- Post is under moderationGREED IS GOOD #BMW-Alpina-B7-Turbo-E28 vs. #BMW-M5-E28 #Hartge-E28
In the 1980s many people had money to burn, and it is thanks to them #Alpina and #Hartge found a ready market for their wild Fives. Words: Bob Harper. Pictures: James Mann.
Back in the 1980s economies were booming and there were plenty of well heeled individuals who were prepared to pay handsomely for something a little bit more exclusive than your standard #BMW . Although the original #BMW-M5 was not a run-of the mill machine, both Alpina and Hartge offered alternatives which were snapped up by rich businessmen after an individual touch. Given the excellence of BMW's own product, could it be two small but dedicated manufacturers could actually improve on the M5?
But why is the M5 such an all time great? Firstly it has the sort of performance which in its day was simply staggering. This was the first of the real supersaloons from a major manufacturer, and it can still embarrass many of today's high performance machines.
Secondly, it handled The #E28 5 Series was often criticised for its wayward behaviour - it was not unknown for the front and rear ends to swap positions without much provocation, and while Munich's M-men were unable to completely eradicate this behaviour, its handling was fantastic. Only a ham fisted pilot would lose an M5. such was its communicative nature.
Alpina had actually been producing faster fives for longer than #BMW itself.
The #E12 #M535i was BMWs first attempt at a really quick saloon and was introduced in 1980 to very favourable review. Alpina, however, had had a devastating quick #BMW-5-Series in its armoury since 1978, the E12 B7 Tuftx), which featured a 3-litre turbocharged straight-six.
Thus when the #BMW-E12 evolved into the #BMW-E28 5 Series, it was a logical progression on Alpina's part to re-manufacture it into a second generation of fire- breathing saloons. The #BMW-E28-Alpina B7 Turbo utilised the latest generation of BMW's big six with a swept volume of 3430cc, but with significant internal changes. There was a modified cylinder head, lighter #Mahle pistons, a new camshaft, a custom exhaust manifold and a #KKK #KKK-K27 turbocharger. Power was quoted as 300bhp at 5800rpm, 14bhp more than the yet to arrive twin-cam engined M5, while torque was way up on the M-car, 331lb ft at 3000rpm, compared to 250lb ft at 4500rpm for the M5.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the B7 Turbo was quicker than Munich’s finest, I66mph compared to 150mph, and a quoted 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds, compared to the M5's 6.3 seconds. Strangely, very few contemporary motoring magazines tested the Alpina, but the Swedish magazine Teknikens Varfd did strap a fifth wheel to the car, and the figures it achieved makes Alpina's own look somewhat conservative: 0-62mph in £.8 seconds, 0-125mph in 17 seconds and a top speed of 168mph. Even the new M5 struggles to match these results.
Naturally this level of performance demanded changes in the suspension and braking departments, as well as the fitment of Alpina’s trademark multispoke wheel rims. The suspension featured #Bilstein gas pressure dampers with progressive rate springs, while the brakes were upgraded with #Girling discs, ventilated at the front. Sixteen-inch wheels were shod with 205/55 tyres at the front, and 225/50s at the rear.
Like other Alpina's, the interior was upgraded with extra instruments, including the company's neat digital readout incorporated into one of the fresh air vents, as well as the trademark green and blue flash on the seats. The steering wheel and gearknob were substituted for Alpina items, and an adjustable boost control was mounted on the centre console next to the handbrake. Externally, there was to be no mistaking the B7 Turbo for a lesser model, its spoilers and decal kit saw to that.
If the Alpina wore its heart on its sleeve, the Hartge M5 was externally more muted, but that's not to say it was any less impressive. Like Alpina. Hartge had been remanufacturing 5 Series’ for a number of years before it released its ultimate version. Poor to the release of the M5, it too concentrated on the 3430cc unit, modifying the head, fitting a special camshaft and manifold, as well as adding a freer flowing exhaust system. These changes improved both power and torque, to rival Alpina's nonturbo charged B9 3.5 litre models.
However, unlike Alpina, who always concentrated on the 12-valve units, Hartge decided to base its ultimate 5 Series on the M5. Thus BMW's twin-cam 24 valve 3453cc masterpiece was breathed on by Hartge to produce 330bhp, up from the original's 286bhp. This was achieved mainly via the use of high-lift camshafts and a special exhaust, and the conversion sacrificed torque in the quest for ultimate power.
Naturally Hartge upgraded the suspension to include stiffer dampers and lowered springs, dropping the car by approximately 25mm. The chassis was further tightened with the adoption of a strut brace between the front suspension turrets, and a set of 16-inch #Hartge classic wheels wearing 225/50 rubber at the front and 245/45 at the rear completed the basic conversion.
Where Alpina produced a standard car with an options list, Hartge's approach was slightly more flexible. There was the basic conversion, and customers could stop there if they wanted. However, you could add front and rear spoilers to improve high speed stability, a decal set to announce that this was no ordinary M5, and the interior could be fitted with a variety of enhancements from steering wheels and gearknobs to extra instruments.
Unfortunately, no motoring magazine tested a Hartge M5, but with 330bhp it was no slouch and you can expect the benchmark 0-60 dash to be dispensed with quicker than BMW's standard offering, while top speed was also improved.
But enough of the history, how do the cars compare today? To find out we took a #1984 #Alpina-B7-Turbo and pitched it against a remarkably standard looking #1987 Hartge M5. The Alpina shows its intent straightaway with its deep front air dam and stripes leaving you with no illusions that this is going to be a quick car. The Hartge on the other hand is far more discrete, and, as 'our' car was entirely debadged, a quick glance could easily mistake it for a 518i on a tasty set of alloys, one would believe this car can frighten virtually any supercar you choose to name.
Despite the different methods employed to achieve their power outputs we expected both cars to behave in a similar manner - all or nothing. The Alpina has massive reserves of torque, but below 3000rm when the turbocharger has yet to spin in anger we thought it would be flat in the extreme. Similarly, the high lift cams of the Hartge should produce low rev lethargy with high-end frenzy.
In reality things were quite different Put quite simply, the performance of the Alpina is awesome. At low revs it feels quicker than say an M535i, but when the turbocharger kicks in it really does force you back into your seat as if you were strapped into a jet fighter at take off. You find yourself constantly slewing down, just so you can speed up again to provide yourself with another adrenaline buzz.
The Hartge delivers in a different manner. This particular car has had some changes made to its engine management control unit to eradicate a flat spot at around 2000rpm and to provide more midrange torque, and it is estimated it now has in the region of 280lb ft at one's disposal. Where a standard M5 takes time to get going, the Hartge flies from the word go.
There is no noticeably step in its delivery, with the rev counter needle simply flying round to its redline, allowing you to repeat the process in the next gear. On first acquaintance it doesn't have the immediate kick of the Alpina, but a quick glance at the speedo reveals it to deceptively quick. The only drawback is its real urge comes at the sort of speeds where the authorities tear up your licence and throw away the key.
Subjectively, the Alpina feels the quicker car in a straight line, but once some challenging bends are thrown into the equation, the tables start to turn in the Hartge's favour. This is in part due to its lower stance and more overtly sporting set up. Like the standard M5, the steering is wonderfully communicative, providing plenty of feel and feedback, allowing the car to be precisely placed in bends. Crip is of the highest order, better than both the Alpina and the original M5. The linear nature of the car’s power delivery also helps to inspire confidence when pressing on, as you know it is not going to suddenly come on cam mid bend.
In a straight line the Alpina's power delivery is its trump card, but when it comes to cornering it becomes the car's Achilles heel, particularly on a damp road It is not wayward in its behaviour, but you have to make sure you don’t make the transition from no boost to full boost mid-bend. The steering is direct and has a meaty feel to it, partially the result of having a smaller diameter wheel. It is by no means as stiffly sprung as the Hartge, so there is a lot more bodyroll to accompany spirited comenng. It grips well enough, but is not as composed as the Hartge.
Once again, the tables are turned when it comes to ride quality. The Hartge has a much firmer ride, which deteriorates quite markedly on poorly surfaced B-roads. On smooth roads it is fine, but passengers are likely to complain if you take to the back roads. The #Alpina is a more comfortable companion in terms of ride, a payback for its less than perfect cornering manners.
While much of what came out of the 1980s should be confined to the history books, we have to say we are delighted that the decade's culture of greed prompted such fine machinery as the Hartge M5 and the Alpina B7 Turbo.
As a complete package, the Hartge is hard to beat. It has staggering performance, excellent grip and its handling inspires confidence. The Alpina is slightly rougher round the edges; its power delivery could certainly catch out the unwary, but despite this flaw its spoilers and stripes sum up the era better than the discrete Hartge. Of the two cars, it is the one that lingers in our minds. The B7 Turbo's performance is addictive and as we handed back the keys we knew withdrawal would be painful.
It should there-fore come as no surprise that the B7 Turbo was quicker than Munich’s finest
Hartge utilise M5 standard gearbox... while Alpina uses a dog-leg #Getrag box.
No badge makes #BMW-E28-Hartge a real Q car .
At least you know what passed you.
No one would believe this car can frighten virtually any supercar you choose to name.
Two variations on a theme. Turbo or multi-valve #M88 or #M30 . Both offer huge performance. #BMW-M5-Hartge-E28
Neat digital readout shows boost pressure and temperature.
The Left-hand drive only Alpine's cockpit typical of the era.
Classic, simple 16-inch rims. Hartge-version on the left. Alpina's on the right.
Hartge interior is more sober, but M5 spec is comprehensive.
The Alpina's looks leave you in no doubt this is a serious performance machine.
Hartge’s lower stance ensures excellent grip and inspired handling.
#E28 #BMW-M5 - #Alpina-B7-Turbo - #Hartge-M5
Engine 24 valve - 12 valve, Turbocharged, - 24 valve
Capacity 3453cc - 3430cc - 3453cc
Stroke/bore 84x93.4mm - 88x92mm - 84x93.4mm
Power 285hp @ 6500rpm - 300bhp @ 5800pm - 330bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 250lb ft @ 4500rpm - 331lb ft @ 3300rpm - 280lb ft @ 3600rpm
front 225/50 ZR16 - 205/55 ZR16 - 225/50 ZR16
rear 225/50 ZR16 - 225/50 ZR16 - 245/45 ZR16
Maximum speed - 153mph - 167mph - 160mph (est)
0-62mph 6.3 seconds – 4.8 seconds – 5.5 seconds (est)
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- Post is under moderationGOING THE DISTANCE
The #BMW-E28 seems to be getting a lot of love these days and this super-slick bagged example is proof of that. Kevin Sköld doesn’t let such trivialities as distance or complexity get in the way of building his dream car. He just grits his teeth and gets on with it... Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Scott Paterson.
“There and then I decided that it was the car for me… the only issue was that it was 800 miles away from my home”
It’s a shame you’re so far away’. How many times have you seen that phrase appear on forum for sale threads? Whether the item in question is a pair of seats, a set of wheels, or an entire car, there’s a good chance that someone on the thread’s going to pipe up with ‘that’s just what I’m looking for, I wish you were closer’.
This, if you’ll permit a moment’s cynicism, just isn’t good enough. Let’s say you’re on the lookout for – to pluck a random example out of the ether – a red E34 with a grey interior, with low mileage and original paint. Quite a specific aspiration, yes. But then one becomes available at a price you’d be foolish to baulk at, with the only perceived hurdle being that it’s 200 miles away from where you live. What do you do? If it was me, I’d be in like Flynn.
Straight up there on the next train, readies in hand, eager to get to know the new car in the best way possible: by driving it, and a really decent distance too. Ditto wheels – so what if you’re in Canterbury and they’re in Glasgow? Fly up there, bring ’em home in a suitcase. You’re not Levison Wood, hiking the length of the Nile on foot over a nine month period, living off starlings and bushrats that you’ve taken down with a home-made catapult. If the thing in question is what you want, then it’s what you want. You only live once. Go get it.
