So, we left the “Strip both and swap all the good bits from one to the other, then swap all the ordinary, povvo spec bits back into the one that originally had all the good bits” project a few weeks ago, mid way through, with all the standard bits out of the silver car and refitted back into the Mora Metallic car and the Mora Metallic FrankenSieben off to its new owner.
It always tickles me to see E38s advertised as “fully loaded with electric leather memory seats, air con, cruise control, etc. too much to list.” That’s base taxi spec in a car that could be had with at least four different upgrades to the basic leather, electrically adjustable, memory front seats; electrically adjustable heated rear seats; bullet proof glass; fridge in the back; picnic tables; TV; Satnav; and as many as TWO phones in the same car – one in the front and one in the back.
To be fair, Titan Silver, and standard black leather was very much poverty spec – as far as any E38 can be described as “poverty” – back in 2000, but we’ll change that.
We were left with a car with a completely stripped out interior – and I do mean “completely” – and an enormous pile of bits – and I do mean “enormous” – some of which were quite interesting wee extras.
There were a couple of surface rust blemishes around the boot, so we started by getting them attended to. We took the bumper off and sent the car off to the paintshop along with the bootlid lip spoiler we had removed from FrankenSieben.
While it was away, the plan was to refurb the interior and, incredibly, I hadn’t noticed that the grey sports 18 way adjustable contour seats were Individual and piped two tone grey. It was clear that they needed a bit of a refurb, so a couple of colour samples were despatched to Gliptone and some Liquid Leather and Scuffmaster were supplied to improve them.
We did the fronts in the two tone and I think they turned out really well.
While I was still considering whether or not I could be arsed doing the rears to match, I acquired a set of electrically adjustable, lumbar support, heated rear seats in Nappa grey. But piped. So another 250 ml of the lighter grey leather colour was obtained from Gliptone and the rears were made to match the fronts in the Individual piped two tone grey.
The interior we were using – out of, but definitely not native to, FrankenSieben – had one out of four of the door pull handles in grey stitched leather from an Individual or 750iL extended leather interior. The same source as the rear seats managed to supply a pair of full grey extended leather front door cards and the other rear handle in stitched leather. So all the door cards were stripped and the leather handles removed and recoloured in the light grey to complete the two tone Individual interior.
So, that’s the interior leather trim pretty much sorted out and now the car is back from paint. It was wearing mismatched slave wheels, so they were ditched in favour of the staggered 18″ M Parallels purloined from the Mora car.
There was an ABS fault which I tracked down to a faulty DSC precharge pump. An in stock replacement was fitted and the brakes bled.
The later lights with clear indicators and the power fold mirrors had been swapped over prior to paint and, with the wheels on, it was externally complete, and so, unfortunately, there was nothing else for it, but to start reassembling it.
Start at the back and move forward is normally our approach, and originally, in terms of ICE this basic car had only a basic radio and a fitted phone. Nothing else.
The first thing to go in was the AV loom front to back for the widescreen Nav. It was run from the boot to the front and the monitor connected to let us check the functions as we built it. Then we started adding bits. A radio module, TV and video module, GPS antenna, DSP amp, and CD changer all came from FrankenSieben which also supplied an early Mk2 CD based Nav computer and “Trimble” unit required to make it work. I managed to obtain the latest compatible Mk4 DVD navigation computer, a reversing camera that looks like a pdc sensor, and a break out lead to allow AV input and output to and from the TV and video module.
Getting it all to work, upgrading the nav computer, finding bits not working, downgrading it to the earliest workable version to get it all working and then upgrading it to the latest again is all a bit of time consuming hassle, but worth it.
Talking of PDC sensors, replacing one dead front one and one equally lifeless rear one got the PDC working again and annoying the Hell out of me.
The reversing camera was fitted to the rear bumper and wired via a relay (actually from an E30 convertible rear screen blower) so that when reverse gear is selected power is provided to the camera and a pin on the video module plug is earthed to display the output from the camera, no matter what the screen is currently displaying. This works well and is better than having to switch the display to the AV channel before engaging reverse.
With all those wires and boxes now in the boot, I decided that a CD changer was unlikely to be used, so it was jettisoned. That left a spare power feed. What to do with it? A Zoom Mobile wi-fi router that had once provided the office wi-fi also came with a 12v power supply. In it went and the car now has its very own wi-fi hotspot. The layout and wiring all took a bit of time, but it is now complete, uses all BMW parts (apart from the wi-fi) and could have been ordered from the factory.
