As Close As Possible: Gabriel McClintock’s 2003 BMW E39 ‘M5’ Touring

  • A rusted M5 donor car transferred its best bits into this wagon to become a one-of-a-kind US-spec ‘M5’ Touring.
  • Countless hours of custom work, an RK Autowerks supercharged S62 engine with manual transmission, methanol injection, and other premium features push this once docile wagon to another level.

If you’re reading this from anywhere in America, you can agree with me on one sentiment: we never get the good import cars. The number of desirable cars that we aren’t granted in the good ol’ US of A is downright comedic at this point. We might occasionally get the right model, but only to be outdone by another country’s submodel with a better-performing drivetrain option or a lust-worthy paint code (think new Toyota GR Yaris or S2000 colors like Premium Sunset Mauve Pearl). Because we’re such an SUV-driven society over here, European car companies never saw the potential for performance wagon options in our market until recently. However, thinking back to the golden age of used cars that we enthusiasts gravitate towards, you’re going to come up empty-handed if you’re in the USA. That didn’t stop Gabriel McClintock from taking matters into his own hands and crafting this unique E39 ‘M5’ Touring example himself — an iteration never offered in our nation.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

While stationed in Germany in 1999, Gabriel formed his adoration for the BMW brand. “I started looking for a nice BMW because they were so affordable there, and I found a 1982 BMW 323i. I started modifying it right away, and I haven’t stopped modifying them since,” says Gabriel.
Fast forward to July of 2017, now positioned back in the States with a rotted E39 M5 already in his possession — a car he was sure wouldn’t pass another annual state inspection test. Gabriel found himself scanning Facebook Marketplace listings, looking for a cheap wagon to use for his next project. Connecticut ended up providing the solution when he saw this automatic 2003 wagon with a blown engine and knew it was the perfect candidate.
“I wanted to build an M5 Touring as close to BMW-spec as possible. My goal was to make sure that the entire build was as close to the factory M5 — and that all of the special features that accompanied the M5 were transferred over to the Touring,” says Gabriel.

THE INTRICATE BUILD PROCESS

Fans of our website will recall Julian Serna’s E30 ‘M3’ Touring, which was similar in one way — it was a wagon model converted to look like an M Touring car — but so very different in every other way. You see, Julian’s car is gorgeous and very well done, but it just hasn’t been converted in the same manner as Gabriel’s ‘M5T.’ How so, you ask? For starters, the final product of Gabriel’s build is so in-depth, I would sooner call it a US-spec M5 Touring than to label it a conversion. It’s that involved.
Starting in August of 2017, Gabriel’s teardown of the wagon, and the accompanying teardown of the M5, commenced. It was here that he visualized just how much of his rusting M5 he could use on the wagon. The answer is a lot! Starting with the drivetrain, the M5 supplied the renowned S62 engine and its manual gearbox. This transplant necessitated an auto-to-manual conversion to start, but also much more.
“The front subframe, including the suspension and engine cradle, was removed from the M5 and installed into the wagon chassis. The rear subframe from the wagon had to be utilized, but the differential, axle shafts, driveshaft, and wheel bearings had to be transferred from the M5. The M5 rear subframe reinforcement bars along with the front subframe bushings from the M5 were installed,” says Gabriel.

HURDLES TO OVERCOME

This brings us to the rear subfloor, which Gabriel recalls as the most challenging aspect of the build. To truly mimic the M5 Touring’s specs, he felt the floor and trunk layout needed to be identical. This includes shedding the wagon of its stock spare tire carrier — an option not found in an M5 — and equipping the rear with the M5’s center-mounted battery and a compartment housing its OE tire inflation kit. This could have been achieved rather quickly with a torch. Instead, Gabriel arduously and skillfully drilled out every necessary spot weld on both vehicles’ floor pans and welded the M5 floor pan into place on the wagon in a true OEM fashion. By making this change, he was also able to run the M5-appropriate dual exhaust.

INSIDE THE TRANSFORMATION

The interior bears a resemblance between the two models, except the M5’s cabin revolved around a full leather option, including dashboard, door cards, center console, and seats. All of which found their new home inside the Touring alongside the M5’s M Audio sound system. From there, the wagon’s headliner was stripped down and wrapped in Alcantara to match that of its M5 cousin.
Having focused on the drivetrain, suspension, chassis, and interior, the exterior was the only area left to morph. Front and rear M5 bumpers and accompanying trim were all obtained for the rebirth — the rear bumper actually still available directly from Germany.

THE RESULT

With every possible piece of the car reimagined into its M5 counterpart, the build only took Gabriel an astounding six months to finish. As we mentioned, he began the teardown in August of 2017. The M5 Touring was registered and on the street by February of 2018! That’s remarkably quick considering what was involved. I’ve only discussed the transformation, too.
That’s not even considering the multitude of modifications throughout the vehicle, including an RK Autowerks Stage 1 supercharger kit, the Howerton Engineering methanol injection (with its tank secretly located next to the battery in the rear floor), and the Eisenmann race mufflers upgrading the powerplant.
Or the catalog of Einhorn Industries Unicorn components in the drivetrain. Dinan, KONI, and Ground Control goods occupy the suspension; even a Dinan by Brembo big brake kit positions itself behind refinished 18×9.5-inch Style 65 M5 wheels with 275/35R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires.
The various gauges in the interior, the complete dark grey wrap encapsulating the exterior, Euro headlight lenses, various carbon fiber bits, and EvoX-R Bi-Xenon projectors bring this build together to be unique in its transformation and one-of-a-kind in its presentation.

IN THE END

Whether it’s the highlight of roll racing at MPACT in 2019, or a casual cruise, Gabriel has built his dream machine and enjoys it every time he drives it. He likes the supercharged S62 engine, the chance encounters with enthusiasts who know BMW didn’t release an M5 Touring in America — and recognize all of the small details — and he’s proud it’s “not just an engine swap.”
He’s thankful for South Street Bridge Window Tinting and Wraps, Tuning Tech FS, Killer Koatings, The Jp Shop, DZM Automotive, Einhorn Industries, SpeedHaven Racing, and Slimmbones for their help along the way.
Personally, I struggle to find any piece of Gabriel’s masterpiece that I dislike, and I’m sure you lot feel the same. After initially setting sights on it at the T14 Car Meet a couple of years back. Then finally catching up with him at one of our Cars & Coffee events, I am thrilled I had the opportunity to tell this vehicle’s story. I genuinely think he’s succeeded in getting as close as possible to the real M5 Touring as he could get — and then some.

Related Links
Gabriel McClintock Instagram
Kyle Crawford Instagram
Front Street Media Instagram


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