I’m massively over-simplifying, of course. Time and travel costs can always be significant factors, every case is unique. But if it’s a question of taking a couple of days of your life to bring home the car of your dreams, and you’re in a position to do so, then you’ll find yourself inducted into the oh-so-cool club of everyday automotive adventurers – those who are prepared to go the extra mile to make stuff happen.
Sweden’s Kevin Sköld is one such person. “I’ve always wanted an E28,” he explains. “The precision with which it’s formed, the design, the fact that it’s a little less common than other old-school BMWs over here… and, of course, Mike Burroughs was a huge influence.” For those of you who don’t know what an internet is, the revered Burroughs is the brains behind the perennially popular Stanceworks franchise; his cherished ‘Rusty Slammington’ 5 Series developed online like a TV series, with twists in the tale including custom rust effects, a slammed trailer, a roofchop, WWII bomber aesthetics, and ultimate destruction by fire. It was like Scorsese directed it, and the E28 became the poster boy of retro stance for a generation of fashion-forward young enthusiasts.
“I just knew it was the car I had to have,” says Kevin. “I was particularly on the lookout for a black or grey one, but their scarcity in Sweden meant that I was looking for a long time with no luck. And then one day, the perfect car popped up on blocket.se, which is like our version of Craigslist or Gumtree.
There and then, I decided that it was the car for me – it was a #BMW-520i in Dolphin grey, it had straight bodywork, was unrestored and still wearing its original paint… the only issue was that it was in Pajala, which is around 800 miles from my home. But it was the car I wanted, so I got a flight to Pajala, bought it, and drove it home.” Interestingly, he’s not presenting this as a great hardship, or an achievement that he’s expecting plaudits and slaps on the back for – it’s just what he did.
He wanted to buy a particular car, he found one, he went to get it. Simple as that. “It ran great all the way home, there wasn’t a single problem,” he says. Again, he’s not expressing surprise, it’s just a statement of fact. Classic BMW reliability, eh?
Having got the thing home, it was time to figure out the next step. This kind of story never ends with the acquisition of the car; yes, it’s an ambition fulfilled, but this would be a short magazine if it was all about people searching for used cars and then buying them. Not a lot of intrigue there. So where does the intrigue arise in the saga of Kevin’s E28?
Well, in a sense you could say that it stems back to 2007, when Mike Burroughs first acquired his E28 and set about altering the landscape of the retro modifying scene by harnessing social media to disseminate some radical ideas about wheels and ride height.
While there’s no direct link between his build and Kevin’s, there’s an ideological thread that ties them forever together. This pretty much informs the answer when Kevin is asked what his initial reaction to the car was when he got it home after that lengthy road trip. “I was thinking about wide old split-rim wheels and air-ride suspension,” he deadpans.
Well, why not? If you’ve grown up surrounded by aspirational images of such things circulating online, it’s an understandable approach. It’s easier to make your dreams come true if you set them out to be achievable in the first place, right? “So then it was just a case of saving up the money to make it happen,” he continues. “This isn’t easy when you’re still at school. But after a couple of years, I got there.” You have to admire his clarity of vision.
The suspension setup he ended up going with came courtesy of those nice folks at Air Lift. To keep things affordable, Kevin bought a universal air-ride kit comprising bags, struts and the highly regarded AutoPilot V2 management. “I fitted it all myself, all of the welding and fabrication that was required happened at home in my garage,” he explains. “For the wheels, I sourced a set of OZ Breytons.” We don’t ask where he got them, as we prefer to believe that they were hundreds of miles from his home, and he had to forge a swashbuckling adventure to collect them, setting out on foot in his snowshoes, wrestling bears and fighting off dragons with his mighty flaming sword. This may or may not be the case. But however it happened, you have to agree that the Breytons are a fine choice – they’re one of those designs that look oh-so-right on any number of cars, and they’re not all that common so they’re just the thing for point-scoring in Scene Top Trumps, if that kind of thing is your bag.
“I wanted to finish the wheels in a colour that’d stand out, to make them even more eye-catching,” Kevin recalls, “and after a lot of thinking I decided that a lollipop red powdercoat would complement the stock Dolphin grey paint well.” He’s right, they look fantastic under those factory-standard (if slightly teased and tickled) arches.
We’ve got to hand it to Kevin – his homegrown engineering skills have truly come into their own with the chassis mods on this car, something which is most evident when he flicks the switch and airs the thing out. The amount of trial-and-error and time-consuming infinitesimal adjustments to get it all just-so don’t really bear thinking about – although for somebody with his perspective on distance-versus-reward, he probably views time as an equally malleable and potentially sacrificial commodity. You just do what you’ve got to do to achieve the fancy idea in your head. There are no difficult tasks, just as there are no difficult journeys… some just take longer than others.
You can’t argue with the results, either – stretched tyres and the whole tuck/poke/ flush debate may leave a sour taste with some of you, but others will lap it up, and the latter group will undoubtedly doff their caps to the manner in which the rear arches sit perfectly between the Breytons’ lips and the tyres’ sidewalls when the E28 lowers itself. Such precision measurement is a work of art – or, more accurately, a work of craft.
You may also be unsurprised to learn that we catch Kevin’s #BMW 520i in a state of flux. Never one to cool his heels when there’s a-modifyin’ to be done, he’s been working hard to push the project onward to its next phase of evolution. “The stock drivetrain remains for now,” he says, “but it’s always been the plan to get a Toyota 1JZ engine in there at some point. Although the original M20 has done about 345,000km now, so it might seem like a bit of a shame to eventually take it out!” Yeah, we bet – Kevin probably managed to clock all of that up in half a dozen journeys…
And while our lens has captured the BMW in arguably its finest state of dress, wearing as it does its original paint, Kevin has since seen fit to perfect a few minor niggles and repaint the whole thing, again in Dolphin grey. Oh, and he’s fitted a black leather interior from an E34 (we don’t ask where that came from either, Iceland or something probably) as well as a set of JDM Work VS-XX wheels, much like you’ll find on the E46 M3 elsewhere in this issue. We imagine he had to sail to Japan in a boat he made from hope and twigs in order to haul them back to Sweden.
It’s often said that projects, like so many things in life, are as much about the journey as the destination, and that’s very much the case here. But sometimes, it’s also just about doing what you want to do, and to hell with any perceived difficulties or hurdles. ‘It’s a shame you’re not closer’? Ah, it’s only a shame for you – someone with more tenacity will be along shortly to snap that project up. No-one ever looks back on their life in their dotage and says ‘I wish I’d been less impulsive’. Kevin Sköld certainly won’t.
“I wanted to finish the wheels in a colour that would stand out and decided that a red powdercoat would complement the stock Dolphin grey paint well”
DATA FILE #BMW-520i-E28 #M20
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.0-litre straight-six #M20B20 , #Getrag #Getrag-260 five-speed manual.
CHASSIS: 10.5x17” ET -10 (front) and 11x17” ET -15 (rear) #OZ Breytons with 205/40 Dunlop (front) and 215/40 Hifly (rear) tyres, universal Air Lift system incorporating bags, dampers and AutoPilot V2 management.
EXTERIOR: Stock #E28 with original Dolphin grey paint, pulled arches
INTERIOR: Stock E28, Junction Produce neck pillows, Nardi steering wheel and matching wood gear knob
Stance and fitment are absolutely on point with this E28 while a couple of tasteful woody additions finish off the interior.
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- Post is under moderationRetro muscle: M3-powered #BMW-E28 . Daily Express. A finely-fettled #E28 5 Series fitted with an #S50 #M3 engine and six-speed gearbox to boot. With period perfect looks there’s nothing to give the game away that this E28 happens to be packing over 320hp from an M3 engine and matching six-speed gearbox… Words: Simon Holmes. Photography: Laurens Parsons.
There’s something rather wonderful about a well-executed engine conversion, especially on an older car. The idea of transforming a conventional, run-of-the-mill model from the past into something exceptional by today’s standards demonstrates a unique sense of creativity and innovation. Of course, the real trick is tailoring the package to harmonise together and, truth be told, it can be a tricky formula to nail.
This E28 seems to tick all the right boxes though. It looks virtually standard in every way both inside and out, yet there are small, understated touches inkeeping with the original theme, such as the wheels and seats. But beneath the bodywork is where it gets really interesting. Supplying the power is a 3.2-litre S50 engine from an E36 M3 Evo, producing over 320hp, and it’s coupled to a modern six-speed gearbox. With a mix of modified M parts and upgraded underpinnings to match, the 1980s 5 Series is brought firmly up-to-date and for the owner, James Cherrington, it also makes for an ideal daily driver and family car.
James is the man behind JFI Classic Cars, a successful restoration business that specialises in BMWs. James appeared in this magazine before when we featured his 2002 back in September 2013. Although James’ beloved classic BMW was thoroughly modernised with fuel injection and uprated running gear, the stiff ride, roll-cage and lack of rear seats had made it whole lot less usable than he had intended for it to be. James soon found he couldn’t enjoy the car with his family and, not long after the feature, he decided to sell it.
This left a project car-sized hole in his life and it was James’ wife who proposed the idea of trying a different route next time around. “She suggested building a car I could take the whole family out in, “ tells James. “Something more comfortable that I could use every day but still have some fun with or even take on track if I wanted to.” The concept appealed to James but with a taste for older BMWs he wanted something a little different to the average modern-day mile-muncher. Fortunately he didn’t have to look particularly far for the project base car as the ideal candidate just happened to be waiting patiently in his barn: an E28 528i.
Being a man firmly in touch with the classic #BMW scene James had purchased the standard and original car around three years ago for no other reason than it was cheap and in very good condition. “I wasn’t looking for one, I just saw it advertised and it looked very clean. So I phoned the owner and bought it. I had it collected and delivered to me without even seeing it. It was almost a spur of the moment thing really,” tells James. The tidy Five was then, rather unceremoniously, stored in the barn for safekeeping until the right time presented itself. It spent the next year or so there but when the 2002 was sold, James knew it was time to bring the car out of hibernation.
Whilst the E28 formed a firm footing for the project, the other key ingredients were still to be determined but then James had a brainwave. He’d previously owned various other BMWs, including a fine example of an E36 M3 Evo, and although it was perhaps a little too new for his liking the car made quite an impression. “I loved the combination of that engine with that gearbox,” he recalls. “So I decided it was a good idea to put that package in the 5 Series. It also seemed like a cheap way to more power. Where else could you get over 320hp for the money?”
With a plan now gathering pace the hunt began for a suitable M3 to harvest the engine and gearbox from. After some searching for a bargain buy, James came across what seemed like the ideal donor in a cheap convertible. He promptly rushed up to see the car and, in doing so, made a grave error that actually worked out rather well for him! “The car was a quite a few miles away but I was in such a rush to see it I didn’t even think to ask if it was a manual!” he says. “When I got there I saw it was an SMG I said to the owner that I was sorry for wasting his time as it wasn’t what I was looking for.” However, keen to sell the car quickly, the owner asked James what he was prepared to offer him anyway. Although he didn’t really want the car at this point James gave a lowball figure and the seller ended up accepting. The hard top roof and remaining tax and MoT further sweetened the deal.
The last piece to the puzzle was yet another donor car, this time a cheap E34 520i, which would yield a few essentials for the conversion, such as the sump and pick-up pipe. With the cars then stripped of their appropriate parts James gave the S50 M3 engine a thorough freshen up by treating it to new gaskets, oil and water pumps and uprated con rod bolts. The SMG transmission was retained but sent off to be converted over to manual engagement, as only the clutch and gear change operation are different. “It also made sense as I knew the gearbox hadn’t had a hard life having never been over-revved or crunched,” tells James.
