Project ET-01: The Automotive Circle of Life

[singlepic id=3370 w=720 h=600 float=center] It was a nice early spring day in 1997. I was in walking near Battery Park in downtown Manhattan when in the corner of my eye I saw it; jet black, on its three-piece wheels which came only on the models with six-speed manual transmission and mandatory sport package. It was the new E39 540i Sport. The front seats were occupied by two happy looking Wall Street types wearing matching sport sunglasses contrasting their perfectly stitched suits. The car was just beautiful, an instant modern classic in in the mind of this young college student. I wanted one, badly. Fast-forward fifteen years. Here I am taking apart the 282-horsepower M62TUB44 engine out of the BMW 540i. I was taking my time, analyzing its construction, how things are connected, what each component does, and why. It was really amazing to see how each part is connected to another in order to perform a specific task necessary to the operation of the engine. To imagine all this working together at 7000 revolutions per minute is mind boggling. [singlepic id=3334 w=720 h=600 float=center] While I was spinning the wrenches, in the back of my mind was that very day when I saw that black 540i. A lot has happened since then in the automotive world, but it was reassuring knowing that each new vehicle still had purpose-built parts that were not drawn up by designers from some fancy art school. This engine, with about 80,000 miles on it, was removed from the car after the radiator was punctured and the engine overheated, which on BMWs takes about three seconds. The engine actually ran after the radiator was replaced, but not well. The owner could not accurately diagnose damage. Rather than ripping apart the motor while it was still inside the engine bay, hoping and praying that the cylinder heads were not warped (or worse), it was overall simpler to just replace the whole damn thing. And that’s how I ended up with this engine. [singlepic id=3357 w=720 h=600 float=center] The owner of the car made the right choice. Upon taking apart the engine we found the tops of the pistons to be damaged, some rings broken and some cylinder walls scratched up. The extent of the damage was actually quite surprising. From that brief moment in lower Manhattan to now, with all these parts laying all around the garage floor, I realized that I was witnessing the circle of the automotive life. While this engine was seemingly perfect for my project, I couldn’t help but think – why BMW? A brand that I used to admire so much. Why the 540? A model that I never owned, yet always lusted after. My mind wanders. To be continued… [slideshow id=124] [nggallery id=124]

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