Your classics

Your Classics: Andrew Barrett and his BMW M5 E28

by James Mills
17 August 2022 3 min read
Your Classics: Andrew Barrett and his BMW M5 E28
Photos: Barry Hayden

When the BMW M5 E28 you see before you was nine years old, friends of Andrew Barrett might have thought he’d taken leave of his senses. Barrett sold the M5 after enjoying it for just two years – but there was method in his madness.

“I sold it for a profit, which was unheard of in the ‘90s, and then swapped into an M5 Touring, the E34 version, but then it got wiped out by an errant Range Rover.”

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For the uninitiated, the E28 was the first M5. It took a bow at the Amsterdam motor show, in 1984, and it’s entirely plausible that some onlookers suspected BMW had been smoking the wacky baccy. Engineers had taken the straight-six cylinder, 3.5-litre M88 engine from the M1 sports car – the one that formed the basis of the memorable Procar championship – added Bosch Motronic fuel injection to take power up to 278bhp (more than a Ferrari 328 at the time) and dropped it within the handsome 5-series saloon that had been designed with a perfect measure of restraint by BMW’s Claus Luthe.

BMW M5 E28

Despite the M5’s sporting credentials, the design and marketing departments resisted the urge to shout about its performance. There was a subtle rear spoiler, a smattering of M logos about the place and that’s about it. Yet the price was £31,295 – something of a shock given an M535i was just £19,985.

It’s perhaps this price, as well as the car being a novel proposition at the time, which explains why so few were sold in Britain. Less than 190 right-hand drive cars were built for sale in Europe.

It’s a statistic that isn’t lost on Barrett. With the E34 M5 Touring wiped out, he set about buying back the M5 E28, in 2003, selling a Lotus Elan in the process. “I sold my Elan to fund buying this back, because I figured there are plenty of Elans out there but so few of these. This is number 180 of about 184 UK cars.

Why the attraction to buying it back? “It just such a lovely car to drive. It’s got that classic BMW sharknose shape, and it’s a rare old thing. You know, I saw two yellow Lamborghini Murcielagos when I was driving over, this morning, but I didn’t see any red M5s!”

As a child in the ‘80s, my father owned a 528i, and used to keep bags of sand in the boot in an attempt to tame the tail, especially in the wet. How is the M5? “It’s fine. Yeah, you need to be a bit careful in the wet, as there’s no traction control, but it handles so sweetly and has a limited slip diff’ as standard, so yes it slide but it’s quite catchable.”

We met at the first Hagerty Hillclimb, held at Shelsley Walsh, and Barrett clearly delights in driving his M5 hard – as you’ll see from our picture of him warming up the back tyres ahead of the course’s start line. Is this how he likes to use it? “I used to hillclimb and sprint this particular car, but then I got all the paintwork done and spent the next two years looking at it, going, ‘I’m scared to drive it now’ kind of thing. But then I decided there’s no point not driving it properly, you’ve got to get out and use it.”

Andrew Barrett BMW M5 E28

He travelled to Shelsley Walsh, in Worcestershire, from Lincolnshire, and gave it plenty up the hill. Watching it smoking its way off the start line, and hearing that snarling, rasping straight-six power man and machine up the course was possibly just how BMW’s M GmbH engineers had hoped their super saloon would be used by owners.

Read more

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