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    THE REVENANT SLICK E34 540i Stunning classic Five

    Back once again with another of his greatest hits, this stellar 540i is the latest hot Beemer from… ah, but that’d be telling, wouldn’t it? Words: Daniel Bevis Photos: Henry Phull @ Slam Sanctuary

    Gorgeous E34 540i

    “The strangest part about being famous is that you don’t get to give first impressions any more. Everyone already has an impression of you before you meet them.”

    Kristen Stewart said that, and she knows a thing or two about being recognised on the street. When you become well known in any given field, it’s impossible to stop your personified reputation from strutting ahead of you, thereafter colouring all of your future achievements with the rainbow-like splendour (or, conversely, bilious taint) of all that you’ve done before. It’s subjective, of course, but when you see Tom Cruise appear in a new movie, do you take him at face value or does your brain start wondering idly about scientology? Yeah, precedent is a dangerous thing. So we’re not going to tell you who owns this car. We’ll let you judge it for what it is.

    So, since we have no weight of precedent to bother us, the first thing that lures us in is that cheeky registration number. ‘U AS5’? Well, thanks a lot. But yes, perhaps it’s an appropriate snap judgement of the average bystander’s character, because a lot of people who tangentially know what they’re talking about will see a tidy E34 like this and immediately say: “Shame, it’s not an M5.” And that’s a mistake. Because the 540i is a phenomenal machine, and in certain arguable respects superior to (or at least more desirable to some than) the celebrated M super-saloon. Particularly when it has a rare-as- hen’s-teeth six-speed manual gearbox, as this one does. And, of course, while the 540i yields 50hp-ish to the M5, it does come packing a rumbling V8 rather than a straightsix.

    If a bent-eight torque-fest is what keeps you up all night, this is the E34 for you. It’s certainly the E34 of choice for our mystery protagonist. Indeed, it’s not the first one he’s owned; the last one became an engine donor for his E30 V8 project, with the rest of the car being broken up for parts and scattered to the winds – and this is clearly a state of affairs that’s rankled with him ever since. A combination of factors ranging from the implacable pang of yearning for a lost car to the spiralling values and increasing scarcity of one of Europe’s great V8, manual-’boxed cruisers meant that his keenness to find another one was pretty strong. Indeed, he was fairly dogged and single-minded in his pursuit – having set his sights on a bona fide 540i/6, there was little that could get in his way. Even such trifles as geography and language couldn’t put up any sort of barrier.

    After scouring the UK market to no avail, stumbling through boneyards of knackered 5 Series with little excitement to offer, our shadowy hero cast his sights and his nets further afield, and eventually turned up a likely-looking candidate in Poland. Okay, so he doesn’t speak Polish, but that wasn’t a problem: he merely deputised somebody who could speak the language to fly out there, check it out, arrange the purchase and drive it back to the UK. Like you do.

    Sounding improbable? Well, that’s just the fairytale world that this master of secrecy inhabits. After all, the 540i now finds itself sharing driveway space with, among others, a Lamborghini Diablo, a Ferrari Testarossa, and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage. Why should this scenario be more unusual than any other day in his whimsical life?

    Now, if you or I were to attempt such a manoeuvre, we’d inevitably end up with some sort of colossal heap parked on the drive, having paid top dollar for a cut-and-shut 518i with a last-minute paint job. But no, that sort of thing doesn’t happen to this guy. What he landed was actually a catch, its Polish owner having clearly expended a decent wedge on its upkeep, sitting it on a set of 18” RH splits and retrimming the whole interior in black leather – including the fancy front seats which, if you’re a particular sort of BMW nerd, you may recognise as the Recaros from the Winkelhock Edition M5, of which just 51 were built. Pretty neat selling point, that.

    It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops, though. The universe isn’t that kind. While the aesthetics were tip-top and the spec was just-so, the chassis was a baggy. Bushes had been allowed to wither, suspension components were showing their age, it all needed a refresh. So that’s exactly what our man did. And no half-measures either – the suspension was handed into the loving embrace of BC Racing, who decked the 540i out in its sublimely fetching ‘Extra Low’ BR Series coilovers, imbuing the OEM+ aesthetic with a certain rakish aggression.

    It’s the sort of car you’d expect to see ferrying miscreants about in 1990s car chase movies, all slab-sided imposition and lowslung menace. And then, of course, it was time to address the area that many consider to be the most important… the wheels. The genius of what lies beneath this E34’s arches is in their relative stealth. To the uninitiated, they’re just a set of standard BMW wheels. To those with a little knowledge, the owner appears to have swapped on a set of M5 Throwing Stars. But when you learn the truth, you’ll appreciate just how deep the mystery spirals…

    It all started with a chap in the US by the name of Rimal Chand. Around about the time our E34 owner was sizing up his wheel options, Rimal was sharing a few pictures online of some custom split-rims he’d made using M-System Throwing Stars and 8 Series Turbines, and this was something that really caught his eye. With barely a pause, he’d made contact with Rimal and requested a set of his very own one-off Throwing Star faces to be fabricated and shipped to SS Autowerks in the UK, to be built up and fitted to the 540i. The finished result is a set of 18” wheels – 9.5” wide at the front, 11” out back – which few would suspect as being anything particularly special. But to those in the know, they’re the product of some sort of celestial master of the craft. In effect, the wheels imbue the build with the ultimate in OEM+ chic; to 95% of people this is simply a clean old 5 Series. To those who know what they’re looking at, however, this car is something very alluring indeed. The numerous other subtle upgrades – the smoked lights, the Heckblende (y’know, that reflective thingy across the boot), the rumbling exhaust system – somehow merely accentuate the subtlety of it all. This really is a cerebral and considered project.

    Oh, and the name behind it? Okay, some of you will have guessed. This car belongs to noted retro BMW egghead Nick Sahota – he of the ‘PUR35T’ bagged orange E30 M3, among many others. But if we’d told you that at the start, none of the fastidious attention to detail or excellence-at-all-costs motif would have come as a surprise. As Robert De Niro once said: “The hardest thing about being famous is that people are always nice to you.” But Nick doesn’t need your preconceptions to form any sort of back-slapping judgement – much like every other car in his collection, this 540i speaks entirely for itself.

