Yokohama Nexus M Roadster Tires

After only 16,500 miles on the stock Dunlop SP8080 tires, it was already time to replace them. It was fun for awhile driving around Dallas with bald/slick tires. Very little effort was required to start the back end sliding out around turns (sometimes even when I wasn’t trying). But soon the fun wore off, and the realization that the M roadster wasn’t carrying a spare tire led to me finally accept that it was time to start the very “unfun” task of shopping for and purchasing new tires.

As I started my tire shopping research I found that the more I learned about tires the harder the purchasing decision became. To many options, to many variables and quite honestly to many opinions. To make the selection process easier I decided to start with the sizing advice posted on the Z3 tire FAQ. I then turned to the highly praised website, and decided to consider it the gospel source of tire information. There is always going to be differing opinions so I decided to put on blinders and just focus on what they recommended. Shopping for tires is both confusing and frustrating, I figured making this 1st decision would make the process easier.

2nd decision: I convinced myself that putting anything less than “maximum performance” tires on the M roadster defeats the purpose of purchasing an M roadster. So I click on the Tire Rack’s list of “maximum performance” tires and consider their recommendations as the initial candidate list. This narrowed to the field down to 7 tires

BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KD

Bridgestone Potenza S-02

Bridgestone Potenza S-02 Pole Position

Dunlop SP Sport 9000

Michelin MXX3 SX

Pirelli PZero System

Yokohama Nexus

Note: If you want to debate why one particular tire qualifies or doesn’t qualify as “maximum performance” take that debate up with the Tire Rack. Like I said I made the decision to follow this one particular website’s recommendations.

The first tire to be eliminated from the list was the Dunlop SP Sport 9000, for no better reason other than spite. I hate the Dunlop-sided SP8080E chunks of lopsided rubber provided with the stock M roadster. Besides being out of round I’m purchasing new tires after only 16,500 miles. I realize the stock setup used SP8080E and not these SP9000 tires but I will not even look at the Dunlop brand name (like I said, for no better reason other than spite).

For the remaining 6 tires I made the assumption that were all worthy candidates, but before I was ready to start comparing their individual merits I had one other requirement. I had made the decision to step up the tire size on both the front and back to protect the expensive rims on the M roadster. So the stock 225/45/17 on the front will become 235/45/17 and the stock 245/40/17 on the back will become 255/40/17.

Using some formulas posted on the web site I determine that going up one size will have the following affect: Fronts get .35″ taller and .39″ wider, rears get .31″ taller and .39″ wider. I realize that different manufactures have slightly different sizes but I’m going to ignore that fact and blindly continue on (remember this is already confusing and frustrating, why complicate things).

The wider tires will help protect the M rims (that are currently wider than the stock tires) and the taller tires will help make up some of the speedometer error (which is a poor excuse because I really don’t care about that). Now that I knew what tire sizes I wanted, two additional tire candidates were eliminated because they were not made in the sizes I wanted.

I was down to four candidates that matched my performance and size needs. It was finally time for the final showdown. I decide the wear rating (even though I realize makers rate their own tire) and price will determine the winner.

Bridgestone Potenza S-02 Pole Position – $964 [180AA]

Michelin MXX3 SX – $1010 [140AA]

Pirelli PZero System – $984 [140AA]

Yokohama Nexus – $490 [160AA]

Note: Prices are all four tires without shipping and were the Tire Rack’s posted prices as of February 18 1999.

What stood out from that list was that the Yokohama Nexus tires were about half the price of the other three candidates. My first reaction was “what’s wrong with them”, so I posted questions to the BMW roadster message board and call the Tire Rack directly. No one had anything bad to say about the Nexus tires and the Tire Rack said they are 99% as good as the Pole Position tires but at half the cost.

So that was it, the decision was made and the tires were ordered. Just under a week later the new tires were delivered and installed locally by National Tire and Battery. NTB charged $9.99 a tire for mounting and lifetime balancing making the total price of the four tires (with delivery, mounting, balancing and tax) $577.

