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Unread 04-01-2013, 03:02 PM
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Fair! Fair! is offline
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Default Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

Project Introduction - April 1, 2013: No, this is no April Fools joke, just the first time I had a chance to jot down some ideas about a new BMW project we're starting. Vorshlag co-owner Amy Fair has been daily driving her 2011 Mustang GT since August 2010, but over time the car has become progressively more radical and less street friendly. So instead of dumbing down the Mustang she decided to get a big, cushy 4 door German sedan as a daily driver instead. After a bit of looking we picked up this clean 2001 BMW 740iL on March 21, 2013.

Uncharacteristic for me personally, but this car was purchased from a used car dealer. Normally this is a recipe for disaster, but after looking at several poorly maintained examples of E38 7 series and E39 M5/5 series cars from individuals, we struck gold at a wholesale dealer in Dallas. The price and condition were too good to pass up, after some cash negotiations, and the Carfax was flawless. This 12 year old car started life in California and then moved to Texas, yet had logged only 92K miles - which is relatively low for this age and body style. The silver exterior and black leather interior are both nearly perfect, the engine runs well and the suspension is surprisingly squeak/rattle/shimmy free, if a bit floaty. All in all this made for a great baseline car to start with. Amy has been driving this car for two weeks and loving almost everything about it.

Why not just buy a new BMW, or else something else much newer with 4 doors - like a Camry? Well just don't do well in plebeian commuter cars, which we have tried in the past but each was quickly "moved on down the road". The fact is, being the owners here at Vorshlag we needed something a little more personalized and indicative of the work we can do. We also feel that this E38 chassis was the best looking 7 series BMW ever made - the earlier 7 series cars are too tall and boxy and the later ones are all "Bangled up". The E38 was also unique in that it could come from the factory as the "Protection Line", which was a light-armored vehicle built from 20002001 utilizing the 740iL and 750iL platforms. These models included body armor, bullet-resistant glass and run-flat tires. How cool is that?

The 740iL model is also really long; it's 121" wheelbase is fully 6" longer than the already large 740i (115"), and is even longer than my new GMT800 shop truck. This means that the "L" model has an enormous back seat and long rear doors. We have already used this several times to take friends to dinner and it is the perfect "cruising around town car". The V8 underhood is even pretty good at getting this battle wagon up to speed, but of course little more power would be better. We'll see.

These E38s have depreciated massively, and this particular example cost about 1/10th of the original purchase price, but it is getting hard to find clean examples with under 100K miles. Still, we have seen many running examples of 740s with over 250K miles, so it should still have some life left in it as long as we don't let all the oil or coolant leak out, heh. We work on BMW's and know all of the usual things to look for and repair. Yes, we know about potential cooling system and engine oil leaks - this car already had a stack of receipts for the normal repairs and we know the guidelines for the rest. We will proactively replace things like some of the cooling system components and some suspension bushings - some of which are prone to failure at this mileage.

Of course this is Vorshlag, so we can't leave anything bone stock. Some won't agree with that, of course, and you are entitled to your opinion. But nothing ever came from any car maker that was 100% perfect, in my view, even from the mighty BMW. Remember - we make a good living selling upgraded parts for BMWs, and so this 7 series is now in our sites.

The list of mild updates and repairs planned for this extended wheelbase 7 series V8 will be revealed over the next few months and we will update this build thread accordingly. The end goal is to have a mildly, tastefully tweaked big Bavarian cruiser, that is immaculate inside and out, hopefully with a little more oomph under hood, and an improved "stance" yet maintain excellent ride quality. We might accidentally develop something new along the way - who knows? It won't ever see the other side of the hot pits at a race track, but it might get some better rolling stock than the beautiful factory 18" M-parallel wheels it has now (mounted with itty-bitty 235mm tires up front).

This "front wheel gap " looks wrong - something is likely a bit off in the front suspension

That picture above shows the current ride height of the 740iL. Notice the front wheel gap? It is massive, even for a BMW. Looks like a Prerunner truck used in the Baja1000. This "up in the front, down at the back" stance looks terrible and it isn't meant sit this far up, even from the factory. I guess since it is a "more experienced" car either the rear is sagging or the front is jacked up - we will get the car on the lift for a full inspection soon and see what's up.

Driving the car around for a couple of weeks we noticed that isn't riding correctly over bumps, either. The front struts feel blown and the whole chassis wallows and bounces around too much. It has 92K miles, so that's not too unexpected, but I drove these 740iL cars back when they were brand new and they always felt... a little more parade float than sports GT cruiser. Since we will have to replace the worn shocks and struts anyway, and we need to show the work we can do and show the parts we sell on all of our Vorshlag vehicles, this car will get something a bit more interesting them OEM replacement shocks.

I am confident that we can make it handle and sit a bit better without losing the ride quality. Maybe Bilstein B6 monotubes with a mild lowering spring? A Bilstein PSS height adjustable coilover would let us tweak spring rates and ride heights at each corner, but they don't list a kit for the E38 (yet have one for the E39). We'll see what we can come up with.

E39 BMW 540i 6-spd we owned in the past was a great car, and shared many components with the E38

No, this E38 will not get an LS1 V8 swap, as it already has a nice 4.4L V8 under hood. Pulling out a BMW V8 for a GM V8 is just not very smart use of time and money. I have owned a similar BMW E39 540i 6-spd before, with the same engine, and it was actually pretty fun to drive. That motor made over 280 whp, after we added a custom 3" mandrel bent stainless steel exhaust system - sounded good and added a little oomph. That car was even pretty quick at the drag strip (14.0@101 e.t.), but this bigger, longer, and heavier E38 7-series won't be quite as sporty - but that's not really what we're looking for in this car. Just something a little more than stock would be nice.

Anyway, that's all I have for now. Check back later for more updates.


Last edited by Fair!; 04-02-2013 at 10:06 PM.