Sold at $19,250
RM Auburn Fall
September 4, 2020, Lot 4128
Chassis number: WBADR6340YGN91231

With a 4.4-liter V8 making 284 horsepower, this car is a hybrid of the common grocery-getter station wagon with a BMW sport sedan. Its ultimate driving machinery includes stiffer sport suspension with a one-inch drop from the base model and staggered 235/45R17 front and 255/40R17 rear tires on 17-inch wheels (remember when those used to be “big”?). With a 0–60-mph time of about 6.5 seconds, the 540i Sport Wagon delivered exceptional power, handling and braking in a practical-use vehicle and made for a great option for a family man (or woman) not wishing to succumb to an SUV or minivan.

This E39 wagon came out of the eclectic Dave Leimbach Collection, which featured 65 of his cars being sold without reserve. It originally stickered in the $60,000 range, and this example had amassed fewer than 24,000 miles over the past 20 years. With many potential bidders not having the luxury of attending this auction in person, the auction company description and photos were the only data provided prior to placing a bid. While the vehicle looked the part of a low-mileage car, a few dollars invested in a high-quality detailing might have resulted in a stronger hammer price.

The clear headlamp lenses, bright and crack-free interior wood trim, as well as fully illuminated LCDs on the instrumentation are all a good gauge of the overall condition of a BMW from this era. However, the presence of a fair amount of noticeable spotting on the black finish could have been a concern. The driver’s seat looked to be heavily soiled, but I am confident that a proper cleaning would have improved its appearance greatly. The small but noticeable stains in the light tan carpet could have also been improved upon. The engine bay would have benefited from a few minutes of wiping down with a diluted all-purpose cleaner and compressed air.

While I am not implying that the car fell far short of an acceptable hammer price, I can’t help but believe that an example with such low mileage would have brought more of a premium price with a better preparation and presentation. Wagons in general are red hot in today’s modern classics market. A comparable vehicle, such as the first-generation Mercedes-Benz W211 E55 AMG wagon, has seen a strong uptick over the past few years, selling in the $40k–$50k range. The E39 is widely believed by BMW enthusiasts to be one of the best 5-series cars built. With all-original, low-mileage cars becoming more desirable, this E39 wagon may have been a great buy if it was mechanically well maintained.

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