100 Miles Later:

The traction appears to be superior to the stock Dunlop SP8080E tires. At this point the tires feel “stiffer”. Maybe that is what the experts call sidewall flex, I don’t know the technical term they just feel stiffer. The downside to this stiffer feeling is they are a little harsher in regard to ride comfort (CD Player is skipping a little more than it use too). The Nexus tires also appear to be noisier, I haven’t noticed it at highway speed but around town they seem a little noisier.

The pictures above and below show the front and back tires. In both cases I think the larger (than stock) width tires look better and more proper. The rubber is just slightly wider than the wheel surface and sidewalls appear to be straight up and down (instead of angled in like the stock tires). The tread pattern also looks sporty and just different enough to catch your eye.

So at this point I am very happy with my purchase, I feel like I got top notch tires at half the price. But this is just how I feel after 100 miles, I will add another update once I get a couple thousand miles on them.

16,500 Miles Later:

I’m mildly impressed with the wear I’m seeing after 16,500 miles. I have as many miles on these tires as the initial Dunlop 8080E tires. The Dunlops were nearly bald after 16,500 miles and the rear Nexus tires appear to have at least another 2,000 miles in them (the fronts a lot more).

On the negative side I’ve been caught by surprise a few times in the rain when the traction broke loose sooner than I expected it too. On one very scary occasion, there didn’t appear to be any standing water on the hiway but at 70mph I felt the car drift and noticed I was no longer in control. Ended up spinning and sliding onto the soft but flat shoulder. Luckly no damage, and no one else was around me when it happened but it could have been a bad accident.

I did pick up a nail during around 10,000 miles, a Z rated patch plug repaired the damage. While repairing the damage I had time to inspect the wheel wells and I did notice a tiny spot were the front tire had rubbed against the wheel well on each side. The spot was small and had not rubbed through the liner. I guess this tells me that the wheel did make contact with the liner but only a few times so it must have only happened a few times. When it comes time to replace these tires I’m not sure if I will stick with the 235 or go back to the 225 tires on the front. I know the 255 will remain my rear tire size.

M Roadster Trunk Organizer

Using Carter’s instructions I installed the BMW trunk organizer installed in my previous Z3. I used the trunk organizer to store the BMW manual and many other assorted items. I grew quite fond of it and considered it a well spent $90.

Now I own BMW’s M roadster, and the trunk lid in the M roadster has an additional liner installed that interferes with the installation of the BMW trunk organizer (part number 82-11-1-470-187). The liner can be uninstalled quite easily since it is only held in place by four plastic screw like connectors. A quarter turn on each of these fasteners and the liner can be quite literally pulled off. However I liked the way the liner looked and wanted the best of both worlds, so I started looking for a way to have both the liner and the trunk organizer installed.

Once the liner was removed I laid the organizer on top of it to take this picture. This was the “look” I was after, I just had to figure out how to do it. The back of the organizer has two sided tape but there was no way the tape would hold/stick against the liner. I had seen a picture of a trunk organizer than had been sewn onto the liner. This sounded like a good idea but I knew I couldn’t sew through the hard plastic backside of the organizer with a needle and thread. I didn’t want to take the time or pay the expense to have an upholstery shop do it, so I came up with another solution.

The liner itself is form molded to fit the contours of the trunk. I did some measuring and found that if I followed the edge of one of the moldings (shown with a red line) it made the perfect pattern for what needed to be cut out. The theory I was going on is that if I cut a hole in the liner I can install the trunk organizer just like in Carter’s instructions. Then I could add the liner and the trunk organizer would slip through the hole I cut out for it.

So with a brave and steady hand I took an exacto razor to the liner following the molded line in the liner. The exacto razor worked well as the liner cut more like paper or cardboard then fabric. While the razor wasn’t cutting all the way through the fabric, I found that bending the fabric along that cut made the cutout area practically snap off clean. I was initially worried about fraying or soft uneven edges but the material made the cut very clean and sharp. I messed up one curve because I was pressing to hard with the exacto and deviated from the line I was trying to follow. This slight imperfection can be seen in the finished installation so I recommend a light and easy touch when cutting the material.

