This final production year of the E28 chassis cemented the 5-series BMW as the gold standard of sport sedans. It created the segment to which all others are compared. To celebrate this iconic BMW, a good friend of ours set out to create one of the best examples possible. This wasn’t about building a car to sell but rather restoring one to the highest standards possible and then competing successfully at significant Concours events.
This BMW was built on April 1st, 1987 and sold new on August 6th, 1988 by Sterling BMW of Newport Beach, California. For the first 27-years, this BMW lived in California.
The first owner was an attorney who worked in Newport Beach, California. This owner kept the car for 6-years before trading it back into the BMW dealer with just over 43k miles on it. The next owner was Jason Nakagami of Milpitas, California. He purchased it with an extended warranty from Allison BMW of Sunnyvale, California on September 10th, 1993 with 43,747 miles. Jason serviced the car regularly at his local BMW dealer and at Exclusive British European (independent BMW specialist) in Campbell, CA. He kept fastidious notes in his spiral notebook that’s included with the purchase. Highlights of services under his care included:
- Regular oil services and inspections at factory recommended intervals
- Brake pads, rotors, and drive belts when needed
- Drive shaft and lower control arm bushings (52,056 miles)
- Rear transmission and shift shaft seal (53,331 miles)
- A/C expansion valve and receiver drier (59,069 miles)
- Radiator and thermostat (59,263 miles)
- Rebuilt A/C compressor/retrofit to R134a (59,492 miles)
- Water pump and coolant flush (67,973 miles)
- Flex joint and transmission mounts (71,195 miles)
Jason kept the 535i for 12-years and just shy of 20k miles before selling it in November of 2005 with 61,400 miles to Thanh Nguyen of San Jose, California. Thanh kept this BMW for 5 years and added another 10k miles. He too serviced it regularly. Highlights of his services include:
- Water pump and thermostat (70k miles)
- Flex joint and trans mounts (71,210 miles)
Thanh listed the car on Craigslist and sold it in November of 2010 with 73,500 miles to another local bay area enthusiast. The day that the new owner came to pick it up, our friend, Mike Burger of Costa Mesa, California, called to buy it. Unfortunately, he literally just missed it. A couple of weeks later, he saw it reposted on Craigslist by the new owner. Mike didn’t waste any time. He quickly bought the car and brought it down to Southern California in December of 2010.
Eventually, Mike shared a garage space right next door to the Kennel. However, in the beginning, he would visit the other BMW guys in the area and use their lifts/expertise. At the time he was a manager for Rolls Royce and had just become curious about BMWs. He was impressed with their build quality and was looking for a fun semi-vintage example to tinker with and use as a daily driver. He started his search for an 80’s 5-series and when he found this very original survivor, he knew it was perfect. However, it was really too nice to use as a daily driver. So, Mike decided to further improve it. In May of 2011, he entered the car in his first Concours ever. It was in San Diego with the BMW Car Club of America (BMWCCA). He had never shown a car at a Concours and was shocked to find out he placed 2nd in class. He was hooked.
For the next several years, I watched Mike neurotically fix and detail every square inch of the car. He is far more patient than I would’ve ever been. He was constantly ordering parts, running to the local dealership, and dropping off/picking up pieces from plating, powder coating, etc. Everything was carefully organized in order for it to go back together properly. He even hired DonQ (famous pinstripe artist) to touch-up the original pinstripe work he had done originally on this 535i when it was sold new. Simultaneously, he continued to enter more competitive Concours events and was winning all of them. This included the following:
- 2nd place BMWCCA Clean Car Contest San Diego May 2011
- 1st place BMWCCA Clean Car Contest San Diego May 2012
- 1st place Huntington Beach Concours June 2012
- 1st place Legends of the Autobahn August 2012
- Masters Award BMWCCA Clean Car Contest San Diego 2013
- 1st place BMWCCA Oktoberfest 2013
- 1st place Legends of the Autobahn August 2013
These wins didn’t come easy. It was a result of hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work by Mike. Highlights of the repairs and enhancements Mike performed included:
- Complete European bumper conversion
- European front valence with chin spoiler
- Euro headlight wiper system
- Original factory windshield
- Factory M5 sport seats and rear seat restored in rare Llama leather to match original
- Bilstein sport suspension system with Suspension Techniques springs
- Upper control arm bushings and strut mounts
- 17” BBS Style 5 restored wheels
- M-Tech steering wheel
- Rearview mirror with map lights
- Original factory radio restored
- All turn signal lenses and gaskets
- Factory rear spoiler
- Fan clutch
- Exhaust manifold gasket
- Head gasket and valve cover gaskets
- Motor mounts
- Hand painted block and under carriage
- Aluminum front strut brace
- Fuel pressure regulator
- Fuel lines
- Radiator and hoses
- M5 brakes with rebuilt calipers
- Ceramic coat manifold
- Master cylinder and clutch slave cylinder
- Door rubber, seals, and door stop/stay
- Custom Cocomats®
- Replaced dash with good crack-free original example
In 2011, with the help of Phil Slater (old school mechanic) he removed the head, sent it out for inspection and measuring. The machine shops said it was perfect. The rest of the engine was inspected by Phil, then resealed with a new head gasket and oil pan gasket.
