Car enthusiasts are a strange bunch. By strange, we mean creative (and also strange) but if you're reading this, you already know that. Consider estates, traditional family vehicles that shouldn't flame an enthusiast's heart but yet, they do. And for reasons we can't explain, having a big engine isn't enough. Manual-swapping a beefy estate makes no sense from a performance perspective, but that's why it's brilliant.
That brings us to the BMW featured in this Drivetribe video. It's an E61 M5 Touring, packing the glorious 5.0-litre V10 producing 500 bhp that goes to the rear wheels through a seven-speed SMG. That's an automated manual transmission, and while the engine is great, the gearbox isn't loved quite as much. Fortunately, BMW offered the old V10 M5 with a six-speed manual. Unfortunately, it was only available on the saloon, and only in America. Still, how hard could an E61 manual swap in the UK really be?
Actually, it's not that tough but before you grab your tools, we need some context with this claim. This video condenses hours upon hours of work into 21 minutes, and it's done by a pro who's completed two E61 manual swaps already. Clearly, the project is quite involved and even requires a few custom parts to pull it off. It also requires new wiring and a recoded computer so the estate knows it doesn't have to shift gears anymore.
You might also be surprised to learn the swap doesn't use an M5-sourced transmission. Apparently, those are extremely hard to come by, but it turns out the six-speed box from the E92 M3 is virtually identical. A few of the gear ratios are a bit different, and it requires a different flywheel, which also requires a different starter motor, which then requires a fair amount of teardown on top of the engine. So while it's straightforward, it's definitely a hefty project.
One thing not needed, however, is cutting or welding to make room for a stick shift in the cockpit. It turns out all M5s from this generation have the floor passthrough and shifter bracket already in place from the factory. That includes the E61 Touring, so adding the manual lever and associated kit is literally a bolt-in process.
Is the swap a success? Presumably so, as we see the car move ever-so-slightly at the end of the clip. Another video featuring a road test is in the works, so standby for big clutch drops and estate burnouts coming soon.
Want to hear more about cars from yesteryear? Check out the 80s/90s automotive edition of the Rambling About Cars podcast, available below.