The E39 M5 (2000–2003 model years in BMW-speak) was one of the best BMWs ever produced—period. Like every M5 before it, when it was released, it was allegedly the fastest saloon car in the world. While that may or may not have actually been true, there are few cars that could do what the M5 did: offer supercar performance in a refined and comfortable package. The E39 M5 did this through a fire-breathing naturally aspirated V8 engine and those old-school BMW manners.
In many ways, the E39 M5 was the end an of era of greatness for BMW—an era in which the marque was focused on just a few models in the lineup, when it unapologetically put the driver first, and when it still had no clue how build a functional cup-holder. As two decades of technology have marched on, the E39 M5 has remained relevant—because it’s just that great.
As a result, E39 M5s have been used for many missions beyond the single-car-that-does-it-all profile. In 2015, after years of pestering, the popular automotive media venue Petrolicous decided to take me up on making an episode about my M Coupe. The man behind the camera for that episode (and many dozens of others) was filmmaker and director Jeremy Heslup. Heslup owns his own film company called Valkyr, which has produced some breathtaking automotive content. His work ranges from profiling the Pope’s own Lamborghini Huracan (which was raffled off to support charity) to short films like Twin Sparks (classic Porsche 911s, rain in the desert, and mystery—there are few better ways to spend five minutes and 24 seconds).
As Heslup’s portfolio grew, so did his need for speed—quite literally. He needed a filming rig that could keep up with supercars on a race track, while also accommodating a full operating crew (driver, director of photography, and camera operator). There was only one choice for this mission: the E39 M5. And last year we found him the idea candidate! It was a perfectly imperfect 2002 M5 with a staggering 205,000 miles on the pixilated odometer—but it was also proof that miles are much less relevant than proper ownership when it comes to an E39. I’ve seen M5s with the half the miles in worse shape than Heslup’s!
That was important, because while it was imperfect enough to mount extensive rigging on, it had to be reliable enough to carry ten-fold its value in camera gear—at speed. It was a learning experience for Heslup, too, whose ingenuity and creativity extends far beyond the camera lens.
I’ll let him take the story from here.—Alex McCulloch.
[Photos and video courtesy Jeremy Heslup.]