While road-tripping through Reno, Nevada, we found this AC Schnitzer-equipped E38 BMW 750iL that was inspired by the styling of VIP luxury sedans in Japan.
What is VIP style anyway? Originally starting in the mid to late 1990s, VIP style became a term coined by Japanese car magazines to describe the growing street trend of modified big body sedans on Japanese streets. In the early 1990s, people were noticing that Japanese gangsters (Yakuza) would be driven around in modified Mercedes-Benz and BMW sedans. However, when companies like Nissan and Toyota began producing more luxurious big body sedans in the 1990s, the VIP trend evolved and made its way to those cars. By the early 2000s, Japanese VIP style became a huge automotive subculture and its own genre of automotive builds with magazines like VIP Style and VIP Car leading the way. Every month, these magazines would feature the best-looking executive long-wheelbase sedans in Japan, many of them wearing fiberglass aero kits that smooth out the look of the car and make it look lower, with big nineteen or twenty-inch three-piece wheels sitting flush to the fender, and tires tucked into the fender wells.
It doesn’t matter what genre of the automotive hobby a build belongs in, a universal standard is the build will always be a mechanical extension of the builder. It’s left for others to gauge the level of taste. Some rides are over the top with distractions, while others thrive on simplicity, beckoning you to scrutinize its lesser-noted details.
Pop culture will remember the E38 750iL as being pre-Bangle, the hero car Pierce Brosnan pilots in "Tomorrow Never Dies," and ominously, Tupac’s final chariot ride.
For Kameron Baker, this 1998 E38 was familiarity. Consigned to a fate of being forgotten on some forlorn patch of wasteland outside the city of Fallon in Northern Nevada, he rescued this car with the intent of employing it as a posh mode of navigation through Reno’s snowy winter.
Builders are dreamers, and the winter beater received a fanciful photoshop rendering and aided with the demise of winter, a European V12 is never left stock. This is where the aforementioned scrutiny of details comes into play. The three-piece Leon Hardiritt wheels from Japan are a dead giveaway of the VIP Car influence imbued on Kameron.
There always seems to be a sharp delineation between the enthusiast group modifying the offering that BMW's Dengolfing factory produced and the one Stuttgart gave showroom floors. That didn’t seem to bother Kameron, considering regardless of where the car’s origin was, the market demographic was the same. It was a no brainer to take cues from Japan’s VIP culture and apply it here.
The best part? You can have German AC Schnitzer aero on it, and a can of Japanese Suntory Boss Coffee in the cupholder and nobody will complain!
The beauty in this build is that there are enough details to delineate this car from stock. A lot of people shy away from the 750iL simply due to the V12 powerplant. A lot of people gravitate towards the E30 for track-based antics. A lot of people do lots of things for lots of reasons, and this car has a reason. Kameron didn’t need a track machine—he has a turbocharged E30 for that. He needed a plush, reliable cruiser.
He desired the antithesis, found it, and he modified it. Having the car coated in Sepang Bronze, and adding touches that would make the car equally at home in Tokyo's Yakuza-laden Kabukichō district in Shinjuku, as well as the snowy Highway 395 in Reno, he made the mark of making a personal statement about a penchant for details, and posh comfort that his E30 hotrod couldn’t or wouldn’t afford.
In the spacious interior of the 750iL, burled wood, and non-offensive light gray leather welcome you. This was the superlative offering of luxury during the Clinton era.
Details really make a build, and this BMW-branded phone is a really cool period piece to star sixty-nine someone with. Oh, and a rolled-up Franklin is the ultimate gangster accessory, next to…
...the blade tucked away in one of the executive Bimmer's myriad of storage compartments. A little protection is obviously a necessity when traversing dark alleys with a carphone and rolled up currency in your center console.
Long before Bluetooth audio and MP3s, there was a brief time when cassette tapes and compact discs battled for supremacy. Could one imagine twenty years later converting audio tapes and CDs to a digital medium?
While an LCD screen is commonplace these days, the technology was in its infancy when the BMW factory installed this screen. The technology of touchscreen control was unheard of in a time when Texas Instruments TI-83 calculators were the most common small crystal display.
Looking like a mid-century modern hood ornament, a super cool optional accessory from BMW was the headrest coat hanger. While it may not have been delivered with the 750 as standard equipment, it's a necessity for a BMW owner with status. It would be a travesty to show up to the board meeting with a rumpled suit.
A look into the rear seating area will uncover cool little details, like a ton of legroom and the fact that the floormats come with soft foot cushions for the rear passengers.
Of course, you can't have luxury without a cupholder that pulls out from the center of the back seat - although BMW didn't quite engineer it for heavy cups, or tall ones for that matter.
Under the hood, the 750’s dual intake plenums grab your eye, asking what you think the 326hp V12 engine sounds like at full song, with its 361 ft lbs of torque.
A quick glance at the strut towers reveal Cosmo Racing camber plates perched atop Suspension Techniques ST-X coilovers, which are nestled in the shock towers like a jewel, the shadows and highlights play off the sheet metal evoking imagery of a Soviet missile silo bunker.
The engine displacement call out proudly proclaims its size, the intake runner detail instantly evokes svelte athleticism, thanks to longitudinal lines drawing our eyes back to the firewall really gives a sense of scale to the V12's dimensions.
Kameron says he's had to replace numerous things under the hood to keep his 5.4 liter V12 M73B54 engine running. He said that he ordered most of the replacement and maintenance parts for his car through FCP Euro long before we ever met, that way he could take advantage of the Lifetime Replacement Guarantee when the car inevitably needs maintenance again.
The rear of the car is clean and simple, with an executive look—but it certainly has presence on the street and attracts quite a few eyeballs.
One might notice the aftermarket E38 taillights, which are nearly identical to the OEM tail lights from the face-lifted second generation E38, but these ones have LED bulbs inside.
It's obvious that the boldest statement on the car are the three-piece Leon Hardiritt Waffe wheels sized 20x9.5 (ET5) up front and 20x10.5 (ET15) in the rear, wrapped in Continental DWS tires 245/35/20 up front and 275/30/20 in the rear.
A trained eye will also notice the roof wing attached to the top of the rear window. For this piece, Kameron wouldn't settle for anything less than the original AC Schnitzer piece.
Kameron mentioned that all the control arms/thrust arms on his E38 were ordered from FCP Euro, as well as miscellaneous maintenance items, like the secondary air hose, and other hoses. This E38 didn't need too much maintenance to keep it running, but since Kameron and his brother have a small fleet of BMWs that they're constantly tinkering with, they order repair and maintenance parts from FCP Euro often.
So what's next for Kameron and his stately cruiser? Having a penchant for sourcing rare options, such as the BMW jacket holder clipped to the driver seat's headrest, next is locating a factory table for the rear seats. He has postulated changing the interior color, but for the most part, he’s been pretty happy with the direction this car has gone. Sometimes you really don't need to go over the top to personalize a build—having a nice comfortable cruiser and highlighting the unique options the car had originally is enough. There's enough of Kameron's touch in the car that makes it uniquely his. The V12 burble and the wheels surely turn heads. At the end of the day, like any automotive enthusiast, never say never when it comes to modifications for the quest for performance.
Story by Kelly Doke
Photos by Antonio Alvendia
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS