What started out as a stock BMW M535i E28 has been completely transformed over 11 years into a truly one-off, totally astonishing turbocharged machine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Andy Tipping.
550hp turbo and nitrous-equipped E28 FULL- ON 5 SERIES Stunning, flawlessly
THE INCREDIBLE, FULLY-CUSTOM, 550HP TURBO E28 WITH NITROUS!
When it comes to modding classic BMs there are two schools of thought; the first is all about working with what the car was naturally blessed with, gently enhancing its good looks and building on that timeless, classic style. The other approach is to just go absolutely all-out and create a full-on custom machine that is essentially a completely different car wrapped up in a classic BM body. Can you guess which school of thought Colin Baker decided to follow for his E28 build…?
“He’s running Air Lift Performance air-ride but, this being an E28, there’s no off-the-shelf kit so he had to go and custom-make the whole lot using universal struts”
The BMW E28 is an incredibly appealing machine; it remains one of the cheapest ways into proper shark-nose ownership and that distinctive look is a big part of the appeal. It’s just such an effortlessly elegant machine, with simple, unfussy styling and it really cuts a fine figure among the bland, modern machinery you see out on the road. There’s also an inherent sense of charm to the car and it just makes you smile so it’s easy to see why Colin chose one for his project, though he’s far from an E28 – or BMW – newbie.
“I always been interested in BMWs since the age of 16, when I couldn’t wait to pass my test so I could drive; the BMW badge, the history, everything about them,” grins Colin as we begin to chat. “My first car was a an E30 325i – I loved the Dolphin grey colour, the black leather interior and the sound of the straight-six,” he says and many other BMs have followed and many of those have been modded, which probably isn’t too surprising. “I’ve had and modified an E36 328i Coupé, a 328i Convertible, an E39 M5 and an E46 M3 CSL, and I put my own mark on all of them with wheels, engine parts, stereo, suspension etc. I loved my CSL but I had to sell it as the missus said it was not child-friendly for a push-chair, child seats etc. I bought this E28 M535i as after selling the M3 and putting the money into the house I wanted a toy I could spend my time and effort on building something special, plus the E28 back in the days had a lot of BMW history and just the shape of them,” says Colin and that’s really all the justification that was needed for the purchase. “I bought the car from a small car dealership in Newark,” he says. “I remember me and my brother driving up there and trailering it back and it came straight off the trailer and into my garage when I got home to start stripping it down.” It’s fair to say that no time was wasted with this build but, then again, looking at the car and taking in just how much work has gone into it, that’s not surprising. Taking on a project of this scale can seem a little overwhelming but Colin had a plan: “The start of the modifications was to totally strip the car down to a bare shell, change the colour, change it to a manual gearbox as it was an auto’, rebuild the engine, rebuild the chassis, retrim the interior etc. Nearly every new part I bought was the original BMW part from my local dealer, which cost a small fortune, and I wanted to do everything myself so I knew every single nut and bolt on the car,” he says.
We might as well begin by talking about the colour seeing as that’s where Colin began the build and it’s a particularly striking aspect of the project, one of many. The colour in question is undoubtedly purple but there is so much more to it than that; in the light it appears almost lilac, at other times it appears much deeper and darker, with the shade shifting from sheer purple to an almost blue state. It’s a very special colour and one that endows this E28 with plenty of visual impact and while we’d love to tell you what it is, we can’t. That’s not because Colin has sworn us to secrecy under penalty of death, but rather because we ourselves don’t know and Colin’s not telling… “I would say the colour is my favourite part of the whole build as it’s my own mix and everyone has commented on it and said how much they love it; when the sun hits it, it really pops plus I painted it myself,” he adds with a laugh and only he knows the super-secret special blend of ingredients required to conjure up this mesmerising shade. With the shell stripped and painted and the slushbox swapped out for a more suitable five-speed manual, Colin began work on what was to become the centrepiece of the build, that awesome engine.
