The first BMW 8 Series (1989-1999), known internally as the E31, now has many fans. But there is still a kind of Holy Grail of the E31: the M8, which was certainly tested by BMW, but never built in series. Just over two years ago, the only prototype with a 640 PS 6.0-litre V12 was taken out of the collection and put on display.

But what if the 380 PS production 850 CSi isn't enough? The official BMW M8 is a one-off. Now, Bergisch Gladbach-based tuner Manhart has come up with an unusual solution.

The technicians from Manhart Performance's Classic Cars division set up a restoration project lasting almost three years with a partner company. They put an E31 coupé on large wheels, which they believed would then have adequately fulfilled the role of an M8.

Manhart MH8 5.0 V8 Limited

Manhart MH8 5.0 V8 Limited

The silky 5.0-litre V12 of the old 850i from 1990 was replaced by the S62B50 engine from the BMW E39 M5, which was just as big, but with four fewer cylinders. After optimising power output, the M Group now sends 420 PS to the rear wheels via the 6-speed manual gearbox. More than the increase in power of around 120 PS compared with the V12, the much more aggressive design of the S62 engine influences the 'masculine character' of the car, which is now called the Manhart MH8 5.0 V8 Limited 01/05.

The change in attitude is underlined acoustically by the low-frequency rumble and bellow of the sporty stainless steel exhaust system. The 8 Series wheel arches are filled with 9x20 and 10.5x20 inch Concave One light alloy wheels shod with 255/30R20 and 295/25R20 Continental Sport Contact 7 tyres. The MANHART brake upgrade with fixed 4-piston callipers and 340 mm diameter perforated brake discs on the front axle is clearly visible through the filigree stars on the double-spoke wheels.

H&R lowering springs combined with Bilstein B6 shock absorbers give this particular 8 Series an even more streamlined look, while spacer washers, also made in-house, allow the wheel/tyre combinations to be aligned horizontally on the wings. Naturally, all the axle parts were shot-blasted and refurbished during the restoration, and all the rubber and bearings were replaced.

Manhart MH8 5.0 V8 Limited

The dynamic look of the MH8 5.0 V8, which has of course been completely repainted, is also underlined by the installation of the larger front apron and the rear apron of the 850 CSi, the M windscreen exterior mirrors and an aerodynamic detachment edge on the rear boot.

The seats, rear bench, door panels and side panels, as well as the dashboard and centre console, have been reworked and now feature coloured stitching and applications. The same applies to the new covers for the BMW sports steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake, which have been made from soft Alcantara. The same material is also used for the headlining and pillar linings, the rear shells of the integral sports seats and the rear parcel shelf.

As its name suggests, the MH8 5.0 V8 Limited 01/05 in the configuration described here, which qualifies it for an H (Historical) number plate, is limited to just five examples worldwide. The example pictured here is currently on sale and can change hands for €149,000 (approx. £128,000). A recent appraisal report indicates an even higher restoration value.