In this episode, we review the changes, upgrades and modifications made to our BMW E39! We take a look at the body work and m-sport bumpers, the facelift xenon lights with quad projector mod, the BMW style 238 wheels, the 30mm lowering springs, the headliner and trim, and off course the Android navigation head unit radio system!
It's finally time to start on the interior of our beast! But before we commence with any of the mods, a thorough cleaning is in order. Now, the previous (and first) owner of our e39, specced the car particularly well, with electrically adjustable, heated Aubergine leather sport seats, sport steering wheel, sunroof, and rear sun-blind. It is truly a joy to be inside the cabin.
However, as with many cars that are acquired second hand, the interior is covered in a thick layer of years and years of use. Especially the steering wheel is a real eyesore, and looks very greasy, grimy and slimy. It also appears to have some harsh skin oils induced damage.
In my experience, the most (cost) effective way of cleaning leather surfaces like these are with a magic sponge, a very dense, soft foam sponge that only requires lukewarm water. No soap is needed, unless actual oil has to been cleaned of the surface. Softly wipe it (not rub) over the leather, and dry it off with a microfibre towel. The transformation is unreal!
Especially the colored stitching is popping again.
Gone is the shiny, nasty grime. The leather once again has factory like, matte finish and looks and feels soft to the touch. Of course, the damages have not been repaired using this method. But they are way less visible, having removed the dirt that was filling the low spots, and the greasiness on top of the high spots.
The rest of the leather interior parts were also cleaned with the sponge, to match the now clean steering wheel. The seats were then gently cleaned, again using only lukewarm water, and soft bristle brush. This way the cleaning was not to abrasive on the top coat of the leather, since the last time these seats received any care or protection was unknown to me.
Here the front of the seat has already been cleaned, and reveals a more matte surface. Even the color pops more. After all the of leather surfaces were cleaned, a natural care product was applied.
Now in my opinion, vacuuming the carpet and the over mats is one of the biggest transformation to the cars interior. Especially with Harvey, our cocker spaniel, leaving white hairs all over the place.
We made a little video introducing the interior and thoroughly cleaning it:
We are currently working on refinishing a whole lot of trim, and taking headliner and pillars out.
BMW E39 - Bumper and body upgrades
Starting the mods
Right from the get go, I was set on replacing the bumpers with some M-package units. The reasons for this desire were manifold, but the two most pressing ones were as follows: to me, the E39 seems to be designed with and for the M-sport bumpers, as the lines flow so much better. And secondly, they freshen up the car enormously.
As with most M-sport designs, they remained basically the same throughout the entire run of production, and do not receive a major facelift somewhere in the middle, like it's more everyday bumper-siblings. This makes the car look a lot fresher, as the design was still current in early 2004, instead of late 1999. Also, the sport bumpers give the car a bit more edginess and sharpness that I have come to appreciate in contemporary designs.
And so, the normal, pre-facelift bumpers came off and were to make way for the new ones. As I'm sure you all do too, I scoure the online-listings to look for upgrade parts for almost every car I think of buying. For the E39, it's like hitting a gold mine. Endless pages of parts are available. However, trying to find original, good condition upgrade parts such as the M-bumpers, can present a real challenge. I therefore sprung for some replicas, made by a reputable company in Germany.
At least, I though I did. The company I bought the bumpers from, informed me the rear units were out of stock. Next delivery would be in a month. So I scoured again, and amongst the many listings I found a matching rear unit. However, the company selling it was unknown to me. I did some investigating, and what did I find? The bumper was on sale at a discount on yet another listings-website. I went ahead and ordered, and got this:
It turns out the ad for the bumper with discount was not the same as the one I found earlier matching the front, but for a Chinese unit. Oh, well. In fact, after some doubts about how flexible this thing was, and how bad the fitment was at first, the bumper was easier to get sitting right then the German one on the front.
I decided to fit everything up first, including trim, and see if they actually line up right, prior to any painting. With this step of the facelift complete, I turned my attention to the pre-facelift grills. Every small part seems to make such a huge impact, yet they only work when done all together. I therefore ordered some facelift grills, in a piano black finish. Not a huge chrome-enthusiast to start with, but to me these kidneys contrast a lot nicer with the Aspen Silver finish then the originals.
I then turned my attention back to the rear of the car. Again, I wanted to give this car a bit more of the edginess and sharpness that I've come to like in modern car designs. The rear bumper and its diffuser already go a great way to achieve this, but I felt more could be done. A modest spoiler lip would make a world of difference here, wouldn't it?
The spoiler is awaiting its paint treatment, together with the new bumpers. Speaking of them, with the front now looking so clean and smooth without the plates ruining any of the lines of the car, the rear was attacked too. Sadly, I don't have the minerals to run without any, so I removed the frame to clean it up just that little bit.
All of that can be seen in this video we made of our progress:
We are currently doing something with these.
Our BMW E39 - INTRO & PREP - VIDEO
Finding the car.
In order to promote our newly founded family business, we are building a demo car. We design and create automotive and road trip lifestyle goods, and want to build a car to show this off. Something we’d like to share with you.
The car in question was to be a 2005 VW Mk5 Gti. It was my daily, and as both the designer and all round car-guy of the team, it was meant to be. Right up to the moment when the bolt on the camshaft sprocket decided it was time to let go. Heart broken, I put the Gti aside.
