No announcement yet.

Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

This topic is closed.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • 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 2000–2001 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, 10:06 PM.
    Terry Fair -
    2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
    EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev

  • #2
    Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

    If you do exhaust, it definitely needs to be on the subdued side of sporty. The 540's was a bit too much for the character of a 740iL. That is one clean looking car, and amazing miles for the age. Granted, we have an almost 10yo car with 86K miles on it (despite 4 months of driving 60 miles a day for work), so I can see how it can happen.
    -Sean Martin
    2009 Pontiac G8 GT


    • #3
      Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

      Project Update for 4/10/2013: We have finally made time to do an inspection on the car and listed all of the worn bushings, ball joints and leaks that were found. No surprises, as all of the usual suspects were... suspect. We also made time to explore the options for exhaust routing and aftermarket wheel sizing. Yes yes, it is a travesty that we would ever alter a BMW 7 series, but we pull M3 motors and replace them with domestic V8s, so nothing is sacred around here.

      Originally posted by Redwood
      If you do exhaust, it definitely needs to be on the subdued side of sporty. The 540's was a bit too much for the character of a 740iL.
      No worries - the E38's exhaust will be much tamer than the E39 we had. It was a bit... too spirited. I've also aged a bit since then, and my tolerance for BS has gone way down.

      We have been making some nice mandrel bent, 304 stainless, custom BMW exhausts lately and just built this one for an E36 328is STX autocross car (above and below) that came out better than any we had done before. I tried a new routing and two different styles of mufflers, and Ryan made a very nice merge and built everything perfectly. The way I used to build exhausts on inline-6 BMW's would always be too loud - popping off at 93-97 dB for a lightweight race exhaust. This system shown had a peak of 84 dB (both in our sound tests and at an SCCA National Tour a week later), dropped 40 pounds, and woke up the power.

      So while the E38 was up in the air, I took some pictures of its current exhaust routing. This car has a somewhat nice front section and fairly large diameter pipes before the cats, then it pinches down after the cats. So it gives us a nice place to pick up from and replace.

      There is also room for full dual exhaust routing, unlike my E39 540i, which we had to build with a single exhaust. So this should be pretty nice. The rear bumper had no provisions for exhaust tips so either we will cut for that, find a new rear bumper cover that is made that way, or run turn down tips.

      I bought this car knowing it had a small oil leak - they all do at this age. The top of the engine had been detailed but the evidence was there, if you knew where to look. It was also leaving a quarter-sized oil spot every night, so it was still leaking, but not badly. So while it was in the air I had Olof drop the undertrays and took these pictures.

      There was a leak on both the left and right sides, but the fluids were different. It's been going for a while so it was hard to tell where it was coming from, but Ryan noticed the power steering fluid was lower than the oil level, so much of it is from the steering system lines. He also noticed a valve cover gasket leak, which also happened in my E39's nearly identical M62 engine way back when.

      With the undertrays still removed, Olof pulled the car outside and power washed the underside of the engine bay and cleaned up the trays.

      That looks more like it. Now we can drive the car for a few days and put it back on the lift and better see where the leaks are occurring. We're 95% sure that it is one of the fittings on the power steering cooler line and the valve cover, but this "clean then inspect again" approach will give us a better idea. Plus, I would always rather work on a clean engine than a filthy, oily, nasty one. This is a pet peeve of mine - the engine bays on my vehicles are NEVER dirty if I can help it. - E39 fan swap DIY, circa 2004.

      That reminds me of a "DIY" I did back in 2004 when I had the 540i, before we started Vorshlag. I changed an auxiliary cooling fan after the motor burned up and while I had the front of that car apart, it all got detailed. I'm not a car show person or a hard parker, just a bit of a clean freak.

      The last part I want to show is the wheels and tires. There was some funny wear on one of the front tires, which have positive camber right now ("that ain't right"), and it has finally worn through a patch of the outer shoulder (see image here). Not to mention the tires are dry rotted and old, so they need to be replaced. The car has the factory M-parallel wheels, 18x8" ET13 front and 18x9.5" ET25 rear. We have some ideas of what we're going to replace the rolling stock with, but I will share that at a later time.

      Before we do anything we have to repair all of the worn pieces on the suspension. The front control arms/ball joints will be replaced, as they had a bit of wear - and the front tires are trashed. The rear suspension also had a bad ball joint on both sides, which we will replace. Lots of bushings and parts will be replaced "just because we are in there" and we will install fresh rotors and pads at all four corners as well. Struts and shocks and top mounts will be dealt with, but I will go into more detail about that later.

      Lots to do... check back next time. If you want to see when this thread is updated, first create an account on our forum (go to "Announcements" to see how to activate it), then click "thread tools" in this thread and "subscribe".

      Last edited by Faerus; 04-10-2013, 02:34 PM.
      Terry Fair -
      2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
      EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


      • #4
        Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

        Project Update for May 15, 2013: Amy wanted to take the 740 on a road trip so we finally had a date to motivate us to do some repairs and updates to the big E38. Here's what went down in the past few weeks with our 2001 BMW 740iL - some repairs, some suspension development, and some clean-up work.

