You notice patterns when you spend the bulk of your free time looking for abandoned and unused cars. Some are parked because of a mechanical issue that the owner didn’t fix, some are aborted projects and for others the term “temporarily off the road” becomes permanent.
The mysterious BMW 535 iS pictured here falls into none of the above. Currently registered, a look at the rust on the brake rotors reveals that it has been off the road for quite a while and it is sitting behind a warehouse that appears to be abandoned. Did the owner push it there after it broke down and forget about it? It’s possible, the small rust spot on the passenger side of the hood could hint at a very minor fire in the engine bay.
Regardless of how it landed behind an abandoned building, the iS shows all of the signs of a car that has been driven regularly over the past quarter of a century. The paint is faded, the air dam mounted below the bumper is cracked and, perhaps most telling of all, there are an innumerable amount of rock chips on the hood. Its body is fairly rust-free, likely indicating it has not spent all of its life in Utah.
The 535 iS is not just any E28. Powered by 3.5-liter straight-six engine, it was positioned at the very top of the E28 lineup when it was launched in the United Sates in 1987 and as a less-expensive alternative to the iconic M5 in 1988. It was phased out for the 1989 model year with the rest of the E28 lineup to make room for the new E34.
U.S.-spec models packed 182 horsepower and 214 lb-ft. of torque, enough to accelerate from zero to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.4 seconds when fitted with a five-speed manual transmission. That might not seem impressive today, but it was excellent for a four-door sedan in the late-1980s.
In 1988, buyers who exchanged $36,900 for a 535 iS were treated to a leather-wrapped M-Technic steering wheel and eight-way adjustable sport seats. To put that figure into perspective, that same year a base-model 528e cost $31,500 and a 256-horsepower M5 retailed for $46,500.