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E28 S54 swap

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    E28 S54 swap

    I thought I should start a project thread given the recent is your junk running or not thread. I will slowly add as I track down pictures spread over different computers and have time to write something useful.

    This is my e28 that I have had for about 7 years. I am currently working on a S54 swap for this car. My progress has been fairly slow but I’m hoping this thread will keep me accountable and show I’m very good at making everything generally difficult for myself.

    Here is the car when I bought it in all of its US spec glory; the federalization process really did a great job of ruining the lines of the e28. I drove the car around in this state until about 2012 doing the normal modifications – re-bushing, suspension, brakes, fixing oil leaks etc.

    In 2011 I finished off my Uni degree in Perth, so while I was there I took the chance and collected all the bits to put the e28 on a diet. Like an e28 tragic I am, I actually ended up bringing all this junk back in my luggage as the shipping was outrageous back to Canada.

    Fitting the euro bumpers is not that difficult if you want them just “on” but I decided I wanted to do it the real way. That of course involved cutting out the whole back end of the car to remove the mounts for the US bumper shocks (allowing for the 5 mph crash into the wall, instead of the standard 2.5 mph suitable for the rest of the world) and fitting a euro tail panel, which also allowed me to sort out a bit of rust that the car had. I also hacked up the US front valence to make the euro spec signal lights and fog lights fit as well.

    … but we got there in the end

    Not long after the euro bumpers were on I decided I wanted the M5 front valence, which is essentially a really expensive way of making your car look like just has the normal valence…. great.

    I drove the car that way for the next couple of years as my main daily, doing about 600km a week and it never had a break down. As I was fully infected with the sickness at this point I also purchased a Japanese spec (LHD) 635CSi in 2015 as another project due to it being a super rust free shell. I have pretty much rebuilt this car mechanically but have yet to really drive it, at least it looked good parked in the drive way.

    Towards the end of 2016 the e28 was starting to show a bit of age with the winter commuting taking its toll on the body and it had started to drink a bit of coolant so I thought it was best to start looking for a new daily and retire the e28 from service. I was slowly searching for a practical daily but then in mid-2017 I came across the cheapest e46 m3 I had ever seen in Canada, with high mileage (250k) which was also local and had a great spec (black interior, 6 speed, 18s) so I went to have to look and the inevitable happened… putting the e28 into retirement.

    During the past few years I was planning for the next “phase” of the e28, I had gone back and forth between what I wanted to do. Firstly, I had been searching for a 5 speed car to manual swap the e28 but they are unbelievably rare in Canada, I did eventually find a really rusty 635 which was manual but ended up utilizing that for the Japanese 635. I had also looked putting a turbo on the m30, but could not get past all the problems everyone seemed to have and it was going to be quite costly living the middle of no-where Canada. What I really wanted was a s38 as the ship on M5’s had sailed at this point and we got very few e28 m5’s.

    I had been looking for an s38 that wasn’t totally rooted or asking silly money when I came across a cheap s54 from a crashed car in Ontario which was close to my mate’s house. The price was right and I ended up buying it, shipped out to me and the next phase of the e28 was determined.

    I am currently piecing together parts for the s54 + e28 marriage. Generally, because I’m a tight arse I have been picking together parts slowly and as I find free time between doing other projects like fix Powerstrokes and tractors

    The key piece for the s54 swap is a front sump oil pan from a m50 powered e34, these oil pans are now actually made of gold (here at least). As a tight arse, I refuse to pay 600 dollars for an oil pan so I started looking for a whole e34. Last winter at work I was browsing the classifieds and found a guy selling an e34 with disintegrated timing chain guides and he had split up with his wife and needed it out of the garage. I grabbed a trailer and drove down to pick up in the middle of a blizzard. We got it hauled onto the trailer in -25C and then I hauled home 500km away in one of the worst snow storms I’ve seen in a while, 9 hours later I was home. Word of advice - do not reverse load a car in the winter.

    The next step was to figure out if the s54 fit into the e28, I have a spare e24 shell - which is essentially the same and before pulling the motor from the e28 I thought I should do a test run. It is well known the s54 fits into the e30 fairly easily so the exercise was fairly pointless. However it was a good motivator.

