Imagine finding a rough high-mileage second-generation M5 rotting away in exposed storage, and destined to have its engine used as a donor for another project. Oh, and the car is in one of BMW’s most unique—dare I say best?—colors from the 1990s, Daytona Violet. Would you consider it worth saving?
The answer to that question lies in the title of Yello’s 1985 hit single made popular by the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Oh Yeah.”
BMW CCA member, shop owner, and all-around automotive enthusiast Eugene Tkach thought so, too. Tkach’s resume showcases a strong automotive background; his working roles have ranged from engine builder to general manager at the local BMW dealership in his home country of Moldova, and later expanding to high-end supercars like Lamborghinis and Ferraris in a Moscow-based shop.
Tkach came to the U.S. in 2013, and says, “When I got here in the States, I had to start over again. I had no tools and I didn’t speak the language.” He got a job as a mechanic at Excluservice, a European automotive repair shop in Rockville, Maryland. As time passed, he again worked his way to the position of general manager, building relationships with customers and other enthusiasts.
That’s how he was introduced to the BMW CCA. One of those Excluservice customers was the shop’s former owner, famed award-winning BMW restorer Lothar Schuettler. Tkach worked on some of Schuettler’s unique classics, the two became friends, and Tkach was introduced to the Daytona Violet E34 M5 at Schuettler’s home during a visit.
The M5 was rough; there was rot and mold, and the exterior was significantly weathered due to sitting outside for years before moving to Schuettler’s property. But none of that mattered to Schuettler, because he intended to use the M5’s second-generation 3.6-liter 311-horsepower S38B36 engine and manual transmission in a 1980s-era 6 Series project.
After going home and giving it some thought, Tkach decided that he’d like to restore the M5. He says, “I offered him money to buy it, but he refused money. He said, ‘I’m not taking money, because there’s ten or fifteen people sitting in line for that car.’” Tkach offered to help pull the drivetrain in the hope of purchasing the E34’s tired shell and swapping in an E39 M5’s S62 eight-cylinder engine. Since Schuettler needed only the drivetrain, he agreed.
Tkach recalls being shocked by the next surprising turns of events. “Lothar gives me a call, probably two weeks after that, and says, ‘Come over. We need to talk,’” he says. When Tkack got to his house, he recalls, “He just shakes my hand. He tells me, ‘That’s yours.’ I asked, ‘What about the engine? What about transmission?'”
Schuettler replied, “Just take the whole thing—as long as you find me an S52 engine and transmission,” to be used in his E24 project. With that, in late 2019 the Daytona Violet M5 was now Tkach’s.
With the M5 acquired, Tkach didn’t immediately dive into the restoration. He says, “Once I got the car, I cleaned it up as much as I could. Mechanically, I just fixed some suspension components and put on new tires.” And it certainly needed some cleaning, both inside and out. There was a significant amount of mold in the interior, which was addressed with old-fashioned elbow grease.
Tkach considered the age and wear of the 219,000-mile drivetrain prior to going all-in with this E34, saying , “I drove the car for a year, just to make sure all the mechanical parts were not going to fail before I spent money on it. About a year later, I started the [restoration] process.”
With good friends and craftsmen throughout the U.S. and Europe, Tkach took some of the restoration work and parts location abroad. He transported the leather from the front seats home to Moldova during a family trip, and had new covers made based using the old pieces as templates. The rear seats were salvageable, so he dyed them to match the fresh fronts. Additionally, door cards, the shift boot, and other interior pieces all tie together with the same leather. There’s even an M-style stripe stitched into the shifter surround.
The leather-wrapped dash was redone, with a donor dash coming from Moldova, because the original was warped and cracked. Tkach laughs about how he brought the fresh dash home to the U.S. “Most airlines will allow you to bring skis and snowboards for free, so I wrapped it up and said, ‘Here is my snowboard,’” he says. Once here, it was leather-wrapped using the original as a template. But Tkach took it one step further: In addition to having the steering wheel recovered, he also had the airbag cover wrapped to match the dash, similar to the way Alpina did it. To go along with the brand-new interior, the icing on the cake is an Alcantara headliner with matching A and C-pillars.
The engine was pulled to further assess its condition, clean it up, and address any issues. Tkach had performed leak-down and compression tests on the high-mileage S38 and says, “The leak-down test—it passed perfectly. The compression test was just amazing for the mileage that it had. And the engine condition, when I took everything apart—it was almost like brand-new.” Regardless, Tkach replaced the timing-chain guides, valve-stem seals, and all of the seals around the engine. And who can argue with an S38 that sounds that good and pulls that hard?
The wheels are a wonderfully refinished set of factory Style 21 M System IIs topped with “Throwing Stars.” For those not familiar, BMW built a set of turbofan-esque wheels, which could be capped with “Turbine” covers or “Throwing Star” covers; these aided brake cooling and emulated the turbofans seen on the race cars of the 1970s and 1980s. They’re a stylish addition with an interesting story, and fit the car perfectly.
To address some of the body rot, Tkach found a donor E34 from which he used the rear doors and trunk. To perfect the chassis, he worked many long hours with Jairo and Jamie of National Auto Body in Rockville, Maryland, repairing rocker panels, floors, and any other areas that needed to be addressed. With the engine, glass, and panels pulled, the body and chassis received a complete repaint in its original factory finish, Daytona Violet. The results were well beyond Tkach’s expectations. He recalls staying late many nights at the body shop to help, grateful for a job well done, saying, “Those guys provided me with their space, their booth, and their materials. They are my friends.”
From initial disassembly to completion, the restoration took about nine months, with Tkach being involved in every step of the process, performing most of the work himself. Shortly after finishing this stunning Daytona Violet project in March of this year, Tkach seized an opportunity alongside his friend Vlad Crivoi; the pair joined in partnership at CJ Foreign Car Service in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they give the same level of care to customer cars that is evident in this E34 M5.
Tkach now lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with his wife, Anna, and their two-year-old daughter, Miya. What’s next for their E34 M5? At first he jokes, “It’s my daughter’s college tuition,” but then answers more seriously, “I’m not going to sell it. The reason why? My wife and I had a conversation about it. We got this from a gentleman [Schuettler] that we really like and respect, so we’re going to keep this car.”
How does Tkach’s E34 M5 restoration stack up against Shuettler’s standards? Mind you, Schuettler’s restorations have won awards around the world, including a Pebble Beach Pre-war Era Best In Class in 2016 for his 1937 328, so even the smallest details matter. Tkach recalls showing Shuettler the Daytona Violet M5 for the first time. “When he first sees the car after the restoration, he walks around it, comes to me, and shakes my hand—like he’s saying, ‘I’m proud of you.’ That means a lot—especially from a guy like this. It really means a lot.” —Mike Bevels
[Photos by Mike Bevels and as credited.]