When it was first revealed as an all-new model for 1990, the shark-like E31 BMW 8 Series was the embodiment of the ultimate driving machine ethos that the Bavarian propeller brand had made its own throughout the ’80s. It was low, long, and sleek, with a long hood and short deck design that manages to look both timeless and very much of its time. Today, the design holds up, the handling is still crisp, and the interior still all-business. It’s the ’57 Chevy or ’65 Mustang that your grandfather keeps talking about, but — you know — for you. The only problem, really, is that the 4.4 liter V8 and 5.0 liter V12 engines that lived under their hoods make the classic 8s a bit of a white elephant … and that’s where Damien Maguire comes in.
An electrical engineer who hails from the southeast corner of Ireland, Maguire has been quietly at work, converting classic BMWs to electric power for nearly a decade. This latest work — built from a 1996 8 Series — may be his finest yet.
Dubbed “der Panzer,” the big BMW was stripped of its internal combustion engine (a 4.4 liter BMW M62B44 in this case) and troublesome fuel tank (if you’ve ever had to replace the external and internal fuel pumps in a BMW of this era, my heart aches for you). A powerful Tesla Model S electric motor built into a unique sub-frame was installed in place of the rear trailing link suspension and differential, while batteries from a Renault Fluence EV replace M62B44 under the hood.
That all sounds simple enough, especially in these days of eCrates and other EV conversion kits, but getting Tesla’s drive unit to play well with the rest of the car’s electronics was far from plug n’ play. “There were one or two aftermarket solutions available, but these came at a huge cost,” writes Paddy McGrath, who interviewed Maguire for SpeedHunters. Left without a suitable option in the aftermarket, Maguire developed his own, using a custom logic board and an open-source motor control system, along with lots of support from the OpenInverter.org community. “There’s now over 200 of these logic board units in action around the world, but the first hand-soldered example still lives in Damien’s E31.”
Performance from the Tesla-powered BMW 8 is brisk — but not just because of the Tesla drive unit’s nearly 400 HP and instant torque. Damien has put the classic BMW on a crash diet (pardon the pun), shedding some 430 lb from the weight of the original car. The package has proven to be fairly reliable as well, having been driven more than 6,000 miles already at the time these photos were taken.
Despite his success with the car, Damien remains super-humble about it. “It’s not a big-budget build. I even felt nervous bringing it to the Fully Charged show in Silverstone [last year] … this is all stuff that you can do in your shed or at home as safely as wiring a plug or working on a high pressure fuel system,” he explains. “You still get your hands dirty. They’re still cars.”
They’re still cars, indeed.
What do you guys think of this latest restomod? Is this the undeniable way forward for classic car enthusiasts to keep driving their cars into the future, a great way to reuse and recycle old cars, or just a waste of time for old car nerds to try and feel relevant? Let us know if it’s one of the first two in the comments section at the bottom of the page, and head over to the original article at SpeedHunters for lots more photos of this awesome one-off BMW 8 series!
Source | Images: SpeedHunters.