Motormessenger | BMW | 523i | E39 | Titan Silver | Project Bismarck

End of term: The 523i #ProjectBismarck

Last time Motormessenger updated you on #ProjectBismarck, the battered old 523i was preparing to take up winter duties in lieu of the M3.

Motormessenger | BMW | 523i | E39 | Titan Silver | Project Bismarck

19 years of abuse later, this thing still looks alright.

Despite being a heavy, rear-wheel drive automatic saloon, the old bus has been an excellent winter steed over gripless icy inner-city streets. It’s coped well with freezing winter mornings, ferried myself and friends across Scotland with ease and run faultlessly throughout. Sadly, by the time you read this, the land yacht will be onto its next owner.

With a change in holiday plans afoot for Summer 2017, the BMW became surplus to requirements. It was with reluctance that we put it up for sale earlier this month, but to our surprise, someone else wanted it as badly as we originally did – with it selling only three hours after it went up for sale.

Motormessenger | BMW | 523i | E39 | Titan Silver | Project Bismarck

Behind this wooden flap is a tape deck. Very 1998.

So what are the abiding memories that can you take away from running a 19 year-old, rusty and battered saloon car as your daily?

For a start, it’s immensely satisfying to know that you’ve nothing to fear from other drivers. Someone hit your door? No problem, the paint is already marked. Got to stand on the brakes hard? It’s alright, the brake pads are only worth a tenth of the value of the car.

Motormessenger | BMW | 523i | E39 | Titan Silver | Project Bismarck

Yes, that really was the mileage. The 2.5 straight-six engine was a peach too.

In today’s world, where even a mid-range Golf is touching £28,000, it’s refreshing to find that you can have perfectly serviceable transport for only a few hundred pounds. That’s if you don’t mind a few dents and the general appearance of a car that has spent its previous life in a pinball machine.

However, it’s not all bad news – Motormessenger will still be taking part in a roadtrip this summer down to the 2017 British Grand Prix.

Whether or not that will be in a new vehicle, though, remains to be seen.

Motormessenger | BMW | 523i | E39 | Titan Silver | Project Bismarck

Farewell, old cruiser.





BMW | E39 | 523i | Saloon | Titan Silver | Road trip | Eurotrip | Motormessenger | Bismarck

Introducing Project Bismarck: The Eurotrip Barge

It’s true; petrolheads are doomed to fret about their cars.

No matter what your favoured choice of automobile is, it’s likely that you stress over which parking space to leave it in, and how quickly you can clean off that bird poop before it burns the clearcoat on the paint.

But after acquiring possibly Scotland’s most cosmetically-abused E39 5-Series, however, I’m happy to report that there’s a deep satisfaction in owning something you really don’t care about.

BMW | E39 | 523i | Saloon | Titan Silver | Road trip | Eurotrip | Motormessenger | Bismarck

Project Bismarck: Wood, leather, a smooth 2.5-litre engine and a lifetime of cosmetic abuse for less than the price of a holiday to Majorca.

There’s no need to worry about scratches, because the Titan Silver paint is wracked with scrapes and bruises. You don’t need to maintain a rigorous cleaning schedule either, as typical Scottish rust has discoloured the sills and arches.

With the M3 off the road for winter to protect it from the elements, I wasn’t actually planning to replace it with something else. However, when a friend got in touch to say he was getting rid of his 523i, I couldn’t resist a look.

Rationality was severely challenged by sentimentality when I first saw the beaten-up barge. As a child, I spent most of my formative years in the vault-like safety and strength of a 1999 Titan Silver 523i saloon.

This 1998 model, however, looked like it had been used as a dodgem for the last 18 years, as every single panel was scraped, dented or otherwise imperfect. In addition, it took several seconds to fire up, and the radio would stutter in and out of life when it damn well felt like it.

I absolutely adore it.

Despite the visually obvious imperfections – it was hit by a digger when parked, after all – the 523i is a solid foundation for a roadtrip bus. As it was owned for over a decade by a pensioner, the engine has a scarcely-believable 67,000 miles from new along with a full BMW and specialist service history.

In addition, the interior is in perfect condition, and everything inside works (well, apart from the radio).

BMW | E39 | 523i | Saloon | Titan Silver | Road trip | Eurotrip | Motormessenger | Bismarck

Old is gold.

Using an M52 2.5-litre straight six, the 523i pushes out 170bhp and is so refined and quiet, it makes an F10 530d sound like a hooligan. The auto sloshes through the gears easily and there is some torque. How much? Who knows; it’s enough to move the thing and create a lovely whispery six-cylinder growl as it propels forward.

The wooden trim, tape deck and pillowy-soft 15in wheels make little sense in 2016, but speak of the car’s luxurious origins from the late 90s. Why are modern cars no longer this soft and comfortable?

I was soon convinced and, along with three friends (‘The Consortium’) we purchased the car earlier this month. Our plan is to fix up the niggles before its MOT next Spring, with the last few weeks seeing a routine service and some exterior trim refitted after a slight panel-beating session.

If we can get it through the half-year without much trouble, we plan to take it on a two-week Eurotrip adventure during Summer 2017. It’s big, refined, comfortable and so far, reasonably reliable.

Stay tuned for more from #ProjectBismarck.

BMW | E39 | 523i | Saloon | Titan Silver | Road trip | Eurotrip | Motormessenger | Bismarck