I exited the plane into Raleigh International Airport, quickly collected my bags, and headed outside to get some fresh air. Made my way curb-side, sat and waited for my ride to arrive – a beautiful Euro-spec 1985 BMW E28 535i 5-speed. Daily driven, I might add. I’d never seen it in person nor met the owner, but I was very excited. As soon as I had averted my attention elsewhere, I heard a low roar and ‘SSSHHHHH – WOOTOOSCH!’ What a beautiful sound! The BMW had a sound so harmonious, angels would blush. Though, I’d not have a choice but to love it, because the owner, Chris Longo and I (both previous Florida residents) were road tripping in this car to Saint Augustine, Florida to surprise a dear friend and BMW enthusiast for his bachelor party; roughly, a 7-ish hour drive each way. On a side note, Chris suggested bringing earplugs, to which I replied something along the lines of how I did not resemble certain parts of the female anatomy. In hindsight, earplugs would have been a brilliant idea.
This beast, while on the stock M30b34 engine, sported an upgraded K27 turbocharger on a 60mm Garrett compressor wheel bolted to a 745i turbo manifold, but enough power to make you want to frantically search for something in the car to hold onto.
The boost, before entering the engine, blasted through an ice cold TCD one off water to air intercooler. SSSHHHHH – WOOTOOSCH! The air made magnificent sounds spraying out of the custom Magnaflow exhaust, Tial BOV and Tial wastegate. ARP head studs squashed the Cometic MLS headgasket and kept everything together. Chris is all about the subtle specifics with his Bimmer. From the euro spec headlights to the euro spec front and rear bumpers, this E28 is more German than schnitzel, and has been meticulously built with scrutiny down to the very last detail.
We headed toward his house, loaded up a plethora of various tools and spare parts, and in the morning, we would start our long journey to Florida. At 4:30am, Chris and I awoke and made sure the neighbors were awake as well, when we roared off from Raleigh, North Carolina. A crisp, cool breeze whipped at us from the lowered windows, which Chris had converted to hand crank after he was fed up with replacing window regulators. The sun and the temperatures began to rise. We were making good time, but the forecast soon called for rain; not entirely ideal for a vehicle with no AC. Because racecar.
After a few hours of driving, we did, in-fact, hit some rain, but it wasn’t our main concern, because the E28’s battery light flickered on and the power started to drain. We watched the rain clear from his fitted SAAB glass moonroof and took our first chance to pull over and check it out. There was a loose wire and the alternator itself seems a little wobbly on the factory rubber bushings. Chris tightened them and we went on our way. An hour down the road, the same thing, battery light was on.
He pulls off again and we decide the alternator or regulator are possibly on their way out. BFE-Georgia is a wonderful place for a car to decide it doesn’t want to go back to Florida. We realized that every time we pulled off the highway the alternator would start charging again. Chris called his old employer and close friend and asked him to have a alternator and regulator waiting for our arrival. At this point we were only 30 miles away. We can make it to Jacksonville, it’s not too much further – he limped it to a McDonalds in North Jacksonville to take a little break.
Not in the best side of town, but tired of being in the car and slightly malnourished, we head inside for some healthy and tasty eats. We order, eat, and are ready to set off again after a little bathroom break. I watch the car while Chris went in first. He returned immediately with the most angry and disturbed look on his face, “There’s a kid and dad in the bathroom. Both, standing 5 feet away from the urinal, pissing into it. I’m in Jacksonville for 10 minutes, I come into a haggard bathroom and see some guy’s junk hanging out – not just part of it, the whole thing. The worst part is the guy stared and me, while pissing 5 feet away from the urinal, with the expression on his face like I’m intruding.” I could not stop laughing at what I thought was one of the funniest things I have ever heard. If I had seen it for myself, I probably would not find it so amusing.
He was able to get his E28 to a BMW specialty shop, a previous employer of Chris’. Chris pulled the alternator out and inspected it. The brushes were the culprit; there was nothing left! The parts were replaced, and again, we were on course, headed to a friend’s beach house where we would be staying for the weekend.
In Florida, it was hot and sticky. The humidity levels were such an outrageously huge change, that even though we were closer to sea-level the wideband was reading pig-rich. I took the reins in leaning the engine out a little with the PF Tuning MS2 Extra software and AEM Uego wideband, in order for the engine to run a bit smoother.
Despite the initial problems, this well-oiled, German war machine was absolutely flawless on the final leg from St. Augustine, Florida to Raleigh, North Carolina. The ride was comfortable, thanks to his E30 sport cloth seats that were redone in the Euro M635 cloth material and the Bilstein sport struts and shocks.
In conclusion, it was a fun and exciting adventure where I had the great opportunity to make some awesome new friends and spend the weekend photographing some amazing cars. When going on a long road trip, bring a set of tools because you can’t be too careful!
Chris Longo’s 1985 535i 5 speed
Stock M30b34 engine
Cometic MLS headgasket
ARP head studs
BMW 745i turbo manifold
Upgraded K27 turbo with 60mm Garret compressor wheel
Moosehead engineering Tial wastegate adapter Tial MVS wastegate
Custom stainless recirculated down pipe
Custom aluminum CAI
TCD one off W/A intercooler
TCD valve cover
3″ exhaust with Vibrant resonator and magnaflow muffler
Ireland engineering poly motor mounts
E32 750i front and rear brake conversion
17×8 BBS RC090′s AKA Style 5′s. Powdercoated with satin black centers and gloss black lip’s.
BF Goodrich G Force sport 245-40-17 square
Euro front and rear bumper’s with custom brackets
Replica Hartge H5S front spoiler
Euro rear spoiler
Shadowlined tail lamps
SAAB Glass moonroof
E30 front sport seats recovered in euro M635 cloth material
Custom wideband and boost gauge mount on dash
Custom radio delete gauge panel
Delrin shift knob
Euro M535i coarse spline Mtech 1 steering wheel