This may have started out life as an ordinary 2-Series M-Lite but now it’s a full-fat 500hp wide-body BMW M235i that’s anything but…
Feature first appeared in Performance BMW. Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Rtwenty3
The M235i is an exceptional car, one which takes everything great about the BMW M135i and squeezes it into a sexier and sharper package and it makes for an incredibly compelling all-round performance proposition that ticks just about every box imaginable. It’s easy to see why the family of cars that the community has dubbed ‘M-Lites’ is proving so popular with buyers who want something that’s fast, fun to drive, offers plenty of modding potential, but won’t break the bank when it comes to running costs. However, the only thing these cars lack is presence – obviously, BM saved all the steroids for the M2 and its Competition counterpart, leaving the M-Lites looking a little plain, which is perfect if you want to slip under the radar but less good if you want to make a big impact and get all the attention. But every problem has a solution and for Josh (@M235i, @BMWShowcase), the owner of this M235i, his solution was simple – apply a wide-body kit, wrap it in something special and drop it on air and the result is nothing short of spectacular, and this 2 Series has the presence of a four-wheeled cage fighter.
If you’re currently stuck driving something rather uninspiring and wondering when you’ll be able to get yourself into something rather sexier then simply take inspiration from Josh – his first car was a 1.0-litre Vauxhall Corsa fitted with a black box for insurance purposes and was “awful” but now, at the age of just 26, he’s got himself a one-of-a-kind BMW wide-body M235i and if that’s not car goals then we don’t know what is. So where did it all start for Josh? “I’ve always been interested in German cars and BMWs due to my split-nationality; being half-English and half-German I regularly visited Germany and also lived there, so I was often seeing these cars as a kid growing up. BMW was my favourite out of the Merc/BMW/Audi brands,” he explains and it’s cool to meet someone with a more directly personal connection to the brand we all love so much. “My first BMW was a 2008 E82 120d that I bought in 2014 and, quite simply, I wanted a BMW coupé that had good mpg that was within my budget. This was due to a daily round trip commute of 80 miles during my University work placement year,” he says and this sensible but stylish runabout also got him into modding. “I was completely unaware of the modding and car scene but I quickly caught the bug once I started to join forums such as BabyBMW.net and saw what people were doing. I started modifying the E82 in 2016, replacing the front and rear bumpers with the 1M-style ones along with converting the rear exhaust layout to one big exhaust pipe each side to make it look a little different, like the M235i/M240i. Also other mods such as aftermarket alloys, splitter and lip spoiler,” and after getting the modding bug in a big way and giving his 120d a bit of an M235i look, it’s no surprise that he ended up with the real deal.
“In terms of the M235i, I really liked the look and style of the E82 once I had finished with it and it was similar to the looks of the M235i. Along with the increased petrol engine power and other M Sport upgrades, it really was a no-brainer for me that the M235i would be my first ‘sports’ car,” he grins. “I found it via a private seller who couldn’t shift it due to it being a manual and it was in good condition with low mileage. The plan for the car was simple: alloys, splitter and diffuser, now look at it!” he laughs. “The mods increased rapidly once I started to realise many M235is/M240is look the same, and I wanted to stand out from the crowd,” he reasons and he’s certainly done that.
As per Josh’s initial plans for minor mods, things started off slowly; “Within the first three-four months of owning the M235i after buying it in April 2018 not much was added, the usual black kidney grilles, M Performance front splitter and diffuser and a lovely set of Bola B25s in gloss black which were a real hit and gave the car a nice stealthy look,” he says. That got the ball rolling nicely and gave his M235i a more aggressive look but, as Josh said before, he realised that most examples have a similar selection of mods and look quite similar and that to make his car stand out, he needed something special. “I’d seen a blacked-out M2 owned by a guy called Alan, which made me want to do the same theme for my M235i. That mixed with the time I saw a wide-body 2 Series in Europe was the driving force behind the build – I immediately knew this was the target but to take it to another level,” Josh says and so, with the goal set for his build, he proceeded to amp up the mods and create his perfect vision of the ultimate M235i.
Josh began by building on the styling mods he’d already carried out, further enhancing the car’s looks – H&R springs were added to give it a nice drop, a custom-made diffuser and OEM M2 quad exhaust beefed-up the rear end and gave the car a more aggressive look, a pair of AutoID full mirror replacement units – which mimic the M door mirrors – joined the styling lineup and he finished off this round of mods with a set of LCI rear lights. “The addiction was real,” says Josh with a grin and the finished car is proof positive of that if there was ever any doubt to begin with. And then, in February of 2019, it was time for the wide-body to begin taking shape; “The kit was purchased and shipped over from Asia and installation began with Wrench Studios around April/May time and it took them about eight-nine weeks. They really did a great job as there were some issues with the quality of the kit which they managed to adapt,” says Josh. The end result was a seriously menacing all-black machine that bore little resemblance to the M235i it started out life as but the kit was just the start of this next phase of mods.
As we all know, you can’t possibly do something like that to your car without ensuring that the rest of it can compete with the visual drama being doled out by those massive arches and so to go with the wide-body Josh decided to rework the car’s styling. An AutoID carbon boot lip spoiler was added, ECD Performance supplied a custom-made carbon diffuser, which is filled out by a set of custom quad slash-cut exhaust tips made by Dave at Hard Knocks Speed Shop, the H&R springs were replaced with a set of BC Racing coilovers while the Bola wheels made way for a set of 20” Judd Model Twos and Josh was happy, for the time being at least. “The final mods have come more recently,” he explains; “Enjoying the stealth look for just over half a year, it was decided the Black Sapphire paint finish was swallowing up the aggressiveness of the kit and it was hidden in certain areas around the car, and so we launched version two in February 2020 with a matt grey aluminium wrap by C2F4 Design and also installed an Airlift Performance 3H Kit with a simple but smart boot build by The Tuning Store/Car Audio Security,” and the result of all these elements together is truly stunning.
