From Rags to Riches, how to build an E23 7 Series


Latham Papworth is no stranger to the pages of this blog you will recognise his E23 in finished form from this previous blog post. The finished article is only half of the story however. The journey his 7 has taken to reach this point is nothing short of remarkable.

Latham is a very hands on type of car guy. Wherever possible he likes to engineer and design his own solutions to problems that crop up in a build. It’s a way to flex his creative muscles. For a car that outwardly seems quite simple, there is a hell of a lot of clever and interesting work under the skin. Let us tell you his story.

He almost found the car by accident. It was parked up at the side of the street with flat tyres, a flat battery and looking very sorry for itself. Latham left a note on the windshield and got lucky, he got that magical call back and after doing the negotiation dance ended up with a new project and a fresh journey ahead.


It came with some 40 years of weathering to its name, plus some time stood still. This meant the 7 series needed a thorough overhaul in order to meet Latham’s brief; to be a reliable, stylish cruising machine to pick up pizza.

That might be an odd brief for some, but we can’t argue with the thought of cruising to get food and airing out outside with a bunch of friends. No stylish big saloon is complete without perfect paint. So this was the first port of call for Latham. Luckily he had access to a local paint shop who were not phased by the rare trim and panel work on the E23.

Upon inspection it was clear this wasn’t the cars first time in a paint shop. Every panel on the car needed work after being painted badly previously in its life. The car was originally blue and was actually painted black some time ago. Latham has since learned this was to make the car suitable for use in a movie production, which is a pretty cool fact.

Once painted Latham knew that no cruiser would be complete without the right wheels and the correct stance. He was able to get hold of a set of 18″ BBS RS for use on the car. They are ultra-rare factory 5×120 centers using single step up lips, so keep the correct proportions to look just right.

There was no question in Latham’s mind that the 7 series would go on air and he opted for Air Lift Performance 3H to give the luxury saloon the ride to match its looks. Air Lift Performance 3H allows the car to be dropped mm perfect over the BBS wheels at the push of a button. But first, he had to design the boot build and fabricate suitable struts.


Latham has used an a-frame to hide the compressor and lines and keep the boot built ultra clean. Raising the manifold up and creating a custom 3d-printed mount allowed him to show off the Air Lift Performance hardware and still have ample, useable boot space. It’s a pretty trick, especially when you consider he has made everything in his own home garage – even the 3d printing!


Latham engineered the perfect drop using Air Lift Performance custom build parts. Using his engineering expertise he was able to factor in the right camber and right height for the perfect rolling and drop heights. He TIG welded the struts himself in his home garage using a jig to ensure right and left symmetry.

With the suspension installed it was then a case of sympathetically integrating the Air Lift Performance 3H control panel to the center console of the car. Here Latham used the ashtray aperture and used magnets to conceal the controller keypad and keep the interior looking absolutely factory when not in use. The original ashtray lid sits in front of the controller when dormant.

But that wasn’t enough for Latham. At the point that most would consider the project finished, he went on to spend another 40+ hours restoring the interior and completely flatting and polishing the new paint for a mirror shine. He doesn’t do things by halves.

I think you’ll agree that this is one E23 that we would be happy to cruise around London inside in search of a spot to eat. Latham has hit his brief. Check out this gallery of the finished article:

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