There are two things you need to understand about Steven Lin; he's the general manager of iForged Performance Alloys and one of the longest serving members of the Europrojektz car club. Knowing his background, we expect him to produce a glorious car, worthy of every magazine and auto show award. Fortunately, he didn't disappoint when he unveiled his custom '99 BMW 540i at Hot Import Nights and then at the SEMA Convention in '06.
To begin Steven's tale, he knew the founder of iForged, Vincent Wong, at UC Irvine where they shared the same major. During their college terms, Vincent began his new business endeavor and Steven became his right hand man, even taking sales calls during class. When they graduated, Vincent and Steven began full-time operation of the wheel company.
Around the same time, Steven also joined Europrojektz (EP). "We were only a few European cars but I've been with the car crew since 2002," he explained. "There weren't too many heavily modded cars back then. In fact, my first project was an '02 Audi A4 1.8T. It had the basic mods like a Kerscher kit, wheels, suspension, chip, intake and exhaust."
After working on the car he eventually reconsidered the Audi's progress and realized higher aspirations. "When I had the Audi, every A4 was repetitive. I wanted something different. As far as I could tell, there weren't many modded 5-Series' out there, especially the E39 platform. So I began a new project and the BMW was my first serious project car."
Steven's 540i came factory-equipped with a hefty 4.4 liter V8. The sedan boasts 282hp and 310 lb/ft of torque. To initiate the engine work, he increased power to 296hp with a software upgrade and Magnaflow exhaust, but yearned for more. "After driving it for a while I got used to the power," he stated. "At the time, VF-Engineering was developing a supercharger kit. Nik Saran at VF installed the first kit on his own car but then installed and tuned the second one on mine."
With the freshly blown motor, Steve's 5er safely made 344whp and 335 lb/ft of torque. "The power is quite linear," he reported. "Once I get the car into high rpms, it really moves. It's a freeway monster."
He upgraded the clutch on the stock six-speed transmission to a Spec stage 3+ to handle the added power. A UUC Motorwerks short shifter quickened his gear changes so he could accelerate even faster.
Handling was also important to the overall package, so FK Konigsport coilovers were fitted to lower and stiffen the car.
It was finally time to commence work on the exterior. Before the widebody and color transformation you see here, the black BMW gained personality with an OE BMW M5 front bumper. "I looked at a lot of bumpers," Steven explained, "but there were no bumper replacements for the 540i; only add-on kits. Apart from the M5 bumper, there wasn't anything aggressive enough for me."
To make the M5 bumper more edgy, he fitted a Hamann Competition one-piece front lip. This was a rare item because most M5 owners opted for the two-piece version.
Adding to the collection of rare parts was the G-Power rear bumper. Steven has the only 5-Series in the States with this German unit which has been designed for a quad exhaust. Hamann side skirts finished the initial styling.
"At first I wanted something clean and unique, but then I realized I wanted to make a name for the company and myself, so I took it to the next level," he said. "After the first body mods were complete and the car was supercharged, I needed more traction so decided to go widebody." For the next eight weeks, M1 Autobody in El Monte, CA transformed Steven's 540i into a work of art.
"Inevitably, I built the iForged wheels first, then had M1 build the widebody around the wheels," Steven explained.
"We actually do a lot of widebody applications at iForged. Sometimes the fenders aren't really made to fit the wheels properly, so if the bodywork is done first, the wheels won't always fit perfectly. It's always best to have the wheels built first, that way you know how much clearance is needed. For example, with my car we could test the front wheels from lock to lock," he continued.
"The inspiration for the widebody came from the Hamann Daytona Beach 5-Series, except mine is a little wider," we were told. In fact, the front fenders were flared 1.5" wider than factory, while the rears were 2.5" wider. To match the beefier arches, the skirts were also flared toward the rear, along with the front and rear bumpers being pulled and widened to complete the new look.
"I was impressed with M1's work," Steven said. "I drove to their shop almost every weekend to monitor progress on the car and we went through a lot of modifications to get it perfect."
Once the widebody conversion was completed, Steven still wanted more done. To replace a lip spoiler on the trunk, M1 molded a carbon M3 CSL-style trunk to the factory bootlid. If you look closely, you'll see a strip of carbon was left exposed to show off the material underneath. Another addition was the custom carbon M3 grilles in the front fenders. The side skirts were then molded to the body to tidy the lines of the car.
More lightweight carbon was added, including an MA-Shaw hood, eyelids, grille, plus B- and C-pillar covers. To finish the project, Steven upgraded his headlamps to Euro spec with retrofitted 8000K HID lights.
The voluptuous 540i wasn't complete without being dressed in a special color to make it stand out. "There were many different candy paint jobs around, but I wanted something that was both loud and unique. My friend and I tried lots of Photoshop work before we eventually picked the BASF Carizzma Colors candy fuchsia over violet. I think it really defines the car well. In bright sunlight it turns pinkish. I have to credit Chris Garcia's '01 Audi TT as part of my inspiration (et 11/04) since that was a car I looked up to on the show scene."
