1993 BMW Touring Project

SOLD, Feb 2009
Specifications and equipment

Car #1

Year:1993
Exterior:White
Interior:Black leather
Transmission:automatic
Specifics:180+K miles, intermittent running issues where car will shut off while driving, used a small company's runabout for the last two years. Northern California car w/no rust. Carfax says it was originally a BMW North America fleet car in its early life, until about 6K miles.

Car #2

Year:1991
Exterior:Gold
Interior:Tan leather
Transmission:5 speed manual
Specifics:250K miles, rusty, beater with many warning lights on (light bulbs, coolant, EML). Unfortunately it's an ASC car which I didn't realize until I got it so I need to locate a few more parts to do the swap since I don't want to switch over this electronic throttle it has. Two unexpected bonuses were a limited slip rear end and a newer radiator. Note war wounds on body and passenger side mirror ripped off.


The plan with these two cars is to build something that BMW never made, even in Europe. A 535iT, or in English, a wagon powered by BMW's Big Six M30 3.5 liter engine. I'll also be using a 5-speed manual transmission.

You might ask, what's the point? Well, versatility and a solid platform for a rocketship sleeper are the main ideas. The M30 Big Six was at its height in the early 90's with the E34 5-series. BMW stopped using it after that as newer and better engine designs emerged. But like the small block Chevy V8, the M30 benefited from decades of innovation and improvements as well as proven reliability due to its overbuilt nature. It's a simple, reliable, torquey powerplant which is extremely easy to get parts for. The later motor that I'll be using has the added benefit of bigger valves in the head than the earlier engines in the 70's and 80's. The platform for a rocketship stems from this. The M30 has gained notoriety in the last decade or so for its inherant specs that favor turbocharging. Low compression, a rigid engine block, and other features have netted some very high horsepower and torque numbers from others who have turbocharged these motors, and they still remain reliable for daily driving.

The initial plan is to get the transformation of the engine and manual transmission to the Touring completed. I'll drive it and enjoy it for a while in this configuration because it still will be no slouch with decent power and torque. But later, it will beg to have forced induction turbocharging added to spice things up.

The conversion is going to be performed in March by the noted Ben Thongsai here in Chicago, an expert in older BMW's and one of the few that can do this swap keeping all the wiring harness gremlins out of the mix. So far the list of modifications and parts to be used looks like this:

  • Transfer 3.46 LSD rear end from 535i
  • Transfer M30 3.5 liter to Touring and freshen it up a bit. Likely a head gasket, valve job, timing guides and chain, and an oil pump will keep it reliable.
  • Transfer 5-speed manual transmission to Touring
  • Keep self-leveling suspension on the Touring in the rear, but add bracket to use the pump on the M30 engine
  • Add H&R lowering springs specially ordered from Germany, designed to work with E34 Tourings that have self-leveling suspension. Bilstein HD's will be used in the front.
  • Add UUC Motorwerks short-shifter kit and Rob Knob.
  • Upgrade the brakes significantly. Thanks to the advice of Scott Hersted here in Chicago who already built his own "535iT", I will use the following. 850ci four piston front calipers with 324x30mm vented rotors and E34 M5/540i rear calipers with 300x20mm vented rotors. The stock Touring rear brakes do not use vented rotors. Stainless steel lines will be installed as well and Hawk ceramic pads.
  • Add Redline MTL to transmission and 75w90 gear oil to rear end.
  • Switch headlights for Hella euro smoked ellipsoids with HID bulbs from the McCulloch 5000K kit.
  • Switch front turn signals for smoked lenses
  • New belts and hoses will be used on the engine during the swap.
  • E12 M535i flywheel (lighter weight than E34 unit) and E28 535i clutch will be used.
  • Swap out airbag steering wheel for Racing Dynamics 3-spoke unit.
  • Swap engine ECU to use D'Sylva chip.
  • Swap Touring's rear sway bar for E34 M5 Touring unit.
  • Add E34 M5 17x8 front and rear wheels with 235/45/17 Bridgestone tires.

So far that's the list. Still to be seen is whether I will need to put in a new exhaust and there will surely be other things to resolve. But I'm excited to do this project and have a fun, torquey, manual transmission station wagon, with possible turbocharging prospects later.

September 2007

Here's an update on the car since it's been a few months since the transformation. The sunroof works (by some miracle, I just played with it until it worked). The headlights are converted to the Hella Euro smoked ellipsoids using the McCulloch HID kit from ebay (5K light temperature). All city lights, ballasts for the HIDS, etc were wired up nicely.

Also the H&R springs and Bilsteins are on the front of the car. The rest of the suspension still needs to be completed, soon hopefully. The UUC shift knob was ditched for a BMW M Technik unit that feels much better in my hand.

Also the 850ci four piston Brembo front brakes are on the car, but I still have to put the E34 M5 rears on when I get the right calipers.

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