The Car’s The Star – BMW E28

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By Chris Pollitt

The BMW E28, which was the second-generation of BMW’s mighty 5 Series, was and still is a real looker. Any car with quad lights up front is going to look good, but add in that ‘shark nose’ bonnet and grille, the sturdy ‘three box’ design and of course, the famed Hoffmeister kink, you’ve got yourself one exceptionally handsome machine. And being a BMW, the brilliance didn’t end with the looks. The E28 had plenty of go to back up the show. Well, apart from the 518i. 

The BMW E28’s looks and performance have made it an attractive prospect for many a film director. And we’re not talking about films from the car’s heyday. The E28 is still a popular choice, as evidenced by its appearance in 2018’s Mission Impossible: Fallout. Oh yes, much like Tom Cruise, the star of that very film, the E28 has serious screen presence, and as such, it has an impressive movie CV. Join us as we sift through them to find five of the best. 

1) Mission Impossible: Fallout 

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We’ve already mentioned it, so we may as well open with it. The screen time for the E28 in espionage thriller, Mission Impossible: Fallout is brief, but welcome. Needing to transport the antagonist to a safehouse, we first see the BMW as a garage door opens. In an unusual shade of metallic green, there is much speculation as to the spec. It’s not an M5, so is more than likely a 535i or 528i. Either way, it’s manual, it’s mint and when you see the tracking shots, it’s obvious the suspension is seriously upgraded. But then it’d need to be. 

As the car comes under fire, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) ditches his team before hurtling through narrow French streets at breakneck speed. In a moment of genius, Hunt yanks the handbrake and spins the car 180 degrees so it slides backwards down some stairs. This is a clever touch, as doing this avoids smashing the sump. These spies are switched on. In the end, Hunt plays chicken with a motorbike, wins and escapes. We never see the E28 again. 

2) The Peacemaker 

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1997’s The Peacemaker starring George ‘will work for coffee’ Clooney and Nicole ‘same in every film’ Kidman was largely forgettable. Something about a colonel, a Nicole Kidman and and some Russians, possibly, we can’t remember. What we can remember though, as it’s about the only bit worth watching, is the car chase between a then brand-new W140 S Class and a cache of BMW E28s. Given that the W140 was significantly more modern, while also being roughly the size of Huddersfield, you can guess how it played out for the poor BMWs. However, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, as they say. Screen time is screen time. 

George, presumably hopped up on Nespresso, enters the W140 into a brutal close-quarters battle with the BMWs in a market square. The W140 makes light work of the black E28s, most of which seemed to be 520i models. The Mercedes t-bones, sideswipes and even decapitates one poor BMW. Finally, using a de-tyred Mercedes rim as a big, spinning Zippo, George ignites the spilled fuel and blows up the last Beemer. Shame. 

3) Twin Town

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1997’s cult Welsh hit, Twin Town only features an E28 briefly, but it’s here for two reasons. Firstly, during its appearance, it flies through the air like the General Lee, and secondly, it’s the basis of some most amusing dialogue. In the film, the car has been stolen by two brothers, Julian and Jeremy Lewis who are played by Llyr and Rhys Ifans. Enjoying their joy ride in the stolen German machine, they take to the apparently hilly streets of Swansea and take flight. The two-tone 525i crashes to the ground, but seems to live on thanks to movie magic, as we see it later in the scene.

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Later in the film, when one of the characters is trying to identify the brothers and the stolen car, there is a bit of confusion over the exact specification of the car, resulting in the following exchange: “What were they driving? AC Cobra. You know, like a copy type of thing. Drove through the whole pitch.” To which the police officer replies, “So it wasn’t a two tone 525 then? You know the difference between a 525 and an AC Cobra?” Only to be shut down by the brilliant response of; “Course I do, man! One’s got a roof and the other haven’t!”

4) Splash

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Who doesn’t love a bit of cinema’s nicest man, Tom Hanks, on their screen? Back in the ‘80s, Hanks was at the peak of his comedy era, and one of his big hits was 1984’s Splash in which Tom falls for the beautiful Darryl Hannah. She also happens to be a mermaid. Standard love story stuff. Man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, woman turns out to be a mermaid. It’s an age old story. 

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Of course, one significant plot twist revolves around crazy scientists trying to kidnap Darryl for scary research reasons. Tom breaks her out, but he needs to escape quickly, and what better way to do that than in his trusty E28 528e. It looks daft to us, with its massive federal-spec bumpers, but it doesn’t detract from the excellent chase through the streets of New York. 

5) Coldplay – The Scientist 

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Finally, something different in the form of a music video. Coldplay’s hit The Scientist from the band’s debut album, Parachutes, brought with it a strange video in which Chris ‘Gwyneth’ Martin seems to be living his life in reverse. This starts with him lying on an abandoned mattress in what looks to be the set of Shameless. He then gets up, walks backwards a bit, sings a bit, and then eventually he gets into a black, late model E28. 

Curiously, the car has no windscreen. Soon though, the reason becomes apparent, as a young lady flies back into the car with the screen reassembling itself in the process. Cut to a shot of a different (it had hubcaps, not alloys) black E28 rolling up a hill, and then we see what happened. Or what is going to happen, but backwards, or something. The original E28 from earlier drives backwards through a fence, before swerving to avoid a tractor. Proof, if anything, that listening to Coldplay when driving isn’t advisable.

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