AC Schnitzer Roll Hoops

Pros: Look Really Good, Easy to Install
Cons: Very Expensive
Cost: $1086 (list)

Comparing the Schnitzer polished stainless steel roll hoops to the stock BMW roll hoops the there are several differences. The most obvious difference is the chrome finish instead of the flat black rubberized finish. The Schnitzer hoops have a black pad on the top front of the hoops. And while the overall shape is nearly identical the profile of the Schnitzer hoops is round where the stock hoops have a arrow or triangle shaped profile.

On closer inspection there is one other difference that does affect the installation. The BMW hoops are held in place with three torx bolts. Where each of these bolts comes on contact with the stock roll hoops there is a shallow bored out indentation. The Schnitzer roll hoops do not have these. (Note: You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a larger image).

When I started this project I was expecting a complicated installation procedure. I had installed an HMS roll bar on my previous 1.9 Z3 and while the installation went smoothly with the HMS roll bar, it took most of the day. I wasn’t expecting this installation to take all day, but I figured it would take at least a couple hours. To my surprise the installation was over before I knew it.

The only special tool you will need for this installation is a torx 40 driver. I had to start with a visit to the local hardware store. I had a set of torx heads for my cordless screw driver, but the largest one was a torx 30 (too small). In addition to the torx 40, I also used a phillips head and a flat blade screw driver.

Each roll hoop is held in place with three torx bolts (that act like set screws). The first step of the installation is to gain access to two of the set screws by removing the access panel at the base of the roll hoop. Use caution to make sure you don’t damage the plastic edges when you pop off the access panel.

Once the panel is removed you can see the two torx 40 bolts (I’m calling them set screws). Remove both of these but hold on to them because we will be reinstalling them later. These two torx bolts are shorter than the third bolt we will be removing in the next step so don’t mix them up.

Note: the pictures in this article show the removal of the drivers side roll hoop. You can duplicate the steps for the passenger side at the same or do the passenger side after the drivers side is complete.

The other set screw we need to remove is holding the inside of the roll hoop in place. To gain access to this bolt you will need to remove the HK subwoofer (or storage compartment). Rather than duplicate those instructions read the H&K Sub Dissected article.

Once the subwoofer is removed you will see the one remaining torx 40 bolt. Remove this bolt but hold on to it because we will be reinstalling it later.

Once the three torx 40 bolts are removed you can pull straight up on the roll hoop and it will slide out. There are rubber gaskets between the stock roll hoop and the plastic of the rear console. When I pulled the roll hoop out one of the plastic sections came loose because the gasket was stuck to it. Don’t be concerned if this happens to you, the plastic can be snapped back on.

Installing the Schnitzer roll hoop is the direct reverse of the steps we’ve done so far. The Schnitzer hoops come with their own rubber gaskets so make sure you have them on both the inner and the outer bars before sliding the new Schnitzer hoop down into place.

Earlier I told you that the Schnitzer hoops didn’t have the small indentations for the torx bolts. Because of this the torx bolts will not go back in as far as the stock bolts did. This initially concerned me so once I tightened the bolts to 22 nm (as the included instructions stated). I then removed the Schnitzer roll hoop and inspected it.

I was happy to see that each of the torx bolts had left slight indentations in the bar. So I was confident that the new Schnitzer roll hoops were just as secure as the old BMW ones.

Once I had one of the Schnitzer roll hoops installed I compared the two. The Schnitzer roll hoop appeared to lean slightly more forward than the BMW hoop (the picture at the right shows this). The two hoops appeared to be the same height, however it’s possible that the Schnitzer one was slightly taller.

I’m not sure what to think of the black pad on the front of the roll hoop. Visually it doesn’t do anything for me and I was considering removing it. But then there was a story on the message board about an individual that was driving a Z3 and during an accident hit his head on the BMW roll hoop. After reading that story I decided to leave the pad.

Right after installing the Schnitzer roll hoops I wondered if it was “too much”. But that thought faded as I continued staring at them. The ultimate test came when I asked my wife to come to the garage and give her opinion. She took a look at them and her first comment was “WOW”, and with that one word I knew I had done the right thing. I know the chrome look isn’t something that everybody is going to like, but I REALLY like it.

If there is a downside to these roll hoops, it is that I don’t want to cover them up with a wind screen. The BMW roll hoop wind screen still works with the Schnitzer hoops, but the pad on the front of the hoop stretches the material pretty tight. I’m okay with that but more importantly the BMW wind screen hides the chrome.

At the 1999 Z3 Homecoming I showed the Schnitzer roll hoops to JD (the maker of the clear windscreen). He measured the Schnitzer hoops and made a slightly modified version of his windscreen that works with the Schnitzer hoops. Turns out all he had to do was cut out a couple notches for the black pads since the Schnitzer hoops have the same curve, height and mounting points as the BMW hoops.

