The V8 Bike Bus.

The V8 Bike Bus.

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573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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I've previous with dangling bikes off all manner of cars I've had, some of the more fun ones being Elises and my Caterham (Readers' Cars thread here).












I help at a youth mountain biking club. My kids attend too and we've had various vehicles for transporting our bikes to the rides. Best of the bunch have been the X5s we've had as the boots are big enough for our kit and the self-levelling suspension means that even with 4 mountain bikes hanging off a towbar carrier the vehicle remains level and drives pretty much as if the bikes aren't there which is certainly not the case with some of the estate cars we've also tried. Also as some of the venues we cycle from are accessed along tracks, something that can get down them through winter mud without getting stuck is more than a bonus.

I also occasionally need to tow a track car and again, from experience the X5s make superb tow cars. I've had various X5s in the past, all bar one have been petrol. Life's too short to drive something that sounds like a commercial vehicle just to save a few quid. Add in the quasi-science around the cleanliness of diesels plus the pain in the arse that DPFs and EGR nonsense can cause and I'd rather have to fill the tank slightly more often.

I'd previously had an E70 4.8i Sport. It was a good car but felt large. Strangely even larger than the F15 feels on the road. So I decided to hunt out a late, well-spec'd E53.


It's not well known that BMW tried the S62 in the E53 chassis as a prototype for a first-gen X5 M. The S62 sump won't fit with the transfer box and other 4wd nonsense so it would have had to run RWD only. They made one and tested it though. However, it was decided that the project was a non-starter as an X car had to have 4wd.

However, what it prompted was when they faclifted the e53, they made a 4.8is. This had the N62B48 which was a stroked B44 based on the parts Alpina used to make the B10. It made the same torque as an S62 and only 10% less power. It carried over the parts that were alledgedly considered for the never produced X5 M (in e53 form). They have a unique bodykit, wheels (20" as standard when Sport E53s had 19s), clocks carried over from the E39 M5 with the warm-up lights on the tacho and a temp gauge (normally reserved for M cars where the mpg swingometer otherwise sits) and all-round height adjustable air suspension. They are a fairly rare thing, as RRP with no options was £59,945. The similarly spec'd 4.4i Sport at the same time was £50,070 so you had to really want the 4.8is to spend the almost £10k extra or £20k more than the £39,110 a 3.0d Sport was.

So I watched the classifieds for a few months and saw various 4.8is pass through. They seem to be gaining interest and prices have started to firm up. Indeed there are some chancers speculating cars at asking prices that are fairly optimistic. I've seen more than one offered for over £11k since Christmas.

I chanced upon a car that looked to have lead a charmed life until recently being subject to numerous questionable aesthetic alterations. It also had a few niggles so it was cheap-ish for one, but it needs an amount of rescuing. I collected it, drove off and got all of 50 miles before it broke down, a dead alternator and no charge.



An RAC patrol-man came and gave it enough juice for me to start it and drive it off the motorway and then it got recovered back to Sussex.



So in the cold light of day, just what have I bought.....?

crossie

160 posts

194 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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you get it fixed??

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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I wasn't incredibly happy that it didn't even get me home, but just what had I bought?

It's a November 2004 4.8is in Sterling Grey. It's got an extensive service history with a fully-stamped book and a folder of receipts. In the last year it had £1700 spent on a service including the timing chain, rocker gaskets, one of the air suspension struts and the air controller. And it all seems to work well and it drove fantastically before it broke down. It's also really loaded including panoramic roof, heated rear seats, dynamic (steering) bi-xenons and the bits that were most important to me, detachable towbar, no side-steps and comfort seats.


But in the column entitled 'not so good': Someone's painted the grille black. Badly. The lights need a polish and it needs a new bonnet badge.



The steering wheel is really badly worn at the top. I wonder if it could even be from a Disklok it's so bad and so focused in that area. The driver's bolster is also fked. The rest of the interior is in really good condition though. No damage or scratched plastics.



The wheels have been painted grey, really badly over the original kerbed and corroded silver paint, it has tints that are much too dark and the rear lights are weird smoked things. It also has some odd rear camber going on which makes the wheels look like the offset's wrong and they're sat in too far. It also has a properly chav-tastic exhaust. It's a full stainless system and actually sounds quite good, the exhaust tips aren't pretty though. However the paint is good and underneath the tat I'm confident that there's a really nice car.



I gave it a first appraisal and whilst looking at the lights noticed that the light emitted from them was duller than you'd expect and on closer examination they appeared to actually be painted. An exploratory scrape with a razorblade confirmed that some tosser has painted them dark grey at some point.



So I crossed replacement OEM rear lights off my shopping list but added the task of removing the paint from them to my list of jobs.

First things first though, I had to get tit working again so I bought a replacement Valeo OEM spec alternator and fitted it. It's a straightforward job made difficult by how close the alternator is to the chassis rail. It was difficult to remove it and twice as difficult to reconnect the wiring and to get it back into the correct place and line the bolts up.



