- Post is under moderationJust Right / #Dinan / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-F22 / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Dinan / #BMW-M235i-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22-Dinan / #Dinan / #2015
A finely-honed BMW M235i with #M-Performance and Dinan upgrades. It seems like the M235i is loved the world over and here we have a subtle but stylish machine from Australia using a blend of M Performance and Dinan upgrades. Words & photography: Chris Nicholls.
The M235i is, as has often been stated, the Goldilocks car of the BMW range. In terms of price, power, handling, practicality and even history, it hits the spot. This is especially the case in Australia, where #BMW list it at $55,000 in base form. In a country where a standard Cayman (the car’s natural rival in the UK) sells for double that, it has no real rivals. The new Mustang isn’t there yet, the local Holden and Ford performance heroes are much larger (and fourdoor), and none of its Japanese or European rivals are rear-wheel drive. It kind of explains why, when it first launched in Australia last year, there was actually a waiting list.
That price also makes it the perfect base for tuning. Recent economic conditions in Australia mean that while the rich get richer (as they do elsewhere) and order ever more supercars, most people aren’t in a position to spend huge sums on modification. So an already fast and affordable base is a great starting point. But what to do? Obviously there’s a limit, given most people’s budgets, so it’s probably best to just make it look nicer and go a bit faster. But here again, there are options. Do you go aftermarket for everything, or do you go factory? After all, unlike some manufacturers, BMW does offer a large number of add-ons via its M Performance program. Perhaps a mix is the best way – combining the factory fit and finish of OEM parts and using aftermarket where the manufacturer doesn’t offer what you want?
This is exactly the path Southern BM, one of Australia’s largest BMW specialists, decided to go down with its own M235i build. It realised there was room in the market for an affordable modification package to this popular performance car, and having gone the ‘all-aftermarket’ route for many of its other, more extreme builds, it wanted to offer something cheaper, simpler and easier to put together for its M235i customers.
Given body and interior modifications are one area where hassles (namely fit and finish-related) almost always occur, the first order of business was to order extensively from the M Performance catalogue for these parts. On went almost the entire range of available exterior components, including front and rear lip spoilers, rear diffuser, carbon mirror covers, black kidney grille inserts, side skirt flashes and even decals, as well as the lovely 19-inch forged, doublespoke wheels. Inside, the excellent, hi-tech M Performance Alcantara wheel with race display replaced the standard tiller, not only adding some cool looks and a great steering feel, but also extra information for the driver. Many of the plastic components and panels were replaced by Alcantara and carbon ones, too.
The results were, even after this round of alterations, profound. Decals aside, the exterior changes are subtle, but work together to help give the car a more planted, solid feel. Indeed, the extra aggression is something that many would probably argue the M235i needed from the factory. Andrew Brien, Southern BM’s co-founder, agrees, saying the looks were his team’s favourite part of the car. “We like the styling. BMW really changed up the looks with the introduction of this car and with the additional BMW M Performance parts, it really is a head-turner.”
Inside as well, the seemingly small changes all come together to make the cabin a much more inviting and pleasant place to be. Slipping into the supportive leather seats, there’s an air of not just quality (as you’d find on the standard model), but genuine sportiness thanks to the carbon cladding and Alcantara coverings. It makes the M235i really feel like a driver’s car, and it’s an interior you don’t want to get out of.
Initially, Southern BM also fitted an M Performance exhaust and brake discs to try and add some extra sportiness, but while the exhaust fitted perfectly and sounded great, Brien and his team also wanted to offer something more for customers, so as part of fitting a Dinan P1 Power Package (the aftermarket part of the mix), the M Performance system got dropped in favour of the included Dinan Free Flow stainless steel exhaust.
Moving the car around for the shoot, it became obvious how different the Dinan exhaust was from the M Performance one, too. Listening to a YouTube video Southern BM posted of the factory version prior to the shoot, it’s clear the OEM pipes added a great bark on start up, a throaty burble on idle and a harder-edged metallic sound when revved, but the Dinan version steps it up a notch. You still get the bark on start up and burbling idle, but you get an even harder metallic kick on revving and it’s noticeably more baritone in its delivery. Southern BM has videos of both exhausts on its YouTube channel so they’re worth checking out for yourself if you’re planning to make such a move.