        The number one problem that was noted during our PPI inspection was the front suspension was "jacked up". The front ride height was all goofy, the control arms had worn out bushings and ball joints, the front struts were blown, the strut top mounts were shot, and the end links were worn out as well. All fairly typical stuff on a 12+ year old BMW with nearly 100K miles.

        One thing that was atypical was the front alignment - there was +1° positive camber on both front wheels?! That should never happen on a BMW with McPherson strut front suspension, and we think it was a previous repair that was done incorrectly that caused it (you have to preload the front control arms at ride height before you tighten them). This abnormal alignment and ride height was causing some funky front tire wear - both front tires were wearing very quickly, and eventually got into the nylon cords all the way around the outer edge on the RF tire (see above). If we would have fixed it sooner it wouldn't have corded, but these tires were so dry rotted and old anyway that they needed to be replaced. I knew that when we bought it, too.

        Here's the production Bilstein PSS coilover kit we started with, made to fit another chassis

        Problem was I really wanted to do the aftermarket suspension updates first, then order custom Forgestar wheels, then get new tires all around. But the corded RF tire + Amy's looming road trip accelerated things a bit. So we did the research and realized there wasn't much aftermarket suspension support for the BMW E38 chassis. Some OEM replacement type shocks, some Chinese coilovers (no thanks!), and KW coilovers (twin tube). Instead of these options we chose "none of the above" and ordered the above Bilstein PSS coilover struts and shocks shown. The "PSS" is a non adjustable monotube coilover kit that comes with new springs and is priced very competitively. The PSS9 is similar and has a single adjustment knob, but the price jumps up quite a bit. We figured that we would try the PSS and see if that worked without any valving adjustment. These particular shocks were not made for 1995-2001 BMW E38 7 series chassis, but instead are a Bilstein engineered kit for another "similar" chassis BMW. We felt like we could work with them and get them on the E38. Fingers were crossed.

        Left: The car was on the lift for 2 days while we "re-engineered" the shocks. Right: Bilstein inverted front strut, disassembled for rework

        The Bilstein PSS coilover kit looked amazing when it arrived and I was bound and determined that we would make it fit this car. The front struts featured inverted shafts and 36mm pistons inside. The rear was an easy bolt-on affair, but the front... not so much. I won't get into all of the details, but these went on and off the car several times checking bump, droop and ride height numbers with multiple spring set-ups. We made some significant tweaks, and after custom machining and other mods to the front strut housings, they fit perfectly at the ride height we wanted.

        Click these two pics above for higher rez versions

        Yes, it is lower than stock by a good bit, and the above pictures show the final ride height we settled on - which gave us plenty of bump and rebound travel. Front ride height is now 14-3/8" (center of wheel to fender lip) with full droop at 16-3/8" and maximum bump at 12-1/8"... that leaves us 2-1/4" of bump travel and 2" of rebound travel, which is just about perfect (we like to bias towards more bump than droop, with about this ratio). We could make another set like this with this ride height or up to 2" taller, depending on the needs of the owner. We will see if there's any interest and potentially make a production batch just like these, to keep costs down.

        We also replaced a lot of suspension parts up front when the coilovers went on including: all 4 lower control arms, end links, and strut mounts. A pair of new tires went on the front in the stock 235/50/18 size - some cheap "Sumitomo HTR Z III", just to use on her road trip until we get the Forgestars ordered. The rears were also a bit crusty looking but they still had ample tread, so we elected to leave them in place for now. I was worried that it might ride harshly with the springs provided in the original kit, which we tested at 470 #/in front, 157 #/in rear, with the rears slightly progressive. But after the 6 hour road trip + 3 days of driving around while out of town, Amy, her mother, and grandmother all loved the ride quality - so that works for me. She did note that the front tires were pretty loud on the highway, so we won't be recommending that brand (not that we had ever recommended Sumitomo tires before).

        The other "emergency" work performed included replacing all of the valve cover gaskets (2 levels of gaskets + about 20 bolt grommets per each side). While that was being done a new set of Bosch+4 platinum plugs were installed, and the stock valve covers were cleaned up, refinished and painted semi-flat black (instead of the factory gold), to match the rest of the black engine covers. The engine bay was already somewhat detailed before and this refinish work on the valve covers made it look that much better. There were several more new underhood parts that we ran out of time to install, including new power steering lines, air filter, serpentine belt, and some other small things. When a customer's car is on the line we stay late and make it happen, but when it is one of our own cars... we can always reschedule. The custom suspension install ate up a lot of time already. The valve cover leak was the worst offender under the hood, and at least that was tackled.

        For various reasons there were almost no pictures taken while all of this work was going into the 740, so I've just stuck in the pics we have. It was a bit hectic around here with orders, customer service work, and everything else and this is all we shot. When the car comes back int he shop we will pull the wheels and get more pics.

