Conversion photos and details

This page is designed to give you an overview of the 5.0 swap and what is required.  It is also designed to help you plan your swap and start collecting the required parts.

Parts required:

Here's what you need to complete this swap:
- A 1992-1998 E36 318, 325, 328, or M3
- A Ford 5.0 and T5 transmission from '87-93 Mustang
- Our engine mount brackets, transmission mount, and conversion manual
- About $1000 in other parts (details in manual)
- Download your free PDF planning guide here

Planning the conversion


Engine Choice

Physically, any 289/302/5.0 small-block Ford V8 engine should work.  (This is helpful since 302 engines are extremely common and often nearly free)  It should have a rear-sump oil pan, not front sump.  Rear sump pans and pickups are readily available both used and new.

Differences to watch out for:
- Flywheel balance varies over the years
- 1960's engines may not work due to different trans bolt patterns
- Some Explorer engines have 'P' heads, which may require special headers for plug access
- You'll need 87-93 Mustang accessory brackets
- Water pumps turn the opposite way for v-belt vs. serpentine belts
- Later model engines (94? 96?) have shorter accessories & smaller water pumps

Unfortunately, we are not experts on Ford parts interchange.  If you use anything other than a '87-93 Mustang 5.0, you'll have to figure some things out on your own.

Transmission Choice

The recommended transmission for this conversion is the Mustang T5 manual transmission.  Why?  It's cheap, plentiful, and you can rebuild the entire thing with hand tools for less than $400.  Other options include the Tremec, the C4 automatic, and the AOD.  We cover the T5 in the swap manual because a BMW with an automatic is a sad thing indeed.

Exhaust/Headers/Steering shaft: 3 options

The main problem with fitting a V8 in any 3-series BMW (E30, E36, E46) is that the car was designed around a long, slim engine.  It is very tight on the driver's side.  The steering shaft is large and interferes with the driver's side header.  There are basically 3 solutions to this problem, listed from cheapest to most expensive:

1. Use two passenger side Mustang shorty headers.  The header dumps forward on the driver's side and rearward on the passenger side.  You can use the stock steering shaft, stock headers, and run one pipe around the front of the engine to the passenger side.  From there, you can simply connect the headers to the 325/328/M3 exhaust for a cheap, easy solution.  This is the cheapest, easiest, most common option

2. Use stock Mustang headers turned backwards, dumping to the front.  With this option, you need to build a Y-pipe that connects both sides and turns back.  A single 3" exhaust flows very well and is simple to build or have built.

3. Modify your steering shaft and/or engine bay to make room for rear-dumping headers.  With this option, you will need to build a steering shaft that has 3 u-joints in it.  (Hot Rodders do this all the time)  This moves the shaft away from the header and should provide plenty of room for many header options.  Other options include using the Vorshlag steering shaft, moving the steering column at the firewall, and/or cutting the frame to make room.  Also, you could build yourself some custom headers.

The problem with option three is the cost.  It drives the cost of the swap way up.  Figure 200-300 for a custom steering shaft, some money for firewall/frame cutting/patching, and maybe some custom headers.

Most people go with Option 1, although the car pictured is with Option 2, front dump headers.

Computers, Wiring and Fuel Injection

If you are choosing to go EFI, you'll want to get the complete fuel injection system from a 87-93 Mustang.  This includes the:
- Upper & lower intakes
- Wiring harness (The main harness and the engine harness)
- Computer
- All EFI sensors (MAF, TB, EGR, etc.)
- Distributor, coil, plug wires, etc.
- Fuel rails & injectors

Our conversion manual includes complete instructions making the Ford EFI work in the BMW. Slick!

Emissions

In our opinion, it's everyone's responsibility to do our part for clean air.  We used the following tools to keep emissions low:
- We kept stock emissions controls such as EGR, O2 sensors, etc.
- We installed a high-flow aftermarket catalytic converter
- We performed preventative maintenance (cleaning fuel injectors, new O2 sensors, etc.)

Whether or not your car passes emissions depends on 4 things:
- The year of your car
- Local laws and regulations
- The type of emissions test. 
- The actual emissions the drivetrain produces

If your car is a 1992-1995, it has OBD1, so you shouldn't have any problems, especially if If your emissions test simply 'sniffs' the tailpipes.  If your car is 1996-1998, it has OBD2 and passing emissions may be a problem if your emissions test requires connecting to your car's OBD2 computer.  (You would have the same problem if you kept your OBD2 BMW motor and converted it to OBD1, such as many BMW enthusiasts do.) It also depends on if you are going to use catalytic converters and/or smog pump.  

In addition to emissions tests, some municipalities prohibit installing and engine that is older than the car.  Each state and municipality is different, so it's better to do your own homework.  We cannot be responsible for your emissions compliance.  

Engine conversions, according to California regulations, are to meet the following standards:

“Engine changes are legal as long as the following requirements are met to ensure that the change does not increase pollution from the vehicle:
• The engine must be the same year or newer than the vehicle.
• The engine must be from the same type of vehicle (passenger car, light-duty truck, heavy- duty truck, etc.) based on gross vehicle weight.
• If the vehicle is a California certified vehicle then the engine must also be a California certified engine.
• All emissions control equipment must remain on the installed engine.