    “To those who know what they’re looking at, this car is very alluring indeed”

    “This really is a cerebral and considered project”

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E34 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E34 / #BMW-5-Series / #BMW-5-Series-V8 / #BMW-5-Series-E34 / #BMW /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 4.0-litre #V8 #M60B40 / #M60 / #BMW-M60 , custom #Hard-Knocks-Speed-Shop stainless steel exhaust system, six-speed manual gearbox

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 11x18” (rear) #M5-M-System-II-Style-21#Throwing-Star ’ alloys converted to split-rims with 225/35 (front) and 245/35 (rear) tyres, #BC-Racing ‘Extra Low’ #BC-Racing-BR Series coilovers

    EXTERIOR E34 Heckblende, smoked Hella headlights and tail-lights

    INTERIOR #Winkelhock-Edition-M5-Recaro seats, full black leather retrim including dash, black headlining
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    This unassuming E34 hides a supercharged secret… What might appear to be nothing more than a rather smart-looking BMW E34 540i is actually packing 430hp beneath its unassuming exterior, courtesy of an #ESS-supercharger kit. Words: Louise Woodhams. Photos: Andy Tipping.

    When I was 15, my mum asked me to choose a car for her from our local used car dealer. He had four cars for sale and the only two worth looking at were a Mk2 Golf GTI 16v and an E36 325i. I was sold on the BMW as soon as the salesman started it up,” recalls 25-yearold Fred with a big grin across his face. The car was eventually passed down to his brother and in the four years that it was in the Marsh-Allen household, Fred formed fond memories of it. In fact, it was the car that ignited his love affair with BMW and when it came to his first car he didn’t consider any other marque.

    His first choice of weapon was a 318ti – an immaculate, one-owner example – but, as a professional drummer, he needed something bigger and faster and it was not long before he started thinking about his next acquisition. To help fund the purchase, Fred got a job with a local car insurance company and with the added advantage of a discounted policy he was able to step up to an E39 540i. “I really liked that car and it sparked my love affair with V8s,” explains Fred. “The surprise on the faces of young lads in their Vauxhall Corsas as I tanked it past them with the back crammed full of drums was absolutely priceless.”

    Sadly, a failed cooling system left him totally bereft of any spare cash and he eventually got rid of it. He then seemingly worked his way through the entire #BMW line-up of models, including an E28 525e, an E31 840Ci, an E34 525i, various E39 Tourings, an Alpina B10 3.5, a couple of E36 328s, an E46 330i, and an Alpina B3 3.3.

    It was around this time that Fred got the bug for modifying. He kick-started his newfound addiction with the E28, which received a full respray in the car’s original Alpine white hue, H&R lowering springs and a set of BBS Style 5 RC090s. “It looked mental and was the perfect retro daily. I then had the insane idea of converting the E34 525i that I had bought (for the bargain sum of £400) into a 540i,” Fred explains.

    Many of us have at least one friend in our life that likes to play the little devil on our shoulder and for Fred it’s a certain buddy named Kevin. Kevin suggested that the engine swap wouldn’t be that difficult, offering the use of his axle stands and a hammer to boot! Kevin’s comment changed the direction of Fred’s project and he started the search for a donor engine.

    He soon found someone who was willing to sell him a 540i Touring for £700. The previous owner was a keen angler and the car was his main means of transportation. This meant it carried all of the related paraphernalia, towed his boat, and was even used to launch the boat into the water.

    Because of this the underside and bodywork of the Touring was rotten. That did not matter, however, as the engine had only covered 130k and was in great working order. Fred and Kevin set about swapping over the engine and transmission during the summer of 2012. Fred gained invaluable knowledge and skills from the experience, which he was able to put to extremely good use when it came to the car you see pictured here, which leads us nicely onto the topic.

    While carrying out the conversion, Fred bought an LSD which he never got round to fitting and he ended up selling it to a bloke who wanted one for his E34. “When Dave turned up we got on really well and have remained friends since,” says Fred. “I fell in love with his E34 540i at first sight and vowed that one day I would get him to sell it to me. I badgered him for over a year until one day in late 2014 he finally relented as he needed the funds to buy a 2002.”

    Dave sold it to him for £4000 on the condition that Fred would supercharge it. This was something Dave himself had wanted to do but never got round to doing! The car was very clean, and Dave, along with other previous owners, including one who worked for a Bentley and Rolls-Royce specialist, had carried out a few modifications. As such, the cabin is a very luxurious place with mats, doorcards and various bits of interior trim made up from Bentley materials, along with a set of custom clocks to match. It had also benefitted from a UUC short-shift kit, AC Schnitzer pedals, M5 3.8 brakes and BC Racing coilovers – which Fred has since adjusted, raising the rear ride height by 10mm to clear the wider tyres and increasing the stiffness.

    When it came to exterior styling, Fred wanted a smooth and understated style so he removed all of the window tints and the M5 spoiler (but kept the E36 M3 mirrors that had been previously fitted). The car was then resprayed in the original Oxford green. Simple but effective; the E34 has such strong lines and this particular model is so rare it does not necessitate much else. “Unfortunately where so much silicone was used to attach the spoiler it reacted with the new paint, so I had to source a new bootlid for it,” Fred tells us. The finishing exterior touch is a set of staggered Rondell 0058 wheels.

    Next up was the main job: installing the supercharger kit. This was not without its problems. Unfortunately, the induction pipework did not fit, which meant the air con had to be deleted in order to route it under the ’charger instead. Following the photoshoot, this setup was reconstructed from aluminium due to the original supplied pipework collapsing at high revs. “It was very frustrating when I think it wouldn’t have been any more hassle to have turbocharged the car,” says Fred.

    In addition, Fred decided to bin the original ECU and ESS chip and fit an Emerald K6 ECU, map sensor, and a bypass valve. With three different engine maps – all selectable from a switch hidden in the driver’s cubby hole – he can chose whether he wants to opt for a TVR-esque ‘pop and bang’ map or be a little more sensible and dial-in power or economy. Of course, the best part of the conversion, which provides this E34 with 430hp, is seeing off new hot hatches. It’s the last thing people come to expect from a 20-year-old saloon!

