Restored and custom-modded E28. Fully restored and brought up to stunning show standard with countless unique touches, this immaculate E28 is a truly magnificent machine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Si Gray.
Majestic BMW E28 – stunning fully restored and custom-modded classic five
When it comes to character, classic BMWs have it in spades – while the newer models are without doubt better cars in absolute terms, they lack the boundless charm and appeal of the classics. Take the E28, for example – the second-gen 5 Series is so utterly charming that you can’t help but fall for it, and it offers all the classic BMW styling elements that we’re such suckers for. If you want a retro BM that isn’t a 3 Series, the E28 is an irresistible choice; just ask Rob Goodwin (@st4rk3y) – his burgundy beauty has been going down a storm on the UK scene and with good reason, as this stunning machine has got to be one of the finest E28 examples anywhere.
“As soon as I got away from Fords (at about 22) I went straight to BMW, but dad always had BMWs and American muscle so it all started about 30 years ago (the original age of the sharknose),” says Rob as we peruse his motoring history. “I’m not telling you my first car but my first BM was an E21 back in the day – showing my age!” he chuckles. “It was a 1980 323i E21 in white and I lowered it on Alpina wheels, fitted Kamei front and rear spoilers, furry dice and rosary beads. Since then I’ve had an E30 325i Sport, then my dad’s E28, which I lowered on BBS rims and fitted with front and rear spoilers (oh and all of them had Pioneer stereos, graphic equalisers and three-way parcel shelf speakers). Then I went to the dark side and got myself a VW Mk3 VR6, did an engine rebuild from 2.8 to 2.9 with a gas-flowed head, the usual add-on air filters, stainless steel exhaust blah blah blah. Then the world went real dark,” he says, his jovial mood changing. “Had a motorbike crash in 2010, busted everything, nearly died, nearly never walked again. Life-changing experience,” but he didn’t let it stop him from enjoying his modified cars. “I then had an Audi B6 A4 – Rotiform had just started, Air Lift had just started and a very good friend of mine, at what was G-Werks, said let’s do this, so we built a show winner and a magazine feature car, one of the first B6s in the UK on air-ride. Then I had a slammed Beetle, then modified a B7 RS4 and then went nah, back to BMW for me,” he grins, “so I got myself this E28 525e.
“The car was completely stripped, with the entire interior and engine being removed, and the body taken back to bare metal from the coach line down”
“When I was younger, dad had two or three E28s and it was the last car I had real fun with him in before he sadly got ill and passed away in 2004. I mentioned earlier he also had American muscle cars – I did not have the time or money so I thought get the E28 and paint it the Mustang colour, so I did,” he smiles.” I purchased the car from a mate of a mate after scanning the ads for a fair while, looking for something that would be good enough for me to invest in. I bought the car late 2015 and until Jan 2017 tried my hardest to kill it – drove it like a nutter, pushed it hard, slid it about, bumped into a few things. It never died,” he laughs. “The car had proved to me that it was worth investment (I did have a gearbox rebuild as she was a little noisy by the time I finished throwing her about),” and that meant that Rob could crack on with his plans, which were plentiful and very thorough. “I wanted to do the full restoration with a modern twist. Again, at the time there were only a few E28s in the UK and Europe and that had really given me the itch, but nothing in the colour I wanted to own so I decided to build one,” he says, and here we are.
It has been quite a journey but every journey must start somewhere and, for Rob and his E28, it began with gathering all his resources together. “I bought every trim, rubber, nut and bolt I could get my hands on as soon as I bought the E28; doing up a classic is not like doing a modern car, parts don’t just come off-the- shelf,” he says and he’s not wrong, a classic restoration takes time and requires commitment. “I suppose the first serious thing I bought was the wheels. A man known for his skills and BMW builds in the US was selling the BBS RSs to clear out and make space for his next project; I spotted them on IG and we started talking and, boom, before I knew it they were being delivered. They were second-hand and needed a refurb, so without hesitation were collected by my mate Indy Virk and driven off to Stefan at Puc Polish in Belgium for a full ceramic polish.” The end result is nothing short of spectacular and the RSs look simply sensational on the E28 – the fully-polished finish is just stunning and, as per Rob’s preference, they’ve got slant rather than stepped lips; “I had done the whole stepped lip thing on the Audis and needed a change,” he says and this was definitely the right direction to go in.
