One of the most incredible things about the car community is the use of forums and social media to coordinate, swap parts, share knowledge, and most importantly: post build threads. When we found Evan’s E61 535xi Touring build, we sifted through his sixty-plus page build threads and were absolutely floored by the amount of work and passion present in what we would call an unusual choice for a project of this type.
We say unusual because, as Evan mentions several times in his threads, E61 Touring AWD models were almost exclusively automatic in the states, and were generally driven by your local well-to-do elderly ladies shuttling casserole dishes to church luncheons. Evan was able to see past the grandmotherly exterior and envisioned a brutally evil spirit lurking just below the paint.
Developing a devastatingly quick Touring was not his original intention, however. Evan originally planned on taking a stock, one-owner E61, and turning it into a bit of an M5 clone powered by the original N54. He extensively modified everything from lighting, interior trim, and bumper covers, to more extensive custom fabrication under the hood and even some fairly aggressive coilovers from KW.
After quite involved aesthetic and performance modifications, Evan decided on a manual transmission swap for his wagon. Anyone familiar with manual transmission conversions in any car knows their difficulty. Evan approached the manual swap with the same attention to detail present in the entire build and was rewarded with one of the only manual transmission E61 Touring in existence, and an incredible sense of accomplishment.
The engine saw some heavy modification as well, but unfortunately for Evan, disaster was right around the corner. As the gruesome pictures show, the E61 decided it needed to remodel its block on its own. A complete and total self destruction is the only way to put the catastrophic detonation depicted here.
Evan found a 335is N54 for little money and went to work cleaning the valves, replacing belts, gaskets, studs, seals, and more. All the engine work paired well with nearly a complete rewire; Evan’s engine bay was given its due attention while the motor sat on a stand.
When it was time to put everything back together, Evan took great care to make certain every inch of the rebuild was flawless and meticulously cleaned for a perfect fit-and-finish that would make any enthusiast drool. Final touches included a beautiful polished plenum from Evolution of Speed, which mated to a new fuel rail by the same company.
This whole build could only be described as a fairly exploratory conversion: the N54 Touring saw an M5 Driveshaft, M5 LSD, M5 Axles, M5 Brakes, M5 Rear Suspension, and of course the manual transmission. The transmission swap also took Evan into new territory for USDM BMW’s. His conversion included a RWD setup as opposed to his original AWD factory setup. This required a custom driveshaft, fabricated transmission support, and additional coding in the programing.
Lastly, Evan sorted out a unique shifter that he pieced together himself in his now hybridized Touring. A gated shifter almost found itself at home in the wagon before ultimately it was decided to be fitted with a more traditional setup.