No, this is not a belated April Fools prank. A Colorado-based BMW shop has taken it upon themselves to build what is perhaps the ultimate 5 Series Touring that BMW themselves never made: an Alpine White E61 Touring, with an N62 V8 and accompanying 6-speed manual transmission—And boy, is it cool.
In the sphere of enthusiast cars, the long-roof station wagon seems to be enjoying a renaissance. From decade-old Mercedes-Benz E55 AMGs and Cadillac CTS-V wagons fetching upwards of $40,000, to current models, like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake, Mercedes E63 AMG Estate, Audi’s upcoming A6 and RS6 Avants, and… well, nothing from BMW in the US, the auto industry as a whole seems to be picking up on a trend in collector cars that has been growing for years: recognition of the luxury wagon.
In the youngtimer BMW market specifically, not only are we seeing a crop of well-kept E39 Touring models of all varieties appearing on auction site Bring a Trailer, but other manual wagons are commanding high prices as well. Six-speed E91 3 Series wagons are pulling $15-20k and up, while twin-turbo, stick-shift E61 535xi Tourings are even higher than that. Meanwhile, ultra-rare wagons, like the M5 are commanding six digits for the right well-kept examples.
Perhaps driven by that attention, we’ve seen a growing trend in owners creating the wagons they always wanted, most of which involve manual transmissions and liberal applications of power. There’s the now-famous $72,000, S62-powered E39 Touring that sold a couple weeks ago, and now, over on the BMW CCA Classifieds, there’s this: a V8-powered “545iT” built by a BMW CCA member in Colorado.
Before we dive into the car itself, it’s worth noting that BMW’s own high-horsepower manual wagon, the 535xi, was available in six-speed, longroof form, and despite the reliability woes from the infamous N54 twin-turbo motor, could be modified to outperform a stock M5—a car that was itself available as a Touring, albeit only in Europe.
But despite the variety in the 5 Series range from 2004 to 2009, there was one combination BMW never made: the 4.4-liter N62 V8 in the stately touring body style—and this is the gap that Joseph Ryder of Bimrtechnik has filled with the 545iT that is the focus of this article.
The wagon itself is a classy Alpine White over tan leather (including sport seats, a world above the ironically-named “comfort” seats) example, and looks to be presented in good cosmetic shape. The six-speed manual shifter stands out in the center console with what appears to be a weighted M-Sport shift knob, while a fully-functional iDrive is located just above, giving you all the functionality of BMW’s factory 545i sedan—but of course, in wagon form.
We’d love to see this wagon in person to give it a full assessment, but from the description and presentation, it seems like the wagon BMW would have built, retaining all stock functionality (and serviceability), while giving it the drivetrain it always should have had. Unlike most modern-engine builds, this one seems like it could be diagnosed by any BMW dealer or specialist shop in the US—which is a huge asset.
Another huge asset is the engine itself, as it’s been fully disassembled and resealed. You can make N62 reliability jokes all you want, but if you want to minimize headaches, a full refresh seems like the way to go.
Given the options in the existing E61 range, building a V8 touring seems like a passion project for those who crave the intoxicating V8 rumble of the 545i, and the practicality (and really, who doesn’t?) of the touring body style—and if you fit into those categories, this might be the only currently-available wagon for you.
What do you think? Check out the wagon on the BMW CCA Classifieds here, and drop a comment down below. —David Rose