2000 BMW 728i Automatic Sport Individual E38

2000 BMW 728i Automatic Sport Individual E38

When Matt Swanborough was driven to his father’s sickbed at speed in a brand new E38 7 Series the model earned a special place in his heart. This 728i Sport Individual is a direct result of that day… Words: Simon Jackson. Photography: Jason Dodd.


Many of us have specific, often personal, reasons to adore the BMW brand, certain models or eras of BMW cars. Matt Swanborough has a better reason than most, an incident that left an indelible mark on him is the reason he now owns the stunning Mora metallic E38 728i Sport Individual you see splashed across these pages. Today, the 39-year old Marketing professional lives in Guildford, Surrey, but Matt grew up in South Africa and as young boy he always loved cars. It is a familiar story for any eighties kid, Matt had the usual posters up on his walls; the white Lamborghini Countach, the red Ferrari Testarossa. But it wasn’t until he started driving that he developed an interest in BMWs. This despite his father’s passion for Mercedes. Matt’s interest in the brand from Munich was cemented when he was 18-years old and resident at a boarding school in South Africa. “My father had some health issues and had taken a turn for the worst,” Matt recalled. “Some close family friends jumped in their car and sped down to the school to fetch me – it was 4-hours away from where I lived near Pietermaritzburg. They turned up at about 11pm in my friends’ dad’s brand new E38 740i, I jumped in the back and we headed home.


2000 BMW 728i Automatic Sport Individual E38

“Despite being very worried about my father, I was distracted by how amazing the BMW was – the orange glow from the dash with the speedo reading some very illegal speeds, yet it was so quiet and calm in the back, and so comfortable.”

Matt moved to the UK in 2005 but that fateful journey was logged in his mind. His first car in Blighty? You guessed it – an E38 7 Series. A 740i to be precise in exactly the samecolour and specification as the car that took him to his father’s sickbed years previous. “From there I got a bit of a BMW bug, I have owned more than 30 E38s since! Some for years at a time, some – while values had bottomed out – were just parts cars or had major issues which made them uneconomical to repair. In recent years I have broadened my interests a bit and tend to love any BMW from the 1990s and early 2000s.” Matt explained.

“My other cars currently include a E31 840Ci, E36 328i Touring, E46 330Ci Clubsport and an E36/8 Z3. My latest addition is a bit of a change from the 1990s theme, though – a 2006 Alpina B7 which in my eyes is a car which really does embody the concept of the ‘ultimate’ Seven series.”

Matt dove headfirst into the UK BMW scene and he says he’s made some great friends over the years through a shared love of what he calls “Bavarian beauties”.

“The BMW scene today is fantastic and, generally speaking, full of such brilliant people,” Matt enthused. “As an owner of a few different models – such as my E31, E36, and E38 – I’m a member of various clubs and forums, it is quite interesting how different members of each can be. The main difference is that some owners can be a lot more critical, if not openly opinionated, about other member’s cars, meanwhile other groups are just supportive and appreciative no matter what they think of an owner’s choice of modifications or maintenance methods.”

When it comes to the striking Mora metallic E38 you see here it’s no surprise to learn that the colour was a big draw for Matt.

“I have always coveted the Sport models as I prefer the slightly firmer ride, and I absolutelyadore the style 37 M Parallel wheels. I don’t think BMW, or any manufacturer, has yet topped the M Parallel in terms of a production car wheel design,” Matt said.

“My 728i came up for sale on a well known auction site with details of a possible head gasket issue. It was listed as an auction but I made a quick call to the vendor on the day it went live, we agreed a price for me to buy it there and then and I had it collected – completely unseen!”

Produced in July 2001, the car in question was built in the final month of BMW E38 production, when Matt took ownership it was showing a not underwhelming 175,000-miles on its clocks, but if any car can take that sort of mileage on the chin then it’s an E38 7 Series.

“Sadly the suspected head-gasket failure was confirmed and for a second I contemplated scrapping the car, but only for a second,” Matt said. “Instead, I sourced a donor car – a very rusty 728i with 125,0000-miles on its clocks. I went and collected it and drove it home to ensure I knew the engine was good. The donor car had a superb history but it smelt like an ashtray and was crispier than a bag of Walkers!”

With the help of a couple of good friends and fellow E38 fans, almost unbelievably the engine and gearbox swap was performed in a single day and two years on Matt is still enjoying the car. It’s a regular for family trips and it gets used for commuting to the office, too.

In addition to that spectacular exterior hue, Matt’s car boasts Champagne Nappa leather with colour coded purple piping, and those Sport factory-issue ‘must haves’ as far as Matt is concerned – the M Parallel wheels. Further Sport model accoutrements here include Sport suspension, a Sport steering wheel and Sport seats. This car actually has the optional upgraded Sport contour seats with – count them – 11-way adjustment, and it also boasts a factory satellite navigation system, too.

Matt hasn’t been shy in putting his stamp on this car, making a few subtle modifications during his ownership. Naturally there’s that running gear swap, but also Matt has added an electric rear blind and he has swapped the 16:9 sat nav screen for the earlier 4:3 ratio version, Bluetooth streaming audio for the factory soundsystem completes and modernises the in-car changes. A set of BC Racing fully adjustable coilovers have lowered the car slightly, while pre-facelift lights now adorn the rear end. “I am planning on doing a bit of bodywork and a full respray, but the interior is clean and beautiful with the piped Champagne contours as it should be. It really is the most incredible colour combination,” Matt said.

