Reader Submissions: It’s Not Miles That Create Memories, it’s The Stops Along The Way

It’s Not Miles That Create Memories, it’s The Stops Along The Way

Petrolicious Productions By Petrolicious Productions
November 4, 2014
22 comments

Owner: Pavel Vasilev

Year, Make, and Model: 1988 BMW M5

Location: Sugar Land, Texas, USA

Photographer: Pavel Vasilev and txmotofoto.com

I have had a natural tendency towards automobiles since a young age, probably due to a very hands-on dad who always fixed his own car. His engineering background and skillset have rubbed off on me, and according to my parents my very first word was “car” or in Bulgarian, “kola.”

I have been an active BMW enthusiast for about six years now. My BMW ownership originally started with a red E34 540i with a manual six-speed transmission. I had that car through college and it taught me a lot. I just recently replaced it with an E39 M5. In the meanwhile, I have developed an interest in vintage BMWs by owning an earlier model E28 and later on a gray-market E23 745i Turbo.

The E28 community in Texas is very strong. These cars survive down here as we’re far away from the Rust Belt. I found this M5 on mye28.com, and arranged to meet the previous owner half way between Grand Junction, CO and Houston, TX. It took a sleepless twenty-eight hour road trip to bring the car home. But as my co-driver and friend Sherman Watters says, “It’s not the miles that create the memories, it’s the stops along the way”. We drove through rain, hail, thunderstorms… and law enforcement. That is how my ownership of a legendary car began.

The first E28 I ever drove was an M5 that my friend Sherman trusted me to take for a spin, and it genuinely captivated me. The feel of being so close to the road, the lightness of the clutch and the raw output, were a great combination. Only a month later, I had my first E28 (533i with a 5 speed). Driving that car or even sitting in traffic reminded me of my childhood and my dad’s trusty VAZ 2101. It did not take long until I sold that car and I found my project E28 M5. This is a car that I plan on keeping for a while.

The car is a 1988 BMW M5 in Schwarz with a Natur interior. Production month and year are July 1987. However, all North-American E28 M5s were sold as 1988 models. I am the seventh owner. I bought it as a tired, 206,000mi E28 about a year-and-a-half ago. It was a completely stock sample that was in need of serious suspension work. It had rust; the interior was torn up and in need of serious clean up. But I had a folder of receipts dating back to January of 1989, when a gentleman in CA purchased the car brand new. I probably spent half a day just going through the car’s history. The S38 engine was in great shape, and extremely clean.

During my ownership, I have sourced out quite a few of the missing stock pieces, such as an original coolant expansion tank, a fresh airbox, and a complete tool kit. Over the past year and a half, I have upgraded the suspension to SPAX shocks and springs, polyurethane bushings all around, big brake kit, Billy Boat exhaust, and a fresh set of 17” BBS RS090 wheels, which I had refinished at home. The interior got returned to its former glory. But yet, my biggest modification was the euro conversion. The conversion was done down to the smallest details. In this process major rust spots were also addressed. The car is nowhere close to being a garage queen, but that’s not my intent. It’s my weekend warrior and the Euro plate is a tribute to my homeland of Bulgaria.

At 217k miles on the clock, I trust the car to take me anywhere I want. The S38, which is a derivation of the legendary M88/1, makes the car really come alive. The fact that the car was hand-built makes it even more special when wrenching on it at home. I do most of my work in my garage by myself, or accompanied by friends and good laughs. Just like any self-respected DIY-home mechanic, I love taking my time and stepping back and just admiring the result, with a beer in one hand.

My immediate BMW community is more than just fellows sharing the same passion. It leans more towards one large family. We have an annual gathering in Texas called Tex-Fest LoneStar Burgers & Fives. This year was its sixth installment and thanks to my BMW passion I have become an inseparable part of one large family. It’s priceless.

I love taking the E28 on twisty roads around the US. So far I have driven on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tail of the Dragon, the woods of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. The M5 made an appearance at The Vintage at the Vineyards in 2013 in Winston-Salem, NC. It was one of the 18 E28 M5s to attend. Is there a better way to commemorate twenty-five years since the first M5 came to the US? The car even took me all the way to the top of Snowshoe Mountain. I have been in the Texas Hill Country twice so far and have conquered the Three Sisters. A dream would definitely be to drive the car back home where I grew up, but a more realistic goal would be the scenic Route 101.

Despite the fact that there were 1,340 E28 M5s produced for the North American market, of which possibly half are still kicking around, I believe mine is unique. I have added my personal touches, by performing all the modifications to the car, to make it handle and appear just like I envisioned it. I never really minded the US bumper look (the “diving boards”) as they have a certain appeal to them, but the euro-bumper conversion transformed the car and made it era-specific. It does stand out in the crowd, but yet can be very unassuming. My next large project, apart from regular maintenance, is engine work. It’s going to be mostly freshening the wear items on the S38 engine.

It is an absolute honor to own the first M5 on the verge of the thirtieth anniversary since the M5 line was introduced to the automotive world. It is truly living with a legend.