The battery that was fitted didn't seem to want to recharge either. It was a Yuasa silver, which Halfords now offer as their 'premium' range. The problem with them is they're a calcium cell and calcium cells don't like to be completely discharged. Doing so tends to make them scrap. I had it on charge for 3 days and the charger didn't seem able to get it going so I bit the bullet and spent the money on a Bosch AGM battery. The car doesn't need an AGM but from past experience of X5s, they have a lot of systems that rely on a solid battery voltage, so I decided the investment was worth it. It turned up and I fitted it. On an E53 it's hidden in a recess under the boot floor, under the airsuspension tank which is under the space-saver (if the car has one).



As luck would have it the Yuasa then started to take some charge, so after 4 days my smart charger had managed to coax it back into life. Having a large spare battery is useful so it's not the end of the world.

With the new alternator and battery fitted all of the faults the car had displayed before it died on my drive home, were suddenly fixed. It had reported ABS failure, transmission fault, check engine, air suspension inoperative, the stereo and nav had failed and other random glitches. With the voltage restored the faults all cleared as I'd hoped they would.

I then set to restoring the rear lights. I tried every kind of chemical means I could think of to remove the paint including old-fashioned brake cleaner. Some of them worked to a degree but the going was very slow and messy. In the end I settled on the following technique:

- Soaking in brake fluid and using a razor blade to scrape the paint off.



- Wet sanding with various grades of paper on a rotary sander



- Cutting compound on a rotary polisher



- And polishing with plastic polish



It was tedious, laborious stuff but the finished article made the effort worthwhile as they look so much better. Now the lights aren't grey the grey of the car is starting to pop more too and the colour is really growing on me.



Next job was a trip over to my favourite Indi, Olly at Owen garages for an oil service and a stamp in the book.





Edited by 573 on Tuesday 19th February 13:04

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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A big part of this project for me will be making this drive as well as it it possibly can. Hopefully I'll also improve the aesthetics along the way and modernise some of the toys it has to make it a nicer thing to use.

So with numerous important jobs pressing on I ignored all of them and got on with the first step of making it better to drive: lowering the ride height. One of the reasons I wanted a 4.8is is that they have factory air on the front and rear axle and have a height controller on the dashboard to select the different heights. I bought a set of links from http://www.airridelowering.com which you simply adjust to the length you want and then swap them with the standard links that are on the ride-height sensors.

The kit is really good, fitting is easy and back-up support from Mike, the company owner was fantastic. I lost one of the dust covers while fitting and he sent me 4 more and some spare balljoints next-day delivery at his own cost. This is how 'access mode' sits now:



If you plug a trailer into the tow-electrics it defaults to 'towing height' and sets the stability control and other things up accordingly. It can't differentiate between a trailer and a bike rack plugged into the electrics, so with the bikes on it defaults to the same height.





The main reason to get the car was for mountain biking and using it for the first time completely justified the purchase. It carried the bikes effortlessly, there's loads of room inside for our stuff and it managed to negotiate terrain to get to the spot we were cycling at that a 'normal' car just couldn't have done. I got to do skids in the wet mud too.

Next job was to take it back to Owen Garages to have new arms and bushes fitted to fix the rear camber issue and to then align the car based on the new rideheights. While dropping it off I liked this view of it with one of Olly's race cars and one of the mechanic's Disco. The X5 looks kind of like the offspring of the other two.


Danm1les

584 posts

97 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Nice beast!

Are you going to chage the tips of the exhaust and take the wheels back to silver in time?


573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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After investigating the excessive rear camber Owen Garages fitted new rear arms, lower rear ball-joints and front steering arms and track-rods. It then got an alignment. After picking it up it drove so much better. So I wasted no time fitting the spacers I'd bought. I went with H&R as I've used them before and the quality is very good. They're TUV approved which means they've had some level of quality assurance which seemed important to me for something that'll be holding the wheels on a 2-tonne truck.



I put 25mms on the front and 30s on the rear, so widening the track 50mm front and 60mm rear. I think it looks much better with the wheels pushed out filling the arches.



Pleasingly it seems to drive better too. The spring rate from the air-springs seemed a bit high running the ride-height lower than standard. The spacers will be reducing the effective spring rate slightly.

I then de-badged the rear and gave it a thorough clean. I focused on getting the plastics back to a deep black too.



At this time of the year it obviously got fairly filthy again almost instantly. I think it's really looking a lot better than when I bought it though.





I wanted to add some of the functionality that my newer cars have. Some simple things like triple-flash indicators you miss when you no longer have them. So I fitted an Intravee unit which connects into the car's loom and intercepts various signals and can modify them. I added the triple-flash indicators, but also fold /unfolding mirrors and follow-me home lights on lock / unlock. Auto-lock on drive off, SMS handling to the phone interface, PDC distance display, voice control and a few other things I can't remember. I connected the Intravee to an Alpine iPod interface too that does full control incuding track and artist display on the dash and full control from the head unit or steering-wheel controls.