I was in dire need of a new daily and so the hunt began. This time though, I wanted a bit more comfort and definitely more reliability. Not that the Gti was all that bad. It was a reliable daily that started on the button each and every time, it just needed a lot of maintenance to keep it that way. So the new car was to be easier on the wallet in terms of maintenance, a step up in comfort, and needed to have that coolness. It also needed to be a car I could build up to be something fresh, something that would stand out. Being a fanatic of cars of the German persuasion, I narrowed it down to the Audi and Bmw brands. Specifically the C5 A6, the E39 5-series and the E46 3-Series. Eventually, due to my passed experiences with both brands, I ruled out the C5, and went to look for the right Bmw.
This new car was going to be used as the shuttle car for our company, and on top of that be my daily. I decided, even though I am a huge fan of driving a manual, that an auto-box would suit the use of the car more. Would it have fit my budget, a 330ia was the dream. Alas, I could not find the darn thing anywhere near my budget, let alone in it. Then a strange thing happened. I scoured the good old internet for some 5 series inspiration and came across a few of the older generations. Man, did I fall in love. Head over heals in fact. The E12, the E28, and the E34 were the new apples of my eye. I found a nearby E34 530ia. It’s the model with the smaller Bmw V8, and this was a model I had in fact driven years before, and really liked it. It was no surprise, as I love the V8 engine configuration in general. Just the sound alone… Don’t get me started.
I called the dealer and a date to view the car was set. The day came, and right before I left, I rechecked the dealer's website to see the car again. Scrolling down I came across a pre-facelift, purple on purple, 528ia. Please, don’t get me wrong. This thing looked amazing. I had always wanted a really well executed, build-up E39. In my mind though, it was a 540i manual, and had to really entertain my optional-extras fetish. Why not an M5, you ask? To me the 540i manual had this whiff of rarity about it, like it was a special gem in the otherwise normal line-up. All M5’s were manual, so finding one was not that unusual. Scouring the listings for a 540i and finding a manual was. The value of the 540i’s were and are still much lower than the M5’s, and so a fully build up one would still end up owning me less than an M5.
Optional extras such as a sun-roof, and electrically adjustable and heated sport seats were a must. Leather of course, and full size navigation, xenon headlights, and nice rims were too. This purple magnificence had them all, except for the sat nav.
“Oh well, this would be nice thing to upgrade.” I thought. And became so enthusiastic about the the thing that I jumped on the phone to the dealer to arrange a viewing for this car too, next to the e34 530ia.
“Are you a dealer or something?” he asked, not amused.
“No, I just can’t make up my mind.” I replied, very much so.
So, I get to the place, and see the cars. The spec of the E39 was obviously so much better. The E34 had no leather, no sun-roof, no sport seats, standard too small wheels, and not really much else to write home about. But the body was in good condition, and the engine ran great. We went on a test drive and the car was a bit disappointing. Again, engine runs smooth and strong, and the auto-box shifts are velvety. However, the suspension is knocking over bumps and the steering was the biggest let down: it was loose and vague.
The E39’s mechanical condition was great. Really clean and well taken care of. However, the body was not. Both front and rear bumpers were scratched up and had several dings and dents in them. So there I am thinking: “Not too bad, you wanted to replace them anyway.” And so still smiling i walk around the car to the other side. And the smile is punched off my face in a cold and hard fashion: the “scratch” on the pictures on the front door turns out to be a nasty, deep scrape along the side of both doors.
A little upset, we go on the test drive. The smile comes back. And how. This thing drives so nicely, so tightly, and so solidly, that only after a few turns I know there is no way back. The steering on this is so good, man! I open the negotiations with the dealer, but he does not come down far enough. I leave the place empty handed and with a few doubts.
What about the V8? What about the doors? What about the older generations? However, over the next days, the car doesn’t leave my mind. Back on the good old internet, I look for replacement doors, and actually find a pair in the right colour, for a reasonable asking price. Than, I look at the various 540i vs 528i threads out there. And i finally read something interesting: the six cylinder E39’s had a new rack and pinion system, and the v8s retained the recirculating ball system of the previous generation. So than I tell myself about how much better the insurance rates, the road tax and the fuel economy will be (fully realising that the last one is a lie) and I’m back on the phone with the dealer.
We reach an agreement and the purple one is mine. After a few difficulties at the registration and technical control, such the auto-leveling headlights (hello there, E39 community) the car was on the road and ready to go.
The plan for this car was to beautify it according to my dreams. Already as a young boy I fantasised about the type of car I wanted to drive: sporty, yet comfy and luxurious. A Grand Tourer. Now over the years, the taste has changed a little.
So I want to give this car the appearance of the coolest cars of when I was younger, yet give it a bit of facelift to make the current taste happy.
First off though, before any modification can start, the biggest bang for the buck upgrade: a full wash and light detail. Because as you can see, this thing needs it.
The interior in this thing is already pretty close to what I'd like it to be. Like mentioned before, it's already pretty loaded. The colour combination is really growing on me, as it's something you don't see everyday, yet still quite tasty. After a little clean up, it came out great too.
Now the second step, is to get this thing in better condition in relation to the bodywork. Having thought about replacing them altogether, in the end I opted for repairing them myself in our little self built tent-workshop. Because DIY is life. It might have something to do with the cost too.
With the extend of the damage not actually requiring any panel beating, since it consists of deep scratches rather then dents, I went with the good old filler and spray can paint job. Yes, we have a compressor, but I wanted to see how effective this method could be.
Being no pro at working with bondo, I began to become fairly nervous at the sight of the filler build not becoming smooth at all. But with some patience, some sanding, and some filler spray, it came out reasonably smooth. Not perfect, but I prefer it to looking at the smashed up panels that they used to be.
The work done up to and including the glamorous process of applying the gloss clear coat can be seen in the video of the first part of the build:
Currently we're working on getting the bumpers off and starting the facelifting, upgrading and modifying of our new E39