Just like people who believe the earth is flat, there are still those who vehemently think performance cars and air suspension shouldn’t mix.
Because, you know, air ride is just made for people wanting to air-out their cars in parking lots and try to look cool… Yes, there is cheap and nasty air suspension that does that job but not much else, but obviously I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the good stuff that delivers on its promises of style and performance.
Ray Venter is someone who craves speed, but he also likes his cars to be slammed. His big-boosting and low-flying BMW M135i definitely ticks both boxes.
Being an avid super bike rider for many years here in South Africa, Ray has always liked to go fast. But he used to own a stance car as well – a Kia Cerato Koup fitted with a cheap manual air-ride system, and sporting a custom wide-body, custom paint, and some really big wheels.
Eventually he got over the whole, slow ‘n’ show vibe, and bought this BMW from his friend Daniel, who already had the performance side of things sorted. Ray just needed to make the car his own, which I’ll get to in a bit.
But first, the N55 under the hood, which as you can see isn’t stock in the turbo department. The original turbocharger has been replaced by a high-mount Precision Turbo 6062 ball bearing unit with boost controlled by a TiAL 60mm wastegate.
The setup also runs a custom 100mm intake feeding from one of the kidney grills for maximum airflow, plus a BMS intercooler and charge pipe. On the exhaust side of the equation you’ll find an 86mm Megalodon Performance system by DCM Customs.
A CoolingMist Stage 2 kit with direct port methanol injection was installed, helping the engine take higher boost while lessening the chance of knock. The methanol also helps with fuel enrichment, all leading to more horsepower.
When the engine modifications were completed, the N55 was tuned by HC Performance utilising Bootmod3 software. The dyno results were impressive: at 1.3bar (19psi) boost, which is Ray’s ‘everyday’ setting, there’s 550hp on tap, and at 1.9bar (28psi) there’s 650hp. Ray only uses the latter setting every once in a while, because the resulting wheelspin makes the car pretty much undrivable.
Finally, the transmission ECU received an XHP Stage 3 flash.
As the performance side of the M135i had been well and truly taken care of by Daniel, Ray was able to focus all of his attention on the way it looked, starting with the suspension.
The car had to sit right and also perform well, so Feffer Customs were called in to supply an ArtAir by Art Suspensions system, which was fitted by Strat at FS Projects. At the heart of this setup is Air Lift Performance’s amazing 3H management, which has a multitude of functions, including the ability to monitor pressure and height.
In the boot is a custom install by Potent Car Audio, housing the Air Lift manifold, 4-gallon and 5-port tank, and beneath it all a Viair 444C compressor. The hard lines were built also built by Potent Car Audio, and custom painted along with the tank by Motoart.
Further enhancing the car’s outward appearance is a Maxton front lip and M-Performance kidney grills, Maxton side sills, and a carbon fibre roof spoiler.
Wheel-wise, Ray opted to go down the OEM upgrade route with 19×8.5-inch fronts with 225/35R19 tyres, and 19×9.5-inch rears wrapped in 255/30R19s.
A pair of awesome, but extremely expensive BMW Performance seats are a standout in the cabin.
An M-Performance steering wheel, carbon gear knob and surround, CoolingMist gauge, plus a few other select cosmetic trim pieces were added, while the OEM paddles were swapped out for F80 M3 items.
Lastly, a custom mount was built in the centre console for the Air Lift Performance controller.
Ray’s BMW is a car modified in all the right ways, with just the right balance of performance and power. Well, maybe even a little bit too much power, if you believe in that sort of thing…
As you’ll see in the video above, the BMW makes all the right noises too, and Ray likes to drive it as low as possible. In my mind, that’s the only way a car on air should be driven.