Home » Rust Is Killing My Stately BMW E39 Wagon And Repair Shops Don’t Even Want To Look At It

Rust Is Killing My Stately BMW E39 Wagon And Repair Shops Don’t Even Want To Look At It

Frustration Ts2
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Back in October 2022, I bought my first-ever BMW when our Daydreaming Designer, the Bishop, sold me his 2001 BMW 525i Touring for the princely sum of just $1,500. I have since given the car to my wife, Sheryl, and we both enjoy the stately machine immensely. Unfortunately, much like any aging car in the Midwest, the car has some rust. Iron oxide is just a part of life in the Midwest, so you’d think there would be plenty of places to get it fixed. We’ve called every body shop we can think of in a 50-mile radius and many in neighboring states and have found very few even willing to look at the car.

Something wonderful happened back in October. The Bishop had a car to sell and I had money to spend. I looked the vehicle over and it was in nearly immaculate condition despite being a daily driver for 21 years. The paint glistened, the interior looked perfect, and the 2.5-liter straight-six under the hood quietly hummed away like a fine sewing machine. This was a car that seemed to prove the BMW naysayers wrong. Everything worked from top to bottom, including the notorious door handles and window regulators. This car had 120,000 miles on the odometer but felt and drove like it had half of that. Oh, and it came with nearly two decades of service records. You can tell the car has been loved.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

This E39 wagon was ready to continue its next chapter with its new loving parents.

The Car

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During my short period of ownership, I did exactly nothing to the E39. I thought of the wagon as nearly perfect and all I planned on doing was fixing what I thought was minor rust (more on that later) and getting window tint. Other than that, I enjoyed the car as is.

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If you’ve never driven an E39, I highly recommend it. After years of owning Volkswagens, Smart Fortwos, and various American and Japanese vehicles, this BMW changed me. When you hop in, you’re presented with an interior and layout with driving in mind. BMW didn’t care about such luxuries as usable cupholders or a center control stack weighed down with buttons. No, you plop yourself down in a sporty-ish leather seat, slide that shifter into gear, and hit the road with a clear and large instrument cluster helping you guide your way.

The E39 Under Mercedes’ Ownership

When you put your foot on the throttle, the E39 responds immediately and sharply. I’ve yet to drive any other car with the level of finesse offered by the E39’s accelerator pedal. The throttle pedal is so sensitive and offers such minute adjustments that you feel as if the engine and your brain are perfectly in sync. If you hate having a delay between commanding the vehicle to move and the vehicle doing it, the E39 hits the sweet spot. The only vehicles I’ve experienced with sharper throttle control are EVs.

Once moving, the E39 provides heavy steering that delivers the same kind of on-the-point accuracy as the throttle. Provided the E39 is in good condition, you will always have confidence that your motions with the wheel have an immediate and direct impact on your course. Even the suspension is tuned for driving enjoyment. The E39’s stock suspension is firm but still takes hits well enough that it’s a fine road trip vehicle. I don’t normally buy into marketing slogans, but BMW was onto something when it used to say “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

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Sheryl perhaps loves this E39 more than I do. In fact, Sheryl loves the E39 so much that she says she likes how it drives more than her Holy Grail, the Oldsmobile LSS. Sheryl pretty much broke my brain when she said that. For the entirety of our relationship and then marriage, she couldn’t stop talking about GM H-bodies, and now she can’t stop talking about BMWs.

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When the car came into her possession, she decided to do something she’s never done and Sheryl decided to make the car her own. As Sheryl told me, she really hasn’t been as attached to a car as she’s become to her BMW. So, now she keeps tinkering with making it closer to how she wants it to be. Since getting the car, she’s installed new blacked-out kidney grilles, sequential side turn indicators, a new stereo, sport package wheels, nifty LED headlight modules, window tint, 3D-printed cupholders, BMW logo puddle lights, and more.

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Sheryl’s become so obsessed with “pimping” out her BMW that she decided to replace the cracking factory wood with Muschelahorn trim from Germany. She also replaced the cracked wood center console with black trim to match the Muschelahorn. Oh, and the car’s name is Wanda.

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Along the way, Sheryl’s been fixing broken stuff. As I noted above, the factory wood trim was cracking and splitting, so she replaced it with the Muschelahorn trim. The vehicle itself also had a few drivability issues as it didn’t have working traction control or ABS, triggering what is known as the “Trifecta Lights.” A diagnostic scanner blamed the front left wheel speed sensor, even though the Bishop replaced the sensor twice.