M1 Autobody finished the exterior just two days before the debut of the 540i at the '06 Hot Import Nights in LA. Justifiably, it won a Best Paint award to prove its flawlessness.
Although a set of polished wheels was built for the car, these were later swapped for a more unique set. As the GM of iForged, there was no problem finding the ideal shoes. "iForged builds custom two- and three-piece forged aluminum wheels. Everything is built for custom applications including finish, style, size and offset. The wheels I have now are three-piece construction since the sizes are limited on two-piece wheels - with three-piece you can design in 0.5" increments, so my wheels have a 3.5" chrome lip in the front, and 6" chrome lip in the rear. I could have actually gone wider but the dimensions work well for the staggered look."
The new dubs measured 9.5" wide in the front and 11" in the rear. Interestingly, the car has different wheel designs on each side. "You never get to see both sides of the car at the same time," he smiled. "It allows us to show off two designs at once."
A Daytona split-seven-spoke wheel is fitted to the driver side, while Imola ten-spokes were mounted to the passenger side.
Steven's goal for the widebody was wider rubber, so Yokohama Advan Sport tires measure 255/30-20 on the front and 305/25-20 on the rear. "Before the widebody, there wasn't enough traction with 275 tires in the back. Now with 305s the car has a wider stance and more grip."
It was inevitable the owner would seek to improve the braking of the heavy sedan, and he did so with Rotora units. "I used to have StopTech brakes but after the supercharger was installed the 14" rotors and four-piston calipers weren't enough. Nobody makes an eight-piston caliper kit except Rotora.I installed their front and rear packages and the stopping power is right, while pedal pressure feels like stock."
To cool the massive brakes, Steven fitted Active Autowerke brake ducts, which draw air from the front of the car.
With the exterior planned for several years, Steven had already completed the interior. The seats, door panels, headliner, pillars and visors were reupholstered in violet suede, while silver carbon trim evokes a motorsport sensation. In a crafty move, the foglight switch was replaced with a BMW Z8 starter button wired to the ignition.
Last on Steven's list was the stereo. It was actually one of the first things changed on the car, but he plans to make drastic changes in the near future, adding more TVs and up-to-date audio components.
Regardless of future plans, the stereo was still impressive, with an Alpine DVD/TV head unit fitted in the factory location. It has a 7" display and there were two Vivo 7" LCD monitors in the headrests, with two more in the sunvisors.
The trunk houses a custom enclosure for gigantic 15" MB Quart subwoofers and Rockford Fosgate amplifiers. To improve the treble, a set of MB Quart Q-line components complete the sound experience.
Steven credits several of his friends and business partner with the completion of his 540i. As a senior member of one of the nation's largest Euro car clubs and employee of a popular wheel manufacturer, his connections have enabled the completion of this voluptuous, violet 5-Series.
Mission Viejo, CA
General Manager, iForged
'99 BMW 540i
Engine: 4.4 liter 32v V8 with VF-Engineering supercharger kit, custom Magnaflow quad exhaust, billet oil caps, color-matched engine cover
Driveline: six-speed manual transmission with Spec stage 3+ clutch, UUC short shifter kit, clutch delay valve
Suspension: FK Konigsport adjustable coilovers
Wheels & Tires: 20x9.5" front and 20x11" rear iForged Daytona (driver's side) and Imola (passenger's side) wheels, 255/30-20 front and 305/25-20 rear Yokohama Advan Sport tires
Brakes: Rotora eight-piston front calipers with 15" cross-drilled rotors and four-piston rear calipers with 14" cross-drilled rotors, Active Autowerke brake cooling ducts
Exterior: custom metal widebody, BMW M5 front bumper, Hamann Competition front spoiler and foglight covers, Hamann skirts molded to body, carbon eyelids and front grille, carbon M3 side vents, G-Power rear bumper, custom molded carbon CSL-style trunk spoiler, Hagus Sport mirrors, OE European clear angle eye headlights, 8000K HIDs, OE red/clear Celis tail lights, MA-Shaw carbon hood, carbon B- and C-pillar covers, car painted BASF Carizzma Colors candy fuchsia over violet
Interior: suede front and rear seat inserts, door panels, headliner, pillars and visors, UUC Motorwerks RK3 illuminated shift knob, silver carbon trim, AC Schnitzer pedals and e-brake handle, BMW Z8 engine start button, OE M5 dead pedal
Audio/Visual: Alpine IVA-D900 7" head unit, 12-disc MP3 changer and navigation DVD mounted in glovebox, MB Quart Q-line component speakers and two 15" subwoofers in custom enclosure with Line-X, three Rockford Fosgate amplifiers, two Vivo 7" LCD monitors In headrests and two in front visors, 5" rearview mirror monitor
Thanks: iForged Performance Alloys, VF-Engineering, BASF, DTM Autohas, Instyle Graphics Clear Bra, Euphoric Designs, ES Technical Roadsports, Nitrous Express, Spec Clutch, M1 Autobody, Kreative Interiors, Rotora Brakes, Vivo Electronics, MB Quart, Rockford Fosgate, Yokohama Tires, Magnaflow Exhaust Systems, Fox Marketing, Racingcode