“It’s the best interior I could have hoped for and I kept it retro with leather and vinyl and the smell was perfect 1987, as if it had come out of the showroom”
With the wheels ready, Rob gathered up the rest of what he needed to get his E28 project off the ground. “I went to the only place to shop for Air Lift and sounds that looks after you and saw my mate Parm at Car Audio Security and bought everything there, then went off to the Install Company to see the magician that is Phil, Jon and Mike at JC WeldFab and Bruce at WRP Paint and Restoration (all round good old Northampton way),” he grins. In terms of suspension, there was never any question about which direction Rob was going to take the E28; “Full air-ride with 3P management is what I wanted. It had to have air as I wanted the E28 on the floor,” he grins. “I had to do some homework, and Phil came up with the final plan to get the drop right and ensure the rake was good, and it’s running Mk6 Golf bags on the front and universal ones on the rears. Did that come out bang-on!” he grins and he’s not wrong. E28s on air always look fantastic and Rob’s example is no different, and going the extra mile to get it sitting perfectly when aired-out has paid off massively as it delivers some serious visual drama, with the front portion of the car’s underside actually touching the ground and those RSs tucking perfectly.
Most of the work on this project has been put into the restoration side of things and the result is that this is easily one of the cleanest examples of an E28 you’re likely to find anywhere. The car was completely stripped, with the entire interior and engine being removed, and the body taken back to bare metal from the coach line down; all the rust was removed, the underside was stripped and welded, and the floors, seals, front wings, rear arches, driver’s door and front valance were all replaced. That’s no small undertaking but Rob is a guy who believes in doing things right first time and, as he says, “I had a plan and never looked back.” The car was then resprayed in BMW Calypso red and then all new chrome, roundels and badges were fitted, the Euro bumpers were re-chromed and re-fitted along with new glass all-round and every bit of rubber or seal you can see on the car is new. This gives you an idea of just how exhaustive the restoration has been, but it was all worth it and letting the E28’s natural beauty shine through was without doubt the right decision to make.
Rob applied the same approach when it came to the engine and while the 2.7 eta engine hasn’t been touched as far as power is concerned, it’s had plenty of attention in terms of getting it running at peak performance. “The engine was fully restored with a JC WeldFab radiator, expansion tank and water tank made up for me in stainless steel. Every belt, gasket, nut and bolt I could replace was replaced to high spec. I also fitted a straight-through bespoke stainless steel exhaust with twin 2” tips, built by the TIG-master himself, JC, and it’s fully polished, of course,” he says.
The interior, however, has undergone quite a transformation and, when it came to choosing the colour, Rob had a rather unique approach to proceedings… “I drove about with a blue door card (the original colour as the car was silver), a white door card, a light grey door card and a tan door card,” he grins. “I got in the car every day and marked on a piece of paper which one I liked best for a month, and the tan won. I then went to see my mate Jo at Trim Deluxe to tell him to order the tan and in the shop he had some vinyl that just bowled me over. It just reminded me of the Singer Porsche so off to Google we went, got a few ideas and the interior was born… It’s the best interior I could have hoped for and I kept it retro with leather and vinyl and the smell was perfect 1987, as if it had come out of the showroom,” he beams. The interior is truly stunning, a sea of rich tan that works so well with the Calypso exterior and the attention to detail is exceptional, with chocolate carpets and mats with tan piping, leather all along the lower dash and that classic Nardi steering wheel. And if you think the interior is impressive, the boot build takes things to another level, with acres of tan trim, twin polished tanks and copper hardlines that look like they’ve come from a still and then there’s that magnificent centrepiece, an incredibly detailed custom wooden ’80s valve amp tribute, complete with Goodwins branding for that retro personal touch. Perfection.
