In today’s supply-constrained auto market, $900 doesn’t go particularly far—not that it did at any point in recent years. When it comes to finding a halfway decent BMW from the brand’s golden age, particularly one with a manual transmission that hasn’t already been driven into the ground, prices seem higher than ever. If you’re willing to turn a few wrenches and put in the effort necessary to revitalize things, there are still bargains to be had and deals to be made, but the absolute steals have become exceptionally scarce.
In a recent video, full-time YouTuber Alex Palmeri of the LegitStreetCars channel examines his recently purchased $900 2001 BMW 540i. With nearly 120,000 miles on the (surprisingly legible) digital odometer, the 540i is a running and driving example with what seems like plenty of life left in it, but has seen at least a few midwest winters. Nevertheless, it’s equipped with a six-speed manual, which means it’s likely worth bringing back to some semblance of its former glory.
Although Palmeri is a long-term owner of a 1,000-horsepower Pontiac Trans Am WS6 and formerly worked as a Mercedes-Benz technician, he’s no stranger to BMW, having previously owned an E39 M5 with over 400,000 miles and an N54-powered E92 335i coupe. When he takes the sub-$1,000 540i in for an inspection, he’s not particularly surprised at the subsequent laundry list of repairs, which include common items like various leaking oil seals, control arm bushings, and maybe a prophylactic cooling system replacement. A deeper inspection reveals that the interior has been painted and dyed, and that the driver’s side rear wheel may have come into contact with a curb, but given the purchase price, the car’s potential remains.
Along the way, Palmeri swaps a malfunctioning coil with an inexpensive auto parts store replacement, curing a misfire in the process, while spraying some penetrating oil on the rust-bound linkage allows the shifter for the six-speed manual to operate with ease as it should, further revealing the car’s potential. There’s still a long way to go, but we look forward to seeing one of BMW’s modern classics brought back to life.—Alex Tock
[Photo courtesy BMW AG. Video courtesy LegitStreetCars on YouTube.]