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    CLEAN LIVING

    Exceedingly smooth and bagged E36. Clean and smooth, this head-turning Touring is brimming with individual touches that really help it stand out from the crowd. Photos: Si Gray. Words: Elizabeth de Latour.

    You know what really impresses us when we visit a show? It’s not the wild, no-holds-barred builds that get all the attention and steal all the headlines (though they are undeniably impressive), it’s actually the cars that look great but their owners have taken a much more modest route to making that happen. These builds are all about the subtle, individual touches that really make them stand out and allow their builders to put their own mark on their projects.

    Take Andy Guyett’s E36 Touring, for example. There’s no wild body kit, no custom three-piece wheels, nothing outlandish, but it just looks so good and while the applied mods appear to be quite simple at first glance, there’s definitely a lot more here than meets the eye…

    “I’ve always been into cars, never football,” begins Andy, “as growing up I was always around cars; my two brothers had all sorts of cool Yank stuff and while I never followed them down that road I have had all sorts of cars over the years. I started off with a white Opel Manta GTE when I was 18 followed by a Fiesta XR2 after which I decided to build something, which took the shape of a 1971 Cali-look Beetle. I ran it as a daily and it wasn’t great as it was very low and just not very well-suited to the task.”

    The Beetle was followed by another couple of classic VWs before Andy decided to come over to the Bavarian way of life. “My friend bought an E30,” he explains, “and I loved it. It looked cool so I sold the Beetle I had at the time and bought myself a champagne E30 320i four-door with brown velour seats.” That might not sound like the sexiest of places to start but it ticked Andy’s boxes and started him on the road of BMW ownership which, almost six and a half years ago, led to the purchase of the 323i Touring you see before you.

    “My girlfriend had a Clio at the time and after the cambelt snapped twice in two years we decided to get shot of it. The garage where I found this E36 for sale did a straight swap for the Clio and I had a good feeling about the car, it just felt right.” His gut was clearly on the money considering the Touring is still a part of the family, and while it had been purchased bone stock, the fact that Andy had modified every car he’d owned in some way meant that it was not going to remain that way for long. “I always knew what I wanted to do,” says Andy, “but I didn’t know I would go this far with it!”

    The styling has been given plenty of attention and this Touring wears a blend of different parts that all combine to give it a seriously meaty look. Step one to its outstanding freshness is a full respray in its original shade of Orient blue and then comes the onslaught of Sport addenda, with genuine front and rear bumpers, side skirts and wide door trims.

    The Sport additions make a big difference to the Touring’s looks just on their own, but these have been further enhanced with another layer of styling. Up front, a replica AC Schnitzer deep splitter has been added and this is matched at the rear with a replica #ACS boot spoiler, while a set of genuine ACS mirrors with custom decals complete the Schnitzer triumvirate, and the splitter, diffuser and roof bars have all been painted in Azurite black, which changes from black to blue in the light, adding a subtle individual aspect to proceedings.


    The arches have been rolled (you can see why, with the rears receiving a bit of a pull) and there’s been a lot of smoothing going on across the body. The bonnet badge has gone, as has the boot badge and the model inscription. The side repeaters have been removed and smoothed, the petrol filler flap has been smoothed and the rear wiper has been removed altogether, using the first ever Kill All Wipers kit for the E36 Touring. The end result is a car that’s smoother than a wellused bar of soap. The finishing touches are the all-red rear lenses, angel eye headlights and pre-face-lift nosecone. You may have also noticed that Andy is all about those orange highlights, with the custom decals on his mirrors carrying orange script, his stickers printed in orange, the amber front indicator lenses and the flashes of orange paint on his calipers.

    That’s something he’s carried through into the interior too. In fact, there have been some big changes in here and the first thing that hits you are the Recaro CS front seats because they look awesome; big sporty seats always make a big statement and act as a centrepiece for car’s interior, which is why it’s so disappointing when high performance models don’t have them, but always exciting when someone’s gone to the effort of fitting a set in their car. Here they sit on custom subframes made by Hard Knocks Speed Shop, while the rear bench has been trimmed to match the half-leather finish of the front seats and fitted with different headrests.

    The headlining and A-pillars have been finished in an Alcantara-style material and the doorcard inserts, glovebox lid and trim, centre console, driver’s knee roll and inner mirror covers have all been trimmed in black fauxsuede; it makes for an extremely luxuriousfeeling interior. That’s impressive enough on its own, but that’s not even the half of it; Andy has replaced all of the previously grey interior trim panels with black ones and that includes the entire dash itself, which makes the whole interior look infinitely smarter and he has also replaced the carpet with a black one, none of which is no small job.

    The steering wheel has been retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels, with perforated leather on the sides, Nappa leather on the top and bottom sections, M tricolour stitching and an orange centre marker. A Schmiedmann suede handbrake gaiter has been fitted and Andy has also retro-fitted the 18-button OBC and the start button from a Honda S2000. We’re not done in here yet because the lacklustre standard audio has received a serious upgrade, with an Alpine head unit hooked up to a set of orange-coned Hertz three-way components, powered by no less than two JL Audio amps along with a 12” JL sub in the boot, which is also where you’ll find the simple air install with just the single polished tank on display.

    “I had HSD coilovers before the air,” says Andy as we move onto discussing his comprehensive chassis mods, “but it was going to the Players show that helped me make the decision to switch to air. I saw so many cars on air-ride, including Ed Johnston’s E36 Touring back when it was cream, and knew that was what I wanted. I ended up buying a three-month-old kit from one of Riiva Design’s cars, an Air Lift setup with V2 management and I fitted it over a long weekend with my son Tom and a friend of mine.”

    The air-ride is just the tip of the iceberg, though, as the front end has been fitted with polybushed lollipops and ARB mounts with E30 front wishbones and an ECS Tuning strut brace under the bonnet. The whole rear end has been fully polybushed, with SPC Performance adjustable rear camber arms and an M3 rear anti-roll bar plus a set of Phoenix Motorsport rear damper reinforcement plates. The brakes haven’t been forgotten about either, with an E46 330Ci front setup plus an M3 servo and master cylinder and Goodridge hoses all-round.

    With the wheels, Andy went through five or six sets before he settled on these 18” M Parallels: “I started off with some 17” Alpina reps, then I had BBS RKs, ACS Type 3 reps, all sorts, but I’d always liked the Paras,” he says. “They look like a strong wheel and these ones are in a staggered fitment from the E38 7 Series. I had to have the rear hubs shaved in order to be able to get them to fit under the arches.” M Parallels are the perfect example of a very clean, simple, classic design that works well on everything and looks good on everything, and in this particular staggered 18” form with diamond cut faces and lips they look absolutely stunning on this Touring.

    Finally we come to the engine and, while there’s not a lot going on under the bonnet at the moment, with just a DaveF induction kit and 328i manifold-back exhaust, Andy has some big plans for that M52: “I’m really happy with the styling but now I want to make it go faster and I’m currently building an #M52B28 – I’ve actually had the engine for almost two years now,” he laughs. “The head will be gas-flowed, there will be a stainless exhaust manifold, an Alpina527 adapted M50 intake manifold, a Hark Knocks Speed Shop custom exhaust and I’ll get it remapped by Enda Ward at End Tuning.” That lot will add up to one pretty impressive lump that will definitely endow this Touring with some proper performance.

    This really is a seriously nice car. It’s got a perfect blend of mods that combine to give it some real presence and plenty of individuality, all while retaining the essence of the E36 Touring. Andy’s built himself a cracking machine and the engine swap he’s got up his sleeve will be the icing on an extremely tasty cake…

    DATA FILE #BMW / #BMW-E36 / #BMW-323i-Touring / #BMW-323i-Touring-E36 / #BMW-323i-E36 / #BMW-323iA-Touring-E36 / #BMW-323iA / #BMW-323iA-E36 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E36 / #BMW-3-Series-Touring / #BMW-3-Series-Touring-E36 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.5-litre straight-six #M52B25 / #M52 / #BMW-M52 , #DaveF induction kit, 328i manifold-back exhaust, five-speed auto gearbox #ZF5HP / #ZF

    CHASSIS 8x18” (front) and 9.5x18” (rear) #Style-37M-Parallel wheels with diamond cut faces and lips with 215/40 (front) and 225/40 (rear) Kumho Ecsta tyres, #Air-Lift-Performance #Airride with #Air-Lift-V2 management, front strut brace, polybushed front lollipops and #ARB mounts, E30 front wishbones, fully polybushed rear end, #SPC-Performance adjustable rear camber arms, M3 rear anti-roll bar, #Phoenix-Motorsport rear damper reinforcement top plates, E46 330Ci front brakes, M3 servo/master cylinder, Goodridge braided hoses (front and rear), #BMW hardlines (front and rear)


    EXTERIOR Full respray in original Orient blue metallic, bonnet badge removed and smoothed, pre-face-lift front nosecone, angel eye headlights with shrouded HID projectors, Sport front bumper, replica #AC-Schintzer deep front splitter, AC Schnitzer door mirrors with custom decals, side repeaters removed and smoothed, Sport side skirts, smoothed petrol flap, Sport wide door trims, Sport rear bumper, replica AC Schnitzer rear spoiler, all-red rear lenses, boot badge removed and smoothed, 323i badge removed, Kill All Wipers rear wiper delete, arches rolled all-round and rears pulled, front splitter, rear diffuser and roof bars painted in #BMW Azurite black, LED number plate lights

    INTERIOR #Recaro-CS front seats on custom Hard Knocks Speed Shop subframes, rear bench retrimmed/coloured to match fronts, different rear headrests, all interior panels and carpet changed from grey-to-black, headlining and A-pillars recovered in black faux-Alcantara, doorcard inserts, glovebox lid and trim, centre console, drivers knee roll and inner mirror covers trimmed in black fauxsuede, Royal Steering Wheels retrimmed Sport steering wheel with M stitching and orange centre stripe, Schmiedmann suede handbrake gaiter, Sport inner sill covers custom painted in BMW Azurite black, Honda S2000 start button, retro-fitted 18-button OBC, #Alpine-CDA-9887R head unit, 2x JL Audio amps, Hertz threeway components, JL Audio 12” sub, LED bulbs

    INTERIOR Big thanks to my son Tom Guyett, good friends Cliff Judson and Sam Hendrie for their continued help with the car and my fiancé Fiona for her patience with a stream of car parts in the front room and my constant absence! Dips at Custom Cars for his huge efforts with the paint and body mods, Richard at Ruislip Tyres for his sterling efforts getting the wheels ready (twice!) and constant tyre swapping, Ray Boultwood, Neil Chapman and all the members of BMWEnthusiasts forum for the (usually!) kind words during the build and for the camaraderie at meets and Badger Bourton of Hard Knocks Speed Shop for his outstanding fabrication skills
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    Stunning Alpina Roadster V8. The Other Z8. It might look like a Z8, but Alpina’s Roadster V8 was an entirely different animal and all the better for it.