    So, what is next for Fred? Well, other than a sound system (given the current setup only does justice to Radio 4), Fred is planning simply to enjoy the car this season. After all his hard work, he deserves it.

    DATA FILE #Supercharged-BMW-E34 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E34 / #BMW-540i-ESS-supercharger-kit / #BMW-540i-ESS-supercharger-kit-E34 / #1994 / #1995 / #BMW-E34

    ENGINE 4.0-litre V8 M60B40 / BMW-M60 / M60 , #ESS-supercharger-kit / #ESS-Supercharger / #ESS / #M60-ESS-supercharger-kit , #Emerald-K6-ECU / #Emerald-ECU and map sensor, bypass valve, custom exhaust system, six-speed manual transmission with UUC short-shift kit.

    CHASSIS 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #Rondell 0058 wheels with 235/45 (front) and 275/40 (rear) tyres, M5 3.8 brakes all-round, #BC-Racing coilovers.

    EXTERIOR E36 M3 mirrors, full respray in Oxford green.

    INTERIOR Bentley mats, doorcards and trim, custom clocks, AC Schnitzer pedals.

    THANKS Kev, Rob and Donnie, Dave Moore for selling me the car, Hans at ESS, John at Emerald M3D LTD for mapping and RPM Littleport for transportation and ECU fitting, Richi’s Cars Kings Lynn for the bodywork.

    I fell in love with his E34 540i on first sight and vowed that one day I would get him to sell it to me.
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    ELIZABETH’S #BMW-E39 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E39 / #Kenwood /

    Having carried out so many modifications for the E39’s benefit, such as all the recent chassis upgrades, I decided it was time I did something for myself, namely addressing the woeful sound system. Let’s not beat about the bush, the E39 stereo is absolutely atrocious. It probably doesn’t help that my E39, despite being a 540i and being spec’d with a few nice options, was only ordered with the base sound system, which means six measly speakers that were hardly the pinnacle of audio performance back in 1998, let alone now. Changing the head unit for my Dynavin had only served to highlight how bad the speakers were so I decided it was time I did something about it.

    I’ve never been into massive audio installs. While they are cool, I’d personally prefer to spend money on performance or handling mods and I tend to listen to my music at moderate volume levels, so a massively powerful setup would have been wasted on me. Also, a boot full of air-ride paraphernalia meant that I had no room for loads of subs and amps anyway, so I started looking around for an affordable solution that would deliver much improved sound quality without breaking the bank or requiring major work to get it all to fit. While the temptation was to opt for the fanciest-looking speakers I could get, research revealed that you don’t want to have too much treble coming from behind you as it doesn’t sound good. After scouring the extensive aftermarket audio market, in the end it was Kenwood that came up trumps, with a selection of speakers that ticked all the boxes for my requirements.

    One of the problems with the E39 is that, while the openings for the speakers are regular sizes, 5.25”/13cm front and rear (except the front teeters, which are tiny), the mounting depths are rather shallow and that limits your choices somewhat, especially if you’re on a budget. Luckily, Kenwood had exactly the speakers I wanted in exactly the sizes I needed and all at an exceedingly affordable price. Up front, to replace the stock woofers and door-mounted tweeters, I opted for the KFC-E130P component speaker package, available for under £30, which comes with a pair of 13cm woofers with injection polypropylene cones and a 30W RMS power rating, and a pair of 25mm tweeters. While the E39’s rear doors have speaker grilles, these are blanked off on all but the top hi-fi system, meaning the only rear audio comes from a pair of woofers on the parcel shelf. To replace these, I went for the KFC-X133 13cm high performance two-way speaker system, rated at 40W RMS and combining a pair of carbon polypropylene cones with centre-mounted 19mm soft dome tweeters to add a bit of clarity and brightness to the music, and costing just over £50. Finally, as the system was seriously lacking in bass, I decided to push the boat out a little further and added the KSC-SW11 powered sub to my shopping list. It was hard to resist the charms of this little sub, with a slimline design and footprint of an A4 piece of paper. It features a 20x12cm driver, built-in amp and has a maximum power output of 150W; while those numbers might not impress hardcore bass addicts, going from zero subwoofers to one subwoofer, however compact, is a 100% increase in subwoofers and that’s got to be a good thing. With the little sub coming in at just under £100 that put my total speaker shopping list at £1.06 shy of £180, which is pretty darn good for such a comprehensive package as far as I’m concerned.

    Once the speakers had arrived, I proceeded to turn up at BM Sport’s Bexley HQ and left everything in its capable hands for what I hoped would be a painless install, which it was, with one exception. It transpired that the tweeters that are included with the front speakers were simply too big to fit. I was disappointed as I had hoped I’d managed to work everything out correctly, but changing the woofers was going to make a far bigger difference to the sound quality so it wasn’t the end of the world. I decided to just go with the woofers, leaving the standard tweeters in place, with a view to fitting the larger Kenwood items at some point in the near future with a little modification to the mounting locations. Also, as the rear speakers sit in a pair of plastic acoustic chambers, a little gentle trimming of these was required in order for the speakers to clear the housing directly beneath the magnets. While the sub is happy to be mounted pretty much anywhere in the E39 there’s no room beneath the seats, which is where they are often placed in other cars, so, having read some threads on the 5 Series forum regarding where other people had located similar subs, I asked the BM Sport guys if they could mount my sub in the cavity where the rear armrest normally folds up into. It would mean that I couldn’t fold up said armrest but seeing as I’ve never had more than a total of four people in the car (and that was once) I didn’t consider that to be a problem. The sub ending up fitting perfectly in the armrest space, with the guys choosing to mount it horizontally as it’s basically the exact width the of the gap, with the flap that normally covers the metal of the bulkhead when the armrest is down being used to do just that, but below the sub.