Bolted together and fitted with the correct sump it was then a matter of sliding the refreshed combo in the awaiting E28 shell. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. “I thought it would be easier than it was. The gearbox was bigger than I realised and that proved to be a problem as I wanted to keep the transmission tunnel standard,” admits James. “So a lot of work went into mounting the engine and gearbox as low as possible to give clearance at the top the tunnel. It’s a little lower than I wanted really and the engine mounts are perhaps stiffer than I would have liked but it fits in there nicely now.”
A custom-made exhaust system was fabricated for the car and Dave at Astbury Motorworks made a great job of the wiring as James wasn’t used to that side of things, having dealt mainly in simpler 2002s! A Walbro fuel pump was fitted in the existing tank to supply the fuel and a single-mass flywheel conversion installed to improve response and reduce weight. Once the engine and gearbox were in position James turned his attention to the rest of the car. Wanting a firm but comfortable ride and careful not to follow the same route as his previous 2002, #GAZ-Gold coilovers were installed as a way to allow the ride height and comfort levels to be easily altered when required. “I couldn’t run it too low for the road but this way I could still adjust it for track use. It’s also polybushed on Powerflex Black Series track bushes. I did try the yellow ones but it was too soft and there’s surprisingly little noise or vibration from them,” James says. He also used his superior brand knowledge when it came to the rear trailing arm bushes, which are now fitted with the items from a 3.8-litre E34 M5. “These were one of very few BMWs to use spherical bearings. They don’t use any rubber and required a bit of machining to make them work as they are an interference fit but they are really good and work even for this as a road car,” James adds.
The brakes to complete the package are also from an E34 M5, both front and back, but these were subjected to a full rebuild and overhaul by James before fitting.
With the hidden underpinnings firmly in place it then came to the finishing touches elsewhere. James’s approach was very much ‘less is more’. “I didn’t want anything on display. It’s not that I particularly wanted to build a sleeper, I just like the look of these cars as they are so I left it as it was. The plus side is that people don’t tend to realise what it is,” James explains.
The wheels were one thing that had to be changed as the original metric items didn’t provide many tyre options, so James sourced these perfectly-suited 16-inch Style 5 replacements wrapped in a modern and grippy tyre. “I wanted it to look like a standard car so these were ideal. It’s hard to tell they aren’t original really and the tyres are excellent, which helps as they are only 235mm wide,” says James.
For the last few remaining parts James then bought himself yet another donor car in the shape of a tired E28 525e. The car happened to have a few hard-tofind parts that would suit the project perfectly, such as the rare large-case LSD and interior trim. “I basically bought the car just for the sports seats, which are very rare and must have been an option. They were mint and even the right colour, too! The Germanmade #VDO gauges are from a 1980s Audi. I like them as they just look right. Other than that it’s all standard inside. It was a well-spec’d car anyway with an electric sunroof, rear blinds and ABS.”
The project took about two years to finish as James only worked on the car when he could afford the time, as spare time is virtually non-existent in his line of work. He has since covered around 2000 miles in the car and drove it through the winter, proving its practicality. “The kids and wife love it and it drives like a normal car still. The only problem it had was a small electrical issue when I first got it running where the reverse switch was connected to the wrong sensor so the reverse lights came on in sixth gear! Other than that it’s been good really, but it was always going to be right as it’s been built properly,” James relates.
James reports the S50 engine works well in the shell and the performance it offers can’t be beaten as a package, especially when the other options are taken into consideration. “It looks at home in the engine bay and it was much cheaper than modifying an M50 to make the power. The S38 M5 engine was an option but it’s a little long in the tooth now and the S50 is reasonably cheap to buy and offers good value. It’s a versatile engine, too, and I like the way they drive. The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well,” he says.
But whilst the engine was a good idea James admits that the six-speed gearbox was perhaps more effort than it was worth in some ways: “Looking back, it was a lot of work for not that much gain really. If I were doing it again I’d use the five-speed to avoid the trouble it caused. I never thought about changing it though as once I was committed I wanted to finish it.” Despite James’ otherwise obvious delight with the #E28 he says it may soon be up for sale in order to make space for another family car he’s also been building up slowly on the side, this time a rather special 2002 Touring that’s nearing completion. There’s also a supercharged 2002 track car on the way and if either turn out anything like his previous cars then there’s a good chance we will be seeing more of him soon…
JFI Classic Cars
Tel: 07966 440609
Web: www. jficlassiccars. co. uk
“The car goes a lot like an E36 Evo as it’s the same sort of weight and it puts the power down really well”
Interior is virtually just as BMW intended, although sports seats were a rare find, especially as they happened to be finished in the same colour!
DATA FILE BMW E28 S50 engined
ENGINE & GEARBOX: 3.2-litre #S50B32 and six-speed gearbox from E36 M3 Evo, custom-made stainless exhaust system, Walbro fuel pump, standard radiator.
CHASSIS: GAZ Gold coilovers, adjustable top mounts, Powerflex Black Series bushes, E35 M5 rear trailing arm bushes, 3.64 large case differential with factory LSD option.
BRAKES: E34 M5 discs and callipers all round with uprated vented rear discs.
WHEELS & TYRES: 16-inch Style 5 alloy wheels with Toyo tyres.
INTERIOR: Recaro Sports seats, VDO additional gauges.
THANKS: Dave at Astbury Motorworks for the wiring.
Style 5 wheels were chosen as they look very much like the original metric items. The new wheels are wrapped in much stickier Toyo tyres and James reports it puts down the power very well.
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- Post is under moderationFIVE ALIVE #Alpina-B10-E28 #1985
The 5-Series B10 E28 is a near-perfect Q-saloon, a little less refined than the M535i, but gloriously quick.
Alpina's B10 engine is essentially a #M30B34 BMW 92x86mm 3,430cc six doctored by Herr Bovensiepen's merry men to produce 260PS at 6,000rpm and 254lb ft of torque at 4,000rpm instead of the standard engine’s 218PS at 5,500rpm (DIN) and 229lb ft at the same 4,000 engine speed. Those figures represent 19 per cent more power and 11 per cent more torque, to propel what is essentially the same body assembly as you would find in the production #BMW-E28 #M535i-E28 , which has just started to come on to the British market.
There are other changes compared with the #M535i #E28 tested in Autocar, 16 January. That car was fitted with the relatively wide-ratio, overdrive top five-speed #ZF gearbox, allied to a 3.07 final drive, and ran on 220/55VR390 #Michelin-TRX tyres on 165mm (6 ½ -in) rims. The same car can be specified with the closer ratio sports-five- speed Getrag gearbox found on the Alpina test car, which also had a higher (numerically lower) final drive (2.93 to 1) and slightly different tyre sizes front and rear — 205/55VR16in front. 225/50 VR16in rear. Tyres are #Pirelli P7s on 7in and 8in wide rims respectively. What that array of figures boils down to is that the Alpina car is geared overall at 24.52mph per 1.000rpm in fifth — perfect for its apparent maximum speed when measured against obvious tyre losses on the 2-mile circumference Millbrook banking - where the standard M535i’s nearest comparable gear, fourth, is slightly lower geared, at 23.49 mph per 1,000.
Alpina, which is not prone to the unwisely immodest claims of some conversion firms, says that the 5 series #Alpina-E28 B10 is capable of an absolute mean maximum speed, measured properly as the average of runs in each direction on a clear level road, of around 155mph. The Millbrook banking’s fast lane has a hands-off maximum speed of 100 mph — in other words, in windless conditions, you can lap it at 100 mph without having to hold the steering wheel. The faster you go, the more you have to push the car up to a non-existent steeper-inclined lane of banking - and the more of the engine’s power is lost overcoming the energy used by the tyres in supplying the necessary side force.
So it was that, in spite of a 12 to 17 mph wind at Millbrook, we recorded a timed lap speed of 146.9 mph. with a best speed during the lap of 148. Since all three #Alpina cars tested are particularly quick, it had been planned to take the trio to Germany for a proper autobahn measurement of their respective true maxima, but the last bout of traditional February weather put paid to that, most irritatingly, until after these exclusive Autocar reports had to be written. In our experience, 147 mph round Millbrook is equivalent to something appreciably higher in level road maximum speeds, so we are more than inclined to believe Alpina here.
Returning from the general to the particular, the 5-series #B10 is a near perfect O-saloon. The normal #BMW-M535i-E28 doesn't feel quite as fast as it is, partly because it is pretty refined. The Alpina is very little less refined, but it does feel quick, most gloriously quick. The engine’s power delivery is extraordinary; you perceive this most dramatically not in full-blooded start acceleration — although even in the slightly damp conditions in which we figured it, that is more than dramatic — but when measuring the acceleration in one gear. The engine has all of the usual delightful #BMW flexibility. so that in fourth gear it is not difficult to take figures from 10 mph (500 rpm) and it pulls well from 1,500 rpm (30 mph). The power comes in extra strongly a little earlier than you expect, from around 55 mph (2,800 rpm) — but almost as if one of the more mildly tuned turbochargers suddenly started working, there is a perceptible
extra boost at around 4,000 rpm (close to 80 mph, the torque peak in fourth). You can see the effect of this interesting power curve by looking at the 20 mph interval times for any of the intermediate gears; normally, certainly in a highish gear like fourth, the interval times are shortest in the upper middle speed range, as they are here, but appreciably longer before. In the Alpina case, they begin to drop below six seconds between 40 and 60 mph (2,000 to 3,100 rpm) and stay that way right up to 100, in spite of the cubically rising requirement of power to overcome drag.
The standing start advantage over the normal wide-ratio M535i is best shown in the table; when looking at the getaway to 30 mph, it must be remembered that the Alpina had to be tested in not quite dry conditions, so that in spite of its 25 per cent limited slip differential, its power had to be limited carefully to reduce wheelspin.
All this is done with such ease and, relatively speaking, considerable refinement — even if after the 2.5-litre 3-Series C2 Alpina #E30 , one is reminded that the first of BMW’s modern sixes (the 86x71.6mm, 2,495cc 2500) was the smoothest it ever made, the subsequent enlargements being progressively a little less so. Fuel consumption overall was measured during generally less demanding conditions than for the #M535i , so not too much should be deduced from the fact that we recorded 17.7 mpg for the normal car, and 22.5 for the Alpina. Generally, we would expect no penalty for the extra performance of the Alpina if both cars were driven identically, but a small advantage in the latter’s favour.
The stiffer springing of the Alpina is obvious in a more choppy low speed ride which however smoothes out highly acceptably as the speed rises; one is never uncomfortable in the car, partly but not entirely because of the superbly locating driving seat. Flandling benefits usefully; the Alpina is, as usual, not such a handful as the standard car, even if you obviously have to be careful with such a power-to-weight ratio at low speed and in the wet. It sticks very well, with initial understeer — not much, in typical BMW fashion — and its change to oversteer is less severe and easier to control than normal. Stability is excellent in a straight line.
Overall, this is the ideal conversion — entirely complete, as its brakes are up to the job, and everything is done properly. A big, well-tuned engine for the size of car is always far, far preferable to any turbocharger job, and the Alpina B10 5-series E28 is a perfect example of how to make such cars.
Standing start acceleration (secs)
Mph M535i 5-series
0-30 2.8 2.8
40 4.2 3.7
50 5.7 5.5
60 7.4 6.8
70 10.4 8.6
80 12.9 10.4
90 15.8 12.6
100 19.5 16.0
110 24.4 19.5
120 30.8 24.2
130 42.2 31.3
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- Post is under moderationPOWERHOSE ALPINA #1986
Now imported into Britain the Bavarian #Alpina-B9 -3.5 is a blisteringly fast version of BMW's Five Series #E28 saloon. In its performance the car simply has no peers.
