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  1. #1
    rwthomas1
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    Auto or stick? Stock or mod? Mod or M5?

    Hello All,
    I've owed my '00 540 for about 5 months now. I purchased it as an extra family car. I hadn't owned a V8 car in a while and driving the 540 has proven to be a bit of an addiction. I have another "toy" vehicle that I am selling and was considering building a hotrod or musclecar to replace it. It occured to me that the "toy" vehicle, fun though they are, do not get used regularly, and its a bit of a waste of resources.

    Driving the 540 it also occured to me that it was almost the perfect blend of "toy" and practical. I say almost because I want to tinker with it, mod it, etc. I'm guessing that the 6 speed 540 is even more fun, and the M5 even better than that.

    I could keep the 540 and mod it, right up to supercharging it, to get the power I think will make it "right". OR I sell the 540 and buy a used 540 6speed, and then mod that. OR I sell the 540 and just buy an M5. It would seem that if I spend the coin to mod or mess with a 540, stick or auto, it would be easier to just find a good M5.

    So what say the mob? Is the 6 speed stick that much better than the auto? I'm guessing the M5 is better, by a large margin, than everything else. Never driven one though...

    RT

  2. #2
    sktn77a
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    Re: Auto or stick? Stock or mod? Mod or M5?

    Tough decisions! I think the biggest difference is between the manual vs auto transmissions. Having driven 530 autos vs my 5 speed, it's night-and-day. Obviously E39 nirvana is the M5. They can be had for pretty low prices now ($20,000 - $30,000). Only thing to beware of is fouling of the secondary air channels which is beginning to be a common (and very expensive) problem with the M5.

    Keith
    2001 530i 5sp

  3. #3
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    M5 is a very nice car, however the parts costs R (

    high. If you have to bring it into a shop that will cost you a lot too. If you mod the 540 like a lot of us here have done I would do it to a 6 speed. It can handle a lot more power and torque than an automatic and it's a lot more fun to drive unless you are stuck in city traffic.

  4. #4
    Craig in Canada
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    Re: Auto or stick? Stock or mod? Mod or M5?

    IMO: if you want an M5, buy an M5. You get the extra speed and handling out of the box without mods. When you go to sell it - it's an M5 and you'll get M5 money. If someone steals it or totals it - your insurance company should give you M5 money. If you mod a 540 to death, you will have a tough time selling it and you'll probably get stock 540 money from an insurance company or buyer. Mods scare a lot of people off - you'd need to find just the right buyer to take a heavily modded car.

    On the other hand, even routine maintenance items are "special" and limited run. They are more expensive and you're not going to find a lot of your M5 parts at "autohausAZ" for bargain prices. Everything you do will require "special order" this, that and the other thing which is produced in limited quantities. A lot of parts are shared with the rest of the E39s, a lot are not.

    Perhaps you should find a nice 540i6 and lightly mod it in a reversible fashion and keep all of the original parts and then see where you stand. If you've got the budget to handle the total cost of ownership of the M5 experience - go for it. As much as I see M5s and M3s that I could afford to purchase the TCO talks me out of it every time.


  5. #5
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    Well then ... let me ask the question

    ... What mods are available for us to make to the 540/6 that would give real good performance gains? I am asking specifically about power gains that might get you close to M5 territory once complete

    ... I am familiar with advice to take driving school, suspension upgrade improvements etc etc ... I'm asking about decent power gains

    I can't imagine there is much gain in things like CAI, Exhaust or chips (software) ... but I could be wrong lol ... these things didn't make a whole lot of difference in my e28 and I'm assuming they've not come up with miracles since then. Heck, bolt on euro headers didn't buy you anything (or much) either, unless you did major engine work to squeeze it out. Sellers would advertise big gains for their products and owners would find out they were exaggerated or bogus claims once dyno'ed in the car

    It seems to me to be an issue of deciding what level of performance you're happy with and buying that car from the beginning. However, being over 50 years old I don't know a thing about adding NOS etc to my cars ... maybe this is where we get great gains these days

    Inquiring minds want to know


    Michael in MD
    CCA #442539

    2003 540i 6-speed M Tech II sport
    Sterling Gray / Black Leather
    Cold Weather Package
    Electric Rear Sunshade
    Premium Sound
    Gas Guzzler
    Build Date 5/03

    35% 3M Tint

    ASA 17" AR1's Black w/ Machined lip
    Pirelli 210 Zero winter wheel & tire package

    CDV Deleted
    All fluids replaced @ 37k

    [Grinning from ear to ear]


  6. #6
    Craig in Canada
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    Re: Well then ... let me ask the question

    My former indy is the Dinan distributor for Canada. I had the occasion to drive a non-VANOS 540iA car which they put nearly every trick on except the super charger. That neck snapping pull that you get on launch which peters out as revs rise didn't peter out. 4000rpm snapped your neck just the same and when there was an upshift you didn't get that increase in acceleration from dropping back DOWN to the torque peak. The early M62s also had a different intake manifold (which Dinan sells for all M62s as a "Dinan" IM) which probably makes a difference in that regard.

