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I have been in the market for a good 540i for a while. All decent ones seemed to either have too many miles or low mileage Japanese imported ones for silly money.


I decided to have a look at importing my own from Japan. I found a company called jdmauctionwatch.com. On the website, you get access to all the car auctions in Japan. So I simply checked the website every day for only a couple of weeks until the perfect car came up. I transferred a £500 refundable deposit to get access to bid. I bid and won! Total price including all shipping and fees - £5440


This was back in March. The car is currently on a ship, it will arrive into Dublin port on June 21st. I live in Northern Ireland so I picked Dublin as my delivery port, you can chose Southampton and Bristol as well.


I have a few questions for anyone else who has a Japanese import?


Is it easy enough to get all the radio etc into English?

The trip computer into miles?

Did you have to undercoat the car?

Did you have to fit a rear fog light or is that only Japanese brands?

I have bought new dials from Lockwood international. Anyone fitted these before? Easy enough?

The car comes with sat nav and TV. Can you change the TV settings to work in the UK? And can you buy new maps for the Sat Nav?


Heres a few details about the car;

2001 540i M sport (apparently in the US and Japan, their called M sports but Europe its just Sport?)

Topaz Blue

70k miles

So many extras including electric rear blind, TV, sunroof. I'll add the cars spec with the photos.


After I won the car I recieved 126 detailed pictures of the car. I shared the photos on a local car forum, one member recognised the pictures. Check out this youtube channel - jdm auction watch must use this other company - Pacific Coast Auto as their agent. So if I was to do it again, I would probably go straight to PCA to cut out the middle man.








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Edited by Chris28

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Welcome to the forum firstly! 


Secondly - Congratulations on the car! 


From your post, I guess the main question many will want to know is that given you're in Northern Ireland, is the £5440 price, inclusive of UK Import Duty, VAT and specific vehicle clearance fees etc? I'm guessing it doesn't ? or, if it does, could you provide a breakdown of costs as I'd have then thought the auction winning bid must've been like £2K'ish?!


In other regions, BMW did name some E39 variants as ' M Sport', so if your documentation has that identifier on it, then yes, it's an M Sport. You'll probably get plenty of enthusiasts who'll point/laugh and try to tell you you're mistaken though !

I'm not sure on Lockwood dials though, is there a link to them ?

I think the rear foglamps are incorporated into the OEM light clusters for the worldwide E39 market. 

Not many Jap import owners around, but there's a few on this forum so might be worthwhile to see if they decided to underseal the car or not. 

I think the car's OBC can be coded to UK settings, but I'm not too sure on this, there's some very knowledgeable members here who'll know more on this. 

It's the same with the TV/Navigation, the unit you have under the parcel shelf in the pictures is Jap only and will not work outside of there. The TV tuner is also going to be Jap only as I believe their Digital TV frequencies/video system are different to our UK ones. That's assuming it has the Hybrid Analogue/Digital TV tuner. If it hasn't and it's Analogue for Japan, then it wouldn't have worked here anyway when the UK broadcast analogue tv. As there's none of those nowadays anyway, then it'll be useless. Those who *must* keep the OEM audio setups in their cars, go for the Mk 4 DVD based GPS computer and when one is found, the Hybrid Analogue/Digital TV tuner that comes out of later E46's and E53's. Expect to pay £180-250 for a working Mk4 GPS computer and perhaps £225-300 for the TV tuner. I think BMW stopped doing SatNav updated maps for this setup you have in your car in 2015 I think it was. 


From the pictures, the car does seem good/nice/solid. The headlamps look a little tired but many have polished them with specific polishes etc and they've come up looking like new. Those indentations on the rearseat bulkhead cover in the boot look interesting! Take a look to see what's behind them/what they're covering ? Check the Build Date of the car, it has the 'early' M Sport steering wheel, the facelift cars by 2001 should've come with the later style. 


Any plans for the car? a few members here are looking for the US style bootlid, so if you fancy changing it to the UK one, you'll have a few guys ready to buy the US spec one! 


If you've not done so, check the US forums for absolutely everything you'd need to know about looking after the engine. There were far more 540's in the US than compared to the relative handful in the UK, so there's extensive knowledge on those forums than compared to here. 


I'm sure other's will help with specific question when you post in the relevant sections :)


Cheers, Dennis!


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Thanks for your great reply! Very helpful.


That price includes everything apart from registration which is £55 and MOT. The actual final bid for the car was around £2500 (376,000 yen). So the rest is shipping, custom charges and fees etc. I think its a bit of a bargain!


Heres a link to the dials;



I found a good bit of info about changing the head unit etc to english on a New Zealand forum. (they import a lot of cars from Japan)

You can change the TV settings to EU frequency in the settings. Though the sat nav looks to be more complicated. I'll have a go once I get the car and share how I get on.


I have actually already bought a new boot lid from a local breakers. I had planned to have it sprayed and put on but I might wait and see how the original one looks first. I now quite like the idea of having a square plate to be different.


The car is going to be my daily driver. I've always loved the 540i ever since my dad had one when I was younger. I plan to do a few small modifications in the future.

Plans for the car include;

New wheels; either Rondell 021 or BBS 744/745

Eibach springs (maybe coilovers, though I don't want a firm ride)

Eisenmann sport exhaust. (just the smaller twin sport one, it is a daily remember!)

Black grills.

Add a 540i badge to the back.

Thats it! 


Obviously when I first get the car, I will get it fully serviced and checked over. I'm a bit anal when it comes to service history, so I might even take it to the dealership to be serviced. I find it can pay for itself when it comes to selling the car in the future.