    Think this is a BMW Z8? Think again! It’s the even rarer #Alpina Roadster V8, but it might just be the car the Z8 should have been in the first place… Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: Max Earey.

    ALPINA ROADSTER V8

    Late summer, 2003, Nottingham. A different time, a different world, a different job. I might be making this sound overly nostalgic, given we’re only talking about 13 years ago but in many ways the pace of change in the 21st century does make the early 2000s feel like a different era in retrospect. Take BMW. Back on that sunny day I’m referencing above, the company’s lineup ran thus: Three, Five, Seven, X5, Z4. The 6 Series was on the way but it wasn’t in showrooms. That list doesn’t, of course, include the MINI, which was still only a three-door hatch at that point, but it’s clear to see that the current widespread diversification of the Munich fleet had not yet begun to take effect.


    Actually, I’m missing a car out of the 2003 roll call of honour and that’s the Z8, one of BMW’s largely forgotten vehicles. A glorious mix of the cutting edge (aluminium space frame chassis, 4.9-litre V8 from the contemporary M5) shoehorned into that indulgently classical body (designed to evoke the 1950s 507 Roadster) it rather spectacularly missed its target because it didn’t appeal to flame-surfaced petrolheads wanting the latest Bangle designs, nor did its six-speed manual gearbox and rather aggressive manner coerce historic car buyers into shelling out for it. Almost 6000 of them were made, which suggests that #BMW would argue the Z8 was an unqualified success, but we can’t help feeling that without a largely underwhelming appearance in the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond film franchise (it basically did bugger all before getting cut in half longitudinally with a helicopter-mounted buzzsaw), BMW’s most opulent roadster would have fared worse on the global markets. It needed to be a little more laid-back, a little more comfortable to ride in. It needed an automatic gearbox option. In short, it needed to be more like the Alpina Roadster V8.

    Which is the reason I’m banging on about Nottingham in the days when England’s cricket team were still desperately searching for an Ashes series victory, when Gareth Gates was (shudder) a force to be reckoned with in the charts, and when Tony Blair was midway through his second term as Prime Minister. Because, lucky sod that I am, I was in the biggest city in the East Midlands that day in order to drive an Alpina Roadster V8 when it was new. It was car 47 of 555 and it was Sytner’s demonstrator, finished in Stratus grey with a light-coloured leather interior. It was utterly glorious and, as cars go, rarer than rare. Sure, 555 might not seem the most limited of production runs but 450 of the Roadster V8s were destined for the US, another 75 remained in mainland Europe, 20 headed east to Japan, and the final ten were allocated to the UK – although rumour suggests only eight of these actually sold. I drove that 2003 UK car and thought it was magical. I was also convinced I’d never, ever get to have a go in one again.

    Cut to a cold moorland road somewhere between Bradford and Hebden Bridge, early 2016. And to my surprise, I’m in a 2003 model year Alpina Roadster V8 once more. This time, naturally, it is not new, but it might as well be – the example I’m in has covered a scant 15,000 miles in its 13-year life and it feels as tight as the proverbial percussion instrument. The mellifluous 4.8 up front is burring away, responding with decent haste to throttle inputs and shoving the ‘modern classic’ forward with real intensity. The Alpina Switchtronic gearbox isn’t unduly hesitant or struggling to find the right cog for the job, while its quaint, handstitched ‘+’ and ‘–’ buttons on the steering wheel prompt shifts as and when you need them. It feels good to be back in the saddle. Actually, scratch that; it feels superb. It seems this most curious of Alpinas has retained all of its allure, and then some.


    And that undiminished appeal brings us onto another area where 2003 again feels like a different era. Back then, the brand-new Roadster V8 was around £6000 more expensive than the 400hp Z8, costing £86,000 in the UK. Time, though, has done funny things to the values. The BMW Z8 has become something of a collector’s piece, despite everything, with values sky-rocketing past the original purchase price. So imagine what has happened to the financial status of a car of which just 555 were made. This one, in the more traditional Titanium silver so many Z8s are seen in, is No.116, a machine which has spent its pampered life cloistered away in a collection over in the US. Imported back here by those connoisseurs of fine automotive exotica, Kahn Design, it is now up for sale – with a previous owner on the logbook and 15,000 miles on the clock – for practically three times its original value. You’ll get a fiver change from £240,000 if you want to buy it. Wow.

    It is an astonishing market performance for a less well-known example of an often-overlooked BMW model. But maybe there’s a wider appreciation for its deliberately retro looks nowadays. Put it this way, in about four hours in the Roadster V8’s company for our photoshoot, we had the full gamut of public response: young kids on the roadside gawped and even applauded as it trundled past (maybe the ‘OO 77’ numberplate helped); one bloke in a garage was convinced it was a modern re-creation; another was astonished when we told him that the Alpina was from 2003, not 1963.

    Yet it cannot be denied that the Roadster V8, and by extension the Z8 on which it is based, is a gorgeous car. That long bonnet, those sweeping haunches, the slender rear light clusters – it’s a design where you can really enjoy spending a long time simply drinking in the details. For what it’s worth, Alpina didn’t do a lot to BMW’s basic shape. You’ll notice there’s no branded ‘cow-catcher’ spoiler adorning the Roadster’s face, nor are there side skirts or a revised rear bumper. The V8 actually wears a lot of BMW roundels, on its bootlid, side gills and at the pointiest bit of the sharp prow. The biggest giveaways that you’re not dealing with your common or garden Z8 are the Alpina legend on the Roadster’s rump and those 20-spoke alloys – not cotton-reels, in this instance, but rims with five clusters of four spokes each. When driving No.47 back in 2003, I was told by Sytner’s then-representative that fitting spoilers to the Roadster V8 would have been “like putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa”. What was true then remains valid now.

    Linked to the lack of a bodykit, the biggest change Buchloe made to the Z8 was one you cannot see, with the E39 M5 drivetrain of the regular car replaced by one of Alpina’s own making. A 4.8-litre V8 developing 381hp (down 19hp on the Z8) and 383lb ft (up 14lb ft on the Z8, and crucially peak torque is available at lower revs in the Roadster V8, too), it was mated to Alpina’s five-speed Switchtronic automatic. That last detail alone is what made the Roadster infinitely more appealing in the US than the manualonly Z8. But what has all this got to do with spoilers?

    Well, although the Alpina is slightly slower on acceleration than the Z8, clocking the 0-62mph sprint in 5.3 seconds compared to 4.7 for the BMW, it has a higher top speed of 166mph against the Z8’s 155mph limited maximum. However, the Alpina could go faster still, but aerodynamic lift beyond 166mph means that a rear spoiler would be needed – and we’re back at square one in terms of disrupting the Roadster V8’s delicate exterior lines. The fantastic interior is much the same story of restraint. No.116 has black leather, which is practical, and again the Alpina changes are subtle. The trademark blue dials are in place, complete with the little gear indicator directly in front of the driver, while there’s an Alpina-branded centre boss on the exquisite three-spoke steering wheel, which also features the green-and-blue stitching of Buchloe. Other than that, it’s the same as a Z8, Switchtronic gear lever notwithstanding. Again, this is no bad thing, because the Z8 used bespoke switchgear that you won’t find in any other BMW – such as the rocker switches for the electric windows, the slender silver stalks on the steering column, and the rotary dials for the climate controls. About the only familiar button you’ll spot is the heated seat switch, sequestered away next to your thigh on the centre console.


    That 4.8 is worth looking at in closer detail. A double overhead-cam 32-valve V8 of 4837cc, it is a development of the Alpina 4.6 – and, yes, these are the same pair of motors that Buchloe famously ‘gave back’ to BMW as a present, for use in the ‘iS’-badged performance variants of the original X5. With an aluminium block and head, Bosch Motronic engine management, a revised crank with a 93mm bore and 89mm stroke, Mahle pistons and an Alpina exhaust system, it managed to develop its peak outputs without resorting to forced induction. All right, the specific output of 79hp-per-litre might be a touch leisurely, but the way it goes about its business is anything but. Even in a world where hot hatches can do 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, the 1615kg Roadster V8 still feels acceptably punchy.

