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This show-stopping E28 has gone from rags to riches. Words: Josh Wilson. Sometimes your dream purchase can turn out to be a bit of a nightmare. Fortunately, a bit of TLC can make all the difference, as this sexy E28 demonstrates. Photos: Courtney Cutchen.
“Something about the lines and old-school styling grabbed my attention right away”
Finding the right car for pouring our hard earned wages into can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to vintage chassis. Scouring for sale ads, dealing with sellers and getting all the details can be a bit of a chore but at some point we reach the rewarding conclusion and find ‘the one’. For some we get exactly what was expected in our newly purchased project car but others, like Rob Amason, find themselves desperately seeking a silver lining when a purchase tailspins into a downward spiral. In 2011, Rob began the search for his next project after migrating from the Volkswagen scene to the BMW community. Originally Rob was set on an elegant white five-speed E34 but during the search came across a well-maintained E28 and thoughts of owning an E34 became a distant memory.
“Something about the lines and old-school styling grabbed my attention right away,” he explained. “I immediately started daydreaming about the possibilities of what the car could become.”
Once Rob had made contact with the owner he quickly realised that he was speaking to a devoted BMW enthusiast who had decided to let go of his E28 as he had moved to newer models. Even though the owner was keen to sell the car he didn’t want to sell it to just anyone. He had found it sitting under a tree years ago and nursed it back to health and the thought of some young kid buying the car and just hacking it up made him cringe.
So in the end, it took Rob two months of trading emails and calls trying to coax the owner to sell the E28. His persistence finally paid off, though, and he became the owner of what he thought would be the perfect base for his build. But after his E28 rolled off of the car hauler fresh from California, Rob found himself with a car that wasn’t in the condition that the previous owner had stated.
He quickly noticed that the respray lacked quality, the interior had more wear than the pictures revealed and the Style 5s that came with the car were beyond saving due to being chipped and kerbed. The beginning of his build had begun with heartbreak but then came the silver lining: under the cheap paint was a body that was completely rust-free. Even the floor was intact.
The exterior of this classic looking E28 has been kept clean, showcasing its timeless body lines. Rob carried out a full respray in the original Royal Blau that this car would have come off the production line with back in 1988. He also did us all a favour by tossing the original US-spec bumpers in the dumpster and replacing them with European-spec items, which we think help massively clean up the look of not just this but all older BMWs. Other accents like Euro headlamps, Euro grilles and Euro all-red tail lamps were added to complete the look.
Next on Rob’s ‘to-do’ list was the interior as he wasn’t a fan of the original pearl beige and black interior. The car was completely gutted with the help of Will Villegas – a fellow enthusiast. Recaro Evo 8 front seats and a rear seat from an M5 now reside inside his E28 which have been completely reupholstered along with the doorcards, handles and gear gaiter. Custom upholstery seems to be hard to pull off in vintage BMWs but Rob has managed to give the interior a fresh look while still keeping the overall feel of the car the same, a seemingly simple task that is rarely accomplished as well as this.
The biggest challenge for Rob to tackle was the air suspension. Today, finding an air setup for older BMWs is a pretty simple task but back in 2011 before the air suspension explosion it was not so easy. The only E28 on air at this time, in the States at least, was the infamous Rusty which was built by Mike Burroughs who has graced these very pages.
Knowing that Mike’s setup was a one-off setup, Rob enlisted the expertise of Drew Dorbritz from Dorbritz Design in Texas. Rob and Drew sat down and brainstormed what they hoped to accomplish and also what options existed out there to use as a base. Once they had done the groundwork, they worked alongside performance air suspension specialist Air Lift to create a setup with a balance of form and function.
This pioneering work would also serve as a roadmap for future E28 and E30 owners looking to do similar modifications. As you can imagine, in order to get an E28 with its control arms sitting on the pavement it was necessary to carry out some fabrication work, mainly due to the stock spindles and struts. However, despite the low ride height no modifications to the E28’s body was required, leaving the elegant lines unmolested. To manage the Air Lift suspension, Rob went with Accuair’s eLevel Air Management which is tucked away – adding to the car’s clean composition.
