- ONE LAST TIME
If you’re looking to build one last project a #Yas-Marina blue, air-ride #BMW-135i-Coupe sporting 1M styling, carbon and pulled arches is certainly one way to go out with a bang… Mark Stewart wanted to do one last big build and with this 135i, we’d say it was mission accomplished. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Steve McCann.
It may lack the sheer in-your-face impact of the 1M or the more heavily M-administered focus of its next generation counterpart but the 135i remains an awesome performance machine. It’s fast, surprisingly practical and economical when driven with care and an absolute riot. It’s perfectly-sized, nimble and hard to beat for sheer grin-inducing driving pleasure. We have fond memories of our first time behind the wheel of a 135i and we came away massively impressed. It may have been superseded by the M135i and M235i, which is arguably more of a direct replacement, but the 135i still has the potential to impress and surprise owners of more exotic machinery. Out-of-the-box it is certainly no slouch, thanks to 306hp and 295lb ft of torque from the early twin-turbo N54, but it’s the tuning potential of that engine that makes the 135i such a deadly weapon out on the roads. With minimum effort you can be knocking on the door of 400hp, and that will never leave you wanting.
As a base from which to build a performance project, then, the 135i is the perfect choice and that’s what attracted Mark Stewart to what would become his 135i. “As this was going to be my last big build I wanted to build the ultimate 1 Series,” says the car painter from Northern Ireland. “The car was built to make heads turn but not to be all show and no go, which is what made the 3.0 twin-turbo 135i a must. Everything had to be right, from the colour to interior.” And looking at the car, it’s fair to say that Mark has got everything spot-on. In just three short weeks, with the help of friends, he transformed a standard 135i into the machine you see before you now, which is amazing considering just how much work has been poured into the car. If there’s an area in which the standard 135i is lacking, it’s on the visual front. Despite that pouty front bumper, it’s a pretty discreet car with no wild arches or lairy styling. While that’s all well and good if you want to make rapid progress across the highways and byways without attracting unwanted attention, it’s obviously no good if you actually want to attract attention.
So the first step was to beef up that body. And this 1 Series has undergone a heck of a lot of work on the styling front. Up front, there’s that 1M bumper, spilling over with cartoonish aggression and intakes – the perfect choice for giving the front end some more clout. Matched with it are a pair of 1M front wings, themselves chosen to accommodate the wheels, which Mark had his heart set on from the start. The wheels were only available in a seriously low offset, though, and although most of us in such a situation would sigh and choose something else that would fit straight on, that’s clearly not Mark’s style. The wheels in question are 9.5x18” #Cosmis-Racing XT- 206Rs, a sexy single-piece wheel finished in black with a polished lips – very nice indeed. In Mark’s chosen width the only offset available was +10, far too low for the standard width 1 Series arches to accommodate. There was another problem, too. The #XT-206R is only available in a 5x114.3 or 5x100 fitment, neither of which is any good for a #BMW . Normally, you can get around this by chucking a set of adapters on but as they’re essentially spacers and the offset here was so low already, that wasn’t possible. The solution?
Mark had the wheels redrilled to the correct 5x120 PCD so they could fit straight on. A lot of effort but it was worth it as the twin six-spoke design really suits the chunky 1 Series shape. And with the 1M bodywork, the fitment really is on point. Of course, with fat 1M front arches, the rear was now looking rather anaemic so something clearly needed to be done. Mark’s solution was to have them pulled and flared, which has made a massive difference and the rear quarters now mirror the front to perfection, with the wheels filling all four arches and sitting flush as you like.
Beyond the front bumper and beefed-up arches there’s plenty more to admire here, like the E9x M3-style carbon bonnet – which is just one of many carbon additions that adorn this 135i. There are also carbon kidney grilles, carbon bumper intakes, carbon 1M indicators, mirrors, aerial and, at the rear, a seriously aggressive carbon diffuser. It’s the perfect accompaniment for the #AC-Schnitzer-exhaust and custom side skirts complete with blades. It’s a very thorough cosmetic reworking that has totally transformed the rather unassuming 1 Series Coupé into a serious head-turner.
But there was one final piece of the puzzle missing: a killer colour that would burn people’s eyeballs! “The colour was chosen to keep with a BMW colour but one never done on a 1 Series,” explains Mark. The chosen colour is Yas Marina blue from the M3 and M4. It’s certainly not something you’re going to see a lot of, certainly not on the 1 Series. It’s an awesome colour, striking for being so different, a sort of metallic pastel blue that never looks anything less than ultra-bold and bright. We think it’s the perfect choice to contrast with the black and carbon details about the exterior.
