Custom BMW 116d F21


PIPE DREAMS

Custom F21 1 Series


‘Iplanned to keep this car standard.’ That’s a phrase we hear time and time again from feature car owners, and it always goes the same way – especially if they’ve got form in the area of automotive modification. Take Aberdare’s Jake Bajai, for example: his back catalogue includes a silly-low Audi A4 running static on Rotiforms, a Golf GTD with attitude, a Renault Sport Clio built for the track, and numerous other feisty projects. So when he tells us that he originally bought this car as a comfortable daily that would be cheap to run and insure, we’re able to cross-reference that information with the full-on custom creation sitting before the lens and fire him the wry smirk he deserves.

“Being a petrolhead from a young age, and having never bought a car and kept it standard for longer than a week, it didn’t take long before I noticed that there weren’t a lot of these cars being modified,” he reasons. “So I couldn’t stop myself setting to work on it!”

That’s all the rationale you need really, isn’t it? And it’s almost as if fate had planned it this way from the start: Jake had actually gone to view a different BMW at a local dealership but this F21 116d M Sport caught his eye, resplendent in icy white with Alcantara Sport seats. The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel motor ticked the frugality boxes (the ‘116’ name being more of a hierarchical marker than an engine-size clue these days), and the fact that it was a three-door M Sport provided the necessary rarity to keep it fun. Jake was signing his name on the dotted line within moments.

As you’d probably guess, it took all of a couple weeks before he started hankering for a few more horses. “A friend of mine, Rhys, had booked his car into a local remapper in Cardiff, Performance Engineering, and told me I should take mine in for the same day,” Jake recalls. “I hung up the phone and booked the car in straight away! It was a few days away so I seized the opportunity and got a K&N performance filter, as I had read on the forums that it was the best booked the car into a local exhaust shop to have a back box delete with twin tailpipes. This was later changed by my good friends at Caerphilly Longlife for a quad-exit duplex system that was split before the rear axle so it would be a fully functioning system. The car made a healthy 180hp and 302lb ft which was enough for me; it wasn’t mind-blowing power, but plenty for me to still take the car for a run over the Brecon Beacons without being left behind by my mates.”

It’s fair to say that any pretensions to keeping the car stock had enthusiastically sailed out of the window by this point, and it’ll surprise precisely no one to find that Jake had the car running on a set of interim coilovers while he finalised some details with the legendary Phil at The Install Company regarding a custom air-ride setup. The decision was made to use the new-to-market ABP (Air By Plush) gear with Air Lift 3P management. “At the time, this was a prototype bag system using Bilstein shocks as this setup had never been done on a non-M or xDrive model, so I was really excited for ABP to use my car as their prototype,” he recalls. “The bag setup is firm, yet rides much better than the original suspension – I was truly amazed at how it performed, and will definitely use ABP on my next project.” A ringing endorsement indeed, but hold those horses – we’re not done with this F21 yet, not by a long shot.

“As for the install itself… well, that was originally supposed to be a small boot build. After talking to Phil while it was having the air-ride fitted we decided it was ‘go big or go home’”

Next on the list was wheels, as you can’t bag a standard ride over stock rims, it’s improper. Jake was rolling a set of Japan Racing JR23s for a couple of months, the rears custom-made in a 9” width to sit just right, but there was a little niggling voice at the back of his head telling him that the BMW deserved something more special. “While the car was away at the paint shop, I was messaged by a very good friend of mine, Matt Perkins, who owns Flat Out Alloys in Cardiff, dealing with refurbs and building up custom splits. He said he had a set of BBS RS2 ultra-concaves that were in amazing condition; these were the wheels I had always wanted, so after a little bit of haggling we settled on a price that I couldn’t turn down. I made Matt load them up that night and bring them to me!”

The ball was really rolling by this point, and with the aesthetics coming together Jake was keen to fulfil his vision for the exterior: subtlety was the watchword, accentuating that crisp white paint with tasteful carbon fibre embellishment in all the right places. A set of carbon mirrors from an M4 were sourced and fitted with nifty sequential indicators, along with a carbon spoiler, carbon twin-slat grilles (imported from the States), and a KSB Autostyling low-line splitter kit – cleverly chopped to accommodate the quad exhausts.

“ At the time, this was a prototype bag system using Bilstein shocks as this setup had never been done on a non-M or xDrive model, so I was really excited for ABP to use my car as their prototype”

“The sequential indicators made me think about having a set of custom headlights made to match,” he continues. “I knew exactly which design I was after and I set out to find a company I could entrust my headlights to. Unfortunately the company I chose was awful, and I had to work very hard to get the lights back in my possession! But the fight was worth it; there were a few wiring issues when I managed to get them back, but after we worked out which wires did what and with a little bit of luck, the result was fantastic.

Even with the stress while they were away it was totally worth it, as I think they make the front end of the car look so amazing,” he says.