        What's Next?

        After a little more measuring with the new PSS kit installed, custom Forgestar wheels will be ordered. We tested the OEM rear 18x9.5" wheels and 255mm tires on the front of the car, and they fit without any mods using the stock suspension, so the fronts will likely be at least that large (and maybe 10" wide). The rear looks like it can swallow a 11" wide wheel, so ... who knows? It will look tasteful but will be significantly wider than stock, and there won't be any garish colors, giant lips or chrome finishes on the wheels we're using. This is a BRAND NEW wheel from Forgestar, and there won't be another E38 on the road with this style and size, at least for a while. This isn't being built for any sort of track use, we just want to have a lot of tire under this car.

        The rear suspension still needs some attention, too. Rear subframe bushings are SHOT - you can put a small amount of load on the rear suspension and watch them move. Trouble is the only replacement options seem to be OEM style rubber, as there's no love from Powerflex or Whiteline for poly replacements. Its not that this car "needs" poly bushings, it is the OEM bushings are just not very good - too mushy, and they will wear out again before long. Oh well, we will deal. There are several other bushings and bearings out back that will be replaced with new OEM parts when the subframe is out for bushing replacement.

        When the rear shocks were being swapped, one step was the rear deck and back seat had to come out, and it was apparent then that all 4 OEM speakers mounted to the rear deck are blown. They were just shredded. We will check Crutchfield, BSW, and the other speaker sales outlets and get some fresh speakers in this car soon. There are still a few small cosmetic repairs that need to happen inside and out, including new window trim on one side that is messed up.

        That's all for now... check back when we have more updates. We're just getting started on this car.
        Last edited by Fair!; 12-04-2013, 09:36 AM.
        Terry Fair -
        2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
        EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


        • #5
          Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

          Fun project, good luck with the electronics!

          Don't forget to align the headlamps after the suspension work.
          02 Golf TDI 306,000 miles


          • #6
            Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

            Project Update for Dec 19, 2013: Long time without an update, but as usual I have been too busy to document any of the repairs and updates done to the E38 here at Vorshlag over the past 6-7 months. There have been a number of small repairs (like the LCD ribbon display, some vacuum hose repairs, new trim, paint conditioning, floormats) and even a couple of big ones (rear suspension refresh, coolant hoses & new rear tires), so let's get caught up.

            As you know, BMWs (like all car models) have their own particular list of "commonly failed parts", and so far on this E38 chassis we've run across many of the failings that we figured we would. I purchased a relatively low mileage car (90K miles) for its age, but it is still over a dozen years old and various rubber items are starting to get old, brittle and start to scream "replace me!". We've already gone through the (common) valve cover seals, the (common) front bushings and front ball joint boots, and a few other wear items along the way. In this installment we tackle a few more parts that have "aged out", plus make plans to update a few other dated electronic items.

            Paint and Trim Work + New Floormats

            This car was a dozen years old when we bought it and somebody took pretty decent care of the car, but the paint wasn't perfect. There was a bit of orange peel in one area of a door that had obviously been repainted, a few light scratches in the clear coat I could see, and just a bit of dullness in the clear coat. A friend of Vorshlag (Tom) does some paint detailing and buffing work on the side, and we asked him to come take a look at the finish on our 740iL to see what panels could be revived and which small areas might need additional paint rework.

            The the 740 inside our well lit and air conditioned shop, Tom went to town on the paint and did an outstanding job. The finish was revived to like new standards and 90% of the exterior panels won't need any additional paint rework. Our friends at Heritage Collision Center in Sherman will eventually get the car to paint and blend in around some scratches that were beyond saving. These is limited to a few small sections of panels that have nice body lines or trim separating them from other parts of the exterior, so it shouldn't cost a fortune to get these remaining areas touched up.

            Tom uses some crazy 7 stage cutting and polishing and buffing and waxing process that was more complicated than my gear head brain could comprehend. All I know is he spent several hours and made the car look amazing! It shines like a show car. Tom recommends 6-12 month intervals between detail jobs like this for those people that really want their car to stand out. We liked his work so much we're going to try to get Tom to come by our shop more often to hopefully do some detail work for our customers.

            This paint detail work ended up being very worthwhile, so if you have a car with the OEM paint that has some questionable areas, it is usually worth having a detail specialist come look at the car before taking it to the paint shop. If a detailer can save the original paint it is usually more cost effective and safer in the long run than delving into blending or spot paint rework.

            Left: The 740iL's finish was a bit dull BEFORE the detail work. Right: Glossy finish was obvious in the same lighting AFTER Tom's magic

            In the ultra-harsh florescent lighting in our shop you could see every flaw before Tom started his work, and there were a few small blemishes left after he was done. But once you pulled the car outside almost all of the small marks went away. Sunlight is a more natural light and this is how you normally judge paint, which is more realistic than the bright fluorescent lighting's color temperature.