Then a good detail job should have it looking like new. The car was a grade 4 B at auction which is very good. There should be no dents or scratches that won't polish out.


I have a couple of other project cars that need to be finished first so I probably won't start changing anything until the winter. Until then, I think I will enjoy the car as is! 

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Welcome @Chris28


Looks a very interesting car; needs a bit of TLC but 9/10 cars at this age do... Looks like the headlights could do with a wet/dry treatment too, the 3M headlight restoration kit works well FYI :) 


Nicely spec'd car and at a great price, that would have been around the overall price you've paid IMO if it were for sale here in the UK; it'll certainly keep its value!


Re the servicing; I'd find a decent local indy and get them to service/maintain it for you, IMO BMW aren't that amazing, but they'll still charge you through the nose for it etc 


Look forward to seeing more pictures when it lands in Blighty :mrgreen:

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 Those indentations on the rearseat bulkhead cover in the boot look interesting! Take a look to see what's behind them/what they're covering



The indentation on the left is the radio module, the one on the right is the tv

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2 hours ago, Loadmaster said:

What's the latest with this then?


Just tracked the ship again, its in Germany at the minute. Its due to arrive into Dublin on the 21st. Then it takes 2 working days to clear customs. Then I can pick it up. I can drive it home with dealer plates which I might be able to borrow from a friend. Or rent or borrow a trailor if I can't get the dealer plates.

Really looking forward to seeing it in the flesh!

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Congrats and salute you for taking the plunge. 

The jdm market is a goldmine for anything 10 years or older due to strict Japanese emission laws, (crazy considering the pedigree of cars the produce). 


The Japanese have a kind of stigma towards used cars and almost all used cars go to auction regardless of condition.


i previously had a celica  gt4 wrc st205 jdm. I did not order the car but the prospective owner had a change of circumstance and i had the opportunity to receive it landed. 


1. Most jdm cars are well serviced / looked after. They have an ethos of preventive care unlike many uk examples.

2. Most have some sort of modification 

3. Stick an unsightly quick fix rear fog light on it for its vic test then remove it and try to block the hideous image from your mind. 

4. Unfortunately the shippers or crew will attempt to steal anything that can be removed (after market) search ebay or jap equivalent you will have your proof. Mine came with 1/2 a boost controller and a wired/ plumbed boost guage with no dial. 

5. The suspense is like waiting for Christmas 

6. The advertised condition will down play the car. What the Japanese consider ok is our equivalent in car terms as great. You WILL NOT get anything close to that for the £ or € over here.


   This is the company that imported mine albeit for someone else, i will be using them for my next toy (same car) as I regret selling it. 


Kudos for having the audacity to import a non jap brand. And enjoy.


vic test nerves aside you won’t look back.  

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11 hours ago, Loadmaster said:

So, did it arrive?


Yeah it arrived on the 22nd June. 

Picked the car up from Dublin Port. Paddy for JDMauctionwatch couldn't make it until the afternoon so it was just me and my dad collecting it on our own. We were able to borrow dealer plates from a friend so I drove it back.
Had to visit a shipping company to get the right forms, then we were off to terminal 7 to collect the car. After we pulled in, the grumpy security guard stuck his head in the car window and said, "I hope your not planning on getting out of this car without high-vis vests". There was literally no one else there, in a massive, practically empty car park. I could even see the 540i sitting there waiting for me! So back out we went, off to the closest petrol station to buy a couple of high-vis vests.
Back to the terminal. Once we got to the car, it really did look like a car that had been in a ship for 2 months. It was very dusty and had a flat tyre and a dead battery. And of course, I forgot the air pump and battery booster which I literally left at the door the night before so I wouldn't forget them! And then we couldn't find the lock nut (I have found it since) to change the flat. Luckily a very nice tow truck driver who was also there, lent us an air pump. And after finding out we were there for the 5 series, the previously grumpy security guard was now my best mate. He lent us his jump leads out of his car. Turns out he used to have a 530i e39 and loved them. He was more than happy to help us get it going. He recommended a tyre shop nearby to get the puncture fixed, before we made the long drive home.
So off to the tyre shop, the guys where very helpful. They couldn't take the wheel off without the locknut so they jacked the car up and drenched the wheel in soapy water, they couldn't find any leaks so we were good to go. They didn't charge us for their time but we gave them some euros for a couple of pints to say thanks.
Finally we were through the tunnel and on the road home. First impressions were good. The car sounded great, and felt very quick even though I wasn't pushing it in the slightest. The check engine light was on, so I wanted to take it easy. The air-con was ice cold, everything seemed to be working. No creaks or rattles.
We decided not to take it home, instead I drove it straight to Car Clinique, a BMW specialist in Hillsborough. I've never been there before and Reece had no idea we were coming. Though he was more than happy to take the car for a service and MOT. He's also going to take the instrument cluster out for me to be sent off to get the pixel cluster replaced as theres hardly any pixels left.
While it was there, we both had a good look around the car. It seemed to be in amazing condition.

So next up is an MOT. This will be done hopefully this week. The headlights had to have the adjusters fixed. Then to send away the forms to have it registered. 

Oh and I've since found out that the Japanese 540's came with a different, quicker, 3.15 ratio diff. No need for autobahn speeds in Japan so they got a diff for acceleration! How cools that!







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A great account of your experience there, thanks for taking the time to post.  I still find it quite fascinating to think that mine was driven around somewhere in Japan for 15 years or so before coming over here.   


What mileage does the car show, and is it still in KMs? 

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