BMW Kart: Street-Legal E39 540i Without a Body
A converted Honda enthusiast re-imagines a classic BMW without any of those pesky body panels.
The BMW E39 540i is one of the company’s most legendary models produced. At the very least, it’s one of the best non-M cars and one of the best 5-Series BMWs ever built.
With 282 horsepower and 318 lb-ft of torque on tap, the 4.4 liter M62 dual-overhead-cam V8 makes enough power to propel the 3,800 pound E39 to some truly impressive performance statistics. Numbers, however, don’t tell the full story. The E39 has a great chassis, and the experience of driving one can be best described as “sublime.”
What if you could put that engine in a substantially lighter platform while preserving the excellent E39 handling characteristics you know and love? That’s a question best answered by Will Knytych, a Honda mechanic and enthusiast who took delivery of one very unique E39 540i.
The E39 in question had its body — and most of its interior — removed and replaced with a roll-cage exoskeleton. That reduced the E39’s weight dramatically. While the handling is the same familar E39 handling, the car is liable to “step out” and get sideways at a moment’s notice. Real care is required to extract the most out of this unique machine safely.
That’s further complicated by the welded rear differential, which makes going sideways pretty much a requirement for any drive in this stripped-down former luxury car.
Still, Will uses it as his daily driver with headlights, taillights, and the required turn indicators in place. He was able to put a plate on it and drives it every day, except in the rain. The heater apparently works, and the windshield he added certainly helps. Apparently, the radio works, but we can’t imagine hearing much of anything besides wind noise, tire noise, and the sweet siren song of that M62 V8.