Once the hole was cut out I test fitted everything, looking at the back side of the liner and organizer everything looked good. At this point I took the trunk organizer and installed it using Carter’s instructions. Then once the organizer was installed, I then installed the liner and was pleased to see the organizer cleanly slide through the cutout area in the liner.

The finished installation matched the “look” I was after. The tape is holding the trunk organizer to the metal panel on the trunk lid (just like it was designed to). And the liner covers over the exposed metal areas around the organizer. The one imperfection can be seen below the right (passenger side) pocket. You can just make out the arctic silver paint through the gap that my overzealous razor left. However despite that one flaw I am pleased with the final results.

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Cell Phone and Radar Detector Power, Another Way

I was getting tired of plugging my cell phone charger into my cigar lighter, so I decided to permanently wire it into my car. I was thinking that I would use power from one of the various unused connectors or perhaps from the radio. But then I came across Vince’s article and it gave me the idea that I could use the BMW cell-phone connector.

What’s more important to note here is that I could use this connector for more than just a cell phone. I could use it for anything I wanted. Vince’s article details a way that you can order the connector and pins for the cell phone connector. In addition, both switched and unswitched power are available, and they are both regulated by individual fuses in the fuse box, so you can play around without the danger of seriously hurting the car. But best of all using this connector means no permanent wiring changes to the car. I would not have to cut a single wire that was part of the car, which sounded pretty good to me!

First thing I did was prepare the charger. I opened it up, and replaced the metal contacts on the circuit board that ran to the tip and the sides of the cigar lighter with wires about 1 foot long. Then I closed the charger back up, running those wires out the hole in the tip of the charger.

Next I prepared the radar detector by cutting the cord right before the cigar lighter plug. I placed the radar detector where it was supposed to be on the windshield, then ran the wire along the inside of the window and down the seam of the door, and under the steering column. From there, if you lift the cover on the shifter and the handbrake, you should be able to fish the wires through to where the cell phone connector is. NOTE: Those that are truly anal-retentive will probably want to run the wire INSIDE the plastic pieces along the inside of the windshield. Other articles here can tell you how to remove it.

I then found the cell phone connector as detailed in Vince’s article. I took the wires from the charger and the radar detector and started soldering the pins on them. One wire from the radar detector (the positive lead) goes to a pin. One wire from the charger goes to a pin (once again, the positive lead). The remaining wires (which should both be ground [negative lead]) should go together into one pin.

Now put the charger inside the center console, with the piece that connects to the cell phone (and the coiled cord with it) coming out from under the bottom of the console on the passenger side behind the seats. I used a piece of Velcro (the non-fuzzy side) to hold the cell phone connector against the back wall.

Time to start the final piece. Put the pin for the radar detector into the hole in the connector for switched power, and put the pin for the cell phone charger into the unswitched power hole. Put the shared pin into the hole for the ground connection. Plug the connector into the cell phone connector in the car and you’re ready to go!

NOTE: I also replaced the fuses in the fuse box that related to the cell phone power with 5 amp fuses (smaller than the standard fuses). This just gives me an extra degree of protection that I like. I would have used smaller fuses (like 1 or 2 amps), but I couldn’t find any in that form-factor that had such a small rating.

Finding Power in your Center Console

Note: This article is for the 1996 and 1997 model year BMW Z3, I’ve had vague reports that on 99 models (and perhaps some 98 models) the connector has changed.

Do you need power in your center console?

There are several reasons why you might need access to a switched or unswitched power in the Z3 center console. I needed to install a hands-free kit for my Nokia phone. As luck would have it, BMW prewired the Z3 for their cell phone kit. Part of this prewiring is a connector providing switched and unswitched power (as well as radio mute).

