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Small and Mighty You wouldn’t think it, but this subtle looking 135i happens to be packing around 450hp.
Cornwall-based Matt White turned an already fast 135i M Sport Coupé into a brutal M3 beater. Here’s how he did it.
There was a suitably dramatic atmosphere when we went down to see Matt White’s beastly 135i M Sport Coupé in Cornwall. It was the wettest start to the year for decades, howling winds were uprooting trees and damaging property, and the original shoot location had to be abandoned due to coastal flooding. I say suitably, because there’s something very dramatic about this modified 135i, which now kicks out 450hp-144hp more the standard model. Matt’s choice of a 1 Series might seem puzzling when you look at the car history that preceded it.
After a series of hot hatches, he’s owned some seriously fast cars: a Porsche 996, Audi S5, and BMW M3s in both E46 and E90 flavours. To go from something like a V8 M3 to a 135i seems like a downgrade on paper, so why do it? “I thought I was getting a bit too grown up! I wanted something that popped and banged again, and had turbo noises. Something a bit fun,” he says. He’d also heard how tuneable the twin-turbocharged N54 3.0-litre straightsix can be, and there was no way his next car would stay standard. “I like putting my own stamp on things.
I don’t really think I should be driving around in a car that anyone else can just go and buy from a car dealer. I’m enthusiastic about cars, I like being individual, I like to modify them,” he explains. The base car he sourced was a good starting point. It had reasonably low mileage, had the wheels nicely sprayed in gloss black, and had a set of six-pot Brembo brake callipers with BMW Performance discs. “I’m a firm believer in not sticking loads of power in unless you’ve got the anchors to stop it!” he laughs. It also had decent amount of power compared to a standard 135i, with a 380hp remap via a JB4 ECU from US firm Burger Tuning. Looking to the ‘States to modify the turbocharged ’six is a common choice, as Matt explains: “Not many people in England change these cars, but in America they seem to be all over it.”
The JB4 is a versatile thing to have, too. It allows the driver to choose what map to set the car on, from the standard power output upwards. How far up is dependent on what other modifications are present. Matt had his eye on a number of parts to get the sort of power he was after, so a trusted local BMW specialist where a friend of his works was chosen to carry out the work. Matt was impressed by the good reviews of Burger Tuning over other US firms such as Cobb, so promptly ordered one of Burger’s dual cone filter units. To further help the car breathe, a set of decat downpipes went on. There was no way he was going to trust the standard valves with the big increase in boost pressure, so these were ditched in favour of Forge recirculating valves. Gear shifting speeds, meanwhile, were aided with the fitting of a Burger clutch stop and clutch delay valve.
The exterior was standard, but Matt wanted it to reflect the firepower underneath, something he did with a plethora of effective modifications. The ride height was dropped courtesy of a set of Eibach springs, a front splitter was added and the boot was treated to a subtle BMW Performance spoiler. The most noticeable change is at the rear, where a Reiger carbon fibre diffuser was fitted, with a quad exit exhaust replacing the standard car’s twin-exit unit. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. They say bad things come in threes, and that was certainly the case in one stage of the project. A misfire under heavy acceleration was the first and a tiresome investigation finally uncovered the cause: a faulty spark plug. Easy enough to change, but then the next issue reared its head: the serpentine belt snapped. Matt was 40 miles from home, but just managed to get back on a single charge by turning off all electrical items. Replacing it was a pain that involved dismantling the front of the car, and then problem number three arrived. When braking in the wet while out for a drive, the car just went straight on, clouting a kerb in the process. Fortunately, the only damage was a bent track rod end, which was easy and cheap to replace – despite the irritation caused by the car being out of action while waiting for the replacement part to arrive. Matt initially thought spilt diesel was to blame, but after researching the Federal 595EVOs that came fitted to the car, he concurred that the boots were the likely cause – it turns out they’re notoriously bad in the wet. Matt’s since swapped them for Goodyear Eagle F1s, which haven’t skipped a beat.
The car was put on the rollers for a session to see how much power it could now crank out. The result? With the turbos running at 15.5psi, the result was 430hp. It’s now even higher than that. A Forge frontmounted intercooler has since gone in, and while it’s yet to go back on the rolling road, Matt estimates that the power should now be at more like 450hp. That’s not far off a 50 per cent increase over the standard car’s power. The results are profound; this is a seriously quick car. It has not only enough power to easily blow away the limited-run 1M, but also enough to outgun its V8 M3 big brother. “With the sort of power it’s at, it’s an absolute license killer. The back end is so lively, if it didn’t have traction control I’d be dead by now!” Matt laughs. On the subject of traction control, Matt is realistic, he’s doesn’t shun electronic aids and understands the part they play on modern, powerful cars. “The traction control system is good on BMWs, they give you a bit of slip and it’s not killing the fun. It lets you play.” The beauty of having the steering wheel switchable mapping feature of the JB4 is he can tailor the power output to his needs, should the conditions be unsuitable for the full dollop of power. He has become used to the full dose, however, so the standard map now feels tame: “At 306hp now it feels like it’s not even moving!”
With an E90 320d Touring as a company car, Matt’s 1 Series can be saved for the fun side of driving; be it trips to Castle Coombe for track days and Santa Pod for quarter-mile blasts, meeting up with fellow car nuts, or just driving for enjoyment. As far as the future goes, Matt needs to get all that power down effectively, something which a limitedslip differential should sort. “I’m at the point where if it’s wet, in fourth gear if you floor the throttle it’ll spin. In second gear if it’s dry it’ll just light the rear wheels up. I’ve got to get a better differential. It’s hard to do on it because the ring gear is welded to the diff.” Matt is looking at a Quaife item, but with it being such a big job, it’s something Matt’s held off on for the time being. Once that’s finally done though, even more power is planned. A liquid methanol injection system, again from Burger, will take the power up to 490hp, the limit of the standard factory turbos. With upgraded blowers, 650hp is a possibility, but with that figure stretching the limits of the engine internals, Matt says that he’d go for a comparatively conservative 550hp, should he go down that route. If that’s something he chooses to do, we can’t wait to see the results.
TECHNICAL DATA Modified #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i-M-Sport-E82 / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW-135i-M-Sport / #BMW-135i
ENGINE & GEARBOX: #N54 / #BMW-N54 3.0-litre twin-turbo straightsix, #Burger-Motorsport tuning #JB4 ECU, dual cone intakes, recirculating valves and decat downpipes, #Forge front-mounted intercooler.
CHASSIS: #Eibach lowering springs
BRAKES: #Brembo six-pot callipers, #BMW-Performance discs
WHEELS & TYRES: Standard M Sport wheels, painted gloss black
EXTERIOR: Front splitter, #BMW Performance boot spoiler, #Reiger carbon fibre rear diffuser
INTERIOR: BMW Performance gear knob with Alcantara gaiter, hard-wired TomTom satellite navigationStream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.