    Following with interest! This is a swap that makes a lot of sense!
    Rust is lighter than carbon fibre.

    My Italian 510


      ^what he said!
      The most dangerous risk of all - the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. - Randy Komisar.


        ^as above. Love the E28/E34 5ers
        1978 Gemini Sedan - Powered by i change my mind every week
        1980 Gemini Sedan
        1992 Land Rover Discovery 200TDI


          +3 internets for you. Please don't give up


            S54 E28?! Oh my :D
            BMW E21 Racer

            ATCC & V8SC Results, Data, Statistics and Discussion from 1960 to now


              Should go alright


                Thanks for the interest gents - hope you enjoy my endless rambling...

                The next issue with the s54 swap is what transmission to use. 5 speeds from m20/m50 based cars bolt up to the s54. But I wanted a 6 speed. 6 speeds from m3’s (Getrag 420g) are not the quite as tough as I’d like and they also are creeping up in price. The s54 I bought came with a SMG 420g which is pretty much the same the 6 speed box minus some machining on the bellhousing. I thought about sending the bell housing away to be modified but then I read about ZF GS6 transmissions found in e90 cars. They seemed to be reasonably priced and had a few improvements over the older 420g being newer they likely would not be as worn out either. The other upside is that as they are non-M things like clutches are dirt cheap.

                Getrag 420g:

                I started looking for a gs6-37bz from a 323-330i as they are physically smaller and earlier gs6’s can utilize the pressure plate, flywheel and starter from the s54 as long as you utilize the gs6 clutch disk due a finer spline count on the gs6.I came across a gs6-53bz from a 335i, which is the big boy gs6 and designed to cope with the power of n54 motor, not exactly what I wanted but it was 400 dollars…. so that sealed the deal and what I bought after a quick 2 hour drive to grab the transmission.

                There were a few variations of these transmission and flywheels. The most notably the move to a 6 bolt flywheel from the original 8, the cut off for this change was supposed be sometime in late 2008. The GS6 I bought was an early 08 so I was good there. However, when I got the transmission home I realized that BMW has been playing around with the design of the input shaft and bearing, where they decided it would be a sweet idea to place the bearing inside the input shaft and put a spigot on the flywheel – great. I called the seller and was able to snag the flywheel and clutch from the 335i he was breaking and hoped they would bolt up to the S54.

                S54 flywheel on the left, N54 flywheel on the right

                When I went to bolt up the GS6, which is pretty much as long as the damn motor, to the S54 it mostly fit, one bolt hole will need enlarging but only slightly – no dramas there.

                I was feeling pretty good with my luck at that stage, so I thought I would try and bolt up the s54 starter except BMW changed the number or pitch of the ring gear teeth so that was a no go. Next step order a 335i starter and see how we go. I get the starter and try to bolt it up – which it doesn’t. I check out some pictures of the N54 and it the block is thicker in that area on the n54, so I make up some very professional 10mm spacers in order to get starter engagement. Sorted.I will make a proper spacer out of aluminum in order to prevent rocks or small children getting inside the bell housing and ruining my day.

                Deluxe Spacer Mod

                Starter fit up


                  Love your work, keep it up.

                  I had an E28 528M and it is the car I miss the most...there is just something about them, the size, the build solidity, the way they just work, greater than the sum of their parts.
                  " Racing cars don't have doors. Toilets have doors" : Keke Rosberg


                    Love S50/54 swaps!

                    Keep at it.


                      Awesome thread
                      "If you can make black marks on a straight from the time you turn out of a corner until the braking point of the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." - Mark Donahue Penske Porsche 917

                      "In Japan we no give fark for Subaru" - Trust Japan Technical Director
                      (TM - AVENGE)

                      "You can never have enough power. I remember when we had Group B cars... THEN we had enough power!"
                      Juha Kankkunen - Rally of Argentina '02


                        As an aside - Aston Martin guys love the DB headed bolts from 50's/60's David Brown tractors...
                        "Where can we get hold of a Vincent Black Shadow?" "Whats that?" "A fantastic bike," I said. "The new model is something like two thousand cubic inches, developing two hundred brake-horsepower at four thousand revolutions per minute on a magnesium frame with two styrofoam seats and a total curb weight of exactly two hundred pounds."


