There are no slugs and snails and puppy dog tails here: this Jäger-liveried BMW E28 is a sweet little race car build with a spicy afterglow.

Jägermeister is one of those brands that evokes mental images of devastation merely by the sound of its name. For many, this will always manifest itself as a series of half-remembered and best-forgotten evening exploits, swirling the fragrant Saxony digestif into a maelstrom of chaos. For others, it recalls the boisterous jaffa-hued livery of countless retro race cars – Porsche 956s and 911s, BMW E9s, M1s, E21s and E30s, Zakspeed Capris… that shouty orange paint conjures visions of brutal racers hellbent on obliterating the competition in a miasma of atomising hydrocarbons.

An eminently appropriate livery, then, for a car as inherently brutal as the one we have here. We won’t do the reality TV thing and leave you waiting on tenterhooks for the twist, we’ll just tell you upfront – this wide-arch BMW E28 race car is running the S38 motor from an E34 M5. And that’s a spicy and potent combo.

front 3/4 shot of bmw e28 race car with engine exposed

George’s car history

The man in the bucket seat is George Haynes, and the acquisition of this feisty bruiser represents the culmination of a lifelong passion. “I’ve been into BMWs for as long as I can remember – my granddad owned the BMW dealership in Thame during the 1970s, Haynes Motors,” he explains. “My first was a 1985 E30 323i four-door (with an LSD!) at the age of 22 – which was only achievable as I bought it cheap with accident damage.”

Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster ride of intriguing projects, some Bavarian and some not; there was an E30 M3 fitted with the V8 from a 540i, which featured in Performance BMW in 2010, along with a whole host of Golf GTIs and, of all things, a 1975 Porsche 911 RSR recreation with period Vaillant livery. The current stable is really quite impressive, too, with the big orange E28 track beast sharing garage space with an E30 325i, an E90 320d M Sport, an E46 M3 race car complete with an E39 M5 engine, and a 2016 M4 Schirmer GT race car. Fair to say that track Beemers are, figuratively and literally, very much within George’s wheelhouse.

Naturally, this isn’t your average everyday stable, but George isn’t really your average guy. His day-to-day working endeavours feature “most things car-related, from body shop owner to racing driver, race coach, and building race cars on the side,” which sounds like quite a satisfying way to fill one’s time. It also means that when intriguing-looking competition machines appear on the market, he has the ideal conditions to welcome them into.

Side profile shot of bmw e28 race car

The BMW E28 race car’s history

“The BMW E28 came up for sale at Lowe Classics in Wales,” he recalls. “The condition was mint, and it was almost how you see it now. It had already had a full rebuild from shell up, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the car I raced against in 2006. The original owner, Chris Randall (who has recently passed away), had built and raced it successfully during my time racing in the BMW Kumho Championship. The spec was outstanding, although there were one or two things that would need addressing – the interior, for example, was spot-on apart from the fact that the previous owner, Huw Turner, had opted for a fixed seat to accommodate his near seven-foot height. When I first sat in it I couldn’t see over the dashboard!”

Huw’s connection with the car is an interesting one, as it was he and his brother, who had bought the car in a state of some dishevelment from the aforementioned Chris Randall some time ago. The Turner brothers were in the process of fusing an E28 518i with the engine from an E34 Alpina to create a track car. They’d contacted Chris – then at Zaprace, the classic BMW race parts specialist – about some body panels for the E28, and he’d suggested that he might have something in his lock-up that would be of interest to them.

rear of bmw e28 race car

Reviving the BMW E28 race car

“It was his E28 race car, sitting in a barn in bits,” says Huw. “It had been partly rebuilt following a major crash that had written off the shell. The next thing I know, I’m on the way to Driffield, north of the Humber, in a Transit with a flatbed trailer to collect the majority of a former race car! It has lots of history and even features on the front of the BARC Championship race day programme for August 16th 2003 at Silverstone.

When we collected the car, the brakes, coilovers, wheels and gearbox were missing, but we had a great shell, which I gather was originally supplied new from BMW and had never been on the road. The shell had been stripped, acid-dipped and electro-plated following a roll-cage being fitted and the rear arches tubbed. The engine was included, as were some doors and other bits and pieces.”