So with styling, wheels and paint sorted, it was time to take care of the suspension. With a build of this calibre there was only one direction that Mark could head in, and that involved air. “ #Air-ride was a must to get the stance right,” he says. And you can’t argue with the results. Mark turned to #AirREX for the suspension kit itself, adding #Air-Lift-V2 management, with the controller custom-mounted in the dash where the driver’s side central air vent would normally be and one seriously slick boot build. Twin #Viair-380 compressors sit beneath a clear panel in the black carpeted boot floor while the single air tank has been carbonwrapped, mounted in a carpeted panel and the ends have been painted Maserati yellow to match the full roll-cage. Yes, there’s a full roll-cage, we’ll get to that in a moment.
Aired-out, the car sits so low that the front bumper and side blades are mere millimetres off the ground, while the arches perch majestically on the wheels’ lips. It really is a thing of beauty to behold.
Mark did promise a big build and, heading indoors, he’s certainly not scrimped on the interior side of things either. The first thing you’ll notice, because it’s impossible to miss, is the aforementioned Maserati yellow Dodger roll-cage that curves around the shape of the dash and then soars overhead, disappearing into the now seat-less rear to connect up to the chassis behind the carpeted panel. A matching carpeted custom A-pillar pod houses boost and AFR gauges, the dash trims have all been colour-coded, and a pair of sexy Recaro CS seats have been installed in place of the standard items.
The two gauges are not merely frivolous additions as there’s been a bit of tinkering beneath the bonnet in order to get the N54 performing to its full potential. As we mentioned earlier, this engine is extremely eager to give you more power and the addition of a dual Injen induction kit, de-cat and live remap by Autotune has resulted in power leaping to 386hp with 400lb ft – more than enough for anybody and certainly the sort of go Mark was after when starting out with this project. BMW Performance six-pot front brakes with Mintex fast road pads provide ample stopping power.
This is an exceptionally nice car and arguably one of the best-looking 1 Series’ we’ve come across. Mark promised himself one last big build and in our eyes he’s definitely delivered, this 135i being a suitably big statement to go out on. And, if you’re wondering what on earth there could possibly be left to do, the answer is nothing! This was exactly the car Mark wanted to build. In less time than it takes most of us to get around to buying a car, he took a car from standard to show standard – quite a feat where modified cars are concerned. The 135i has now been sold, a Porsche 911 taking its place, and while Mark may have moved on we can’t imagine he’ll ever forget his magnificent 1 Series.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E82 / #BMW-135i / #BMW-135i-E82 / #BMW /
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six twin-turbo #N54B30 / #N54 , Injen induction kit, de-cat, #AC-Schnitzer exhaust, live map by #Autotune , 386hp and 400lb ft of torque, six-speed manual gearbox.
CHASSIS 18x9.5” #ET10 (front and rear) Cosmis Racing XT- 206R wheels custom drilled to 5x120 with 215/35 (front and rear) tyres, #AirREX struts with #Air-Lift V2 management, #BMW-Performance six-pot #BBK (front), #Mintex fast road pads.
EXTERIOR Full respray in Yas Marina blue, 1M front wings, 1M front bumper, carbon E9x M3-style bonnet, kidney grilles, bumper intakes, 1M indicators and mirrors, custom canards, custom side skirts, side skirt blades, carbon boot spoiler, aerial, rear diffuser, rear arches pulled and flared.
INTERIOR #Recaro CS seats, full colour-coded dash, #Dodger rollcage painted Maserati yellow, custom pillar mount for boost and #AFR gauges, air-ride controller custom mounted in air vent, 2x Viair 380 compressors, carbon-wrapped air tank with Maserati yellow ends.
THANKS PPG/Nexa Autocolor for paint, Stephen at SC Cages and the Paintworx team (07540 168355).
Air-ride was the only option when it came to the suspension to achieve the perfect stance; air-ride controller has been custom-mounted in the dash.
Carbon galore on the outside with bonnet, grilles, indicators and diffuser just a few of the items now finished in the black weave.
Engine has been treated to an Injen induction kit, a live map, a de-cat, and an #ACS exhaust resulting in 386hp and 400lb ft of torque. Interior dominated by Maserati yellow roll-cage.