The rest of the P1 package includes a carbon fibre cold air intake and Dinantronics Stage 2 tune, and fitting it all together was a smart move. Not only are all the parts designed to work in unison, in keeping with the whole ‘no fuss’ concept Southern BM wanted to offer, but attempting to tune things itself didn’t make much sense anyway.
“With the introduction of the F-series cars, the tuning market changed a lot. These cars are no longer easily tuneable by means of flash tuning via OBD. We are Dinan dealers and the software development team at Dinan have great resources and talent to achieve a more enjoyable driver experience,” says Brien. The fact it also offers high-quality, ‘no compromise’ parts is just icing on the cake, so it’s no wonder Southern BM went with this kit.
It’s hard to argue with the results, too. A quick chassis dyno check showed the components added 50whp, and while that’s less than the 56hp claimed by Dinan, as we all know, dyno differences, the weather on the day and other factors always come into play, so the claim seems solid.
Interestingly, Brien argues that “the most impressive part of the tune is the increase in torque (a claimed 84lb ft), which allows you to pull hard when you open up the throttle”. As they say, though, power is nothing without control, which is why the final step in building this machine was fitting a #Quaife-ATB diff. “What is lacking on modern BMW cars is mechanical grip,” says Brien. “As you pull out of a corner, you want the throttle to respond, not react to traction control, so the Quaife LSD is a must-have.”
For the unfamiliar, Quaife’s ATB series uses a helical, torque-biasing unit (as opposed to the more common clutch packs) which may not provide the same aggressive lock-up, but is much more usable on the road. Indeed, it’s likely you won’t notice it at all during daily driving – there is no clunking or recalcitrance. As with the rest of the build, it’s essentially like it was there from the factory.
While it wasn’t possible to try the diff out at speed on the day of the shoot, riding along in a highly tuned 135i with one fitted a few weeks beforehand gave some insight into how much of a difference it makes. Not only does it work with the factory DSC, but when you turn the electronic aids off and slam the throttle, instead of traction control limiting things, both wheels spin up at equal speed and you get to enjoy the full accelerative force of the fettled N55 engine. It’s sublime. There’s also a very noticeable increase in turn-in, which, combined with the extra grip from the 19-inch Pirellis on the M235i, would no doubt transform it from being a nice, fast daily to a much more enjoyable winding road weapon. Indeed, Brien says that is exactly the case: “Not that the original car is in need of upgrades – they are nice cars out-of-the-box – but with these upgrades it makes this a really nice car and more enjoyable to drive.”
Interestingly, despite the ever-increasing popularity of track days, Brien says he hasn’t taken it out on track just yet to truly test its limits, but then, that wasn’t ever really the brief for this car. “We weren’t looking to build a track car. To us, they are different beasts, looking to achieve different results. This car is a road tourer that you can have some comforts in if you are out cruising, but performs if you want to take the car to task up in the mountains.”
Brien says they have considered building a “more extreme version”, and for track use would recommend Dinan anti-roll bars and Monoball kit, as well as performance pads, but for now, he’s happy with where the car is. “This build is to show the road user what can be achieved when looking for a clean road tourer,” he says. That ‘clean’ part is actually worth mentioning for those who might perhaps be unaware how important a low-key car is in Australia, especially the state of Victoria, where Southern BM is based. That’s because Australia in general, and Victoria in particular, has very restrictive laws when it comes to car modification. Bar some very small freedoms (mainly wheels, suspension and engine tuning mods that result in no more than a 20 per cent power gain), almost any aftermarket performance tuning needs to be certified by approved workshops, and given the truly serious stuff will likely never pass certification anyway, most people don’t even try.
Even when they are approved or within legal boundaries to begin with, poorly-trained police can still pull your car over if they think it’s illegal and stick a nice, yellow defect notice on your windscreen that can’t be removed until you show them proof or get things recertified. This is why Victorian enthusiasts these days often try and go unnoticed and avoid police attention in the first place, and while this M235i is only lightly modified and therefore completely legal, the fact it’s relatively subtle means you’re likely to avoid being pulled over unnecessarily.
Actually, the fact it can fly under the radar means this M235i ticks another box on the Goldilocks list. Right price, right performance, right practicality level and even right amount of tuning to be legal and avoid scrutiny. It really is just right.