    Having collected my car I set about playing with the equaliser and various other settings on my head unit and sub before taking my new speakers for a test-drive. The sub has a wired remote, which sits tucked up in the cubby-hole near the E39’s headlight switch, and allows you to adjust the phase, frequency and volume. As it sounded fine with the phase set at 0º I left that alone and set about adjusting the other two settings; frequency basically determines what frequencies the sub takes on, essentially determining when it starts to get involved. Ideally you want the sub to be coming in at the point where the speakers run out of puff in the lowend, but it comes down to personal preference really and I set mine towards the lower end of the scale. As for the volume, that’s pretty selfexplanatory and is obviously down to personal preference, with the sub seemingly happiest around the middle part of its volume range. I have to say that listening to my ensemble for the first time absolutely blew me away – the difference over the factory setup was so vast that I may as well have installed £1800-worth of kit. The most noticeable difference was the sheer clarity and depth that music now has. Listening to David Guetta’s Dangerous, with its twinkling piano and strings intro, sounded incredible, like I had an entire string section in the car with me. And when the beat kicked in the sub provided a fantastic thump, with just enough bass to really round out the music. I rattled through my song selection and it was the same story, track after track, the Kenwood setup delivering an amazing performance, punching way above its weight and, more importantly, price point. Whereas before I would play music on a drive to pass the time, now I play music because I can actually enjoy listening to it. Upgrading the speakers has absolutely transformed my in-car listening experience. For under £200, it’s a no-brainer.

    New Kenwood front components fit straight in and deliver a huge improvement in sound quality.

    Two-way rear speakers replace stock woofers and sound so much better; active sub has wired remote for fine-tuning.

    THANKS & CONTACT Kenwood
    BM Sport
    020 8304 9797
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    My #BMW-E39 is now approaching what I would like to consider its completion, at least for the time being, and I am feeling slightly sweaty-palmed at the prospect of no longer spending time hunting for parts for it and planning my next mod. That’s probably why I recently bought something that isn’t a #BMW (so I couldn’t possibly talk about it here, but at least it’s not from a rival German gang…), albeit that purchase was initially made with the good intentions of keeping it standard. #BMW-540i-E39 / #BMW-540i /

    Well, my ‘good intentions’ went out the window within one month. Perhaps by telling myself I wouldn’t mod it I felt that I could justify my purchase; however I was clearly lying to myself. That is, of course, a very silly thing to do because unless you’re buying a car for purely practical and sensible reasons (in which case it is automatically justified) you’re just trying to make yourself feel better about buying something you didn’t need but wanted and bought anyway. As for modding… yeah, it’s best not to try and justify any of that because we can’t. We don’t need any of the things we stick on cars that we don’t need in the first place, really, but we want them and that’s why we buy them. All that matters is: does it make you happy? If it makes you smile and sends you off to sleep with happy dreams then that’s the only thing that matters!

    And so, to this month’s line-up of hopeless addicts. We kicked the year off with some seriously in-your-face stuff in the February issue and I’d like to think we’re keeping that theme going in this issue, starting with that smoke-shrouded E34 on the cover. People still like to have a moan about show builds not fitting in with the whole performance part of DRIVE-MY, so this month here’s something that’s about as far removed from the show car scene as is physically possible. No fancy styling, no custom unicorn fairy dust wheels and no airride, just an E34 M5 with a hoofing great turbo on it and 1000hp to play with. Then there’s that equally mental turbo drift E30 accompanying it, our triple S54-swap feature and an S50-engined E30 for good measure. So sit down, shut up and hang on as the March issue of #Drive-My drags you out of the wintry doldrums and into #2016 at full pelt.
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    ELIZABETH’S #BMW-E39 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E39 / #BMW

    After admitting to never having had polybushes fitted to a car before I now have another confession to make: I’ve never had uprated antiroll bars on any of my cars. To be honest I’ve never really felt the need before; everything I’ve owned has always ended up on uprated suspension and felt fine with it. But with the E39 I’ve gone further than I have done before and every chassis improvement shows up any remaining weaknesses.

    Going from the worn-out suspension to the airride system was a huge all-round improvement but exacerbated the slop caused by the worn bushes. Fresh bushes transformed how the car felt but left a little bit of sag in the chassis, so I figured going for a set of thicker anti-roll bars would help tighten-up the handling and get the E39 feeling as sharp as possible.

    You have to be careful with anti-roll bars as, while the temptation may be to go as thick as possible, going too thick will upset the handling. A thicker rear bar will reduce understeer while a thicker front ARB will reduce oversteer. Go too thick at either end and you’ll suddenly find the car unwilling to turn-in or rather too eager to step out on you, so it’s all about finding the perfect balance. If your car feels nicely balanced from stock then it makes sense to replace both ARBs together to keep that handling balance while reducing roll. Generally speaking, if you’re looking to improve handling by reducing roll without ruining your car’s ride, anti-roll bars are an excellent option as they obviously don’t affect your springs or dampers directly so ride comfort remains the same.

    It’ll be no surprise to learn that for my ARBs I turned to #Eibach , as the company knows a thing or two when it comes to suspension. As standard the E39 was fitted with a 24.5mm front anti-roll bar (25mm on Sport models), while at the rear the ARBs measured 14mm for SEs, 13mm for EDC-equipped cars and 15mm for Sports. By comparison M5s were fitted with a 27mm front anti-roll bar and 16.5m rear item, while Eibach’s offerings are thicker still: 28mm up front and 18mm at the back. That’s a big increase in thickness over stock and the means a big reduction in roll. The #Air-Lift suspension is good at keeping the car flat through corners but there’s certainly no harm in giving it a helping hand. For ordering and fitting my anti-roll bar kit I turned to BMSport which is my go-to garage when it comes to getting any work done on the E39. Usefully, it’s also an Eibach dealer so I placed an order with the team for a front and rear kit and dropped the car in to get them fitted. Handily, it comes with everything you need to fit them, including the correct size polybushes for the new anti-roll bars and brackets. However, much like with the installation of my Powerflex bushes, there was rather a lot of work involved. The rear was an easy bolt off, bolt on job with minimum stress but for the front bar, the BMW TIS instructs you to remove the steering arms and lift the engine! The guys at #BMSport are nothing if not thorough so that’s exactly how they did it, with the actual removal and installation of the new bars going without a hitch.