            Unfortunately after the paint was shiny and glossy again we noticed how poor some parts of the black trim molding looked. This was another area I knew about when purchasing the car and I was meaning to "get around to it." It looks as if a previous owner had a rear door's quarter window broken out on the driver's side, then they taped a piece of plastic sheeting over the opening for a while. Whatever tape they used had really strong adhesive and after they yanked it off the the black painted trim was ruined. It wasn't adhesive reside left over, no this was a "hole" in the black painted trim surface that had to be smoothed and repainted.

            Some sections of the body-side upper trim could be purchased and easily replaced (bolt on/clip on) but most of these areas that were part of the rear door frame were a lot more complicated to remove. So I improvised... I was up at the shop one Saturday and decided to fix it. I taped around the trim to protect the paint and glass, then started scuffing and sanding the metal trim molding. Once I got down past the "low spots" from the damage the tape caused I blended in these areas with 1000 grit sand paper. After everything was super smooth I started trying to degrease and paper mask the whole left rear quarter of the car. I first tried some semi-flat black spray paint we had on hand and after a coupe of light coats I knew this was doomed - the finish looked terrible, right from the start. Bad fish-eyes and orange peel, and the gloss/flat tint was way off the rest of the black trim.

            Turns out I was using the wrong paint. After sanding off my first two coats of "Semi-Flat" black spray paint I ordered up some DupliColor "Trim Paint", which was delivered within 15 minutes (having a shop menas we have 5+ wholesale parts accounts, many of which deliver within the hour. Yes, this does make your life easier). This rattle can of DupliColor paint it went on perfectly with no other changes - it laid down smooth and had no issues. I used three or four light dusting coats until the stainless steel trim underneath was evenly covered. The "flatness" of the gloss on this matched well once dried, then within a few weeks of exposure to sunlight it matched the rest of the trim perfectly.

            This was the "after" shot the day I did the trim work, then later the painted trim paint "aged" within a few weeks to match even better. There was a busted body side trim piece that went above the upper rear corner of the back door that was a bit loose, which whistled when you drove the car. Turns out the mounting tabs were broken, so we ordered that piece from BMW and replaced it (took a while to come in from Germany). At the same time we also ordered a new set of floormats from BMW.

            This car didn't have any floormats (or the rear seat "foot rests" that come in the "L"ong wheelbase version) in it when we purchased the car used, so adding new ones was a nice upgrade. As much as I tried I couldn't find anything that looked halfway decent from the aftermarket - I've always had better luck getting OEM looking floormats from the dealership. They weren't cheap but they will keep the carpets from getting damaged (the dreaded "heel hole"), they fit perfectly and match the carpet color exactly. We had another piece of black exterior bumper trim that was badly scratched up (LR bumper trim corner) that we got at this time as well. Shortly after Amy got a "no front plate ticket" (yes, this law is still on the books in Texas) we finally installed the front license plate, too. I hate how this looks on any car but it isn't worth the $75-125 fine and removes that one "obvious reason" to get pulled over in this, her daily driver.

            New Coolant and Heater Hoses

            All rubber hoses have a finite lifespan and apparently we exceeded that on a heater hose at the back of the motor, heh. We've had a "Low Coolant" light on since day 1, and never found a real coolant leak. So when Amy was driving the car on a freakishly COLD day for Texas in late October and saw this light come on and a warning chime BONG, she ignored it. The boy who cried "Wolf!" too many times was finally right, though!

            She made it less than 300 yards before all of the coolant pumped out of the motor when she noticed steam pouring out of the hood, before the temp gauge even began to rise. Amy is a racer, and as such she knows the golden rules of automotive fluids: no coolant or no oil = Engine Death! She immediately pulled over, shut down the motor, and called me. Which was a good thing, because that motor would have been toast if she drove it a single mile further without any coolant.

            I got there with a few gallons of water, thinking it might have a pinhole leak and she was overreacting. Nope, it was bone dry. I poked around and squeezed every radiator and coolant line until I got to one of the heater hoses at the back of the motor, where I poked my finger right through the dry rotted hose. Doh! We'd been keeping an eye on the cooling system parts, most of which looked fresh (replaced) on the front of the car, but this particular hose was buried way behind the motor and under the intake manifold. Whichever previous mechanics that worked on this car had skipped it, because it was the hard one to replace.

            No worries, I took her home to grab another car then grabbed the open trailer behind our F-350 and grabbed one of our techs from the shop. Olof and I easily drove the 740iL onto the back of the trailer and then we towed it to Vorshlag's shop, 4 miles away. We ordered all of the hoses this time - new radiator hoses and heater hoses. Even through the radiator hoses looked fine they are too cheap not to replace, since we had to drain the coolant and fill/bleed the entire system after this heater hose repair. And the plastic coolant reservoir tank was replaced, too, because those are known to fail.