The world's fastest production saloon comes from Bavaria. At a glance, the four-door powerhouse looks very much like a humble 118mph #BMW-518i-E28 . but when the throttle is opened, this inconspicuous metamorphosis of a Five Series BMW will instantly blow off any five seater rival - from Munich's own #BMW-745i-E23 , through the #Mercedes 500SE #W126 to Jaguar's XJ 5.3 HE. On an empty stretch of road, preferably dry, the car will top an honest 153mph (that's it, one hundred fifty-three) with the tachometer needie nudging the redline at 6100rpm. The lair of the performance giant is in the picturesque village of Buchloe halfway between Munich and the Tyrolean border, where a performance car addict called Burkard Bovensiepen has devoted himself to the production of very special motor cars named Alpina. But now, there’s a brand new British connection. BMW (GB) have just begun importing Alpina converted cars, plus Alpina parts and accessories, and Sytners, the Nottingham dealers, are to build and retail the cars. This first model, the B9, costs £22,894, and will be sold here at a rate of about 40 a year, something which will ensure the B9’s exclusivity.
Alpina’s latest creation wears the full model designation B9-3.5. Burkard Bovensiepen explains: ‘We used "A” to cover our development of BMW's small fours, and B labels the modified sixes. The figure ‘‘9" denotes the ninth improvement we made to this unit, and 3.5 of course, indicates the engine capacity.'
The #Alpina-E28 B9-3.5 is based on a BMW 528i #M30B28 fitted with a revised big-bore 3.4-litre slant-six #M30B34 BMW engine that is also used in the #735i #E23 saloon and in the #635CSi #E24 coupe. In true #Alpina tradition, the standard BMW engine undergoes thorough modifications, in the course of which the power output is increased from 218bhp to a very effective 245bhp at 5700rpm. ‘Top priority is more torque, better acceleration and a significantly higher top speed', marketing manager Gunter Schuster explains, ‘but the one thing we did not want to end up with was some nervous, pseudo racing car powerplant that would inevitably be hit by reliability problems and excessive thirst, would be difficult to service and too fragile for everyday use’.
Bovensiepen, who hates being called a mere car tuner, and engine specialist Wolfgang Siebert together set out to breathe new life into the engine without affecting its longevity and serviceability, but with the ambitious aim of at the same time increasing the power output and improving the fuel economy. The engines getredesigned camshafts, the compression ratio is raised from 9.3 to 10.2 to one, their special, balanced pistons have a quench zone for superior thermodynamic efficiency, and the cylinder head with its hemispherical combustion chambers, like the inlet manifold, are shaped and polished to make the gases flow more freely. Other modifications include revised fuel injection settings and minor changes made to the #Bosch #Bosch-Motronic engine computer that monitors fuel feed, ignition and exhaust emission.
‘While many so-called tuning firms often just attend to the engine without touching the rest of the car, we don’t do anything by halves,' Bovensiepen claims.
‘Like all our products, B9-3.5 has uprated suspension and a redesigned interior.’ To teach the basic #BMW-528i better road manners and to attune the chassis to the extra potential of 61bhp more than standard, suspension expert Alois Wiesinger fits progressive-rate coil springs, specially developed adjustable #Bilstein gas-pressure shock absorbers and 16in alloy wheels, shod with fat 205/55VR #Pirelli P7 tyres at the front and with even wider 225/50VR rubber behind. To improve wet road traction, a limited-slip differential with a 25percent locking ratio is installed. The long-legged Getrag five-speed gearbox is taken unchanged from the standard production model: a three-speed automatic is optional.
Although the 'basic' B9-3.5 is a vastly understated car that can only be distinguished from its mass-market brothers by its wider wheels and tyres, most buyers opt for the full Alpina trim pack which includes a prominent front spoiler, a black rubber lip on the bootlid and several feet of contrasting stripework stuck on the flanks, which gives the car rather boy- racer looks. According to Alpina, the aerodynamic aids are ‘an absolute necessity’, which help redTjce the aerodynamic drag factor by 9.0 percent, increase the top speed by 6.0 mph, cut front axle lift by 57 percent and rear axle lift by 4.0 percent. The spoilers are also claimed to have a positive effect on the car’s exceptional high-speed fuel economy. The Alpina B9-3.5 returns 37.7mpg at a steady 56mph and 30.9mpg at a constant 75mph, but even with the speedo indicating 125mph-plus wherever possible, the 245bhp Bavarian bullet will better 20mpg. Our hard- driven test car averaged an astonishing 24.1mpg over several hundred miles.
Inside, the Alpina B9-3.5 feels far sportier and more purposeful than a standard #BMW-528i-E28 . The well-contoured bucket seats and the rear bench are trimmed in the ‘house colours' - black, blue and green. The tacho and speedometer wear Alpina logos, the dished, rather big-diameter standard steering wheel is replaced by a four-spoke leather-rimmed device, and an anodised vehicle identification plate mounted on the dashboard identifies the test car as the 20th B9 to leave Alpina, ‘makers of exclusive automobiles’. Standard equipment also includes a sophisticated sound system, tinted glass, electric door mirrors and a rear axle oil cooler. Extra cash can buy any option listed in the official #BMW brochure; such goodies as ABS anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning or electrically operated windows.
Without extras, a B9 sells in Britain at a premium of £7400 over the already-expensive #E28 #BMW-528i-SE . ‘I know that our cars are not exactly cheap,' Gunter Schuster concedes, 'but Alpina cars do offer a unique combination of performance, prestige and exclusivity. Our production capacity is limited to a mere 200 cars per year, and less than half of those will be sold abroad. At present, our export efforts concentrate on Switzerland, France, Japan and Britain. The UK will soon be number one export market for us.’
When you first sit in the relatively confined cabin of the B9, the environment is not as familiar as expected. The firmly- padded seats have little in common with the soft velour- trimmed originals. Alpina's own buckets seem to wrap your torso in a cocoon, minutely adjustable in rake, reach and height. The heavily-modified engine under the short, square bonnet sounds alien, too - marginally less civilised than the #528i unit, it answers all throttle inputs during warm-up with a hoarse, growl, impatiently awaiting the departure from city limits. The quick steering is ideally weighted to cope with really fast motorway esses and zig-zagged country lanes. In town, however, it feels a bit slow and slightly heavy, and it takes a firm hand to keep the car on course when longitudinal ripples make the fat wheels tramline. The handling is tough and precise, not sharp or nervous. Quickly and willingly the Alpina turns exactly where it is pointed. Treated decisively but with due respect, the Alpina is close to the perfect partner - responsive, precise, fairly docile; never acting on its own initiative.
This obedience makes the #Alpina-B9-3.5 reassuringly safe, even at very high speeds. Stability and imperturbability are perhaps the two qualities which impress most. Even at 140mph the big saloon will cut through motorway bends with surprising ease and unerring precision. Back off and brake to stay clear from an overtaking truck, and there will be no drama: the rear end may go a little light while the nose is pressing into the road, and you may have to reduce lock an inch to maintain your chosen line, but that is all the car will need. The body remains composed and stable, trusting the chassis to sort out the conflict of forces. The fact that bump steer is virtually absent and that the camber changes are minimal also pays off on really bad roads tackled at speed. Here the #B9 doesn't even pretend to be a comfortable car- what the suspension cannot absorb is transmitted faithfully to steering and seats - and occupants- butthe reactions and reflexes of the chassis make up for it, by tying the car firmly to the ground when others would have lifted wheels.
Like the model it is based on, the Alpina oversteers at the roadholding limit. But compared to a standard Five Series BMW, the car from Buchloe has enough oomph to hang its tail with superb control where its tame brother rolls and lurches rather more.
The B9 can be pushed sideways with power, even in third or fourth gears, and in the wet, any overdose of torque needs to be administered with extreme caution. I remember drawing enormous black marks on the road in second gear when a nudge of the throttle promptly kicked the back out in the middle of a tightish corner - exciting, spectacular, but expensive and, ultimately, slow. I tried the bend faster and in third and, voila, the car bounded through on the edge of a well-behaved four-wheel drift, smooth and faster. The rear wheels broke eventually, when I floored the accelerator, but the control was very satisfying. It takes some time to get attuned to the Alpina's behaviour at the limit, indeed to actually locate precisely where the limit lies. At that stage, the owner will admire and respect the car's abilities in full.
Put your mind to it. and the big Alpina will rush from 0 to 60mph in 6.8sec and in under 18sec from standstill to 100mph. Floor the throttle when lazily strolling along in fifth at 40mph. and the car can be doing 75mph in 15sec. Rev the engine to 4500rpm in first and second, and the maximum torque of 231lb ft will spin the fat P7s with ease. The Alpina B9 is a high performance car, but it is neither a rowdy handful only macho men can tame, nor a perfectly neutral, totally domesticated tool for beginners. It is a blend of both characters - competent, fast, and a lot of fun. What irony that the most desirable BMW saloon was not conceived by the original manufacturers themselves.
Alpina B9 buyers can have car in standard BMW trim or go the whole hog with spoilers and side stripes. Alpina say first are necessity.
Cabin is distinguished by sporty trim on seats, #Alpina logos on dash and four-spoked steering wheel. Much modified version of BMW 3.4-litre six replaces standard 2.8-litre engine under bonnet, pumps out 245 bhp at 5700 rpm for genuine 153 mph top speed. 6.8 sec 0-60mph. Engine flexibility is excellent, economy remarkable.
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- Post is under moderationRacer for the Road #E26 #BMW #M1 #AHG #BMW-E26
Only ten E26 #BMW-M1-AHG versions were produced and here’s one of the survivors. BMW’s M1 was a stunning road car and in its ProCar form was a pretty dramatic race car, too. German tuner AHG decided to combine the best of both worlds and created ten stunning bespoke M1s for the road Words: Bob Harper. Photography: Andrew Tipping.
Despite having British parents my wife and her siblings (there are six in total) were all born in Peru and my wife lived there for the first ten years of her life. Naturally enough they were all pretty fluent in Spanish with the odd phrase of the indigenous Quechua language thrown in for good measure. While the majority of them have forgotten most of the language they spoke as kids there are a few phrases that still get bandied about when they all get together these days. Most of these words seem to centre around food but there’s one in particular that has always fascinated me: ‘huachafa’.
It took me quite a while to work out what they were going on about and I still haven’t really mastered the perfect translation, although ‘naff’ comes pretty close. It’s generally aimed at someone with more money than sense, someone who’s a little nouveau riche and has yet to develop a proper sense of style to go with the accompanying cash. If you had ventured to the Geneva Motor Show this week you’d have seen plenty of machines from some styling houses (that I won’t name here for fear of being sued) daubed in dubious paint finishes or wraps, slathered in carbon and wearing quite ridiculously large wheels and bearing equally ridiculous price tags. These machines would have all have fallen into the huachafa category.
You could argue that this makes me sound like a frightful snob but to my mind there are some things in life that simply shouldn’t be messed with. Those items that appear to be so intrinsically right from the get-go that trying to improve upon them is a massive folly. Friends at school used to lust after Koenig 512BBs but I just couldn’t stand the wide-bodied bespoilered monsters, preferring the delicacy and purity of the car’s original form. These days I’ve mellowed my views somewhat and machinery such as Koenig Ferraris do exude a certain period charm, a reminder of some of the excesses of the 1970s and 1980s; who knows, perhaps some of those machines in Geneva that I’ve just vilified will one day be looked upon just as kindly?
But if we turn to the matter in hand, this AHG modified M1, I’m not entirely sure what I would have made of it back in the day. I’d probably have lumped it in the same category as the Koenig as the notion that anyone was actually going to be able to successfully modify Giugiaro’s strikingly simple lines of the #BMW-M1 was utter heresy. But that would have been doing the car an injustice as there’s actually quite a lot to like about the #AHG-M1 and it does now have bags of period charm going for it. But before we go any further we should have a very quick recap on the M1 itself.