    I think there are gains to be had from intake, exhaust, throttle body when accompanied by the appropriate engine and transmission (for autos) software.

    I've read some posts from some here who have upgraded to M5s. I'm not really sure that anything is quite the same no matter what you do. It sounds like a different kind of power profile which also seems to ramp up as you go faster. I had a Porsche that was kind of the same - it's 60-100 acceleration was surprising considering what its 0-60 felt like. Gearing? Ram air intake? Low drag? I don't know, but it was different than most cars. It was no stop light drag racer or quarter mile champ but punch it at 100 and the rear would still squat and it would keep hauling up the speedo. Like I ever got to use that capability for much...

    I've known people who have heavily modified their cars. Some say "never again". Some have been screwed by insurance companies. Some had trouble selling. At the outset it may seem less expensive than buying the model you really want, but often it actually isn't.


  7. #7
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    +1, all of those mods you speak about are really(m

    won't give a true hot rodder the gains to satisfy them. IMHO there are only 2 things to do, short of boring, stroking, porting, and cam change to give some of us what we are truly looking for.
    Supercharging or Nitrous is the way to go, both have their + and -.

    RT, if the weather and roads weren't so bad I'd drive down to RI and show you what 475HP/540lb-ft in a 540 felt like. If you want a N2O system, I'll give you a hand with installing one.


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    Re: +1, all of those mods you speak about are really(m

    Thanks for answering Jim ... I didn't mean for my post to go where it ended up nor did I mean to put the pressure on Craig to answer all my questions ;-)

    Are the + & - 's you mention recorded here on the e39 board for us to search out, or, would you like to summarize them for us new folk (or both is okay too ;-)?


    Michael in MD
    CCA #442539

    2003 540i 6-speed M Tech II sport
    Sterling Gray / Black Leather
    Cold Weather Package
    Electric Rear Sunshade
    Premium Sound
    Gas Guzzler
    Build Date 5/03

    35% 3M Tint

    ASA 17" AR1's Black w/ Machined lip
    Pirelli 210 Zero winter wheel & tire package

    CDV Deleted
    All fluids replaced @ 37k

    [Grinning from ear to ear]


  9. #9
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    Yes | No

    Just a few of the +/- of both mods (m)

    Supercharging
    You always have it's power available unless the fuel tank is empty.
    Smooth delivery of power that builds as RPM increases.
    $5-6K for parts plus installation (1 day, maybe 2, plus remap of the DME).
    When you sell the car your S/C usually goes with it.
    Your MPG is lower, injectors are larger.
    540sport may want to add his S/C comments, he has a Dinan S/C.

    Nitrous
    $500-700 for parts plus installation (~6 hrs, depends on how elaborate you want to get, dual stage, port injection, etc)
    You need some N2O in the tank to supply the O2 or you don't have the extra HP. To refill a 10LB tank can cost $30-60 depending on what part of the country you live in. 15 and 20 Lb tank sizes are available. (I would skip the 10Lb size and use 15 or 20LB if you are using a 50HP or more setup)
    Only used at wide open throttle.
    Instant power, tons of low end torque, easy and inexpensive to increase power level.
    Good MPG, no modifications to the engine or DME are required.
    When you sell the car you can remove it and put it on your next ride.

    I really like both setups, I had my nitrous setup left over from my old 300ZX and installed it on my 540.

  10. #10
    Ed CT
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    Jim-you need to get a pic of all those...

    Concours award stickers under the hood!

  11. #11
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    Those sticker R just 4 attending, the real plaques


  12. #12
    Bimmer5Michael
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    How about.........

    The M5 is a true hole in the ground for throwing your money into. Many people say the 540 is very reliable but when you need to buy parts, get ready to thin out your billfold. Just do a search on items like brakes, clutches, etc compared to the 540 and you will get the picture. If you have a ton of money laying around go for the M5.

    But hey if you are into hotrodding, find a nice E28 535 IS (for the interior and suspension only (the engine can be blown, the drive shaft shot, the rear end blown) because you are not going to need any of that.

    Find a donor truck for the engine and sensors or better yet a Corvette with a newer LS engine and swap it all over to the E28.

    Now an E28 with sport seats and LS engine at least a 5.3 with a 6 speed, nice brakes and a revamped rear suspension would be a really nice sleeper, have 4 doors and nice sized trunk and go like stink!

