2018/2019 Project Car

E28 535is

Year: 1988

Exterior: zinnoberrot

Interior: black leather (was houndstooth black/white)

Transmission: 5-spd manual

Details: Purchased with the help of Chris Kohler and Doug Parks, this was a lifetime California car with no rust, no collision damage (minor work to passenger front door from a parking lot incident is the only thing), and baked (but ok) paint.

The car came with euro bumpers fitted and the houndsthooth interior along with a ton of other problems to correct.  Given the value of these lately I felt that I got one at the right time after searching for a zinno over black 5spd IS for a few years off and on.

Modifications and upgrades

  • M30b35 engine transplant
  • Euro bumpers, painted with body holes filled in
  • BBS front airdam
  • BBS RZ staggered wheels
  • Recaro Idealsitz powered front seats
  • Working, complete headlight cleaning system
  • French (yellow) lights including fogs.  All new old stock protected with clear Lamin-X
  • Ireland engineering swaybars
  • H&R springs, Bilstein sports
  • Ireland engineering brakes front and rear
  • Euro map light mirror
  • Ireland engineering exhaust
  • Coco mats
  • Sport steering wheel, recovered with red stitching


After 20 years in the BMW Car Club and having owned two E12’s, two E34’s, one E39, and one E60, I thought maybe it was time to finally buy an E28? I’ve been lusting after a Zinno 535iS 5spd for quite a while and trolling craigslist sending texts to experts on mye28.com asking them for opinions on listings I found for sale. I’ve also watched as the asking prices went up from the $5k mark I remember as the fairly typical going rate, to today when nice ones are more like $10-20k (and up).

This car showed up on craigslist a while back and got posted up in the non-affiliated for sale thread on mye28. 


Here’s the original build thread when it showed up on mye28 in 2012.


Through the tremendous help of Doug Park and Chris Kohler I got the car. The car is 100% rust free and doesn’t have a history of getting smacked up, but unfortunately we’re not sure of the mileage and ownership history. It seems to be in the 225k range. We set to work on some changes I want to make and some work the car needs including some inop seat functions, inop power windows, and AC that is not hooked up. Also the dash doesn’t fit right and there are some oddities with the hvac and instrument console/clusters. Chris Kohler is helping me with all of this.

The car has a lot of nice mods including a b35 swap, euro bumpers, houndstooth interior, Ireland engineering brakes and exhaust, suspension upgrades and H&R springs, euro grilles and lights, and some recent maintenance items. It actually doesn’t seem to have been driven much since 2012.

This is how it looked from the craigslist ad.

April 2019

Some changes are underway and a few accomplished already. Todd DeHate on mye28.com had a nice set of BBS RZ’s for sale a while back and after some straightening and refinishing, they were mounted on the car and the 17″ BBS LM reps were sold.

Also will be converting the euro lights to NOS euro with yellow highbeams and NOS yellow fog lenses. These are the actual yellow glass, not yellow stickers.

The houndstooth interior is not to my taste so the entire interior with door panels is for sale if anyone is interested.  (sold October 2019)

I’ll be returning it to a black interior but instead of E28 sport seats we’re putting in the genuine 80’s high end Recaros with the blue buttons on the side bolsters. I love these things. There’s a guy in Poland that specializes in these 80’s Recaros and he is building me a set. I specified that I want them with the blue buttons on the thigh bolster.

The car definitely has a long punch list of items to fix and Chris is diligently tackling them for me. Spent some time on the phone with him Sunday night to make decisions on a few areas like A/c.

You can probably tell from the pics that the paint is baked from the CA sun so one day I will need to get it painted. But for now I don’t want another project!  The door panels and rear seats are from a black interior E28 getting parted out but maybe I’ll consider having them recovered in the same black leather to match the fronts one day.

I also did an M-tech 1 steering wheel recovered with red stitching to replace the stock wheel, refinished by Chris Scow. mye28.com link: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=147150&start=25&

Other enhancements are a BenGerman clutch spring (viewtopic.php?f=4&t=149057&), clutch pedal bracket brace viewtopic.php?f=4&t=103670&, rear view mirror with map lights, and some other nice-to-have goodies.

Oh yeah, one more thing, one of the most important. Looking for an early style BBS front airdam/spoiler which we are on the hunt for!

I told Chris to plan for July so that I can schedule a road trip with my son to get it in between his soccer league schedule and my work trips.