That’s when a wise BMW enthusiast told me that if you replaced the sensor twice and the car still thinks it’s broken, it’s probably not the sensor but the ABS module. Apparently, when the ABS module fails, it blames another part of the car for its own failure. A BMW independent technician confirmed this. A used ABS module later and the Trifecta was dead. The two remaining lights on the instrument cluster have been confirmed to be a bad airbag sensor under the passenger carpet and a dying catalytic converter. In a week or so, Sheryl’s BMW will no longer have any warning lights at all on her dashboard.

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She loves this car so much that she gave it a total brake job, refreshed the parking brake, and is replacing the spark plugs and coil packs right on time because she wants it to be in tip-top shape. She even replaced the blue-tinted side mirrors after they started peeling. That’s not even noting the replacement of brittle trim or her soon conversion of the cellphone holder armrest to a real storage compartment. My wife is doing things to her car that I don’t even do to my stuff.

The Rust

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Unfortunately, there is one hurdle that Sheryl and I have not been able to overcome ourselves, and it’s the rust. When I got the car from the Bishop, he noted that the car had been rust-repaired a decade ago, and now the car was rusting again. At the time, he showed us a few places that were rusty. The rockers were starting to get bad and the trunk was bad enough that tape was required to keep water out. Other than a few unsightly places, the E39 was still far cleaner than most here in Illinois.

I already had a short list of bodyshops that did affordable, but quality rust repair. Reader Shop-Teacher recommended the shop that made his GMC Sierra’s rockers–which had massive holes–look like new again. I saw the quality of the work with my own eyes and it’s great for what he paid.

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When I started calling up these shops, I was shocked to learn that not a single one of them, even the cool place Shop-Teacher went to, was in the business of repairing rust anymore. All of them told me that they do nothing but insurance work now due to an uptick in crashed cars. When I asked one of the shops why they don’t repair rust anymore, they told me that insurance work pays out quickly and the repairs have a quick turnaround time. On the other hand, someone paying for rust repair may stop paying and abandon their vehicle. Continuing on, the shop told me that rust repairs also tend to start off with one estimate but get substantially more expensive with complications or additional rust.

Our areas of concern begin with the tailgate. It’s rusting from the inside out. We had the tailgate inspected and the prevailing opinion is that it’s not worth saving. The rust is so substantial that even metal parts of the tailgate’s electrical system are corroding. The recommendation is to find a rust-free tailgate, even one that’s the wrong color.

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Next, we move to the rockers. Originally, these didn’t appear too bad. Sheryl has added nearly 20,000 miles to the car since I gave it to her 6 months ago, and the rust has accelerated to worse than we knew it to be. The rear of the rocker on the right side has holes. The left side is better, but isn’t too hot, itself. Aside from those areas, there were smaller zones of rust that weren’t rusted through and could probably be ground down with a grinding wheel.

Then, we discovered more bad news. Last weekend, we began the surgery to replace the vehicle’s cats and when a jack was placed under a jacking point, a thick layer of paint and factory rust protection flaked off, revealing a sea of rust that was hidden underneath. Crap. I checked the other side to see if it’s better. I think this could be whacked out with a wire wheel and paint, maybe?

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While some of this rust is within my abilities to fix, the gaping hole in the rocker and the other places with advancing rust are admittedly above my pay grade. The wonderful Bill Caswell did teach me some of the basics of welding, but I’m nowhere near this level yet. Caswell tells me that repairs like these require enough work that not even he repairs rust. That’s all ignoring the fact that I don’t have a place to spend however much time I need to fix rust. My mini warehouse and garages are filled to the brim.

Finding Help Has Been Frustrating

Sheryl and I have decided to turn to the professionals. We figure it’s worth it to pay for someone who knows what they’re doing and get back a clean car that will hold up for years. The problem is that nobody wants to do it.

After I worked through my list, we started asking friends and started reaching out to family-owned bodyshops. Many of them said they used to repair rust and nearly all of them said they only perform insurance work now. A few shops said they would repair rust if they weren’t swamped with insurance work all of the time.

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Thankfully, not every shop was a strike-out. One family-owned shop we found was local and it was owned by an elderly metalworker and bodyman with his daughter as his number one. Together, they not only performed insurance work but the kinds of jobs no other bodyshop would take. He quoted Sheryl $4,000 for the rust repair and was actually very excited to do it, stating that rust repair gives him something fun to do for once.

