Words & Photos by Henry Phull
I cannot explain my passion for BMWs, I think it is somehow wired into me. My dad had several bimmers (E28s, E24s, E36s, etc) throughout my childhood, so they are in my blood… So much so that other marques rarely do it for me – although I can always admire something special! I first spotted Rich’s E39 M Sport on my daily commute and started seeing it quite often, clearly he shared part of my route to his place of work. This may puzzle you, but this was when the car was completely standard, on 17″ M Sport rims and standard ride height. Why did I care? Well, it goes back to what I was saying – I have a serious problem with BMWs. If they happen to be lowered, well that’s just a bonus.
I got to know Rich initially through Facebook. He saw a photo of my E46 coupe that I was driving at the time and we got talking. Turns out he had seen my car on the commute too. Well you know how is is with us car guys, we started discussing his plans for the 5 and that was that. Rich has always been a VW guy at heart, having owned several over the years including Mk1s, Mk2s a few Audi’s, only in more recent years has he made the move to BMW with a couple of E36s which naturally progressed to the bigger 5 series. Rich has still got time for his love of Volkswagen’s though, as his second car is a fully track prepped Mk2 Golf.
We hit a few shows together last year and ever since I’ve wanted to shoot his E39. As most of you know, the British weather hasn’t been kind to us recently. After many failed plans to go on a shoot (thanks, rain!), last weekend we got lucky and the sun was out all day long! Rich suggested a location – Chewton Glen in Hampshire, so off we went. The E39 looks right at home at this luxurious location.
Rich’s E39 is the baby 525i straight six. He hunted long and hard to find a manual M Sport E39 and this is what he ended up with. Unfortunately manual V8s are like hens teeth so he settled for this, although I know for certain he still wants a V8 of some sort next!
This isn’t a car with a mod list that extends past the length of my arm like most feature cars, quite the opposite. Rich’s 525i shows that simplicity is key, especially when it comes to BMWs. You don’t always need to break the bank to create something that will turn heads. The only modifications on this car are the suspension, wheels, black kidneys and amber corners. The result, a vehicle that is the pure definition of class.
As you can see, we sneaked onto the driveway of the Chewton Glen hotel (ok maybe not… we did ask permission first!). Of course this was followed by a drive around the lush surrounding grounds.
It’s such a shame that by law we have to run front plates in the UK. Look how good that M Sport bumper looks without it.
The 525i is sitting on a set of BMW 18″ Style 32 alloys, but these aren’t the popular 32’s you may be used to seeing. These ones are a concave design, originally made for the E60 5 series. Rich is the first person I’ve seen to run these on an E39 and I think they compliment the car perfectly. They wear 215/35 up front and 245/35 tyres on the rear.
Suspension wise, Rich is running JOM coilovers with modified bump stops, which actually ride surprisingly well. He’s planning to get it lower in the near future with some additional modification!
In addition to the all important manual shifter, this car is coupled with an alcantara interior rather than the usual leather, which makes a pleasant change.
After our little tour of the hotel grounds we took a drive into town. This car breaks necks. Lots of necks.
I thought I’d include these two shots just to put the car into perspective in the real world. Hopefully you’ll agree that it just looks plain awesome. The front end stance is menacing sight.
Rich’s car is an exceptional example of ‘OEM+’. It goes to show that you don’t always need a set of splits, a wrap, or excessive engine modifications to create something special. It all depends what route you want to go down as the car owner, and this is what he wanted. So what’s next in the pipeline for Rich? I have a feeling he’s going to scratch that V8 itch, but not of the BMW variety!