Following up on the recent Callaway Stage IIs, the other best-known American turbocharger of German products in the 1980s was Steve Dinan. Equally highly regarded, Dinan’s products have made their way from a small independent to being offered in BMW dealerships across the country, and the quality of his work is on par with the best independent tuners from Germany – Hartge and Alpina. Dinan has taken on tough projects – turbocharging the S38, BMW’s first V12, and punching out their V10 to 5.8 liters – and come away smiling.
Today, one of his less-exotic historical products is on the market. In this case it’s a 1989 535i that was turbocharged, lowered and stiffened, and given a big set of wheels. It’s the classic recipe, and sure enough, the outcome looks nice. But what makes this car notable is that it was reportedly Steve Dinan’s personal car, and is presented as the poster pinup probably more than a few of us reading about in Car & Driver when new:
Are you a ‘want your cake and eat it too’ kind of person? If so, you probably appreciate performance wagons. And why not? They offer practicality, are (generally) much more affordable than sports cars, and can literally fly under the radar. With their numbers dwindling in the open market, it’s always a great time to look at one from our past. Enter the E39 Touring.
There were several configurations that the 5-series Touring was available in over the years, but the ‘big stick’ was the 540i with its 286 horsepower M62. Sure, the N54-equipped E61 was faster and available as a manual. But if you wanted a really classic BMW setup, the 540iT was about as good as it got for US-bound BMW wagons. As a result, many have been turned up by their owners and drafted into M5 clones. Such is the case here, with this Sienna Red Metallic E39 sporting a host of Dinan bits, E39 M5 bits, and a 6-speed manual swap for good measure.
You and a million plus of your internet friends love the E46 M3. With a high-revving naturally-aspirated inline-6, near perfect weight distribution and timeless looks, how could you not? So how to stand apart from the crowd? Well, this ’05 might be just the right ticket. First, you’d want to source one of the elusive BMW Individual examples. Like Porsche’s Paint to Sample, these were custom-ordered Ms with near limitless options, and the E46 was the first to really exploit this before it was the popular trend. 58 Coupes were optioned in E36-spec Estoril Blue Metallic for the U.S. market, and admittedly it looks great on the newer generation too. This one goes one step farther with M Texture Anthracite Alcantara that is very infrequently seen in the modern Ms. Not done yet, it was opted with a 6-speed manual to sooth the Internet’s fears. For good measure the ZCP Competition Package was ticked on the order sheet. And to scare everything else on the road, it was then sent to Dinan where just about every conceivable option was fit. The resultant supercharged S3-R package was good for 462 horsepower. The seller describes this combination as a unicorn, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that assessment.
Update 10/18/19: This super supercharged 540iT sold for $11,100. Deal!
BMW’s continual refusal to bring the most powerful form of its its Touring/Sports Wagon historical lineup has been, as a 5-door enthusiast, pretty frustrating. That’s left Audi in the 2000s and Mercedes-Benz more recently to thoroughly dominate fast 5-doors, with the brief Cadillac interloper. But just because you couldn’t get an M5 Touring over here didn’t mean you couldn’t at least get M performance.
For that, though, you had to turn to fabled California tuner Dinan. No stranger on these pages, Dinan’s well-thought mods and clean execution earned his company a place in the revered showrooms of new BMWs. Cheap? Certainly not. Just the supercharger alone on this particular 540i was $16,000. But you get what you pay for, and the result when Dinan blew on the M62 was a claimed 400 horsepower. So this 540iT has the chops to back up its M5 looks:
Update 7/08/19 – After raising and lowering the price several times, this very unique “645i Turbo” is back on the market in 2019 for $19,900 today.
I really love how these cars sometimes send you down the rabbit hole. What attracted me initially to this E24 was that it was a European-spec car and it had a pretty high asking price at nearly $23,000. Alone that wouldn’t be enough to warrant a post, especially given that from the first photo I glanced at, it doesn’t look spectacular.
But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when considering this car, and it has a lot more to do with the personality behind it than the current condition.
The name Albert Mardikian probably doesn’t mean much to you. Mr. Mardikian is a partner and the Chief Technology Officer behind ReGreen Organics, a company which deals with a lot of shit, for lack of a better term. I’m not being flippant. They’re an organic solid waste management company.
And it is in this capacity that Mr. Mardikian’s philosophy is particularly interesting when considering this car. He proclaims that he has a “passion for bettering our world”, yet his past would seem to have little to do with environmental improvement. That’s because in a past life Mr. Mardikian was also the proprietor of Trend Imports. Ring a bell? If not, perhaps a perusing of the Tom Cruise movie Rain Man would help you out. Mr. Cruise’s character’s subplot – an importer of exotic cars held up by the EPA – is based upon Mr. Mardikian. Because if you were in L.A. in the early 1980s and you wanted a gray market car, Trend Imports was where you went. And just like the main character in the movie, Mardikian got in quite a bit of trouble for the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royce and other models he imported by skirting EPA emissions laws.