Dinan Strut Brace

Pros: Better Handling Characteristics, Keeps The Z3 Tighter In The Long Run
Cons: Need To Be Careful During Installation
Cost: $399

During the 1998 Z3 Homecoming I was walking around looking at all the vendor exhibits with Larry Nissen (BMW Tech). After we had seen most of the aftermarket products available I asked Larry “so what should I buy”. He replied “I would start with a good Strut Brace, it may help the handling a little now but where you will get your money back is three years down the road when your car is still as tight as it is now”. That sounded like good advice so we went back to the Dinan tent and as luck would have it I got the very last Dinan Strut Brace they had. I handed them my credit card and they installed it on sight (a process that took about 10 minutes).

My main concern with any strut brace was the low clearance available under the Z3 hood. I’ve heard of a few individuals denting their hood after installing a strut brace. The Dinan design has the lowest profile of the ones I have seen, but even with this low profile I still see some indications that it slightly rubs. There are some adjustments to the Z3 hood stops to slightly raise or lower the hood if you need additional clearance. I have not made any adjustments to the hood stops on my vehicle, I see that it is rubbing but this is after a year of use so I’m not concerned. But with ANY strut brace I would suggest being really cautious the first couple times you lower the hood to make sure you have enough clearance. One real good way to do this is to put silly putty or something similar on top of the brace and then lower the hood slowly until the hood latches or until you feel the brace contacting the hood. Then you can raise the hood, and see how much the silly putty got squished. Raise the hood stops if you need more clearance.

The strut brace attaches via three nuts and bolts that are part of the stock strut tower. Notice that the Dinan brace I received in 1998 has a notch that fits around the grounding plug. It appears Dinan has since redesigned the strut brace, I have seen pictures of a 1999 Dinan Strut Brace that has a different looking strut tower mount. The new design has a flat side instead of a complete circle. The newer design also appears to have a better black power coating on the strut tower mounts, where mine seems to just be painted.

One of the things I really like about the Dinan design is how the underside of the strut tower mount has machined groves that match the ridges in the strut tower. Before owning the M roadster I had a 1.9 Z3 and had installed a strut brace on it. That Strut Brace didn’t have the groves on it, instead it was a softer aluminum and the torque of the bolts would bend the strut tower mount around the strut tower ridges.

The brace itself is aluminum with the Dinan logo etched/engraved in the center. On either side of the Dinan logo are carbon fiber inserts which I assume are only there for cosmetic reasons. Overall the strut brace is very attractive.

The brace attaches to the strut mounts via some allen bolts that act like hinges. Once the Strut Brace is installed if you need to get access to the engine you can remove one of the allen bolts and raise the Strut Brace. (This had to be done when BMW needed to replace a crank sensor)

This is optional: BMW makes Strut Tower Caps that can be installed to keep dust and dirt from getting to the top of the strut tower. The part number is 31-33-1-133-729 they list for $3.75 each and you will need two of them. Installation was difficult, I had to soap the edges of the caps and push really hard to get them to snap down. A Z3 owner sent in a great tip that aided in his installation of these caps. He heated the caps with a hairdryer (which I’m assuming made the rubber temporarly softer) and used a rubber hammer to tap the caps down into place.

Since purchasing and installing these Strut Tower Caps I have been told that BMW makes another cap part number 31-33-1-129-512 that lists for $1.52 (remember to order 2). I’ve heard conflicting reports but it appears these strut tower caps might be even more difficult to install. Visually there is a difference in that this other cap is smooth on top.

Performance: I remember right after installing the brace taking a spirited test drive and I could notice a difference when I was pushing it really hard in a turn. The car felt more solid and stable but only during really hard cornering. During everyday driving I can not notice any difference. But I did not buy the brace for its performance characteristics. While I appreciate what the brace has done to the handling performance, what I really purchased the brace for is in an attempt to keep the car tight and solid in the future.

BMW Chrome Kidney Grills

Pros: Looks good, Easy to install
Cons: Brute force install may leave you with a sore hand
Cost: $51.50

BMW made several changes to the Z3 with the 2000 model year. One of those changes replaced the black slats in the kidney grills with chrome trimmed slats. (Correction: The model year 2000 2.3 Z3 did not receive the chrome slats). In the picture below the left kidney grill is the black one (stock on pre 2000 Z3s) and the right one is the chrome trimmed kidney grill.

The new chrome trimmed kidney grills are available from any BMW parts department. BMW part numbers 51-13-8-412-949 and 51-13-8-412-950. The parts list for $25.75 a piece and can be installed in minutes. The new kidney grills are identicle to the old ones except the leading edge of the plastic slats are chrome.

This may seen crude, but to remove the stock kidney grills raise the hood and strike the back side of the kidney grill with your hand. The kidney grill is held in place with some plastic tabs. The grill will simply pop out after a few hard strikes, and this should not damage the original kidney grill. It’s a good idea to have your other hand on the other side of the kidney grill to catch it, otherwise it might go flying across your garage (trust me on this).