Here’s a quote from Mike Burger about the car and refurbishment process:
“After seeing a friend’s 533i and spending some time with, I realized that it was really a special car and fantastic to drive; so I set out on a hunt to find a really nice example. It starts with the car, I found the best starting point that I could find. Low miles, straight body, loved, and well maintained. My original plan wasn’t to make it what it is today, I wanted a nice driver. I never realized how well preserved the car was, and then I found myself going down the rabbit hole. I took the car to Dr. Detail in Costa Mesa and had Darren steam clean the engine and chassis. Next came the euro bumper and light conversion. I wasn’t happy with the quality of new bumpers, the chrome seemed low quality and cheap; so I found a used set that was in really nice shape and had them chromed. New lights, and buckets as well as new euro grills. The wheels are RC090 from an e39 5 series. I took them apart, had the centers painted in bronzit and had the barrels polished then ceramic coated. The back of the wheels were ceramic coated as well which makes cleaning easier. Bilstein sports on all four corners and Suspension Technique springs. Rebuilt M5 calipers, new brake hoses, pads, rotors. I kept cleaning as I went along.
The undercarriage came out really nice. I used toothbrushes and q-tips to clean every little bit. The same went with under the hood. After countless hours of cleaning I decided I wasn’t happy with some of the finishes; so I took apart the intake plenum, and any other bit I could remove from the engine bay. The aluminum pieces were tumbled and ceramic coated with the exception of the intake plenum, and valve cover which were powdercoated. I removed the exhaust manifolds and had them Jet Coated. While everything was apart I cleaned up the engine and painted the block by hand. Having everything off gave me the access needed to clean and refresh as much as I could. All the hardware was replaced with shiny new zinc hardware. New hose clamps, gaskets, seals etc… All new sensors, hood insulation, and rubber bits. The same went with the undercarriage including removing the differential so that I could paint it. I painted the undercarriage by hand as well as the fender wells and the sub frames. The car was so clean that it begged for a bit more polish. I went through all the suspension and steering components and replaced everything so that it was all nice and new. I must have spent 4 months on the undercarriage alone with all the hand cleaning, painting, and waxing.
The interior was in really nice shape. The dash had cracks so I found a nice one and replaced it and installed a new windshield at the same time. The seats came out and I spot cleaned the carpet. I was really happy with the condition of the seats; but I wasn’t happy with them being comfort seats. The rest of the car looked so sporty; so I found a set of sport seats and had them re-upholstered along with the rears so that all the leather and stitching matched. This also gave me a good opportunity to clean the rest of the interior and paint the seat rails. The sport seats really balanced out the appearance along with a set of cocomats.
The paint on the car was in surprisingly good condition. It needed a thorough detail. The paint needed to be clayed, polished, and waxed. Part of the euro bumper conversion entails filling holes on the rear valance and also replacing the front valance with a euro specific valance. Both had to be painted. I also painted the rockers so that they looked fresh. There were some rock chips and other small blemishes that I touched up.
In all the car came out really nice and commands a lot of attention and compliments. My heart went in to this car; I dove in head first and worked my butt off to yield these results and it really was the catalyst that honed my skills. Clint has been a great custodian; he also has a great care and attention to detail which is why it still looks so good.”