To find the connector, lift up the shifter boot. There are 4 tabs (two on each side) that snap it down. Squeeze the side on either side and then lift once it’s loose. Once you’ve lifted the boot, you’ll see several bundles of cables:

1 bundle for each window switch

1 bundle for the hazard light switch

1 bundle terminating in a 2-pin female connector (purpose unknown)

1 bundle terminating in an 8-pin female connector (circled in red and seen in the close up picture below)

The bundle terminating in the 8-pin connector has what you’re looking for. It is a little hard to find! The connector is buried underneath a layer of carpet just to the left of the hazard switch. Just look for a bundle of 5 wires and follow it. I assume this was done so that while floating about it didn’t touch anything and short out the battery (it has fairly exposed 12V and ground connections). It may also be hidden under the emergency break boot (look for a square cut-out in the carpet).

Using the numbering in the picture to the right, Here’s the pinout:

Pin 1 – 12 volts, unswitched

Pin 2 – Ground

Pin 3 – Unknown — if anyone can identify it, let me know.

Pin 4 – Not connected

Pin 5 – 12 volts, switched

Pin 6 – Radio Mute

Pin 7 – Not connected

Pin 8 – Not connected

Now the bad news. The pins required for the connector are odd-sized. They’re 0.098 inch pins. The common 0.093 inch pins won’t stay in. The good news. You can get the correct size pins and even the mating connector free from AMP. Call (800) 522-6752 ask for some engineering samples. Ask for part numbers 1-828737-1 (the mating connector) and 927797-2 (the pin). I asked for 5 connectors and 20 pins, and they didn’t bat an eye.

Interestingly enough, you’re not allowed to buy the connector unless you are a BMW contractor. But ask for free ones, and there’s no problem. I love the way the world works!

Digital Temperature Gauge

In my old 1.9 Z3, I had the on-board computer which told all sorts of interesting things such as estimated range, average speed, and outside temperature. Call me strange, but with my new M roadster I miss that. I miss the 400 mile trips during winter in the dead of night with the top down, watching the temperature fall to below freezing, with the reassurance that yes, I was out of my mind.

On the Euro-spec M roadsters, they get an outside temperature gauge. According to rumor, it doesn’t work that well. Besides, to add that to my US-spec M roadster would cost more than $200, which I don’t have. I finally found a digital temperature gauge that met most of my needs, RadioShack part number 63-1023. They offer 2 different temperature gauges for cars, this is the better one (and more expensive, about $20).

The good things about this gauge are that it displays both the inside and outside temperature at the same time, it records the highest and lowest temperature, and it has a nice electro-luminescent backlight. On the down side, the LCD is hard to see from some angles, the backlight only stays on for 3 seconds when the button is pressed, and it uses batteries instead of car power. But altogether, it’s the best one I’ve seen anywhere.

The first thing I did was add a black sticker to the front that covers up the “RadioShack” name. It’s a small thing, but call me anal-retentive. Next, I went out and bought a radar detector windshield mount. I decided the best place for me to put the gauge was above the rear-view mirror, on the driver’s side. I had to be careful about the angle I placed the gauge at, since from some angles it’s hard to see. Once I had the angle figured out, I had to cut the detector mount down to the right size.

Next, it’s time to do something destructive. Cut the lead for the external probe halfway between the display unit and the probe itself. You will need to attach some extra wire to make things work. The place I placed the probe was up in the front bumper, behind where the front license plate goes. I took the black mounting bracket that comes with the gauge, removed the rubber piece, and superglued the mounting bracket in place. Next, I connected some more wire to the probe piece and ran them into the passenger compartment.

In the cockpit on the passenger side, underneath the glove compartment there is a piece of plastic held in place by 3 plastic screws. Remove this piece of plastic by turning the screws a half turn and removing them, then the plastic piece slides out. You should be able to see a rubber grommet by the speaker grill.

On the inside of the engine compartment you should be able to see the other side of it. Run the wires for the temperature probe through this hole, you should be able to push the rubber grommet aside enough to get the wires through. I then attached one side of a plastic 2-lead connector to the wires I ran through the hole. Don’t forget to use lots of nylon wire wraps to hold things in place in the engine compartment.

