When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When the country you live in makes it extremely hard for you to try and restore your classic, turn it into a wild, wide-body creation instead and this modified BMW E28 is a shock to the system in the best way possible.
Feature first appeared in Performance BMW magazine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Alex Hamby
It seems like the past couple of issues we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the beauty of a pure build, how much we love to see classics that owners have chosen to modify minimally when it came to the styling to let that iconic, elegant design shine through. And now we bring you this, a wide-body E28 that has probably already caused a whole bunch of you to go into shock. But the simple fact is that we also love this car because it’s so wild and completely goes against the grain and, sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. The modded BMW scene is so incredibly diverse and varied and we love to bring you cars from both ends of the spectrum and while Hari Benz’s wild wide-body machine won’t be to all tastes, we think it’s awesome.
We might be a UK mag but the modded BM scene is very international and while we’re very aware of how active Europe, the US and even Australia and Japan are when it comes to building awesome Bavarian machinery, there are BMW fans modding cars even further afield in exotic locales and this E28 comes to us all the way from Bali, Indonesia. We’re not even sure if we’ve ever featured a BMW from there before, but it’s awesome to see how far the BM love extends and the different approaches that people around the world take when it comes to modding.
For Hari, modding cars isn’t just his pastime, it’s also his job as he owns BSS Garage (@bss_garage) which carries out custom work on a wide variety of machinery so he’s about as passionate about modifying as it’s possible to be and he’s clearly got a taste for German cars going by his motoring past. “My first car was a Mercedes W123,” Hari tells us, “and I’ve owned and modified an E320 Sportline, a C124 300CE, a W210 E-Class and a G300 G-Wagen.” Yes, okay, that lineup is a little Merc-heavy for our liking and while Hari’s interest in BMs is a rather more recent affair and he’s only been into the marque for five years, his E28 easily makes up for everything. “I love classic BMWs, especially the E9, but they are very hard to find here and very expensive. I wasn’t actually looking for a car but a friend told me about this E28 520i, which was in Java – he said ‘There is an old BMW here that has been sitting on the street for a couple of years and nobody is taking care of it.’ That’s when I had the idea to buy it – I asked my friend to check who owned the car and to tell them that I was willing to buy it and two days later I had it in my garage,” smiles Hari, but as you might expect from an E28 that had spent a couple of years sitting neglected outside, it wasn’t in great condition. “It was rusty everywhere, even on the chassis, and when I checked over the car I saw that some parts were missing. My first idea was that I would like to restore the car to its original condition but that would have needed a lot of work as the Indonesian government made changes to the regulations and we are not allowed to import second-hand parts. So my plans changed and I decided to make it a stance car,” Hari grins and that’s the way we do things – if life gives you lemons, you stance those lemons, hard.
So Hari had an E28 and he had a plan but he also had a lot of rust to deal with so getting the car completely cleaned up and fully painted were the first items on his extensive to-do list and after that, he could get stuck into the mods. There’s a lot to take in here but it’s impossible to ignore the sight of that M20 sitting in that beautifully wire-tucked bay. “My first idea was to put a 2JZ Supra engine into the E28 but trying import the engine was not easy and also expensive, and that’s when my mechanic suggested doing a wire tuck to make the engine bay look clean and modify the M20, so that’s what we decided to do. It took almost 10 months to finish the wire tuck,” says Hari but it was absolutely worth it. The bay looks so clean you could eat your dinner off it, it’s absolutely stunning, and it shows off the M20 perfectly. Now, an NA M20 might not be all that exciting, but this one has been treated to a few enhancements; the biggest change is that it’s now running ITBs, which not only look fantastic but also deliver an epic straight-six induction noise and they are joined by a tubular exhaust manifold and a custom exhaust for even more epic noise at the back. Other engine mods include an aluminium radiator, coil pack conversion and an oil catch can, while the gearbox is the stock five-speeder.
The bodywork is actually the last aspect of the car that Hari worked on, but it’s so spectacular that we can’t ignore it any longer than we already have done, and that custom, Pandem-inspired wide-body gives this E28 some incredible presence. Of course, we fully appreciate that, for a lot of people, the idea of taking a classic 5 Series and bolting on a set of massive arches will not be one they’re okay with but, love it or hate it, there can be no denying that it looks utterly spectacular and a lot of work has gone into fabricating those arches. Oh yeah, that’s right, this isn’t some off-the-shelf wide-body, everything you see before you was hand-fabricated by Hari himself and not only that but the entire kit has been made from metal. It’s an awesome achievement and, truly, the fit and finish are exceptional and there’s a lot of attention to detail here; we love the way the arches flow into the US impact bumper mouldings, then you’ve got the carbon side strips and the rivets running along the entire bottom of the car. It’s clear that Hari has really put some thought and effort into creating this kit and making it work with the styling of the car and it shows.
