The Car of the Month for TBD belongs to:
Mike Jaynes in Applegate, Ca.
Mike's 1981 528i 3.5
This what it looks like
now, but it wasn't always so...
I bought the car in Febuary 2003 from a co-worker
with 180K on the odometer.
The car looked pretty beat up at first
and I wasn't sure I wanted to tackle it.
The milkshake on the dipstick
and mold on the floor didn't help. As
you can see from the picture, it was in poor shape, the sunroof was left
open in the rain, it had a blown head gasket (warped head), bumpers
were pushed in on one side, mis-matched tires , numerous dings and a poor
re-spray in the stock Arctic Blue. The good part was that the previous
owner had a mechanic put a 3.5 litre engine out of an 86 535. The fuel
injection was stock l-jet.
I started doing my homework, mostly reading
posts on first fives, all of the FAQs and past posts on the particular problems
as I ran into them. First thing was to find a good head. I found a nice
AMC head with low miles from one of our brothers at senior sixes,
Jim Bartridge. Once I had that and all the other parts for a top end
rebuild from the guys at Mesa Performance, I started putting it back
together. I replaced all the fuel
and water hoses, the water pump and fan clutch. In
between wrenching on the engine, I was cleaning the mold and surface rust
from the interior. I removed the entire carpet and scrubbed it to finally
get the smell out of the car.
When taking out the carpet, I found the probable cause for the blown head gasket.
Antifreeze under the carpet could only mean a couple of things, heater valve
or core. It was the valve, the original from the factory had never been replaced.
The P.O. had let the coolant go low and the rest is....
Installing the BBS spoiler after repairing and painting
I saw pictures of the Euro version of the 528i and I knew that I wanted
the car to look as it had been designed with Euro bumpers and spoiler. I
found a post on First Fives from Craig Day in Utah. He was parting out a
wrecked Euro 528i. Immediately I emailed him and we worked out a deal
for a Euro cluster, dash (beautiful condition) Bumpers and spoiler. As time
went on I also bought Euro lights, Bilstein HDs and springs from him.
I really owe him a debt of gratitude, without his help, my car would not
be as nice as it is today.
Test drive after putting in the Euro cluster
Euro H4 lights installed along
with my First Fives grille badge
I found a brand new rear BBS spoiler from Eric in Washinton and installed
it. The rear Euro bumper had been bent from the wrecked donor car, so with much massaging
to the left side to get it straight without messing up the chrome or stretching
the metal any more than it was. If you buy any used Euro parts, expect lots of
I restuffed the seats and put on sheepskins, I
also found a brand new set of 4 door panels from a guy on ebay. I found
numerous parts as well as all of the tools for my tool kit,
documentation, brochures and
new friends with the same interest in old BMWs. I also
installed the analog clock from an earlier model.
The stock seats just were not comfortable,
found a set of Recaros on Ebay and fabbed some adaptors to the existing seat
Cool rear deck I bought from
I have about 5K since putting it back on the road
and love driving it. The 3.5 really has some low end torque and I find my foot
in it more often than not. It drives very different from my 318is. I still
need to install the new suspension components and
at some point I will replace the stained headliner, remove the side marker
lights and repaint the car properly.
I have put way more time and money into this car than it will ever be worth,
but I have had a lot of fun and met a lot of nice people in the process.
If I had it to do over, I would look for a car in better condition to start