Designed from the get-go to be a racing car that would be able to take on, and beat, Porsche in Group 4 racing the M1’s long gestation period and protracted and complicated production cycle meant that by the time the car was ready the rules had changed and the car wasn’t able to compete competitively. This wasn’t really BMW’s fault, although you could argue that #BMW-Motorsport shouldn’t really have put so much trust in Lamborghini’s ability to manufacture the car in the first place. Eventually, though, cars did slowly begin to trickle down the ‘production line’. The fibreglass bodies were joined to the tubular space frame chassis by Ital Design in Turin before being transported to Baur in Stuttgart who installed the engines and running gear (supplied by BMW) before the cars then returned to Munich for the final finishing and sign-off. Given this complicated process there was no way BMW could produce the 400 road-going examples to homologate the car for racing in the required time and as a result the #ProCar Series was born. For two years this was a glorious support series to the #F1 circus and had F1 drivers pitting their skills against racers from other disciplines – have a look for some of the period footage on YouTube – it was quite a sight (and sound!).
Sadly the ProCar series ran for just two years – #1979 and #1980 – and the production cars continued to trickle their way to market until the middle of #1981 . At the time there were plenty of small BMW tuning companies out there, some of them based in #BMW dealerships, and one such dealer was AHG in Bielefeld in the north of Germany between Hanover and Dortmund. It had a proactive MD, Peter Gartemann, and it was his idea to do something a little special with the M1. The company already had a decent sideline going tuning the #E30 3 Series, #E28 Five, #E23 7 Series and the #E24 Six. We’re not talking about just adding a set of spoilers and wheels here, the company offered engine conversions and suspension upgrades, too.
Gartemann wanted to produce an M1 that was closer to the ProCar than the production car but wanted it to still be usable on the road. The result is the machine you can see before you. It would appear that the original idea was to simply install modified ProCar spoilers while retaining the road car’s interior but pretty soon it became apparent that fitting the racing aerodynamic parts was going to be a bit of a nightmare if AHG wasn’t going to fall foul of the strict German TüV authorities which would mean its modified machinery would not be legal for the road. The main problem was that the rear spoiler was going to fall foul of what was permitted and in the end AHG had to resort to designing a new rear spoiler made from a softer material. The front spoiler was redesigned with ducting for the brakes and the three centimetre wider sill extensions blended in well with the new front end design. As well as the extended bodystyling Gartemann wanted his M1s to stand out from the crowd, so once the bodies were completed they were sent to the artist Hermann Altmiks for the distinctive paintwork.
In an article in a 1982 edition of German magazine Sport Fahrer the impression was given that Gartemann thought that the standard car’s performance would be more than adequate, and whether he had a rethink or his customers decided that the car needed more go to match the show isn’t known but he did subsequently offer some performance upgrades for the car, which we’ll come onto in a moment.
This particular machine that’s for sale at Canepa in the US is number 94 of the 454 M1s that were produced and actually started its life as a spare body for a ProCar. It was subsequently assembled as a series production car and sold by BMW AG Niederlassung to its first owner from Mainz in November 1979. It then changed hands in late 1981 and was then owned by an artist who used the car to display his designs and it was featured at shows and in contemporary newspapers.
It wasn’t until #1983 that the M1 was delivered to AHG ready to be transformed. As well as the special aerodynamic package it was treated to the Hermann Altmiks paint scheme and then underwent a series of mechanical upgrades, too. The most significant of these was an engine rebuild to 350hp spec and this was mated to a sintered clutch and a freer-flowing exhaust system. It sits on a custom suspension setup and is finished off with a set of period BBS alloys. As each AHG machine was built to its owner’s instructions there were plenty of different interior treatments available. In this particular machine the houndstooth cloth seat centres and door trim panels have been retrimmed in Alcantara and this also features on the dash pod, too. Presumably some owners wanted to go further than this as, truth be told, the standard M1’s interior was more functional than opulent and AHG’s price list of the day has plenty of ‘price on request’ categories for special leather finishes and the installation of more powerful speakers for the stereo.
This machine was only very lightly used after its conversion, covering less than 750 miles, before being imported into the US in the mid-1980s. Getting the M1 through strict US regulations was tough but once done the car was often seen on the BMW show scene before it entered long-term storage. It emerged from storage in #2012 before being given a thorough recommissioning, so it’s done less than 5000 miles since it was converted by AHG over 30 years ago! As you can see from the images, we weren’t able to drive the car but we spoke to Canepa’s marketing director, John Ficarra, about it and he was very enthusiastic about the AHG machine. “The car drives great. M1s are beautifully balanced cars but in my opinion they have always been woefully underpowered. With the AHG engine upgrade this M1 moves the way you’d expect a ‘70s supercar should, and the sound of that normally aspirated BMW straight-six through a racing exhaust is sweet, sweet music.”
Having experienced the aural delight of a standard M1 and watched plenty of M1 ProCar videos we can only say that John is a very lucky man indeed to have sampled this car.
Ultimately this really is a car of its time. If you proposed doing this to an M1 today you’d probably be shot by the BMW community but it’s a real throwback to a time when a few discerning owners wanted something a little different from a contemporary Ferrari or Lamborghini. How the car would have been seen back when it was transformed in the 1980s I’m not quite sure, but I’m almost certain it would have divided opinion between those who thought Koenig Ferraris were the last word in style and those who thought they were a byword for nouveau riche naffness. Today I think it’s a brilliant period piece and dream purchase for someone after an ’80s icon with added ProCar-style aggression. Huachafa? Not a bit of it.
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- Post is under moderationOLD SCHOOL, NEW RULES
CAtuned knows a thing or two about modding E30s as this stunning two-door example goes to show. An #BMW #E30 build is an exercise in measured restraint and quality workmanship. The devil really is in the detail… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
Subtlety goes a long way these days, the less-is-more approach often saying way more than ostentation and wackiness ever could. Look at it this way: Batman and Superman have a clear and obvious sense of purpose – they’ve got the eye-catching costumes, the superhero actions, the uncompromising and forthright approach to getting the job done… but you wouldn’t exactly want to have them round for dinner, would you? There’d be a palpable sense of tension in the air, they’d have one eye on the door. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, however… they’ve got a sense of mystery about them. It’s not what they’re saying or doing, it’s the obvious potential brimming beneath those sober suits. These are the people that you want to have a conversation with.
In many ways, then, this gleaming white #BMW-E30 is the Clark or Bruce of the 3 Series world. It doesn’t shout about its abilities, it’s not shoving itself into your line of sight. No, it’s casually hanging back, in the knowledge that it has the skills to pay the bills. It doesn’t need to seek out your attention, it knows you’ll be double-taking as you pass and going in for a closer look.
This approach has #CAtuned written all over it. Regular readers will recognise the name, as this is by no means the first of its builds to feature in these pages. CAtuned is the motorsport and custom wing of Auto Heaven, a full-service maintenance and repair outfit in Sacramento, California. AH was established in 1995, and branched out into this sort of specialist custom work in 2002, focusing principally on retro BMWs – #2002 s, #E28 s, E30s and #E34 s are their particular favourites, and that passion is keenly demonstrated in the car you see here. “This came to us as a no-rust California car,” says Igor Polishchuk, head honcho at CA. ‘It’s a #325es, and it was a non-runner with an auto ’box when we got it. It had been stationary for about eight years – solid, but in need of a bit of love!’ We’ve seen pictures of the resto and he’s definitely understating the work involved here – the federal-bumpered project base was largely complete, but that didn’t stop the team totally stripping it back to first principles and starting anew.
This is pretty much the ethos of a CAtuned build, you see – it’s not just a case of modifying and optimising, it’s effectively renewing everything that can be renewed in order to make the car the best that it can be; indeed, as close to a ‘new’ E30 as is possible given current parts availability.
And in the case of this car, they really went all-out. Look at the engine, for example – it’s not a mega-horsepower hot rod motor, but instead a refreshed and breathed-upon unit; the US-spec 2.5-litre #M20 has received new pistons, rings, rods, main bearings, gaskets, seals, sensors, plugs, cap, rotor, wires, belts, hoses, tanks, water pump and thermostat, so that the modifications could be applied to a good-as-new base. Then the guys added their own proprietary valve cover, intake manifold and stainless-steel exhaust system. “It’s got that note that you love to hear!” Igor enthuses.
Rather than tying all of this gently rasping, eagerly revving retro splendour down with a slushy old self-shifter, they junked the auto in favour of a fresh Getrag five-speeder, the old-school thrust running back to a rebuilt 3.73 diff complete with spiffy powdercoated casing. So now the thing had the shove to match the trademark CAtuned aesthetic – the next step was to make the look happen.
And they’ve done a pretty damn fine job, wouldn’t you say? The subtlety of the white hue adds to the stealthy ethos of the build, and it’s pleasantly old-school too, being the car’s original paint. And once it was all buffed to perfection, the federal bumpers being swapped out for Euro-size items, the shell was treated to all manner of shiny new goodies: all the window glass and rubbers, the roundels, a set of Bosch ‘smiley’ headlights, Euro front grilles (which have a full-length lip at the top rather than having a gap above the lights like US-spec grilles do), a Euro-size rear number plate recess filler and some Motorsport door handles all help to lend a sense of 1980s Bavarian freshness. “One of the hardest parts of the build was pulling together all of the pieces to make the car a complete Euro package,” Igor explains. “Finding all of those Euro-spec pieces and trim isn’t always easy. It was an ongoing part of the project though, as the build wasn’t rushed through – it took about 16 months from start to finish.”
Having crafted a cohesive and comprehensive European look, the guys threw an M Tech 1 kit into the mix, complete with the hard-to-find spoiler; it’s an oldschool kit that’s subtle rather than shouty – all, of course, in keeping with the theme. The attention to detail outside is mirrored in the interior too, which feels as near-asdammit like a brand-new E30. The original tired seats have been junked in favour of a super-fly set in Cardinal red, which acts as a shock of lipstick when you open the door of the sober and sensible white shell – it’s like peeping a glimpse of the ‘S’ logo between the buttons of Clark Kent’s shirt. “We were lucky to find an interior that had the rare ‘ski pass’ option,” says Igor, meaning that if they ever fancy popping up to the Donner Ski Ranch, they won’t be needing a roof-rack. The dials are pretty cool too – they were custom made by Bavarian Restoration, incorporating the Cardinal red with the CAtuned palm tree logo.
If you were to hoist the car up on to a ramp, you’d find some pretty serious stuff going on under there. Although it was already rust-free and solid, the guys have taken the precaution of giving it a thorough rust-proofing beneath with a thick, sticky coat of underseal and inhibitor. The corners have been treated to CAtuned’s own custom coilovers in order to get the car sitting in a modern and respectable manner; castor and camber adjustment are all part of the game, as well as endless height adjustability. It’s all about making the thing as usable as it is easy on the eye.
Also keeping up with modern developments is the brake setup – the rears sport cross-drilled discs with performance pads, while up front there’s a custom CA big brake ensemble with four-pot Wilwood calipers. Just the thing for ensuring contemporary stopping power, to complement that 21st-century handling; an E36 steering rack adds to the sense of driver engagement, while comprehensive body strengthening eliminates any unwanted flex. You’ve probably already spotted the wheels. While Fifteen52’s Tarmac design has been a runaway success for the brand, it’s not all that often that you find them on an E30. They look spot-on though, don’t they? The mixture of flat surfaces, angles and curves ties the look in precisely with the 3 Series’ own lines, and it gives the purposefully low #325 a cheeky hint of motorsport aggression.