While the kit delivers the biggest visual hit there’s a lot more to the styling than just the wide-body and Hari clearly has a keen eye for detail. Up front sits a BBS front bumper, a dual headlight conversion and there are also carbon mirror covers while the C-pillar trims are also finished in carbon. There’s a whole load of flair and individual style all packed into one build and this E28 makes a big impact wherever it goes.
Of course, wheels are an essential part of any project but even more so when you’re doing a wide-body build; we’ve seen some pretty impressive-looking wide-body machines ruined by terrible wheel choices but Hari has absolutely knocked it out of the park with what he’s tucked under this E28’s fat arches. “In the beginning, I wanted to put my BBS RSs on this BMW but I needed really wide wheels and so I choose Work Meister M1-3Ps because they come in exactly the sort of sizes I was looking for,” says Hari and these wheels look so good here. These three-piece 18s measure a hefty 10” up front and a monster 12.5”-wide at the rear, they really fill out those fat arches to perfection and the fitment is on point. The colour combo is killer as well, with matt copper/bronze stepped lips and matt black centres and they look fantastic against the candy red bodywork while the classic cross-spoke style suits the design of the E28 perfectly. The wide-body and the wheels combine to deliver a devastating visual blow that just completely knocks your socks off and leaves you reeling – this E28 is all about making a big statement and it’s not shy.
The perfect wheels demand the perfect drop and for Hari, there was only ever going to be one option; “I installed two-way Air Lift Performance universal air suspension because I love to see my old BMW looking very low on the ground,” he grins and we have to agree with him there. Air works so well on classic BMs but when you’ve got one with a wide-body as loud and lairy as this and with wheels as epic as these, air is the only suspension option that can truly do justice to the rest of this build. The manual setup might be simple but it’s all Hari needs to get his E28 sitting as low as possible and when he airs it out it tucks its tyres perfectly into those massive arches and adds that final visual flourish.
Finally, we come to the interior and while Hari says that he decided to make it as simple as he could, we feel that he’s really selling himself short. The reason for his course of action was that attempting to find an original E28 interior in Indonesia to install was proving rather difficult and so the simplest option was to keep things simple, as Hari says. Up front sit a pair of extremely sexy carbon-backed Bride Cuga seats and they are joined by a Nardi steering wheel and a Momo gear knob while the controls and air pressure gauge for the air-ride are mounted in a custom Alcantara-trimmed panel on the dash. So far so good, but then you notice the custom door cards, which are trimmed in Alcantara with red stitching to match the paintwork, and then you realise that in place of the rear seats there is an Alcantara-trimmed bench and that the entire rear of the car is taken up by a stunning and incredibly elaborate air install. There’s a carbon-skinned tank, a single Viair compressor and an intricate network of hard lines and it’s an absolute work of art and the perfect centrepiece for this build, reflecting that eye-popping exterior visual flair on the inside. Hari may have a personal preference for OE over aftermarket, but when there’s no option but to do his own thing he really doesn’t hold back.
What Hari’s built is very much a Marmite kind of car and while, based on our research, it appears Marmite isn’t too readily available in Indonesia, the sentiment transcends language and culture. We’re pretty sure that some local BMW enthusiasts are as disapproving of his creation as those around the world reading about it right now, but we highly doubt that he cares because he’s too busy enjoying himself. And the thing is that Hari’s initial plan was to restore the car but because of the restrictions of the Indonesian government and the rarity of classic BMs out there, it was actually easier to go all-out and build an insane machine like this, which is in itself a little bit insane. Hari says he is done with his modified BMW E28, and there really isn’t a whole lot else he could do after taking it to this level. He’s not given up on his dream of owning an E9 and being able to restore it and make it as clean as possible, though, but in the meantime, he’s got a loud and lairy 5 Series to enjoy. Driving a machine as wild as this is always going to be an absolute riot, and something of a shock to the system for any and all unsuspecting bystanders, and that’s precisely why we love it.
Tech Spec: Modified BMW E28
Engine and Transmission:
2.0-litre straight-six M20B20, full wire tuck, ITB conversion, coil pack conversion, aluminium radiator, fan shroud, oil catch tank, performance exhaust manifold, custom exhaust. Five-speed manual gearbox
10×18” (front) and 12.5×18” (rear) Work Meister M1-3P wheels with matt black centres and copper/bronze lips, 255/40 (front) and 295/35 (rear) Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres, Air Lift Performance universal two-way air suspension, custom front strut brace
Full respray in candy red, custom metal wide-body kit by BSS Garage, BBS front bumper, dual headlight conversion, black grille, black-painted US impact bumpers, carbon mirror caps, door trims and C-pillar trims
Bride Cuga carbon-backed seats, Nardi Steering wheel, Momo gear knob, custom-mounted pressure gauge and air-ride controls, custom-trimmed door cards by BSS Garage, rear seat delete, carbon-skinned air tank, Viair compressor, custom air install by BSS Garage