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StanceWorks Revisits: Riley Stair’s BMW E28 “540i”

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It was more than three years ago that Riley Stair’s E28 made its debut on the StanceWorks homepage. In the following 41 months, the feature, photographed by Riley himself, climbed its way to the top of the charts, earning a spot in the top 10 most popular features in StanceWorks’ history. With just a glance, it’s easy to see why.

For starters, it’s black - a point highlighted in Riley’s original feature, and embraced by Riley himself as the greatest - and perhaps only - choice of paint color out there. Black cars make up more than half of the most popular StanceWorks features, which include Charlie Scott’s E21, Jeremy Whittle’s E28… it’s clearly a recipe for success. However, black paint alone won’t get you far: it’s Riley’s impeccable choice of style and flair that have made for a one-of-a-kind build that is heralded by many as one of, if not the best E28s on the streets.

The ride height of Riley’s E28 has always been more than noteworthy - instead, it sets the bar. Often mistaken for a car on air ride, it’s thanks to a custom front crossmember and suspension geometry that allow for the quite unbelievably low static ride height. Gorgeous custom-built 16” BBS RSs are tucked under the rear fenders and clear the fronts with only a few millimeters to spare.

His custom-tucked bumpers make for a unique take on American “Diving Boards.” Chopped, sectioned, and custom mounted, little remains of the original parts; however, the inherent flavor lasts. Whereas Euro bumpers tuck in, sleek and slim, Riley has kept the “big chin” style that is, for better or worse, synonymous with North American E28s.

As special as his car is by those factors alone - worthy of a feature years ago, and still to this day - the car has undergone tremendous changes that render it leagues beyond what it has been in any stage prior.

From the outside, the changes are easy to miss - they’re subtle at best. French headlamps pulled from a Mercedes change the front end ever-so-slightly, and on the sides of the car, Zender skirts and custom door handles offer the only aesthetic differentiation. Out back, a set of Auto Plas louvers shade the rear parcel shelf and offer some stylistic flare, but otherwise, the car remains as it was.

The only hint of major changes come from the side pipes that jut from the side skirt on the passenger side. Upon startup, it’s clear that the car beats with a new heart, and knowing Riley, it’s expected to be a V8 under the hood. This time, it’s an M60, sourced from a 540, mated to a 5-speed transmission. To say the swap is a tight squeeze is a drastic understatement…. Perched atop the frame rails, the massive motor leaves little room for accessories, and even leaves an imprint of the engine cover in the hood’s underside insulation. A custom booster setup was fabricated by Riley to keep the power assists, making for a car that drives as tame as its factory counterpart, with with substantially more bark and bite.

In an effort to “complete” the build, Riley turned his attention to the interior… all of it. Opening the door of the car releases the distinctive and alluring smell of fresh, real leather. The sport seats, rear seats, and the door cards have all been reupholstered in brown buffalo hide, along with smaller trim pieces like the shift boot to match. The dash remains crack-free, and the Nardi wheel completes the look.

Overall, it’s hard to imagine Riley Stair’s E28 improving any futher; however, he’ll tell you it’s not quite finished yet. In that case, we’re willing to wait another 41 months, if that’s what it takes.