            Once all of the parts arrived Kyle replaced all of the hoses and put in a fresh batch of BMW coolant and distilled water mix. One thing we didn't think we needed to replace was the coolant temperature sensor that is located in one of the plastic portions of a radiator hose. This sensor snaps into a plastic section of one of the hoses and has an O-ring to seal it. Well the O-ring leaked by the next day so we ordered that and replaced it, too, then re-burped the coolant system. Lesson learned (again): always replace the coolant temp sensor when replacing the radiator hoses on an E38 (or E39 or E46, which both have a similar set-up). We replaced the Coolant Level Sensor in the reservoir when we were in there, too. All told Kyle logged 2:45 hours on this hose replacement job, which is fairly common set of repairs. The radiator hoses are a bit fiddly and the heater hoses are hard to access, plus the coolant bleeding takes a while.

            During this same time period the car developed a stumble at cold start, and threw a CEL (Check Engine Light), which Kyle has been tracking down when we have time. He found one vacuum hose that had popped off, which kept coming off each time it was reinstalled, so it was replaced during the coolant hose replacement. And another rubber vacuum hose was found to have a pin hole and replaced. The stumble and CEL are back again in December so the next step is to replace all of the rubber vacuum lines, which are all starting to get dry rotted. Hopefully this will get us another dozen years of use. And that damned "Check Coolant Level" warning light keeps coming back, so we will investigate that next.

            LCD Ribbon Display Repair

            There are several LCD displays located underneath the main analog gauges in the dash binnacle on this car. This series of LCDs displays all sorts of data: There is a spot to show the odometer mileage, another display that shows what gear you are currently in, and a larger LCD area that has text messages (warnings) and On Board Computer displays you can see. There's a button on a stalk that lets you cycle through fuel consumption, miles to empty, the time, temperature, etc. Well that display was borked on this car when we bought it, just like all of them do eventually.

            This LCD issue of "losing pixels" is a super common failing among all E38 7 series and E39 5 series cars. Luckily there are many shops around the world that specialize in fixing these panels, where you send them your gauge panel and they replace the ribbon display unit and recalibrate everything for around $300 or so. This can take a week or more of downtime, to ship off the gauge cluster and get it back repaired, and ain't nobody got time for dat!

            So I did some searching and found a good ribbon display replacement kit from based somewhere in the UK, shown above. Their main ribbon display repair kit was 19 Euros shipped worldwide (about $28 US). What I liked about their offering was they had really good instructions and videos on their website, plus they also offered the replacement backlight bulbs on the same page (3 bulbs for 13 euro), which I also ordered. They also state that their repair parts are all made in Europe, not in some far east sweat shop (the kit said "Made in Bulgaria", so... yay?). Looking again now I've found more sources, from places like Newegg for $11 + shipping, and as little as $9 on fleaBay, shipped direct from China (yikes).

            I looked at a couple of DIY pages/videos and they made it seem easy. How hard could it be, right? Of course, the reality was that this display replacement was anything but easy to replace. Kyle spent nearly 4 hours removing the binnacle, disassembling the gauge cluster, installing the new LCD display, aligning the display (very tedious), replacing the foam liners, replacing the bulbs, and reinstalling the cluster. This job includes a lot of "fiddly work", as the Brits like to say. It takes lots of small tools, a work bench with very good lighting, a magnifying glass, tons of patience (well that rules me out!) and time to pour through the many pages of instructions. And it is easy to do it all wrong, to bend the ribbon in the wrong place or misalign the pins, and have to take it apart and start all over (it took him 3 tries to get it right). The kit we got from Pixelfix included 10 pages of color printed instructions that were EXCELLENT, too.

            continued below
            Last edited by Fair!; 12-26-2013, 06:04 PM.
            Terry Fair -
            2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
            EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


            • #7
              Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

              continued from above

              One of the trickier steps is when you need get access to the 4 screws that secure ribbon display unit to the cluster. You can either 1) remove all of the analog gauge needles and yank off the black backing cover, then disassemble the entire cluster or 2) drill 4 holes through the cluster (under the black flap of the front cover) to gain access to the screws. We went with option 2 because removing all of the analog gauge needles means you have to send off the cluster to have each gauge recalibrated. More down time.

              Drilling these holes is a royal PITA, and it is easy to damage the cluster if you are not super careful. Now I see why there are shops that specialize in this rework! Next time we do this job we might think twice about sending the cluster off and letting a pro do this work, who can calibrate and test everything. But being careful and working on his bench Kyle got this new ribbon unit swapped in, replaced the back-lighting bulbs (2 of the 3 were burned out - don't forget to order those!) and replaced the binnacle back in the car. Now everything works, there is no faded sections (burned out bulbs), and we can read every pixel on every LCD display good as new.

              Warning: If you got anything from reading this, know that this job is best left to a professional. We would highly suggest taking the car to an experienced BMW shop, have them remove the binnacle, and send it off to another shop to have the ribbon display replaced. This is not an easy "DIY" kind of job, sorry. Having done it successfully now we think Kyle could do another ribbon display install the next time in about 2 hours, so at our normal $105/hour shop rate + the $11 kit from Newegg that might be more affordable than sending the entire unit off to have it done. It would definitely be less down time.

