GIVE ME FIVEĖA540 E39 SPORT

AS HAPPY BMW CAMPERS GO GUYíS A PAID UP MEMBER

WORDS PHOTOS GUY ALLEN

HOW YOU VIEW used European cars may depend on which side of the exchange youíre on.

This 2003 E39 540 Sport is a good example. Uncle Phil spotted the car two years ago and basically made me buy it. Long story. At the time, it cost $17,000 in mint condition (a typical Phil buy) with 130,000km on the clock. Its first owner, Henry, confessed it cost him $160,000.

So there I was getting a fairly modern V8 European in perfect condition for a little over a tenth of its original cost. I donít get it.

While Iíve torn up plenty of money on vehicles over the years, I reckon that rate of depreciation would drive you to drink.

Anyway, the car has turned out to be a good buy. Itís a late E39, a series that was very highly regarded by assorted motoring reviewers over the years. Itís running the 4.4lt alloy V8, which claims an understressed 290 horses (216kW) at 5400rpm and a healthy 440Nm of torque at 3600. What that means is itís got decent midrange stomp Ė no firebreather, but enthusiastic when you sink the slipper for an overtaking run.

The differences between the Sport and the standard are the car is lowered with a different wheel/tyre package that provides noticably more rubber on the road. Plus there are some trim differences, including M-Sport sill plates under the doors.

Theíve got a reputation for being robust, with one or two things to watch, such as the plastic (why plastic?!) coolant hose junction at the top front of the engine.

As something to travel in, itís terrific. It eats up the miles, sits beautifully through a corner and is quick enough for the road.

The only glitch so far has been a slight vagueness in the front end, particularly under brakes. Morley drove it and suggested a wheel alignment, so we popped in to Hakon on the north side of Melb Ė theyíre the people who sorted Uncle Philís Torana last issue.

Up on the hoist and ringmaster Reade discovered that someone had installed new front end caster bushes and stuffed it up. The one on the driver side had been installed 90 degrees out, which allowed some lateral movement of that wheel under brakes.

So we ordered a decent quality new set, then set up the wheel alignment which had been out and was never going to be right until the bushes were sorted.

And the other drama? The day Uncle Phil and I got a flat hundreds of kays from home, only to discover the wheels each had a locking nut and whoever last changed the tyres forgot to put the tool back in the car. Bastard! Those locking nuts were pitched in the bin the minute I got home.

So far so good with this one and I reckon it will be hanging around in the shed for a fair while to come.