We also go to the weathertech IMSA race at Road America every August so I’d like to drive it there this year. The last two years we took the yellow M3. If Ben Thongsai has the E12 M535i done by then, that would be a tough choice for which car to road trip to Elkhart Lake!

June 2019

Things are beginning to happen. Chris has been collecting parts for the suspension, we have an early BBS front airdam which is getting repaired and painted, and the Recaro seats just arrived from Poland that I ordered from a Recaro Max on Facebook. Maybe if Chris has time he can post a few pics from his end of the airdam and paint. He has had a very busy May and early June!

Also the rear sway bar mounts and reinforcements were welded in about a month ago I think. He also did a full fluid service on the car, engine, trans, diff, brakes, etc. Chris has been juggling a lot of work on the car and has been patient as parts packages keep showing up on his doorstep (or at a FedEx location for pickup).

The plan is still to go visit Phoenix in late July and pick up the car to road trip back to Minnesota.

These are updates that Chris wrote about working on the car:

Figure it’s about time I make an appearance in here. Adam’s been keeping you posted with the various changes that have been happening. I’ve been incredibly busy from April until about a week ago, but in that time I’ve been working in what I can. If you follow the link in Adam’s original post to the build thread for this car in 2012, you can get a pretty good idea of what was done and a lot was done to this car. It received a B35 swap, a recovered interior, a “crack-free” dashboard, a Euro conversion and a pretty comprehensive suspension redo. It all added up to quite a bit of money and effort in this car. I had seen the car at a couple of events at Coast Motor Werk over the years and in talking to the PO, he hardly drove it, putting around 2,000 miles on it in seven years.

With Doug’s help, I picked the car up in CA and drove it back to Phoenix. It did well on the trip. Drove pretty well. There were some issues of course, including the rear sway bar sitting in the trunk, several switches inoperable and an annoying hot start issue which also manifested itself as an annoying cold start issue. Oh, also the handbrake didn’t work at all. Keeping the car in gear was the only way to keep it from rolling down Doug’s slightly sloped driveway. While I already had a growing list of things that were just obvious, I gave the car a pretty thorough inspection once I returned home and gave a list to Adam of what I felt it needed. We worked out a plan for his vision for the car and I had a pretty decent list of needs that were either putting in that extra 10% that should have been done the first time or things that just weren’t done properly. Fortunately, the car itself is a solid base to work from and most of the parts and upgrades add value.

The first thing I was really surprised about was the flex disc being installed backwards. New ones actually come with instructions.

Also, there was a leak from the transmission. The selector shaft seal was the culprit there.

The rear sway bar mounts weren’t reinforced when the larger Ireland Engineering bars were installed. Reinforced with akumulus’ kit. Unfortunately this has created another issue where the ridiculous IE mounting system won’t work, but I think I’ve got a solution for that using standard front mounts.

Moving to the front end, from the receipts and the build thread, the front end parts were new. Unfortunately, the boots were already trashed on the upper arms, both lower control arm to subframe bolts were loose (not wow it’s loose, but not snug). Also, particularly frightening was the bolts used for the steering knuckle. Given these bolts have enough trouble with the forces exerted upon them, I was surprised to find these were regular zinc grade 8.8 bolts instead of the black oxide coated grade 10.9 of the originals. UCAs are Meyle HD, lowers are likely Hamburg Technic or something like that. These have all been replaced with Lemförder parts. E31 8-series LCAs and the UCAs have Moosehead Engineering spherical bearings.

Here are the bolts from the steering knuckle. There was some sort of red thread locker on these but the rattle gun hardly broke a sweat removing these. For giggles, a regular ratchet did the trick on the driver side. If Adam doesn’t want them, perhaps they can be adopted out as pets.

Here are the upside down H&R front springs. One full coil has been cut off each side, springs installed upside down and they shredded the spring pads and my favorite part is when the tail of the spring gets jammed between the mount and the body. Steering wheel springs back at you pretty quickly.

You can see in this photo where there is damage to the schutz undercoating protectant.

With the strut assemblies removed, you can see what the tail of the spring did. I was pretty amazed. I look at this as having caught it in the nick of time.

Of course, we couldn’t leave that alone, so the loose schutz removed, cleaned thoroughly, etch-primed, schutzed and coated with a mixture of 138 that seemed closest to what was used on the undercarriage of the car.

Is it a perfect job? No. My main concern is sealing and protecting the area so no further damage is done but I do think it came out reasonably well.