It interfaces to the car through the CD player plug, so the CD changer is lost which is no issue at all for me. I wanted the components to neatly mount into the rack in the boot where the CD changer had been and for the wiring to all be completely hidden.



The hardest part of which has been getting the cables behind trim as it's all so ridiculously over-engineered and every part has a mass of fasteners and other parts that have to be removed first. Even this bit of trim in the boot took almost an hour to remove and get the cable behind.



It all fits very neatly though. I'm going to fit an inverter and UK 3 pin socket to the right of where the Apline plug is currently entering.



So far the cable exits under the rear seat so the next job is to get it under the carpet, through the centre console and up to where I decide to fit my iPhone mount.

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
quotequote all
Danm1les said:
Nice beast!

Are you going to chage the tips of the exhaust and take the wheels back to silver in time?
Thanks.

Yes, both on the list!

hughcam

361 posts

122 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Great thread, nice to see an old rare beast be resurrected!

scottos

612 posts

81 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Awesome thing, didnt even know about them! I was a little disappointing about the plastic fantastic bikes but quickly came back around when i saw mountain biking mentioned and some muddy proper bikes on the back of the X5 laugh

Me and and missus do a lot of mountain biking but i dont think either one of us wants a vehicle more suited to mountain biking than what we have. A v8 x5 would be rather welcome though!

helix402

5,683 posts

139 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Awesome car. I remember when they were nearly new. I did some work on one which had cost £68,000-the same as my first flat I’d just bought!

Greg_D

6,162 posts

203 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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i like that a lot,

that said, i'm not a fan of the lowering. I think it looks more 'drug dealer' now than it ever did with the tinted lights.

with that lightly tweaked, and the wheels etc sorted, it'll look smart

good effort

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
quotequote all
helix402 said:
Awesome car. I remember when they were nearly new. I did some work on one which had cost £68,000-the same as my first flat I’d just bought!
Price of this was £67,500 with the options. Some of the options are ludicrous.

Eg: Navigation was £1930. However that didn't automatically have the TV function (£680 extra) or the Voice control for it (£330). So almost £3k to stick the nav screen in and have it fully functional.



Greg_D said:
i like that a lot,

that said, i'm not a fan of the lowering. I think it looks more 'drug dealer' now than it ever did with the tinted lights.

with that lightly tweaked, and the wheels etc sorted, it'll look smart

good effort
Cheers. I think as soon as the wheels aren't a dingy grey it'll lose the party pharmaceuticals vibe.

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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...and remember the rideheight is still adjustable in seconds. I can just hit the switch on the dash to raise it and it can be higher than a standard non-air equipped X5.

MrBig

1,307 posts

86 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Interesting info on this thread. I'll be on the hunt for a tow car/bike bus later in the year and hadn't even considered one of these. Looks smart in that colour and while I would probably run mine a bit higher, you've certainly piqued my interest. Had never heard of an Intravee either, very interesting, off to do some reading about them!

SteveR1979

246 posts

98 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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Haywards Heath Station
Horsham Waitrose
Horsham Homebase

Not stalking you, honest.

Interesting read. I've just picked up a year old 530d, but it doesn't have a tow bar.
I'm trying to decide if I want to get something else just to tow, or fit a tow bar on the 530d.

I'll be following your progress with interest!!

fernando the frog

298 posts

25 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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hated these when they first came out, I really like them now. it'll look a lot better with silver wheels - good stuff OP biggrin

573

Original Poster:

216 posts

158 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
quotequote all
SteveR1979 said:
Interesting read. I've just picked up a year old 530d, but it doesn't have a tow bar.
I'm trying to decide if I want to get something else just to tow, or fit a tow bar on the 530d.
I wouldn't bother to retrofit to a G30. The modern cars are so integrated that aftermarket kits are awful in comparison. The proper one interfaces with the stability control systems but also PDC and rear camera. My previous X5 used the rear camera to guide the hitch directly over the towball, was very cool.

Dammit

3,550 posts

165 months

Tuesday 19th February 2019
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V8's are a minimum requirement for MTB transport, probably because they're so damn heavy.


SiT

953 posts

158 months

Wednesday 20th February 2019
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I love these, used to be a local estate agent to me that owned one when they first came out and whenever he drove up the High Street the glass rattled in the windows!

Make a lovely noise and probably represent great value for money now, although big potential bork factor I suppose.

Lovely thing to waft about in!

devnull

2,470 posts

114 months

Wednesday 20th February 2019
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SiT said:
I love these, used to be a local estate agent to me that owned one when they first came out and whenever he drove up the High Street the glass rattled in the windows!

Make a lovely noise and probably represent great value for money now, although big potential bork factor I suppose.

Lovely thing to waft about in!
I’d consider these less worrisome than an 320cdi V6 engine, the NA V8 is a simple beast.