Though his troubles with emissions laws dated back to 1981, Mardikian continued to be the turn-to source for ultra-exotics in the early days of importation. He also built custom convertible versions of some of the most famous 80s icons – Mercedes-Benz 500SECs, Lamborghini Countachs, Ferrari 512BBis, Porsche 930s. How about those replica Daytonas for Miami Vice? Mardikian. And he made more more neat creation – he married the turbocharged M102/6 from the European version of the BMW E23 745i with the slinky shape of the E24, creating his own “745CSi Turbo”:
It seems that with every progressive generation of BMW 5-series, the gap between the outgoing M5 and the top of the line non-M 5 series narrows considerably. While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost imperceptible in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor.
Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a near match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant-garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day-to-day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. Couple that with a host of Dinan upgrades and you’ll easily surprise M owners for half the price of the V10:
Welcome back to Wednesday Wheel Roundup. Today, I wanted to check out a few sets of wheels that differ quite a lot in size and taste. First up are a set of 19” Mercedes-Benz Monoblock wheels. They are a 19×8.5 and 19x.9.5 that let you run some really wide tires if that is the look you are going for. These are seen as the ultimate wheels for the W140 or the R129. Next are another set of 19″ wheels but this time from Brabus, followed by a hard-to-find set of BMW Style 38s. These 3-spokes are now back in style thanks to the resurgence of everything 80s and 90s now. Speaking of, Carter tracked down a few sets of DP Motorsports wheels following up on yesterday’s DP935. Carter also threw in one of his favorite 911 wheel designs – the Speedlines from the 993 Targa. The last two sets are great options for the cars who want to upgrade from their stock 14″ wheels into a 15” set, but keep the OEM look. A very clean set of ATS wheels that look identical to the factory 14” Bundts open up an entirely new world of tire choices and if you want to keep your hubcaps, a set of 15″ steelies with the ultra-rare 15″ hubcaps that were on the W100 600 and some ambulances in Europe.
I promise that this post wasn’t by design, but rather is completely a coincidence that it follows hot on the heels of the neat supercharged E34 540i 6-speed from yesterday. How do you possibly trump that potent hot rod? Well, starting with a M5 is probably a good bet.
If the E34 was a potent athlete, the E39 comes across as a consummate professional. It was immediately the new benchmark for sports sedans once again, and when BMW finally did make the call to bring a M5 to market they produced what many consider to be the definitive driver’s car in super sedan form. Whatever you had from the period, the M5 was just plain better. With 394 horsepower kicking out of is snorting S62 V8 and mated solely to a 6-speed manual transmission, it was hard to conceive how that package could possibly be improved upon.
That didn’t dissuade Steve Dinan, though. His S2 package fixed a car that wasn’t broken according to Car and Driver. Power was up to a massive 470 yet the car was still naturally aspirated. Bigger, better intake was met with bigger, better exhaust, and the whole package was kept up with bigger, better suspension and slowed down with bigger, better brakes. It was…well, bigger and better. 0-60 was dispatched in a tick over four seconds and it would do a standing quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds. These numbers won’t scare a Dodge Demon, granted, but are still really respectable today.
Of course, if “respectable” isn’t quite enough for you and you really need to surprise that Demon driver…
The M Coupe has moved from cult legend into one of the most desirable M products produced. Late production S54 equipped models can top up to $60,000 asking prices. Add in a rare color and great combination, and they’re all the more desirable. While not quite a 1:1, the M Coupe is like the Porsche 964, and the S54 models are the RS America of the lineup.
For most of us, that means if you want a ‘Clownshoe’ you’ll need to look towards early production when they were equipped with the venerable S52. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as lower running costs and higher production numbers mean much lower asking prices. Still, it’s not unusual to see atmospheric asks, such as this 2000 M Coupe in Estoril with Estoril leather. With only 56,000 miles on the clock, the seller wants $39,900. While it’s not likely that number will be even close to realized, good luck convincing them of that.
Yet occasionally a nice one pops up in a no reserve auction format to give us plebeians a chance to own a legend. So here we go, with this ’99. It’s the same Estoril/Estoril combination as above, which is fairly desirable – one of just 313 imported in this pallet. Condition looks very good and there are some high quality modifications, but is there a catch?
So, you have to drop $40,000 for a unique M Roadster? Hardly. If you’re willing to forgo the additional grunt of the S54, S52-powered Roadsters are still very affordable. And, they can be plenty unique in their own right. Take today’s ’98 for example. Evergreen is probably a bit polarizing in tone, but it’s also quite distinctive. The total pool of Evergreen examples represents only 2% of overall production of M Roadsters, though. Out of the 10,501 produced, 201 were shipped in the bright green shade – and out of those, 176 were equipped with the equally distinctive two-tone Nappa leather interior color matched to the outside. I’ve looked at a few of these examples previously:
Evergreen Forest, Part II: 1998 BMW M Roadster
So you get an unusual color, a more unusual interior, and still quite a potent convertible in the early M Roadster. What is the price delta, though?