The restoration of a fire service BMW 520i.

Maximilian Heubeck is a man of conviction. As a kid travelling around in the back of his father’s E34 520i, he vowed to own one himself in the future. Heubeck duly bought his first BMW, a 520i touring (of the E34 generation, it goes without saying) at the age of 17. The successor to the E28 was unveiled to the public in January 1988, making it the same age as BMW fan Heubeck. The vehicle mechatronics foreman and guild trainer now owns 14 BMWs built between 1969 and 2006, six of which are of the E34 5 Series variety.

Long-held automotive dreams are not always waiting to be revived in dusty old barns; sometimes a simple online ad can open the right door. This was how our BMW collector hit his own personal jackpot in 2016, spotting a winner where others walked on by. The red BMW 520i, complete with moderate patina and automatic gearbox, was pretty standard fare, save for the adornments and individual character bestowed upon it by its previous owners at the German fire service. Heubeck signed swiftly on the dotted line.

A life of public service.

Ex-fire service vehicles often have surprisingly low mileages, destructive infernos being pleasingly rare occurrences. But this BMW 520i had clocked up an eye-catching 217,000 kilometres (134,800 miles) – and bore the scars to prove it. This, you see, was a training car and so had been called into action more frequently than most. Approaching the end of its first commission, the sedan was presented as a gift to the powers-that-be in Markt Weidenberg. Here, life was a little quieter, and it was gradually shorn of its blue lights, siren, radio and other emergency-service regalia. In the end, all that was left was a second-hand motor in need of work.

Where one door closes... The second coming as a museum exhibit.

Reviving the car’s mechanicals was not a problem for BMW enthusiast Heubeck. Remove a little rot, overhaul the chassis, refresh the paintwork and replace this and that in the lower structure. The gearbox was given a spring clean and new oil, the engine a standard inspection. The challenges began with the authentic add-ons required for the restoration, as here the authorities were less than forthcoming. Heubeck took along photos to show them what he was attempting to recreate, tracked down old user’s manuals and struck up contact with the fire service. It helped that Heubeck snr. had worked as a volunteer fire fighter at the station.

To the rescue! Representing a long tradition at BMW.

The results of all this effort are now there to be admired. The fully functioning roof kit looks original, likewise the large supertone horns below the front bumper and the lovingly reproduced exterior decals. Only the radio promotes show over substance, the communications with base long since severed. But that’s no deal-breaker. The car’s mission has switched from making history to preserving it, from saving lives to celebrating BMW’s long and astonishingly diverse tradition of powerful emergency-service cars – starring the BMW 501 and 502, the 1800 and 2000, and of course the first 5 Series generations (the E12 and E28).

Heubeck’s Fire Red BMW made its debut in 2018 at the classic car show in Nuremberg – and turned heads in the process. After all, faithful everyday servants such as taxis and police cars mostly vanish into the ether in a bloodless, silent coup when they’re up for replacement; visually and mechanically most have nothing more to give. So it’s all the more refreshing when such a car escapes the executioner’s axe and fans like Maximilian Heubeck ensure they stick around a while longer. Heubeck also has an emergency doctor/dog team car in his collection (no prizes for guessing the car and model generation involved).

Facts and figures for the BMW 520iA Feuerwehr:

Built in 1991, colour: 015 Fire Red, 110 kW/150 hp, automatic.
In service at the state firefighting academy in Würzburg (1991 – 2003) and the Markt Weidenberg fire station (2003 – 2016).

Maximilian Heubeck and his ex-fire service BMW 520i. The BMW collector and E34 fan is also chairman of the E34 IG club.

Mechanically, this is a standard BMW 520i built in 1991. Emergency-service paintwork and appendages give the car its distinctive appeal.

The old decals were reproduced with the help of photos from the vaults. The BMW last saw action for the fire service in Markt Weidenberg.

It’s a fantasy of young and old alike: clearing the traffic with blue lights flashing and siren blaring. But put those dreams on ice; the lights on this car have to be covered for use on public roads.

When these wailing sirens struck up a tune even the dreamiest of drivers knew what they had to do. Check out the neat details below the front bumper.

“Base to Florian Weidenberg?”. Unlike its other fire-fighter paraphernalia, the car’s radio is no longer fully functional.

Like father, like son. Maximilian Heubeck’s Dad was a keen BMW driver, but his son has taken things a step further and become a collector. 

Vehicle mechatronics foreman and guild trainer Maximilian Heubeck loves getting stuck into rare versions of the E34 BMW 5 Series. This fire service car is his latest project.