1994 E34 M5
1994 BMW E34 M5 #000014
3,535cc S38 inline six-cylinder, 450 hp @ 8,500 rpm
3,100 lbs. (minimum)
BMW USA Classic
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
BMW of North America had no official racing presence for years after ending its Korman Autoworks E30 M3 program in 1987. Into the breach stepped privateers, including one team that chose to race BMW’s E34 M5 sedan against the Porsche 911 Turbo, Mazda RX-7 Turbo, Lotus Esprit X180R, Dodge Stealth and Corvette LT1 in IMSA’s Bridgestone Supercar Championship.
Unbeknownst to BMW, the Philadelphia-based Ed Arnold Racing team enlisted England’s Spec Fab race shop to transform two M5 shells into roll cage-equipped racers. The cars got S38 engines built by Zytec Engineering, plus Hewland racing gearboxes and AP Racing brakes before being shipped to Arnold’s shop for the 1993 season.
Arnold teamed British driver Chris Hodgetts with 26-year-old David Donohue, and he drafted in Dieter Quester for the 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Even so, the M5s were unable to finish higher than 7th through the first seven races of 1993.
“BMW was not happy,” says Erik Wensberg, then BMW NA’s M brand manager. “They asked us to get involved, and in mid-’93 we scrounged up $200,000, went to Arnold and said, ‘You’ve got to let us reorganize the team.’ We streamlined everything, added some solid engineering, and built the team around David.”
By the season finale at Sebring, Donohue came within a second of passing Hans Stuck’s 911 turbo for victory and finishing far ahead of Quester in 7th in the other M5.
For 1994, BMW Motorsport refined the S38’s intake and ECU, and Zytec’s race motors put out as much as 500 hp. Testing improved suspension and ABS, both critical for a heavy sedan running on series-spec street tires.
The car shown here is E34 M5 #000014, raced by David Donohue in 1994 Supercar championship. With it, Donohue scored the M5’s first Supercar victory at Long Beach, followed by 2nd at Lime Rock (after a Lotus was disqualified), and 4th at Watkins Glen despite a heavy crash in qualifying. A trio of second-place finishes at Laguna Seca, Portland, and Phoenix meant that Donohue needed to finish just 7th or better to take the title at Sebring, but he raced the M5 to victory…and the Bridgestone Supercar championship.
Win ads from BMW NA played up the M5’s obvious difference to its competition: “The 1994 IMSA Supercar Champion has something exotic Ferrari, Lotus and Porsche competitors don’t – Four doors.”
The car was raced again in 1995, though its results are undocumented. At the end of that season, #000014 went into storage in Arnold’s shop, where it remained until 2006, when BMW NA purchased all three of Arnold’s E34 M5s. Chassis #000014 was restored to its 1994 specification and runs regularly as part of the BMW USA Classic motorsport fleet.