The year is 1983 and a lot has happened – the US Space Shuttle Challenger takes off on its first flight. The Internet is born from the ARPANET. Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” occupies the #1 spot on the charts for a whopping 37 weeks, selling 1 million copies a week at times. “Return of the Jedi” hits theaters. And in December, Martin’s BMW E28 528i rolls off the production line.
However, the car was not registered until a few months later, in July 1984, in Spain, where it remained with the first owner for the next 31 years. The nephew of the first owner was then the next owner and brought the car to Germany.
In 2017, Martin from Eisenach was just looking for a new project. Previously, he had an almost perfectly built BMW E46 M3 – for which he received an offer he could not refuse. Martin is also very familiar with the BMW brand – he had already had several models from the Bavarian automobile manufacturer – all of which he had refined to perfection. In fact, Martin wanted to buy an old BMW 6 Series. However, since Martin prefers to buy well-preserved examples, so that he has less to do with the restoration and can start directly with the modification, the 6s turned out to be a bit too expensive. The decision to buy a 5-series instead was not too difficult for Martin – the old 5-series also had the characteristic “Sharknose” front of the 6-series.
When Martin got the car, it was in completely original condition and painted in the color “Sapphire Blue Metallic”. The name is deceptive, the color was not really blue, rather a silver with a slight blue tint. However, the car had been repainted in Spain before – but not quite to Martin’s standards. This is not difficult to understand when you learn that Martin is a painter himself.
Nevertheless, he initially left the car silver and began to change it according to his vision. First he rebuilt the front to the Facelift front panel and M5 front, because the old front panel was too delicate for his taste. Lowering springs and a set of BBS RS, which he still had from a previous BMW, were also installed. The interior was also completely overhauled right in his first season with the car – the car came from the factory with velour in the color “Pacific Blue” – somewhere between dark blue and turquoise. Martin procured a second set of sport seats and had them completely upholstered in leather in the same color. The original headliner was then blacked out with textile paint. A wooden steering wheel and a wooden Alpina shift knob also found their way into the interior.
He modified the taillights himself – he removed the orange lenses from an original set of taillights and replaced them with clear lenses. Likewise, the 5 Series was helped to more shine with some additional chrome. The grille was given a chrome piping similar to the BMW E23 7 Series. For the door handles, Martin originally wanted to use chrome handles from the previous E12 model – but since these are priced disproportionately high, he came up with something else. The E28 door handles are made of aluminum – Martin stripped them of paint and polished them to a mirror finish.
For 2018 Martin got himself other rims – RH cross spokes in 9×16, because he had seen enough of the BBS for the moment. But they didn’t stay too long. Split wheels are something special after all and so it didn’t take Martin long to get his 17″ BBS RS out again and change them to 9 and 10×17 for the 2019 season. To get a little more camber at the front, Martin built some offset plates for his strut mounts. A clever solution to keep the comfort of original rubber strut mounts and still get more camber without converting to uniball strut mounts.
2019 was also the year in which the lowering springs were finally replaced by an H&R coilover suspension. This together with the widened wheels made the car look absolutely beastly on the road. In the following season, Martin improved the car with further small details such as mirror-polished stainless steel wiper arms and a chrome E12 driver’s mirror – the mirror on the passenger side was correspondingly rationalized away to make the car look even more classic. In 2020 Martin found a used Pfeba front bumper and fitted it instead of the M5 front.
For many, the car would have already been perfect at this point. Martin, however, is a full-blooded tinkerer and simply can’t resist making more and more changes to his cars. In 2021, the starting signal was given for what were probably the most radical changes to the E28.
Martin had always been bothered by the BMW-typical wheel arches. The rear wheel arches on old BMWs always sit significantly lower than the front. This automatically results in a certain rake when running aggressive wheel fitment. To eliminate this rake, the rear wheel arches were cut out and welded back in about 5cm or 2 inches higher. This brought the rear of the 5-series much closer to the ground. However, the entire process also entailed further work – the front spoiler always looked a bit lower than the sills on the E28, so Martin didn’t hesitate too long and cut up both the Pfeba front spoiler and the front panel behind it and shortened both by a few centimeters.
Afterwards, the 5 Series was finally repainted. Martin opted for BMW Schwarz II – a deep black solid color. After painting, the paint already looked good, but Martin took a lot of time with the finishing work, so that the paint could cure at its leisure. The body was then completely wet sanded and polished to a high gloss. The result is an absolutely perfect finish – a paint that is as smooth as glass and shines like a mirror.
But Martin didn’t just go wild on the outside – the engine bay also received some attention and was extensively cleaned up. The tank for the wiper fluid was moved beneath the fender liner. The coolant expansion tank was removed and the radiator was replaced by a full aluminum radiator with integrated expansion tank, actually for an E36. The whole fuse box was moved to the interior, in a cubby below the light switch. So almost only the actual engine was left in the engine compartment. And it received quite a bit of attention as well. Some years before Martin had already installed some aftermarket headers. This was now supplemented by some more touches and the engine was modified accordingly. The head received a port and polish. A 282° Dbilas camshaft also found its way into the engine. The ignition distributor was replaced with a fully electronic ignition and the wiring harness was hidden as much as possible. And then, of course, there’s what literally jumps out at you when you open the hood – the 5 Series, formerly delivered as a 528i fuel injected, was converted to carburetors with three 45 Weber twin carburetors. The exhaust system is of course also no longer original – starting with the 2×3-in-1 fan manifold it goes into a completely self-built exhaust system, which has a modified routing compared to the original, as the original routing was no longer possible due to the new height of the rear axle, as the original exhaust now lay completely on the ground. The new exhaust sits much higher now.
As mentioned before, Martin is a full-blooded mechanic – in concrete terms, this means that Martin did everything himself on this car, except for the leathering of the interior. Hard to believe when you stand in front of this 5 Series. The overall look is just overwhelming. I had the chance to ride along for a little bit and let me tell you – the car drives as good as it looks. The suspension, while very firm as expected, is still completely comfortable. It may sound cliché, but the sound of the 5 Series is just indescribable. If you’ve ever had the chance to hear a BMW M1 Procar on the race track – this 5 Series comes very, very close to that sound. When Martin dropped me off at my hotel in the evening after the shoot and I watched the 5 Series for a while as it slowly cruised through the dark streets of Eisenach, between a few normal cars, the scene just felt like a big black shark slowly and menacingly passing through a school of fish. This 5er doesn’t just have a sharknose, it’s a jet black shark.