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TUNED BMW 135I E82: ONE-UPMANSHIP

Posted by Matt Bell on 8th October 2021

With its vibrant Sedona paint, subtle styling enhancements and big power, this properly tuned BMW 135i E82 is a serious performance machine.

Feature from Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: WIPdesigns.com

The concept of big, powerful engines in small cars will always be entertaining and appealing and BMW has never been one to shy away from it. When the N54 arrived in the E9x 335i, the motoring world was instantly wowed as twin-turbo power delivered massive performance to the extremely impressive fifth-gen 3 Series. But then, one year later, when that same engine found its way into the E82 1 Series Coupé (and its E88 convertible counterpart) it felt like we all needed to just take a minute to let that sink in. A twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six in the smallest BM you could buy? It was a match made in heaven and everyone went wild for it and, once it became clear just how much tuning potential there was locked up in the N54, the 135i became a modern performance icon.

It’s no surprise to learn that it was this modding potential that drew Ryan Holmes (@n54_bye) to the 135i and considering that it’s only his second-ever car makes this project all the more impressive, though we quickly learn that Ryan is no stranger to going all-out with the mods. “I’ve been interested in BMWs since I was a kid, it’s how well they design them,” Ryan begins. “The body lines of even the older ones still look as good as they did back in the day, and to say mine is 13 years old it still looks similar to modern cars these days,” he says. “I’ve been into cars ever since passing my test and my Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 was the first car I owned and was heavily modified. I started off with lowering springs then went to coilovers wound as low as possible and after smashing a sump I went to Rayvern hydraulics, coupled with Artec three-piece split rims,” he says. That’s an extremely impressive-sounding first modded car but the inevitable lure of a BMW proved too strong to resist.

“The 135i is my first BMW and I bought it after coming from the Fiat; I bought this particular model as I fell in love with the 1M and this is the closest I will ever get,” says Ryan. “I decided to buy it after seeing other 135is and how easily they can be modified to make strong power.” He found this very unique red-on-red example on eBay, in excellent condition and with a couple of rather nice mods on board already, and snapped it up. While he didn’t have a clear goal in mind, he knew it wasn’t going to be staying stock for long. “I wasn’t really sure what could be done at the time of buying it, I just knew what the faults could be and what to look for when buying one of these cars. But I also knew that I had to add my own touches,” he grins. “It’s all been done over the past four years of ownership, bits here and there and I have gained more knowledge of the N54 after just jumping in and doing the work myself,” Ryan adds and this tuned BMW 135i E82 is a serious machine now.

When Ryan first purchased his 1 Series it had already been treated to an impressive array of performance upgrades including a BMS JB4, downpipes, an exhaust, larger intercooler and even a pair of hybrid turbos. With a serious hike in power over stock Ryan decided to start by adding his own personal touches to the build outside of the engine. As impressive as the BMW 135i E82 was performance-wise, the exterior had been kept stock and while the E82 is a good-looking car there’s plenty of room for improvement. With his dream BM being a 1M and with it also being out of reach (for now, at least), Ryan decided that the next best thing would be to give his 135i a replica 1M front bumper to endow the styling with a bit more visual muscle. This has been paired with a carbon boot spoiler and a very sexy carbon diffuser at the rear while further styling additions include black grilles, carbon mirror caps and monochrome roundels front and rear. At this time Ryan also decided to have the stock 18s refurbished in anthracite, wrapped in the all-new Davanti Protoura Sport tyre, and they look great against the bright Sedona bodywork and tie-in with the carbon details perfectly, while the PSDesigns titanium stud kit adds the finishing touch. Additional styling enhancements include the retrofitted xenon headlights and the calipers, which have been treated to a custom paint job in Phoenix yellow.

With his 135i now looking the part Ryan figured it was time to apply his own personal touches to the N54, fine-tuning the mods to see what it was really capable of. The thing is, with his engine already in a pretty healthy state of tune it was going to take a bit of work to choose the best mods so Ryan hit the forums and owners’ groups. “I chose the modifications after speaking to other 135i owners. I tried to get the best branded parts so that I knew they would fit correctly and be easier to install. It took a long time to get to this stage and most of the work was done by myself,” he says but all that effort was absolutely worth it.