    Alpina’s final alterations came in terms of the handling. Buchloe chose to soften off the Z8, fitting its own dampers and springs with gentler rates in both instances. However, beefier anti-roll bars front and rear ensured that the handling didn’t go to pot. And, to an extent, Alpina worked its customary magic. Fire up the engine with the plain black leather starter button to the right of the wheel and it turns over with a creamy roar. Slot into ‘D’, release the brake and the Roadster V8 oozes off down the road in a charming, cultured manner. It’s a doddle to drive and despite 20-inch rubber of 255/35 aspect front and 285/30 rear, the ride is sumptuous. I remember No.47 rode well, but not as smoothly as this. Maybe sports cars of today, adjustable dampers and all, still can’t flatten out imperfections as well as these cars of, er, yesteryear. The steering is another area which deserves credit, as it’s full of weight and feel from the off. It would appear it hasn’t been Americanised beyond all reason. Stoke the 4.8 up and the Alpina will pick up its skirts and hustle, although it’s a GT first and foremost.

    Under harder cornering the rear axle tries to skip and jump on bumpier surfaces, while during this style of driving the steering feels a touch slow on the uptake. Point-and-squirt would be the better approach to adopt when pushing the Roadster V8 quickly, rather than trying to eke every last ounce out of it as the last of the late brakers. Nevertheless, however No.116 was being conducted, it felt as good as new – no undue squeaks, rattles or groans were to be heard, and all of its major controls felt cohesive and taut.

    Is there anything negative to note? Yes, we couldn’t get the hard-top off. The tool was there and all the locking bolts moved smoothly enough, but our guess is that its previous owner never once removed the hard-top and, as a result, it’s a little too attached to the windscreen’s header rail. A little bit of care and attention in Kahn’s workshop will see that right in a jiffy. Apart from that, it’s a clean bill of health. Not only does No.116 feel mechanically sound but the interior is absolutely flawless, as if it has never been used. Slightly more than a decade might not be the most challenging period to keep a vehicle in time warp condition but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be commending the Alpina’s former owner for having done so.


    In short, then, this is your best chance of owning an as-new Alpina Roadster V8. But should you splash out a quarter of a million on such a machine? That’s trickier. It remains a sublime GT, with its bespoke interior, svelte appearance and that wonderful Alpina drivetrain. But £240,000 gets you a lot of choice in the car world these days and for all the things the Roadster V8 excels at, a supercar it ain’t. Kahn’s people reckon it will become part of a larger collection, where it will be the fifth, sixth or maybe even 20th addition to a rich person’s horde. That sounds about right to us. Whoever buys it, though, is getting something magnificent, out-of-the-ordinary and from a completely different era of car building. Even if that era is 2003.


    CONTACT:
    Kahn Design
    Tel: 01274 749999
    Website: wwwkahndesign.com

    Stoke the 4.8 up and the Alpina will pick up its skirts and hustle, although it’s a GT first and foremost.

    Below: Alpina 4.8-litre V8 is a jewel and really suits the car’s character Right: Plenty of modern/retro details and a smattering of Alpina badges.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #2003

    BMW #Alpina-Roadster-V8 / #BMW-Z8-E52 / #BMW-E52 / #BMW-Z8 / #BMW / #Alpina-Roadster-V8-E52 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-Roadster-V8 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-Roadster-V8-E52 / #BMW-Z8-Alpina-E52 / #Alpina-E52 / #Alpina / #Henrik-Fisker / #BMW-Z8-Stunning / #BMW-E52-Stunning /

    ENGINE: #Alpina #V8 , DOHC, 32-valve / #M62 / #BMW-M62 / #M62-Alpina /
    CAPACITY: 4837cc
    MAX POWER: 381hp @ 5800rpm
    MAX TORQUE: 383lb ft @ 3800rpm
    0-62MPH: 5.3 seconds / #ZF5HP
    TOP SPEED: 166mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 21.4mpg
    PRICE: £86,000 (2003 UK+Tax), £239,995 (today 2016 UK)

    You’ll get a fiver change from £240,000 if you want to buy it. Wow.

    Left: Auto transmission lever is a surprise addition to the Z8’s interior Right: Trademark Alpina blue dials and neat gear indicator.
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    NIGHT RIDER

    With custom styling, custom wheels and attention to detail to die for, this is one of the best E39s around. Prowling the dark streets of London is a devilish #BMW-5-Series that makes grown men go weak at the knees… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Rash Bajwa.


    While the 3 Series may still rule the roost when it comes to the modified #BMW scene, it’s nice to see that the E39 is most definitely coming on strong. Back when I bought mine two years ago, there didn’t seem to be many Fives about and hardly any BMs on air-ride at all in general, but now it’s become a killer combination, and there are some stunning E39s about, such as this one, arguably one of the best E39s anywhere. Its owner is Sumil Pancholi and what makes his beautiful 5 Series all the more impressive is not just the painstaking level of detail but the fact that he’s gone from stock to show car in just six months.

    Now, Sumil is no stranger to modified cars, as he tells me when we meet one chilly night for his shoot: “I’ve definitely always been into cars and modding,” he says, “and I used to read Max Power and Fast Car when I was younger. When it was my turn to start modifying cars people had stopped playing with Corsas and Saxos and moved onto German cars so it got more expensive.”

    After a stint with VWs and then Audis, Sumil decided to move on to BMWs to “see what all the fuss was about” and judging by the fact that I’m here writing about his E39 it’s fair to say that he realised the fuss was fully justified and stuck with BMWs.

    The 530i is his third BMW, having been preceded by an E46 330d and an E92 330d: “After the E92 I wanted something a bit different and practical,” he says. “I thought the E39 was a beautiful car originally but I’d never seen one that had been extensively modified. I bought the car as a daily and while I knew I wanted to modify it, it was never the plan to take it this far,” he laughs. “It’s a Champagne I limited edition model. I specifically wanted a Champagne car – only 150 examples were produced and I’d never had a black car before plus I liked the lightcoloured interior.” Having been produced in such small numbers, however, means that Champagnes are not easy to come by and it took Sumil around five months of searching before this car appeared in Leicester. “I took the coach up, test drove the car, fell in love with it and bought it on the spot,” he grins and while during the first four months of ownership the car remained stock, the last six have been a whirlwind…

    We really should talk about the wheels first because not only are they a main attraction on this E39, Sumil’s actually owned them for four years. We’ll let him explain… “The wheels were originally Hartge Design Es and I had them on the E92 – originally they were Sparkling graphite to match the car and then I went for Midnight purple but for the E39 I wanted something different. On the E92 they were 8.5s and 9.5s but I wanted wider dishes, so I had them resurfaced to make them into Design C, the reason being that on the C the lips are facemounted so you get to see all of them so you get a bigger dish. For the extra width I ordered Radinox lips from Germany, which have taken the wheels to 10.25” wide up front and 10.75” at the rear, and I had the centres finished in a custom red with gold bolts. I knew when I was buying the car that I wanted air-ride so it’d be practical and I could drive it low but still get over speed bumps so I had an Air Lift kit fitted but that was all I had been planning on doing…”

    Before Sumil had bought the E39 it hadn’t been used much and the front arches had started rusting and the rears were also bubbling so he decided to have the car resprayed before deciding to do a bit of work on the styling front. “I hadn’t seen anything I liked and I wasn’t keen on the off the- shelf stuff so I knew that I was going to go down the custom route.” Dips at Custom Cars was tasked with handling all of the styling work on the car, beginning with the front bumper, blending in an E46 M3 front splitter onto the Sport bumper and also blending in a pair of Hamann foglight covers that Sumil got his hands on. The fogs themselves were then tinted and the front plate was made removable to give the car a cleaner look. With the front taken care of, Sumil turned his attention to the rear end, with the intention of giving the car a CSL bootlid and bought an add-on spoiler. This was to be blended onto the existing bootlid, but not before also deciding to go for a shorter rear number plate recess. In order for that to happen, a donor bootlid was purchased for £25 and Dips used the outer sections of the recess to create the requested smaller recess, blending it and the CSL lip seamlessly onto the existing bootlid.


    It has been trimmed down a touch, though, as it was just a bit too high and now, according to Sumil, it looks much better. After the boot came the bonnet with its E92 M3 power bulge. It’s probably the most impressive and dramatic of the styling modifications but making it happen was no easy task: “I wanted the bonnet to be a focal piece,” says Sumil, “and after a lot of searching I found an aftermarket M3 mould in Germany – it was a nightmare to get hold of, it was hard to source and it was hard to communicate with the seller, but in the end I managed to get my hands on it.”

    The job of adding the power bulge to the bonnet began as well as removing the BMW roundel and smoothing the recess. “I hate join lines,” says Sumil, “I like having everything blended in so the car looks like it could have come from the factory like that and so it looks subtle so people won’t necessarily notice the changes. I took a risk by doing something different with the E39 but it was worth it as I love the way the car looks now.” We’re inclined to agree, as the three hit combo of front lip, bonnet and boot is a seriously powerful one, not only endowing this E39 with a sense of aggression and drama that even the Sport models lack, but makes for a truly individual statement, and it’s one that has really made this Five stand out from the crowd.


    That is, however, only the beginning, as that aforementioned attention to detail is what really makes the difference and there are countless additional styling touches throughout the car that bring all the elements together. Now, red wheels on a black car is a great combination, but Sumil’s theme for the whole car is champagne and strawberries, and so there are actually countless red details throughout the car.


