The M5 was offered in four different versions. The first version was the Left Hand Drive (LHD) Euro Spec M5. The second version was the Right Hand Drive (RHD) Spec M5. The third version was the North American Spec (NA or so-called 1988) M5. The fourth version was the South African (ZA) Spec M5. It is worth noting that production of the M5 continued until November 1988, well after production of the E28 chassis ended in Germany in December 1987.
The LHD, RHD Euro specifications M5s and the ZA[clarification needed] specifications M5s had the M88/3 powerplant which delivered 286PS (210kW; 282hp) whereas the North American 1988 M5 was equipped with the S38 6-Cylinder engine that had a catalytic converter, which reduced the power output to 256hp (191kW; 260PS). The S38 differed from the M88/3 in that it had 9.8:1 compression versus the M88/3's 10.5:1. The S38 also used a dual-row timing chain where the M88/1 used a single-row chain. Initially 500 were to be made for the US Market, BMW later increased production to as many as 1,370 units for the US and Canadian Markets although the generally accepted figure is 1,244 units sold.
The NA Spec Models are unique in that technically they were all finished in Schwarz (Black) with Natur (Tan) interiors. The otherwise virtually identical Canadian-Spec M5s were also available with Black interiors as an option however a handful of US Models were also equipped with Black interiors
United States VINs range from 2791000-2792000 and 2875000-2875320 Car # 2791000 is not known to have been built and not all VINs are known to have been used. The first handful of cars built in November and December 1986 were issued Federal compliance labels showing a 1/87 build date. As has been speculated earlier, physical confirmation of the VIN of the United States M5 kept in BMW North America's Mobile Tradition collection is a 287 series car, a later 1987 build date car.
While every NA-Spec E28 M5 was a 1988 Model Year car, production of North American specification M5s commenced in November 1986 and ended in November 1987. Excepting 96 units that were assembled in kit form at BMW's Plant in Rosslyn, South Africa, all E28 M5s were assembled by hand at BMW Motorsport in Garching, Germany.