    With everything put back together, it was time for me to collect the car and see how it felt with the Eibach anti-roll bars in situ. It only took a few corners taken at an enthusiastic pace to feel the difference/benefits of the thicker bars. The car felt sharper and more eager to turn-in and the body stayed noticeably flatter, the last fractions of slackness and flop having been well and truly eradicated from my E39. It seems keener to change direction, too, and just generally feels sharper, more focused and more fun to drive! I had read that stiffer anti-roll bars can make the car feel more uncomfortable going over rough surfaces, of which there are plenty down here in Kent, but honestly I can say I’ve experienced zero change in ride comfort on all surfaces. It feels exactly the same in that respect, which means that there are zero down sides to fitting these thicker Eibach anti-roll bars. If you’re just looking to improve handling without ruining your ride or want to eliminate all traces of body roll on a sporty setup, these ARBs get a big thumbs up.

    THANKS AND CONTACT Eibach Tel: 01455 285851 BMSport Tel: 020 8304 9797
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    / BMW / ELIZABETH’S #BMW-E39 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E39 / #BMW

    With paint, wheels and air-ride the E39 was coming along nicely but something was still letting the side down: namely the styling. Now, the E39 is well proportioned and handsome and it’s ageing well but in pre-facelift SE form it looks a little dowdy.

    There are a couple of kits for it I like – namely the OE Sport and M5 kits. I prefer the latter as it doesn’t have that unattractive T-bar in the front valence; Unfortunately, the OE kit is rather expensive (over £800). However, on the MStyle website I saw that the company’s own Sport-look kit comes in at less than half the price of the OE one. It also comes with the M5 front bumper rather than the Sport one. I also didn’t want the M5 rear bumper because too many E39 owners go for the M5 replica look. MStyle’s kit ticked all the boxes, so a quick call later and the E39 was booked in for a bit of work, with the company taking care of painting and fitting at its Romford HQ. I also decided to get a couple of extra treats for the E39 while I was at it, picking out the matt black face-lift-style wider kidney grilles and the M5-style bootlid spoiler for the finishing touches. When I went to collect the E39 posttransformation I was delighted to see it sitting outside the MStyle workshop. The styling additions had transformed it abd it looked like a new car.

    Any concerns you might have about the quality of M-Style’s bumpers versus BMW’s products can be laid to rest as the quality is perfect. They’re made from high quality ABS plastic so there are none of the fitment issues sometimes associated with fibreglass products and there’s no need to worry about cracking or splitting as they are as tough as any other bumper. The bumpers come with everything required to fit them and also have all the necessary trims plus you also get the front foglights. They fit perfectly and the finish is so good that if you didn’t know otherwise you’d think that they were OE items. MStyle’s paintwork was high-quality and the colour match with the rest of the car is perfect. I’m really glad I went for the black kidney grilles and M5 spoiler, too. The matt black kidneys look so much better than the original, smaller chrome items especially as there’s no chrome anywhere else on the car. I think they give the E39 a slightly more aggressive front end, especially when combined with the new bumper. The spoiler is very much a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ affair but I love its subtlety and it finishes off the rear, otherwise the boot looks a little naked.

    So full marks to MStyle for an excellent selection of products and a top-notch painting and fitting service; I’m very pleased with the results. With the body styling sorted, the E39 is now being let down by its chunky door mirrors and ugly headlights, plus the exhaust cutout in the Sport bumper’s rear valance is left empty and shows a droopy standard tip tucked away inside, designed to be hidden away behind the SE bumper but I’ve got plans to take care of it!
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    ELIZABETH’S #BMW-E39 #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E39 / #BMW / #M62 / #M62B44 /

    It’s funny how going from the Cades to the Style 42s opened the floodgates on the alloy wheel front and suddenly I found myself hopelessly addicted. There are worse things to be addicted to I suppose, but the problem with wheels is that they take up a lot of space and you can only run one set at a time and also how often are you going to be changing wheels? Of course, that’s all fine on paper but when you’re browsing eBay and come across something that catches your eye, the temptation can be impossible to resist.

    And so it was that, after buying my #Style-42 s, I found myself spending more and more time browsing eBay, searching for various things and browsing pages and pages of wheels. Most of it was just that, browsing, but there was some intent to my actions – the 18” #BBS splits looked really good, and were a nice upgrade from the single-piece Cades but, having done some extensive Googling, it was clear that in order to get the E39 looking as good as possible I was going to have to get my hands on a set of 19s. I did consider 20s and was tempted to get hold of a set just to try them out, but one inch can make a big difference and the wrong 20s can look too big so I decided to play it safer with a set of 19s.

    I spent a long time looking at pictures of what sort of wheels I wanted fitted to the E39, but with little in the way of budget, what I wanted and what I could actually have were two very different things. Luckily my various eBay searches cast the net pretty wide so all sorts of options were cropping up. Nothing was really working for me as far as style or budget were concerned, though, until one fateful day when something cropped up that caught my eye. It was one of those typical ‘worst auction ever’ moments, with low res pics and virtually no information, but the title said BMW 19” OZ wheels and looking at the, albeit grainy, pictures they most definitely were.

    A bit of furious Googling revealed what appeared to be a set of staggered three-piece forged Superleggera IIIs, which seemed too good to be true but with the wheels located just 20 minutes up the road, I felt it silly not to at least go and have a look. Meeting with the seller revealed that they were indeed a set of Superleggera IIIs, albeit in a rather sorry state, filthy with lots of corrosion and scabby centre caps, but three-piece OZs nonetheless and so they had to be bought.

    Wheels purchased, it was clear that they were going to require an extensive refurb and, seeing how he’d transformed my Style 42s, I knew that Dips at Custom Cars was the man for the job, but I also knew that I wanted something a bit special for these wheels. It was while browsing eBay for wheels (again) that I found my inspiration for the OZs – polished lips, matt grey centres with neo chrome bolts, which would match my wheel nuts. Dips got to work splitting and stripping the wheels while I went on the hunt for some hardware in the required size. I found what I was looking for on the site of a German company called Titanium Touch – it sells countless wheel accessories including a huge selection of bolts, including the correct ones for my OZs in the finish I wanted, and all very reasonably priced.

