When I first bought my broken 2007 BMW M5, I thought I had purchased the automotive equivalent of a first-class ticket on the Hindenburg. My stainless steel mystery box of a 1982 DeLorean didn’t seem too promising, either, sharing the same main affliction with the M5 (a failing transmission) along with countless other problems. I thought I had mired myself with a pair of never-ending project cars, but now that my mechanic, the Car Wizard, has started to dig in, it appears my bank account won’t actually go down in a ball of flames.
I didn’t know this until I Googled it today, but the origin of the term "basket case" dates back to World War I. It was used to describe soldiers that had lost limbs in combat, and needed their body parts to be hauled off in baskets. I couldn’t find the connection that evolved this horribly gory mental image into describing crazy people and garbage cars, but "basket case" would be what most people would call my BMW M5. With its failing SMG transmission, massive oil leak, more than 30 active fault codes in the engine computer and tons of other problems, I was quoted a repair estimate of $8,000 to $11,000 to fix all of the issues. Even though I purchased the cheapest example of this 500-horsepower super-saloon at only $6,500, it clearly wasn’t cheap enough. "Free" probably wouldn’t have been cheap enough.
Thankfully, I have this Autotrader.com/Oversteer and YouTube platform to share my suffering. Most people view it in a fashion similar to watching uploads of car accidents captured on dashboard cameras, but a few nice people have actually offered to help. One of these angels of mercy was named Jordan, who was parting out a low-mileage wrecked M5. He wanted to keep the V10 engine for another project, but the rest of the car was open game — and he offered to sell me a complete transmission, including the SMG pump and all, for only $2,500. New, these parts would cost well over $10,000, and since it seemed just about everything had broken on mine, this really was a life saver.
Jordan also provided the oil cooler I needed, which was the source of my massive oil leak, for only $150, meaning I’m well on my way to getting the M5 actually drivable again. Once I get to that point, I can evaluate whether I’ll spend the extra thousands in preventative engine repairs. I know it seems like the song that never ends, but at least it appears I’ve made it through the main chorus.
As for my $14,000 bargain DeLorean, another angel of mercy — this one was named Dan — e-mailed me with an offer to sell his lightly used automatic transmission for only $1,200. He was swapping his for a more favorable manual transmission setup, and he was happy to get it out of his garage. He even included the shift gate (mine was cracked) and an updated transmission computer that crisps up the shifting of the 3-speed automatic. Since I was having trouble finding a rebuild kit, and since I probably would have spent thousands to rebuild my existing transmission, this was another gift from above. Actually, it came from the Colorado Rockies, so it literally did come from somewhere above me.
The remaining parts needed on the DeLorean to fix the leaks and the fuel delivery issues total less than $1,400 — not bad. So, by some miracle, I might actually be able to sort the cheapest DeLorean, and the cheapest BMW M5 in the U.S. for a smaller total investment than buying a nice example in the first place. Since we’re just getting started, I might already be jinxing myself by saying that, but clearly, I have good reason for all of this optimism.