Having expended such energies in effectively creating a new E30, the finished product is no museum piece. “It’s now used as a daily commuter,” Igor assures us. “The M Tech 1 cars aren’t a huge reaction or inyour- face type of car – especially being that it’s white, and that’s what makes it more enjoyable. You can drive it everywhere.” And that’s just the way it should be – a considered and thorough build, with quality parts, eager handling, just enough performance to entertain, comfortable appointments, and built to be used. A wonderful notch in the bedpost of CAtuned’s projects, then, and very much the Bruce Wayne of the bunch – it doesn’t need to scream its credentials out loud. If you know, you know.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.5-litre straight-six #M20B25 , rebuilt with all-new pistons, rings, rods, main bearings, gaskets, seals, sensors, plugs, cap, rotor, wires, belts, hoses, tanks, water pump and thermostat. CAtuned valve cover and intake manifold, #Walbro fuel pump, Mishimoto #E36 radiator with Spal electric fan, custom CAtuned exhaust system, #Getrag 260 five-speed transmission, rebuilt 3.73 diff with powdercoated cover.
CHASSIS: 8x17” (front & rear) Fifteen52 Tarmac wheels with Toyo tyres, custom CAtuned coilovers, castor and camber adjustment welded in with Polybushes, CAtuned / #Wilwood stage 2.0 brake kit, stainless brake lines, Motorsport Hardware studs, extra body reinforcements welded in, rebuilt E36 steering rack with upgraded poly steering link.
INTERIOR: All-new Cardinal red interior, Motorsport mats, rare ‘ski pass’ rear bench, custom Bavarian Restoration CA Tuned gauge cluster.
EXTERIOR: #M-Tech 1 kit with rare M Tech 1 spoiler, new glass, new roundels, Bosch ‘smiley’ Euro headlights, M3 foglights, Euro grilles, Euro rear number plate filler, Motorsport handles.
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- Post is under moderationBLACK EAGLE
This, quite literally, show-stopping UK #E28 boasts an impossibly shiny #M106 under the bonnet, a massive turbo and the small matter of 500hp. In a word: epic. Built with sheer passion and devotion, this stunning 500hp #BMW-E28 is the ultimate evolution of a near decade-long project. Photos: Steve Hall.
We all love our cars (when they’re working) but it’s rare to come across someone for whom their car really is everything to them. Marsel Theodhori is one such man. His passion for his E28 is unrivalled in anyone I’ve ever met, and it’s this raw, unbridled passion for what was once a humble E28 that has driven him to build one of the finest examples out there. I have a soft spot for the E28 – I owned a #518i Lux for a year some time ago, which I bought for the princely sum of £400. It was so charming, characterful and modern in the way it drove, that it instantly became a member of the family. It didn’t miss a beat over those 12 months and when the time came to sell it, I was genuinely sad to see it go. I think about it often and the way it has lodged itself in my memory and affections means I can definitely relate to the way Marsel feels about his.
Marsel is an interesting man – passionate, intense, intimidating perhaps, but a really nice guy and one with more than a few stories to tell. And his E28 is even more interesting. His love for the second generation 5 Series began when he was just 14 years old. “Growing up in Albania, my neighbour had a white E28 #Alpina and every time I saw it, I thought it looked fantastic. I loved the looks and my dream was to one day have a car like that.”
Fast forward to 2005 and by now Marsel was in the UK when he spotted this humble #E28 #525e . He had loved it from afar, with it belonging to his good friend, Nick Rundall. When Nick wanted to move on to a newer model (and knowing that it needed work and that Marsel was in the motor trade), he gifted him the car, beginning a nine-year journey which resulted in the car you see in front of you.
Marsel has named this car the Black Eagle, a touching patriotic nod to his homeland of Albania (whose red flag bears the image of a black double-headed eagle) and the Order of the Black Eagle, the highest title that could be bestowed upon a citizen of Albania.
The last time the E28 saw the outside world was in September 2012. Marsel had spent seven years working on the car at this point and had built it up to a very high standard. He had sourced an M106 engine for it, which was fitted to an #E23 #745i – a 3.4-litre turbocharged straight-six that was loosely based on the #M30 , developing 252hp at 6psi (0.4bar) of boost. That’s a good starting point, but Marsel wasn’t content with that so a whole host of work went into the engine to get it uprated to handle a serious increase in power.
Marsel’s E28 was suitably recognised at that point for the great car it was; it even had a brief moment of fame in print: “It had a feature in Total #BMW in April 2012 and it had been appearing at most of the shows that year. It was putting out 360hp+ and I travelled to a lot of places, enjoying the result of a very long build. I was just making the most of it so I was really driving it hard and the car was responding well. It made an impressive appearance at the Gaydon BMW Festival and the Santa Pod BMW Show that same year where it won Best of Show.”
Show glory is one thing, but 360hp is another and Marsel is the sort of person who enjoys driving his cars. “I’m an engineer by trade but also a very heavy-footed driver,” he says. “I really love driving sports cars to their limits. Well, that pleasure cost me one day when I blew the #K27 turbo, which was the original item fitted to the M106 by BMW. That turbo was designed originally for 0.4bar and I was pushing close to 1bar for about 3000 miles until it started to smoke off throttle. The car came off the road at the end of September 2012.” That’s when Marsel started to think big. He decided to make the most of the unfortunate situation and realise the true potential of his E28: “I wanted to build a car that would win shows and blow people away. I wanted to build the best E28 that I could,” he says.
Step one was choosing a new turbo that would give Marsel the power he was hungry for. “The K27 was removed and I started making plans for a new, more sophisticated turbo. Considering the potential of these engines, I had to seriously consider a major upgrade on all fronts. Unfortunately, in this country we have a limited market for such applications and turbochargers. Therefore there was only one place I could look to: the USA. In the States there are hundreds if not thousands of stockists and manufacturers of performance parts and turbochargers.
“Hunting for the best deals, I came across a #Garrett-GT4202 turbo for half of the UK price and bought it straight away.” The #GT4202 is rated for up to 1000hp, giving Marsel plenty of headroom on the power front. However, it is significantly larger than the K27 so it gave Marsel a bit of a headache when it came to fitting. “I had the turbo hanging from the ceiling at one point,” he explains, “and I was lowering it into the engine bay so I could tie it into place. That meant I could start calculating how it would sit in the engine bay and what sort of manifold I would need to fabricate for it.” The massive turbo fits in the engine bay, just, but there was the small matter of the bonnet getting in the way, so Marsel had a custom item made with a neat cut-out for the turbo to peep through.
While the whole car is finished to an incredibly high standard, the engine is what this car is all about. When the bonnet pops, the engine bay draws in BMW fans like bees to honey. Every square inch of the bay has been polished to within an inch of its life, every hose is braided, every pipe is blue and the blue-and-red colour scheme has been executed with serious attention to detail – the oil filler cap is blue and even the washer fluid and coolant are red and blue.
The turbo sits on a beefy modified M106 manifold with a custom stainless steel top mounted flange neck, with a 4” downpipe, which slims to 3.5” to clear the bulkhead before expanding to 5” for minimum restriction and splitting into two 2.5” pipes which run to a custom Frtiz’s Bits back box. The turbo itself is served by a 5.5” core chargecooler with a custom top panel, itself mated to a 55mm twin-core 500x630mm chargecooler rad. You won’t find any highflow induction kits here – the turbo has been fitted with some silver mesh, presumably to stop people and animals from being sucked in, and that’s it. Beyond the bling, there’s serious engineering evident wherever you look: the turbo is braced against the engine and the entire engine is braced against the strut brace. This is because once, under hard braking, the engine tilted forward a fraction and that was enough to push the viscous fan into the thicker rad that Marsel had fitted. To ensure that doesn’t happen again, he took the precaution of bracing the engine to stop any unwanted movement.
Of course, the dazzlingly shiny exterior is just the tip of an extremely comprehensive iceberg. The data file reads like an engine builder’s wish list and no expense has been spared in building an engine that will deliver a lot of power happily and comfortably, day in, day out.
The H-pattern con rods and #Mahle forged low compression pistons have been carried over from the previous build, along with the #Glyco race bearings, but the ported and polished NA cylinder head is new, as are the titanium double valve springs, sodium-filled exhaust valves and titanium rockers and rocker shaft lockers. The engine is fed by twin #Bosch 044 fuel pumps, and there’s a fuel cooler, 1000cc Bosch injectors and Marsel has used an #E34 #535i inlet manifold with an original 3” reverse-mounted throttle body. It is the engine you would build if you could.
As the old saying goes, power is nothing without control, and Marsel has ensured that every supporting component has been suitably upgraded to ensure that the rest of the E28 can handle all the power that’s being developed by the engine. On the transmission front there’s a fully-rebuilt dogleg gearbox with a custom short clutch master cylinder, M535i driveshaft and propshafts, restored 3.07 M5 LSD and upgraded race-spec motorsport diff mount. Peer under the rear of the car and, as well as an immaculate and impossibly polished back box, you will see the diff cooler and diff pump mounted below. On the suspension front you’ll find #GAZ Gold race coilovers all-round with 550lb springs up front and 250lb rears, which have been carried over from the first build, with fully adjustable rose jointed front upper top mounts, fully adjustable rear top upper mounts, front and rear thicker, uprated antiroll bars, with Powerflex bushes all-round, new wheel bearings and all the various suspension components have either been renewed or reconditioned.
The brake setup that Marsel had first time around worked well enough for him to keep it so he just renewed the components with four-pot front Brembos calipers from an E31 840Ci and 324mm discs and 300mm rear discs mated to E28 #M535i calipers, with Goodridge braided hoses throughout. Marsel hasn’t forgotten about the looks in all of this and has poured his heart into getting the exterior styling exactly to his tastes. The body was stripped and the car was given the full M5 treatment, while new headlights and chrome rear lights have also been fitted. Various components have been polished and rechromed, such as the window surrounds, door handles and the C-pillar inserts, with the resulting brightness contrasting beautifully against the Jet black paint.
The wheels are an interesting choice. Previously, Marsel was running #BBS RSs before switching to these Fomb 17s, which he’d had refurbed in black for its big reveal in 2014. He had been planning to get the BBSs ready for our shoot, but as they needed to be refurbed and have new barrels, it was no small task. Also, as he pointed out, everyone has BBS RSs – they’re gorgeous, classic and iconic wheels, but they are a bit of a trend right now. Marsel wanted something different for the E28 and that’s when he decided to stick with the Fomb wheels, and give them a fresh look by getting the dishes diamond cut. The end result? Pretty spectacular. With an all-black finish, the dishes were completely lost, but now you can really appreciate just how dishy they are and they tie in perfectly with the polished elements across the whole car.
The interior hasn’t been touched during the past two years but it was so nice there was no need to do anything. The retrimmed front seats still looks like new, as do the recolonised rears and, despite the colour, the carpets, door carpets and doorcards are completely original, which is particularly impressive as they are insanely clean.
“I really wanted to impress the UK BMW world by getting out to all the shows this year. I badly wanted this car to shine like a star and drive like a bullet so the final piece of the puzzle was to give the car another remap,” Marsel explains. “The only man that I would ever trust in tuning this car is Sam Borgman at TDI in Lakeside, Essex. Sam and I have spent a considerable amount of time together in perfecting this car. On 3 August the car was on the hub dyno being tuned and ready for the road. Sam had it set within a couple of hours and managed to get a comfortable 500hp which I think is more than enough for driving pleasure. The car is now running like a dream – just like I wanted it to be.” And with that, it was time to unveil his creation to the world.
“The first major show I took the car to was the Gaydon #BMW Festival. It got a lot of interest from all the visitors throughout the day and I had the chance to meet and chat with some true motoring enthusiasts. I had plenty of tech talks during the day and I really enjoyed it. It was actually the first time I had taken my wife Leonora to a car show and she was also amazed as to how many people really loved the car. That day I won Best of Show and I felt very happy and proud of this achievement.”
That’s been pretty much the formula for Marsel and his E28 – turn up to a show, wow the crowd and take home silverware. Almost Famous at the Ace Café? Best of Show. Players? First out of the top 20. Santa Pod BMW Show? Best of Show, which, as we mentioned, he’d already won with the car in its previous incarnation back in 2012. Then there was the time he went along to VAGRoots for fun and, despite it being a VW Audi event, he also won the show. But Marsel said he had set out to build a showwinning car, and that’s exactly what he’s got.
