Padded Leather Armrest

What you are looking at is the typical BMW Z3 armrest (part number 82-11-1-469-516). Except this armrest has had the two plastic lids covered in nice black leather with padding installed underneath.

The leather wraps around the lid and the underside is lined with felt like cloth. The padding and leather combine to give the armrest a great feel, like it should have rolled off the assembly line this way.

Initially when working with the upholstery shop they were talking about using three pieces of leather that would be stitched together (just like the seams on the seats). But after they tried that method they realized it wouldn’t work. The seams were too bulky and it didn’t look good, so they tried using just one piece of leather. They got the one piece of leather to work, but it took much longer than they had expected. They had to work each corner by hand trying to stretch the leather without leaving folds or loose sections. They also ran into problems around the hinges, there was not enough clearance space to fold the leather under the hinge so they had to trim the leather and just glue it down.

All in all I think they did a good job on the armrest, it is very comfortable and looks good. However I feel obligated to point out the weak points which are the corners, the leather appears very stretched and the edges are not very clean. My only other concern is in the armrests durability. Under this fancy padded leather armrest is still just a $30 piece of plastic. I also wonder about the durability of the leather on the corners, they had to stretch it pretty tight and I wonder how its going to hold up under the constant wear I’m going to give it. The upholstery shop said to use Lexol leather conditioner on it regularly and said it would last a long time so my concerns probably aren’t valid, but time will be the ultimate judge.

Now for the bad part, initially this was ball parked to be in the $100 price range. However that estimate was based on the three piece design. The additional labor to make the one piece design work drove the price up to $150. The upholstery shop and I had made an agreement to do this first one for $100, but they said they would need charge $150 to make any more. They said the next one will require about four hours of labor to complete and $150 basically covers their costs. However after doing 10 or so they could probably get their turn around time down to two and a half hours. At that point $150 is actually profitable for them. So he’s sticking to his $150 price with the hopes that eventually he will get good enough at making them to make a profit.

I asked them about making them in other colors, he said it would be possible but he really didn’t want to get into that. The kind of leather he had to use to make this armrest is special processed leather that has been thinned down to a thickness that can be worked by hand. He can’t buy small pieces of this leather so if he got into making different colors it would have to be in larger quantities. So basically its possible but this thing is barely cost justified as it is, the additional expense is just to much to worry about.

If you are interested in purchasing an armrest similar to this one, contact the maker directly and ask for the owner Howard Finkle.

The Inside Job

2261 Crown Rd. #112

Dallas, Texas 75229

(972) 241-8054

Long Term Update

The armrest is now over six months old and is showing no signs of wear. I’ve used leather conditioner on it twice, the first time at three months and just recently again. The look and the feel has not changed and for these reasons I am extremely happy with the overall durability and quality of this upgrade. However I recently reviewed another leather covered armrest that was made by Jon Maddux (Z3 owner). His leather armrest is better looking, has more padding, and believe it or not is half the price ($75) of this armrest.

Cleaning the Plastic Rear Window

To say my rear window was dirty was an understatement. Honestly, I can’t remember ever washing it in the time I’ve owned the MZ3. It had gotten to the point that rear visibility, especially with the windscreen, was zero. With the homecoming approaching, I figured it was time to clean this window. Turned out to also be a good time to try out the Meguiar’s window cleaner and polish to see just how good this stuff is.

In the graphic below, the top picture is of the window before I did anything (except remove the windscreen). The middle picture is after I used Meguiar’s #17 Clear Plastic Cleaner on both the inside and the outside. The cleaner was difficult to use, especially on the inside. This stuff coats on then dries to a paste just like car wax does. Rubbing off that dried pasty/wax was difficult especially when trying to work on the inside of the window. It took me about 30 minutes but the results were simply amazing. Except for a harsh black line of buildup in a fold mark, it removed everything.

The next step was to use the Meguiar’s #10 Clear Plastic Polish, I had already decided I was not going to mess with the inside window since my back was aching from the cleaner. But honestly it wouldn’t have been very hard since the polish doesn’t dry to a paste like the cleaner. The polish took the buildup in the fold line off with very little effort. The very bottom picture in the graphic below was after the cleaner and the polish. Looks like a practically brand new window as far as I am concerned. I’m very pleased with the Meguiar’s cleaner and polish, however I think I’ll clean and polish the window a little more regularly from now on.

I’ve seen BMW dealerships sell some of the Meguiar’s products in their parts department. But if you are having a hard time finding them you can always purchase directly from Meguiar’s. Meguiar’s has a web site with a dealer locator, but you have to call the number below to actually place an order.

To Order Call: 1 (800) 545 3321

Fax: 1 (949) 752-6659

Or Write: 17991 Mitchell South, Irvine, CA 92614