Klaus A. Schnitzer shares his experience of meeting BMW CCA John Joseph and his family of BMW fanatics with BimmerLife. Buckle up for glorious E38 7 Series content!
At the 2021 Lime Rock Fall Festival, my wife and I were fascinated by a menacingly wonderful 2001 E38 740iL. This particular 7 Series belongs to John Joseph and in chatting with him at Lime Rock, we learned that his whole family drives BMWs. As avid car and BMW enthusiasts, we became friends, which led to a road trip to the Pocono Hills in Pennsylvania for a BMW photo date and chat with Joseph and his family.
Given the number of BMWs the Joseph family owns, it’s surprising that John is a relatively new member of BMW CCA, having only joined in 2021. His son Brian beat him to the punch in that department and has been part of the CCA family since 2017. The whole group agrees that they are drawn to the marque for the styling, history, lifestyle, and quality. John credits his long-time friend, Wayne Jackson, with starting his BMW journey, and his nephew, Shawn Guy, for pushing him to buy his E38 7 Series.
In addition to his E38 7 Series, Joseph’s wife Pamela is the proud owner of a very raucous 2012 X5 50i (E70) and a 2007 525xi (E60). He says that when the X5 bellows to life, even distant neighbors take notice. Breanna, their first-born, drives a 2012 328i Touring (E92) with xDrive. Kelvin, the older twin, drives a Dinan-tuned 2016 535xi (F10). Brian, the younger twin, co-owns a 2007 E92 335i Coupe with his cousin Ahmad (among other customized vehicles).
Joseph speaks with passion about his favorite car events like Cars & Coffee, FCP Euro at Lime Rock, MPACT Motorsports Festival (Poconos), the Clean Culture Events Season closer in New York, Vorged Society at Kalahari Resorts, and the great people he meets there. His favorite car media are BimmerLife, Roundel, Car & Driver, Top Gear, Texas Metal, Iron Resurrection and Officially Gassed.
During our visit, I had the opportunity to further chat with Joseph about his family, his BMWs, his ownership experience, that magnificent 7.
Klaus A. Schnitzer: What do you enjoy about modifying BMWs?
John Joseph: I get a lot of pleasure modifying my vehicles. It gives them my own touch—not based on what other people say or think. I try to mod in a way that doesn’t take away from the original design. In my opinion, our personal touch enhances the lines and features of the car and does not take away from it. And that’s what we go for: subtle elegant changes.
The first things we do are tint the windows, add new wheels and tires, upgrade the sound system, lower the car, and upgrade the suspension. We are into speed and performance, but that can be cost preventative. We concentrate on cosmetics and audio-visual upgrades.
[For my E38], I want to install a widebody kit—something subtle and tasteful for the 7 Series. I approached LTO (Live to Offend), but the price is out of my budget—way out of my budget. So with body modifications, an engine swap, and a possible wheels and tire update, for now I am done. I don’t have any sponsors or backing of any kind, so the road to achieve my vision is long—very long.
I appreciate people taking the time to express their approval for what we have created. I enjoy being able to pass on the contact info for the shops and companies that I worked with modifying my vehicles, like the changes to the exterior, the interior, the audio system, the paint, and so on.
It always surprises me with how much the Gen Z crowd knows about my car. Going to shows also gives me inspiration for future mods.
KS: What’s the story behind your E38 7 Series?
JJ: Before the 7, I was building an M-inspired 540 (E39). I had everything on hand for the M conversion. My nephew mentioned, “Why don’t you get a 7 Series?” I said, “No, not for me.”
Then, one day I was at Dachs Automotive in Brooklyn, New York and my nephew said, “Let’s go for a ride.” A friend of his had an [E38] 7 Series and I rode in the back seat. The space and ride was amazing, and that was it. I’m a big guy, and the size of the 7 Series (other than an X5) was perfect for me.
I sold the 540 and the parts that I had purchased and started my search for a 7 Series. I was looking for an E38 750il or 740il. None of the 750s that we had found were in reasonable shape (especially for their asking price). Finally, I found a 740iL in Maryland. It was black on black with shadowline trim. Even though it was not a 750, it was still an easy decision [to buy it].
KS: What modifications have you made to the big 7?
JJ: The brakes have been upgraded to 750 rotors and calipers. There’s a Dragging Style Customs air ride suspension. The wheels are Ferrada FR2s in bronze–20×9 in the front, 20×11.5 in the rear, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. A custom rear bumper was built by Team Performance, along with updated side valances, a front lip, and custom paint by Manny and his team at Honesty Repair. LED tail lights, upgraded headlights, a subtle trunk spoiler, and E39 M5 mirrors, and twenty-percent tint complete the exterior.
The interior makeover includes a Sheldon and Sherwin sound system by Sleepy Soundz, an Alcantara headliner, an E39 M5 custom flat-bottom alcantara and carbon fiber steering wheel and instrument cluster. The quilted floor mats are custom made in leather with blue diamond stitching.
KS: Do you have any BMW-related automotive adventures planned?
JJ: Being from Trinidad and Tobago, I grew up seeing mountainous landscapes and driving on the sides of cliffs. Pikes Peak reminds me of home, with the mountains and winding roads with pull-offs. I look forward to one day cruising up Pikes Peak and reaching the top for the views and beauty (and aggressively driving the course). In 2017, I drove halfway up the highway, but had to turn around because of an impending snow storm.
KS: What vehicles would be in your perfect garage?
JJ: I’d love to add an E30 M3, E31 850i, E38 750iL, E39 M5 and an X5M. Pamela is on the lookout for a 2018 Long Beach Blue X5M with a Mugello Red interior.
It has been great getting to know Joseph, his family, and to be able to capture all of his BMWs in our photo shoot. We’ll be seeing you around, John! —Klaus Schnitzer
Klaus A. Schnitzer is an Emeritus Professor at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey where he taught photography in the department of Art & Design from 1971 until his retirement in 2021. His exhibition career consists of over 180 regional, national, and international shows. A genuine interest in cars fostered Klaus Schnitzer’s ‘other’ career as automotive photographer and writer. He has written over 200 automotive articles with a concentration on BMW. His latest book project was the photography for “The Power of M” exhibit at The Ultimate Driving Museum, celebrating 50 years of BMW M (2022).