    On the outside the front lip, grilles, spoiler lip and rear diffuser have all been finished in a custom black red shade, so they look black until the light hits them and that’s when you get a subtle flash of dark red, though less subtle are custom blacked-out headlights with red angel eyes… The red theme extends to the engine bay, too, with numerous red highlights plus the fan cowling has been painted black red, but what you’re really going to be looking at under the bonnet, aside from the sexy Gruppe M carbon intake, is the rather flamboyant washer bottle setup: “So, I love vodka,” says Sumil, “and in the E92 I actually had a Grey Goose washer bottle – I wanted to do that again but with the E39 I needed something that would tie in with my colour scheme, so I opted for a Ciroc Red Berry bottle and Dips added a red LED so I can light it up when I’m parked up at a show with the bonnet open.”

    The interior has also been treated to some love and attention; the steering wheel has been retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels, the rim now being thicker and there’s Champagne stitching to match the seats, which has also been added to the gear selector and handbrake gaiters, while the trims have also been sprayed in the same shade of black red as the exterior elements, with that deep red metallic flake catching the light beautifully. There’s also a custom mounting pod for the Audison Bit Ten DRC controller, as Sumil’s quite into his sounds, as demonstrated by the absolutely astonishing boot build. The E39’s sound system is pretty dire and with in-car audio being so important to Sumil, it was inevitable that he would turn his attention to this area of the Five. Inside, Morel components have been fitted up front while JL coaxials reside on the parcel shelf, all powered by a JL 600/4 HD amp with an Audison Bit Ten processor, while the boot is home to two JL 10W7AE subs powered by a JL 1200/HD amp, and the whole system allows for full wireless music streaming.

    The boot is also where you’ll find the airride install, with the twin tanks painted in the same custom red as the wheels, with gold hardlines just like the bolts on his Hartges, with everything trimmed in Alcantara. It’s seriously spectacular, just like the rest of the car.

    “I’ve done a lot in ten months,” muses Sumil as we stand admiring his E39, and he’s not wrong. It’s been pretty much a non-stop whirlwind of activity from the moment the project got off the ground until now, but it’s been more than worth it as he’s created an amazing machine. “For now I’m very happy,” he says, and while there is talk of a supercharger that’s got to wait a while until his funds recover. There’s no rush, though – as far as Sumil’s concerned, this car is most definitely a keeper and that comes as no surprise as it has become an extension of Sumil himself and is going to be a big part of his life for a very long time to come…

    I took a risk by doing something different but it was worth it Sumil Pancholi.

    19” three-piece Hartges are absolutely stunning while the subtle black red highlights include the spoiler lip.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Air-ride #BMW-E39 / #BMW-530i / #BMW-530i-E39 / #BMW-530i-AirRide-E39 / #BMW

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , Grüppe M carbon intake, custom Ciroc Red Berry vodka screen wash bottle, red engine bay highlights, five-speed #Steptronic #ZF5HP gearbox.

    CHASSIS 10.25x19” (front) and 10.75x19” (rear) #Hartge Design C wheels with 3.25” Radinox lips, custom red centres and gold bolts with 235/35 (front and rear) Falken FK453 tyres, #AirLift-Performance air-ride with V2 management, K-Sport #BBK with eight-piston calipers and 356mm grooved discs (front).


    EXTERIOR Custom bonnet with powerdome, #BMW roundel delete, washer jets moved to windscreen wipers, custom front bumper with Hamann foglight covers and custom CSL splitter moulded in, custom air intake holes in centre grill, smoked foglights, custom blacked-out headlights, red angel eyes, rear diffuser, custom CSL-style bootlid with custom red lip, shortened numberplate recess, M5 door mirrors, custom LED lit door handles, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler.

    INTERIOR Fully refurbed Champagne interior, thicker steering wheel with Champagne stitching by Royal Steering Wheels, gear selector and handbrake gaiters with Champagne stitching, air tanks painted custom red, gold hardlines.

    AUDIO 5.25” Morel components (front), JL coaxials (rear), JL 600/4 HD amp, 2x JL 10W7AE subwoofers, JL 1200/HD amp, Audison Bit Ten processor, #Audison-Bit-Ten DRC controller, KnuKonceptz wiring.

    THANKS Dips for all his work on the car, my mum, my sister and my partner Vanika for being so patient with me for talking about cars all the time and spending most of my time with Dips or on the phone to him.

    Red colour-coding abundant in engine bay, including funky Cirroc Red Berry vodka washer bottle.

    While I knew I wanted to modify it, it was never the plan to take it this far Sumil Pancholi.
    • What’s this? An E39 in the PBMW CotY top three? Believe it, as Sumil Pancholi’s bagged beauty got enough votes to break the E30 stranglehold and punchWhat’s this? An E39 in the PBMW CotY top three? Believe it, as Sumil Pancholi’s bagged beauty got enough votes to break the E30 stranglehold and punched its way to the silver medal position. A Champagne edition E39 530i is a great place to start and this one has been treated to some extensive custom body work, including a custom bonnet with power dome, custom front bumper and custom CSL-style bootlid. A set of custom-finished Hartge Design C wheels with Radinox dishes and red centres have also been added and air-ride fitted for good measure, with a spectacular boot build. The engine bay has red detailing throughout and there’s even a Ciroc Red Berry vodka screenwash bottle with red illumination. With some sensational mods and stunning attention to detail throughout, it’s one of the best E39s about.  More ...
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    JUICED UP

    Think lows and you automatically think bags but this #BMW-840Ci-E31 bucks the trend with a hydraulic suspension setup. Bored of bags? Stick this 840 on hydraulics in your pipe and smoke it… Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Steve McCann

    The 8 Series is a bit of a weird one. It appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, back in 1989, and stayed in production for ten years with no styling alterations inside or out (bar steering wheels and the sport kit). Some 30,621 were sold worldwide and then it disappeared and was never heard of again. It’s almost like an anomaly or some kind of freak natural event, and it’s not exactly a car that has ignited the modified #BMW scene either. There have been a couple of mildly tweaked examples here and there over the years but nothing to really make you sit up and think ‘wow’. But the times, they are a changin’ and the modified crowd is catching onto the underappreciated and rather magnificent #BMW-8-Series .


    You will recall that, earlier this year, Matt Clifford’s lush Velvet blue 840Ci graced our pages but there is another equally gorgeous 840 that perhaps you might not be so aware of, a car that you’re not going to see galavanting around British shows because this particular 840 is located a little further afield over in Northern Ireland.

    Its custodian is Blaine Leathem, a man who is one letter away from being a Batman villain but who is actually in mushroom marketing and procurement. Well mushrooms don’t just magically appear in your supermarket, now do they? (The urge to insert a mushroom pun here is almost unbearable ~ Ed). What’s more interesting than his fungus shenanigans, however, is his choice of car and growing up surrounded by BMWs set Blaine on the path that inevitably led to BMW ownership. “I have always had a liking for BMWs due to their styling, handling abilities and performance,” Blaine tells us, “and my family have always had an array of BMWs over the years. At one point we had an M3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Series at the same time. The 840Ci was actually my first BMW (snap! ~ Ed). I bought it as I always revered the styling as completely unique and timeless. I believe there is nothing that comes close to the E31 in terms of styling, handling and performance but also in complete luxury. I remember the first time I saw an 8 Series as a kid and instantly fell in love with them. I knew I had to have one at some point. When I finally decided to buy one it was because I wanted something completely different from modern cars on sale at the time as they didn’t interest me and I wanted to be different.”


    Blaine found what would become his 840 being sold by a fellow enthusiast who actually had two and needed to let one go, so he snapped it up. With a history of modifying his cars it’s no surprise that the 840 didn’t stay stock but there were no plans to take things this far, at least to start with. “My plans for the car were quite low key,” he tells us. “I just wanted a nice set of upgraded wheels, lowered suspension (which turned out to be an issue due to lack of off-the-shelf aftermarket parts), and an exhaust to hear that gorgeous burble.” The car has been through a few changes over the years, including being wrapped Midnight purple following competing in the Modball Rally where the paint took a battering from stones and stickers. The car sat in storage for a bit while Blaine busied himself with his M3 but when that sold he decided to pull the 8 Series out and give it a revamp, which resulted in the car you see here.


    “My first port of call was to speak to the style/modifying guru and one of my closest mates John Peden, of Peden Conceptz,” says Blaine. “First job was to address the stance. We decided hydraulics was the only option due to the severe lack of aftermarket parts available and the fact that it could cope with the sheer weight of the car and still retain handling and driving performance. We thought air might compromise the ride of the car and leave it a little soft.” Considering that everyone seems to opt for air, it’s nice to see someone doing something a little different and going down the juice route. Blaine seems very pleased with the end result and, as it offers the same adjustability as air, it lets him dump the car to spectacular effect.


    Having sorted his suspension he turned his attention to the wheels. The 8 Series looks best on deep-dish wheels, as demonstrated by the Style 5s that could be had with it when the car was new. The threepiece stepped-lip Eta Beta Krone 18s that Blaine was gently steered towards by Dave at German Rims looks absolutely awesome in situ. The mesh design is the perfect choice and the polished lips and deliciously deep dishes are the icing on the cake with the massive arches on the E31 meaning it can comfortably tuck 11.5s at the back.


    Fitting the Krones, however, presented Blaine with a new problem. “It left us with no option but to revise the colour scheme which, again with some subtle direction from John, meant we ended up going for period-correct Ferrari Rosso Corsa red. I decided that since John was doing all the ‘easy’ work the least I could do was to strip and prep the car for him. This was the first time I ever took a car apart to this extent and it led to many late nights locked away in the garage with my old vinyl records playing and a glass or two of whiskey in hand as I worked.” The Ferrari red is a striking colour and works really well on the 8 Series, especially with the subtle exterior modifications that Blaine has carried out, such as the tinted front lights, the dechromed front grille and monochrome badges. “Styling-wise I didn’t have to do much mainly as the M Tech kit is almost perfect in every way for the car,” he says. And he’s not wrong.