I procured a proper set of H&R springs of the same vintage (this way I didn’t have to change the rears which actually seem fine). Here’s a shot showing the cut spring next to an original.

I was pretty surprised to see the rust on these springs and the spring hats were particularly rusty so I ordered some E90 hats as there are concerns about the altitude change with the removed coil replaced and the springs actually sitting on the spring pads. I’d show you how it looks but I had quite the setback when I discovered the trashed threads on the front struts. Likely a nut with the wrong thread pitch was run onto this with an impact. There were two nuts on this side. One held on with red thread locker and the correct nut on top of it. Given the obvious concerns, I ordered two new strut inserts. Then I can put it all back together. There was also only one washer on each side. The cup was missing from the bottom of the bearing. Fortunately, I had most everything needed in a box in my storage unit.

The AC system in this car is inoperable. From the photos in the build thread, it was obvious nothing was ever done with it, the belt wasn’t installed and only one line had been rebuilt previously. The hose to the top of the condenser had clearly ruptured and there is a pretty good collection of oil from that. Of course, there was also the routing of the a/c line right by the headers. While that sorta looks like clearance, uhhh, no. Jay Stratton has the compressor, all of the other lines have been rebuilt and I have a new 533i suction line coming from Germany. This is not going back together like this.

On to happier things, the bodywork on the front end of the car is currently apart. Everything came apart as it should and I was happy to see the pigtails used for the turn signals and some other things I simply was not expecting. Of course, the splices need to be redone and properly protected but that’s child’s play. The Euro headlights were installed simply by plugging the US connectors into the lamps. The high beam is no issue there but the low beam was plugged directly into the back of the bulb. Fortunately, I’ve got some connectors and I’ll take the time to properly wire the lamps. Fortunately the new lamps have the proper connection pieces currently missing from the other set.

The good news is that the bumpers are assembled properly and it’s nice to see the factory Euro frame rail repair pieces used for this conversion.

Everything should go back together like it should once the early valance and BBS airdam are ready to go. The airdam is currently undergoing the necessary repairs before paint. It was a long struggle to find an original BBS airdam and the piece we got needed plenty of work but it will be worth it in the end.

I have a lot of other things on order like the correct elbow from the airbox to the AFM from an ’88-89 E24. This stupid blue silicon joiner thing doesn’t fit right. Unfortunately, someone cut off the brackets for the bottom of the airbox, so I’ll have to get another one to properly install it. The AFM is just sitting on the bracket on the valve cover, missing all of the connection hardware. All of that will be properly installed in due time. A couple of coolant leaks have been solved along with a fun oil leak.

July 2019

A few updates. Unfortunately the Phoenix to Minnesota road trip wasn’t a possibility because of a pretty long list of items left to do on the car, and some setbacks like with the a/c. I think Chris has really had his hands full preparing for 5erwest and trying to finish my car so it was best to eliminate the stressful deadline of next wednesday the 24th.

So as of now, I’m planning to have the car shipped sometime after the Pebble Beach show because the enclosed car transport companies are swamped now. That way I can drive it some before about Halloween when the MN weather turns really cold.

Chris got the BBS airdam finished and mounted so here are some updated pictures. Besides the a/c Chris has been working hard on the headlight wiper system, and crossing off a lot of other tasks like the hvac controls and gauge cluster, suspension, and items under the hood like the airbox mount.

September 2019

I posted a bunch of these photos on facebook and Instagram, but here I can add more detail and talk more about the build challenges Chris has been fighting. The good news is, the car is done (except for the a/c which I’ll deal with later). The bad news is, as of this post, I still don’t have it because Intercity hasn’t given me a date. I’m getting incredibly impatient.

Chris took a bunch of glamor shots last week when it was all done and boy does the car look amazing in my opinion. It’s going to need a repaint but in these photos after Chris buffed it, the Zinno looks about as good as possible. Chris spent a tremendous amount of time to deliver on my ask for a fully functioning headlight cleaning system. Chris went through a horde of parts to get a functioning system, and spent hours on the wiring and setup. Throw into the mix the new old stock lights I bought, and the right bulbs, and you get the French look. Chris even threw in yellow lights in the lowbeams for the full effect.