The bodyman’s plan was to cut the entire rockers out and weld new ones in. His logic was that if he welded in entirely new rockers, Sheryl wouldn’t need to come back in a year because another rust spot appeared on her 22-year-old rockers. His plan for the tailgate was equally ambitious. Like us, the shop couldn’t find any clean tailgates close enough to home. Since he has metalworking experience, the bodyman’s Plan B was to cut out all of the rust and then rebuild the tailgate from the inside out. This small shop also said that the $4,000 estimate would be close to reality, as they do not charge extra because they ran into a snag or something.

In a cruel twist of fate, when it came time to drop the car off, the bodyshop’s number was disconnected and nobody was found at the location. Sadly, it would appear that the shop is in the process of going out of business.

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This forced us to try other places. The next shop to even take a look at the car was a hot-rod restoration shop. That shop told us that repairing rust on normal cars wasn’t really their thing, but they’d do it if we paid upfront. We got a quote for $7,000 and were warned that the price was likely to go up if they hit any snags. This shop’s plan is to cut out the bad rust, weld in new patches of metal, and then fill up voids behind the remaining rockers with something like POR-15 to hamper the development of more rust.

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Finally, we found one more shop, a Maaco. This shop said that for an initial cost of $5,000, they’ll cut out the rust, replace the tailgate, and replace the cut portions with painted fiberglass. The previous shops said they could do the work in a week or two while Maaco said it would take at least three weeks and up to two months. My only concern here is that my family has never really had good luck with local Maaco franchises. Even the more expensive paint packages seem to last only a year or so.

So, we’ve been looking for more options. The Maaco repair could take two months with unknown quality. On the other hand, I’ve seen the hot-rod shop’s work and it’s phenomenal, but the shop said our daily driver would be on the backburner as it’s already working on restoring classics right now.

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Getting desperate, Sheryl and I started an assault on every shop within road-tripping distance of our Illinois apartment. Most repeated similar statements about only handling insurance work while some said they don’t work on cars older than a certain year in the 2000s. Others said they could do the work if we were willing to wait about a year to get to the front of their waitlist. To date, only the three above shops were willing to even give us an estimate. Seemingly, either Wanda is too old or the insurance work is too heavy.

What To Do Next

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It’s honestly baffling because you’d think, given the huge amount of rust in the Midwest, someone could make some money fixing rusty modern cars that people love.

Anyway, we’re not entirely sure how to move forward here. Sheryl got so desperate that she considered driving out to California and having the excellent Galpin Auto Sports handle it, but that perhaps makes even less sense than having the nearby hot-rod shop do it. I’ve been searching the nation for clean E39 wagons and have found that Sheryl could probably buy a rust-free wagon from California or down south for maybe $5,000 or so.

Sheryl tells me that just replacing this wagon with a random rust-free car wouldn’t be the same. In the time she’s owned Wanda, the car helped her find new confidence, inspired her to believe in herself, and helped her become a better version of herself. Further, the car’s taught her a lot and most importantly to her, Wanda was a gift from me.

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Honestly? I get it. If the engine in my first Smart Fortwo blew tomorrow, I would replace it, even though I know that buying another Smart is the better financial decision. To me, there is only one Tucker. For Sheryl, there’s only one Wanda.

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We have two estimates sitting on the table right now, so in the very worst case, the rust can get fixed. But, she feels a bit uneasy about it because, from our personal experience, rust repair was far cheaper than this just a few years ago. It feels like if we just tried a little harder, we’d find one of those shops again. But at the same time, we seemed to have called every single shop with a listing on Google.

Here’s where I toss the microphone to one of you. What should Sheryl do?

(Images: Author)

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Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
9 months ago

I’d buy her another rust free E39 wagon and transfer over the personalized bits. Then part out her current one so others may live. At least then Sheryl has a gift car from you and her current car gets to live on in other cars.

Or the trade school. If they’re willing to touch it.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

History: Patient presented with otherwise asymptomatic cosmetic skin lesions and multiple small subcutaneous amorphous masses. Masses palpated revealing deep tissue damage with skeletal abnormalities apparent. Biopsies performed

Diagnosis: Early Stage IV Bone Cancer with Initial Metastasis confirmed.

