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Project Cars--You Get to Vote on "Hold 'em or Fold 'em"



  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 4,080
    About a year ago, I bought a 2003 BMW 540i M-sport with 85,000 miles. It now has 91,000 miles, and I've done the following repairs and maintenance:
    New tires;
    Radio LCD display;
    Radiator, water pump, fan, thermostat, water tank, and hoses on front of engine;
    Headlight adjusters;
    Transmission fluid change;
    Brake fluid flush;
    Differential fluid change;
    Valve cover gaskets;
    Rear brake rotors;
    Front brake pads, rotors, and wear sensors;
    Thrust arm bushings;
    Power steering hoses;
    Vacuum hoses;
    Floor mats;
    New drive belts and tensioners.

    That's all that I can think of. About $6,000, and I did some of the labor myself.

    Here are its current service needs:
    Intake gasket repair (~$800);
    Transmission fluid leak;
    Possible VANOS/timing chain cover oil leak;
    Possible bent wheel or tire problem (there is a vibration when the car is cold);
    Either a power steering whine ($$$) or gear whine from the transmission ($$$$);
    Idler arm "a little loose" per mechanic;
    It will need spark plugs at 100,000 miles;
    Curb rash on three wheels.

    I also have a 2009 Altima 2.5S that is my boring daily driver. I love the way the BMW drives and can tolerate its fuel economy (19-20 MPG), but do not love the repair bills and, for some reason :P , I'm not comfortable taking it very far from home. The previous owner smoked a tobacco pipe and the smell is kind of annoying in the summer when the interior gets hot.

    Here are a couple of options I'll put on the table:
    1. Fix the BMW and keep both cars. Hope nothing major goes wrong.
    2. Sell both cars, buy a used 335i. The 335i is newer than the 540i and (theoretically) should have fewer problems. Most of them are in the $30,000 range, and I hesitate to spend that much on a used car with little or no warranty.
    3. Sell both cars, buy or lease a new GTI or Jetta GLI. I previously leased an Audi A4 with the 2.0T engine and liked it but haven't driven the GTI or GLI. I would miss the V8, but would have an entertaining car with a warranty for the next 36,000 miles.
    4. Sell both cars, buy or lease a 2013 Altima 3.5SL. The last time I checked, the lease rates were pretty attractive on this car. I have driven this car back to back with an Accord, and preferred the Altima because it felt more responsive and the steering had more heft to it.
    5. Something else?

    A penny for your thoughts.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    edited February 2013
    I think flipping non mainstream cars would be pretty tough - you have to be pretty lucky in the original purchase, and craigslist is pretty competitive - lots of people looking for the old widow selling the forgotten old muscle car for nothing. Also as you have seen, most owners think very highly of their cars, and price accordingly. Might be able to do it easier with daily driver cars where there is more demand. And there is always demand for cheap cars, below a few grand.

    You live in a condo building, right? Might want to think about parking space size with something like an old Lincoln too - I know something like that simply wouldn't fit in some of the spaces in my building.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    Small detail issues can sometimes lead to larger issues. When they spend money - but do it incorrectly, it can be an alarm. Like when I see older MBs with aftermarket wheels and stereos etc, I am very skeptical about the health of the car.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    Wow, that's worse than my E55 since 2006, and part of my work was under warranty.

    Personally, I would sell at least the BMW (sounds like one of those cars built on a Friday in late September) and maybe find something else, or sell both and buy one car that will keep you relatively happy. Did you test the 2013 Accord? I had read it drove better, but that could be marketing stuff.
  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 4,080
    edited February 2013
    "Did you test the 2013 Accord?"

    Yes, back to back with the 2013 Altima. The Accord's steering was awful. It handled well, but automatic transmission was flat-footed and the tires on the sedan are too narrow to put the power from the big V6 down to the ground. I've read that the 2013 Altima's ride is too soft, but I didn't really get to test that on my drive.

    Selling the BMW presents its own challenges--list it and disclose all the issues, or go to Carmax and pray to the car gods for a good offer?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    Oh, shame about the Accord. I had thought it was supposed to be improved - it looks nicer anyway. I remember when the Accord was easily the best driving midsize box. Then it became a Camry.

    For the BMW, I would certainly brag about the work you have done, and maybe leave it at that. A potential buyer should know what to expect with those cars - your problems sound like known issues. They'd hopefully have it inspected before purchase anyway. Try Carmax first of course, they might surprise you.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,150
    No way on Carmax for the bimmer. As suggested, list all the work and leave it at that. Put it on bimmerfest and bmwcca. Take lots and lots of pics.

    I can't suggest selling both and buying an appliance. You'll never be happy. I'd get the 335. Get CPO if you are concerned. If you are willing to spend $30k, you could easily get a low mileage example.

    '13 Stang GT; '86 Benz 300E; '98 Volvo S70; '12 Leaf; '14 Town&Country

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,422
    really you're buying a VIN plate to give the project legitimacy--I suspect you could still buy one for less money than the cost to restore, unless this were an alloy bodied car. I think you won't be restoring the car as much as re-creating most of it.


  • stickguystickguy Posts: 14,174
    I read the whole story from the "hunter" that went to Cuba to find it. Pretty interesting.

    and considering how much it will be worth if restored, you might actually be able to get from here to thee on this one! though it does have an impressive amount of rust. And just a few "minor" parts missing!

    wonder if a European could get that out of the country?