CONTACT: Southern BM
TECH DATA #Southern-BM F22 M235i
ENGINE: #BMW-N55 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six / #N55
POWER: 308rwhp (230rwkW)
ENGINE MODIFICATIONS: #Dinan-P1 Power Package (carbon fibre cold air intake, free flow stainless steel exhaust, #Dinantronics Stage 2 tune)
DRIVELINE MODIFICATIONS: Standard #ZF eight-speed #Steptronic automatic gearbox #Quaife ATB LSD
CHASSIS/SUSPENSION MODIFICATIONS: Standard M Performance adaptive dampers / Standard suspension arms and anti-roll bars
WHEELS AND TYRES: M Performance double-spoke 624 forged wheels (7.5x19-inch front, 8x19-inch rear), Pirelli P Zero RSC tyres (225/35 R19 front, 245/30 R19 rear)
BRAKES: Stock M Performance #Brembo aluminium brake callipers (four-piston front, two-piston rear), #M-Performance cross-drilled and slotted s (370mm x 30mm front, 345mm x 24mm rear)
M Performance front splitter
M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler
M Performance rear diffuser
M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps
M Performance side stripes kit
M Performance Rocker Panel film set
M Performance gloss black grilles
M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with carbon trim and race display
M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara interior trim set
M Performance carbon fibre shifter console
M Performance carbon fibre selector lever trim
M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara handbrake handle assembly
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- Post is under moderationEXTRA RARE CITROEN BX 297bhp, supercharged GTi
This immaculate BX was saved from the scrappy and now makes a very healthy 297bhp... Words Midge. Photos: Matt Woods.
“There are so few of these cars left now, it’s even more impressive”
It could be argued that the #Citroen-BX-GTi-16V is one of the most underrated hot hatches of all time. It’s certainly one of the rarest. That’s not to say they didn’t make a few, between 1987 and 1993 they rolled-out around 3000 of ‘em, but the fact is nowadays there’s probably only about 30 left and, by anyone’s standards, that’s a pretty rapid demise. On the face of it this motor had all the performance credentials. Along with its ‘in-house’ brother, the Peugeot 405 Mi16, it was the first French car to be fitted with a 16V lump. It was slightly faster than the Pug too with a 0-60 time of 7.2-seconds and a top speed in excess of 140mph… and don’t forget that was way back in 1987. The special edition bits and pieces on the body, especially when it came to the 1990 Phase II model, were sweetly distinctive and the all-round disc brakes that had been fitted to the whole BX range since 1982 didn’t go unnoticed either. Some say it was ahead of its time. I’m pretty sure they’re right.
So, what happened to them all? You would think that enthusiasts would be all over these right? Well, the trouble is they’re unbelievably complex and, being from #Citroen , when they went wrong it was generally something a tad more expensive than a thermostat. Fitted with Citroen’s hydropneumatic suspension system (albeit one of the coolest inventions ever) it wasn’t exactly a car that was easy to fix and that’s probably why over the years many have donated their Mi16 innards to keep a 405 or the odd converted 205 ticking along. It just goes to show that sometimes being totally different to the competition doesn’t always help with longevity. And that’s a massive shame.
Of course the other reason may have a little to do with the styling. Like many of the older Citroens the BX has always been something of an acquired taste. Some, like myself, think the shape is extremely cool, in a retro kinda way. Others say these look like the bastard child of Robocop and your nan’s Zanussi washing machine. Either way there’s no denying they all have a face that only a mother could love.
Ian Nixon, the creator of this particular supercharged beast agrees with me on that. He fully admits he’s never been a fan of Citroens but equally he couldn’t step away from the serious performance the BX GTi 16 offers. “I hated them until I realised the potential. I tried to blow one of these off in my Audi 80 when I was a kid and before I looked round it was gone. I couldn’t believe it.” Years later Ian had a Xantia run-around and was impressed by the handling the hydropneumatic system serves up so, with that in mind, an old school BX build was always on the cards – the only trouble was finding one.
Locating a base car that’s rarer than a load of hen’s teeth nestling in a pile of rocking horse shite is one of those neighon impossible tasks. I guess Ian was lucky coming across a car collector that wasn’t exactly impressed with his. Then again ‘lucky’ is a relative term and a blown head gasket on the drive home kicked off an epic re-build quicker than he may have imagined.
Still, like many of us, Ian isn’t the type of fella to pull off a head, chuck on another gasket and leave it at that. Being an engineer and a bloke who looks after all sorts of highend exotica, race cars and performance motors he asked himself the eternal question “why just repair when you can improve?” And I suppose the rest is history.