Once the old kidney grill has been removed, the new one is simply pushed into place from the front. You may want to clean up the area behind the grill while you have the chance. I had some wax paste build-up and some other crud back there.

I think the finished result is something that most Z3 owners will notice quickly, however I doubt that it is enought of a change that the average person would notice the difference. I’ve seen a Z3 that had the MG Racing chrome kidney grills and those seed brighter and more visually eye catching to me. I belive the MG Racing version is real metal and the entire slat is chrome instead of just the leading edge. But either way you go the little extra chrome is something that I like.

Headlight Switch Options

Pros: Easy to Customize and Install, Doesn’t cost very much
Cons:
Cost: Varies from $6.40 to $16.60

For most, the stock headlight switch has a black cap (61-31-8-400-003) on top of a black sleeve (61-31-8-389-547). Some Z3 were ordered with a chrome package installed at the factory and might have a different all chrome switch but this is how the majority of Z3s rolled off the assembly line between 1995 an 1999. The cap simply snaps onto the sleeve, the sleeve is screwed on and held in place with an 8mm nut. Both can be replaced in a couple minutes.

If you just wanted to replace the cap you could order BMW part number (61-31-8-400-004) which is an all chrome cap. This is a very eye catching combination but some think that the all chrome cap is a little too eye catching. The chrome cap lists for $6.83 and it simply snaps on in place of the black cap. Be careful snapping the new cap in place, there are three pins that line up into some slots so make sure those line up before trying to snap on the cap.

If you wanted something a little less flashy, BMW also offers a chrome trimmed black cap. BMW part number (61-31-2-694-602) lists for $10.20 and it also just snaps on in place of the black cap. This cap is trimmed in chrome with the face remaining flat black. This is the same cap that is now standard on the model year 2000 M roadsters.

If you are wanting even more chrome, the sleeve behind the snap on cap also comes in a chrome version. BMW part number (61-31-8-389-880) lists for $6.40 and once the cap is removed a single 8mm nut can be seen that holds the sleeve in place. The sleeve also has metal threads so once the nut is removed the sleeve has to be unscrewed and replaced.

Z3s that were ordered from the factory with the chrome package received a chrome cap (61-31-8-400-004) on a chrome sleeve (61-31-8-389-880). The total list cost of the two parts is $13.23

What I choose to install in my M roadster is the combination of a black chrome trimmed cap (61-31-2-694-602) on the chrome sleeve (61-31-8-389-880). The total list cost of the two parts is $16.60 and it blends well with my ever growing chrome collection.

Not pictured, but also available is an Aluminum cap (61-31-8-401-196) and an Aluminum sleeve (61-31-8-401-270). These were offered as part of an Aluminum package on the now discontinued 2.8 coupe.

Chrome Lock Pulls

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy To Install
Cons: Lock Pulls Stick Out Slightly Further
Cost: $9.36 (list)

Click for Larger ViewHere is another simple and inexpensive upgrade for chrome lovers. The stock Z3 lock pulls are black, but BMW makes it easy for you to change to chrome lock pulls. The picture below is BMW part 51-21-8-399-241 which lists for $4.68. Technically there are left and right versions of this part (51-21-8-399-241 & 51-21-8-399-242). When there is a left and right item the odd part number is the “left” item assuming you are seated in the drivers seat. But for our use you can order 2 lefts, 2 rights or one of each because we’re going to only use the chrome cap on top of each operating rod.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger ViewRather than take the door apart to replace the entire operating rod, if you pull up on the lock pull and keep twisting it around it will eventually come loose and you can pull the plastic lock pull cover off the operating rod. Do this on the new parts you just purchased and on the stock (black) lock pulls. Then place the chrome lock pull on the stock operating rod and twist it back down. These parts really are not designed to be screwed on and off but they are plastic and can be replaced in this manner.

Update: I have received several email questions regarding this removal. Yes it is difficult, the plastic is held in place with a bump on the operating rod. Twisting and pulling is what worked for me, just be careful not to damage the finish on the plastic part.

Click for Larger ViewIt may be easier to do this with the doors open. When the doors are open the central locking system will not allow the lock pull to be depressed. With the lock pulls held in place by the central locking system, and using the twist and push method I replaced both sides rather quickly. It is much easier to do it this way rather than take the door apart and replace the entire operating rod.

Chrome Hand Brake Button

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy to Install
Cons: Only For Chrome Lovers
Cost: $3.10 (list)

Here’s a real easy upgrade, that doesn’t cost much, and looks good. Change the black hand brake button to chrome. BMW makes a chrome hand brake button part number 34-41-1-163-199 that lists for $3.10. I’ve added several chrome accessories to my black and gray interior and this small inexpensive upgrade adds to the look.

The button just screws onto the hand brake. To remove the old button simple unscrew it. It takes a lot of turns but you should be able to notice it slowly coming free of the hand brake. Once the old one is unscrewed simple screw the new chrome button on in its place.