                          Good plan, James.

                          Much love for 80s BMWs here. Please continue!


                            Hey how is this going? Great idea for a swap. I love e28's, in fact a just bought one today. 528e manual.


                              Sorry for the lack of updates... I have made minimal progress on the e28 project over the summer, with a trip to Africa, working on other junk and buying some other cars I wasn’t really able to carve out much time for this. Not to mention the 2 month delivery time on some parts I purchased from Schmiedmann really killed any opportunity to get this beater into the shop... But anyways here are some updates...

                              My E28 has always had comfort seats, which are great if you enjoy eating 6 big macs a week, but I do not so I have been always on the look out for new seats – something that is rather thin on the ground here in Western Canada. I think I would label this summer the summer of seats for me...

                              This spring I scored an okay shape Recaros from a JDM Supra R that some guy was selling from his Mustang and putting fixed backs in

                              I bought these and then promptly decided they were a little too rough and not really fitting to the car so I threw them of Kijiji (Gumtree in Canada) and sold them to a guy in Edmonton who wanted seats for his Datsun 620. No worries, as I work close to there anyways. So as I was preparing to take them up there I found these Konig seats with e30 rails for 40 dollars. They looked bad, being wildlife damaged (look worse in the pictures, honest!) but once I purchased them the bolsters are in great shape, not worn out and genuinely the best seat I have sat in. It seems like parts are practically impossible to get but if anyone has any info on these pieces of junk I’d be so pleased, I’m beginning to see these are my ideal e28 seat... \tragic.

                              Not long after the seat of the Konigs my buddy found a manuell e24 on Kijiji with some cool aftermarket parts but was neglected so a quick trip down to Calgary to check out this pile of junk lead me to purchasing it

                              It was a total build from the early 2000’s with some shit house MAF conversion, Chip, e34 brakes, 17 e39 m5 rep wheels, and a something add on fuelling controller... on did I mention party lights?

                              However, it was not all bad news. The car also had a set of Racing Dynamic sway bars and a killer set of Recaro’s. I bought it for the othroped alone, these again we purchased from the e28 but I decided the lower bolster was too weak so I sold it to by buddy for his Subaru powered VW Steyr Doka. I eventually sold the e24 to some dumb drifter kids without the seats or sways for what I paid for it. Winner.

                              At this point I was getting tired of trying to score the perfect set of Recaros, so in my Kijiji addiction I came across a pair of trashed e30 sport seats with good bolsters for about 200 dollar. I had read about the 300 dollars “leather” kits from and decided try my hand at recovering seats.

                              The results were not bad at all, the leather quality is so so but I would use them again. Overall, the pair came out alright and the creases are likely due to my inexperience rather than a fault of the kit. The e30 seat is actually slightly more narrow than a e28 sport seat so I am still coming to terms to that, although I think these are a reasonable option until the ultra konig seats are one day restored.

                              Other events for the summer included partial resprays on two of my pieces of junk and purchasing a 240z for a friend of mine.

                              Regarding the no-action s54 swap, I have continued to collect parts and finally got off my ass and did the e34 pan swap which was no big deal besides re-routing the head oil drain.

                              I have decided to use the e46 radiator to keep it as stock as possible, this is a fairly common setup in the e30 swap so I hope with the extra room I might even be able to keep the stock radiator hoses..

                              Hot tip: Buy the 160 dollar cheapfuck radiator off Rockauto and receive a 400 dollars “Nissens” radator!

                              The e34 pan swap is straight forward on the s54, you do need to swap to the m50 oil pump which bolts onto the s54 block and the sprocket can be swapped over as well. The updated head drain on the s54 is simply an -6 AN fitting to m12(?) adapter so can be plumbed directly into the oil drain of the e34 pan – not ideal but prevents drilling a hole in the oil pan. I have simply cut the head drain back and added a solid to flexi hose adapter. I did not order the correct 90 degree fitting so I am waiting for that before adding an extended flexi hose section.