If you read through the engine spec you’ll see it’s extensive to say the least. Even though Ian specifically states that on a car like this “everything’s a mission” he’s managed to squeeze 297bhp from the 1.9-litre lump with the help of everything from a fully re-worked head, forged internals and a custom Rotrex supercharger install. There’s even a 6-speed box conversion! What’s more, the real talent lies in how it’s all been put in – if you ignore the fact it’s not covered in oil like many an old Citroen out there, it almost looks factory. That’s not an easy task to pull off.
The rest of the car is just as immaculate because it’s taken nearly as much work as under the bonnet. Then again, you don’t go throwing 8-grand’s worth of lump in a 400-quid motor with over 20 owners on the logbook without wanting to sort out a few bits along the way. Ian contracted the bodywork out to a local restoration shop and I’d like to say the rest was easy, but unfortunately it wasn’t. With the car stripped and not a whole load of work completed in 6-months he actually had to go and get it back before they destroyed the whole thing.
Handily they managed to lose most of the special 16V parts too meaning Ian had to find another whole BX 16V, just to get the bits needed to compete the job. It was another seriously lucky find, even if the circumstances were a little infuriating. The second time around Ian enlisted the help of paint supremo Steve Bell, and after a serious amount of welding (yes, it’s a proper Citroen) and fettling it left the booth pretty much as you see it today. With the stunning Dolmen Grey respray and a few exterior touches it’s clear that he’s chosen to keep the styling true to the original. Even the 17-inch BBS wheels are somewhat reminiscent of the standard 14-inch Speedlines fitted at the factory. A subtle but undeniably nice touch.
In all, it’s not been the simplest of jobs but you have to commend Ian for his never-failing persistence. Without bringing that quality to the table this could have so easily been yet another BX 16V relegated to the scrappy. Instead he’s not only built himself one of the sweetest retro motors in the UK but, perhaps most importantly, he’s kept another super-rare French legend on the streets.
TECHNICAL DATA SPECIFICATIONS #1991 #Citroen-BX-GTi-16V-Phase-II / #Citroen-BX / #Citroen-BX-GTi
Engine: 1.9 #XU9J4DFW engine ( Mi16 ), stage 5, high flow head, big valve #Siamese ported cylinder head, #Kent-PT81 inlet cam/ PT82 exhaust, #Kent VS34 double valve springs and titanium retainers, Kent vernier pulleys, #Richard-Longman 4-1 manifold, #Cosworth-57X exhaust manifold fixing kit D6C block with #DFW pistons (comp 9:5:1), PEC performance H section light weight conrods with #ARP bolts, #Peugeot-Motorsport GPA 1:1 oil pump, Constella Sump baffle, Mocal oil breather system, #Accusump 4 quarts oil accumulator system, #Rotrex SP30/74 centrifugal supercharger, Pace charge cooler from RS turbo, Range Rover P38 intercooler, #Samco intake and discharge pipe work, #Baker BM coolant hoses, #Baker-BM engine hung mounts and solid stabiliser mount, Standard #Bosch-Motronic 4.1 ECU live mapped by Wayne Scofield of Chipwizards, #Astra-VXR injectors, #Sytec high flow fuel filter, Sierra #Cosworth GPA fuel pump, #FSE fuel pressure regulator.
Transmission: Peugeot 306 GTI-6 BE-6 gearbox, #Quaife-ATB differential, Royal Purple oil.
Chassis: 17-inch #BBS-RX alloys, 205/45 R17 tyres.
Interior: Standard 16v Le-Mans cloth trim, #VDO boost gauge, Quaife nylon gear knob.
Exterior: Extended bumpers to accommodate intercooler, additional air intake on NSF wing, fog lights removed and turned into brake ducts, steel bonnet, Mk3 Golf gas bonnet struts, resprayed respray in original Citroen Dolmen Grey.
Thanks Steve Bell for the paintwork, Peter Greenwood for the fibreglassing expertise, Wayne Schofield for the mapping and advice and Jackie for spanner passing, making tea and towing around the country on trailer.
“I hated them until I realized the potential...”
Period interior is also in decent nick. #BBS 17s look almost OEM.
The fat pipe gives you a clue...
Mi16 unit makes 297bhp.
“There are so few of these cars left now, it’s even more impressive”
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