Being in the business of manufacturing and selling parts to modify street cars, its often hard to resist the temptation to modify and improve the driving characteristics of all the cars we own. Most cars don't make it longer than a matter of weeks before they are on the road to modification. Some have just a few tweaks, some end up with quite the makeover. This 128i is definitely in the latter category. It started as a simple idea - just a whim, a breeze of an idea. With two employees having recently purchased E82 chassis BMWs that they absolutely loved, both had one glaring issue: they were very too stock. So why not make them better street and track machines? Seems like a great idea right? It is. Here is the story of this particular E82 128i:

This 128i is the first of two E82 projects we embarked on what we have been calling the "E82 Dudes" series. The 1 series BMW has always had a bit of a niche market. Small and nimble compared to other BMWs of its generation, but never really given the same love as its more well-known brothers. To be honest, we overlooked them a bit in the past ourselves, but that all changed with these projects.

A Suprisingly Good Place to Start

When most think of the ideal platform for a BMW project car, it's unlikely that anyone would pick an E82 128i. It's understandable, really, as the 128i has never gotten much attention in enthusiast circles. But when you look at the numbers, it stacks up very well against some of the revered icons of six-cylinder BMW lore with similar power and weight to both the E36 M3 and E46 ZHP 330i with a slight difference in length and track width for good measure. We were honestly surprised by this when we ran the numbers.

To fans of the 128i, this is a quite common occurence. Often overlooked by enthusiasts, these N52 powered 128i's are the swan song of the naturally-aspirated inline-six BMW. The final "analog" straight six. The last of an era that made BMW the power house luxury brand of the 90s and 2000s. 

Of course, the naturally-aspirated six will never make the power of its forced-induction siblings, and by today's standards, 230hp is rather mundane for a 3200 lb vehicle - but the combination of responsiveness and weight balance, this car embodies the spirit of those M-based, naturally- aspirated six-cylinder sports cars that made BMW "The Ultimate Driving Machine". Of course in its stock guise, the 128i makes many concessions to comfort and daily driveability - as clearly BMW understood its market for this vehicle when it launched, but with some well-applied upgrades, a few tweaks, we have the opportunity to transform this hum-drum 128i into a machine capable of delivering everthing an enthusiast hopes for in a project - fun, and lots of it. It may not be the fastest option from BMW in 2013, but its hard to believe that anything else would put a bigger smile on your face.

While it doesn't look like too much when its laid out on the ground, the list of parts was quite long - wheels and tires, suspension bushings, rear subframe bushings, engine mounts and shifter, shift knob, pedal tuner, headlights, tail lights, marker lights, intake, exhaust, air filter, cabin filters, brakes pads, rotors, wheel bearings, front bumper, front splitter, rear valence, kidney grilles, rear spoiler, drivers side fender... Ok, it's a lot. Here are the highlights of what we changed: 


The first priority with this build was suspension and we knew exactly what was required for this E82. We chose the ST XTA+3 Coilover kit - with its 3 way Dampening adjustment (high and low-speed bump + rebound adjustment) and its integrated pillow ball mount camber plates, this coilover kit has everything you need to proper setup a susepension for street and track. The XTA+3 is the ST equivalent of the KW V4 coilover at a reduced price.

On the higher end of the product spectrum for ST, these coilovers represent the best technology on offer for retail purchase. Suitable for daily driving and significant track time, it perfectly blends the needs of most enthusiasts.

The real blockbuster feature of these XTA+3 coilovers is the 3-way damping adjustment. While most of us are used to a single adjustment (single speed bump), the added rebound adjustment and the divergance of high and low-speed bump really gives you a chance to dial in these coilovers to your driving style.

Fully adjustable on the car without revmoval, these coilovers allow you to make adjustments on the fly whithout dissasembling the suspension - a critical feature when you need to make a quick change.