Prognosis: 5% Survival Rate with Aggressive Surgery and Chemotherapy. Remission unlikely, relapse likelihood of 99+% within 18 months.

Recommended Treatment Course: Euthanasia with Transplant Harvesting.

🙁

Mike S
Mike S
9 months ago

Rust really is an insidious disease for cars, and what you see is typically only the tip of the iceberg. Those rockers are bad, and hard points for jacking turning to dust is really bad- the structure of that car is crumbling. In Pennsylvania that car would never pass safety inspection.
About 4 years ago I found out the hard way with my Jeep that yeah, most places do strictly insurance work now. Luckily I found a family run body shop that was willing to do it, but they said in no uncertain terms that it’s a never ending battle.
This isn’t grandpas Chevy that he brought your mom home from the hospital in. It’s a used bimmer with a ton of non- rust problems you’ve had for six months. Why would you spend 10 times what you paid for it only to have the cancer appear somewhere else 3 years from now?

MiniDave
MiniDave
9 months ago

I’m in the process of fixing a bunch of rust on my classic Mini – because no one else will work on it – fortunately I know what I’ doing, I just don’t particularly like doing rust repair….it’s a royal PITA. And fixing what you see only means you didn’t fix what you didn’t see, and it will be making an appearance soon, over and over…..just as it has.

In my case, I stripped the car down to bare metal – I can buy replacement panels reasonably and I will cut out and weld in new metal for all the bad metal till I have a solid shell again, in my Mini’s case that’s new fenders, inner fenders, flitch panels, sills, floor pans, rear valance, quarter trim and on and on then I’ll ship it out of state to a buddy’s shop to have the body finished and painted.

So, that being said, as much as she loves Wanda, the clean not rusted California car is the real answer. Maybe keep Wanda as a parts car?

Last edited 9 months ago by MiniDave
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago

Aww, Wanda! My mom’s name is Wanda.

(I think Rollin’ Hand already covered the basics pretty well. I’m just here to approve of the name.)

Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
9 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I am extremely colorblind, so my very not red car somehow reminds me of the Scarlet Witch. Hence the name.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
9 months ago

Heh, that’s awesome. Good car name.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

Lots of rods, not enough cones.

Stef is right. Awesome name.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago

All of them told me that they do nothing but insurance work now due to an uptick in crashed cars.”

I feel as if there’s a story here…

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

As an insurance agent, I can tell you, no real story there. Just folks taking the highest paying work during a supply contraction (body shops workers).

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Thanks for your insight; I always appreciate the perspective from someone with experience. Without data to back it up, everything is speculation and conjecture, although I’ve heard that people acquired more bad driving habits, or good ones atrophied, during the pandemic. To be honest, I wonder myself whether safety features lull drivers into a false sense of security, leading to more careless or aggressive driving. But all of that is hard to quantify.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

People did start driving like shit when the pandemic started (myself included), but that’s a story that’s been well covered.

Staffma
Staffma
9 months ago

It is crazy how it seems nearly impossible to get rust repair done, really at any price these days. My Spitfire sat at various body shops for almost 2 years before i stopped trying to get people to do rust repair on it. And that was before the pandemic made everything worse. These days it just sits until I clear up the project backlog enough to do it myself.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
9 months ago

It’s interesting that so many body shops are only taking insurance work. I’m guessing Nissan Altima sales are doing quite well.

Honestly, I would make the trek to Galpin and have those folks do it. I’m not saying the other shops would be dishonest, but I would trust experts I know over strangers.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
9 months ago

Cut out the rockers, replace with 2×6. BMW wagon with rock sliders!

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
9 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

Pressure treated?

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
9 months ago

Former E39 owner here:

1) the rocker rust looks to be the jacking points, which falls in the “that ain’t good at all” category. Not sure what one has to do to fix that. It would scare me off a car.

2) The tailgate rust is bad enough that I would suggest just replacing it if you can find one that is rust free, or even less rusty. In a pinch, lots of videos on how to repair rust online. I have patched holes (and surprisingly neatly) using fiberglass. It won’t be permanent, but can work for a time.

3) check in with your local BMW Car Club of America chapter. Look up stuff on Bimmerforums, Bimmerfest and the like. They will know people and shops that can help you.

4) Rustproofing, rustproofing, rustproofing. Krown is the best. They will drill into inconspicuous areas of the car to get their magic sauce into all of the cracks and crevices. If you get the car fixed, get it Krowned annually, or you’ll be doing it again.