Other highlights of this work include the completion of the rear sway bar fixes, welding in new mounts and painting them. Chris may have pictures of that. The a/c was a huge chore and in the end still didn’t work after a rebuilt compressor (twice) and hours of Chris’s time blowing out the system and troubleshooting it. In the interest of time for all the other checklist items still on the car I told him to leave it and I will work on it next year here in Minnesota with a trusted BMW shop if I can find one. Maybe I’ll do the Sanden compressor I think it is called?

The car also had an oil leak and hard starting issues which he corrected (oil pan bolts were not snug and fuel filter was installed backwards and fuel pumps were old maybe original to the car). New fuel hose was also installed.

Wherever possible when doing something if Chris saw old parts (or shoddy parts) he replaced them with the correct stuff. There is a TON of dunn-right in this car.

Then there’s the front suspension, oh my god. Chris had this thing apart so many times in the end we just replaced everything. Turns out the crappy Ireland Engineering front camber plates were digging into the shock towers. He at first thought maybe it was the shock mounts which had the locator tab drilled/dremeled off. But it was the camber plates. Not only were they digging into the shock tower, they were causing the spring to bind and then spring back when making turns (the steering would spring back to center). New front shock mounts were purchased, the camber plates were ditched, and the tie rods, drag link, and center link were all replaced before the car was aligned. Finally it drove right he said after the entire front suspension was replaced pretty much! And the alignment did wonders.

Chris installed the seats and a center e-brake console without the seat power controls. They weren’t cut, but are tucked inside if I ever want to go back to E28 power sport seats (not likely with these Recaro beauties). He also installed the steering wheel I had recovered.

The Racing Dynamics strut brace was one of the final things installed. I waited about 3 months to get that thing since it was on backorder. It dresses up the engine bay nicely.

Speaking of the engine bay, Chris cleaned up the install of the b35 where the AFM was flopping around. He used a BMW part from the later E24 I believe. He also re-routed the a/c lines using 533i parts I think so they weren’t so close to the header. The car has an Ireland Engineering exhaust which I’ll evaluate keeping. The Supersprint system with header may be calling to me when the 10% off sale hits this Fall.

I couldn’t leave well enough alone and even though the car is “done” I ordered a Ron Davis racing radiator which is being made now. With any luck it’ll be done soon enough to put in the trunk before the truck picks the car up for shipment to Minnesota. Otherwise they’ll ship to me and I can figure out when to install it.

The car doesn’t have a stereo currently but I bought a refurbished Alpine tape deck from Europe that has been converted to have an aux port and bluetooth. That can go in this winter and I’ll take my time getting the sound good. I also bought a 4 channel Xtant amp to go with it.

Other things Chris did include wiring in the map light mirror, adjusting the sunroof, installing a new trunk floor mat, putting in a new front grille because one was cracked, working on the mirrors so the power functions aren’t so slow.

Chris has overcome a lot with this car, and discovered some bad stuff like this crack in the head.

Not sure what I’ll do about that, but it hopefully won’t have a huge impact on the way it drives. Now taking it to a track day may be another question (too much stress on the head)?

2020 plans: Figure out what to do about the cracked head, a paint job, new windshield, black alcantara headliner, leather surfaces like door panels, center console, and maybe dash the way that car was done on bringatrailer would be nice. The Supersprint exhaust system I mentioned could be done. And then….nothing else, but I don’t intend to do any projects that put the car out of commission for long because I want to DRIVE THE PISS OUT OF IT AND ENJOY IT!


Sept 20, 2019

Had the car shipped via Intercity lines and it arrived safe and sound of course.  I was able to get a few weeks of driving in before Minnesota’s winter set in.  

A few small updates: nostalgic license plate bracket, BMWCCA badges, new tri color motorsport emblem on the bottom of the steering wheel, and checking for driveway clearance this morning (9/21).

October 2019

Took some nice photos with the gold fields and fall colors.  Also got prime parking at the St Paul Trader Joe’s!

April 2020

I did a video of the car, driving it, talking through the modifications and upgrades, and some perspective on what its like to drive and my thoughts on the build difficulty (finding parts, finding the right car).

Also the car’s in-tank fuel pump (Airtex brand) already failed because a stud on the sender mount broke off.  Because only 3 of the 4 studs were clamping the seal down, it would leak whenever I filled the gas tank!

June 8th, 2020

Decided to do some glamor shots of the E12, E28, and E93.  Check out the respective sections for the pictures.  Thanks to Josh at Dynamic Photowerks for all the time and patience with doing the long shoot of 3 cars!