1980 M535i

Specifications and equipment
Mileage when purchased:162,000
Mileage Current:164,xxx
Exterior:Polaris White
Interior:Black with Recaro front seats in corduroy (original)
Drive:Rear wheel (of course, its a BMW!)
Diff:3.07 LSD
Modifications when purchased:attempt to convert to power windows, aftermarket a/c, E28 5 series wheels.

Modifications now:Complete engine rebuild, front and rear spoilers fitted, interior redo, completely new suspension.


(Shortly after purchase, May 2003)


(as of August 2005)
Engine:3.5 liter, 218 HP, inline 6 cylinder
Transmission:Close-ratio, "dogleg", 5-speed manual

Some Background Info
My previous BMW fun car was an 1981 528i that you can read about elsewhere on this website. I bought it as a daily driver and retired it shortly afterwords to be a car to tinker with. Unfortunately, I came to the realization that the money I wanted to put into it with a bigger engine, aggressive aerodynamics and spoilers, as well as many European touches was just an unrealistic goal. It was possible but didn't make much sense in case I ever wanted to sell the car. There was an E12 5 series that came with nearly all of the bits and pieces on it from BMW that I wanted to put on my 528i. The E12 M535i, the first //M car that BMW Motorsport produced. This car is quite rare in the US however as it was never officially imported. Read HERE to find out more about the history of the M535i.

I decided to sell my 528i and look for an E12 M535i. I already had one in mind from my friend Frank Haas from firstfives.org. I flew out to Oregon to meet Frank and see and drive his M535i in Sept of 2002. Unfortunately, I was hit by layoffs at my company and the car purchase plan was shelved while I looked for another job. Over the winter, Frank had the M535i repainted and when I emerged from my unemployment, I wasn't prepared to pay the amount that Frank wanted for his M535i after the paintwork.

In late winter, I had seen an advertisement on a collector car sale website for an E12 M535i that looked extremely plain, with no visual cues as to what it was. When things with Frank's M535i looked as if they would not turn out, I called the number for the advertisement of the other M535i. It had no airdam, no spoiler, and the wheels mounted were E28 5-series wheels. The owner said these were the wheels the car came with when he bought it. The car didn't have the //M535i grille badge emblems on the front either. The only visual clue about the car's model, and it was small, was an "//M" badge on the trunk. By asking the owner some questions I was able to confirm that the car was in fact an M535i. The owner answered with what I was looking for when I asked about the shift pattern, confirming that it has the close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission with the dogleg first gear. The pictures he sent me, while extremely dark, gave enough detail to see that the car had the Recaro corduroy interior, a Euro dashboard, a sunroof, and crank windows (more on that later). Finally the VIN # confirmed that not only was the car a genuine M535i, but it was the 18th car built of the 1410 left-hand drive M535i's! This was quite possibly the oldest M535i still on the road today which to me, was a small detail that raised the car's value in my eyes considerably.

After some negotiation over the phone, and after a friend from firstfives (Jeff Campbell) who lived in Atlanta went to see the car personally for me and gave me a report, the owner and I reached a deal. I flew down on May 9th, 2003 to Atlanta and we completed the paperwork. I drove it home to Chicago, stopping around 2AM when I got to Illinois, and continuing the drive Saturday morning to Chicago. The car did wonderfully!







Replacement parts/repairs

    Early May 2003 onward

  • New Yokohama 195/70/14 tires
  • Oil changed (which was a huge pain!)
  • New "//M" and "535i" emblems front and rear from Walloth and Nesch in Germany
  • Valves adjusted by Ben Thongsai of the Windy City CCA chapter
  • brake work including bleeding system and new rotors and pads in the front
  • new shift knob that doesn't come off in my hand when I shift and has the correct dogleg shift pattern on it
  • new license plate lights
  • I mounted some existing parts I had including my Cibie, yellow headlights, and ultra-rare, E12 clear front turn signal lenses.
  • August 2003 and later ..............
  • New door panels front and rear. This will take care of the holes in the back panels from some previous owner's power window conversion attempt. These panels were especially difficult to locate since most US spec cars came with power windows and my car has crank, and also because my car has black interior.
  • Misc interior trim pieces for armrests
  • New euro center console for a non a/c car
  • Wood center console tray, only available on euro 528i's and M535i's without a/c VERY HARD TO FIND
  • Rear-seat headrests with cloth that is a perfect match for my interior (possibly harder to find than the wooden, center- console piece!)
  • Short shifter
  • Urethane bushings in the rear trailing arms
  • New/used rear trailing arm (driver's side) to replace bent arm from previous owner
  • BMP Design front strut tower brace
  • Redline in the diff and tranny
  • New kidney grille to replaced bashed one
  • Removed peeling, old window tint (major ass-pain)
  • Removed all a/c and all traces of power window conversion attempt
  • Timing chain replaced in August 2003, by Ben Thongsai
  • New pads all the way around to replace junk I put in there that I had laying around. These are quiet and work well, PBR's.
  • New rear calipers
  • New CV boot for passenger side, half-shaft
  • Got rear foglight working
  • Hard-wired Valentine One
  • November 2003
  • Bought 14x7" Mahle/BBS basketweave wheels for the car
  • April 2004
  • New oil pump, connecting rod bearings, oil pan gasket, oil change. Work performed by Ben Thongsai. Advised that connecting rods are mismatched (from different M30 motors).

    Modifications and Upgrades June 2004 to August 2005

  • Engine removal and full rebuild
    1. Blueprinted bottom-end rebuild
    2. Original block and head retained, block has 4145018 (last 7 digits of vin #) stamped on it and the head has "M90" and "80" stamped in it, indicating a strong possibility of originality.
    3. New standard sized main and rod bearings
    4. Fully rebuilt connecting rods with new, OEM BMW rod bolts and studs.
    5. Shot peened connecting rods.
    6. Overbored block by .07mm
    7. Decked block.
    8. Painted block black after full cleaning.
    9. Substitution of Frank Fahey crank hub for stock unit (stock is prone to failure).
    10. New custom built JE lightweight forged pistons. Oversize bore by .07mm (93.47mm), flat-topped, with JE rings and wrist pins. 150 gms lighter than stock pistons (each piston).
    11. JBR Lightweight aluminum flywheel (8.5 lbs)
    12. Fully balanced bottom end: Flywheel, crankshaft, pressure plate, harmonic balancer, connecting rods, pistons, and Fahey crank hub. Units balanced individually and as a whole.
    13. Head bench checked and pressure tested for leaks from valve guides or seals. Head was redone by previous owner within 10K miles. Cam looked good and everything checked out so head was left alone.
    14. New, stock size (.72mm) M90 head gasket OEM BMW.
  • Coolant cocktail: OEM BMW coolant with distilled water.
  • All new belts and hoses.
  • Sachs sport pressure plate, clutch disc and throwout bearing.
  • New OEM BMW radiator (unfortunately for an automatic E12 so it has extra holes for transmission coolant)
  • New water pump
  • Bead blasted valve cover, timing chain cover, intake, bell housing, and oil pan and clearcoated to prevent oxidation.
  • New motor mounts
  • New tie rods (outer and center link)
  • Grunts front radius rod bushings
  • K-Mac front camber plates
  • Bilstein Sports and Alpina progressive rate springs front and rear
  • Urethane trailing arm endlinks
  • Rust repair in engine bay with POR-15 and some engine bay paintwork.
  • Jet-Hot coated stock, euro exhaust manifolds.
  • Fitment (and painting) of front and rear OEM BMW E12 M535i spoilers.

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