After an engine change, vehicles must first be inspected by a state referee station. The vehicle will be inspected to ensure that all the equipment required is in place, and the vehicle will be emissions tested subject to the specifications of the installed engine.


What to get from a salvaged 5.0

1. 5.0/289/302 Engine
2. Accessory brackets from 87-93 Mustang
3. Fuel injection from 87-93 Mustang:
- Upper & lower intakes
- Wiring harness (The main harness and the engine harness)
- Computer
- All EFI sensors (MAF, TB, EGR, etc.)
- Distributor, coil, plug wires, etc.
- Fuel rails & injectors

That's enough to get you started - for more details, check out our conversion manual, which shows every nut & bolt you'll need.

Engine Mounts

Our engine mounts connect the 5.0 engine to the E36 crossmember.  You'll use BMW E30 325 rubber or polyurethane mounts between our brackets and the crossmember.  We recommend poly mounts, available from Ireland Engineering.  Why E30 mounts?  They're cheaper, smaller, and simpler than E36 mounts.  (BTW, E36 mounts are oil-filled and very prone to failing.)

Cooling

Our conversion manual tells you which radiator to get to cool your 5.0.  The best part is, it's cheaper than a BMW radiator and you can get rid of that problematic plastic!

Clean swap vs. hack job

We believe in clean, fully functioning engine swaps - no hack jobs.  Here's a list of things that will remain fully functional after your swap is complete:
- Fully functioning Ford fuel injection (or carb if you wish)
- Power steering
- Heat and A/C
- Check engine light
- Guages
- Anti-lock brakes
- SRS Airbag system
- Some emissions controls (not OBD2 compliant)
- Neutral safety switch & reverse lights

Electrical

Do not fear!  Our conversion manual makes the wiring a breeze!  You'll have to cut and splice less than 20 wires, that's it!  Some people get intimidated, but we make it easy in the manual.  Photos are included for every step.

Speedometer

Your E36 will retain proper speedometer function because the sensor is in the differential.

Tachometer

Your E36 tachometer will work with the 5.0, but the readings will be off.  You can buy a tach adapter from Summit, or just get a new tach.

Steering

This is the major pain for most engine swaps in the E36, since BMW put the steering shaft right in the way!  Luckily, we offer 4 different solutions to this problem.  The best part? No $3,000 headers required.

Suspension & Engine Weight

The 5.0 engine is roughly the same weight as the six-cylinder BMW engine due to it's compact size.  We do recommend installing aluminum heads at some point to reduce weight, increase horsepower, and because they're dirt cheap!

Fuel Delivery

The BMW is already set up for fuel injection, so no fuel pump modifications are required.  There are a few tricks for fuel pump relays, regulators, etc.

Driveshaft

The driveshaft problem is easily solved by taking the rear half of your BMW shaft and the front half of a Mustang/T5 shaft to your local driveshaft shop.  This lets you tailor your driveshaft to your anticipated power level so you won't twist it like a pretzel.  Our conversion manual explains this in detail, length, diameter, type of U-joints, etc.

Transmission Crossmember Mount

Unfortunately, you can't reuse the BMW transmission mount since the BMW drivetrains are tilted.  We make a custom crossmember that fits like a glove.

Engine Subframe and engine crossmember

The stock BMW crossmember (the one behind the engine) fits with the 5.0/T5 combination.  We have not tried to fit the BMW convertible X-brace, and don't know if it will fit.

Differential

The stock E36 is usually strong enough to handle 5.0 power.  Obviously, heavily modified 5.0's will need upgrades in this area.  Many BMW enthusiasts are strengthening the front mounting point of the BMW differential by welding a tab, putting the front differential bolt in double-shear.   Most differential ratios will work great.  The T5 transmission has a .68 5th gear, which is lower than the BMW transmission.

Linkages

This topic generally covers drivetrain/body connections, such as throttle cable, clutch, shifter systems, and others.  As with many aspects of a swap, this can be a simple as the installer would like it to be.  Our conversion manual shows you the cheap way to convert your T5 to hydraulic clutch, letting you use your stock BMW clutch pedal.  The conversion manual explains every linkage required to connect the new drivetrain to the BMW body, right down to the reverse lights!

Brakes

Luckily, E36 brakes are big enough to handle the extra power of the 5.0.  Since the 5.0 adds no real weight to the chassis, normal BMW braking modifications apply (pads, rotors, etc.)

Summary

This article is meant to be introductory and to give the reader an idea of the scope of a conversion project. No two swap combinations are ever exactly the same.

So go find a 5.0 and start planning your swap!  Your car is waiting for a cheap horsepower upgrade!

PS. Be sure to read our FAQ

Click here to order parts

Anatomy of a 5.0 swap:

(Click for larger size)

Stock BMW engine:

stock m52

Front end removal:

front removed

Empty engine bay (cleaned):

empty bay

Prepping the 5.0:

prep

Upgrading the intake:

intakes

Back together with new parts:

back together

Dropping it in:

dropping it in

5.0 in place: 

in place

Getting closer:

in

Driver's side mount:

passenger side mount

Front dump exhaust & Y pipe:

drivers mount

5.0 computer in stock location:

computer

One-piece driveshaft:

driveshaft

Single 3" exhaust:

muffler