In the automotive world, engine swaps are not uncommon. Enthusiasts often seek ways to enhance performance and create unique vehicles by fitting different engines into their cars. But there’s one engine swap that stands out as both surprising and historic: Volkswagen’s installation of the W10 V10 engine into a BMW E39 M5. The story behind this fascinating engine swap dates back to 1998 when the Volkswagen Group, led by owner Ferdinand Piëch, acquired Bentley and Bugatti. Piëch was determined to set his brands apart from the competition and develop cutting-edge engines that would define the future of high-performance automobiles.

Two V5 Engines Mashed Together

To achieve this vision, Piëch appointed Dr. Sabine (Wolfram) Willeke to spearhead the engine development project. Dr. Willeke, a talented engineer, was tasked with creating a range of engines, including the famous W16, W12, W10, and W8 engines. During the development of these engines, there arose a need for a test car that could handle the immense power of the W10 engine. However, no existing VW at that time could withstand the power of this new engine. After careful consideration, the team decided to use the BMW E39 M5 as the test vehicle due to its strong chassis and compatibility with manual gearboxes.

The W10 engine was designed as a smaller alternative to the W12 and W16 engines. It was created by combining two VR5 engines, which were short-lived offerings only available in a limited number of Volkswagen products and markets. Despite its relative obscurity, the VR5 engine was quite potent, delivering 168 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque from its 2.3-liter displacement. Once the W10 engine was transplanted into the BMW E39 M5, the results were nothing short of extraordinary. With the newfound power, the car boasted a remarkable 500 horsepower (507 PS / 373 kW) and 550 Nm (405 lb-ft) of torque. Compared to the standard E39 M5, this represented a significant 25 percent increase in power and a 10 percent boost in torque, creating an absolute performance monster.

Allegedly Ferdinand Piëch was impressed with the modified BMW M5 that he chose to use it for his personal rides. The project showcased the potential of the W10 engine and provided invaluable data and insights for further engine development within the Volkswagen Group. This one-off BMW E39 M6 is offered for sale by the Belgian-German GT racing team GDM Motors. There is no pricing available, but one can assume that it won’t be on the cheap side.