5) I like the trade school idea.

6) If you have a bad catalytic, you might be looking at needing intake manifold and other assorted gaskets. Unmetered air can lead to the cats failing. I had Dynomax CARB-approved cats welded in on mine.

In the end, you potentially have access to a top-flight facility in Galpin to fix the rust. That would seem to be the obvious choice if they can fit you in. Film vids, write about it, show pics of DT snorting lines of rust. It would all be good content.

That said, you wouldn’t be the first to lose a beloved car to the brown lace disease. If it’s time to move on, be ready to do so.

EDIT: here’s a vid that might be informative.

https://youtu.be/GBKDXQs-IiM?si=Ub7zdE3AXgJI3mlR

Last edited 9 months ago by Rollin Hand
Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
5 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Way back in the dark ages, my folks had an’58 ford custom (lowest trim) 4 door. Because there were no inner fender liners, all the snow/salt lodged behind the headlights in the front fenders. Dad had it “repaired” with fiberglass and it looked fine for, maybe 2 years. He later traded it in on a ‘65 Chrysler Newport. My sister had a Windstar van. It rusted out all along the lower body. Again she had it “repaired”. It didn’t take much more than a year to get to near unsafe.

These examples are not from Buffalo, NY, but Omaha, NE, where that don’t even get much snow.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
9 months ago

I don’t know how much time you’ve got but I would drive to “da family” in California in a heartbeat. It beats interviewing strangers. One of the few nice things about living in the South is not having your cars rust around your ears.

Buzz
Buzz
9 months ago

I ran into the exact same situation when I was trying to get some well-hidden rust removed from my Mini. You’d think every street corner in Michigan would have someone with an angle grinder and a can of POR-15, but no. It’s understaffed body shops doing insurance work only.

I ended up having a trusted family friend mechanic doing the work, but I also had a few mobile welders who seemed interested. Mobile welders are probably the only people in the game who are willing to take these projects on, as long as you can catch them in the gap between lawnmower deck repair season and snowplow blade repair season.

B P
B P
9 months ago

Step 1: Convince DT this is a holy grail that must be saved
Step 2: Have DT go to town doing all the work late at night in the snow.
Step 3: Profit?!?

Jacob Rippey
Jacob Rippey
9 months ago

Is everyone skipping over the fact that Sheryl drove 20,000 MILES IN 6 MONTHS!?! Wowza.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

I’m so sorry that’s her regular destination.

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
9 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

lol STL isn’t that bad, lots of nice places, just don’t go downtown at night! Family lives there.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

Same, but if family didn’t live there, I can’t think of many reasons to visit.

Data
Data
9 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

Visited St. Louis once, had a great time. Spent a day at 6 Flags. Did City Museum (highly recommended if you have kids). Watched Legally Blonde stage play at The Muny. Went to the nearby Meramec caverns and then did a canoe ride down the river.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago
Reply to  Data

But are you a person of color? I’m going to guess not. I once drove past a St. Louis cruiser while going Way over the limit and he just watched me. On my way back I saw him doing a DWB investigation. It’s a Tale of Two Cities.

A. Barth
A. Barth
9 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

Geez, how dangerous is your family?? 🙂

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
9 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

Lol

Paul E
Paul E
9 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

That’s actually a bit under my usual mileage for the same period of time, sadly. This summer I’ve been averaging over 1k miles/week. I try to spread the mileage between two daily drivers, but one of the cars is so much better of a road warrior than the other, so the second one’s begun to fall behind.

As for original dilemma, it’s time to start looking for a replacement gate… Good luck finding a decent one in the midwest; best bets will be south and west coasts, and the mid-Atlantic states (MD/VA/DC). Realistically to find a relatively solid BMW, you’re going to have to look nationally for a decent Touring. Start looking now.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Yeah, I just hit 61,000 in 18 months on my daily that I use mainly for work, but I’ve got two other cars that I also do frequent long road trips in

Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
9 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

I’m the name-your-own-price lawyer of last resort for people who can’t get lawyers. What that means is people who can’t afford lawyers come to me, or I’m appointed by a judge. I’m cheaper than the public defender in criminal cases and I am the de facto public defender in eviction cases. That means I fill in the gap to make sure as many people as possible have lawyers. That also means I go all over the state to wherever I’m needed, and that’s typically at least three days a week of 200+ miles one way. I’m the only lawyer in the state doing this, so I’ll never be rich, but it’s rewarding.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
9 months ago

Sincere Kudos. The world needs more of you.

Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
9 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Thank you! Honestly, that’s one reason I love Wanda. There’s a stigma to my line of work in the legal profession, that we’re not “real lawyers” because we don’t make six figures (or anywhere close). I actually got in trouble with the Powers That Be for my last car because it purportedly reflected poorly on the profession. Mercy told me when she gave me Wanda that I’m not less skilled or worse than any other lawyer because I decided to work for righteous causes and not the highest bidder, and you know what? She’s right.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
9 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

You just need to find a body man facing an eviction to pay you in trade. Problem solved 😉

Last edited 9 months ago by Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
9 months ago

A college girlfriend’s father was a lawyer who was often paid in barter, and she drove a series of “interesting” cars. Perhaps you might have a client who does this sort of work?

Who Knows
Who Knows
9 months ago
Reply to  Jacob Rippey

Along those lines, the real question to me is if it is seeing 40k miles a year, is that going to continue? If in a few years, it could be closing in on 300k miles, will the rust or other wear on the vehicle become more of an issue? Seems like if there is something basic and easy to keep the rust from getting worse, that would be the way to go, seems silly to spend several thousand dollars on rust repairs if the rest of the car might be on the way out in a few years anyway.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
9 months ago

I think you have few plausible options here.

A.) I would probably just find a parts hatch. It would be cheaper than repair. There isn’t a ton of Tourings around, but they exist. Buying a hatch and having to drive to rust free America to get it is still cheaper than the labor to fix that hatch.
B.) The Werks Shop is somewhere in the Chicagoland. They can probably do it. Pretty well known name in BMW circles. Mainly known for 2002/e30, so they’ve rust repaired a BMW. If they can’t, they should know someone who can. Going to likely be expensive, but done well.
C.) Drift shops are pretty use to working on rusted BMWs and patching floorboards. Would be cheaper, probably would likely come out poorly though.
D.) Maybe even just a local run of mill mechanic for rockers. In New England, with all the states having inspections and salt. Most basic mechanics would take this job. They would do a terrible job, but they would do it.
E.) Instead of just buying a parts hatch, buy a whole parts car. Then find someone with an angle grinder and a welder. Then spend 16 hours of your life playing body shop to make it look alright. Extremely labor intensive, but you can make some clams here.
F.) Couple cans of Rust-oleum rust reformer and the ability to causally ignore problems.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
9 months ago

I just remembered TF works is in Illinois. They do a ton of race fab stuff and have a good amount of fab people working there. They should know the Chicagoland scene well and could probably hook you up with someone. Just say it’s for a drift build and they will probably do you a solid.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
9 months ago

Tbh, this don’t look that terrible to me. Not great, but idk seems like this could run-on for awhile. Real talk though, I know it’s challenging to get rid of your first project, as someone who has their first track build still in their driveway undriven for months. I’m here in my glass house. But if she’s going to be driving this thing in winter, and driving 40k miles a year. It’s the perfect car as it sits. It owes her nothing and if it dies, it died honorably. Personally, I would just Rust Reform it and drive it. Then in said pre-grief, knowing one day it will end, maybe pick up a nice 330i for summers and various burnouts. If you were looking at 4k repaired, that could get you a clean 46 330 auto most places. Plus, two BMWs is mathematically better then one

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago

I vote ship the car to CA and get it done. You kind of know the owner :). I am sure other shops can be found.

Another route is find BMW body shop and ship it there.

I suggest shipping at least to the shop and if near buy enough road when done, that could be an interesting article.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

You can also challenge David by saying there is no way to fix this. He will fix it though you might get a feral kitten as well.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
9 months ago

Mercedes, as someone who lives in the same county, I totally get it. It seems like IDOT wants to make Avery Island disappear with how much salt they lay down. Even days and weeks after the snow, the salt remains until a good rain washes it away.
Your best bet is probably to let it rust and enjoy it until it’s gone too far.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
9 months ago

Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but I’d think the internet E39 community would have some thoughts on this and places to try. I’m sure you aren’t the only owners trying to save a E39 from rust. Maybe there is a shop that is closer than Los Angeles that is a “go-to” for E39s that haven’t lived a salt-free life.