The final stage of the plan was to make the interior as cool and attractive as the exterior, and this is the area in which Jake may have got a little carried away. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is one of the best F2x interiors we’ve seen – possibly the best – and it’s thanks to a combination of careful decision-making and using the right craftsmen to bring it all to life. “Like the exterior, I wanted to follow a theme inside of being subtle but highly modified,” he says. “First I had the custom carbon fibre and Alcantara steering wheel fitted, with the carbon centrepiece and carbon start button. At the same garage I also had a set of colour-changing footwell lights, and my dials changed to white and blue to give it that OEM+ look.” While sitting in McDonald’s and chewing over the next step, Jake’s phone buzzed with a message from a mate saying he had a set of Recaro buckets from a Corsa VXR; he didn’t know if they’d fit, but they’re awesome seats and the price was right so he took a punt, and it’s paid off magnificently – they look outstanding. More carbon bits naturally followed, and then the project took yet another turn when the seats were being fitted by Autohaus in Newport: they pointed out that there was a retrim shop just across the road, Sew Good Upholstery. Jake ambled over and immediately found himself among kindred spirits; before he knew it, he was discussing Alcantara seat trim with M Sport stitching, boot build materials, and myriad other ways to make the interior eye-wateringly pretty.

“ Matt Perkins, who owns Flat Out Alloys in Cardiff… said he had a set of BBS RS2 ultra-concaves that were in amazing condition; these were the wheels I had always wanted, so after a little bit of haggling we settled on a price that I couldn’t turn down”

“As for the install itself… well, that was originally supposed to be a small boot build,” he laughs. “After talking to Phil while it was having the air-ride fitted we decided it was ‘go big or go home.’ The rear seats were taken out and I was asked a few questions about how I would like it to look, then told to leave and I wasn’t allowed to see the car until it was done! All that was agreed was I wanted a carbon-skinned tank, twin compressors, hardlines, and some subs and lights. Phil did not disappoint, I got what I asked for but I couldn’t have come close to imagining how he built the install – he is a true artist, when I picked the car up I was lost for words. I had no clue it was going look that good.”

So much for a sensible daily, huh? There are more plans too, of course there are – Jake’s already talking about a BBK, a rebuild and colour-change for the wheels, a dash retrim, some bigger subwoofers, smoothing out the door handles… it’s never-ending, but of course that’s just the nature of the serial modifier. It’s still a 116d F21 at heart so he can keep telling himself it’s sensible, but for people like Jake, ‘I planned to keep this car standard’ is just a mumbled collection of vowel sounds as he sizes up the potential.

Matt Perkins, who owns Flat Out Alloys in Cardiff… said he had a set of BBS RS2 ultra-concaves that were in amazing condition; these were the wheels I had always wanted, so after a little bit of haggling we settled on a price that I couldn’t turn down”

“ At the time, this was a prototype bag system using Bilstein shocks as this setup had never been done on a non-M or xDrive model, so I was really excited for ABP to use my car as their prototype”


DATA FILE BMW 116d F21

ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 2.0-litre turbo-diesel N47D20, K&N performance air filter, Performance Engineering remap, full Longlife duplex exhaust system. Six-speed manual gearbox

CHASSIS 8.5×18” (front) and 10×18” (rear) BBS RS2 ultraconcave two-piece wheels with 205/35 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Nankang NS-20 tyres, ABP airride setup with bespoke Bilstein dampers and Air Lift Performance 3P management, front strut brace

EXTERIOR Full respray in original white, smoothed front bumper with gloss black grilles, custom headlights, carbon fibre double-slat kidney grilles, KSB Autostyling low-line splitter kit, carbon M4 mirrors with sequential indicators, welded and smoothed rear wiper, carbon boot spoiler, carbon shark in, Maxton Design rear diffuser, tinted rear lights, all chrome trim resprayed Shark Grey, carbon gel badges

INTERIOR Full boot build in Alcantara with 2x Hertz 10” subs and amp, carbon fibre air tank, black hardlines, colour-changing lights, Corsa VXR Recaro seats retrimmed in Alcantara with custom M tricolour stitching, Alcantara and carbon steering wheel, We Are Likewise Daytona billet gear knob, carbon start button, white and blue gauge cluster, full under-dash colourchanging lights

THANKS I would like to thank all my family and friends for the lifts and late night tinkering, Phil at The Install Company for the amazing build, Ian at Sew Good Upholstery for the interior, Matt at Flat Out Alloys Cardiff for the alloys, tyre changes and helping me with show prep this year, M.D. Body Repairs Aberdare for getting the paint to a high standard with the little time I gave them, ABP Suspension for the continued support with the car, and a massive shout-out to all the boys at Caerphilly Longlife for the exhaust and letting me use their garage for the photo shoot


 

Incredible custom air and audio install. Carbon M4 mirrors with sequential indicators. Striking custom Headlights. Custom quad exhaust. Alcantara and carbon steering wheel. Alcantara and carbon steering wheel We Are Likewise Daytona billet gear knob. Corsa VXR Recaro front seats. KSB splitter kit makes the car look lower and wider.

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