              What To Do With This Radio/NAV Mess?

              Recently Amy and I took the 740iL on a road trip where we put about 10 hours on the car over the course of a few days. We went from Dallas down to the hill country to tour some wineries (not my thing) and go climb Enchanted Rock (more my thing). Along the way we managed to find some really fun, curvy back country roads to drive on. The 740 did great and the extra damping and spring rate from the customized Bilstein PSS kit we built really worked. On this trip I did become very annoyed with the factory sound system and NAV unit, however, both of which are very dated (the car is approaching 13 years old).

              I have to face it - this E38 7 series is now 2 generations behind the current 7 series (the E65/E66/E67/E68 generation was made from 2001–2008 and the F01/F02 goes from 2008–current), so the fact that the "widescreen" NAV screen in this 2001 model looks more like an Asteroids video game than what a current Sat NAV screen does shouldn't come as any surprise. The radio reception on this trip was exceptionally poor (and isn't great around town) and the navigation function is so terrible and out of date we just use our phones instead.

              So we should just rip it out and replace it all with a modern in-dash NAV unit, right? Not so fast. Doing this means we lose the "on board computer" functions, which are all shown on the factory NAV screen. And the shape/size of these BMW audio components are funky, non-standard sizes, which is par for the course. So this puts me is a quandary.... what do we replace the factory radio/NAV system with, while we keep the data from the OBC?

              I think the answer has something to do with the previous generation E38 radio + "MIDI" display units that came in earlier cars from this same model. I'm hoping someone reading this can send me a PM or reply with some good tech, because after pouring through E38 forums I've not found a good answer. It seems like people went out of their way to ditch the separate radio + MIDI displays to "upgrade" to this "widescreen" NAV unit from the 2001 740/750 and X5 that we have. I'm wanting to go the opposite way - get rid of the NAV unit and "downgrade" to the MIDI display and an aftermarket radio. Will the old MIDI display plug in and work without issue? Is this old radio/NAV unit worth anything to anyone? What is a good in-dash install kit that fits without looking trashy (so many aftermarket radios look like crap once installed in the funky BMW dash openings)

              The rear speakers are all totally blown.. the cones are simply shredded. They make this horrible buzzing noise when there is any bass in the music coming through the speakers, so we normally just leave the radio off. It is just a terrible sound system at the moment and it all needs to be replaced. Such a nice, quiet car with no tunes to listen to is a real shame.

              And just don't get me started on the "integrated phone" center console sliding armrest contraption. There is a large void under that worthless sliding armrest lid, too. I wish these cars just had a normal, flip-top lid and storage area in the center. Why did you have to make the E39 and E38 have such worthless center consoles, BMW? And the factory cup holders are junk, can't hold a 12 oz cup, and break when you look at them funny, so I will probably go with something like this.

              So we have several things on the interior to work on...

              Rear Suspension Refresh

              Before we left for the road trip in October I had the guys stick a 17" BMW wheel and tire in the trunk, since this 740 didn't have the factory full sized spare or a jack in it anymore. I really would like to buy a spare M-parrellel 18" 7 series wheel for a spare, so if anyone has one that want to sell, please drop me a line! I'd prefer the rear 18x9.5" wheel and tire, and a 7 series jack would be nice to get, but I'll take the narrower front wheel as well.

              Olof had told me that the rear suspension parts were in need of some maintenance a few months ago, but I put that off until we had more time to delve into this work. The rear tires that came on this car were crusty and old, so if they were wearing funny I wouldn't really mind replacing them. Sure enough, after our long road trip the insides of the rears were getting pretty thin (see above). "To the cords" thin, which was bound to happen with as wobbly as the rear bushings had gotten.

              So I had Amy drive another of our vehicles for a few days while we inspected the rear suspension more closely on the lift and determined which parts we needed to replace. Olof tested each ball joint and bushing back there and 75% of the joints had some wiggle, so we just replaced everything. This way we'd have a totally refreshed front and rear suspension. It is only $400 or so for all of the parts you need and we got the new bits from Lemforder and Febi.

              When all of the parts arrived Olof got to work and knocked out all of the rear suspension replacement work in 3:45 hours, on the same day (and in about the same time it took) that Kyle replaced the LCD ribbon display. The book calls for 8:30 hours for all of these rear parts but we've gotten good at this E38/39 suspension replacement work, with a number of custom made tools and lots of experience doing this work. We log all of our shop work on the MyShopAssist service tracking system now so there are no surprises or unlogged work, even on our own cars. This system is very slick and our techs can take pictures or videos and email them to the customer (from an iPad at each work station), and customers can log in remotely and see real time progress on their car.

              All of the ball joints, arms and bushings are now new on the back of this car, so it can finally be aligned properly. On the front the only adjustment is to toe, but out back there is both toe and rear camber adjustment. Next we needed new rear tires and an alignment.