You can see (kind of) how I ran the wires along the passenger side of the engine compartment. Now it’s time to remove the plastic covering the inside of the pillars. To remove the side coverings, simply “pop” them off. I would recommend using a screwdriver with the tip covered by a towel (to prevent marring the surface) and wedge it in the top, then pull down. These should come off with a nice “pop”. You need to do both sides. Next, you need to remove the top frame covering. The clear plastic around the dome light gets scratched very easily, so please be careful (it’s white plastic under the paint, so it really shows when it’s marked up. The clear plastic pops off, try prying from the drivers side – that side is supposed to come off first. Then remove the light bulb assembly, it also pops out. Once again, be careful not to mark up the paint. Next, remove both visors, you will need a torx screwdriver. Then remove the one remaining torx screw that holds the top piece in place, it’s behind where the light assembly was. Last, just pull up to remove the covering.

Now it’s time to start placing things where they go. Use some superglue to attach the gauge to the radar mount, and be sure to let it dry thoroughly. Place it on the windshield in the proper location, and run the wires where they would need to go (you will have to attach more wire, the gauge only comes with 10 feet of wire and much more than that is needed. You will be running it along the top of the pillar and down the sides, next to the glove compartment. Once down there, attach the other end of the nylon 2-lead connector.

Now, just plug the connector in, replace the plastic piece below the glove compartment and put the molding back in place along the pillar and you are all set! Not quite as good as a factory installation but it does the job.

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Valentine One Radar Detector

A police officer had a perfect hiding place for watching for speeders and used it quite often. But one day the officer found traffic surprisingly tame. After a long while, the officer found the reason: a 10 year old boy was standing on the side of the road with a huge hand painted sign which said “RADAR TRAP AHEAD!”

A little more investigative work led the officer to the boy’s accomplice, another boy about 100 yards beyond the radar trap with a sign reading “TIPS” and a bucket at his feet, full of change.

I’ve been using a BEL 605 for about 5 years now and another BEL product for about 7 years. Both detectors have kept me out of trouble and both offer a good number of bells and whistles. I was, therefore, unhappy when my 605 stopped working. Since it was 5 years old and my original price was only $40, I figured I got my money’s worth out of it. Time to buy a new detector.

My criteria was pretty simple: I wanted to pay as little as possible for as much protection as I could get. I wanted to get the best deal. I did my homework and consulted Car & Driver’s detector comparisons. Of course, the leader is a V1 from Valentine Research. No big surprise. Everyone knows V1’s are the best. They are also the most expensive ($400). Looking at the figures, you can get about 3/4 the protection of the V1 for about 1/4 of the price. I therefore decided to check out the latest from BEL. I rejected the higher priced units, looking for something in the $100 to $150 range (heck, if I was going to spend real money, I’d buy a V1 and be done with it!). After some review (and finding a number of good prices combined with a $30 rebate) I chose a 846i.

The 846i has a lot of neat features – immune to VG2, good field of view for Laser (about the same as Valentine, and good sensitivity on K and Ka band. The best feature, however, is the display. It lights up and tells you what type of RADAR you’re dealing with. No need to squint at little LEDs. It has a digital voice, but you can disable it and just use tones. The 846i also includes Safety Warning System (SWS) detection – . This feature alerts you to the messages broadcast in K-Band by certain road signs (the system has not received wide acceptance or use, but is used on the Mass Turnpike).

The rest of the controls (mute/dark/city) all behave like my 605. The final cost (with a $30 rebate – only good till the end of December 98) was about $110. The unit worked well when I first tried it. The range, however, seemed somewhat shorter than I remembered compared to my 605. I soon encountered another, perhaps more serious problem: it’s not loud enough for top-down driving. If you look on the right of the unit, you can see a small speaker. This speaker actually points away from the driver when mounted in the center of the windshield (at least here in the US). When I dropped the top (on a chilly 32 degree day!) I found that even turning the volume all the way up, I had trouble hearing the warning. I totally gave up on the voice (which is kinda dorky anyway) and was just using the tone alerts. The major problem here is that they have used the most noticeable sounds for X band with K being the least distinctive. Since most highway RADAR is K, this left me somewhat exposed.

