
I'm looking for a little advice tonight. I'm seeking a 2nd car.
My first option is a 1997 M3 with a 5 speed transmission. One of the years they made the 4 door model. (Which I like and need) Its Artic White with the black leather interior. The interior and exterior are in good shape. The seats show no bolster wear. It has @131k miles on it. It has some typical E36 issues. It has had the water pump / housing changed, etc. It has 17" BMW Alloys and new Pirelli tires. It has a Salvage Title history from the previous (and original) owner being involved in a low speed collision which caused some 'minor' front end damage. That bothers me; however, I know the current owner / seller and trust his opinion on BMWs. The car is pretty much stock. (No engine / body mods) This car is located in North Florida. (I'm in SW Louisiana.)
My second option is a 1998 540i with an AUTO Transmission. (Newer slightly rounded body style) It's in the Black Exterior / Dove Grey leather interior configuration. The interior and exterior are in very good shape. The drivers door has a small palm sized dent which you can tell was popped out by one of those paintless dent removal places. Its not perfect but its better than it was. (I saw 'before' pics) The Dove Grey drivers seat is starting to show some wear. The leather does not seem to be wearing as much as it seem the color is wearing off. (Is this easily fixable?) The rest of the seats look brand new. The car is the 'Sports Package'. The owner had a local BMW dealership install upgraded Hella Angel Eyes, a Dinan Cold Air intake, and 17" BMW M5 Alloys. The current owner also stated that there's a vibration coming from the front left wheel during slow speeds. He thinks its an off balance tire. I think it may be some of the normal 5 series front end gremlins. This car is outside of Beaumont TX. (I'm in SW Louisiana.)
The 5 series is closer and newer but has more miles. The 5 series is an Auto Transmission and I really prefer a standard. However I'm getting up in the years and an Auto might be a better idea. Plus the 4.4L engine has plenty of get up and go. However the M3 is in very good shape. BMW only made the 4dr M3 for 2 years. And the seller runs a German car oriented autobody shop and he swears the car is in tip-top shape.
Over the past 10 years I've owned 3, 5, and 7 series cars. My previous BMWs have ranged from 1993 models to 2001 models. I like them all. Looking back on it I realize that I have owned quite a few E36 cars.
The bad part is the cars are the same price.. both sellers are asking $9,000.00 firm.
Please let me know which car you would go with and why. (Pros and Cons) I have to email them ASAP.
Thanks, Karl N.
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Karl North wrote:

You left out one important detail (actual mileage), but in general I would go with the M3.
A $9000 car is essentially a "disposable" so no worries about the resale on either car. But, in all likelihood, you will have an easier time finding a (young) re-buyer for any M3 (even w/ salvage) than a 540 automatic. Even with the salvage title.
It will be a second car. Second cars should be *fun*. M3 w/ 5 speed = fun. 540i w/ automatics no so much fun.
Gray leather interiors always look dirty to me and I hate them. Black leather looks better longer.
The 5 series front end shakes may require a full front suspension to get rid of.
Oh, and did I mention the M3 will be a lot more fun? Life is too short for boring cars...
Good luck with your decision making
--
-Fred W

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wrote:

Karl, you're a wimp. Why not look for a nice tight year old Chrysler Sebring?

Right on the money.
-- Larry (only 60, so what do I know?)
-2005 WCM UltraLite (Lotus Super 7 clone, S-2000 powertrain) -2002 325i (sports pkg, etc., wife's daily driver) -1995 Miata R (+ Borla, short shifter, too much too list...) -1980 TR8 (Holley 4-bbl, etc.) -1975 Lola 342 FF -1972 Elden FF -2001 Aprilia Falco -2002 Honda 919 (daily commuter) -1995 Honda Interceptor 500
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Fred W wrote:

Have to disagree with you. I've got a 540i automatic and it's hilarious. Correct me if I'm wrong, but won't the M3 be the US version with a 3L engine with roughly the same power as the 540 - but nothing like the power band of the 4.4? If the 4.4 had the same BHP/litre as an E34 525 it would have 338BHP but it has 286, so is desperately detuned, but the payoff is a serious amount of low-end shove. This thing is quicker off the line than a full-blown E46 M3 even with wheelspin.
I'm not advising anyone not to get an M3 but I couldn't let your comment stand. I wanted an E36 M3 Evolution (321BHP) myself and even 'won' one on eBay but the seller wouldn't go through with it. I wanted it because it seemed to be the fastest car for the money and still with 4 doors and probably better fuel economy than a fast 5 series. Rack and pinion steering was another point in its favour, me being sick of the E34's steering play (the E39 is actually a lot better). On reflection I decided that a car of that nature and age was likely to have fallen into the wrong hands at some point, more likely to have been wrapped around a lamp post, whereas a 540 is more your company director's sort of car. It's also better looking and more discreet and, in this market, a lot cheaper to buy and insure, although it does have a thirst. I'd still love to have an M car at some point.

Agreed there. Grey leather is best described as unfortunate. I wouldn't want my coffin lined with it. Silver is nice but probably a pain to keep clean. Black looks a bit gloomy if the interior is all black, though. My car has wooden trim to warm things up a bit and light grey headlining. The other one I saw and liked was an M5 which had black seats with silver-grey panels.

Are E39s as susceptible to this as E34s? I had bad wheel-wobble but it turned out to be an outrageously out-of-balance front wheel. The mechanic had to balance it three times and ended up attaching 12 weights; crap tyre. Anyway even on the E34, my previous car, the fix was cheap enough once the cause was discovered.
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