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Vincent
Vincent

Awesome car man, and great philosophy. I respect people that consider a car a show item or a garage queen, but in my opinion cars are meant to be driven. You treat your car with care, but don’t exaggeratedly invest in looks. Looks cost money, money you can use on gas for your road trips. My E28 will often be dirty for a while, but god forbid I spend a beautiful sunny day cleaning it instead of driving it. Cudos!

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

what a wonderful car.
this is still the best m5 – lean and purposeful with the mighty straight six and robust getrag gearbox.
no need for more cylinders, dopey semi-auto transmissions or turbochargers !
its a shame the true essence of m has disappeared from bmw

Pavel Vasilev
Pavel Vasilev

Agreed. The last sentence summarizes it all. M cars are a different market now.

BMW 528i F10 owner
BMW 528i F10 owner

I agree mr Neuman, the new turbo and semi-auto are nowhere near to the original spirit of BMW Motorsport. The E34 M5 is also a car that was build in that tradition.
M stands for Motorsport

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman

hello mr guest, right you are about the e34 m5.
i knew a fellow who had an original e34 m5 with the turbine wheels, that was later traded for a later e34 with 3.8 motor + 6-speed gearbox. both true m-cars.

Todd G. Westlie
Todd G. Westlie

As a 20 year owner of a 1993 M5, I heartily agree that my car and its E28 elder brother, are two cars that do and always will stand out from the newer everyone elses “…sort of an M…” 5 Series Bimmers.

BMW 528i F10 owner
BMW 528i F10 owner

This M5 (535iM) needs a lot of work. This car originally came from the South of Germany (autohaus Fink Erlangen) where it was probably bought in the late 90’s by Bulgarians when these old 5 series were sold for scrap prices.
The Bulgarian roads did no good to this high performance sedan the present owner already made that right. That filthy interior is completely worn down…..
Still,….. I really like old M cars; German engineering made to perfection.
Check (www.mobile.de) for better examples

CHRIS DAGNOLO
CHRIS DAGNOLO

Cool to see somebody from the Land of Sugar (as my son likes to call it) get their write up in this great showcase called Petrolicious! I really love those original M5’s and the second generation. I have a buddy who has at least one of most of the generations of M5’s and always have thought it would be a fun collection to own! I recognize quite a few of those picture locations, good stuff! I’ll give you a couple clues for your next Hillcountry drive: Hwy 16 south out of Kerrville and the roads to and from Utopia. There’s… Read more »

Pavel Vasilev
Pavel Vasilev

Haha good to know I have Sugar Land neighbors reading this article. Feel free to wave me down if you see me at the grocery store.

The hill country is our second home. It reminds me a lot of the scenery from home.

Sherman Sr.
Sherman Sr.

…and yes, a significant “stop along the way”, it is. 😉

Pavel Vasilev
Pavel Vasilev

The man himself, that help me start this journey!

MM
MM

Great story and excellent article. The car is just stunning on these gorgeous BBS’s… Any pics of the cleaned interior?
Allways makes me smile to see such gems getting in the hands of a real enthusiast.

Поздрави от София! 😉

David Vassilev
David Vassilev

Wow… are you kidding me. Talk about a small freakin world. Not only am I also a Vassilev (spelling changed a bit after I moved to the States when I was 8), I too was born in Bulgaria, my brother’s name is PAVEL, AND we are both BMW nuts! Here are photos of my e36 Dinan M3, my e30 Dinan Turbo, and Pavel’s e30 convertible. Crazy!

Pavel Vasilev
Pavel Vasilev

It is a very small world for sure! Find me on facebook in order to keep in touch.

Jim Bair
Jim Bair

Thank you, Petrolicious for featuring the wonderful BMW E28. Pavel’s excellent write up illustrates a common theme – The cars are great, the people are even better.

VN
VN

Свалям шапка.

Иван Балев
Иван Балев

Поздрави от Варна!

Pavel Vasilev
Pavel Vasilev

Поздрави колега! 🙂

Тодор
Тодор

Браво, Павка!

Vasi Atanasova

I am really a newbie to the BMW sphere, just got my first BMW, 320d wagon. Yes, a wagon here in Europe, you can’t find them in the US. I really was looking for a sedan, but in Germany they are rear! People drive wagons here! So, it’s not really an oldie, a 2006 edition, but I think I will keep it until it turns into a classic … So, I just want to say a great article. I just recently discovered Petrolicious, because I am a car fan in general and I write about cars and I work for… Read more »

TJ Martin
TJ Martin

Great car . Nice write up . And good that it gets driven regularly . But a minor correction .BMW’s M cars [ with the sole exception of the original M1 ] come off the assembly line just like all other BMW’s do . Only the E30 M3 had a fair amount of hand work done [ rear window , flares , roofline etc ] with all subsequent M cars having a very limited amount hand work and the motors being hand assembled . Even Alpina’s start off life on an assembly line before finding their way into the hands… Read more »

Yemi
Yemi

Sorry sir, actually the e30 //M3 coupe was not hand built, however the e30 //M3 convertible was handbuilt alongside the e28 M5, e34 M5 totally handbuilt to the point you could watch your car being built during a visit to the factory (the e28 M5’s and e34 M5’s were/ are very very specials cars indeed)then laterly following models like e36 m3 onwards or the e39 M5 onwards were built on the normal assembly line, just wanted to re-correct your minor correction