Hooniverse Weekend Edition – A 1976 BMW 530i; Is it worth $3,900?


Here at Hooniverse, and at many car based blogging and news sites, the BMW 3 and 5 series vehicles are at the top of the list as desirable, or the gold standard when it comes to comparing other cars. BMW used to build sporting machinery for the driver who places driving above all else, with just enough creature comforts to make any long journey tolerable. The latest BMWs? Not so much. Meet one of the early BMW 5-series, that is currently for sale in Utah, and rediscover the very soul of BMW.


This is a 1976 BMW 530i and it is equipped almost perfectly for the latent BMW enthusiast in all of us. I will let thead speak for itself: Meet… The Buttercup.

I drive this car almost daily, and enjoy every minute. Under the bonnet you’ll find a 3.0L I6, with exceptional power for its time. Bolted up to a 4 speed manual transmission & you have the ultimate driving machine.

I just had the car looked over by my BMW mechanic, and replaced everything recommended. All the lights work, the windows and sunroof are all manual and work perfect. This car is in amazing shape. It’s also equipped with A/C, but it doesn’t blow cold. Everything is original and unmodified, including the paint. The car has a new brake master cylinder, pads, rotors and new tires. The car runs cool even in these 100 degree temps, she wont leave you disappointed.

I took her on a 1,000+ mile road trip to CA a few weeks ago with no problems at all. Everywhere I drive this car, people can’t help but comment on how classy she is. If you’re in the market for a car that ooze’s style, or just something nice to drive to Sunday brunch… this is the car for you.


It shows 159,000 miles on the odometer, and the asking price is $3,900. Is this 35 year old car worth that sum of money? BMW gained its reputation during this time period as the ultimate driving machine because the rest of the offerings from Detroit and Japan had little to no driving pleasure, with few exceptions. See the listing here.

22 Comments

  1. Maybe, if it's perfect. The interior looks a little tired, there's no photo of the engine or beneath the car, and there's some worrisome rust showing around the spare tire well. I'd be very cautious about this one.

  2. The problem for me is that I live in South Florida, which is used BMW heaven. There are any number of clean E39 5-series at this price level or not a whole lot more – even 540i models. So everything depends on whether I find a '70s E12 Five any more inherently desirable than an E39. I have to say that the answer is no. The E12 looks dumpier, it'll be slower, parts are going to be somewhat problematic, and it will be a less comfortable and refined drive. The only virtue is that it's far less common than the E39, but that isn't enough for me.

    1. I concur. I have awful memories of the plugged injectors, plugged thermal reactors (the intense heat of which on one side of the head combined with the coolness of the intake on the other led to so many cracked heads/blown head gaskets), failed fan clutches, ad nauseum. The rumpled leather seats have my ass sweating just looking at them. In a word. NO.

      1. Alright, I'm no dummy when it comes to wrenching, but I know diddly about BMW's, never having had the pleasure of owning and/or wrenching on one, so I know nothing about plugged thermal reactors. What little corner of Teutonic hell am I missing out on? Why the hell would anyone need a thermal reactor in his or her engine? WTF is this thermal reactor? Please inform me.

        1. Thermal reactors were BMW's early attempt at bypassing the need for catalytic converters. In their infinite teutonic wisdom, they felt it would be advantageous to keep using leaded fuel, rather than upgrading the materials used in their valves. Thermal reactors were basically stainless steel exhaust manifolds with baffles in them designed to create turbulence and backpressure that would promote afterburning of unburned fuel in them. Whether or not you think this was a good idea (I didnt, from the first time I saw them) matters not. What they became was an oven attached to the exhaust side of the cylinder head. Over time they would deteriorate internally, as you might expect, and the baffles would break loose and get lodged in the outlet, effectively plugging the exhaust. Add to that the heat stress damage to the head and you had a formula for very expensive repairs. There were several causes for the deterioration, the most common of which was the engine running overly rich. I'll leave it at that, as you can probably come up with any number of causes for rich running, and alot of them were owner/technician/shadetree induced.

    2. How about an equivalent E28 or E34? What's your order of preference? Personally I'm drawn to the E28 as somehow the purest-feeling iteration, but some of your slowness/refinement concern would still apply there.

      1. I think the E39 is the most attractive of all the 5-series. Plus they're the most powerful, the best-equipped, and are new enough for parts and service to be no problem whatsoever.

  3. In terms of coolness, it depends on who you are. If the door swung open and I stepped out, then the cool gauge would swing to maybe 45%. If, however, a halter-topped 19 year-old brunette dismounted, before swinging her hair over her shoulders and bending down to check the tyre pressures, then the reading would be off the scale and I might have to sit down for a while.
    Value wise, in the UK $3,900 would be a steal.

  4. Am i the only one who misses the narrow kidney grille BMWs? the new 6 series is a bloated mess with nostrils that would make a drug addict jealous

  5. "I just had the car looked over by my BMW mechanic, and replaced everything recommended. All the lights work, the windows and sunroof are all manual and work perfect. This car is in amazing shape. It’s also equipped with A/C, but it doesn’t blow cold."
    Apparently the mechanic doesn't consider functioning a/c to be important. I wonder what other service was deemed to be optional.

    1. I'mma gonna disagree. I think he told the mechanic to concentrate on mechanical
      reliability/functionality and said the hell with the a/c. He is in Utah, after all, and drives
      with all the windows down most of the time.
      Diggin' your screenname, btw, Kowalski.

  6. I'd have more faith in this car if he hadn't put awful Falken Sincera tires on it. I put some of these on a Toyota I owned, and they lasted about fifteen thousand miles, and squealed like a pig at the slightest sign of a curve. They also stank in wet weather. They were cheap, that's all I'll say about them.

  7. This is my Car! I have no idea how it got here, but I'm glad to see it getting some publicity.
    Yes, I opted out to replace the a/c compressor, the fresh outside air feels good to me 🙂
    Yes the tires are cheap falcons, I went with an inexpensive tire, as the car isn't driven a lot of miles, and of course like most Americans, I'm on a budget.
    Thanks for the feedback guys… Enjoy.

  8. i bought this car for 2000 and a month later the rod bearing broke and punched a hole in the block. the clutch also needs to be rebuilt. it is gonna cost me 3500 to repair. i love the e12 but 5500 for one with 150xxx maybe more cause the odo doesnt work is not worth it. probably cant afford to repair it so gonna sell it as a parts car. total bummer

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