So into the cabin and still moving from the back forward, the Mora car had an electric rear sunblind fitted, but not operational. We checked it actually worked and it was fitted and wired correctly to the switch in the front of the car. Fortunately the correct switch bank was with the Mora car, but as not all the wiring required at the plug was there, we needed to butcher plug out of a scrap E39 to add pins to the existing plug and wire them up to get power to the rear blind.
The chap with the rear seats also supplied a non working blind which luckily had an older pre facelift type of switch, so we wired that into the rear of the centre console to allow the blind to be operated by rear seat passengers independently. So, that’s the rear sun blind in and working with switches in both front and rear. If you haven’t seen one of these in action, it’s definitely worth watching:-
Next component forward is the DSP speaker box. It’s fairly straightforward and just bolts in and connects to the main AV loom. Nice and simple. Result.
Now what about the GPS antenna? Where does it go? Oh, aye. Under the rear parcel shelf. Nae bother. We’ll just take the sun blind and the DSP back out to fit a stupid wee thing no bigger than a box of matches. And put them back in again.
Moving forward to the electrically adjustable rear seats. I’ll just say nearly two days of trial fit, adjust, weld, grind, trial fit, adjust, weld, grind, trial fit ……repeat ad infinitum covers it fairly, though it ignores the time spent trimming the brackets apparently chopped out of the donor car with a blunt fireman’s axe.
Then there was the wiring, which, to be fair was, pretty quick and simple. Oh, and the brackets that have to be removed from the donor parcel shelf and fitted.
So that’s the rear seats in. The front seats have monitors in the back of the headrests, but like just about every other good bit in the original FrankenSieben, they weren’t connected. A USB bank, 12v charger and various cables and HDMI box thingy are now fitted in the centre rear armrest allowing pretty much anything to connect to the screens, which are now wired up, and phone charging etc. to be performed.
So carpets in, interior built up, seats in, dash built up with widescreen monitor and Robert is your mother’s brother. . Again, that’s oversimplifying getting the best bits of trim out of three cars – using Vinylkote 40 (matched by Technispray to a sample) to repair scuffed bits of grey trim and recolour undamaged beige to replace broken bits discovered on removal. I think the grey interior into the Mora car was the first E38 interior whoever did it had done – lots of broken bits, Tiger seal and PanelBond.
The 16:9 widescreen monitor was in the Mora car and the chap told me it was an X5 unit. That’s pretty standard. 16:9 RHD E38 units are very, very rare and while they will fit E38, E39 and E53, the reverse is not true and only E38 RHD units fit RHD E38s properly. X5 units are plentiful and work, but need the heater box modified to sit properly in the dash. Ideally the viewing angle needs adjusted too. I was preparing to make these modifications and we fitted the monitor in place. It fitted perfectly. It must be an E38 unit. Result.
There are a couple of niggles. Along the way, the boot remote release stopped working and I’m getting a “bootlid open” warning (both now fixed). The coolant level sensor is playing up. There’s a foglight out and I can’t be arsed taking the undertray off to fit a new bulb and, and this always happens – because we have a couple of breakers, whenever you can’t find a trim piece, nut, bolt, screw, clip, or whatever, it’s easier and quicker to just go and take one off – we’ve a box of hundreds of wee bits left over.
I’m going to use and enjoy it for a couple of weeks and shake down any niggling faults, then it’ll get brought back in to have the wee bits and pieces done, oh, and the tank replaced. How could I forget?
It drives just beautifully and overall, I am happy that we have turned a lowish mileage one owner, but dully specced car into a cracking well specced old Luxobarge.
It’s lived locally all its life, it has done a warranted 88000 miles and has a full service history. All three keys plus the plastic one are there. It’s on M Parallels, with clear lights. It has power fold mirrors. It has working PDC and a reversing camera. It has DSP; 16:9 screen; Mk4 DVD Sat Nav; electric rear sun blind; sports contour 18 way front seats and heated electrically adjustable rears all in Individual piped two tone grey; M-Tech multi function wheel; headrest monitors; entertainment in the centre armrest, and, wi-fi.
I’ll consider offers around the £3000 mark, but only because I’ve seen a cracking facelift 750iL, I fancy.