What started as a 2008 BMW 135i, now has a V8 under the hood and a stripped out interior.

Jay Leno’s Garage generally eschews modern tuned machines in favor of either unrestored originals or retro-modded classics, but the latest vehicle to visit the show is quite a special 2008 BMW 135i. Marco Svizzero bought the car in 2011 to fulfill his desire of owning a Bimmer, but when he grew tired with the stock performance, a 4.0-liter V8 and running gear from an M3 went under the hood. Later, he even got bored with the extra muscle and installed a 4.6-liter stroker kit that took the output to 502 horsepower.

In some ways, this is the 1M from an alternate universe. Rather than slotting a biturbo inline-six under the hood like the real car, this one essentially is a tiny version of the E92 generation M3 but with even more power than stock.

BMW 135i V8 conversion
BMW 135i V8 conversion


In addition to the new engine, Svizzero’s car loses some weight thanks to carbon-fiber pieces for the hood, door cards, and roof. Carbon Revolution’s carbon fiber wheels slice off six pounds per corner, too. There’s no rear seat, either. Instead a roll cage back there provides some extra security when on the track.

The big engine is a very tight fit in the 1 Series narrow engine bay. According to Svizzero, there’s so little clearance that someone needs to lower the front sub-frame in order to change the plugs.

According to Svizzero, he took some inspiration from the Porsche 911 GT3 RS as being a vehicle that worked on the road but could also excel on the track. The tuned V8 sounds incredibly raw, though. It’s fairly quiet in sixth gear but makes quiet a racket when climbing up the rev range.

Svizzero’s 1 Series is quite an impressive project, especially for his first BMW. Check out the video to see how Jay thinks it feels from behind the wheel.

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