Beyond the limit. With an incredible 750whp from its single-turbo-equipped N54, this full-on, hardcore, track-prepped 135i is an astonishing machine. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Cris Guamanzara.
BEYOND THE LIMIT Insane 750whp single-turbo 135i. Absolutely incredible hardcore BMW 1 series E82 takes performance to the next level.
omething we as car enthusiasts are always lamenting is the fact that modern cars are so much bigger and heavier than their counterparts from the good old days and, as a result, they lack involvement and just don’t deliver when it comes to absolute driving thrills. Sure, you can buy something like a Caterham or Lotus Elise but they are rather extreme examples; what if you want something more usable and comfortable? What this is all about is the E30 M3 – this was a car that was both incredibly hardcore, involving and thrilling to drive and yet was also relatively comfortable, practical, had a roof, a heater, all the mod cons you could have wanted back in the ’80s. It was the duality of this package that made it so incredibly appealing and this is something that BMW fans the world over have been hunting for ever since. When people say they’re looking for a car like an E30 M3 the common response is to tell them to go and buy an E30 M3; very funny, but the trouble is that the most desirable M3 is not the most affordable M3 and it also happens to be old, will require a lot of maintenance and upkeep as well as being something of an appreciating asset, thus meaning it’s not really a practical proposition. Luckily there is an alternative, and arguably the modern incarnation of the E30 M3, and that is the E82 1 Series Coupé. Note we didn’t say the 1M because, even though in absolute terms that is correct, the 1M mirrors its predecessor rather too closely in terms of value and rarity but luckily there is a viable alternative in the shape of the 135i.
“Up front there’s a Revozport carbon splitter with support struts and a super-sexy Revozport custom vented carbon race bonnet, one of only two produced worldwide”
It’s relatively small and relatively light by modern standards and has plenty of power and tuning potential, and all without breaking the bank. This makes it the perfect pocket-sized powerhouse if you’re after modern motoring that manages to capture the spirit of lightweight classic performance machinery from the past. That’s why when Socrates Halikias decided he wanted to build himself the ultimate performance BMW, a 135i was top of his list and that 135i has now turned into this absolute beast.
What we love about the BMW scene is not just the immense diversity in the cars we see but also the diversity of the owners we meet, the fact that they come from all walks of life but are united here by their passion for BMs and modding them. Socrates, for example, is a restaurant owner, probably one of the rarest professions we’ve come across, and his passion for performance is clearly on par with his passion for food. The plan for this build was set before he’d even bought the car and it was only ever going to be turned into a full-on performance machine. With his sights set on building an extreme machine he knew he had to have the perfect platform from which to start. “I chose the 135i because it has a great combination of handling and power and the motor has a lot of potential for even more power,” he tells us. “The 135i is the lightest BMW with the N54 engine so I knew it had to be this car for this build; I bought my car new in 2008 and started raising the horsepower levels every year,” so you’d therefore expect this 135i to be packing a lot of power, and you won’t be disappointed there.
“Up front sit six-pot calipers with 355mm discs while at the back you’ll find four-pots with 345mm discs and they combine to offer massive, fade-free braking performance”
The big draw of the 135i for Socrates was the N54 and its huge power potential and he has taken the engine far beyond just about every other N54 we’ve ever come across and the spec is truly astonishing. The engine was built by Motiv Motorsport and they really went to town here; the most impressive aspect of the whole engine build is without doubt the closed deck block. As standard the N54 uses an open deck block, which means that at the top of the block there is little to no reinforcement around the cylinders; a closed deck block adds significant reinforcement between the cylinders and the block itself, leaving only coolant ports and adding serious strengthening in the process. This makes the design perfect for high-compression, high-revving, high performance engines – BMW itself has switched to a closed deck design for the current B58, its most recent turbo straight-six design. Upgrading the N54 from an open deck to closed deck block means that it is now capable of far higher power outputs without breaking a sweat and it was an absolute necessity for this build as Socrates had his sights set on all of the power. To go with the uprated block, Motiv fitted forged pistons and forged rods and then carried out a single turbo conversion, running a Xona Rotor 95-67 turbo capable of handling up to 950hp, and it is joined by a massive custom Motiv FMIC. The end result of all this extensive engine work is an absolutely epic 750whp with 720lb ft wtq, incredible outputs especially in a car like this and it has turned this 135i into an absolute animal.
Of course, jacking up the N54’s power output to biblical proportions and calling it a day really isn’t how you build a car and so a lot of attention has been paid to the various supporting elements of the project to ensure that the whole package was capable of dealing with the power that Socrates now had available. First up, the gearbox has been bolstered with the addition of a Motiv Motorsport twin-disc clutch along with a single-mass flywheel, which means the transmission is now far better-suited to coping with the engine’s epic output. The chassis has also undergone significant upgrades to ensure that Socrates can actually use the monster power at his disposal; for starters the stock suspension is long gone and in its place sits a Motion Control Suspension two-way remote reservoir coilover setup.
“Each damper is hand-assembled and dyno-tested at MCS’ facility and the customer service is great,” says Socrates and the high-end coilovers are joined by a full set of SPL Parts control arms. The finishing touch is a set of solid bushes for maximum tightness and tautness throughout the chassis, resulting in a seriously uncompromising setup assembled with performance in mind. With a build like this, wheel choice is dictated by performance first and styling second so while Socrates wanted a smart set of wheels on his 135i, they had to fit in with the high performance philosophy behind the build. “The Titan 7 T-S5 was my choice because they are forged wheels for track and street and weigh 18.5lbs only at an a affordable price,” he explains, making these an excellent choice on all fronts. An added bonus is the fact that they look great, with a classic motorsport style, while the widely-spaced spokes really show-off the massive BBK that he has fitted. With 750whp you need some serious stopping power and the StopTech Trophy kit that sits on both axles definitely delivers here – up front sit six-pot calipers with 355mm discs while at the back you’ll find four-pots with 345mm discs and they combine to offer massive, fade-free braking performance.