The M30B35 that sits up front in this E28 has undergone two major revisions in its time with Colin; “The first rebuild was done with all original parts plus a Fritz’s Bits exhaust and I added nitrous but only used it a couple of times,” he says but that was just the warm-up for the main event. “The second rebuild was the turbo build, which took me two years to do,” he says. “It was very hard as a lot of investigation was needed to build a turbo M30B35 properly,” but it also required some sacrifices along the way; “I had to sell my other E28 to pay for the parts for my turbo build. I sold it to Dan Lewis, who did a great job with it and had a feature in PBMW (February 2018 issue) but selling it was like losing a leg,” he laughs with a wince but, looking at what it helped to fund, there really can’t be any regrets. The M30 has undergone a complete transformation for its turbocharged incarnation and the amount of work that has been poured into it is simply astonishing; the engine has been completely rebuilt again, this time with a re-honed block, polished and balanced crank, lower-compression pistons, forged rods, ARP studs and bolts and an MLS head gasket to reduce the compression ratio from 10.1 to 8.5 in preparation for all that boost. The cam was reground, brand new rockers and rocker shafts were fitted and then came the turbo setup itself. At the core of it sits a BorgWarner S257 T3 turbocharger rated for around 650hp, not exactly small or shy in itself, but Colin has gone that little bit further and had it gold-plated for good measure, because why not? All the pipework surrounding it is custom-made, from the T3 manifold to the 3” downpipe, then there’s the reverse inlet manifold for the throttle body and, because just fitting an intercooler would have been too simple, Colin has opted for a chargecooler setup, which obviously required custom piping to complete the cooling circuit, and some of this pipework has also been gold-plated for good measure. The turbo is hooked up to a Tial wastegate and HKS dump valve and to go with all that delicious boost the M3 is fed plenty of fuel via the custom fuel rail that’s packing six Siemens Deka 630cc injectors while a MegaSquirt 2 standalone ECU runs the show. Since the turbo conversion was completed Colin hasn’t done many miles so naturally he’s taking it easy but, running at just over 1 bar of boost, his E28 is making 550hp and there’s nitrous on top of that for when he really wants to get a move on… Beyond the power and the sheer amount of work that’s gone into the engine the whole bay area looks absolutely spectacular; it’s not just down to the gold-plated turbo, it’s everything, every wire, every fitting, every hose, it all just looks so magnificent and immaculate.
The stock gearbox has been bolstered with the addition of a balanced flywheel, uprated clutch and pressure plate and a Z3 short-shift and with that many rampant turbocharged horses beneath the bonnet it’s no surprise to learn that Colin has also uprated the chassis cross the board in order to help the E28 to cope with all that newfound power. Much like the engine, the suspension has been through a couple of different revisions; stage one was a set of Koni shocks and springs, which gave a nice 35mm drop and offered much-improved handling over the E28’s standard setup. Colin followed this up with poly bushes all-round before deciding to make the move from static to air with his current setup. He’s running Air Lift Performance air-ride but, this being an E28, there’s no off-the-shelf kit so he had to go and custom-make the whole lot using universal struts and he’s got a single colour-coded tank in the boot along with a single Viair pump and AutoPilot V2 digital management. As he’s got a purple and yellow theme going on, Colin has painted the stock calipers yellow and is running the stock discs and pads, just with a fresh set of both, but with Goodridge braided lines added for good measure. Of course, it can’t all be work and no play and that’s where the wheels come in because, no matter how spectacular and outlandish your build might be, stick it on the wrong wheels and you’re really not going to be doing it any justice at all. Colin started out with a set of Style 65s from the E39 M5, a fine choice and one which works well with classics as we saw in the Summer issue on our E30 cover car; these were followed by a set of E36 M3 Contours, again a great-looking wheel, but after a while Colin decided it was time to up his game, which brings us to his current set. “I decided to go and see if some three-piece OZ split rims would fit,” he says and that might not sound like any sort of a challenge but Colin didn’t make things easy for himself. The 17” OZ Mito 2s that you see before you measure a monster 10”-wide up front and an even more intimidating 11” at the back, so it’s no surprise to learn that he had to carry out some serious arch modifications to squeeze them on and the serious stretch he’s running, with 205 fronts and 225 rears, also helps.
Of course, arch work is not the only cosmetic surgery that this E28 has undergone and while Colin hasn’t gone crazy with the styling, there’s still plenty here that makes sure this E28 only ever stands out from the crowd. First up there’s the bonnet, which has been de-skinned, is held on with the aid of bonnet pins and, because that monster turbo was simply too much for the engine bay to contain, has a shaped cut-out for the turbo, with an angled front portion to feed air into its gaping maw. Having it exposed also helps with cooling and keeps under-bonnet temperatures down and there’s also a smaller cut-out on the bonnet for the screamer pipe. In addition to the bonnet work, all of the trim across the car has been de-chromed while the door mouldings have been removed and Frenched, or smoothed in other words. There’s a very subtle twin-exhaust setup, black C-pillar trims and 535i badge, tinted rear indicators and Colin has also added M tricolour striping all around the bottom of the car. While the outside is bold but relatively subtle, it’s a completely different story on the inside…
“The 17” OZ Mito 2s that you see before you measure a monster 10”-wide up front and an even more intimidating 11” at the back”
First of all you’ve got the full retrim in black suede, which looks so good, and it’s not just the seats that have been retrimmed, the headlining is also suede as are the door cards and the roll-cage that Colin has added has also been wrapped in suede for good measure while the boot lid lining and boot are also finished in suede. There’s an E30 M3 steering wheel (yes, also suede), which required Colin to cut the steering housing to get it to fit, and the whole dash, centre console and door trims have been sprayed in purple to match the exterior, and it took Colin four weeks to complete his retrim by hand. Colin has added a five-point STR NASCAR latch harness – in purple, naturally – along with custom yellow-faced dials with redtipped needles, a shift-light mounted in the instrument cluster, an Innovate AFR gauge that’s been wrapped in suede (obviously) and mounted on top of the dash and below that sits the Maximiser nitrous controller while just ahead of the silver gear knob is the custom-mounted air-ride controller that sits on a suede panel all of its own. It’s a riot of individuality and really adds the finishing touch to an amazing build.
