Video: Snarling, S54-Swapped BMW 135i On The Hillclimb

Combine a compact body, short wheelbase, snarling atmospheric motor, a technical public road, and you have a dependable recipe for hillclimb fireworks. Lebanese hillclimber Carlos Mehri, followed this recipe when he married two of BMW’s best items which never left the factory as a package, but work together beautifully.

Even the M-badged variants of the diminutive E82 chassis never enjoyed a screaming atmospheric engine, which is a pity. The agility and ease of placement — thanks to short overhangs and a small body — combined with a responsive, tractable, and predictable powerplant would make a wonderful hillclimbing car. Fortunately, Mehri saw the potential this combination held, and set about implanting a tweaked S54 motor in the 135i’s bay.

Photo credit: Carlos Speed Shop

With a Quaife sequential helping deliver a seamless stream of power, the acceleration is relentless. The powerband is wide, and the response is much better than that of its turbocharged sibling: the N55.

Photo credit: Carlos Speed Shop

Some of that agility can be attributed to the Reiger coilovers and Pirelli P Zeros. While the grip and balance is incredible — changing direction like a sailfish while soaking up the bumps decently — the breakaway is sudden and violent. Considering the amount of power and the short wheelbase, this is completely understandable, but it must keep Mehri on his toes.

The upside to this nervous behavior is the car’s mid-corner attitude adjustment. It willingly rotates under trail-braking into the tightest hairpins (0:48); pointing the car in the right direction earlier so the sonorous powerplant can do its work. In fact, the mild torque levels and great response allow Mehri to control the rear quite precisely with the throttle. This tail-happy balance makes it a perfect machine for technical courses with lots of quick direction changes and few long corners — and a definite crowd pleaser.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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