Introducing Project 1

Words: Don Cheng

Photography: Don Cheng

Published: April 19, 2016


Ask any enthusiast what their first car was and they will always remember. After all, you never forget your first. Coincidentally, at the time of this writing, it’s the 1-year ownership anniversary of my first car, a 2009 BMW 135i. A lot has happened in the last year, but before we get into any of that, let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. What are we doing writing about a 7-year old car?


We’re excited to announce that we will partner with a few aftermarket manufacturers for some accessories and performance improvements on the car. Mind you that we are used to driving press vehicles, some of which are out of the box sports cars. Taking a factory car and enhancing its design and power is an entirely new undertaking for us. That being said, we’re excited to learn and document every step of the way for you readers.


Let’s start with a little bit of a history on the 1-series coupe. Lauded as the successor to the BMW 2002 of which was borne from the company’s Neue Klasse line of sedans, the 1-series followed the same principles as the old 2002 – small, lightweight, and agile. While the M cars were happy to attack the track lap after the lap, the 1-series took a different approach to driving enjoyment; dancing through back roads in the country side and exploiting pockets of traffic in the city.



Powertrain options were two-fold: a naturally-aspirated 3.0-litre straight-six making 240 hp or a more potent 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six bumping out 300 hp. Both engine choices are available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed steptronic automatic.


When I was shopping around the used markets, I wanted something that was more in-line (no pun intended) with the original philosophy of the Neue Klasse – and by extension BMW itself. A no frills driving experience… and if you drink the BMW Kool-Aid, “The Ultimate Driving Machine”. Thus, the first requirement was a manual transmission. The second was an equally barren cabin, power windows and a sunroof - no other trinkets or “luxuries” required. One day, while bored at work and browsing the used classifieds, I managed to find just the one I wanted.


The example I found was a Jet Black 2009 BMW 135i. The extensive list of options included the Cold Weather Package (for heated seats, and headlight washers), and that was it. Perfect. Originally purchased in Nashville, Tennessee, this southern belle made the trip up to the frigid white north with 14,000 km on the odometer before it was picked up by the previous owner. He looked after it for some 50,000 km before transferring ownership to me.



Fresh in my hands in April of 2015, I proceeded to do some general maintenance items on the car. I enjoyed it for a full summer before disaster struck. First in late September, when one of my aftermarket wheels cracked – I replaced it with the original BMW Style 264 wheels and enjoyed the car for a scant week before the real tragedy hit in early October 2015.


As per my usual morning routine, I got in the car and started it. It stuttered for a moment, and the cold start sounded drastically different. My heart sank as I looked in my rear-view mirror to see a plume of blue smoke filling up my drive-way. I rolled down my window and the smell of burnt oil flooded in. Glancing at my tach, the RPMs were jumping around and the entire car was shaking. The official diagnosis was a blown bank 2 turbo oil-seal. Not good. I parked the car, and left it for the winter while I sorted out what route I wanted to go in fixing the car.



Ultimately, I decided on a set of Vargas Turbocharging Technology Stage 1 Hybrid Turbos. After installing them, I had many friends asking me how much power I was making, and how the turbos were doing. Then I thought, hmm, why not document this so that people can see what has been done and how the results have faired? Enter #project1.


The goal of this build is to add to the original principle of the car as a lightweight back roads dancer. We’ll work to improve the driveability of the car, performance, as well as a few cosmetic enhancements to make it our own. Follow along on our social media channels and we’ll keep you updated whenever there has been a change. Summer Sixteen is looking pretty sweet already.


Photo Gallery:





型号 Model: 2009 BMW 135i

顏色 Paint Type: Jet Black
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $41,700 (in 2009)
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,659
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,374 / 1,747 / 1,407

車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,530 (estimated)
引擎 Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight-six
最大馬力 Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5,800 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 300 lb-ft @ 1,400 - 5,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD





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