Colin’s E28 isn’t for everyone but it is for Colin, and that’s what matters. It’s built exactly how Colin wanted it and everywhere you look you find some new custom addition and see evidence of just how much work and love has gone into this build over the past 11 years. But, like most show builds, it will never truly be finished despite how complete it may look; “It has been an ongoing build and still is – I’m never happy with it I always want to better the car,” he laughs and we can all relate to that sentiment. “Money no object I would have swapped in an S85 V10 with twin Prochargers and SMG ‘box,” he chuckles, “but my next plans for the car are more 24 carat gold plating on the engine, maybe add another turbo and change the exhaust,” he muses. We don’t doubt that it will happen because this car is going nowhere and that means he has all the time in the world to do whatever his heart desires. “My next car will always be this one because I have put so much blood, sweat, tears, money and so, so much time into it and I’m too old to do another one,” he laughs but it was undeniably all so worth it. “I get so much pleasure from watching people at shows interested in my build, and people coming over saying ‘Good job, I love your car,’ it makes it all worthwhile. I have won trophies with it, that’s a plus, but to hear people talk about my car and say I should go to a lot shows and saying I should show it off more and let others enjoy what I have built is great, and getting a feature in PBMW just puts the icing on the cake,” he grins. As for the car, as a symbol of ultimate individual achievement, this incredible turbo E28 is an incredible machine, an incredible build and an incredible accomplishment, one that will never stop turning heads or drawing a crowd wherever it goes.
DATA FILE BMW M535i E28 M30B35 Turbo
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.4-litre straight-six M30B35, re-honed block, polished and balanced crank, lower compression pistons, forged rods, ARP studs and bolts, MLS head gasket, reground cam, brand new rockers and rocker shafts, gold-plated BorgWarner S257 T3 turbo, custom-made T3 manifold, custom-made 3” turbo downpipe, Tial wastegate, reverse inlet manifold, custom chargecooler, custom chargecooler piping, HKS blow-off valve, custom-made fuel rail to fit Siemens Deka 630cc injectors, custom-made HT leads, drilled block for turbo oil return, 75hp nitrous oxide shot, MegaSquirt 2 standalone ECU. E34 535i five-speed manual gearbox, balanced flywheel, uprated clutch and pressure plate, Z3 short shift
POWER 550hp @ 1 bar
CHASSIS 10x17” (front) and 11x17” (rear) OZ Mito 2 split rims with 205/45 (front) and 225/45 (rear) Falken Ziex ZE310 tyres, Air Lift Performance air suspension custom-made to fit, AutoPilot V2 management, fully poly bushed Goodridge brake lines
EXTERIOR Full respray in custom purple pearl, de-chromed trim, de-skinned bonnet with turbo and screamer pipe cutouts, bonnet pins, door mouldings removed and Frenched, black C-pillar vents, black 535i badge, M tricolour striping
INTERIOR Seats, roof lining, door cards and roll-cage trimmed in black suede, E30 M3 steering wheel, dashboard, door and centre console trims painted purple, custom yellow dials, red-tipped needles, purple STR NASCAR five-point latch harness, shift lights, Innovate AFR gauge wrapped in suede, Maximiser nitrous controller, boot trimmed in suede, single custom-painted air tank, Viair compressor, custom-painted twin 11lb nitrous oxide bottles
THANKS Thanks to my family for putting up with me spending hours and hours in the garage, Marsel – another E28 turbo owner – and Ross Bradley for all the advice given and thanks to PBMW for the feature
“Running at just over 1 bar of boost, his E28 is making 550hp and there’s nitrous on top of that for when he really wants to get a move on…”
E30 M3 steering wheel and custom gauges Nitrous controller. Door cards have been trimmed in suede and trims sprayed purple. Whole interior has been retrimmed in suede. Polished rocker cover. HKS SSQV blow-off valve. 24 carat gold-plated BorgWarner turbo. Stunning 17” OZ Mito 2s. Boot houses the air tank and twin nitrous bottles. That view, with the turbo peeking out, is awesome. One of the numerous GoPro mounts on the car.