In terms of generating really big numbers, it’s the turbos that are the key and, after fitting a set of rebuilt turbos which subsequently blew, Ryan knew exactly what he wanted for his build; “I did the turbo install myself, which is a hard job on axle stands in the garage. I opted for the Dynamic Autowerx 19T hybrid turbos as I knew they would easily make the power I was after without putting strain on them. This is by far the best modification for the car and the power delivery is insane,” he grins but there are a lot of supporting mods that also play a crucial role here. Under the bonnet you will find a pair of VRSF intakes, a Forge charge pipe with a Tial blow-off valve, 2” silicone inlets, heat-wrapped RB Turbo silicone outlets and high-flow oil returns, colder NGK spark plugs and a BMS aluminium intake manifold with the port injection blanked off while a DocVu custom tune brings it all together. That’s an extremely impressive array of serious engine mods and while Ryan hasn’t hit the dyno yet, he says he’d be happy with 500whp, and that definitely seems very achievable with the upgrades he’s fitted. Either way, regardless of numbers, this 135i is an absolute tearaway and Ryan’s built himself a real beast.

With the looks and power boxes both ticked off, it was now the turn of the chassis to receive some enhancements as, up until now, the suspension was completely stock. “I started off with some H&R lowering springs but they weren’t for me,” says Ryan, “so I had to come up with a solution and I went for the HKS 16-way adjustable coilovers. I chose these as they seemed to have good reviews from other people and the fact that the parts are readily available if you needed stiffer springs etc. was a bonus. For the price you can’t go wrong!” he exclaims and not only have they enhanced the 135i’s handling, but they also deliver the perfect drop. In addition to the coilovers, Ryan has also added M3 front control arms and Strongflex anti-roll bar bushes to further enhance the driving experience and sharpen up the chassis.

Finally, we come to the interior and while Ryan hasn’t gone wild in here, he’s added a few very nice mods that have definitely made a big difference. The fact that he’s got all that red leather in here instead of boring black definitely helps makes things a lot more interesting and while it won’t suit all tastes we’re all for a bit of colour and variety when it comes to interior colours. Red leather gaiters for the gear selector and handbrake tie in perfectly with the rest of the red hide on the inside and there are further red accents in the shape of the NRW paddle extensions and then you’re hit with the red and black carbon goodness of that awesome custom steering wheel. It features lower and upper carbon sections with a red centre stripe, carbon trim, a red M button, Alcantara side sections and red stitching for that final flourish and it looks absolutely awesome as a result. You’ll also find carbon trim on the gear selector, handbrake handle and centre console, while an Android head unit has been mounted on the dash. It all combines to make the cabin feel that much more modern and special, and it fits perfectly with the whole build.

As Ryan told us earlier, he’s been working on his tuned BMW 135i E82 for four years now and it’s come a long way in that time. With serious power mods, chassis upgrades and styling enhancements both inside and out it’s a very complete project and it’s no surprise to learn which of the mods is his favourite. “The turbos,” he grins, “the sounds they make and the power delivery are just incredible. They’re followed by the Android screen for JB4 logging and the digital gauges,” he adds. With a car this comprehensively modded you might think that Ryan would be ready to rest on his laurels but he’s far too proactive a person to do that and he’s already busy planning the next lot of mods. “I currently have a spare rear subframe which I have had powder coated, with Revshift billet bushes for mounting and Strongflex bushes for the diff etc. This will be coupled with Silver Project adjustable arms, a racing diff insert to turn the OEM open differential into a progressive LSD, which will be strengthened with the Protuner large case diff brace,” he says. That selection of enhancements will ensure that this 135i can put its power down properly as well as serving to deliver that ultimate level of chassis sharpness that will make this car even more entertaining to drive. With its bold colour combo, its subtly enhanced looks, the substantially uprated chassis and even more substantial power output, Ryan’s built himself a seriously impressive tuned BMW 135i E82 that goes one step beyond.

Tech Spec: Tuned BMW 135i E82

Engine & Transmission:

3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six N54B30, Dynamic Autowerx 19T hybrid turbos, VRSF dual cone intakes and 2” silicone inlets, Forge charge pipe, Tial BOV with bigger vacuum line, RB high-flow oil return lines, silicone outlet and external PCV, Misfire Race catch cans high and low side, BMS aluminium intake manifold, VTT crankcase breather, 5.5” intercooler, NGK two-step colder plugs gapped to .018”, custom stainless exhaust 2.5” twin merging to 3” back box. Six-speed Steptronic gearbox, xHP Stage 3 flash

Chassis:

7.5×18” (front) and 8.5×18” (rear) Style 261 wheels in anthracite with 225/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) Davanti Protoura Sport tyres, floating centre caps, PSDesigns titanium stud kit, HKS 16-way adjustable coilovers, M3 control arms with Powerflex Black Series bushes, Strongflex anti-roll bar bushes, calipers painted Phoenix yellow

Exterior:

Sedona red, 1M replica front bumper with OEM ducts, black grilles, carbon mirror caps, carbon rear spoiler, carbon diffuser, monochrome roundels (front and rear)

Interior:

OEM red leather seats, Android head unit, red leather gear knob and handbrake gaiters, carbon steering wheel with Alcantara sections and red stitching, NRW paddle extensions, carbon trim