Words & Photos by Henry Phull
Recently there’s been one car, in particular, that’s blown up my social media feed. Ryan Stewart’s E39 Touring has had a lot of heads nodding in admiration, and it’s not even his project car (a highly modified track-spec Porsche Cayman), but the daily driver! Plus, this isn’t just any ordinary BMW 5-Series, it’s the incredibly rare Alpina B10 3.3 Touring, which include cams, big valve head, bespoke Alpina inlet manifold, tubular manifold and twin race cats as standard. So, with around nine facelift Tourings left in the UK, bagging it on Air Lift Performance and adding some 20″ Rotiforms was never going to be to the purist’s tastes, but for the rest of us it’s refreshing and damn cool to see someone adding their touch to a rarity like this. Personally, I’ve always felt like Alpina has been targeted at the elderly enthusiast with their choice of styling, but “de-Alpina’ing” it slightly, as Ryan puts it, has brought the car right up to date. I don’t think you could ask for a much cooler daily driver, either.
So let’s start with a little history… Ryan is somewhat well known throughout the car world, working for SceneMedia, as well as owning Garage Midnight and Performance Powertrain Solutions (a parts distribution company). Working in the automotive field means that he’s had all sorts of project cars over the years, but is the first to admit that he’s not actually a BMW guy. His passion for modified cars comes from Volkswagens. In fact, after owning a ’66 Singer Chamois (his first ever car), he went on to a narrowed ’68 Beetle and numerous Mk2 Golfs.
From there on, he became thoroughly interested in power. “I’ve had an Astra Mk3 C20LET with a 6-speed box, diff, and loads of Group A bits. An S2000 on aftermarket management, cams, Wilwood brakes, a 580bhp MK5 Golf that I still have, a Nissan S14a… shit loads!” Ryan explains, “My favorite has to be the MK4 golf that I built, crashed, built, blew up then built again. It ended up being matte black and having a 550bhp R32 Turbo engine, we called it the Zombie MK4 because it just would not die!”.
So along with the Cayman, the Mk5, and his Lexus LS400 VIP projects, Ryan needs a daily driver to keep him on the road for the staggering amount of miles he does annually. Naturally, it had to be something cool, but with his last daily driver being a modified Land Rover Discovery 3, he decided it was time for something a bit more car-like this time around. “I wanted something that was auto, had the load capacity but was a little smaller than the Discovery” he explains. Ryan has also owned an E39 M5 in the past, which primarily led him on to look at 540i Tourings, however with the prices of the V8’s soaring, he couldn’t justify the additional expenditure on a daily workhorse.
“After obsessively finding out every intricate detail about the Alpina B10 model variations, I came across the car on eBay” Ryan explains. The B10 appeared to be in good condition, although it had a rear SLS fault, very common on E39 Tourings, meaning it would sag when left overnight. This made it the perfect candidate for upgrading to Air Lift Performance suspension. “This was one Alpina that wasn’t going to stay true to the original vision” Ryan laughs.
In fact, he actually started modifying the car before he even bought it… Buying a set of ACS mirrors on the way to picking the car up! “As soon as I got home with the new car, I whipped off the stock square mirrors and popped on the AC Schnitzer counterparts” Then, almost instantly, he had Regal Autosport swap on an AP Racing 6 pot brake kit for some extra stopping power.
With the E39’s problematic factory air ride, Ryan knew straight away that it would go on aftermarket air, with Air Lift Performance 3H being his ultimate choice. “I’ve installed a few Air Lift Performance kits over the years and the quality is top notch. Having driven on 3H, both on track and on the road, it had to be 3H for this car. I do so many miles and load it up with all sorts of junk, the self-leveling is a God send” he explains. Along with the 3H management, Ryan also went with the E39-specific Air Lift Performance front setup (threaded body with double bellow bags and camber top mounts), and brand new factory rear bags along with uprated Bilstein B8 rear shock absorbers.
Using the factory rear setup meant that Ryan had to sleeve-down the original air lines from the OEM metric sizes to meet the imperial Air Lift Performance manifold, so it wasn’t a straight up procedure. After building up the install with his friend Doey, ready to be seated in the rear spare wheel well, they took it straight up to Parm at Car Audio & Security who helped out matching up all the remaining fittings for the build.
With twin VIAIR 44c black compressors, two 2-gallon tanks and the 3H manifold, it’s a tight install, but it all fits snugly under the factory false floor. “It even allows me to retain the pull-out underfloor storage – it’s as though it’s not there, completely hidden.” Ryan says. He also installed an exhaust port muffler and Air Lift compressor isolator kit, which means the whole system is extremely quiet in operation.
In the eyes of a purist, the worst thing that Ryan could’ve done was getting rid of the original Alpina wheels (although these will stay as ‘winter wheels’). However, in our eyes this was the best possible thing for it. Whilst visiting Car Audio & Security during the air installation, he noticed they’d just received stock of the latest Rotiform cast wheel, the RSE. He knew they’d be right for the car. “The spin-on centre cap is awesome and gives the whole thing a proper 90s feel” Ryan explains.
He decided to go for 20×8.5 up front so that the car would drive really low. “Usually I would like a wider front wheel but because of the height of the 20 it will now tuck the rim and still drive without scrubbing.” For the rears he opted for much wider 20×10’s. These are paired with 235/30 tyres up front and 255/30 on the rear wheels. “The 20″ wheels make it look mental, when it rolls tucking the lip and I catch it in shop windows it’s awesome.” Ryan states.
Apart from the addition of Air Lift and Rotiform wheels, the car remains a stock Alpina. “If it’s one thing Alpina know how to do, it’s their interiors.” Ryan tells me, “The unique wood trim with gilded inlays might not be to everyone’s taste but I love it!” Although the leather was extremely tired when he bought the car, a weekend spent cleaning and feeding it with Meguiar’s gear worked wonders. More than content with its overall comfort, he won’t be changing the interior any time soon, bar the odd extended leather part he can pick up here and there if he’s lucky.
Ryan also has plans for a new Kenwood audio system with 10″ sub and integrated dashcam headunit with Apple CarPlay, which will bring it up-to-date – the final piece of the puzzle to make this B10 Ryan’s perfect daily driver. However, I can see him playing with the engine soon… After hitting just over 270bhp on the rolling road, the car may still be healthy (with 275-280bhp when new), but knowing Ryan and his history with all things power, I’m sure this will soon be increased!
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