I was getting pretty discouraged at that point when I ran across another article which indicated that “except for the V1, all other detectors seem to have lost range over the venerable ESCORT and PASSPORT in the K and X range when wideband KA was added”. Suspicions confirmed – the unit did not perform as well as some older detectors. Darn!

OK. It’s been a good year. I had a big bonus coming and when you weigh the cost of increased insurance against the cost of a ticket (not to mention the ticket itself) you can easily start to talk yourself up to justifying the $400 cost of a V1 (OUCH! it still hurts even saying $400!). The clincher was an unexpected Christmas present (it was from my Mom…) of $100 (because she totally gave up trying to shop for me decades ago!). I picked up the phone and plunked down my four bills. A week later, a flimsy cardboard box arrives and I’ve joined the V1 set. Retrofitting the power took about 30 minutes. The V1 cord is a large, flat cord with RJ11 (telephone) jacks on either end. I elected to simply mount the unit where the BEL had been – secured to the top of the dash with velcro.

Initial Impressions:

Let’s just say that Mike Valentine clearly spent most of his R+D on the inside, rather than the packaging of this unit. It looks a little unfinished and really reminds me of my original FUZZBUSTER – big black box with a big knob and a big red light. It’s actually about half the size of the FUZZBUSTER and the technology involved is clearly as different as Voyager is from Capt. Kirk’s Enterprise . It just doesn’t look that way from the outside. The V1 kinda looks like it was designed by Dilbert.

Come to think of it, there is a vague resemblance.

The utilitarian black plastic housing of the V1 has very few curves and the display looks like it was something of an afterthought. The band indicators, small LEDs for X, K, KA and Laser, are a real letdown from the more sophisticated BEL display. Warnings are characterized by the “beep” and “braaap” system. If you’re good with music, they may be distinctive enough and if you can remember a “beep” means X band and a “braaap” means K, you may not have as many problems with the display as I do.

The unit itself is also gargantuan compared with my little 605. Granted, the 605 does not have LASER detection, nor does it offer a rear-facing detector.

The controls on the V1 are also a little hard to get used to. The big knob controls sound for “important alerts”. The “balance control”-like ring controls the sound for “muted alerts”. The BEL provides an auto mute feature which drops the volume of an alert to a series of “clicks” which can be silenced with a push of a button. If you press the big knob on the V1 during a full volume alert, it changes to the “muted” volume level, however, there is no way to totally silence the unit without a turn of a knob. It took a little getting used to.

So far, I’d still give the ergonomics prize to BEL.

I’ve already mentioned my lukewarm reception of the small K, KA, X and Laser LED’s, but I should temper this with a big, enthusiastic thumbs up for the RADAR locator display.

After couple of RADAR encounters, I cannot imagine how I’ve ever lived without this feature! I’ve got to hand it to Valentine – this has got to be the biggest innovation in detector history! (OK, the $400 is still smarting). Not only does the locator display tell you where the RADAR source is, it also tells you how many sources it is monitoring. This allows you to sniff out revenuers who sit in the shadow of another radar signature hoping you’ll get sloppy. Let’s say you always pass the Dunkin Donuts and it always makes your detector go off. One morning you’re rolling by, the detector goes off, your tendency is to ignore it, but instead of one source, it shows two so you hit the brakes! There, hiding behind that big jelly roll is Officer Bob Speed, hoping you’ll just fly on by, helping to fill his quota. The V1 has just earned it’s keep. There are a couple of other features I’ve discovered in the past week or so – The V1 actually includes a light sensor, so it automatically dims itself at night and brightens during the day. The unit is also upgradable – Valentine will upgrade both software and hardware as new features are added.