    The next step was tyres. I’d been very impressed with the Falkens that I’d had fitted to my Style 42s so I decided to stick with the brand but take things up a notch and treat myself to the company’s flagship tyre, the #Azenis FK453. I previously had this tyre’s predecessor on my 840Ci and remember being impressed with its performance, so I was confident that the latest version would be no less impressive. The #FK453 is available in a wide range of sizes, from 17-22- inches and, as with all Falken tyres, it’s been designed with a bit of stretch in mind. The 540i has a decent amount of power to put down so I wanted a tyre that was performance-orientated and the FK453 uses a silica-enriched compound, which has been designed to offer superior traction and grip in both wet and dry conditions, while an asymmetric variable tread design with large outside shoulder blocks enhances handling in all conditions as well as reducing road noise.

    Three wide circumferential grooves allow for rapid water dispersion while a rigid carcass helps the tyre to retain its profile during even the most extreme conditions, enhancing high speed stability and handling. I know a lot of people are happy to just chuck the cheapest tyres they can find on their cars, but I actually enjoy driving the 540 and have put a lot of effort into making it handle properly, so I wanted a tyre that would complement all the modifications so far, and the FK453 was definitely that tyre.

    Collecting the finished wheels from Custom Cars I was blown away with how they looked – Dips had sent me some pictures but they really didn’t do them justice. The matt centres looked fantastic against the polished lips and the neo chrome bolts looked better than I could have ever imagined, especially reflecting off the lips. With the tyres fitted, it was time to get the wheels on and add the finishing touches. These OZs were what appeared to be a strange combination of E60 and E90 fitment, with an offset of 34 up front on the 8.5s and 21 at the rear on the 9.5s, hence the significantly deeper dish. I knew I was going to have to run spacers to get the sort of fitment I wanted and I also knew that I needed some spigot rings as the OZ centre bore is 79mm and the E39 CB is 74.1.

    For the latter I turned to eBay and found a set for a shade under £24 while for the former a bit of searching led me to H&R’s door, via Euro Car Parts in the UK. Its aluminium Trak+ spacers were perfect for the job – the beautifully finished 25mm front items are designed to bolt to your car’s hubs with the wheels then being bolted to the threaded holes in the spacers for a solid, safe, secure fit. With me running studs, I could just slip the spacers straight on, but the main reason for going with H&R was its hubcentric 10mm spacers that I wanted to use on the rear. Lots of places sell 10mm spacers, but H&R was pretty much the only big-name suspension company that I could see offering hubcentric spacers in that width, so it seemed rude not to opt for a full set from it.

    Then it was time for the finishing touches: a set of genuine OZ carbon pattern centre caps, the cost of which we won’t go into, and a set of nongenuine OZ dust caps, because I couldn’t find any genuine ones (they weren’t expensive, though, and the carbon finish matches my centre caps).

    Finally, with quite possibly the nicest wheels I’ve ever owned now ready to be fitted to my car, I figured a set of locking wheels nuts was most definitely a good idea, but I wanted something that would match the nuts I already had. This proved tricky until I turned to the Japanese scene, namely Funky Power, purveyor of all things performance and modified, which sells #Muteki SR48 extended open-ended locking nuts in a neo chrome finish, exactly what I was after, and they are the perfect match.

    So, all that was left do was fit the wheels and admire the results and I think they look amazing, if I do say so myself. The move from 18” to 19” was definitely the right one and in my eyes it’s the perfect size for the E39. The OZs suit the car wonderfully and I love the contrast of the matt centres with the polished lips and the flash of colour from the neo chrome bolts. I think they’ve really made such a huge difference to the looks and I couldn’t be more pleased.

    Titanium Touch Euro Car Parts 0203 474 0500 Falken 01962 794801 The Custom Cars 07958 432167 #Funky-Power 01563 850 240

    Muteki neo chrome locking nuts match bolts and existing nuts; OZ carbon pattern centre caps added.

    Falken #FK453 rubber the perfect partner; #H&R Trak+ spacers employed for optimum fitment.

    Forged three-piece OZs went from scabby to stunning; carbon #OZ dust caps and neo chrome bolts add the finishing touches.
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    OUR CARS ELIZABETH’S #BMW-E39 / #BMW-540i / #BMW-540i-E39

    I’ve never actually had a car with polybushes before, probably because every car I’ve owned has felt fine, really, and I’ve not seen the need to fit any uprated ones. I’ve always just changed springs or dampers, or both, and been impressed with the dramatic improvement in handling that follows, so it never felt as if going with polybushes would make a significant difference to my driving experience. With the E39, however, things were a little different…

    Cast your mind back to February of last year when I bought the car. You will recall how it had been standing for a good few months before I came to rescue it from its life of neglect. It was not in a good way and I get the feeling that, despite a folder full of receipts, towards the end of its time with the previous owner it may not have been getting the love and attention it deserved. He’d attempted a DIY arch repair and sprayed it himself with an aerosol can in the wrong colour for Pete’s sake…! Sorting the suspension and brakes made it feel a bit more like an E39 should but it was a long way off feeling right. Some of the bushes were most definitely not in a good way and as a result the 540 felt very loose and not very nice to drive. After I’d had the StopTech brakes fitted and the technician who’d done the fitting came back from his test drive to make sure all was okay, he commented that while the brakes were fine the rest of the car was most definitely not. The best way to describe it would be to say that it simply felt like certain suspension components weren’t connected to others or were hanging on by a thread, and it just felt rough to drive and certainly no fun. Considering the E39 is generally considered to have one of the best chassis that #BMW has ever produced in terms of its ride/handling balance, it was clear that something needed to be done as at that point it was akin to watching Avatar on your phone instead of an IMAX screen.

    Enter Powerflex. In a world where so many aftermarket parts seem to come from across the water it’s great top have one of the world’s leading polyurethane bush companies based right here in the UK. In fact, it’s fair to say that if someone were to say polybush, you’d think Powerflex. The company was formed 19 years ago and it really knows polyurethane, manufacturing everything in-house in its selfcontained state-of-the-art factory. Powerflex makes bushes for a vast range of cars in both its road-orientated (commonly purple) range and track-biased (black) range. The benefits of polybushes are their increased stiffness (25- 30%) which reduces unwanted flex in the suspension, making the car feel sharper but with the same noise-absorbing properties as your cheaper, softer rubber factory bushes. And while they are five to eight times more expensive than rubber bushes, they last a lot longer. How much longer? Well, Powerflex offers a lifetime warranty on all of its bushes, so that should tell you all you need to know really.

