600bhp supercharged S62-swapped BMW M7 E38
When you think about the incredible variety and array of M cars that we’ve had over the years, and especially that we have now, it seems strange that we’ve never had an M7. Back when BMW M was still pure and all about high-revving NA engines, RWD and manual gearboxes that was fair enough, but now that everything has turbos, autos and 4WD plus the fact that we’ve had numerous M SUVs in the shape of the X5 and X6 M, you start to wonder why not? It would be a niche model, but – for better or worse – BMW has certainly never been one to shy away from filling a niche. Perhaps it’s the fact that building an ultra-fast, ultra-luxury executive saloon is just too niche – the only other German rival that makes the equivalent of an M7 is Mercedes with its S63 and S65 models. Whatever the reason, we can’t help but wonder what an M7 might look like, and if we were to travel back in time to the turn of the millennium in an alternate universe, we might well be looking at that very car right now.
“A lot of work went into swapping that S62 and its six-speed manual gearbox into the 7 Series, even though it started life as a 740i and therefore had a V8 under the bonnet anyway, but the S62 is a whole different beast”
The creator and curator of this E38 is one Scott Johnson and what you need to know about Scott is that he is a very big BMW fan. How big? Well, he’s got 12 of them (including an E34 M5, LS-swapped E36, supercharged E39 M5 and a supercharged E90 M3), so yeah, that big of a BMW fan… “I’ve been interested in BMWs since I was about 10 years old,” Scott begins as we chat. “My parents always had one in the driveway – from an E21 Callaway turbo, E28 M5, E30 325iX and an E38 740iL. I actually learned to drive in the E30 and the E38. Besides that, I’ve always loved the style, performance and driving feel and since owning them I’ve found it to be the best automotive community I’ve ever been a part of,” he says with a smile. “My first BMW was my 1995 E34 540i six-speed, which I still own.
Funnily enough, I was driving a modified Nissan 300ZX twin-turbo when it suffered engine failure; I bought the BMW just to be a daily driver while I fixed the Z. The Z still hasn’t been fixed over a decade later!” he laughs but it’s his passion for modding Zeds that inspired him to mod his BMs once he’d made the switch to Bavarian machinery from Japanese metal, and that in turn helped bring about the creation of this E38.
“The supercharger kit itself has been enhanced with a 92mm Vortech pulley for more boost and the result of all of that is a massive 600hp backed up by 550lb ft of torque, which makes this an absolute beast of a machine”
So we know that Scott likes cars, he likes BMs and he likes modding, but what led him to buy and mod the car you see before you today? “I loved the E38s in The Transporter and 007: Tomorrow Never Dies. After driving my E34 for years I was set on finding one to build,” he says. “I was browsing classified ads on Craigslist where I found this one 750 miles away; the pictures were dark and the description was vague – but I could tell it was Imola red. The sellers turned out to be the original owners, the car was straight and unmolested but not without a heavy share of bumps and bruises from years of being their family car,” but that wasn’t enough to put Scott off and a deal was struck. So, with an Imola E38 on his drive, did he have a plan for his new Seven? “Originally, not quite. I figured I would lower the car with a nice set of wheels and keep it as a cruiser. That plan changed pretty quickly!” he laughs and that’s putting it mildly. There are a lot of awesome mods on this car but the most awesome of all of them is, without doubt, the drivetrain swap and Scott wasted no time as that is one of the first mods he carried out. Unsurprisingly, it was no small job and a lot of work went into swapping that S62 and its six-speed manual gearbox into the 7 Series, even though it started life as a 740i and therefore had a V8 under the bonnet anyway, but the S62 is a whole different beast. “There were a few things that initially had to be done to fit the engine,” Scott explains. “The hood had to be cut and modified to clear, a custom propshaft was fitted and the E39 shift linkage lengthened. I chose to make custom brackets for the heater valve and oil filter housings so it would look original to the car, the fab work only took a day or so but I had planned for it and was ready. Wiring for the whole swap took a bit of time and studying E38 and E39 wiring diagrams, but that was all handled in a day or so.” In one fell swoop Scott has gone from a 286hp V8, five-speed auto cruiser, to a 400hp, six-speed manual, fire-breathing M7 and it was quite the transformation but just swapping the vanilla engine in was never going to cut it for a man like Scott, and so his S62 was enhanced with the addition of a set of Shafiro billet aluminium velocity stacks along with Einhorn Industries 4-2-1 “Unicorn” exhaust manifolds, which combined to take power comfortably above what the M V8 emerged from the factory producing.
