German Beast: Ghassan Alneama’s Turbocharged 9-Second BMW 135i

The BMW brand is known for its well-rounded vehicles that ooze elegance and style. When you look at the characteristics BMW’s vehicles have, though, they don’t scream anything closely related to drag racing. But that didn’t matter to Ghassan Alneama.

The record-setting 2008 BMW 135i Ghassan has created has the looks of a beauty queen, but it packs the punch of a championship boxer under the hood.

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s just how contagious the automotive and motorsports culture really is — you can travel to every corner of the globe and you’re guaranteed to find somebody modifying a car in some fashion. Ghassan came to the United States for his education and stayed to build a high-performance automotive business.

Photos By Patrick Williams

Ghassan’s father was the biggest influence on his passion for automobiles, so in 2012, when he had the opportunity to travel from Dubai to study mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University, he did. Eventually, Ghassan started his business, Ghassan Automotive, and he started working on BMWs, including his own dream car: a 2006 BMW M5 5.0 V10.

“We started to lean towards working on BMWs only, and more specifically, the engines. Our goal was to become the world’s leading BMW engine remanufacturing facility. Eventually, we decided to pick up a weekend project that turned into a record-setting machine,” Ghassan says.

Ghassan picked up his BMW project car in 2018 after finding it on Facebook in Houston, Texas. The car was exactly what he wanted — nearly stock — and it had a BMW N54 engine under the hood. With the goal of showing just how far one of these engines could be pushed, Ghassan went to work tearing the car down and getting it ready for its metamorphosis into the ultimate racing machine.

The 182 cubic-inch engine was worked over by Ghassan from top to bottom. Inside the block is a custom pinned N54 forged crankshaft, CP Carrillo connecting rods, and a custom set of Traum HD forged pistons. Cylinder Support Systems took care of the block’s closed deck, sleeves, and fire rings. Ghassan built his own N54 cylinder head that has been ported, polished, and machined to remove the direct injection system.

Plazmaman created a custom N54 intake manifold that brings air into the engine. Fuel comes from a set of 2200cc DeatschWerks injectors and an Aeromotive fuel pump. The AEM Infinity ECU is tuned by co-driver Jake Williams, while ignition is provided by a full set of AEM smart coils. Boost is pumped into the engine thanks to a Garrett G42-1450 turbo that works with a TurboSmart wastegate and blow-off valve. The turbo kit was fabricated by Lewis Fabrication in Perkins, Oklahoma.

Originally, Ghassan rowed the gears in his BMW with the factory six-speed transmission, but he knew that transmission wouldn’t last forever. The BMW now sports a TH400 transmission and torque converter built by Brangers Racing. A Fab9 rearend from Lewis Fabrication transmits the horsepower from the TH400 to a Strange Engineering spool, gear set, and axles. The rear suspension was rebuilt by Lewis Fabrication and uses a custom 4-link with a wishbone to replace the stock BMW parts. Ghassan’s BMW rides on a set of QA1 shocks, Weld Racing wheels, Mickey Thompson front tires in the front, and Hoosier slicks in the rear.

After Ghassan finished his BMW, it was time to throw it on the dyno, where it made an impressive 750 horsepower. When it came time to hit the track, Ghassan turned the car all the way up where it made over 1,000 horsepower. With the car set on kill, Ghassan set the N54 engine record with a 9.63 blast at over 143 mph.

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“This car took a lot of work to get off the ground and running. Without Lewis Fabrication, DocRace, Cylinder Support System, Turn14, RealStreet, CSF, Clutch masters, Brangers Racing, Plazmaman, Deatschwerks, TurboSmart, Splitter PR, Ramsey Autobody, King Racing Bearings, Will Northcut YouTube Channel, Nelson Racing Wheels, ColoradoN5x.com, Midwestern Engine Machine, Stanley Morton with STK Specialties, Strange Engineering, and Areomotive Fuel Systems this car wouldn’t be at the level it is,” Ghassan says.

Ghassan Alneama wanted to build a car for the track that wasn’t your average Mustang, and his BMW 135i turned out exactly as he planned. By forging a new path Ghassan has created a BMW that defies what most people think of when they hear the luxury German car manufacturer’s name. One things for sure: Ghassan will continue to push the BMW to new performance heights with his boosted machine.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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