And so the plan to revivify and rework one E28 had spiralled into the collection of a pair of them along with an E34… Some decisive action was required at this point to move the project forward and stop Huw and his brother from inadvertently buying every available BMW in the country. You know how these things can snowball. So the forlorn but peppy old race car was duly dispatched to Stuart Hayman of Coast 2 Coast Motorsport.

bmw e28 race car engine shot

The restoration begins

“Stuart had built our old Hillclimb Mini, and thus he was the ideal person to restore and rebuild the E28,” says Huw. “There were a few hurdles along the way; the competition suspension proved tricky to source, for example – ultimately, we had a new set made up for us by GAZ. And another major challenge came when my good friend Richard bought in and took my brother’s share of the car… The seat position George mentions was actually down to the fact that Richard is 6’8” tall, while my brother and I are much more vertically challenged at 5’8”, so there were a few adjustments to be made.

When Richard was test-fitted in the car, we discovered that the roll-cage was too close to his helmet, and this resulted in major parts of the cage being removed, redesigned and reinstalled to ensure that it complied with the regulations and was safe. Richard had to have a custom seat made to accommodate his height too – Corbeau was very helpful, suggesting a seat based on models that it sells in Scandinavian countries where people are generally taller.”

interior shot of bmw e28 race car

BMW E28 race car interior

Now, as interiors go, they don’t come a lot more forthright than this car’s pared-back effort. The absence of carpets, door cards or, of course, most of the seats means that the dash is the first thing to draw the eye, and it’s an item that’s taken rather a lot of work to perfect. The custom switch panel was designed specifically to ape that of Huw’s other race car to save the effort of having to teach his muscle memory a new layout.

The dash is a flocked affair that’s been reshaped to custom specs, with the instrument binnacle now housing a clever DigiDash 2 readout. You’ll also spot an Accusump reservoir in there. “Chris Randall explained when I bought the car that the Accusump was used by Alpina in the ’70s,” Huw elaborates. “They were used as an alternative to a dry sump. The system employs a bottle of pressurised oil, which plumbs into the main oil gallery, so when you get oil surge there is another supply available. Chris tells me that Alpina used it on the CSL Batmobile racers.”

e34 m5 engine

BMW E28 race car S38 E34 M5 engine

This sort of purposeful setup is all in keeping with the aggressive nature of what’s going on under the bonnet. While the S38 may be in a relatively stock state of tune, it’s still serving up a mighty 360hp-odd in a relative featherweight shell, and that’s more than enough to justify the chunky 750iL brakes that you’ll find at each corner.

With this intriguing back-story and, of course, a spec sheet that nigh-on slaps you about the face with its impressiveness, it’s easy to see why a seasoned racer like George would jump at the chance to snap such a thing up and immediately press it into service. But before it could hit the track, there was one thing (beyond installing a seat that fits) which had to be addressed: the livery. The car is bright orange, and the next upgrade was immediately clear. “It was crying out for the Jägermeister livery,” George laughs.

“When I raced against it in 2006 it was orange with tiger stripes. I was glad to see it continued the orange theme after its latest restoration by the previous owner, but I feel all race cars should have an identity and the Jägermeister livery was the obvious choice. My friends and colleagues at Zenn Events designed and manufactured the graphics, which look ace.”

bmw e28 race car on track

Sights set on racing

There are a few other jobs to carry out, as is the nature of any race car – top of the list is to fit a power steering system and further upgrade the suspension and the brakes. And the long game? Well, it’s a race car, so it must race. “I’m aiming to compete at the Silverstone Classic and other historic race meetings,” says George, laser-focused in his approach. “It has to race in historic championships, as that’s what it was built for.” And that’s just as it should be. Fill that shot glass with pure adrenaline, drop it into a tumbler of race fuel, and show those whippersnappers how the old school does it.

Love German cars? Be sure to check out our premier German Car Festival event at Goodwood Motor Circuit.

Photos: Chris Presley.