    So, the E39 needed bushes and as I’m a firm believer in doing things right, I decided to raid the Powerflex catalogue and got hold of every single bush the company makes for the V8 E39. Every single one. That might seem like overkill but with almost two tons to deal with and over 120k miles covered, the suspension needed all the help it could get. Plus, asking it to do things it was never designed to do thanks to my air suspension meant it had not had an easy life. Usefully, my local BMW specialist, BM Sport, which has been looking after all my BMWs for as long as I can remember, also happens to be a Powerflex dealer which meant I ordered my bushes through it and handed the E39 over to Jags and the team to let them crack on with the unenviable task of changing all the bushes.

    Needless to say, it was not a pleasant task. 17 years and 120k miles of exposure to the elements had definitely taken its toll on the suspension components and getting to all the bushes and removing them all difficult to say the least. Pretty much most of the entire suspension had to be disassembled to allow access but, luckily, the Powerflex bushes are simple to fit, which made the job a little easier. I had no interest in opting for the harder, track-biased Black series bushes as the E39 only gets driven on road, but it’s interesting to see that not all the bushes are the usual road-orientated purple, and that’s because Powerflex’s extensive testing has shown that for some areas of the suspension the slightly softer yellow bushes or harder black ones perform better and are the ones you will be sent for that particular area.

    Now, foolishly perhaps, part way through the fitting I decided that was a good time to see what people’s opinion of Powerflex bushes on E39s were and found a couple of forum threads where owners were complaining about noise and harshness. Concerned if I’d made the right decision I texted Jags to ask his opinion and he promptly told me to stop worrying and to wait to make my own mind up once they’d finished. With the sea of bushes fitted the guys put the E39 on a ramp to carry out a full alignment before handing the car back over to me.

    My verdict? Incredible. The car has been transformed. Whereas before it felt loose and sloppy it now feels tight and firm, like all the suspension components are actually finally connected to each other. The difference is like night and day. It feels so much more taut and together but also smoother. As for harshness and noise, there’s none of either. I noticed absolutely no increased stiffness in the ride and no increase in noise or vibration. There are literally no negatives from getting the car polybushed.

    Obviously it’s a huge undertaking to get everything done at once like this but I would absolutely recommend Powerflex bushes if you’re looking to replace your worn bushes. I would also suggest you seriously consider doing a full Powerflex bush swap (in stages, perhaps) as the difference is so huge, and especially if your E39, or any other BMW, has now covered a good few miles and is starting to feel a bit loose and sloppy on the handling front. You will not regret it.

    THANKS AND CONTACT #Powerflex 01895 460033 / #BM-Sport 020 8304 9797
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    The Forgotten

    King We take a look back at the E39 540i manual, a rare and sought-after car in recent years. When you think of an E39 with a V8 engine connected to a manual gearbox most people will think of an M5, but there was another often forgotten offering… Words: Simon Holmes /// Photography: Steve Hall

    It’s fair to say that just about everyone remembers the E39 5 Series with a certain degree of fondness. It’s officially gone down in the history books as one of the last true, older generation greats before electronic wizardry took a hold of #BMW . The headline-stealer of the time, and even now, was the range-topping M5. In the simplistic E39 platform its superb V8 engine matched to a six-speed manual gearbox gave a raw and unmolested hands-on driving experience. That’s something you could perhaps suggest is lacking in the subsequent fast Fives fitted with fancy SMG and DCT gearboxes.

    But the M5 wasn’t the only model to receive this V8/manual combination in a pre-electronics age E39. It’s easy to forget, especially now the model is a 15-year-old veteran, that there was already a V8-powered 5 Series available before the M5 came to power. Launched in May #1996 the 540i was introduced with a reworked version of the faithful M60 V8 that had appeared in the previous generation E34 5 Series. To bring it up-to-date for the new and improved platform capacity had been increased from an adequate 3982cc to a hearty 4398cc. Power remained at 286hp at 5700rpm but torque was up at 310lb ft and was available lower down the rev range at 3900rpm. The rack and pinion steering was replaced with a recirculating ball system to free up some space in the engine bay and the front axle carrier was made from steel rather than the aluminim used on other models to take the extra weight. 16-inch wheels, stiffer suspension and a leather interior were also part of the standard package for £43,130. With a 0-62mph time of just 6.2 seconds for the manual version and 6.6 seconds for the automatic, in this guise, the 540i enjoyed a twoyear spell as the all-conquering 5 Series until 1998 when the haloed M5 emerged for the first time.

    But whilst the new M car was to steal those aforementioned headlines, in the background the 540i also received a series of improvements, despite being knocked off the top spot. First came Dynamic Stability Control to replace the ageing Automatic Stability Control, but more crucial to the performance hungry consumers who didn’t want to venture into M territory was the introduction of Vanos to the M62 V8. Unlike the M5’s more complex Vanos setup, the M62 V8 models only received variable timing on the inlet side. The outright power figure didn’t actually increase whilst fuel economy only mildly improved but the torque figure took a turn for the better and now peaked at 325lb ft. That meaty figure wasn’t a long way off the M5’s 369lb ft and although performance on paper was no different, that extra torque made the car undoubtedly better to drive. However, despite the impressive figures, since the start of the 540i’s production the model was never really marketed as an outright performance saloon.

    Although a six-speed manual gearbox was standard the new-for-1996 five-speed Steptronic automatic was a no-cost option and, as a result, it was nearly always chosen. The manual was known for having a heavier clutch pedal than the six-cylinder cars but the automatic wasn’t exactly a fantastic gearbox and although the Steptronic function allowed you more control, its changes could still be painfully slow at times. This took the edge off the engine’s performance and removed some crucial driver involvement as well as decreasing performance. Although it was still no slouch with the auto it generally designated the 540i to a life of cruising motorways and A-roads as an executive express.