    Problem is you rarely see E28s for sale or otherwise anymore. I did see one a few years back at the dealer that had a transpplanted E34 540 engine 6 speed, and rear suspension grafted into it and it all looked like it was born there.

    Michael
    00 540 sport 6 speed 153,000 miles

  13. #13
    rwthomas1
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    Re: Auto or stick? Stock or mod? Mod or M5?

    Well, that produced some interesting answers! I've owned a 455 Pontiac powered 72 Firebird with almost every mod possible for 1/4 mile work. Also owned a 89 5.0 LX came with 150 NOS system and I ended up with a Vortech on it. Both were nice but I liked the SC better. Always there, just put your foot in it. MPG's were not bad either if you just drove it "normal".

    I never considered the M5 maintenance factor. A 6 speed 540I sport would likely be a better choice. Then again, a manual shift car just makes me do stupid things like toss it sideways in corners for fun. I'm probably too old to start that crap again. If the automatic would take the NOS the price is certainly right for the occasional attack at a stoplight. I'll have to think about it.

    My experience with mods is that CAI's, exhaust, headers, etc. give limited gains, especially without tweaking the computer, and more importantly, all those mods really need more CAM(S) to really be worth it. A set of cams for a 4.4 would be nice....

    JimLev, if you are offering a ride in the NOS monster, hell, I'll come to you!

    RT

  14. #14
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    Sure, I'll give you a ride, 5 or 6 others here (m)

    have been along for a neck snap before I put the port injection on it.
    It will have to wait until spring, I don't drive it in the winter.
    I travel thru RI on business a bunch so I could even come to you.

  15. #15
    rwthomas1
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    Re: Sure, I'll give you a ride, 5 or 6 others here (m)

    No problem, I'll wait until spring. Any details on your NOS system and its installation would be nice. I'm likely not interested in a complex system like yours, a single stage is more my speed.
    RT

  16. #16
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    Here's the directions for the kit I bought back (m

    in 1989, it doesn't get much simpler than this. I kept modifying it until it got to where it is today.
    NOS Directions, click here for pdf

  17. #17
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    Hell, I'd like one! Do you ever get to

    Cincinnati? I'll give you a ride in the Challenger too!Fritracer
    Cincinnati, OH
    2000 540ia Sport Package 9/99 Silver/Black
    1970 Dodge Challenger T/A 420 stroker w/6 Pak 430 HP,
    510 lbft torque

  18. #18
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    Wish I had the time to drive to Cinn and go for (m

    a ride in your car. That's a bit to far for a few day trip, I usually fly to places more than 600 miles away.

  19. #19
    ExAlfa
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    As CraigInCanada describes, a modded 540iA...

    can be a load of fun. Mine has all the Dinan goods less the supercharger and it pulls as CiC described his experience. Last week I nosed a Jeep SRT. He wasn't happy. His buddy was laughing. My preference is for power coming off the apex, so NOS would lose favor to a supercharger. But the cost delta is huge.

    Funny thing with the Dinan mods is that seemingly frilly things like CAI are the ticket to getting the software changes. From what I've read I'm impresses with the development effort that Dinan heaps on their products, so I'm going to believe effective his efforts at opening up induction so exhaust can breathe and together allow well designed mapping to be it's most efficient. At a minimum the CAI does make for a great under-hood growl nearly all the time. A head-turning growl, but not too loud.

    I really should drive a stocker of the same era - mine is a non-vanos cabled throttle '98 auto - so I can see the difference. My car just continues to pull until the remapped redline, and the tranny software makes quick shifts. The techs at Dinan say to go ahead and row through the gears manually as desired, and I do when driving Finger Lakes roads. When in Sport mode it downshifts nicely. Add the suspension and superlight wheels and the car is way more fun to drive than I admit to my wife.

    I would like to transfer most of the mods to the car's replacement if it turns out to be a 2003 M-Sport. At 219k it's still running strong and has no issues (knocking hard on head). If all you're looking for is a straight-ahead performer then go for a ride in Jim's car to see how his NOS feels. Jim's car has a modded suspension, though, so you may get roped into more than you intended. What the heck, why not?

  20. #20
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    Don't count me out coming off an apex (m)

    Maybe a single stage setup would be as you described. I did notice that when I had a single shot setup it was very impressive at lower RPMs and the shove back into the seat diminished as the RPMs increased past 4.5K, the dual stage took car of that.
    I think a S/C would be better at the high end of the scale, but I'm loving the off the line to ~100MPH performance.
    Hoping to be out your way after winter leaves, I'll take you for a ride.

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