What is squarish and brown and leaves streaks everywhere it goes? An early E28 5-Series with a 4.0L that’s what! Building upon a tradition of putting big things into little openings, hot-rodders have always enjoyed finding new ways of powering old cars. And, making something that looks
caramel vanilla go like hell — that is building a sleeper — is of particular fun for these folks.
The below example, an early BMW E28 with a later V8 is no exception. Is it the ultimate sleeper?
Things to look for when building a sleeper
- Does the car look like something your grandparents drive? Bonus points if it looks like it has lived its life in an hermetically sealed room.
- Is the color of the car as unassuming as a loaf of bread?
- Does the car have more than two doors? Bonus points if it has a hatch.
- Are more powerful engines available that fit into its engine bay?
- And, finally, was there ever a factory hotrod version of the car that parts could be borrowed from?
If you can answer “yes” to all of the questions above you have a sleeper candidate! Now, all you need is some time and money and you can start beating newer sports cars away from stoplights.
Claudius’ E28 540i
The original full story on this car can be read on one of my favorite German sites, www.e30.de. But, for those who can’t read German I’ve hit some of the highlights below.
- It started as a 524td, which despite promises of an excellent body with new paint, had to be fully restored
- The motor is from an E34 540iA, which put out somewhere around 282 HP and 295 lb.ft. of torque when new
- Likely for fitment purposes, a mix of exhaust parts from the E34 and E39 5-series chassis were used
Why not just buy an E28 M5, you ask?
Well, this can be answered in two ways.
- It’s hugely gratifying to build your own car that is unique to what you want. Back in the day, when I was big into Jeeps, there was a saying that went around: “real Jeeps are built, not bought.” I think this statement holds true for all marques, personally.
- V8-power! Even though the hottest available motor, the M88/3 6-cylinder from the non-US spec cars, in the M5 put out the same horsepower as the 4.0L V8 in this example, the V8 has nearly 50 lbs.ft. more torque. That would make this car likely out-sprint the E28 M5 in nearly every instance. And, as a naturally aspirated motor, this would have all the instant throttle response joy that makes BMW’s of yore so much fun to drive
This car is awesome on many levels, and I personally feel Claudius has built something special here. In my opinion, this is the Ultimate Sleeper.