Given that track time was a consideration of this project, we needed a wheel and tire package  that would handle track duty as well as street use. The TSW Imatra seemed like a perfect choice for this E82. Available in 18x8.5 with a ET35 offset, these were the perfect compliment, both visually and performance wise. Clocking in at just 18lbs, these flow-formed beauties fit the parameters of our build and complimented the visual appeal of this setup - all while not breaking the bank. This is a serious contender fo those who want a good looking wheel that has great performance characteristics and not an insanely high price point.


The stock brake size on the 128i is surprisingly adequate - the stock brake pads, however are definitely not.  With track time in this cars future we decided to go with a combination we have used alot here at BFI; EBC Rotors and Yellow Stuff pads. The Yellow Stuff pad is perfectly suited to street/track use - great bite, and brake feel, with just a bit more dust than a stock pad. The EBC Yellow is one of our favorite brake pads with great brake feel, but still streetable for cars that are not strickly dedicated to track use.

EBC offers a wide range of pads for nearly every application - from stock replacement, street use upgrades, mild track use and aggressive track use. Their color coding system makes it easy to determine which pad fits your needs. We knew that this E82 was going to see some track time as well as being a daily-driver.

For rotors we chose to go with these direictionally slotted EBC rotors. Available in most OE rotor sizes with two different options for slotting (either straight or a parabolic design), these are a great cost-effective upgrade to stock rotors. The slots help clean the pad surface while preventing gas build up on the surface of the rotor while braking.

While reducing brake fade was the biggest goal of these particular rotors, we also loved that these rotors are coated to prevent the area not under the sweep of the pad to be protected from rust. As of 2023 these rotors are currently only available in a dull silver GEOMET coating.


One of the parts that we were most excited about Kinematic Speed Race Shifter. We can't say enough good things about this shifter - its height feels just right, the length of throw is just perfect -  short, but not too notchy and the build quality is second to none. To be honest, when we first inspected this piece, our consensus is that we would have made it the exact same way if we did it ourselves. We loved that it could be installed by a single person and fit well with our replacement shift boot.

Of course, we weren't satisfied with leaving it as-is so we added a bit more weight and a larger diameter ball with this specially machined GS2 Universal Ball shift knob. These will be available very soon!

Compact enough to fit under a stock shift boot - this is the only shifter extension that we recomend for BMW applications. It just feels so right while driving, it definitely clicks into the "money well spent" catagory.

We love a splash of M-colors. While this is decidedly not an M car, it was originally an M-sport package (hence the M branded steering wheel) so we opted for our M-Cross Stitch shift and e-brake boot combination. Made from OE supplier Nappa leather, each one of these boots is sewn and hand-stitched in house.

It's a simple change that revitalizes and interior. Just a shifter with a new knob and boot combo takes this car from everyday driver to everyday racer in one step.


The paint for this particular 128i was well past its prime as failed clear coat, sun fading, and scratches galore now adorn the Lemans Blue exterior - it had succumb to the elements and likely mistreatment by its previous owner. It's a common story for cars this age, this was always a daily driver, and sometimes their paint doesn't get the love and everyday care it deserves.  That, coupled with a drivers side fender that needed to be replaced, and an ECS replacement M style bumper, there was only one clear choice. Repaint. Well, that wasn't in our budget, so we decided to tackle the task of doing a full car wrap.

We are by no means professionals at rapping vehicles, quite amature in fact. But this Vivvid Vinyl "Khaki Green" looks amazing when installed - so glossy and deep, most people think the car has been repainted. 


The eyes are the windows to the soul, or so they say. As a base model 128i the freeform halogen lights just didn't do the car justice. We decided to backdate the car with pre-LCI headlights - as we thought the rings would be more aggressive with the older-style headlight, which involved taking the headlights apart and painting the housing, adding the LED halo rings, yellow inners and fogs. Polishing the original lenses made them look not brand new, but gave them new life. 

For the taillights we knew we wanted the LCI "Black Line" tail lights, and OE upgrade from Europe. The darker smoked lenses just add a depth to the taillight that makes them look so much better. We offer them now in our store - click the picture to see the listing.