              New Rear Tires + Alignment

              Now that the rear suspension bits are all new we can get some fresh rear tires on it. I really wanted to pull the trigger and get some flashy 19" super deep Forgestar F14s for this car, but the budget just isn't there at the moment. This stinks, but its the reality of life - you can't always get every toy you want.

              Instead we ordered a "temporary" pair of Sumitomo HTR III rear tires (see above) to match the same brand and model fronts we put on his car earlier in the year, after replacing the front suspension bits (see my earlier post). This model of tire is a little noisy and doesn't ride as well as higher end brands, but they hold air and have a 300 treadwear. And they are cheap. For now, with half a dozen other cars at home and too many of my own race car projects going on a the shop, I just need some tires that aren't corded on the 740.

              The mounted 275/40/18 tire at left fits the 9.5" wide wheel much better than the 255/45/18, which is a bit stretched

              While we were replacing the tires I did manage to upgrade the size by nearly an inch. See the OEM rear wheel and tire fitment is somewhat unusual, with a narrow 255/45/18 tire on a wide 18x9.5" wheel. That makes the tire stretch out significantly when mounted, and for a street-only tire set-up that allows for easy "curb rash" on the outer lips of the wheels. I was going to try to go with a 265 or 275mm wide tire, which should fit the 9.5" better than the stock size. So I started scouring the catalogs...

              The new 275/40/18 in front is just a hair shorter than the dry-rotted and bald 255/45/18 OEM rear tire, behind it

              First I noted that the stock rear tire height is 27.0" tall, and after some searching I found that there was a 275/40/18 available from a few decent tire brands that is very close in height (26.7" tall). This tire was within 1% of the factory height (therefore within 1% of speedometer calibration), so that is the best option for the factory rear wheel, in my opinion. Once this tire came in (after huge delays from UPS due to some ice storms across the country) and was mounted onto the 18x9.5" rear wheel it looked perfect, and actually did fit better than the stock size. I love it when a plan comes together.

              Before and After alignment numbers - it all looks good now!

              After the pair of 275/40/18 Sumitomo tires were mounted we hit the alignment rack to set the rear toe and camber. We took the E38 to our friends at Eurosport for the alignment, since we don't have a 4 wheel laser rack at our current facility (its on my Wish List for our next shop!). The 740 came out with these alignment specs above. We hadn't even tried to align it after doing all of the rear suspension work so they had to chase the rear camber and toe from "way out there" settings. They almost got the rear camber within factory specs, but as low as we have this car it was just a hair out. The toe is all cleaned up on both ends, of course, which should be a tire wear saver.

              Now we should be free of the funky tire wear this car has had since we purchased it. After driving the car last night it feels great and there's no funny feeling to the rear suspension anymore. We've finally got the suspension fully sorted and repaired, everything is aligned, and the tires are all fresh. A big chunk of the long overdue maintenance work is done, like the rubber hoses and seals, and the LCD panel in the dash is finally fixed. We still have some car audio and NAV system improvements that are needed, and a few small paint repairs I would like to have completed for the car to be 100% perfect. That cup holder and rear center armrest both need to be repaired, too. Again, if anyone has a 7 series E38 full sized spare wheel and tire they'd like to sell please PM me.

              Until next time, thanks for reading.
              Last edited by Fair!; 12-19-2013, 10:53 AM.
              Terry Fair -
              2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
              EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


              • #8
                Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

                Project Update for June 18, 2015: Wow, its been a long time since I updated this build thread! But luckily we haven't ignored the car, and while Amy has been daily driving it we have also worked on restoring the 740iL for the past year and a half, with lots of little updates along the way. We just finished the last item on my list - replaced the missing rear center interior headrest - and its about as perfect as a 15 year old car can be.

                Let's back up and catch everyone up on the last 18 months of ownership and updates....

                So back before the car rolled 100K miles (see above), in April 2014, the engine started to idle rough, it threw a Check Engine Light (CEL), and it seemed like it had a vacuum leak. A big one. The guys here took a look and traced it to something near the throttle body...

                The air inlet tubing and throttle body parts were removed and a cracked gasket was found. It was obvious that this was the issue, since the gasket was messed up. All of those gaskets were replaced, the CEL was cleared, and the problem was fixed.

                Car has run great ever since, but there were a few issues in the interior that cropped up. Two of my employees drove this car up from Dallas to Las Vegas for SEMA 2014 and they ran it with the windows down in the higher elevations. Well the glue that BMW uses to attach the interior fabric to the A- and B-pillars isn't that great and after 15 years and this trip of 2,400 miles going back and forth to Vegas, the interior glue started to let go in a few spots.

                So I went searching for a "good deal" on the correct color A- and B-pillar covers. I bought some "clean" used B-pillars on eBay, they arrived, looked like crap, and went right into the trash. Then I finally had our guys order NEW ones from BMW, which arrived and looked perfect, for a few hundred bucks. So in January of 2015 I had Olof pull the A- and B-pillar interior coverings and replace them with the new bits. Wow, what a difference - the interior was now perfect, at least from the B-pillars forward...