Superfluous
Superfluous
9 months ago

IMHO, the rust repairs will never hold well enough based on what we are seeing. Putting out major money for maybe 5 years of repair is not a good plan. What I would do: get plastic sideskirts to cover the length of the rockers, those are cheap, may be able to order it pre-painted somewhere. Get another sticker for the back that covers the rusted area, lol. Get Krown undercoating to hold it together as long as possible.

Voeltzwagen
Voeltzwagen
9 months ago

I feel this one.

I was ready to fix everything wrong with my E46 wagon until I started poking at the rockers.

I’m really going to miss this car.

Data
Data
9 months ago

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations
Live Long and Prosper, Wanda.

Honestly, if it’s $5,000 to buy a rust free version vs $5,000+ to fix the existing one with no guarantee more rust isn’t hiding, I’d go with the rust free option.

Buy her a rust free Cali car for your anniversary. It’s now still a gift from you.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
9 months ago
Reply to  Data

Do this, and then Ship of Theseus Wanda parts over to it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Tristan Hixon
Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago
Reply to  Data

I understand the sentimentality, but like others suggested, if you’re able to bring over key parts to known good rust free e39 wagon, that’d act as soul transference, right? Or if money is less of a concern, if you can get a good parts car and do a drivetrain and interior swap, that’d be satisfactory too.

Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
Sheryl Ring Weikal (Mercedes' very proud wife)
9 months ago

I love this idea, but money is unfortunately very much a concern. Student loans and all lol.

A. Barth
A. Barth
9 months ago

Sheryl got so desperate that she considered driving out to California and having the excellent Galpin Auto Sports handle it

I actually like this idea. You two take a roadtrip, the car is fixed properly by family-adjacent folks, and you have content for at least a few articles. 🙂

Also DT might be able to help you find a salvage yard that can provide some useful sheet metal parts: not all of the available bits will be posted online.

Last edited 9 months ago by A. Barth
Nycbjr
Nycbjr
9 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

100% this!

Leighzbohns
Leighzbohns
9 months ago

A car is a car. Get a clean one from California and you can put your stickers on it.

Papa Bruyant
Papa Bruyant
9 months ago
Reply to  Leighzbohns

Objectively, yes…a car is a car. But as this community proves, they’re so much more than that. In this case, it’s not a matter of the material, but joy, confidence, relationships, identity. Irrational? Perhaps. But so are many things in life.

Side note, the fact that out of this entire piece you latched on to the stickers?

Leighzbohns
Leighzbohns
9 months ago

Yeah, I get it, it’s hard to let things go, but sometimes they make the decision for you.

Millermatic
Millermatic
9 months ago

Good luck to both of you!

Totally off-topic… but after Jason’s article… I’ve got to ask what scent of Fobreeze you have in there?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
9 months ago
Reply to  Millermatic

Based on the article, I would think either Traumas, Unresolved or Lingering Dread.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago

Better than Pepperoni Dogfart.

Paul B
Paul B
9 months ago

You could try trade schools. Won’t be fast, but would likely so good work. You could also have a student do a set off follow up posts for site.

And good rustproofing will essentially stop existing rust from getting worse.

Krown is top shelf stuff.

Millermatic
Millermatic
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

That’s an interesting idea… I’d read that!

And +1 on Krown. Or just Rustoleum in a pinch. Just stop it from getting any worse!

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

Or just spray phosphoric acid.

3WiperB
3WiperB
9 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

I’d read an article about the trade school if you can find one to do it. Interviewing a few recent grads of the trade school to know how they are doing in the field would be interesting too. There’s a real shortage of people who can do this work (along with anything in the construction trades)

I’ve had 2 cars hit by others in the past 2 months, and it’s been a wait of at least 3-4 weeks just to get each car into the shop for repairs. And last year when I got hit it was almost 10 weeks to get it in and 5 weeks to get it repaired, so at least it’s improving. I’m waiting right now to see if our 2008 STS is going to be totaled. Someone pulled out in front of my son. It’s still drivable, but the first estimate was $2500, but didn’t include the slight buckles in both fenders that they saw when we dropped it off, so now they are probably approaching what the car is worth. I’m waiting to see if the insurance company authorizes the repairs.

James Davidson
James Davidson
9 months ago

It sounds like we are getting ever closer to a solution that actually costs you just about zero out of pocket. 🙂

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