    In #1999 the perception of the 540i as a performance model was helped a long a little when the Sport version was introduced, which gained an aero kit, 17-inch M light alloys and Shadowline trim while on the inside there was a multi-function steering wheel and anthracite headlining. The price for the Sport package was actually a very reasonable £500, so unsurprisingly it was a common selection. A couple of years later the E39 as a whole received a face-lift and that included the 540i version.

    This meant angel-eye headlights, wider kidney grilles and different tail-lights and in 2002, the year before production stopped, 18-inch M Parallel wheels measuring nine-inches wide at the rear became standard fitment for normal 540i models, although the Sport still featured the smaller but lighter 17-inch wheels. The 18-inch wheels were a no cost option though and were often selected.

    That brief history of the 540i brings us nicely to the car we have pictured here. It ticks all of the major timeline boxes; it’s a 540i Sport that was first registered in December 2002, right at the end of production. It’s also a manual, which ironically has since become very desirable. Only a handful of these still exist, many having been either lost over the years to rot or ever-increasing running costs. Plus there are the cars that were pillaged for their drivetrain for all manner of hybrid creations.

    Thankfully, this example is still very much intact and is owned by reader Jag, the same owner of the E53 4.8iS X5 we featured last month. Clearly a man who is a glutton for fuel bill punishment, he again purchased the car on a bit of a whim after seeing it for sale on the internet. Having previously owned an E39 530i automatic, Jag had been yearning for a little more grunt and initially set his sights on the obvious choice – the E39 M5. But then he came across this 540i and upon realising it was a sought after manual version he decided he liked the idea of owning a rare and reputable 5 Series and snapped it up.

    Finished in Sterling grey with contrasting leather it’s a good example and Jag got a little lucky as it turned out a local BMW specialist previously owned the car as his personal car, so although it’s covered 130,000 miles it’s been well cared for. It also happens to have had plenty of costly options selected when it was new including sat nav, television and xenon headlights. But aside from the obvious options there are also some of the rarer and more novel selections from the options list, such as the electric window blinds and child booster seats in the rear.

    Although the car is good condition the sun has sadly bleached the once vibrant colour of the leather over the years, which is a shame but repairable. The rest of the interior still oozes that E39 charm that never really seems to go away. The cabin design has aged well and it all still feels reassuringly solid and just how you remember it. It’s very unimposing and simple in an almost relaxing sense; there’s no fancy iDrive system to master or push button engine start sequence to remember. Instead, a simple turn of a good old fashioned key in the steering column stirs the engine into a gentle burble that soon comes to rest on a soulful tickover note. Moving off, I find the clutch is far from what you would call heavy, although it’s immediately noticeable that the throw of the gear change feels long, very long. Current BMWs don’t have anywhere near the same amount of travel, making this feel a little odd. Out onto the open road and becoming reacquainted with the delightful E39 chassis soon makes up for the gear change misgivings. Although these V8-engined cars were fitted with what is generally regarded to be inferior recirculating ball steering it still feels precise with plenty of wonderful and weighted feedback, although it’s perhaps not as sharp as you might expect. Turn-in is direct but slightly dulled, not helped by the suspension, which feels a little soft, causing body roll when pushed. However, the E39 doesn’t feel like as big a car as it once did and it’s not the size or even the weight that seems to be a problem, it’s just simply softer compared to current BMWs, or an E39 M5 for instance, and that has a knock-on effect. The engine, however, is a peach and connected to the manual gearbox there’s much more control over its true ability, a strength that’s usually shrouded behind an automatic. This allows exploration of its potential in a new way.

    It’s clear from early on in both the rev range and on the speedo that there is plenty of grunt on tap, but its qualities are more complex than that. A majority of the torque arrives to the party early, as low as 1500rpm in fact and from there, once it’s risen up and riding its wave, it doesn’t tail off. It picks up the pace and carries it on, pulling effortlessly all the way through the rev counter until it reaches the 6000rpm mark when it seems like a good time to change gear. The engine feels quicker to react and quicker to rev with this gearbox, but the real beauty of the manual is being able to work the engine properly and changing gear gives a wonderful, rewarding sense of interaction when you’re pushing that V8 harder. When you do change up a gear it lands right back into its rather large sweet spot once again, delivering a pleasant and forceful kick as it regains momentum as you let the clutch out. All the time it is accompanied by a glorious, throaty, V8 soundtrack.

    However, the experience is bitter sweet. Throttle response is a little dull and whilst it’s refreshing changing gears and delving into the V8’s ability in a new way, the gear change itself isn’t exactly great. If it was noticeably long at slow speeds, it’s twice as bad during quicker changes, now giving it a vague feeling, too. It feels unnatural and out of kilter with the free rein you’re provided over that engine and that’s a shame really, considering the key ingredients are there. It doesn’t stop it being an overall pleasant drive and it’s still easy to drive fast as once it’s making its torque it doesn’t need the full 6000rpm to gain pace, but it takes away the edge to make it truly great.

    Combined with the slightly soft suspension and lack of sharp throttle response it’s probably best to describe the manual version of a 540i as a toned down M5 – but then that’s exactly what it is in theory. Bearing in mind the M car was over £15,000 more at the time it’s really no surprise to find that the 540i lacks a little of that focused finesse that the M5 excels at; however, that doesn’t stop it being a very potent and soulful executive express with some character. The manual gearbox itself may not hit the spot but the new dimension it opens up for the engine more than makes up for it. If only people had known how much better it was over an automatic 15 years ago there might just be a few more around to enjoy now…

    With 286hp and 325lb ft of torque the V8-engined #BMW-540i was certainly no slouch.

    TECH DATA #BMW-540i-E39 / #BMW-E39
    ENGINE: 32-valve, V8 #M62 / #M62B44
    CAPACITY: 4398cc
    MAX POWER: 286hp
    MAX TORQUE: 325lb ft
    TOP SPEED: 155mph
    0-62MPH: 6.2 seconds
    ECONOMY: 23.0mpg

    Out on the open road the delightful E39 chassis soon makes up for the gear change misgivings.

    Only a handful of these still exist, many having been either lost to rot or ever-increasing running costs. Plenty of toys to play with here; integrated child seats were an unusual option. Manual E39s are relatively rare, especially when hooked up to the mighty V8 engine.
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