BMW X5 Auto Werks

A little self-indulgence here.

First, Beatrice and I are done buying new cars. To me, purchasing or leasing new cars more often than 10+ years in-between is about the biggest waste of money Americans succumb to in their entire lives. And every time I see someone driving around in a well maintained, perfectly functioning old car with some retro stylish class, I’m reminded of that.

My car is a 2006 BMW X5 4.4i. It’s got 120K miles. Hers is a 2003 Infinity FX-35 with 150K miles. Both are in pristine condition and run like champs (we use only full synthetic, changes every 7,500 miles—plus, remember doing 4-Qt oil changes in big block V8s back in the 70s? My BWM takes 8.5 Qts, which is a lot of leeway in terms of breakdown). Anyway, my sense is that they’re at perhaps half life, at most.

We haven’t had car payments in years, so we’re very good about regular maintenance instead. And, for me, some upgrades. Some years back, I went from the stock wheels and tires…

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To this…

IMG 0127
20″ Rims

…With phat 315s on the rear (BMWs never need tire rotation—they have proper German-engineered suspension instead).

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Problem was, those “hi-performance tyres” (for whom and what?) don’t wear very well. The rear tires alone were $500 per copy, and when you get 20K miles out of them at best…do the math. Moreover, I actually do mild off roading, dirt and rocky roads to get to hang gliding launches. So, I had more than one flat, and sidewall damage in the front a time or two.

So, since I’d decided to keep the car because I love it so much, I hatched a plan sometime back to make it more of a serious contender in off-roading: My BMW X-5: Going Stealth and Zombie Apocalypse.

Deal is, the job featured in that post relied on the front fenders being chopped. When I took it over to Tommy at California Wheels, he took out his calculator, measuring tape, and within a few minutes showed me that with that total tire/wheel height, I’m going to get rub-rub at wheel lockout—something I was familiar with when I put big tires on a ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee once, and ended up having to get a 3″ lift to eliminate the rub.

Glad I didn’t try to save $1,000 or so and DIY. In the end, it was a 2″ lift that required a preliminary drop-off in the shop for measurements. They’d never done a lift on an X5—there’s nothing on the Internet—so had to fabricate their own lift kit in the shop. Picked up my lift Saturday afternoon, using Lyft—for the first time—to get a lift there and it was a cool experience.

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It’s remarkable what sitting 2″ higher + the added total wheel height does in terms of general “feel” and visibility. I really like it, and now, no worries when I head up to the cabin in Arnold and there’s a fresh snow. Those low profile tires just never cut it, and all-wheel drive is useless. For all-wheel or 4-wheel drive to be anything meaningfully functional and advantageous, it begins with where the rubber meets the road.

Now, all this plug-&-play rubber already mounted on alloy rims and balanced, go up on Craigie’s List.

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Next comes the wrap. Still haven’t decided between matte black and drab green.

…Alright, now to resume blogging for different kinds of geeks… Back to your semi-regular programming, like about weird bacteria and viruses, and such.

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  1. Doug McGuff, MD on February 9, 2015 at 10:43


    I am of the same philosophy. Take a look at my refurbish and modifications of my 1994 Toyota Landcruiser, now approaching 300K miles.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 9, 2015 at 12:03


      Is that your own garage?!!!

      If so, let me buy an old car, drive it down, and I’ll make room and board by working on everything else in there too. :)

      I can never get it straight, but I love the vintage Land Rover Land Cruiser too, the half Suburban deal, but cool. I’ve seen so many of those, well maintained, and I had to think: that long hair driving that figures he’ll have more to lose if he ever lets it go.

      Looks lovely, Doug. I never knew this about you.

  2. Todd on February 9, 2015 at 10:28

    Looks pretty slick.

    So what tires and rims did you go with to get the most out of the all-wheel drive?

  3. kona4breakfast on February 9, 2015 at 10:44

    you should look into an oil bypass filter kit. it works best on diesels, but you can run extended oil intervals safely and send periodic samples to a lab (i use blackstone) and not only will they help get you on an extended interval schedule, you’ll get the raw analysis results, normal ranges for your schedule and information on what is likely causing any values out of range. good shit. i’ll be doing my oil change at 25k this time.

  4. Doug McGuff, MD on February 9, 2015 at 16:08


    No. It is Urban Land Cruisers in Atlanta. They did the job for me. Engine refurbish, Old Man Emu lift kit, rebuild the axles, upgraded electrical wires. Higher capacity oil pan, Slee sliders, ARB bar, Pulled off the fenders and coated the bottom 1/3 of the body in bed-liner material and painted the same color as the rest of the vehicle. Tires are Nitto Terra Grapplers.

  5. Sean II on February 10, 2015 at 04:24


    I saw this colour on an X3 and a M6 about two years ago. It is stunning. The matte brown is catching on in Europe. In the UK white is still the trend.

  6. Cliff Wicks on February 10, 2015 at 15:10

    sweet ride. never seen a lifted BMW before. Definitely think the matt green wrap would be sick….

    I guess if you don’t mind keeping a car for 15 years you may do ok. There has to be some kind of bell shaped curve on the sweet spot for how long to keep a car for the best ratio of $$ per month. At some point, the maintenance including tires, brake jobs, lift kits, belts, fluids, wipers, tune ups, battery, and of course the occasional bigger job like a radiator or a water pump or starter or whatever along with the depreciation of the vehicle has to make that $$ per month start rising again. If you keep a $50k car for 15 years and assume minimum $500 a year in maintenance and repairs over the life of the car you still looking at over $340 a month for that car. If I buy a $50k car and keep it for say 5 years, put 60k miles on it and then trade it in for $25k and do nothing but change the oil, that car cost me less than a hundred dollars more a month than yours. And Im driving a brand new car with all the latest bells and whistles every 5 years. Heck, I could probably lease a pretty decent brand new car every 3 years for $350 – $450 a month and not do dick to it because many auto dealers include maintenance and car washes on their leases. I don’t know, I used to keep cars for 10 – 15 years too. I’m starting to change my tune now though….

    Anyways, still think that Beamer of yours is sweet…..

    • Richard Nikoley on February 11, 2015 at 07:29

      A lot of what you need to consider is mileage and wear/tear.

      So, my wife’s car is now 12 yrs old, only 150K, while mine is 9, 120K. That’s low mileage. No kids, low wear & tear, so makes more sense for us than, say, your average suburbanite with 4 kids, soccer practice, ballet, music lessons, and so on for four kids. :)

  7. Marc B on July 18, 2017 at 23:29

    Love the build Richard. I gotta know what size tires, wheels and spacers did you end up going with? They look perfect!

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