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    AMERICAN BEAUTY / #BMW-E28 / #BMW-E28-S52-swapped / #BMW-E28-S52 / #BMW-E28-CAtuned / #BMW / #CAtuned /

    Utterly stunning supercharged BMW E28 with built S52 swap. CAtuned’s latest creation is this absolutely stunning S52-swapped supercharged E28. Mixing classic Euro styling with some eccentric touches and a whole heap of power, this gorgeous E28 does things a bit differently and we love it… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Denis Podmarkov.

    As far as feature cars are concerned, 2015 was a good year for the E28 and its fans. We had no less than four stunning examples of the classic Five, each very different to the other. Three of them were big-power turbocharged examples and the other was a lush S38- swapped machine from the UK. It was a good spread of great cars and a strong sign that the E28 is a firm favourite on the modified BMW scene. We’ve barely scratched the surface of 2016 and we’ve already had the pleasure of a supercharged E28 pair last month and now we’ve got another E28 to enjoy that boasts both an engine swap and forced induction. It really is a stunner.

    When this car popped into the PBMW inbox it elicited a very positive reaction from us all. Big smiles and lots of head nodding all-round because it’s that sort of car, the kind of car that makes your day. There’s so much attention to detail, so many special details, it just makes us happy. Not as happy, though, as its owner. Ash Evans is the lucky guy who, when he’s not overhauling light rail trains, gets to enjoy cruising in the California sunshine in this E28.

    For Ash, the car recalls fond memories. “My dad had a 1986 Bahama Beige 528e,” he tells us, “and I remember tagging along with him on the weekends to the local race track where he was a trackside announcer. I can distinctly remember him loving that car. And, as all young lads want to be like their dads, I knew then that I wanted a 5 Series.

    Like every first love there is something about the smell, sound and understated styling that was intoxicating and addictive. There is also something special about the handling of BMWs in the twisties to which no other automaker can compare.”

    Ash began his Bavarian journey with a 2001 E46 330Ci, which he loved and, as a self-confessed tinkerer, it was inevitable that his cars would end up modified. Although, when the E28 appeared in his life, going this far was not part of the plan. “I was looking for a classic BM and received some good advice from a friend,” Ash revealed. “He advised that when shopping for an old car, it’s best to find the cleanest example you can so you have a solid foundation.

    “My preference was a Bahama Beige or Schwartz E28. I shopped for six months, finally deciding on this Schwartz that I nicknamed Black Shug. The previous owner of the car was an estate agent from Boulder, Colorado. She purchased it new from Beverly Hills #BMW and used it to sell homes in Los Angeles until she moved to Colorado. It was always stored in her garage and this was evident by the lack of corrosion. In my profession, corrosion is a nightmare and a budget killer.”

    The car in question is a 528e, exactly like the one his dad owned all those years ago. In Europe we know it as the 525e. Both badges are numerically incorrect anyway, as the low-revving, efficiency-orientated M20 under the bonnet is a 2.7.

    Ash says initially his plan was to keep things simple, replacing worn components, upgrading the suspension and fitting some more attractive wheels. As he admits, though, this is a slippery slope and everything changed when he came into contact with the team at CAtuned.

    This name will be familiar to anyone into modified BMs as the Californian contingent has been behind numerous PBMW feature cars. Brothers Igor, Max and Co. always produce incredible builds, finished to the highest standards. “When I moved to Sacramento, I reached out to CAtuned because I was interested in its E28 coilover setup, big brake kit and subframe bushes.

    After the suspension installation, I casually asked about the cost to complete a motor overhaul. After walking through its shop and observing the incredible builds and swaps the guys were capable of, I knew instantly the overhauled M20 would need to be replaced with something more powerful and perhaps unusual. The S52 was practically decided on that day and, as with any project, the goal quickly amplified. Soon we were discussing the copper trim, a custom gauge cluster, and a sport interior!”


    The S52 is an interesting choice for an E28 swap; the non-e M20 or the M30, both period-correct engines for the E28, are great candidates for forced induction and what you’d usually expect to see on a Euro car rocking a serious turbo setup. The US-only iron block S52, though, is readily available in the States and has plenty of aftermarket support in terms of power upgrades, not least because of its 81hp shortfall compared to the European S50B32 which, usefully, includes off-the-shelf supercharger kits for plenty of power with minimal fuss. “The engine was a transplant from a 2001 E36 M3. It’s not a direct swap so CAtuned’s engineers built custom mounts,” explains Ash. “During the disassembly of the donor engine, we found some scarring on the cylinder walls so we sent the block to the machine shop, ordering all forged internals, porting and polishing the head, installing high flow valves and springs, and a Schrick cam. It’s all held together properly with ARP bolts. It was my goal to have a powerful engine and make the swap something unique and the VF Engineering V3 Si-trim supercharger kit was an excellent option for a reliable increase in power. The tuning and engine management was completed by RKtunes and maximises all the power available with the 8-9psi. The overhauled ZF gearbox, limited-slip differential and short-throw linkage makes for an incredible connection to the abundant power.”


    And just how much power is this E28 putting out? Well, the S52 VF kit is good for 350hp and 295lb ft of torque on a stock engine at 6psi. With the extensively uprated internals and increased boost pressure it’s got to be at least 400hp, which is going to feel like a whole lot more in an E28.