The V1 operates in three modes which are changed by pressing and holding the big knob when you’re not under fire:

A – “All Bogeys” mode. In this mode, the detector alerts you, at full volume, of every burglar alarm, automatic door, microwave dish or any other source of RADAR (including Police RADAR) in the vicinity. For those of us who live in the city. This mode will drive you stark raving mad in about a minute.

l – “Little L” Logic mode. In this mode the detector filters out what it does not think are “significant” sources of RADAR and only calls attention to them with the “muted” volume if they seem to increase in strength. If something seems really threatening, you get full volume. I’ve found this works well for me on my daily commute.

L – “Big L” Super Logic mode. In this mode the detector tries to make the most decisions for you. I’ve fundamentally never trusted computers, so I’m a bit leery of this mode and have not made a lot of use of it.

Nice features, but pretty much equivalent to BEL and other makers with advanced logic for signal processing.

The cost of the V1 still bothers me. Not so much for the cost itself, it’s more the responsibility of a $400 detector on my dash. The instructions even warn you about leaving it in plain sight – it’s an invitation to a break-in. I never had to worry about that with my $40 BEL – I simply left it on the dash. With the V1, there’s really no alternative, you disconnect the unit every time you get out of the car and hook it back up when you get in. That’s the main reason I chose not to use the mounting bracket. The velcro approach is a lot easier to deal with. I’ll save the windshield mount (which strikes me as kind of flimsy) for road trips where I need peak performance. I constructed a pocket in the trunk as a place for the V1 to sleep during the day when the car is parked at work.

The big test came when Cambridge decided to mount one of those dorky “The Speed limit is XX your speed is…” automated (self service?) RADAR signs on the way to work. The unit was mounted around a corner and up a hill. I could use the unit to test the various brands without annoying the cops. (Ever ask one of them if you can test your RADAR detector with their gun?). The V1 gave me consistent .2 mile warnings (even on “small L”). The BEL gave a respectable (but definitely shorter) .15 mile warning. Given some other encounters, I’d also predict the V1 would do better in a straight line-of-sight situation than the BEL (which is what Car +Driver said too). The sensitivity advantage clearly goes to the V1.

So. The $400 question – is it worth it?

At this point, after a few week’s use, I’d say “yes”, but it is a qualified yes. I still say you should buy what you need and for many people, the V1 is just overkill. If you can afford it, however, I can see no reason to spend your bucks on anything other than a V1, simply for the locator function alone. I’d like to see a better packaged V1, one with something other than those dorky RJ11 plugs for power cords, one which has a digital display of X, K, KA and L in big letters, but you certainly can’t fault the unit for performance. At an average of $100 per ticket with an insurance surcharge which can easily run into the 4 figures over 10 years (yes! MA counts those tickets against you for the next decade!) it becomes easy to justify the $280 increment over a competing brand. If you can afford the V1 – go for it! If not, be sure to test your choice with the top both up and down under your particular “normal driving conditions” before committing to the unit. It could save your hide in the long run.

Note: Images of BEL and V1, Mike Valentine and Dilbert were all yanked from various sites w/o anyone permission and are presented here merely for purposes of illustration.

Statistical Information

Car & Driver 4/97, Page 115, “Rating High End RADAR/LASER detectors” (Also the issue which compares the SLK, Z3 and Boxster)
Detector Price Overall Score X** K KA Laser*
V1 399 97 0.30 1.50 1.70 10
Bel 855STi 200 54 0.15 0.90 0.90 8
Escort Solo 230 48 0.10 0.65 0.15 8
Cobra RSA515 119 45 0.10 0.70 0.17 9
Whistler 1490 148 42 0.10 0.40 0.60 10
Uniden LRD 6399 SWS 83 41 0.05 0.70 0.70 9***

* Laser units in band detection spread @ 1000 ft, all other measures in miles
** X band City Mode, highway mode is much greater for all models
*** Rear detection did not work

Car & Driver 9/95, Page 87, “Five Budget Radar Detectors” (also the issue which “Reveals the 1996 Z3 Roadster”)Note: This comparison is now over 3 years old and none of the units listed (except the V1) are likely to still be on the market.