“I spent weeks looking at leather colours from Bentley, Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes, and of course BMW. I finally found an individual F80 M3 that was ordered in Ferrari Red over “Goldenbraun” leather. It. Was. Perfect”
Of course, just throwing a load of power at a car isn’t enough and when you’re carrying out mods on this scale, you need to make sure that the rest of the car can cope and while the E38 chassis is decent, it’s no sports car and it certainly wasn’t designed with 400hp in mind. “I wanted the car to retain the comfort of a 7 Series while being able to carve corners like an M5 so I was careful how I modified things to avoid it being too harsh,” says Scott about his chassis upgrades. “I started by replacing every single suspension arm, bushing, bearing, hub and brake component under the car with new OE parts. I modified the front subframe to fit the M5 Servotronic steering box and modified the rear to fit the M5 limited-slip differential. I upgraded the brakes to a 750iL setup with upgraded pads, rotors and braided lines. To keep it planted, it rides on a set of KW V3 coilovers and all the control arms received Powerflex polyurethane bushings. I kept the engine, transmission and subframe mounts factory OE. I did this to keep vibration out of the cabin as much as possible while keeping the suspension and steering extremely tight,” he says and that is a seriously comprehensive overhaul that has completely transformed how this 7 Series drives. Not only did Scott replace all the tired OE parts with fresh ones, he then added a tonne of uprated components to make sure his Seven feels super-sharp and can not only handle all that newfound power but can also just straight-up handle.
The final element at this stage in the build process was the addition of that Alpina front lip; we’ll get onto the rest of the exterior alterations a little later but Scott has kept things extremely subtle on the styling front and that Alpina lip is both extremely discreet while at the same timing managing to add just a little something that enhances the front end in a way that’s almost imperceptible and yet instantly makes all the difference.
At this point Scott had created an incredible machine – swapping the M5 drivetrain into his 7 Series and carrying out such a comprehensive and extensive overhaul of the chassis had taken this E38 to a level hitherto unimaginable, and while it was still very much a luxury cruiser it now hit as hard as a full-on sports car. But Scott was not satisfied. There was still much to be done and yet more potential to be unlocked in terms of both power and in terms of making this 7 Series something truly special, and it’s fair to say that has now been achieved.
While having the S62 under the bonnet was already a huge step up in terms of power, there’s one thing the big V8 loves and that’s forced induction and so it would have been rude not to indulge it and give it some supercharger love, which is exactly what Scott has done. Of course, that’s easier said than done because the ESS S62 supercharger kit that he chose for his build has been designed to fit in the E39 bay, so making it fit the E38 came with its own unique set of headaches, which included having to modify the inner wheel arch to be able to make space for the supercharger, but the end result was more than worth all the effort. Along with the aforementioned mods, Scott has added a Supersprint X-pipe and a custom cat-back exhaust system finished off with a set of 3.5” staggered tips, which combine to deliver a serious V8 soundtrack, and the supercharger kit itself has been enhanced with a 92mm Vortech pulley for more boost and the result of all of that is a massive 600hp backed up by 550lb ft of torque, which makes this an absolute beast of a machine.
While that awesome engine is, without doubt, the star of the show, this E38 is very much the complete package, and with the performance and handling fully sorted Scott turned his attention to the other areas of the car. “I’ve always believed less is more,” he says of the styling, “I didn’t want too many elements distracting from the overall beauty of the car, so I settled on a modified rear bumper for the dual exhaust, Euro-spec corner lights and the wheels. I did the teardown of the car and modifications to the bumper myself. The respray was handled by a local shop which did have a few hiccups. I was so critical of any flaws in the paintwork that several pieces had to be stripped and repainted a few times. The paintwork itself took several months and I completed the final assembly in a week or so once I was happy with the results,” he explains but it was worth all the effort as that Imola finish has never looked better and this machine is stunning and flawless in its appearance.
While the exterior modifications are undoubtedly subtle, they combine to make a big difference to how the car looks and the wheels play a huge part in this E38’s visual appeal and make a big impact. “Originally I planned (and had) BBS LM wheels for the car, but there was something perfectly harmonious about the Racing Dynamics RS2 and the E38. It fits the attitude of this car perfectly – sporty, elegant and timeless, and I had to have them,” grins Scott and these were absolutely the right choice for this build. The RS2s are an iconic, rare and incredibly sought-after wheel and these 19s look stunning on the 7 Series and suit it so perfectly that we can’t imagine this car on any other wheels.
