22 April 2015

S50-Powered BMW E28 - The M Within

The term 'Q-Car' has fallen out of favour in current car-speak language, but it perfectly describes what you see here. The term derives from the Q-ships used by the Royal Navy in WWII, and were heavily armed merchant ships with concealed weaponry, designed to lure submarines into making surface attacks, which gave the Q-ships the chance to open fire and sink them. While comparing the E28 BMW 5-series to an old boat is a tad unfair, it is fair to say that looks-wise, the M1 and the E30 M3 took the honours for the BMW you were most likely to drop a double-take at. Even the E28 M5, with the M1's very own M88 twin-cam six, is near indistinguishable to a humble 518i, and as a result could be passed straight on by in the street. A Q-Car does have its advantages of course; the average supercar owner won't suspect that lil' ol' boxy saloon is hiding enough firepower to run it down up to 150 mph, nor will you attract the wrong kind of attention when all you want to do is kick back and cruise.

James Johnson, owner of BMW specialist JFI Classic Cars, wanted an E28 along those lines, but seeing as E28 M5 prices are stratospheric and cars hard to find (less than 2,200 were built), he decided to build something that was true to the nature of that first M5. He built the car for himself as he wanted a practical everyday sleeper and was a no expense spared build to the highest standard using BMW parts, a given seeing that it's his day job. 

The E28 chosen was a two owner 528i with 62,000 genuine miles that had been off the road for some time in dry storage and was in stunning condition, with all of the goodies you want with an 80's-era BMW; electric windows, sun roof, central locking, ABS and cruise control all adorn this shark-nose beauty. But that is only the start of this Bavarian tale, as the 5er has been on a muscle building workout that would make Arnie proud.

First, the engine; out went the M30 straight six in favour of  an S50B32  from a low mileage 3.2 litre E36 M3 Evo cabriolet, with the SMG gearbox. As not to take any chances, the engine has had all of the comestibles necessary for any engine's continued wellbeing; new shells and ARP rod bolts, new water and oil pumps, thermostat, crank seals, gaskets, plugs and belts. The oft-temperamental VANOS system  had been replaced just 8,000 miles previous by a BMW main dealer; and added bonus. But it isn't all OEM under the bonnet; a Walbro high pressure fuel pump replaced the original, while the ECU was remapped by Enda Tuning, with EWS deleted and an 8,000 RPM rev limit.

The E36 Evo usually has the SMG gearbox, but cleverly, James has had this converted to a true manual by Neil at All Gears a Getrag specialist. The newly 'manualised' transmission is backed up by a lightweight Driftworks billet flywheel, high performance clutch and a custom propshaft, necessary to mate to the fully rebuilt large case 3.64:1 LSD, so the mighty S50 can deliver its payload to the road with as little (or as much) fuss as desired.

With great power comes great restraint; the brakes are all new, the front calipers and discs are donated from an E34 M5 while the rears are from a late E34 M5 Nurburgring edition, both ends fitted with EBC red stuff pads.
The suspension was treated to the same scrutiny to ensure the E28 hustles corners with alacrity; Gaz Gold coilovers grace each corner, with RPM adjustable top mounts  running 1.5 degrees of negative camber, while the suspension and steering is either polybushed or replaced with new OEM items. The rear trailing arms have spherical slide bearings fitted, with all subrames and suspension components shotblasted and powder coated; James doesn't do thing by half. Those wheels aren't standard E28 fare either, being genuine 16 inch style 5s from an 8-series, fitted with new Toyo Proxes R1R tyres.

In true Q-Car fashion, the exterior is completely standard, bar some discreet repainting of some panels, while the interior is in perfect condition, with just some extra VDO gauges for oil temp, pressure and volts, a Nakamichi stereo and a gearknob that has six forward gears marked on it...
James reports that it drives superbly and feels quicker than an E36 M3 Evo, a feeing no doubt helped by the lighter weight and the lower gearing in the final drive. Its very useable as an everyday car, which is probably why James has clocked up 3000 miles in the last 5 months; and at a steady 80mph it gets around 32mpg, with 15-20 mpg still possible when being hooned around. And that S50's 8000rpm rev limit means that hooning time is never far away.

- Amazosan

NB - its for sale too; £15k seems a bargain to me.

Nakamichi stereo, auxiliary gauges...
...and a six-speed gearbox

The before: a lovely if standard 528i, before its dose of M-Spinach
6-speed SMG 'box needed notching to clear crossmember
Machined insert for SMG gearbox output shaft

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