    When the car had been stripped prior to painting Blaine decided that it was a good idea to go to town on the interior, too. “I went ahead and took the whole interior apart to create a more unique look to complement the exterior. I sourced a full black interior from Will at Will’s Wheels; I then changed the full dash and doorcards from grey to black and the seats and door inserts were a combination of my old seats and the new black seats to form what you see now.” The two-tone interior looks great and is a fantastic choice to go with the red paint, while the lighter sections break up the black perfectly.


    Blaine also fitted a brand-new E36 M3 steering wheel with M stitching and perforated leather and upgraded all of the dash lighting as the old optic tubes had left a lot of the gauges dull and unevenly lit. This required the installation of LEDs and he also coloured his dial needles in red like you’d fine on the period M models. He’s also added a fancy flip-out screen head unit while the dash panel beneath the steering wheel has the two switches for the hydraulic suspension, neatly and discreetly mounted and within easy reach at the same time.

    While having a clean engine bay is enough for most of us, Blaine has gone the extra mile here as well. The rocker covers and engine cover have been colour-coded to match the exterior, which makes the engine bay look pretty fantastic. Blaine has also fitted a K&N air filter for improved breathing and an LPG kit, which makes the V8 running costs a little more bearable, although he admits he doesn’t use the kit all that often. A glance at the back reveals the seriously beefy quad exhaust tips of the full custom stainless steel exhaust and what you can’t see is the shorter final drive that he’s fitted from an E38 750i to improve acceleration and make the car feel that bit sportier.

    In the space of eight months Blaine has built himself an absolutely spectacular car and judging by the reaction he’s had at shows and online, it’s a bit of a head-turner and a crowd-pleaser. “My favourite mod has to be the flawless paintwork by John. The colour just grabs your attention and coupled with the deep burble from the exhaust means you always receive attention no matter where you go,” he grins. “The first show I took the car to was Level Up. I was invited along by the guys at I Love Bass and every time I looked there was a crowd of people surrounding the car and photographers trying to get it from every angle!”

    This 840 is so bright, so clean, so awesome that you can’t help but stop and stare and maybe rub yourself all over it. Maybe. Is the 8 Series suddenly going to become the darling of the modified scene? Well, if you’re tempted and you’re looking for inspiration, look no further.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E31 840Ci on hydraulics / #BMW-840Ci / #BMW-840Ci-E31 / #1999

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 4.4-litre #V8 #M62B44 / #M62 , #K&N air filter, custom stainless steel exhaust, colour-coded rocker and engine covers, #LPG kit, standard five-speed #Steptronic / #ZF5HP / #ZF5HP24 gearbox, shorter E38 750i final drive.

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 11.5x18” (rear) #Eta-Beta-Krone three-piece wheels with 235/40 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Hankook K120 tyres, custom hydraulic suspension setup, #Brembo callipers, discs and pads with stainless hoses (front and rear).

    EXTERIOR Full respray in Ferrari Rosso Corsa red, tinted front lights, additional lights in the #FTP units, dechromed front grilles, colour-coded badges.

    INTERIOR New M Tech steering wheel with M stitching, custom grey/black leather seats, new black dash and doorcards, upgraded led interior and gauge lighting.

    THANKS Special thanks goes to John Peden at Peden Conceptz, without his wisdom and guidance none of this would have been possible, Will’s Wheels, Canavan’s Auto Centre, Allister at AGS Gas, Dave at German Rims, the guys at Autocare Lurgan for keeping it in perfect condition for me.

    “Styling-wise I didn’t have to do much mainly as the #M-Tech kit is almost perfect in every way for the car”
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    SUPERCHARGED #BMW-X5-Dinan-E53 / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-E53 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW / #BMW-X5-E53 / #BMW-X5-4.6iS / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-E53 / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-Dinan / #BMW-X5-4.6iS-Dinan-E53

    Panzer Division A heavily tuned, supercharged X5 by Dinan that’s more than just a little bit tank-like. Panzer Division Affectionately known by owner Jay Belknap as the Panzer German tank, this X5 happens to be packing some heavy artillery thanks to a Dinan supercharger conversion… Words: Dan Wagener /// Photography: Dan Wagener & Ryan Lee


    Traditional love stories typically begin with ‘once upon a time’ and end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. Most people would hope that held true for every relationship, but through past experience we all know it to be an unrealistic expectation. Some relationships can start out as planned, but take a turn for the worst. Others may start out rough, but were all worth it in the end. For Jay Belknap and his #2003 X5 it was the latter.


    Ever since Jay had a daily driver it’s been some sort of truck/utility vehicle. It was something cheap and paid off which allowed him to sink money into his 1994 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4. But once he was satisfied with how the VR4 turned out, he figured he’d get the truck he had always wanted – a supercharged Range Rover Sport. So he went on the forums and asked the owners how they liked them and whilst half said they were awesome, the other half didn’t know because they were always back at the dealers. He then started researching the runnerup, the E53 X5 (keep in mind this is before the X5M had made its debut) and found that the 4.6iS could be supercharged through #Dinan for a modest cost so he decided to look for a clean example finished in black. Months of searching showed no luck and he eventually gave up.

    Then one day, about half a year later he randomly browsed for X5s on the market and found a oneowner 4.6iS with 85k on the clock for sale in Texas. It just so conveniently happened to be finished in black Sapphire, was supercharged and came with Brembo brakes together with an E46 M3 steering wheel already installed. Sceptical that it had to be some sort of scam, additional photos proved it was, in fact, the real deal, so he took a flight out to Houston a few days later with a cheque in hand.


    As he walked out of Houston International the black X5 whistled down the arrival ramp. It was freshly detailed and ready for him to take on a road trip back to Virginia Beach. He got in, exchanged pleasantries, got the paperwork done and proceeded to drop the previous owner off at his work. But as soon as they left the airport the check engine light came on! The previous owner said he had a guy who was an old BMW master that did all the previous work and that he would have it fixed, right then. So they headed over to the shop and found a boost leak from a clamp that wasn’t tightened down all the way. Already four hours behind schedule, Jay was ready to head home. When he finally got on to the I-10 East, he punched it and the supercharged #M62B46 / #M62 responded as you would expect. Jay was instantly hooked, forgetting that his previous Range Rover Sport even existed.


    After about an hour into Louisiana though, the supercharger belt decided it was no longer going to be friends with the engine. It took out every other belt and the A/C tensioner on its way out, too. Jay shut the truck down and got a tow back west to Texas. That tow truck broke down so another tow truck took him the remainder of the distance West on the I-10 to a hotel in Beaumont, Texas, two blocks away from Beaumont BMW. He figured he’d be the first one into BMW the next day, get it fixed and be on his way.

    Well, he was the first one on to the lot, but the secretary arrived and informed him that their service shop is closed on Saturdays. She invited him inside to call yet another tow truck, to get him further west to Momentum BMW in Houston. It was at that time the service manager, who was coming in to do his end of- month reports, had overheard Jay’s situation and started calling his techs. One was awake and said he’d be right in. They got him back on the road with just a new main belt (no A/C belt/tensioner or S/C belt). The previous owner called back and paid BMW for the work. Jay thanked him and said if anything else happened on the way home that he’d take care of it from there (nothing more did happen though). He later found out that the blower bracket tensioner needed an alignment.

    Needless to say it was not a desirable first 24 hours of ownership. On a good note though, Jay later established a relationship with Dinan’s aftersales support team. They got him set up with the parts needed to fix the tensioner rod and belt. Like any machine, it simply needed maintenance.


    Now, to the untrained eye, Jay’s X5 may appear as if it came this way from the factory, but the finer details tell all about this rare beast. If you’re not familiar with the 4.6iS model, it had a very short 2002-2003 production run. #BMW had injected the standard X5 model with steroids metaphorically speaking, just like they do with the M models. These factory enhancements included larger fenders flares, massive 20-inch wheels, larger/louder exhausts, a unique variant of the #5HP24 #ZF5HP24 / #ZF5HP / #ZF transmission, aggressive camshaft profiles, the high flow intake manifold from the older M62 cars, bored, stroked and compressed to a 10.5:1 ratio producing 342hp and 354lb ft of torque. What makes Jay’s X5 even more rare is that it’s 1 of 27 #Dinan supercharged X5s in the world. The Dinan Signature 3 package consists of a #Vortech V-2 S-Trim Supercharger running 5.5psi, a new #MAF and throttle body, a #DME and EGS flash, larger #Delphi 37lb injectors, and an E39 M5 fuel pump.


    One common goal of any true performanceoriented enthusiast is to put as much tyre on the road as possible. With that in mind, together with the weight of the vehicle and the additional power, Jay sourced another pair of 10.5x20-inch OEM Style 87 rear wheels to replace the narrower 9.5-inch wide fronts. A set of four Bridgestone Dueller HP Sport 315/35/20 tyres were then fitted all-round and the improvement in grip from the 315 section tyres up front was like night and day. Behind the concave design Style 87 wheels sits giant eight-piston #Brembo callipers fitted with 380mm/15-inch discs at the front and 355mm/14-inch at the rear to help bring the X5’s larger rolling mass to a halt on demand, without a hint of fade.

    To accommodate the lower offset wheels, Jay also added the #BMW-X5-Le-Mans-edition wider front arches and the rear wheels were spaced out 25mm with #H&R spacers to help balance the front-to-rear track width. A Dinan strut bar and camber plates were also added to include some extra bracing for the twisties.