    2013 Acura RDX (wife's), 2007 Volvo S40 (when daughter lets me see it), 2000 Acura TL (formerly son's, now mine again), and new Jetta SE (son's first new car on his own dime!)

  • stickguystickguy Posts: 14,174
    given the amount of rust, I am not thinking it is an alloy body.

    seems a lot harder to recreate around a Vin tag on one of these. Not like a Hemi Cuda or some such, where you can get a clean cheap version of what you need (or pretty close to it) to slap the tag on!

    2013 Acura RDX (wife's), 2007 Volvo S40 (when daughter lets me see it), 2000 Acura TL (formerly son's, now mine again), and new Jetta SE (son's first new car on his own dime!)

  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 4,080
    "I can't suggest selling both and buying an appliance. You'll never be happy. I'd get the 335. Get CPO if you are concerned. If you are willing to spend $30k, you could easily get a low mileage example."

    Good point. I'd like to get rid of one car before buying the 335. Also, the configuration I would prefer isn't common (Premium, Sport, and Cold Weather; Steptronic, Nav, and would strongly prefer Comfort Access). I'd rather not have a silver, black, or white exterior, and I'd prefer a black interior with aluminum trim. May take a few months to find one of those (or decide to compromise). :P
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,422
    They would re-create the body, probably in Italy or eastern european---just hammer it out by hand. Given a top value of perhaps $750K, there *might* be room to come out on it but it's many years and many man hours and really the car will be somewhat stigmatized.


  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    Yeah that's what I thought. I bought an 01 MDX for our winter holiday and that barely fits into our parking stall.

    In the past I had luck with cheaper under $3k cars that I picked up, drove for a bit and then sold when I got bored. I think I'll leave the classics for the older guys who know what they're doing.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    edited February 2013
    The reality is that your E39 will be costing you money year after year in repairs. If it isn't one thing, it's something else.

    Last year I has an E46 AWD wagon. All wheel drive, fun car, but within the span of 2 months I had to spend $1000 on it and that was at independent shops ran by relatives off friends.

    Regardless, selling it was a bit of PITA even though I had it priced at about $3k below what others were asking for them. Evereyone that came to insisted on a mechanical inspection and then picked apart every little minor flaw, from a stuck valve in the muffler (making it a bit louder) to a tiny bit of condensation in the headlight. They all expected a brand new flawless BMW for under $6k. The funny thing is I had 3 inspections on it and some of the shops missed items that others pointed out (got figure), and mentioning some things that did not need to get fixed but that "might" stop working in the future. All came back with a laundry list of things to fix with a grand total that was about half of my asking price.

    The car was not perfect but drove fine. The point is that selling an older BMW is a bit of a headache.

    Now for the Altima, selling that one won't be easy either as the base model went to many fleets and rental companies and there are a ton of them (actually 2010's and 2011's on the market in the low $10s range, depending on mileage and condition (at least here locally). That means on trade in they paid between $7-9k for it. Because yours is an 09 you might be even offered less than that. (I'm just going by Canadian book and market values).

    If I were you though I'd get the 335 as it's a fun car to drive, but make sure it has warranty.

    Or check leases on new 320i models because locally they're $398/month with $0 or $1000 down which I think it's a great deal.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    That's probably the best area to flip in, cars for a few grand that can be sold fast. The profit might be lower, but time and expense will be much lower. You don't want to accumulate cars. I've made up my mind that two is enough - I already rent a spot for one. Although I am still wanting to add a bike to the family.

    Regarding the BMWs, no 320i in the US - lowest here is a 328, which is often offered in sweetheart leases (local dealership had tons of E90s piled up well into spring of 2012, giving them away). Canada gets some more basic models, which I kind of wish existed here, although I think you'd pay the same price for a 320 that a 328 can be had for here. A few weeks ago I saw a W211 E300 with BC plates - model never existed for the US market.

    Trading in can sometimes be better too, especially if the car is nice. When I have been a looky-loo at the local MB dealer, a couple salespeople have told me that they'd like to personally buy my E55 when I was tired of it - maybe make it a trade in deal that way and get the tax benefit. Salesman told me there that employees often buy the nice older trade-ins for themselves.
  • boomchekboomchek Vancouver, BC, CanadaPosts: 5,108
    That's usually the norm at dealerships. especially for older models that dealership will wholesale anyways.

    I have a friend that works at the local MB dealer and they don't keep any trade ins other than late model MB's. All off makes go to the auction (or get bought by employees). Sometimes you can come across at cherry low mileage older cars that were well maintained but just won't do well as retail pieces on the lot due to their age.

    2007 BMW 328i Sports Pkg, 1993 Honda Accord EXR (my 33rd car).

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    edited February 2013
    My E55 is at that point - although it is low mileage and fairly pristine, it is past the magical 10 year old mark now, and values are low. One reason I've had little desire to part ways - the car looks and feels far more expensive than it is, and I couldn't replace it with anything nearly as nice for the money. Sometimes I get the idea of getting a newer car - but can't justify it just yet. Although it is nice to know that someone would want it when I am ready to sell.
  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    Regarding the BMWs, no 320i in the US -

    It's coming .. I configured one on BMW's website and got to $40K without breaking a sweat. Really not that much less expensive than a 328i - except it will have 60 less HP.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,515
    edited February 2013
    I stand corrected - I see it on the site too. I didn't know it was actually coming. I see there's a 4K base price difference, which isn't a fortune for 60hp and probably some better other bits.

    Now if we could just get a C diesel.
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