Matt is clearly enjoying the ownership experience with this car, and as a certified E38 enthusiast and expert he should know what he’s talking about.

“I had always thought the 728i would be underpowered and should be avoided, to be frank this is an ongoing argument within the E38 community and is something that someowners get pretty wound up about,” Matt explained. “In my experience, having owned plenty of them all – all the V8 derivatives and a couple of V12s – I actually think the 728i is the one to have, particularly if you plan on using the car regularly and not simply on weekends. “The 728i is well balanced, easy to work on, relatively economical, and most importantly, every bit an E38 as any of the others – it can be just as highly specified as any of its biggerengined brothers. Most retrofits are really easy to perform, and there is a wealth of knowledge among the owner forums.”

In terms of maintenance, when Matt isn’t doing bits himself he takes his cars to Ultimate Velocity in nearby Ash Vale, a small outfit but one he praises with work being second to none, there’s a loyal band of fellow BMW owners often hanging around too, some of whom have become Matt’s friends. Reading between the lines it sounds as though the BMW community has really proved pivotal in aiding Matt’s E38 ownership experience. How, we wonder, has that community, and the wider car scene, been reacting to the E38 model of late – is its star in ascendance?

“In the last two-years things have taken a real turn and the battle between high asking prices and increasing selling prices is starting to wage. Gone are the days of find sub-1k examples,” Matt explained. “For the majority, specification can be as important – if not more important – than condition and history, with rarer, high specification cars commanding strong money, even if they are neither low mileage or great condition. Perhaps because pickings are slim and owners would rather know that a car was a high spec from factory than buy a ‘poverty spec’ car and retrofit everything they want?”

Regardless of current views or values, it is clear that Matt’s passion for this model will not wane.

“This may come across as biased, but I haven’t met anyone who disagrees, I think the E38 is regarded as one of the best 7 Series to date,” Matt confi dently states. “From a styling point of view, it is so well proportioned, and so well built – it is not hard to fi nd high mileage examples which show almost no wear at all inside or out. Add to that their James Bond and Transporter fi lm fame and I do think it sits pretty high up the model hierarchy, if not for their wide appeal and recognition alone.”

And Matt is keen to point out that driving this car in 2022 is a delight, comfort being its – perhaps obvious – major forte.

“You can drive all day in an E38 and climb out feeling refreshed. BMW spent a crazy amount of money on research and development for the seats and it shows,” he said. “The 728i is a fantastic drive, and very diff erent to the 750, for example. In terms of handling and general feeling on the road I would compare driving a 728 versus the 750 to how diff erent driving an E39 530i would feel compared with a Bentley Flying Spur. The 728i is spritely, agile and so well balanced.” As you might imagine, Matt is a gold mine of E38 anecdotes, but one story perhaps sums up why this particular car, above all else in his collection, is the one he says he’ll never part with come what may.

“Having driven E38s for 16-years or so, not one of them has attracted such appreciation as the Mora car,” Matt said. “I laughed when I turned up to my place of work one morning, a place I had commuted to for six-years everyday in a black E38, then a Silver 735i Sport, only to turn up in my Mora 728i for the fi rst time and a group of lads from an offi ce next door walked over to come and admire the car and talk about it. They had gathered before work many times before and I had driven past them in the other E38s totally under the radar. When I turned up in the Mora car it was like they hadn’t seen an E38 in all their lives!”

Matt’s very personal encounter with the E38 all those years ago clearly left an indelible mark on him, but since that time his passion for the model has grown greater and greater still. It’s clear to see that no matter what other vehicles come and go from his BMW collection, there will always be an E38 in his life, most likely this very car.

“It’s a joy to own. It just ticks every box for me, it’s both a reliable and economical commuter and an interesting enthusiast’s car,” Matt said in conclusion. “I guess part of the appeal of old cars is that you’re keeping something going and it needs love and attention, only a car person would really understand what that means.” Yes indeed.

“It just ticks every box for me, it’s a reliable commuter and an interesting enthusiast’s car”

2000 BMW 728i Automatic Sport IndividualE38

  • ENGINE & GEARBOX: Straight-six, 24-valve 2793cc
  • CHASSI: M Parallel wheels, BC Racing coilovers
  • EXTERIOR: Mora-metallic paint, clear indicators,pre-facelift rear lights
  • INTERIOR: Champagne Nappa leather with purple piping, anthracite headlining, Sport steering wheel, optional upgraded Sport Contour seats with 11-way adjustment, factory satellite navigation with 4:3 screen, electric rear blind, Bluetooth
“I think the 728i is the one to have, particularly if you plan on using the car regularly”
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Elizabeth de Latour Elizabeth de Latour 1 month ago #

Colour Of Love

I really enjoyed your feature on Matt Swanborough’s E38 7 Series, not only because I found the story quite touching but also because I found what Matt said about its colour really quite interesting.

These days it seems nearly every car is black or grey, so the purple Mora metallic on Matt’s E38 is a reminder of how people were a bit braver with colour choice not so long ago. It might be my imagination that the 1990s delivered more colourful cars, but I’m certain there were brighter hues back in the 1970s, which is part of what makes classic cars of that era so appealing in my view. Maybe we all need to be a little more adventurous when speccing our new BMWs in future?

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