    At around 107,000 miles the supercharger’s high speed bearings on the impeller shaft got a little noisy, so with help from friend and mentor, Tony Acker, they sent the blower off to Vortech, and performed the M62 timing guide and valley pan job at the same time. Vortech returned the supercharger with a newer Si-Trim impeller, which meant even more mid-range power than before.

    During the summer of 2011 Jay decided it was too hot and had lost trust in his OEM water temp gauge. He also wanted to be able to read and clear codes on the fly so he removed the cluster, fixed the infamous pixel problem whilst there and integrated a PLX Devices DM-100 into the cluster. In addition to the OBD date, the DM-100 was installed with PLX Boost, EGT, dual-WBO2 and oil pressure modules. Other installed electronics include a Tekonsha P3 trailer brake controller, and a hardwired K40 Dual front/rear RADAR detector and front LASER jamming system.


    With the engine refresh and monitoring equipment fitted, everything was working tiptop. Then, one day as he came up a steep on-ramp that had a sharp crest to it, the X5 got airborne for a split second. Unluckily for Jay, he was at the top of the engine’s 6600rpm range when it happened. Inertia took over and all the exhaust valves were damaged, bad enough to notice under load and to make matters worse, the intake cam gears spun about the cams. With Tony’s help, they did compression, piston height, and leakdown tests before removing the heads and sending them off to VAC Motorsport for a Stage 1 upgrade, including stainless steel intake valves and fancy Inconel exhaust valves. Whilst it was there, Jay happened to come across a rare 4.6iS Tubi Rumore cat-back exhaust system. As Tubi is mostly known for making exhausts for exotic cars Jay was surprised to discover that they even made one for the X5! After installing the original heads, now blessed by VAC, a huge improvement in power and efficiency was found. The result is a power figure of around 475hp, although Jay has never taken it to the drag strip, he’d like to think it’s possible to break 12 seconds in the quarter-mile. Not bad for a ten-year-old German tank, which is the reasoning behind the name ‘Panzer’.

    Today, Jay’s 4.6iS S3 has 135k miles on it, and has been supercharged for 133k of those miles. He would like to thank Dinan Engineering for its outstanding aftersales customer support and would also like to send a huge thanks to Tony Acker for his knowledge and time spent keeping this X5 running so strong. Stronger, in fact, than the day he first got it, many years and many miles ago. So does a bad start have to equal a bad finish to a relationship? In this case, most definitely not.


    Below: Massive Brembo brake conversion features eight-pot callipers and huge 380mm/15-inch brake discs so it stops as well as it goes.

    Jay’s X5 may appear as if it came this way from the factory, but the finer details tell all to this rare beast.

    Dinan supercharger conversion is rare but was fitted on the car when it had covered just 2000 miles from new. It’s since covered another 133,000 miles!

    The supercharged M62B46 responded as you would expect and Jay was instantly hooked.

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    THE OFFICE

    With its all-white bodywork, serious rims and, erm, fax machine, this slammed E38 is the ultimate exec cruiser. With all the exterior extrava gance of this German E38 #BMW-728i , nothing quite prepares you for the veritable office inside. Is that a fax coming through? Words: Iain Curry. Photos: Si Gray.

    How much would you pay for a luxury leather couch that seats five? Quality costs, so let’s conservatively say about £1000. But where to go shopping? Natuzzi? John Lewis? Perhaps Chaplins of Chelsea? No chance. You should be trawling the Autotrader or Pistonheads classifieds. You see, instead of handing over your grand to a grinning furniture store salesman, cosseting leather seating for five is on offer at this price with a BMW badge attached. Okay, so you won’t be able to use your leather seats in your lounge in front of the telly, but compensation comes with a free TV monitor, telephone and entertainment system. Oh, and a silky smooth engine and drivetrain to transport your five-seater couch anywhere across the country.

    Such incredible value comes in the shape of BMW’s 1994-2001 #BMW-E38 7-Series. These luxury saloons are currently the unloved fuel-burning and high tax bracket leviathans of the used market, where values have plummeted thanks to expensive fixes when all their complex electrickery goes wrong. And at 15-20 years old now, E38s have hit that point where even simple failures can cost more than the car’s worth. In short, people want rid of them.

    The upshot is for under £1000 there are numerous on the market, many with full MoTs and claiming to be in great condition. Spend around £3000 and you’ll find some with next-to-no miles, or if you’re feeling really brave, #BMW 750iL examples with a stonking 326hp V12 and the sort of specification that would add five figures to a current new BMW at the showroom. Either way, if you buy any E38 you have an ideal base for modifying an already luxurious cruiser.

    Things could go very extreme however. One man who has not held back is German Marcel Müller from the town of Zschopau near the Czech border. His #1996 E38 728i cruiser is far from subtle, not least with its 21-inch Alpina wheels tucked under a body lowered using FK coilover suspension.

    The 32-year-old bought the big Seven in 2006 when the vast chunk of its value had dropped away, thinking it ideal as an everyday car with good looks and comfort. “After a year it already had the first small changes, and it was soon only a summer vehicle from then,” Marcel said. “Year after year I have done more and more and the end is not yet in sight.”

    Marcel lucked in by choosing a #BMW-728i-E38 that had been highly spec’d by its original owner. Awesome treats included a Waeco fridge behind the rear armrest; a sat nav monitor; a phone in the centre arm rest and another under the B-pillar for use by the lucky one being chauffeured. And best of all, a fully working Possio fax machine is in the driver’s seat back. Yep, you remember those. All of these gadgets were original products fitted by BMW back in ’96 for what must have been a wealthy German with plenty of mod con flair.

    Marcel put it succinctly in German: “Clearly, such equipment was in a 7 Series for business people to use as a propelled office. I think it is crazy what BMW installed in its vehicles in the 1990s.” Inspired by his mobile office, Marcel spent eight months sourcing fine parts from other E38s to help turn his 728i into more of a show car, and tackled all the dismantling, cleaning, reworking and rewiring required himself. He insisted on only using original BMW parts, with the small exception of a modern iPhone cradle not available back in the ’90s. The car originally came with beige Montana leather, but Marcel felt it best to upgrade to an OEM beige Nappa interior for increased pampering. The seats, front and rear, are all heated and electronically adjusted with memory settings, and the space in here, especially the rear, is enough to qualify for limousine status.


    Be in no doubt; the back is where the party is truly at. It doesn’t matter that most of us haven’t sent a fax since 1998, to have one printing through gives more pleasure than an email ever could. Marcel has also fitted an OEM central monitor for the rear passengers, huge vanity mirrors for the head rests and über rare swing tables with wood panels possibly used by the very same German bankers that decided the Euro was a good plan back in the late ’90s. Ah well, they could always reach for a fine Weissbier in the arm rest fridge to drown their sorrows.

    A nice touch is an original Alpina steering wheel that was in poor condition when Marcel picked it up. He restored the wooden part and re-dyed the leather sections to match the beige interior. Then there’s a full DSP sound system, double glazed windows, rear sun blinds and #BMW Advanced footwell lighting front and rear, all retro-fitted, and it feels more than a match for any First Class section on an Arab airline.

    And speaking of Middle Eastern tastes, a 7 Series dressed in white would be the natural choice for a Sheikh rolling around Dubai or Abu Dhabi. This resprayed Mercedes white 728i looks equally at home aside German mountains, and has been whitened further with a colour-coded US-spec front bumper (notice the number plate recess absent here for a smoother look), white rubbing strips, door handles and kidney grille. Front indicators are also white and the smoked rear lights have a white LED brake light portion.

    To contrast, Gloss black has been used for the window frames and the inside of the door mirrors. You’ll also note that face-lift lights have been fitted on this early model year E38, while the headlight washer system has also been upgraded by Marcel, and features a lengthy chrome flash across the top of the bumper, matching the rear’s metallic strip. BMW badges are long gone to smooth panels over, while the arches allround have a more muscular look to them having been rolled to accommodate the rims.

    These are very special 21-inch #Alpina Classic examples, in mighty 8.5-inch (front) and 10-inch (rear) dimensions. Shod in rubber bands and combined with FK coilover suspension, you’d have thought all those internal comforts would be rendered useless by such typically rough-riding mods.

    Apparently not. “The chassis is sporty, but the size of the car and the deep comfort inside means it’s comfortable, even if it doesn’t look like it from the outside,” Marcel explained. Although these E38s came with anything up to a 5.4-litre V12, Marcel’s example features the somewhat tame 2.8-litre straightsix. That offers a reasonable 193hp, but with all the weight in this tech-heavy Seven, it’s not got shove in spades. At present the only underbonnet changes are cosmetic, with carbon fibre used for the rocker cover, intakes and panels, plus a rather impressive underbonnet lining in white leather.

    The final article is fresh, luxurious, stylishly grand and with more than a little pimp about it. It is a Seven to slowly cruise the city streets in dazzling comfort, and there’s more than a fair chance you’d succeed when pulling up beside a pretty girl and asking if she’d like to swap fax numbers.

    Yet the future may get even more extreme for this #E38 . While sedate Sunday cruising to the ice cream parlour is its current habitat, Marcel has plans to turn his Seven into one of Europe’s quickest palaces on wheels. This winter he’s committed to fitting an ASA supercharger system, with the potential for a fair few hundred horsepower extra. With an uprated exhaust system and big brake kit also in the pipeline, passenger rides around the Nürburgring in this 728i could lead to thrilling back seat business conferences.

    Whatever the future holds, to see these glorious E38s getting modified is a rare treat, and one that is with significant reward. They’re so cheap to buy at the moment and find a well spec’d one, or parts to fit as Marcel has, and there can be few barges to compete for the money. A job well done by our German friend, and we look forward to passing on our congratulations for his efforts – by fax, of course.

