BMW E28 5 Series By Dream Detail

You might wonder what detailers get up to in their spare time. Ask a typical detailer and they'll guffaw - the mere concept of 'spare time' is faintly ridiculous in this trade. Conversely, Lee Newell of Dream Detail does make a little bit of Lee time available in his schedule. But because his passion is also his profession, he spends a lot of it detailing his own cars. This is the story of a 520i that has been pampered like no other, yet is in daily use. If you thought Ashes to Ashes was realistic, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Look at any detailer's website and you will see the available services start with a maintenance of some description, it will then go up to an enhancement, concluding with a full correction. Some might even offer a concours preparation, but this has taken it to a whole new level. Consider this a car restoration, but by a detailer. The plan was to create a time warp car - to return to April 1986 in every minute detail.

The car was bought in pretty good condition, but areas had been neglected, while previous owners had added the odd modification here and there - if only to replace OEM kit that had failed or become obsolete. First up were the mechanicals - fan and PAS belts were replaced as a precautionary measure.

The rorty exhaust was patched up with a new centre box, a squeaky heater fan was replaced, and various perishables like CV gaiters were replenished where they had vulcanised over time. The handling was restored courtesy of track rod ends and various bushes - again OEM parts, not a polybush in sight. Under the bonnet it only needed a new fuel pressure regulator and service, while a water leak in the boot was the final touch. Next came the cosmetic repairs, starting with removing the various little dents and stone chips.

The car wasn't re-sprayed, though the bumpers did get re-chromed, and the front splitter was removed and re-sprayed, as it had taken the brunt of the stone chips and road rash over the years. The front grill was beyond repair so that too got new original parts. The wiper arms were then re-painted in factory black and the missing tow-eye cover was sourced and fitted. The wheels came from Germany, proper BBS Mahles lightweight items in the correct 6.5j x 14 size, shod with period look 195/70R14 tyres from Michelin. However, the valves were ever so slightly too long - this wouldn't do, so short tyre valves were fitted. The centre caps were hunted down and the wheel nuts were painted with the proper black enamel. Four wheel alignment and tracking was completed, while a slightly skewed handbrake gaiter was adjusted back to where it should be.


Exterior details like wing mirror glass and the correct Beru electric radio aerial were installed, along with a new boot badge. The trim around the windows was beyond repair so got the new treatment, while the black plastic boot spoiler received some serious TLC. Any remaining chrome was brought back up and the side vents on the C-pillars were comprehensively unblocked. The head and tail lights were restored to their original clarity, with the odd bulb being changed in the process. Now it was time to focus on the interior, and first on the agenda was the stereo. While the CD had been invented by 1986, the cassette was still king, so the car would have been fitted with a Blaupunkt unit at the factory.

A subsequent owner had 'upgraded' this, and the speakers themselves, with an aftermarket alternative. This was common practice, and alas the original kit was usually binned, making it difficult to track down functional ones twenty-five years later.

But with a little persistence, Lee found the unit in question, and even rewired the speakers and returned the speaker grilles to stock. The one modernisation he allowed himself was to rig a 3mm stereo jack connection into the rear of the head-unit... there're only so many times you can listen to a 'period' cassette before it either self-destructs or you lose the will to hear anymore.

Broken trim, such as the central air vent was replaced, and even a wobbly speedometer needle got the Lee make-over and finally decided to behave itself. These all sound like sensible and sympathetic steps to take on what many would now describe as a modern classic. But this is where the detailer DNA starts to show....

The toolkit was incomplete so Lee routed out the missing spanners, pliers, and even a wheel chock. He found an original key fob from the original supplying dealer, but couldn't get hold of the sticker that dealers put in the rear window. Refusing to give up, Lee designed a replica and had it made especially for the car. As of last year there was no need to display a tax disc - everything is computerised - but in 1986 you had to have a disc in the window or risk a beating by the old bill. Strangely, the DVLA aren't issuing 1986 tax discs anymore, so once again Lee made his own. He faced similar difficulties with the number plates which had obviously expired over the years and been replaced. Not only were period plates sourced, Lee had the original dealer details printed on them under the main lettering.

For more information do pick up a copy of the PVD Pro Detailer magazine or call your nearest PVD Approved car care professional.