                Next up was the giant ugliness that was the back seat. It was the worst part of this car when we bought it, and I never took a picture of the back seat before because it looked turrible. See, the car dealer we bought this car from said they inspected the car at auction and it was perfect, they bid on it, then when they picked it up noticed a bunch of damage in the back seat.

                Sometime during the inspection period some clown trashed the back seat - broke the center arm rest, stole the center headrest (first aid kit), and ripped the leather in the back seat bottom. We almost didn't buy the car because of this, but I knew we could repair or replace all of this. You can see some of the rips in the left rear seat upright above.

                So my eBay skillz once again were put to the test. First I focused on the center arm rest, which was mangled, didn't flip down, the frame was bent, and when we tried to "unbend it" to get it to rotate down we noted that it missing the inner lid. It was a mess but I found a good one for $50 on eBay.

                We drove it like this for a few weeks but the missing rear center head rest was still bugging me, as was the torn right rear seat. So I looked again and found a perfect black leather rear seat, the whole sha-bang-a-bang. Sweet! This was about $275 shipped, which seemed like a deal (BMW doesn't sell this stuff anymore).

                Well it shows up and the center headrest is missing. Crap! But I had Olof swap it in anyway, and even though it came with a new center armrest + frame, the previous one I bought was perfect and the new one with the back seat assembly had a blemish, so the first replacement stayed. Now it looked a lot better, the arm rest was functional and complete, but there was still a big "hole" where the center head rest would go. Try as I might I could not find one for sale... #SearchFail

                Finally I found a good set of OEM trunk tools from one seller and a replacement 740 jack from another, which wrapped up the trunk bits that were missing in this car when we bought it. Maybe I was being a bit too picky, but I wanted to restore this car the way it was delivered, wherever I could. I also bought replacement "rear seat foot rests", which are velcro'd to the rear floor carpet. I felt so smart - until they arrived, and were GRAY.

                Amy would complain that the headlights didn't work well, so I had her bring it in in early June of this year. Sure enough one of our techs noticed that the headlight leveling sensor was broken. There is an "endlink" (above right) that was just gone and the plastic lever arm this actuates on the sensor was busted off. So off to BMW to get the right parts, about $80 or so, and that was an easy fix. Don't know when this broke - it might have been missing the whole time we've had it. Night driving is a lot easier now! While Olof was fixing this he noted a bad 3rd brake light and a tail light out, easily fixed.

                It was also in because the front tires were worn - and when we drove it the front felt like it had a shimmy. Up it went on the lift and Olof did our "pre-track inspection", where we wiggle all of the suspension joints and look for loose or missing bolts on the suspension. The RF tie rod ball joint was shot so those were replaced, aligned, and new matching Z-rated tires went on the front. Now the suspension was perfect.

                Last but not least, I finally figured out how to search for the center head rest for the E38... its called a "first aid kit" and has a hidden compartment that latches at the back. So when I found a few on eBay I bid on a black one and got it for $70 shipped - score! That completed the interior to perfection. I also bought a new cover for the OBD-II port in the center stack, which I will put in tomorrow ($6 shipped).

                Now Its For Sale?!

                So we've done a lot of little restoration bits in the past 18 months. But Amy likes to change things up, and now wants a small 3-series BMW again (she had daily driver an E36 then an E46 right before this 740iL). This 7 series is big, and it seats 5 adults very very comfortably. But all she and I do is work 7 days a week, and never have time to enjoy this car with friends... so yea, its for sale. Brad shot a few pics of the car last week, shown below.

                If you are interested, email us at or call us at the shop at 972-422-7170. I'll post up when it sells - it just went on Craigslist in Dallas today.

       - Note: This CraigsList ad gets taken down by trolls every few days. We will update this thread when the car sells to say "SOLD". If you don't see the ad at the link above just call 972-422-7170 for more info. Ask for Terry.

                Last edited by Fair!; 06-29-2015, 02:51 PM.
                Terry Fair -
                2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev


                • #9
                  Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

                  So, which 3 series is Amy interested in?
                  -Sean Martin
                  2009 Pontiac G8 GT


                  • #10
                    Re: Vorshlag E38 740iL - Amy's G-ride

                    Originally posted by Redwood View Post
                    So, which 3 series is Amy interested in?
                    Dunno yet, she's been looking at E30, E36 and E46 BMWs.

                    Some folks asked me what the fuel mileage looked like. The on board computer tracks that and this hasn't been reset in many thousands of miles. Amy daily drives this on surface streets, stop light to stop light, which is the worst case scenario for fuel mileage... and its showing 20 mpg. It needs 89 octane fuel, which is dirt cheap now.
                    Terry Fair -
                    2018 GT / S550 Dev + 2013 FR-S / 86 Dev + 2011 GT / S197 Dev + C4 Corvette Dev
                    EVO X Dev + 2007 Z06 / C6 Dev + BMW E46 Dev + C5 Corvette Dev