    DATA FILE

    ENGINE: 2.8-litre #M52B28 #M52 straight-six, custom carbon fibre panels, intakes, shrouds and rocker cover, white leather inside bonnet cover.

    TRANSMISSION: OE five-speed automatic #ZF5HP .

    CHASSIS: 8.5x21” (front) and 10x21” (rear) #Alpina-Classic wheels shod in 245/30 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo tyres (front) and 255/30 Federal 595 RPM tyres (rear), FK coilover suspension, standard brakes with painted white brake disc hubs.

    EXTERIOR: US-spec front bumper colour-coded white, white surround foglights, rolled wheel arches front and rear, Mercedes white respray, colour-coded white body rubbing strips and kidney grille, window frames and side mirrors painted Gloss black, face-lift E38 headlights, upgraded headlight washing system with chrome panel, LED smoked rear lights, clear front indicators, debadged, colour-coded door handles with back lighting.

    INTERIOR: OEM beige Nappa leather seats, dashboard and doorcards, Alpina steering wheel, electrically heated and operated front seats with memory, electrically adjustable and heated rear seats, navigation system with front monitor, full DSP sound system with sub under the rear shelf, central armrest telephone, hydraulic tailgate, double glazing side windows, rear sun blinds, split-zone climate control front and rear, OEM swing tables with wood panels, head rest mirrors, central rear monitor, rear phone under B-pillar, Possio fax machine, Waeco refrigerator behind ski hatch, BMW Advanced footwell lighting front and rear, illuminated door handles, original Alpina speedometer and trip computer, aftermarket iPhone cradle and charger, chrome kick panels.

    Engine is currently standard but supercharger is planned; white leather underbonnet lining is magnificent.
    I think it’s crazy what BMW installed in its vehicles in the 1990s.

    Interior is brimming with office goodies, plus a fridge. Obviously.

    Interior is nothing if not opulent and comes with all mod cons.
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    Buying & Tuning Guide #BMW-540i-E39

    You can’t go wrong with a V8 and there’s no better way of getting your hands on one than with the mighty fine E39. If you want a BMW with a V8 under the bonnet, they don’t come much better than the mighty #E39 540i.

    If you’ve never owned a V8, you’re missing out. We know that BMWs are all about the straight-six, but Munich has put together some fine V8-powered machines too, and the good news is that they’re now cheap as chips.

    The 540i was launched in May #1996 and was powered by an evolution of the M60 V8 with a capacity increase to 4398cc. Power remained as per the 4.0-litre #M60 unit at 286hp #M60B40 but torque had swelled to 310lb ft and was available lower down the rev range at 3900rpm. With the standard six-speed manual gearbox the 540i was fast – 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph – and given the performance on offer the combined economy of 23mpg wasn’t too shabby. An optional five-speed auto gearbox was also available and for the first time in a 5 Series this offered Steptronic manual control and the vast majority of 540is were spec’d in this manner.

    In 1998 there were a couple of changes for the #BMW-540i , the first being the adoption of the more sophisticated DSC in place of the ASC system fitted from launch. The second upgrade was to the engine when the M62 V8 received #Vanos variable valve timing. While it didn’t change the output of the 4.4-litre V8, torque was up to 325lb ft and peaked 300rpm lower bringing greater flexibility.

    In 1999 the 540i Sport was launched which followed the now familiar path of an M aero kit with a cutaway in the rear apron for a single pipe exhaust, 17-inch M light alloy wheels, M Sport suspension, clear indicator lenses and de-chromed window trims. Inside there was anthracite headlining, Sports seats, an M multi-function steering wheel, matt aluminium trim and M sill kick plates.

    The last significant change was the E39’s face-lift in 2001. The kidney grille was given a wider chrome surround and chrome slats for the 540i while the ‘angel eye’ headlights were introduced along with the Celis rear lamps with their LED strips, which replaced the traditional tail-light bulbs. Chrome rubbing strips were also painted body colour while inside there was the widescreen sat nav monitor (assuming either the £2195 sat nav or £3395 Comms pack was specified). Production ceased in 2003 when a 540i cost £40,110 and a Sport was £40,450.

    Buying

    £1600. That’s all you need to get a 4.4-litre V8 E39. You’ll probably want to spend a bit more, but if you’re feeling brave it would hard to resist one of the tidy-looking 130k mile SEs that we found at this price. The next big jump in cost takes you up to £2200, where we found a face-lift Sport with xenons and it was a real peach with just 100k miles on the clock. We also found a 60k mile SE and even though the Calypso red and beige leather colour combo won’t be everyone’s cup of tea it looked clean. We also found one manual car; a 1998 example with 158k miles for £2650. Prices then jump to £3500 with a couple of 130k mile face-lift Sports sitting about this price point. The most expensive we found was a 2002 SE with widescreen nav and just 52,000 miles for £7850. We’d say a budget of around £3000 will be enough to find a nice, clean face-lift Sport, though if you’ve got big project plans on your mind, £1600 would be enough to secure some V8 action.

    Running Costs

    Fuel is going to be the big one here. We’re sure there will be owners out there who claim to get amazing economy from their 540s, and they might well be, but being realistic you can probably expect to average around 20mpg overall. On a long run, mid- to high-20s will be achievable while town work will see you getting mid-teens and while the 70-litre tank offers a decent range, you’ll be looking at around £100 per fill-up so it quickly adds up.

    Eight cylinders mean eight spark plugs, two cylinder heads means two lots of head bits and it can all start adding up. Tax-wise, a pre-March 2001 540i will cost £225 a year to tax while post-March 2001 cars cost £280. In terms of servicing, expect to pay around £150 for an oil service, £260 for an Inspection I and £350 for an Inspection II at a specialist, though prices will obviously vary depending on the specialist you choose and your location.

    What to look for

    Interior

    There are many common E39 foibles, such as missing pixels on the dash and digital heater readouts, but these can be repaired and shouldn’t require new units, although you’ll have to send your dash pod away for repair. Heater control buttons have a habit of breaking and can either be purchased singly on the internet or as a set from the dealer. The fan can also pack up or not respond to the controls which is caused by a faulty heater resistor (aka hedgehog) and if the heater fan’s really noisy it could be on the way out. Check that the air-con blows cold, and if it doesn’t it could be down to a holed condenser or a compressor that’s given up the ghost. Electrical glitches such as radio problems, an electrically adjustable steering column that moves on its own and temperamental airbag warning lights can be down to a faulty ignition switch, although airbag lights on their own will be down to either a faulty occupancy sensor or a break in the wiring. Check the rear carpets are dry as there are plastic membranes within the doors that can perish and let water in. Also check the door seals as they’re susceptible to wear and those on the front doors can get damaged from seat belt buckles that haven’t retracted fast enough before a door’s shut.

    Exterior

    While E39s were well put-together there are a couple of areas that need checking on the body over and above the normal checks you should be making for crash damage and poor body repairs. Rust is starting to become an issue and the most likely places to find it are inside the fuel filler flap, on the bootlid (both around the lock and the seam that joins the two parts of the bootlid together) and also around the rear wheel arches. Headlights that are fogged or misted up can look unsightly and let a car down. This is usually caused because one of the seals on the lamp unit is letting in moisture. Many owners have cured this by removing the cluster, drying it out and resealing it, but if the outer covers are peppered in stone chips you might be better off buying new lights, although if your car has the optional Xenons this would be prohibitively expensive. Also check that the headlamp washers work properly – failure can often be down to a faulty pump or the piping which tends to work itself loose behind the front wheel arch liners. Also check the electrically folding mirrors work, as if they don’t you could be looking at a new motor or mirror module, and if the car has PDC check it works properly.

    Engine

    The good news is that the majority of M62 V8s didn’t suffer from Nikasil problems as the ‘Technical Update’ that took place in March 1997 replaced the Nikasil lining with Alusil, so this should only be a concern to you if you’re looking at one of the very earliest E39 540is. Radiators (or more specifically the small plastic pipe at the top of the radiator) can fail so check for any signs of cracking. Expansion tanks can leak or explode, water pumps can also leak, thermostats can leak, coolant pipes at the back of the block can leak. Running faults can be down to leaking rocker cover gaskets that allow oil to sit in the spark plug recesses, or could be down to a faulty camshaft position sensor, or dodgy lambda probes, or possibly, in the worst-case scenario, blocked cats. However, the latter is not what you’d call common, but the possibility cannot be ignored as you’ll be looking well into four figures to replace them with genuine BMW items. Other possible problems to look out for under the bonnet are leaking PAS hoses, the seal on the PAS reservoir cap, an underachieving alternator and sticky hydraulic lifters leading to a bit of a tappetty noise from the top end. Make sure the oil’s been changed frequently and that the correct viscosity oil has been used.

    Chassis & Drivetrain

    ABS problems are common and while this can be as simple as a faulty wheel sensor it’s more likely to be a broken ABS control unit. Various control units were fitted to the 540i and the most costly will be about £900 from BMW. However most control units can be sourced from Bosch at a third of the price, so shop around. Uneven rear tyre wear can be a result of worn ball joints and bushes and E39s are susceptible to the geometry coming out of factory spec. A notorious E39 problem is a front end ‘shimmy’ at 50-60mph and there can be a variety of causes, from wheels being out of balance to the front shocks being worn out. Front thrust arm bushes are susceptible to wear and should be your first port of call after a wheel balance check. The bigger the wheels the more pronounced the shimmy is likely to be. Diffs are strong, but check the diff seals aren’t leaking to excess – some staining is inevitable, but if the diff looks wet it’ll need a reseal.

