1.9 to M Conversion

Why I did it:

I am poor, but I love the M Roadster. You may know me as WannaM on the message boards. The M’s full, muscular rear end is much more masculine and finished looking than the other Z’s in my humble opinion, but alas, I can’t afford an M. I think the 1.9 liter’s rear end looks dilapidated and unfinished. However, as background, I rent a two-car garage and live in the other half. In other words, all of my money goes to my car, and I live like a bum. How many other people can claim such loyalty to a car? In addition, I do upgrades as I have money instead of just picking the ones I want and doing them. Robert Leidy’s beautiful roadster was the target template for my car as I have a 1996 Arctic Silver 1.9. What finally convinced me was that the rear track width on the 1.9 and M roadster are nearly identical, unlike the 2.5 and 2.8 which are noticeably wider, especially with M rims on. Thus, the conversion compatibility was the decision maker.

What it cost:

I tried to keep the costs down by selling the old parts and buying from salvage yards. The two biggest problems are 1) it takes a long time and patience to find the parts from salvage yards and 2) some of the parts are damaged and replacing/repairing ends up costing more than new parts. In the end, I had hoped that I could keep costs very low. I was wrong.

Process:

The upgrade is pretty simple (but intense). I contact the Mazjun’s who had upgraded their 1.9 to a widebody format like a 2.8 after a minor accident. The reality is that a LOT of parts are only slightly different but need to be completely replaced. I searched for most of the parts on the newsgroups, ebay, and the salvage yards. The following parts are needed for a (1996) full exterior conversion to an M:

* Both Bumper covers

* Both rocker panels

* Both quarter panels

* Gas filler flap

* Both Rear plastic wheel linings

* Roll bar/hoops

* Both side mirrors

* Both hood gills

* Trunk Lid

* Electric trunk lock mechanism

* Rear trunk license plate assembly

* License plate lights

* Chrome trunk button surround

* 4 Satin chrome M wheels

* 4 new tires

* Custom spliced exhaust (picture included, and it’s the best I could do without jacking the car up)

* Two new mufflers

Other work:

Removing the black plastic covering on the A pillars/windshield frame. For cost sakes, I did not replace the head/taillights with clear lenses, nor replace the side mirrors. You must extend the license plate lights wiring from the rear bumper to the trunk lid. For this, I simply used wiring I bought from Home Depot.

Problems:

Painting is expensive. I found a great shop in Lincoln Park (Chicago), European Auto, that matched the paint wonderfully without “blending.” The con is that it is relatively expensive and takes a while to mix a good match, but I would recommend this shop to anyone getting any type of paint job. I also noticed during the re-assembly, that the parts that were “used/salvaged” definitely exhibited “fit” problems. Using new parts is certainly the preferred choice if you can afford it. Was it worth it?? Since costs started to get out of hand, I’m not sure if it’s worth it. If you have access to cheap parts and a lot of time, the look is definitely cool, but car novices might not even notice the difference. I like the new look though. I only wish it were a real M. Perhaps BMW might realize I’m their biggest enthusiast and donate another car for me to modify.

European Auto Ltd

2547 N Lincoln Ave

Chicago, IL 60614-2313

Phone: (773) 348-5440

I had major problems with the trunk locking mechanism. I wasn’t sure how the reverse placement of the trunk button would affect the lock. It was minimal work to refit really, BUT, in the process, I could not figure out how to reuse the electric locking control, thus I need to use the key to lock/unlock the trunk.

Visible Discrepancies with the M:

The interior had been modified over the years to a more chrome finish like many others. The noticeable differences inside are the lack of leather wrapped dash, M sport seats, no Oil Temp/Analog Clock/Oil Pressure gauges, power roof, rear view mirror, etc. I do have a sprinkling of LeatherZ products which are awesome. The exterior lacks the M side mirrors (which irks me a little each time), fit-and-finish of the new panels is not as great as my original stock 1.9. Also, the lights have the original amber, not the later “clear” look (but I considered Robert Leidy’s as a template). I also have not yet put the plastic wheel well linings in as the pictures show.

Future:

As I said, this project really put me in the poor house — literally. Towards the end, I became a prostitute and even tried soliciting companies to donate the parts to me if I put a decal on my car. Semi-happily, no one took me up on my offer. The things that I would like most to add eventually would be:

* Any type of windscreen

* Any type of supercharger

* Any Spring lowering kit

* Additional leather treatment to the interior

In retrospect, it might’ve been easier to sell my car and put the upgrade money into getting a used 2.8 or something, but I had no idea how few Z3 parts would’ve been on the salvage market and how expensive dealership parts would’ve been. Live and learn – I suppose. Until then, I believe that I have only 1 of 2 Z3 1.9′s with a widebody conversion, the only 1.9 with M body technics, and – in the spirit of making the MZ3 an actual vehicle – a real MZ3.

If I had one wish right now, I would like to add a supercharger, as I have been attending many of the local import tuner shows. My car gets a lot of attention, but on the drag strips, it gets quite embarrassed.

Pros: Looks great… almost like an M.

Cons: Unjustifiable cost, car is out-of-commission during upgrade, is not completely a DIY project.

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