This really is a magnificent build but while the obvious elements are hugely impressive, it’s the little touches that are Rob’s favourite aspects. “I had the rear E28 badge made at 3DPRINTUK as a one-off; so many people asked me if BMW ever made that badge, which of course they didn’t,” he grins. “Then there’s the chrome trim on the front grille, which was only done on the E12. But best of all was the BMW C-pillar roundel, which again was inspired by the E9. For me, looking in the wing mirror you could see it and it made the car feel special,” he says with a smile. “Overall the car was in some sort of build stage for about three years, on and off, and the big work was underway in the last 12 months; it was always being tinkered with in some way or another before that,” says Rob. “It was one of those cars that, when I had finished the car and the look, I just could not bring myself to take it away from its original E28 look. The car had gone as far as I wanted to take it. For me it was perfect in every way,” he smiles and that means that there are no future plans for it, but that’s also because Rob had to sell it not long ago. “Although I never intended to sell the car, things happen, priorities change. I built it, I loved it, but needs must,” says Rob pragmatically. “My late dad, who was my inspiration for cars, said to me when I was 20: ‘Men live to an average age of 75.’ That gives you 55 summers if you start at 20, that’s 55 cars if you have one a year, on average people have a car for three years, that’s about 18 cars in your lifetime, and that’s if you make it that long. Wise words that have stayed with me all my life, so I get the itch. And that’s why I sold her on to a nice guy who I know is going to look after her as he loves his retro BMWs and has a few. If you want to follow him he is @e30_jv on IG and I certainly will be to watch out for any changes he makes,” says Rob.
Luckily he’s not abandoned BMs and has moved into an M2, which he’s loving. “I always knew that was the next car for me and am I not disappointed, what a machine, love it, no regrets,” he grins and that’s so good to hear. As for the E28, it might be gone but it will never be forgotten and, thanks to its new owner, it will continue to be a part of the scene for many years to come, just like Rob.
TECH DATA BMW 525e E28
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.7-litre straight-six M20B27, rebuilt to factory spec, custom JC WeldFab radiator, stainless steel expansion talk and water tank, custom straight-through stainless steel exhaust system. Restored four-speed automatic gearbox
CHASSIS 9x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) BBS RS wheels, fully ceramic-polished with 2” (front) and 3” (rear) slant lips, SRR Hardware bolts, BBS hex caps, Air Lift Performance 3P air-ride, rear arches pulled 10mm, CAtuned camber and toe adjusters
EXTERIOR Full respray in Calypso red, bare metal strip down from coach line, front wings, rear arches, driver’s door and front valance replaced, all new chrome, roundels, badges, Euro bumpers re-chromed, new glass all-round, all rubbers and seals replaced, custom E28 rear badge, custom C-pillar roundels
INTERIOR Seats retrimmed in tan leather with perforated shell tan vinyl centres, tan leather and vinyl door cards, lower dash and centre console trimmed in leather, pillars, parcel shelf and sun visors all trimmed to match, deep pile chocolate carpets and matching mats with tan piping, charcoal headlining, Nardi wooden steering wheel, gear selector cover hydro-dipped in wood effect, Pioneer head unit, Rockford Fosgate amp, custom boot build with wooden ’80s-style valve amp tribute, hidden Rockford Fosgate slimline T1S2 carbon subwoofer, twin Viair 444c compressors, seamless chrome tanks, copper hard lines
THANKS The list is long but I have to start with my amazing wife, Karen, as the car parts lived in the spare room for at least two years – love ya babe. Then the boys, Indy Virk for the trip to Belgium, Stefan at Puc Polish for the ceramic polish, Parm at Car Audio Security for just being the main man for all my air ride and sound needs (as always), Jon, Mike and dean at JC WeldFab – amazing guys and fabricators/welders, Phil (the legend) owner of The Install Company, Bruce owner of 9 Yard Customs (the magical spraying doughnut man), Jo Clarke my good friend at Trim Deluxe for his unreal skills on the interior, Russell at Ultimate Windscreens, Tommy and Dale, Nathan at Meguiar’s UK for all the love and help and their friendship, always there for me, amazing products kept my baby absolutely mint, there is probably more, you know who you are, thank you all
Wood effect hydro-dipped selector trim.
Nardi wooden steering wheel, leather-trimmed lower dash and chocolate carpets. Tan leather and vinyl-trimmed seats.
Custom boot build is just sensational.
Stunning fully-polished BBS RSs Custom C-pillar badges.