    DATA FILE

    ENGINE: 4.4-litre V8 #M62 #M62B44
    TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, optional five-speed #Steptronic #ZF5HP #ZF
    PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds (6.4 seconds auto), top speed 155mph
    PRICE: £42,900 (1996), from £1600 (now)

    Engine

    Naturally Aspirated

    A power output of 286hp from 4.4-litres and eight cylinders isn’t much but there’s some room for improvement on the engine front, though don’t expect huge gains. A remap costing £300-500 depending on where you go should get power up over 300hp and bolster torque a little – you’re not going to notice much of a difference but there will be more urge and, if you’re lucky, improvement on the mpg front. There’s no point fitting an induction kit as they give no real gains in terms of power or throttle response – save your money and buy an aftermarket panel filter instead, removing the internal baffles that are located in the air box. It’s a nice, cheap (about £45), simple mod that will give a deep V8 sound.

    Another mod to consider is replacing the intake manifold with one from the earlier M60 V8, which is less restrictive. It’s a straightforward job, assuming you’re savvy with a spanner, and will give you some real gains. It does change the character of the car somewhat, with the general consensus being that the torque drops off at the lower end of the rev range, making the car feel a little less responsive, however once you get over 3000rpm, there’s noticeably more power on tap and the engine revs a lot more freely. We’ve not come across anyone with anything negative to say about the swap, so it’s definitely worth looking at.

    Now, let’s be honest, the main reason you buy something with a V8 in it is because you want that V8 soundtrack in your life, and the 540i isn’t going to deliver that out-of-the-box as it’s pretty quiet. Your cheapest options are to first remove the Y resonator pipe and pit a straight pipe in its place and then, if you want, also remove the rear silencer. Getting rid of the Y pipe will give you a nice sound that’s louder than stock but results in no drone and is perfect for a daily driver. Removing the first silencer gives a further increase in volume and makes the car sound extremely aggressive, with a high rev rasp to it which might not suit all tastes; you’ll also get more interior noise with this further mod, so that’s something to take into consideration. The other option is to leave the Y pipe in place, but instead take out the rear silencer, which results in a nice, deep sound, without the high rpm rasp so that’s an alternative.

    Other exhaust options are plentiful if you want a whole system, or just a rear silencer – obviously the likes of Eisenmann and Supersprint will be worth a look, the former being a favourite, though we’d shy away from the Race sound level if your 540i is a daily. A good custom system would be worth looking at too – fitting just a back box and leaving the resonator in will give you plenty of volume and getting rid of the big and massively heavy (circa 25kg) rear silencer won’t break the bank either; around £250 or so.

    Cams are also available, but costing £1000 and only offering around 15hp plus less torque means they’re not a popular mod and you can put the money to better use elsewhere.

    Forced Induction

    If you really want to make your 540i fly, this is where it’s at. There are a number of supercharger kits available for the M62 V8, but they’re all similar in terms of cost and what they offer and they all use a centrifugal supercharger. The ESS kits, available from CA Automotive for 1996-7 and 1998 model year cars deliver 7psi and 407hp and 422lb ft of torque and cost £4842.31 and £5130.41 respectively. You need to add 18 hours’ worth of installation time on to that and the claimed figures are 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds for the manual and 5.1 secs for the auto. The 1999-2003 Stage 1 kit delivers 6psi which gives you 400hp and 413lb ft of torque with a 0-60 time of 5.1 secs for the manual and 5.4 secs for the auto and costs £5310.48. The Stage 2 kit gives you 8psi and that means 422hp and 437lb ft – enough for a 0-60 time of 4.7 secs for the manual and 5.0 secs for the auto, and comes in at £5824.95. In the UK, Regal Motorsport sells the VF Engineering kit – this has a fitting time of about eight hours and runs at 6psi, delivering 415hp and 400lb ft of torque and costs £4605.44, making it good value for money. Oh, and if you’re interested, the Bentley Arnage Green Label used a twin-turbo version of the M62, with 350hp and 421lb ft of torque. Just saying…

    Brakes

    If you’re running significant power or are planning to do plenty of fast road driving in your 540i, it would be worth going for a disc, pad and hose upgrade and it’s worth doing the whole lot at once really. A set of good fast road pads will set you back from between £80 if you go for something from the likes of Axxis or Hawk, to about £200 for some Pagid RS-4s, which get plenty of love. You don’t want to go too extreme on the pad compound front, so avoid ones designed with a lot of track use in mind, as they’ll take longer to warm up and you’ll often get squeal.

    Braided hoses will help to ensure that all your braking pressure is applied to the pads, rather than being sapped away by hoses bulging. You’ll also get a firmer pedal and more response from your brakes, so it’s winwin all-round, especially as you’ll only be looking at around £75 for a set from Goodridge – which knows a thing or two about braided hoses. Don’t forget brake fluid either – DOT 5.1 is high performance stuff with an extremely high boiling point that will stop your brakes from wilting that little bit longer.

    As far as discs are concerned, the world is your oyster – drilled, grooved or a combination of the two are all available and all offer a decent upgrade of stock items. Both grooves and drilled or cast holes will improve cooling as well as helping to disperse the gases that build up between the disc and pad during hard braking. Expect to pay around £200-£350 for a pair of uprated discs and companies such as Tarox, EBC, Brembo or StopTech are all worth a look.

    For the ultimate in stopping power, a big brake kit will certainly deliver. Prices vary depending on where you go – opt for a K-Sport kit and you’ll be able to get a six- or even eight-pot kit for around £1000, which is excellent value for money. An AP Racing kit will be about £2500 and StopTech will be similarly priced.

    Suspension

    A set of progressive springs will tighten up handling and lower the car, and budget around £150 per pair with anything from the likes of Eibach, H&R or Wietec all being a good choice and offering similar results for the money, giving you around a 30mm drop which is a good place to start.

    If the car feels baggy, and even at 80k miles the original dampers will be past their best, it’s time to address that part of the setup. There are an awful lot of dampers to choose from giving you plenty of choices whether you want to run them with stock springs, or shorter springs, and varying levels of firmness. Generally speaking, if you mate a decent set of performance dampers to a decent set of performance springs, you’ll end up with a pretty good setup and by mixing and matching, you can choose a pairing that works best for you. Damper-wise, go for a monotube from a company like Bilstein and expect to pay around £100-200 per shock.

    A good off-the-shelf spring and damper kit is an excellent way to give your suspension an overhaul without breaking the bank. At the budget end of the scale, you can pick up a Spax kit with adjustable dampers for around £420; Koni’s STR.T kit is about £520 while the adjustable Sport kit is around £760; alternatively there’s the Bilstein B12 Pro-Kit, which costs around £830. Coilovers offer a wide range of adjustment, though this varies from kit to kit, and aren’t actually that much more than a decent suspension kit. Spax kits are about £750, Weitec GT kits are £810, KW’s range runs from about £1000 to £1500 depending on how much adjustability you’re after, H&R’s kits are about £1000 while Bilstein’s B14 kit is £1020 and its adjustable B16 kit is £1800, so there’s something to suit most budgets. Be sensible and genuinely think about what you want from the suspension and the car – there’s no point in going for a top-end, all-singing, all-dancing kit if you don’t need all that adjustability. If you don’t want to mess around with springs and dampers and don’t want to alter the way the car rides, a set of uprated anti-roll bars will really tighten up the handling without upsetting the ride. The E39 M5 front and rear anti-roll bars will fit and make a big difference – they’re a popular modification and everyone who’s fitted them loves them. If you buy a Sport, you already have thicker anti-roll bars (25mm front and 15mm rear) than the SE models but the M5 bars are thicker still (27mm front and 16.5mm rear) which makes a big difference to the handling, especially if you’re upgrading an SE. The bars cost £145 for the front and £138 for the rear. Alternatively, Eibach sells an anti-roll bar kit with even thicker bars; 28mm at the front and 18mm at the rear, which costs £360.

    Wheels

    The largest wheels fitted as standard to the #BMW-E39 were 18s – 8x18” front and 9x18” style 37 M parallels on the Sport models and the 8x18” and 9.5x18” style 65 wheels on the M5, and the E39 has a PCD of 5x120 with a centre bore of 74.1mm. In terms of aesthetics, the 18s look good and fill the arches nicely, especially if you drop the car a touch. In terms of the ride and handling balance, we’d stick to 18s as that’s what BMW saw fit to mount on the M5, and that’s good enough for us.

    If you want to go big, it’s quite hard to work out exactly how big you can go, as there are a lot of owners running an awful lot of different widths, sizes and offsets. 19s fit fine, with 8.5x19 fronts wrapped in 245/35 19 tyres and 10x19 ET22 rears with 275/30 19 tyres are a popular choice that seems to work well, with virtually zero rubbing in day-to-day driving. If you want to go bigger still, some people have fitted 20s though whether or not they look good on the E39 is debatable and getting the right tyre and wheel size is a fine art; 8.5x20 front and 9.5x20 rears have been suggested, with 235/35 and 275/30 front and rear tyres respectively, though you would do well to do as much research as possible before fitting 20s.

    Conclusion

    The E39 5 Series great and in 540i form, it’s the cheapest way to get a V8- powered #BMW . In SE form and on little wheels it may not have visual drama and the lack of rack and pinion steering means it’s not as fine a driver’s car as the smaller-engined models but it’s good value for money, is quick and offers plenty of scope for modding. If you’re set on getting more power, you’ll need a fair bit of wedge but if you want proper V8 noise combined with sharp handling and stopping power, you’ll be able to create your perfect 540i without breaking the bank.
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