So this 135i really delivers when it comes to performance and handling but there’s a lot more to this build, as you can clearly see from the pictures. With this car destined for both street and track use, Socrates wanted to give his 135i a look that would suit both locations and this is one 1 Series that definitely turns heads everywhere it goes. “I wanted to go with something that was an aggressive aesthetic that was also purposeful for the track as well as the street. Autocouture Motoring helped me achieve my goals and dreams,” he grins, “with a wide-body to accommodate tyres and wheels to support the power, a front diffuser and rear wing to create as much purposeful aerodynamic grip as possible and so on,” and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. This 135i wears an OEM 1M front bumper and 1M front wings to match while at the rear that serious stance comes courtesy of a pair of custom rivet-on arch flares that really give this car the full-on racer aesthetic that Socrates was aiming for. Up front there’s a Revozport carbon splitter with support struts and a super-sexy Revozport custom vented carbon race bonnet – one of only two produced worldwide – yellow-tinted headlights with eyebrows, side blades with front aero elements and at the back there’s a suitably aggressive carbon diffuser and a massive APR carbon fibre high-rise wing to really complete the racer look. On anything else all this ultra-aggressive aero would look completely out of place but here it fits perfectly with the ethos of the whole build and it all looks absolutely awesome.
Finally, we come to the cabin and you’d be sorely disappointed if this 1 Series was packing anything less than a full-on, hardcore interior setup but, going by the rest of the build, you’d also be seriously surprised if it wasn’t… “I needed some safety with the power levels I’m making,” explains Socrates, “so I added Sparco race seats with Schroth Racing six-point harness,” and these are joined by a VAC Motorsports rear roll-cage finished in white to match the white exterior wrap. There’s also a BMW M Performance Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel along with an M Performance gear knob and Alcantara gaiters for both. A tablet allows Socrates to keep an eye on all of his engine’s vitals and then there’s that vibrant interior trim… “For the interior design Autocouture Motoring surprised me with the white interior trim and blue splatter,” he explains and we’ve got to admit that it looks pretty cool and ties-in perfectly with the whole blue and white theme that’s going on throughout the interior.
With a build as comprehensive and impressive as this it’s going to be extremely hard to choose a favourite mod and while you might expect Socrates to pick that monster turbo strapped to the side of his N54 as his stand-out upgrade, it’s actually not. “That’s hard to answer but if I had to pick one it would be the handling of this beast; the suspension has transformed this car amazingly,” he enthuses so while all that power is obviously a lot of fun, it’s the way that Socrates can use it all and really enjoy driving the car that is most impressive and has made the biggest difference to this 135i. Reading this feature, taking in all of those mods, the huge amount of work that’s gone into this build, you might think that it must surely be done because there can’t really be much left to do, but Socrates is quick to set us straight; “Oh there’s more to come,” he grins. “I want to fit a CAE shifter, custom carbon fibre intake manifold and lots more,” he says, and these future mods will take this already next-level 135i to a higher plane of performance. Socrates mentions that a Porsche 997 Turbo might be next, though he adds that he really has no plans to sell the 135i any time soon, and we reckon that after a car as wild and raw as this even Porsche’s fastest offering would feel fat and slow. Delivering the ultimate combo of earth-shattering power and ultimate handling precision, this extreme 135i is an incredible and absolutely awesome machine, and we love it.
DATA FILE BMW E82 135i track car
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six N54B30 built by Motiv Motorsport with closed deck block, forged pistons, forged rods, Xona Rotor 95-67 turbo, Motiv Motorsport custom FMIC. Six-speed manual gearbox, Motiv Motorsport twin-disc clutch, single-mass fly wheel
POWER AND TORQUE 750whp and 720lb ft wtq
CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 10.5x18” (rear) Titan 7 T-S5 forged wheels with 265/35 (front) and 285/30 (rear) Bridgestone RE-71R tyres, Motion Control Suspension two-way remote-reservoir coilovers, SPL Parts control arms and solid bushes, StopTech Trophy BBK with six-piston calipers and 355mm discs (front) and four-piston calipers and 345mm discs (rear)
EXTERIOR White wrap, 1M OEM front bumper, 1M front wings, Revozport carbon fibre front splitter and custom vented carbon fibre race bonnet, side skirt extensions, custom riveted-on rear arch flares, APR carbon fibre race rear wing
INTERIOR Sparco single-piece race seats, Schroth Racing six-point harnesses, white VAC Motorsports rear roll-cage, BMW M Performance Alcantara steering wheel, M Performance gear knob, Alcantara gear lever and handbrake gaiters, dash-mounted tablet, custom white and blue splatter trim
THANKS I would like to thank Autocouture Motoring and Motiv Motorsport for helping me put this project car together
Six-pot StopTech calipers and 355mm discs up front. Engine has received some serious work. Wide arches add some serious muscle to this 135i. Sparco buckets and Schroth harnesses for driver and passenger. Custom white and blue splatter interior trims. Titan 7 TS-5 forged 18s This 135i is covered in carbon. Monster APR carbon fibre race wing. Possibly the meanest-looking 1 Series we’ve ever seen.
“The end result of all this extensive engine work is an absolutely epic 750whp with 720lb ft wtq, incredible outputs especially in a car like this”