Detector Price Overall Score X** K KA Laser*
V1 399 97 1.00 2.40 1.10 19
Uniden LRD 220 SWS 86 89*** 0.39 1.00 1.70 17
Fox 230 57 0.19 0.50 0.80 10
Whistler 1140 63 56 0.25 0.30 0.40 19
Bel 535i 93 54 0.25 0.41 0.80 16
Cobra RDL212 80 27 0.19 0.30 0.00 6

* Laser units in band detection spread @ 2000 ft, all other measures in miles

** X band City Mode, highway mode is much greater for all models

*** Looking at these older figures, it seems clear the Uniden models in subsequent years have gotten worse, not better

From the same issue:

Countries where US detectors will probably work:

Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Saudi Arabia, much of South America and Sweden.

Countries using bands not covered by US detectors:

Austria, Holland

Countries using US and other bands:

Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

(Source: RADAR 800-448-5170)

Chrome Door Handle Surrounds

Part numbers:
less than $15/side
Tools required:
“hook” tool

It’s always fun to find cheap easy upgrades to make your Z3 just a little different from the others out there. For under $30 and less than 20 minutes of work, you can add chrome door handle surrounds to your Z3.

Part numbers:




less than $15/side

Tools required:

“hook” tool

You must “unlock” the stock door handle surround to remove it. First, open the car door and remove the black plug at the top of the end of the door. Use a thin-bladed screwdriver or an ice pick. You’ll probably chew up the plastic plug a little bit–that’s ok, just be careful not to scratch the paint on the door end.

When you look through the access hole, you will see a lever. Push the lever forward with a “hook” tool (picture a screwdriver with the tip bent so you could hook something with it). You will need to push firmly. This will slide the lever forward and unlock the outside door handle surround.

Once the lever has been pushed forward, the handle surround will be loose at the top. Use your fingernail to pull the top of the surround away from the door. You should then be able to lift it off easily.

The surround has a gasket on the back of it. Although I could not discern any visible difference between the gasket that came with the surround and the one that was on the stock black surround, the new surround didn’t quite fit with the gasket it came with. The gasket lifts right off the surround, so you may wish to use the originals from the doors with the new surrounds.

To install the chrome surround, slide the bottom tabs into the marked holes and then push the top towards the door. Don’t force it–it should go fairly easily. Then, use the “hook” tool to pull the lever back towards you–this will take some force, and it should lock down the new chrome surround.

That’s it–you’re done! Enjoy the new look!

[wordbay]BMW Z3 Exterior[/wordbay]

Chrome Stereo Trim

Before Look close the difference is subtle, but with the chrome surround around the stock stereo all the gauges and radio finally look like they belong together.

Its been bugging me since I first got the M, but MG Racing solves the problem with this $63.90 part.


Just like the chrome door speaker trim this chrome part uses the ultra sticky 3M tape to secure itself to the stock radio. There are two important things to remember when adding anything that uses this tape. The first rule is clean, clean, clean, clean… Using rubbing alcohol I cleaned the face of the radio and was surprised how much gunk I cleaned off. The reason for the through cleaning is so the 3M tape sticks to the radio and not just the dirt on the radio.

The second rule is to get everything hot, the glue in the 3M tape is activated by heat. I used a hair dryer to get the face of the radio and the backside of the chrome part really hot (almost to hot to hold). When the part is this hot the orange backing tape will start to wrinkle and peel a little. At that time take the tape off and C A R E F U L L Y line up the part before sticking it onto the radio.

I really like the look, but I think I got the part just slightly off center to the left (probably something only an owner would notice). The chrome part does have a top and a bottom to it, the bottom is thinner than the top so it will fit in the narrow area below the station selection buttons. The only downside I see to this upgrade is that it covers the tiny access doors you would use if you ever need to remove the radio.

Sold By:

MG Racing