The first BMW M5, based on the E28 5 Series, made its debut at Amsterdam Motor Show in February 1984. It was the product of demand for an automobile with the carrying capacity of a saloon (sedan), but the overall performance of a sports car. It utilized the 535i chassis and an evolution of the engine from the BMW M1. At its launch, the E28 M5 was the fastest production sedan in the world.
The first generation M5 was hand-built in Preußenstrasse/Munich prior to the 1986 Motorsport factory summer vacation. Thereafter, M5 production was moved to Daimlerstraße in Garching where the remainder were built by hand. In May 1987, the keys to the 1000th car were presented to Mr. and Mrs. Krampertz from Eichenau near Munich by Wolfgang Peter Flohr, the director of BMW Motorsport GmbH. It is worth noting that production of the M5 continued until November 1988, well after production of the E28 chassis ended in Germany in December 1987.
The M5 was produced in four different versions based on intended export locations. These were the left-hand drive (LHD) Euro spec, the right-hand drive (RHD) UK spec, the LHD North American (NA) spec for the United States and Canada, and the RHD South African (ZA) spec.
The LHD, RHD Euro Spec M5s and the ZA spec M5s had the M88/3 powerplant which delivered 286 PS (210 kW; 282 hp) whereas the North American 1988 M5 was equipped with a variant of the M88/3 called the S38 B35 which was equipped with a catalytic converter, which, combined with slightly lower compression of 9.8:1 versus 10.5:1 for the M88/3 reduced the power output to 256 hp (191 kW; 260 PS). The S38 also differed from the M88/3 in that it had a dual-row timing chain as compared to the M88/3′s single row timing chain. The S38 B35 was used in the NA-Spec E28 M5 and E24 M6. Late production catalyst equipped versions (117 examples) of the European M635CSi were also equipped with the S38 B35. Initially 500 were to be made for the US Market, BMW later increased production to as many as 1,370 units for the US and Canadian markets, although the generally accepted figure is 1,244 units sold.
The North American spec models are unique, in that technically they were all finished in Schwarz (Black) with Natur (Tan) interiors. The otherwise virtually identical Canadian spec M5s were also available with Black interiors as an option, however a limited number of US Models were also equipped with Black interiors
United States Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) range from 2791000-2792000 and 2875000-2875320. Car # 2791000 is not known to have been built, and not all VINs are known to have been used. The first few cars built in November and December 1986 were issued Federal compliance labels showing a 1/87 build date. As has been speculated earlier, physical confirmation of the VIN of the United States M5 kept in BMW North America’s Mobile Tradition collection is a 287 series car, a later 1987 build date car.
While every North American spec E28 M5 was a 1988 model year car, production of North American specification M5s commenced in November 1986 and ended in November 1987. Excepting 96 units that were assembled in kit form at BMW’s Plant in Rosslyn, South Africa, all E28 M5s were assembled by hand at BMW Motorsport in Garching,Germany.
With a total production of 2,191 units, the E28 M5 remains among the rarest regular production BMW Motorsport cars – after the BMW M1 (456 units), BMW E34 M5 Touring (891 units), and the BMW 850CSi (1510 units).
- (European) – 286 PS (210 kW; 282 hp) M88/3 Engine with 10.5:1 Compression. European-Spec M5s were available with a myriad of options unavailable on USA-Spec M5s such as Water Buffalo leather and a Glass Moonroof. LHD cars were equipped with 185TR390 Metric Wheels made by Mahle with 220-55VR390 Michelin TRX tires. RHD Cars were equipped with 16×7.5 BBS wheels with 225-50VR16 Tires – these wheels were not shared with any other model. Air Conditioning was standard on UK Supplied M5s and optional on LHD M5s. It is also notable that very early European-Spec LHD M5s had VINs that started with “WBA” instead of the “WBS” designation to indicate BMW Motorsport. it is estimated that no more than 15 M5s were produced with a “WBA” VIN. European-Spec M5s were available in various colors and with or without leather upholstery. At least one UK specification car is known to have been produced with comfort seats.
- (USA/Canada) – (256 bhp (191 kW) in USA/Canada units) S38B35 Engine with 9.8:1 Compression. All US-Specification M5s were comprehensively optioned. Leather Door Panels, Leather Center Console, Full Trunk Carpeting, Air Conditioning, Power Windows, Power Sunroof, Power Seats, Cruise Control, On-Board Computer, Central Locking and Shadowline Trim were standard. The only option on a US-Specification M5 was electrically heated front seats which were standard equipment on Canadian-Market cars. All North American specification M5s were finished in “Schwarz” or Jet Black. Officially US Specification cars were only available with Natur (Tan) leather interiors, however Black was offered in Canada and a handful of US-Bound cars were built with black interiors.
At the time of sale, BMW quoted the following 0-60 mph times to give the impression that the E28 M5 did not outperform the more expensive and heavier E24 M635csi.
- (Euro) – 282 PS (210 kW) – 0-60 mph – 6.2 s – Top Speed: 153 mph (246 km/h)
- (USA) – 256 hp (191 kW) – 0-60 mph – 6.5 s – Top Speed: 148 mph (238 km/h)
- Whilst BMW Motorsport did not build any special versions of the E28 M5, the German tuner Hartge produced the Hartge H35S-24, a 330 PS (243 kW; 325 bhp) version of the E28 M5. Main modifications over and above the standard E28 M5 were revised cams, a modified exhaust, modified Bosch Motronic ECU programming, and a revised (and lowered) suspension setup.
- Alpina limited their tuning efforts to the older M30 engine powered models. The Alpina B7 Turbo produced 250 kW (340 PS; 335 bhp) with 0-60 mph times of 4.7 sec and a top speed of 270 km/h (168 mph).