Sin City BMW, the crazy team of automotive Dr. Frankensteins who thought an off-road BMW 2002 was a great idea, got their hands on a 1967 2000 TiLux, BMW’s four-door Neue Klasse sedan. Only, with a little more engine. The 4.4-liter M62TU V8 ticker replacing the previous 4-cylinder came from a 2000 model year BMW 540i Sport that met a wall and lost. “People aren’t hot rodding these V8s yet, so there’s nothing on the market that I can just buy and plug in,” says Chris Willett, owner and chief operating lunatic of the Vegas BMW shop. The shop also repairs newer Bimmers so they did almost the entire swap with parts they had lying around.
The front subframe is all original. Willett’s team simply fabricated the engine mounts to hold the heavier V8. They welded up the transmission cross brace after putting together the tunnel and the firewall, which they designed so the exhaust goes underneath it. That way if anyone bottoms out only the exhaust gets banged up.
Willett is a master of surprises when it comes to his builds, and he wanted the TiLux to be a sleeper. So they ran four glasspack mufflers and two 11-inch Magnaflows, one on either side of the rear differential. Two barely visible straight pipes come out of the back. “It’s really quiet until you hit about 4,000 rpm, and then look out, it’s loud!” Willett laughs. “But no one sees it coming.”
The rear subframe is from a 1988 BMW 535i e28 that bolted right in without any adjustment. The only modification needed, because an e28 runs a coil spring, which won’t fit in the 2000’s shock towers, is that they welded on spring perches from a parts car, and ran that car’s original springs. “We ordered Bilstein adjustable spring shocks, took the spring off, put the shock on and bingo, it fit perfectly,” Willett recounts.
The e28’s subframe also gave them five-lug rear wheels, and using Bavaria struts up front allowed five-lugs up there, too, for a big brake upgrade. “We used calipers from a 633i and vented rotors that we found on the ground near the 633i. We don’t really know what they’re from.” They made some adjustments to get the rotors to fit the calipers and then onto the hubs, but the guys were determined not to change out the original 14-inch wheels.
Despite their efforts, the grand brake experiment failed. On a drive from Vegas to L.A., the brakes got super hot and quit. “But first gear in this is the equivalent of a Jake Brake with those 14-inch wheels,” Willett says. “What we did has to work properly before we judge it,” Willett says when asked if they’ll try bigger stoppers next to control the new engine’s increased power. “Anyone can throw on Brembos, but it’s more challenging to try and do a more period correct upgrade, then we don’t have to go to 17-inch wheels. Not a lot fits under 14-inch steel.”
The hardest thing about the swap, Willett explains, was retrofitting the electronics, because the M62TU engine is drive-by-throttle. The factory Digital Motor Electronics (DME) kept looking for electronic stuff the 2000TiLux doesn’t have like ABS wheel sensor inputs and transmission inputs. So, with their fingers and toes crossed that they didn’t screw it up in the process, they went through all the hexadecimal code in the computer and pulled out the bits they didn’t need. It took longer to do the electronics than it did the fabrication.
Because the TiLux only weighs about 2000 pounds, with its new 282 horse power engine and its 325 lb ft of torque it’s a bit of a handful. “It’s so insane now, I have to use my brakes going uphill,” says Willett with a wink. Hmmm, dude, maybe that’s why your brakes got hot. Eh, he kids, we kid, back to the car.
Once the mechanical is completely sorted out, they’ll start up on the interior. The headliner is already done, and is the most finished part of the car. Well, except for the exterior, which is covered in the most perfect patina and will stay that way.
A gawking bystander asked, “If you sell this, how does the new owner know how to fix it?” To which Willett replied through his wicked sideways smile, “If we sell anything it’s all documented, otherwise the new owners just call too much.” Knowing Willett, and the money and man-hours that go into Sin City’s builds, it’s unlikely the TiLux will find a new home anytime soon. At least not until he’s overcome the challenge of the 14-inch wheels.