    “The engine transplant is my favourite modification on the whole car,” grins Ash. “The power is linear, controlled and very addictive. Simply put, the car eats Tarmac in a hurry and I could not be happier with this decision.”


    And what about those CAtuned coilovers and chassis upgrades, the reason he went to CAtuned in the first place? “Most Americans love drag racing in a straight line,” he says, “but this chassis was designed to canyon carve with the most driver feedback possible. Therefore, CAtuned engineers helped decide on a coilover setup that would allow for a very sporty and responsive feel, predictable handling and allow a proper aesthetic. I could not be happier with their setup, especially considering the adjustable dampening for the front and rear.”

    As you can see, Ash is not a man who does things by halves and that extends to the styling of the car, both inside and out, which is both incredibly subtle yet at the same time absolutely wonderful. At first glance, you might not notice much but once you get up close, that’s when you can drink in all the delicious details.

    “I love having the performance of a race car but I do not want to be too obvious,” explains Ash. “I was aiming to keep the general styling of the E28 but wanted something very unique.” Well he’s achieved exactly that, with copper brightwork sitting aside the original chrome trim. On paper the idea of copper trim components perhaps doesn’t sound like it should work but the copper is incredible subtle, not overdone or overused. It’s very pale and delicate, almost leaning more towards a gold tone than a copper penny. “In general, I feel that the copper and chrome trim complements the Schwartz paint,” says Ash.

    And we agree. Adding the copper highlights to the door handles, E12 door mirror (there’s only one), and bumper trims gives the styling an extra visual element. It’s as unusual as it is inspired and an eye-catching touch on a car that otherwise has been largely left unspoiled by the addition of unwanted addenda.

    The wheels are a slightly unusual choice for an E28, a car which naturally seems to suit cross-spokes. Ash was even planning to refurbish a set of Style 5s for the car but then Igor stepped in and offered up something that was too special to turn down. “Igor always has something up his sleeve and I could not be happier with the extremely rare one-off two-piece HRE fivespokes he suggested,” says Ash. “When he sent me a picture showing me the wheels on the car, I was sold.”

    The simple five-spokes look fantastic on the Five. The polished lips and faces tie in nicely with the rest of the shiny exterior details but our favourite part of the car’s styling has got to be that side exit exhaust. It’s just so unexpected on a car like this and really stands out. There’s a hint that something’s going on here, its bolted-on heat shield stained black, a tell-tale sign that Ash enjoys driving this car properly.

    Inside the changes are, once again, subtle but purposeful and the devil is in the details. “Similar to the exterior, I wanted the interior to be refreshed but keep its OEM feel,” says Ash. “It was a CAtuned team effort and we decided on black cloth Corbeau GT2 driver and passenger seats, refurbished doorcards, new black cloth headliner, new black carpet with upgraded sound deadening and insulation, a Blaupunkt stereo, a subtle gauge cluster, and an Alpina steering wheel. You’ll also find some #BMW-Motorsports bits.”


    The seats look fantastic and not at all out of place in the E28. The auxiliary gauges are neatly mounted in custom pods, tucked away, visible but not showy. There’s a modern Sport gear knob and we love the classic, freshly refurbished four-spoke Alpina steering wheel. The custom instrument cluster from Bavarian Restoration has had the needles and instrument bezels gilded and even the palm tree element of CAtuned’s logo has received a touch of gold. It’s a lovely touch, and indicative of the level of detail that’s gone into the whole build.

    To our eyes this is a car that’s got it right on every level. It has been assembled with as much care for the details as for the overall ethos of the build. Modifications have been done in moderation. The subtle changes have created a sleeper that embraces various styling elements. We love how Ash has managed to surprise us with unexpected additions yet he brings them all together in perfect harmony. It’s a car you cannot fail to admire and one you can easily love.

    DATA FILE Supercharged E28

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.2-litre straight-six #S52B32 / #S52 / #BMW-S52 , forged internals including custom forged pistons, custom camshafts, custom Stage 3 supercharger with #RK-Tunes tune, custom exhaust system with side-exit tip, five-speed manual gearbox, LSD.

    CHASSIS 8x17” (front and rear) one-off HRE Vintage two-piece wheels with 215/45 (front and rear) Falken Ziex ZE950 tyres, #Motorsport-Hardware spacers and studs, CAtuned coilovers, heavy duty front and rear anti-roll bars, CAtuned polybushes throughout, CAtuned rear camber kit, all E28 M5 suspension upgrades, CAtuned big brake upgrade front and rear.

    EXTERIOR Euro styling upgrades, Renewed Finishes copper finish on all metal parts, E12 exterior mirror and passenger filler, 35 per cent tint all-round.

    INTERIOR Custom Bavarian Restoration gauge cluster with exclusive CAtuned insignia, custom readout gauges in dash, Corbeau GT2 cloth seats, custom CAtuned black headliner, custom glass sunroof.

    THANKS A very special thank you to all the guys at the CAtuned shop, it was a team effort. Igor with the amazing vision, Stan for the bodywork and paint, Max for the incredible fabrication, Alex for headliner and interior, and Ivan for helping to keep me focused. I would also like to thank Greg from Bavarian Restoration for the gauge cluster and Dave from Renewed Finishes for the beautiful copper work.
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