Finally, after much searching, I found an almost mint, two owner BMW E39. After the s**t show of “mint” cars I had seen prior to this, relief was a word I would use.
My E39 came with a comprehensive service record, along with a clean MOT record showing no major issues (aside from tyre wear and the occasional linkage wear), meaning it had been cared for.
THE MOULDY POND LOOK
Given that this is a 17-year-old car, it was showing signs of little use which had managed to scar the headlamps like the front end had been sitting in a mouldy pond for several years. As the cost of new headlamps is around £400 per side from BMW, it made no sense to replace them as aside from the mouldy pond look they are in full working order.
So, with guidance and a lot of help, (read this as doing most of the work) myself and my very tall and mechanically wise friend Andy removed the headlamps and proceeded to restore them.
REMOVING MANY YEARS OF GROT
You may be wondering how exactly the headlamps got into this state, well the E39 suffers from headlamp moisture like no other car, if you wanted to keep fish in your headlamps, simply leave them unmaintained and you can grow a very productive ecosystem in there. The many years of moisture build up isn’t helped by the Hella sourced headlamp lenses suffering greatly from oxidisation from generally sitting outside for the last 17 years.
The solution, simple wet sandpaper and a whole lot of buffing. Starting out with the heaviest grade of around 200-400 grit, then gradually working up to the highest grade which is like wiping paper over a wet headlamp if I’m being honest.
Once all the oxidisation was removed, apply a compound to polish out the lens, we did also strip the lamp assemblies apart and ensure that everything was completely dry before reassembly and then bolting them back into the car.
Inside the headlamps, we found a lot of water, red mould which I was unaware was actually a thing, various shards of broken bulbs and the remains of broken headlamp adjusters.
As you can see from the before and after pictures, the before shows a potential MOT fail and a somewhat dangerous night vision issue, now the lights are ready to soldier on for a few more MOT years.
THE END RESULT
A SPARKPLUG OR SIX
Now to focus on the motor, having only covered 82k miles at the time when I acquired it, the motor is in good order. Upon cold start, it purrs away and pulls strongly and cleanly.
I could have taken it to BMW for a plug and filters change, but at £60 an hour, I would be seriously out of pocket while my BMW mechanic wears a Rolex.
The total cost of the six plugs and filters was about £55, total time from start to finish was around two hours, including the strip down and actual change of the plugs themselves which is the most time-consuming part.
All you need is a plug wrench and a bit of research on torque ratios (as too much would be bad), in fact, I did my research on YouTube which was very helpful.
Before you comment about an oil and filter change, this was done before I acquired the car. Upon removing the old plugs a quick check confirmed that the engine was running neither hot or lean or anything else that could be bad.
Finally a confession, for the last fifteen years I have driven new cars with company backed servicing, most would shy away from this kind of work but it was actually a lot of fun and if you do it yourself you know it’s been done right, or possibly been done as good as you could do it until it breaks.