“I believe that I might just have built something extra special. An E28 with a great character and amazing features, fine definition and desirable styling. A powerful, black, mean, luxurious, classic BMW E28 from the ’80s had to be the car for me. Building a car like this has not been easy. I’ve had a real love/hate relationship with the car. Throughout the build it has tested my patience many times but I never gave up and, having spent nearly ten years building it, I have had the opportunity to meet some great guys along the way that have become good friends.”
Ultimately, it’s all been worth it and the results speak for themselves. It’s an astounding build, technically outstanding and finished to a very high standard. More than anything, it’s fantastic to see someone pouring this much love into an E28 and helping to preserve one of these classics in such spectacular fashion. Furthermore, with no intention of ever selling it, this E28 will always remain part of Marsel’s family.
ENGINE: 3.4-litre straight-six M106 ( #M30B34MAE also called version M30 engine with turbo and pistons), new H-pattern con rods, Mahle forged low compression pistons, Glyco race bearings, ARP full bottom end bolt kit, lapped fully balanced crankshaft, flywheel, clutch and front vibration damper. #S38 clutch and non-dual mass flywheel, E34 535i modified oil pump (50psi idle) crown cooler spray oil jets located at the main block housings, M5 engine relocated oil cooler, ported and polished NA cylinder head, forged M106 turbo camshaft, titanium double valve springs, sodium filled exhaust valves, new stainless steel valve seats and new re-cut inlet valves, titanium rockers and rocker shaft lockers from PPM, custom head gasket made by PPM, full engine gasket kit, new water pump, customised aftermarket #E36 M3 60mm core radiator, #E39 #M5 viscous clutch and blade, 41mm Samco top and bottom hoses, new expansion tank and level sensor, Omex standalone 710 ECU, Bosch lambda sensor, Vauxhall V6 Vectra coil pack, new custom cut and made to suitable lengths 8mm silicone high performance HT leads, #NGK heat range nine spark plugs, 3bar map sensor, Omex TPS, fully stripped and rebuilt polished alternator and fixings, new Bosch starter motor, twin Bosch 044 gravity fed fuel pumps, fuel cooler, 1000cc Bosch EV14 injectors, Aeromotive A-1000 FPR, AN-8 Aeroquip teflon supply and AN-6 return fuel pipes, modified E34 535i inlet, 3” original reversemounted throttle body, 3” aluminium and Samco pipe work, 5.5” core aftermarket chargecooler, Bosch EVT water pump, 55mm twin core 500x630 chargecooler radiator, AN12 Aeroquip feed and return water pipes and fixings, modified #BMW-M106 turbo manifold, custom stainless steel flange top mounted neck, original M106 stainless #M10 exhaust studs x 12, GT4202 Garrett turbo, HKS 60mm external wastegate, 4” downpipe reduced to 3.5” by the bulkhead, 5” by 300mm flexi joint then split to 2x2.5” pipes all the way to custom turbo Fritz’s Bits back box, 4x M10 rose jointed supportive custom alloy bars.
TRANSMISSION: Fully rebuilt five-speed dog-leg gearbox, custom short clutch master cylinder and relocated fluid container, M535i driveshafts and propshaft, restored 3.07 M5 LSD, diff cooler and pump AN-10 Aeroquip fixings and braided teflon hoses, upgraded race-spec Motorsport diff mount, all bolts and mountings replaced with stainless spec and chrome plated items.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front and rear) Fomb wheels with 235/45 Bridgestone tyres, GAZ gold race coilover kit with 550lb front springs and 250lb rears, fully adjustable front upper top mounts rose jointed, fully adjustable rear top upper mounts rose jointed, rose jointed rear lower shock pin mounts, all suspension components replaced or reconditioned, all steering linkages renewed, new front Motorsport anti-roll bars 25mm front and 19mm rear, Powerflex bushes all-round, reinforced front lower alloy brace under the bumper, #E31 #840Ci four-pot #Brembo calipers (front) with 324x30mm discs, E28 M353i calipers (rear) with 300x15mm discs, Goodridge braided hoses all-round, E32 master cylinder, all original hard pipes re-powdercoated green.
EXTERIOR: M5-spec body styling, new wings doors and bootlid, Shadowline bumpers, custom turbo bonnet, Motorsport rear spoiler with carbon fibre top section, green tinted cabin glass with blue front windscreen upper sun visor, Moon roof glass panel with purple fibre wind deflector, new headlights and chrome rear lights, original rear number plate, window trims and door handles polished and rechromed by Ospreys metal finishers in Borehamwood, all window rubber weather strips were replaced.
INTERIOR: Front seats retrimmed by B-Trim, rears recolonised, new dashboard, original carpet, doorcards and headlining, new gear knob colour-coded in interior leather, new Motorspost odometer, new tachometer, new M Tech 1 steering wheel.
THANKS: All the people that have contributed to the build and to maintaining this vehicle: Daryl, Paul, John and Ryan at Osprey Metal Finishers, Rob, Miles and Chris at Hartoms Engineering, Alex Austin at Torques UK, Richard and Dave at Fritz’s Bits, Guy Higgs at Omex UK, Neil, Adam and John at BTrim, Sam and Mark at TDI, Simon, Eldwin and Dave at EMP Exhausts, Richard Ryan and Carlos at Manor Body in Enfield, also thank you to my family for their support and to Drive-My.
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- Post is under moderationSIMPLE PLEASURES
As this bagged #E28 goes to show, it’s the little things that can make a big difference when it comes to modifying. Luke Ward’s low-slung #518i is all the proof you need that you don’t need to mire yourself in complexity to build a stand-out ride… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Paddy McGrath.
Ah, the simple life. It’s what we all crave, isn’t it? If we’re really honest? #2014 is a frighteningly complicated place to live. There’s a device in your pocket that pretends to be a telephone but in fact acts as a gateway to all of mankind’s information, thoughts, opinions and, er, pictures of cats. The TV has a lot more than four channels these days. That other device in your pocket has 22,000 songs on it, and the one in your bag has several thousand books. We’re overwhelmed by choice, decisions, the crushing weight of complexity. The arms race to own the latest natty gizmo. The freshest way of reworking and digitising things that have happily existed in analogue form for generations. Surely it’s time for everybody to slow down for a moment, look up from their phones and remind themselves that there’s a bright blue sky up there?
Well, possibly. Depends on your outlook on life, really. Some people hanker for simpler times, more hands-on ways of doing things, human interaction, home-grown vegetables, quality pencils, proper cutlery and handkerchiefs. Others are the sort that’ll happily queue all night outside a shop to buy a particular mobile telephone before anyone else, who’ll have four screens on the go at once so they can be constantly refreshing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram while they half-watch an episode of Breaking Bad that’s streaming through a cluster of blinking LEDs in the corner, that think seven quid is a not unreasonable price for a spiced pumpkin latte. It takes all sorts to make a world, and we’re in no position to judge.
With this in mind, Luke Ward is in the former camp. An old-skool retro revivalist who likes to do things the traditional way. As you can see from his #E28-518i #M10 , the idea here is very much to preserve originality and give it a contemporary twist, rather than muck about with faddy, fashionable notions like swapping in a #VANOS heart or retrimming the seats in Rolls-Royce’s most exclusive hide. This, folks, is a 5 Series survivor – a car that has swallowed whole a decade or two of commuting (or family life, or travelling sales-maning, or whatever characterised its early years), brushed off the dust of the world with casual aplomb, and just kept on keepin’ on. Its reward? The acceptance into the warm embrace of a chap who likes old-skool motors, and likes to sit them on the floor.
Some might call it patina, and they’d be right to do so. Patina, you see, is a concept that’s become rather jumbled in the public consciousness of late. Pronounced ‘PAT-in-er’ (not ‘per-TEE-na’, as our American cousins often insist), many people today think that it merely signifies rat-look, be it natural weathering or the sort of forced rusting that’s encouraged by stripping the paint off with Nitromors and then urinating on it (you may scoff, but it’s fairly standard practice in forced-rat circles). But there’s far more to it than that. You know the green oxidation that you get on copper, like you see on the Statue of Liberty? That’s patina. It can also just mean a fine layer of something on top of something else – ‘a patina of frost on the pavement’, say. But the definition we’re scratching around for here is the third and most important one: a change in appearance caused by long-standing behaviour, or the sheen on a surface caused by much handling. In short, ‘patina’ denotes the look of something that’s been well-used. And that describes this E28 perfectly.
“As a kid I’d always loved the shape and style of the E28,” says Luke, with the whimsical smile of nostalgia. “This one came up for sale locally and I just had to have it. When I bought it, it was on cut springs and fake BBS RSs – I loved the patina and had no plans to change it, I was just going to leave it as it was. But, you know, I got the itch to modify…”
Some of you may have flicked through the photos already and found yourselves scratching your heads in bewilderment at how a magazine such as this, ever priding itself on bringing you the cleanest, freshest, most cunning and aspirational builds, has featured a tatty #1987 518i with peeling lacquer and holes in the seats. But again, that does the car a disservice. You know what we love about this #BMW-E28 ? It’s honest.
Oh yeah, and it’s badass too. You see, the preservation of originality will only take you so far before something has to give. We may be painting a picture of Luke as some sort of flat cap-wearing traditionalist, but he’s actually waist-deep in the stance scene and proudly so. What he’s done here, then, is to enhance and modernise this originality rather than merely pin it to a butterfly board and lock it away in a glass case. Yes, the engine is still the standard 1.8-litre M10, but its stock 100hp-ish has been slightly beefed up by a custom Pipercross filter and a unique Longlife straight-through stainless steel exhaust system that peeps upward from the rear valance like a toddler playing peekaboo. It won’t set the world on fire, but it’s simple, honest, and it works. And the real badassery comes in the form of the way that it sits. This is the kind of stanced retro aesthetic that we just love, taking the classic form and mercilessly slashing a few inches from the ride height like some manner of scythe-wielding commando. Dumped, you might say. Slammed. Whatever. It’s down there among the weeds, and it looks ace on its belly.
This is all thanks to that perennial chum of the modern altitude-adjuster – air-ride. “I bagged it because I knew how low these cars were capable of going, but still wanted to be able to comfortably drive it daily,” Luke explains. “Air was an easy choice – drive low, park lower.” Amen to that. Specifically, we’re looking at a two-way setup involving custom Gaz struts and Air Lift bags that allows the timeworn chassis to de-stilt itself at the flick of a switch, the simple construct meaning that each axle’s bags run from the same air supply line – the fronts go up and down together, as do the rears. Some aficionados prefer the infinite adjustability of a four-way setup but hey, there are less bits to break or leak in a simpler two-way, right? And again, simplicity is key to this project.
The wheels, however, are one area in which we can allow a little concession from the game plan. We reckon Luke’s okay to deviate from the simplicity pursuit here, as the pernickety detailing of these BBS rims really is a joy to behold. They’re a set of RC090 Style 5s – a much-underrated rim in #BMW circles, we think, and equally as imposing to behold as the fabled RS – and they’re rocking mirror-polished rims, white centres and gold bolts, like a quartet of delicious cakes you’d find on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (this is meant wholeheartedly as a compliment…). The wheel choice acts as a glorious aesthetic counterpoint to the patinated originality of that 27-year-old metallic black paintwork, with its peels, scuffs and stonechips – the rims are flawless, and they look bang on tucked deep inside those (again, original) arches. It’s old vs new, father vs son, A New Hope vs The Phantom Menace.
“RC090s keep things classic and classy,” is Luke’s justification for the choice. “The dishes were refinished by Pureklas, who I’ve always trusted with my wheels; Split Rim Refurbishments (SRR) supplied me with all new gold hardware, and I rebuilt them myself at home the way I wanted them.
