Slammed Speed: A 650hp M135i On Air

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.

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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.

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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 The original turbocharger has been replaced by a high-mount Precision Turbo 6062 ball bearing unit with boost controlled by a TiAL 60mm wastegate.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A pair of awesome, but extremely expensive BMW Performance seats are a standout in the cabin.

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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.

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Lastly, a custom mount was built in the centre console for the Air Lift Performance controller.

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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.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzemedia



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Great shots and an awesome all-round car!
Well done Stefan!!


That is a thing of beauty! I love the restrained level of upgrades on the exterior. Just enough to give it some more aggression to match the aggressive ride height, but not so much that it looks aftermarket. It's so clean and cohesive that it truly does look like it could've been an alternative OEM M-division body upgrade.


This is more like it, a properly modified BMW engine, not that LS swap thing of a 318is



Nicely done car my man! Very nice upgrades. I've never heard/seen this particular BMW before. I have 2 neighbors who own E46s and I know the guy who runs the VDC in Jersey City, NJ where all the BMWs come in from overseas. Must be specific to where you live. 4 door M135. Strange but different. It's like an M station wagon! Looks cool though.


This is the automotive equivalent of Lil Romeo in F&F Tokyo Drift... So many negative things can pop up at first, but with this specific energy and sum of individual parts, you suddenly realize every crew needs this exact thing to be better. Surprised how the whole of it just works, and well, because it's low.
But 550+hp? Silver is for raw metal classics and "invisible" mobility solutions - Paint it black.


The old M135i and M235i is always the best
Straight six, RWD, 50:50 that's what you call a proper BMW and it stood out amongst other hatches
Sadly the new one became the same car like everyone else


Must be a hard fast rule to never have your bagged car photographed at ride height. Great build, but this always perplexes me...


That’s like saying it must be a hard and fast rule to clean your car before a photo shoot.
You want the car to show what it can do in a static photo, so of course your going to air out an air ride car in the photos. That’s literally what it’s for.


what a fugly really let themselves go over the years


Really nice build! Very tastefully on the outside. But there's no way I believe this thing thing can push 600+ hp for more then 20 minutes with that crammed engine bay and one kidney reserved for the turbo already. Cooling sensor will have a very bad time in there.


I race with a 9 time world champion hall of fame latter, Sennas former engineer from Mclaren and a two time Le Mans winner.

When I asked them about air they all laughed. “I’d never put that on a competitive race car.”

Your opening quote isn’t accurate. Tell me this: if air is so good why is no one in the unlimited class of global time attack using it?

Hmmm...follow the money in the sport if you want accurate information not a journalist or blogger...or guy who competes in a amateur level time attack class Or runs a street car. Sure air can put around. It can go fast. Any car can be driven fast.

If you want information that is accurate you look to competition where air is not found. Bye now.


Nothing you said, that wasn't bragging for the sake of bragging, makes the opening sentence inaccurate.


You can down vote me all you want. No one is using air in any motorsport that is worth mentioning when it comes to tuning. This is a fact. I’m 100% open to seeing a car that uses it and wins.

Until then you’re defending a show car that is featured on a blog that gets money from air ride companies. Sigh. Can’t save em all!


This clearly isn't a race car though. Everyone sees air on a car with a turbo and jumps to competitive motorsports applications.


Hall of famer*