Impressive as the exterior is, however, the interior takes things to another level, and Scott has put in a lot of work here, which has resulted in something truly stunning. “The interior was actually a lot of work. I wanted to carry on the original colour scheme of this car (red over beige) with an interior that would be fitting for an M car, sort of as if this car was designed by BMW today,” he explains. “I spent weeks looking at leather colours from Bentley, Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes, and of course BMW. I finally found an individual F80 M3 that was ordered in Ferrari Red over “Goldenbraun” leather. It. Was. Perfect,” he grins. “I had to find the VIN of that car to order the cheapest leather-wrapped interior piece I could find from my local dealership – which had to be custom made in Germany and shipped over weeks later – just so I could have a sample piece to match the colour. It took two local upholstery shops to be able to match the dye colour before spraying the leather. I purchased three separate parts cars in total for all the various interior pieces I wanted to use. I paid special attention to how BMW designs their M interiors, and the BMW Individual program as well, so it is a mixture of both. Certain choice pieces are leather-wrapped, the headliner is done in black Alcantara, and the dated wood trim was refinished in a high-gloss piano black. Finishing it off is a new E39 M5 steering wheel and instrument cluster,” and it’s simply stunning. Scott’s whole concept behind the interior was inspired and the end result is truly fitting for a car like this and a build of this calibre – the leather colour is lush and rich, the piano black trims are elegant and modern, and the attention to detail is simply breathtaking, and it all combines to make for a truly exceptional interior. Despite all the work and mods that have gone into so many different areas of the car, it’s the interior that Scott loves the most; “It’s very hard for me to not say the engine or the wheels, but the interior is my favourite part. It’s where I get the most enjoyment out of the car, behind the wheel,” he says with a smile and it’s easy to see why. In total Scott has spent two years working on his E38 and it has evolved far beyond anything he could have imagined when he first picked up his slightly tired looking 740i, and this is now a truly showstopping build on an absolutely epic scale.
It looks dazzling, it’s got power to spare, and an interior that redefines the concept of luxury but he’s not finished with his build just yet… “I have a very large set of Brembo brakes for the car, and I’m planning to install a flex-fuel kit for E85, change the exhaust a bit more and later have the interior upholstered with new leather,” he says, so it’s clear that this is a build that will continue to evolve. It’s not going anywhere either, Scott reassures us; “My next car will be a Porsche 911, but it won’t be replacing any of my current cars!” he exclaims and we’re not surprised, because when you love BMs this much and you own 12 of them, you’re fully committed to that Bavarian life, and that’s something we absolutely approve of.
Imola red paintwork is flawless Stunning 19” Racing Dynamics RS2 wheels. Subtle but purposeful quad exhausts. KW V3 coilovers deliver a serious drop. Lush custom “Goldenbraun” leather Six-speed manual has also been transplanted M5 gauges have been fitted.
DATA FILE Supercharged S62 E38
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.9-litre V8 S62B50 from 2001 E39 M5, ESS Tuning VT1-560 supercharger kit, Vortech 92mm pulley, Tial blow-off valve, Shafiro billet aluminium velocity stacks, Einhorn Industries 4-2-1 “Unicorn” exhaust manifolds, Supersprint X-pipe, custom cat-back exhaust with 3.5” staggered tips. Getrag 420G six-speed manual gearbox, OE clutch and flywheel, Einhorn Industries billet shifter bushes, UUC DSSR, E60 OE short-shift, E39 M5 LSD
MAX POWER 600bhp @ 6500rpm
MAX TORQUE 550lb ft @ 3500rpm
CHASSIS 10×19” ET13 (front) and 12×19” ET25 (rear) Racing Dynamics RS2 wheels with 255/35 (front) and 305/30 (rear) tyres, KW V3 coilovers, Powerflex control arm bushes, thrust arm bushes and swingarm bushes, Strong Strut front strut tower brace, E39 M5 Servotronic steering box, E39 M5 rear anti-roll bar, Einhorn Industries billet front diff bush, E38 750iL brakes, Zimmerman discs, Akebono pads
EXTERIOR Imola red, Alpina front lip, Euro front corner lights, custom rear bumper, 3M Scotchgard paint protection film, Modesta Ceramic coating
INTERIOR Custom-coloured “Goldenbraun” upholstery, 750iL leather lower dash, centre console, seatbacks and B-pillars, black Alcantara headlining, custom piano black trim, Euro-spec armrest, E39 M5 steering wheel, gauge cluster and leather sun visors, custom vent-mounted boost and AFR display (fitted after shoot)
THANKS Thanks to Tim, Joel and Dmitri for the constant support, Erik Herrera for the paintwork, Mark Perrault for the wheels, Fibrenew for the upholstery and to everyone who has loved and awarded the car since completion – you all make it worthwhile!