Speaking of being tucked away, Rob has been through a multitude of wheels with this E28 but currently the BMW is sitting on a set of chrome Rotiform SJC Race wheels. These fill the arches nicely as they measure 9x17” in each corner. Peeking out behind those eye-grabbing Rotiforms is a custom Futura Design Big Brake Kit up front with E32 750iL brakes helping out in the rear.
Even with all the upgrades to the suspension, interior, and drivetrain Rob still loves the fact that this E28 still has that oldschool feel. “I love all the quirky little things that come with being the caretaker of an antique class car,” he told us with a big smile. “The fact that sometimes I have to give the dash a gentle tap to get the lights to turn on or that in cold weather I have to allow the car to warm up a bit before getting on the road doesn’t matter at all.
That’s what I like about it! It has real character. I even love the smell of the interior… it’s a scent that only a 26-year-old car can give you.” We agree, it’s an encompassing experience that carmakers can only dream to achieve with their modern offerings. It’s a shame that some will never experience it as they don’t see it as character, rather it’s an inconvenience. It’s been a three-year love affair for Rob and his beautiful #1988 E28, a journey that began with its troubles but has resulted in a resurrection of a beloved chassis with an elegant aura. For Rob, though, it has been more than just building and restoring this E28 as he’s made some good friends through his hobby. “Thankfully this build has helped introduce into my life a great number of relationships that I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy,” he said. “And while I built this car with a specific vision in mind, it was also with determination that I wanted to build something that was a true reflection of who I am as a person and something that everyone could appreciate. There is never an instance where everyone will be satisfied with what you’ve done but when I take account the relationships that have been forged over this build, the best trophy of all as been the friendships I’ve made.”
ENGINE: 2.7-litre straight-six #M20B27 / #M20 / #BMW-M20 , upgraded head with 885 casting and dual-valve springs, upgraded camshaft, upgraded intake and exhaust valves, upgraded harness and ECU to 173 #Bosch-Motronic with performance chip, powdercoated intake manifold and valve cover, fully polished and upgraded throttle body.
CHASSIS: 9x17” ET10 (front and rear) #Rotiform / #Rotiform-SJC Race wheels with 3” lips and Falken Ziex tyres. #Air-Lift-Universal-Double-Bellow bag with air strut (front), #Air-Lift Universal Sleeve Bag air strut (rear), #AccuAir #eLevel air management system with rocker control, Dual polished tanks with hardlines in custom trunk enclosure, Dual chrome #Viar silent compressors, custom #Futura-Design Big Brake Kit with two-piece discs with anodised blue hats, calipers powdercoated in #Alpine white with blue logos (front), drilled and grooved discs (front), stainless brake hoses (front), new master cylinder, rear brakes upgraded to E32 750iL brakes.
EXTERIOR: Full European conversion comprising Euro front and rear bumpers, Euro headlamps, front Euro grill, rear Euro all-red tail lamps.
INTERIOR: Custom Recaro Evo 8s (front), custom M5 rear seats, custom doorcards, handles and gear gaiter, NRG quick release steering wheel hub and adapter, NRG Wood grain steering wheel and matching gear knob.
AUDIO: #Sony GS Series Audio with XS-GS1720 and XSGS1720S speakers, 12” XS-GS120LD DVC subwoofer, XM-GS400 4/3/2 channel amplifier, XM-GS100 Class D subwoofer amplifier, MEX-BT4100P Bluetooth receiver with Pandora, custom sub and amp enclosure built by German Audio Specialists.
THANKS: First and foremost, I’d like to thank my sons who’ve spent their fair share of hours handing me wrenches, cleaning parts and pushing it in and out of the garage when it wasn’t running. Those friends that took time from their own busy schedules to turn a wrench here and there in exchange for beer and laughter: Will Villegas, Greg Strube, Drew Dorbritz and Team16NiSS. My supports: Meguiars, Futura Designs, German Audio Specialists, Sony Audio, #UndergroundGrfx , Accuair , Kustomz Unlimited and Dorbitz Designs Kustom Shoppe. Special thanks to Courtney Cutchen for the photography work, Josh Wilson for the literary work and CAtuned for the opportunity.
Custom Futura Design BBK sits behind 9x17” Rotiform SJC Race wheels, which tuck perfectly when aired-out.
Easily one of the shiniest air-ride boot builds we’ve seen, with polished hardpipes galore, and it’s immaculate.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.