Mike had no intention of selling the car, but in early 2014, someone posted on the E28 forum that he was looking for the “best in the world E28.” So, Mike, half-joking posted photos and details of this 535i that he had been refining for the past 4-years. The forum troll backed off and said, “oh…maybe not that nice.” Meanwhile, Clint Summers of Dunwoody, Georgia had been quietly watching Mike’s progress posts on the forum. He shocked Mike when he said he wanted to purchase it. So, on March 27th, 2014 with 82,688 miles, Mike took the car to Irvine BMW dealership for final oil service and inspection before selling the car to Clint. The car arrived in Georgia in April of 2014 with 83k miles. Clint kept the car for almost 3-years, but only added a thousand more miles. During his care, he performed the following:
- Replaced differential (stock unit)
- Reseal rear brake calipers
- Brake fluid flush
- Right rear brake hose
- Clutch kit
The car was then sold to an Orange County collector in December of 2017 with 84,279 miles. This owner only kept the car for about a year and added about 500 miles before selling it. He did perform an oil service in December of 2018 before selling it in March of 2019 with 84,729 miles to Enthusiast Auto Group (EAG) of Cincinnati, Ohio. They kept the car for a year in their showroom/inventory and performed $5,971 worth of services, which included:
- Major service:
- Air and fuel filter
- Spark plugs
- Cooling, brake, transmission, differential, and power steering flush
- Oil service
- Valve adjust
- Power steering hoses
- Rear subframe bushings
- 4 wheel alignment
- Both front thrust rod assemblies and bushings
- Driver mirror motor
- Recharge A/C
- Misc hardware, bulbs, and wipers
- Repair speedometer/odometer gauge
The car was sold to the current Missouri enthusiast in April of 2020 with 84,907 miles. He took the car to a local European specialist for the following services:
- Install magnaflow exhaust system
- Induction service
- New Michelin CrossClimate+ tires
- Full body paint correction
- CQuartz ceramic coating over all painted services
- Ceramic coating on wheels and exhaust tips
This 535i is subjectively one of the best looking and best condition E28 examples around. Most people are surprised to hear that it is not restored. It was just very well cared for, always garaged, and never neglected. The metallic paints of this era were horribly fragile, and the clear coats would check with any continual sun exposure. This paint is mostly original and looks close to flawless. When Mike got the car, it had a scratch on the left rear fender. He had an expert paint that fender and blend into the trunk and clear coat onto the left rear fender for a perfect match. There was also a small spot of crazing and dent on the roof by the right side C-pillar. He had the dent removed and a tiny bit of blending there with clear into the pillar. The Euro bumpers and front valance were refinished, including the chrome. The brightwork, trim, and rubber all look fresh with minimal wear signs. The glass has the proper stampings with no major chips or scratches. The BBS wheels have been restored and are wearing near new full tread Michelin tires.
The interior looks, feels, and smells new. Llama color is unusual and to see it so fresh is extraordinary. The front and rear seats were restored and look great with minimal wear and no significant blemishes. The headliner is original and in remarkable condition with no tears or staining. The carpet is also original and well preserved. The original door panels have no aging signs and all the handles/locks work properly. The dash is an original replacement part with no cracks or warping. All the gauges work properly including the clock and digital OBC (On Board Computer). It has no pixels burned out and all functions including outside temperature work. The electric sunroof, mirrors, and all windows work. The original radio also works.
We just dropped off the car at our local specialist to perform an inspection, service, new battery, and A/C service.
This 535i comes with (extra) keys, trophies from Concours wins, notebook of services, most receipts in large 3-ring binder, owner’s manual with vinyl case, factory first aid kit, extra/original shift knob, complete took kit with trunk lid holder, original spare wheel with tire, and jack.
*The current exhaust system will not pass CA smog without a new catalytic converter installed. For CA buyers, we will help coordinate getting one installed and smog certified at buyer’s expense.
**Note: VIN and other numbers withheld to protect against fraud. All numbers including VIN, Engine, and color will be provided to serious buyers.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Paul at 714-335-4911 or email@example.com
This vehicle is sold “as-is” with no warranty, written or implied. In some cases, the vehicle does have the remaining factory warranty still in place and will be described above if that is the case. All taxes and fees are the responsibility of the buyer and are not included in the listed price. All vehicle sales will require a $170 administration fee. The vehicle listed is described to the best of our ability. The information is based on our own research and statements made to us by the previous owner(s). To the best of our knowledge, the above information is accurate. We are not responsible for errors in our description of options or any other details. The above-mentioned vehicle is used and can be expected to show some wear and tear. It is not a brand-new vehicle. We do welcome all local pre-purchase inspections on vehicles in order to verify conditions. For payment, we accept bank transfers, cashier’s checks, or cash. Checks take up to 10-business days to clear. Vehicle and title will be held until all funds are cleared and verified. Bank transfers usually only take 24 hours.