“Reactions have been surprising,” he continues. “After all, all I’ve really done is enhance the car’s looks, but the positive comments have been overwhelming. Even from the older folk, they love it!”
Perhaps our favourite area of the car, though, is the interior. It’s got to be, hasn’t it? There are few things more evocative in life than beaded seat covers. Much-derided in recent times, and cast into the gallery of regret along with a million Nissan Bluebird minicabs that shamelessly wore them, they’re now being recognised as something of a guilty pleasure. Feeling those polished wooden beads gently kneading your backside, you’re transported back to childhood. You’d forgotten that your dad had these in his car, hadn’t you? But he did, juxtaposed with his Feu Orange air freshener and his yellowing, dog-eared, nineyear- old road atlas. We get so caught up in the excitement of people shoehorning the latest carbon fibre-shelled Recaros, rollcages and flocked dashes into their old-skool rides, we forget just how lovely it is to feel the quality design of the original, to sink gently into crumbling foam that’s nearly three decades old. That, above all, heralds the idea that’s been humming within this E28 all along: it’s not in-your-face, it’s not bullish or boisterous, it just is what it is. Simple. Timeless. And really rather refreshing.
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: #M10B18 1.8-litre straight-four, custom Longlife straightthrough stainless steel exhaust with upswept tail, custom Pipercross foam panel filter.
CHASSIS: 8x17” (front & rear) custom #BBS RC090 Style 5s with polished lips by Pureklas, gold bolts by SRR and white powdercoated centres, 185/35 Nankang NS-2s, 20mm hubcentric spacers and longer wheel bolts, polybushed, custom Gaz struts with Air Lift bags, two-way air-ride setup, camber-adjustable solid top mounts.
INTERIOR: Nardi Torini steering wheel, antique walking stick gear-shifter and beaded seat covers.
EXTERIOR: Original metallic black paint, enhanced with Auto Finesse products.
THANKS: Decked Metals (follow luke_deckedmetals on Instagram!), and the whole DM family – Laurence Turner, Michael Fogg, Todd Hammond, Abi Clarke, Ross Waterhouse, Chris Good and Will Clarkson for all the help and support.
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Many of us dream of building a seriously big-power #BMW , but few people make that into a reality. This 1004whp E21 sleeper is a very real dream build. With 1004whp, this incredible turbocharged #E21 goes above and beyond the concept of fast… Words: Seb de Latour. Photos: Patrik Karlsson.
You might, having just read that little intro, be wondering how much power is too much power. If you’re thinking that, this feature probably isn’t for you. In fact, maybe you should just put down #Drive-My and pick up a copy of Crochet Monthly or something along those lines. The correct answer to the above question is, of course, that there is no such thing as too much power. Okay, if we’re being absolutely sensible then, yes, 1004whp might be a little tricky to deploy in the middle of a downpour or, more likely in owner Joni Simila’s home country of Sweden, in the middle of a crisp, white winter but then you can either jump in something more suitable or travel in a far more sideways fashion. More power means you can go faster and going fast is most definitely a good thing. And when you reach, and manage to break through, the 1000hp barrier, well, there are few bigger feathers for your cap. 1000hp is a magical, almost fantasy realm of power, a number so large and incomprehensible to mere mortals that attempting to understand what 1000hp could possibly be like will see your brain melting and dripping out through your ears. True fact.
For Joni, 1000whp, and just a fraction more, is something he’s most definitely managed to wrap his brain around and something he’d wanted from the off when he started this build. His interest in cars began when he was young, watching and helping his dad fix them. When he was a bit older he bought a motocross bike which he worked on. At school he took a course in car mechanics. During this time he also watched his brother play around with various modified cars. The seeds were sown and as Joni grew so did his passion for all things automotive.
His first car was a 1.6 1988 #Honda-Civic hatchback and that’s fine, because we’ve all got to start somewhere, but having sampled the particular pleasures offered by rearwheel drive in his brother’s E28 M535i, a BMW purchase was inevitable. It began with an #E30 #323i Exclusive with a #325i engine but the first big project was an E28 M535i sleeper which featured a turbo and made 715whp and 634lb ft of torque at 2bar of boost. He sold it in 2012, inspired to go bigger and better, as he explains: “When I sold my E28, I only sold it because I wanted to build a 1000whp sleeper car and it’s hard to get that sort of power from the E28’s M30 engine. After the E28 sold I bought an E36 M3 to build up. I bought it in the middle of summer and took it to some meets. However, all the other cars I saw at meets were also E36s in different styles. As a result I decided that it wasn’t a special enough car, like the E28 was, so I traded it in for an E21 with one of the owners of Pure Performance Factory (PPF).”
Joni may have known that he wanted a big project but it all got going a lot sooner than expected as, approximately one-hour into E21 ownership, the diff broke. “I towed the car home, rolled it into the garage, lifted it up and started planning,” says Joni, matter-of-factly.
With a target of 1000whp the engine had to be rebuilt to be able to generate (and deal with) that sort of power level, and that’s after you’ve chosen an engine for the task in hand. Joni opted for the S50B32 before taking the whole thing to pieces. “I dismantled and reassembled the engine with the help of my cousins and a friend did the headwork and lined up the camshafts,” he explains. The intake and exhaust channels were ported and then the cylinder head was fitted with chromoloy retainers, PPF valve springs, a copper ring head gasket, ARP bolts and all-new gaskets throughout. The block was sent off to an engine specialist and treated to CP pistons with heavy-duty pins, PPF forged H-beam rods with ARP bolts, a support girdle with ARP bolts, new bearings, a new oil pump, new water pump and gaskets before everything was balanced and checked for bearing play.
With the foundations set, Joni was now able to put together the turbo setup. As his day job is being a welder and iron worker he was able to do all of the pipework manufacture and welding himself. For the turbo, he turned to Precision Turbo and opted for a monster PT7675, which carries a horsepower rating of 1160 and features a 76mm compressor wheel and 75mm turbine wheel, along with a 46mm wastegate. This giant snail needed a home, so a suitably beefy manifold was constructed along with a custom intake and then a custom 3.5” turboback exhaust was fabricated, which then splits into two 3” pipes running to the rear bumper with a silencer on each. A PPF intercooler and 76mm blow-off valve were selected along with an Allstar aluminium radiator and Spall fan plus a 19-row oil cooler. With such a massive turbo chucking so much air into the engine, the S50 has developed a voracious appetite for fuel and needs some pretty heavy-duty hardware to ensure it gets enough of what it needs. The engine runs 1600cc Racetronix injectors, two Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, a custom-built 60-litre fuel cell with a 2.5-litre catch tank, VAG COM ignition coils and the whole thing is looked after by MaxxECU engine management.
The end result is 1004whp, somewhere in the region of 1200hp at the flywheel, with 780lb ft of torque, which is enough to be getting on with. That’s going to put a serious strain on the drivetrain so every component along the way has been uprated. There’s a Sachs 765 pressure plate mated to a fourpuck sintered clutch disc and an M30 flywheel; the five-speed gearbox is from an #E39 #530d and there are 128mm chromoly CV-joints with super durable driveshafts. On the suspension front there are Bilstein dampers all-round with custom-built coilovers up front along with Strongflex bushes and an #E28 #M535i rear end with camber and toe adjustment. The brakes have been upgraded but perhaps not as much as you’d expect and rather than a massive off-the-shelf BBK Joni has opted for a set of four-piston E32 750i calipers mated to E36 M3 discs and GreenStuff pads, while at the rear there’s a set of E34 540i calipers and discs, also with GreenStuff pads.
Aesthetically speaking, this is one extremely sexy E21 and you couldn’t really ask for more of a sleeper. “The plan for the exterior was pretty clear,” explains Joni on his route with the styling and colour choice.
“My cousin, who is a car painter, decided the colour, otherwise he would not paint the car! I wanted the car to have a clean, original look so the BBS front spoiler, single headlights, clear turn signal lights, slightly tinted rear lights and BMW Motorsport handles was enough.” The car was painted in a lovely Fiat metallic grey called Grigio Vinci that really suits the E21 and looks great when the light hits it and picks out the flake; plus it adds to the subtle look of the whole project. On the wheel front, Joni wanted 10x17s at the rear with a wide lip and found these staggered Keskin KT1s for sale online at a good price. Fake splits they may be but they’re good-looking wheels, having taken their inspiration from OZ Futuras, though Joni plans to get rid of these and move to a set of real split-rims at some stage.
Inside, things have been kept pretty simple. The seats are the stock items and the only real changes are the RRS steering wheel and the modified instrument cluster, with Hartge speedo and additional VDO gauges, while the dash has also been given a good flocking. A custom leather retrim is planned for the winter, says Joni.
This is an incredibly comprehensive build, more than a year’s worth of work culminating in an unfeasibly powerful E21 that many a BMW fan would aspire to. However, in retrospect there are a number of things Joni would have done differently if he could and things that he plans to change. “If money was no object I would replace the stock camshafts with some meaner ones, fit a Vanos unit and replace the stock valves with some oversized race valves,” he says. “But my plans for next season, as well as getting new wheels and a custom leather interior, are to fit some stronger driveshafts and I will probably find many other things to change along the way. Winter time here in Sweden is long.”
A lot has gone into building this #BMW-E21 but Joni’s now got exactly what he wanted and he’s over the moon with the car. 1000hp takes dedication and a whole lot of hard work but one look at this E21 will tell you that it’s worth it, and then some.
ENGINE: 3.2-litre straight-six #S50B32 , ported intake and exhaust channels, chromoly retainers, PPF valve springs, copper ring head gasket, ARP bolts, all-new gaskets, CP pistons with heavy duty pins, PPF forged H-beam rods with ARP bolts, support girdle with ARP bolts, new bearings, new oil pump, new water pump, new gaskets, everything balanced and checked for bearing play, Precision Turbo PT7675 a/r 0.96 turbocharger, Precision Turbo 46mm wastegate, custom turbo manifold, custom 3.5” downpipe and 3.5” exhaust with x2 3” rear pipes with single silencer one each side, PPF 600x300x76mm intercooler, PPF 75mm blow-off valve, custom intake, Allstar aluminium radiator, 19-row oil cooler, Spal radiator fan, MaxxECU engine management, VAG COP ignition coils, 1600cc Racetronix injectors, two Aeromotive A1000 fuel pumps, Aeromotive 13109 regulator, custom 60-litre fuel cell with built-in 2.5-litre catch tank, An8 fuel feed and An6 fuel return.
TRANSMISSION: E39 530d Getrag five-speed manual gearbox, Sachs 765 pressure plate, four-puck sintered clutch disc, BMW M30 flywheel, 128mm chromoly CV joints with super durable driveshafts.
CHASSIS: 8.5x17” (front) and 10x17” (rear) #Keskin KT1 wheels with 205/40 (front) and 225/45 (rear) tyres, E28 M535i rear end, modified to fit with camber and toe adjustment, Strongflex bushes front and rear, custom front coilovers, Bilstein dampers front and rear, #BMW-E32 #750i four-piston calipers with #E36 #M3 discs and GreenStuff pads (front), #BMW-E34 #540i calipers and discs with GreenStuff pads (rear).
EXTERIOR: Full respray in Fiat Grigio Vinci metallic grey, BBS front spoiler, single headlights, clear indicators, slightly tinted rear lights, BMW Motorsport door handles.
INTERIOR: Standard seats, flocked dashboard and centre console, RRS suede-rimmed steering wheel, BMW M gear knob, modified gauge panel with BMW E30 Hartge speedo and VDO oil pressure and oil temp gauges.
THANKS: Pure Performance Factory, Keijo, Toni, Mika, Henka, Jim, Robban, Promille, Lars, PPG, Weldor AB, Lackspecialisten Köping, Kolsva Vattenskärning and all of you who have helped in one way or another.
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