The kit itself is absolutely awesome and looks sensational on the BMW M235i, endowing it with some serious road presence but it does so without going over the top. It manages to flow with the car’s styling, enhancing it but at the same time adding elements that break up the smooth lines, namely those intakes and vents on the arches and, combined with that custom diffuser and the carbon elements, it makes for an imposing and intimidating machine. The choice of wrap colour is sensational and the perfect complement for the kit and Josh definitely made the right call here as the matt finish really allows the light to accentuate the curves and edges of the wide-body and it adds an extra dimension to the car’s visual appeal. The dynamic styling of the Judd 20s suits the look of the car perfectly and 10” fronts and 11” rears really fill out those wide arches, which are big enough to just allow them to tuck when Josh airs-out. The plan was to take this M235i to another level and that’s definitely been achieved.
While the kit on the M235i is what gets all the attention, there’s plenty more going on here besides those formidable looks and Josh has not neglected the N55 beneath the bonnet, though to look at it you wouldn’t think there was anything special going on here. “Unfortunately, in late 2018 a tuning company placed a map on the car which led to some severe symptoms (black smoke, revs not going over 3/4k) and then engine problems followed quickly, resulting in a full engine rebuild with a new block required,” winces Josh. “This was a massive setback and ultimately delayed the wide-body project by half a year. Having at first thought/been advised it was a turbo issue, the new uprated hybrid turbo kit was purchased and fitting began in March 2019. It was at this point we found out the block had cracks and so this needed replacing resulting in further delays and costs – N55 life,” he shrugs. “However, months later and having had the wide-body kit installed, the engine was rebuilt, with a new turbo and new mapping, running just how it should have done,” and while it wasn’t an easy ride the end result was worth the effort. The raft of engine mods are headed up by the Hi-Tech Performance hybrid turbo and it’s joined by an XDI-30 high-pressure fuel pump, a Forge charge pipe, an uprated Hi-Tech intercooler, de-cat downpipe and that aforementioned M2 back box, modified by PCW Exhaust Mods for more noise. The end result is 500hp and 516lb ft of torque and that ensures this M235i has the performance to match its hardcore looks.
While Josh hasn’t gone wild on the interior, he has added a few touches that make all the difference and make it that little bit more special and personal. “The main interior mods I wanted to get were Alcantara-based because I like the look and feel, it really brings the interior up to date and style,” he says. “My steering wheel, steering wheel trim and armrest have been retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels who I now do some work for. I really liked their products and work and got on well with Jack, the owner; we managed to work out a plan of how I could help them out and join the team,” Josh says with a smile and the steering wheel is a seriously nice thing. The combo of perforated leather and Alcantara is perfect, you’ve got those sculpted grips and the flat bottom and its presence alone transforms the interior. It’s joined by an M Performance carbon and Alcantara handbrake and gear lever along with carbon-dipped trim and these little touches make all the difference.
When Josh set out on his M235i modifying journey little could he have known where it would take him and where his car would end up, but it’s safe to say he’s more than a happy with how it’s turned out; he’s made his dream of creating a next-level M235i a sensational reality and there’s a lot that’s gone into this build. “Picking my favourite mod is a tough one,” he muses, “I really like a lot of the custom pieces/parts around the car such as the embossed company logos of firms who have worked on the car, and the custom-made carbon rear diffuser or even the 20” Judd alloys. Overall, it would be the wide-body kit itself, though, it took the car to another level and made it stand out amongst the M-Lite community,” he says with a smile and we’re not surprised, because while every element of this car is excellent, that wide-body is something truly exceptional and it’s what really sets this build apart. So, are there any more plans on the horizon for this build? “I’d like to think finally no…” Josh chuckles. He’s been through a lot on his modding journey, a journey which did not always go smoothly, but one whose destination made all of it worthwhile and this wide-body BMW M235i truly takes things to the next level.
Tech Spec: Wide-body BMW M235i
Engine and Transmission:
3.0-litre straight-six turbo N55B30, Hi-Tech Performance hybrid turbo, XDI-30 high-pressure fuel pump from Ross Sport LTD, Forge charge pipe, uprated Hi-Tech intercooler, de-cat downpipe, M2 back box modified by PCW Exhaust mods. Six-speed manual gearbox
Power and Torque:
500hp and 516lb ft
10×20” (front) and 11×20” (rear) Judd Model Two wheels with 265/30 (front) and 295/30 (rear) tyres, Air Lift Performance 3H air suspension setup
Matt Grey Aluminium wrap from C2F4 Design, BMWShowcase wide-body kit installed by Wrench Studios, M Performance front splitter, AutoID mirrors and carbon boot lip spoiler, custom-made ECD Performance carbon diffuser, LCI rear lights, light and window tints, Exclusive Registrations 3D/4D number plates
Custom flat-bottom Alcantara steering wheel, Alcantara steering wheel trim and armrest from Royal Steering Wheels, M Performance carbon/Alcantara handbrake and gear knob, carbon-dipped dash trims