Sunday, January 3, 2016

Turbo Chevy V8: 2001 BMW 540i E39

The E39 BMW 5-series was released in 1999 and was arguably the last conservatively styled BMW, at least until a few years ago when the last of the Banglized stuff went out the door with the F10 5-series.  The E39 was available with various engines from the lowly M52 inline-6 to the crazy S62 V8 in the M5, but today's example might just be the fastest E39 you can buy.  Find this 2001 BMW 540i E39 with turbocharged Chevy V8 offered for $9,500 in Cordova, TN via craigslist.

From the outside it looks like a normal 540i; stock wheels, stock badging, and decent orient blue metallic paint -- no plasti-dip, illest stickers or slammed stance.  However, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you pop the hood and examine the brute that lies within.

That is a Vortec 5300 from a truck (likely an LM7), but it is boosted to 7psi with a watermelon sized turbocharger and should be good for at least 400 horsepower, much more if you spend some time with tuning.  It is fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox, and the seller admits that it needs a proper limited slip out back (cheapest swap will be from a 750il), tuning, and AC work.

 See another car with more brawn than brains?


  1. Nice looking sleeper. I would do the same swap but just use a normally aspirated 5.7 or 6 litre LS motor. With a few mods you could get the 400 hp without the complexity and underhood congestion of a turbo. You could go to the local BMW club meets as long as you kept your hood shut and tried to fit in by occasionally blurting out things like "I f@@king hate my Vanos.."

  2. I am not the expert, but that turbo seems a little big, even for a 5.3 liter engine.

  3. Cool car! That setup should get north of 500hp with a proper tune. Too bad there's no way to smog that swap in California.

  4. I guess screwing a knob on the shifter and putting the boot back on is somewhere down the list of fiddly bits?

    I really appreciate a hot Chevy V8 in a Volvo Brick, but BMW engines are just so sweet and refined that I guess I don't get it. Oh well, to each their own.

  5. I mean, aside from being utterly unsmoggable anywhere that matters...

    Thatsa lotta turbo for only 7psi, and that's a lot of exhaust plumbing between heads and turbo, so I have to imagine there's about a week of lag between foot and flywheel.

    I think, even if I weren't in smogsville, I'd be much happier running something normally aspirated.

    1. Yea, with the school bus sized turbo I'm thinking it has vintage Saab 900 turbo style lag....dialed to 11.

      Could be a lot of fun in a straight line but absolutely terrifying if the boost comes on in the bends unexpectedly.

  6. Why did the seller end every sentence with a question? It seems very strange to do that? ? ? ?

    1. I'm guessing that's an artifact of him having composed the ad in some other piece of software then cutting/pasting it into the Craigslist site.

    2. Either that or the seller is guessing through the entire ad, in which case you may have several questions of your own to ask.

      For entertainment, read the ad out loud using your best Russian accent, but before each line add "You want..." Don't know about anyone else, but it made me laugh. Maybe because it's 3am and I'm punchy.

      "You want Complete sleeper?"
      "You want Car has clean TN title?"
      "You want No joy rides unless you are serious and have cash in hand?"

      "I give them to you my friend!"

  7. This car has been listed for a while now. It's only an hour and a half from me, but a quick conversation with the seller just didn't inspire the confidence needed to go look at it a few weeks ago.


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