Titanium 130R Shift Knob

Pros: Increased shift feel, great looks
Cons: Cold/hot to the touch depending on the season
Cost: $139 from Titanium Cavallino

Titanium 130R

Short shift kits have become a popular upgrade for Z3 owners, but the good kits can be quite expensive. The popular UUC short shift kit, reviewed elsewhere on the ///MZ3.net, is $300 and the imported AC Schnitzer shifter—try that five times real fast—is an eye watering $1000+. Richard Carlson’s ///MZ3.net article on short shifters, ‘The Short End of the Stick’, offers a clear overview of the concepts and techniques involved in designing an effective short shift kit, and touches briefly on a low-cost approach to improved shift feel—a shorter shift knob. Richard experimented with an inexpensive round plastic ball, which he admits didn’t enhance the appearance of the cockpit, but which did result in snappier shifts.

Compare Stock vs 130R

Titanium Cavallino offers an attractive shift knob which they call the 130R knob. Styled along the lines of the classic Ferrari round knob, the 130R is beautifully presented in polished titanium, and is 9/16″ shorter than the stock BMW knob. If you’re wondering whether a 9/16″ shorter knob will make any difference, refer again to Richard Carlson’s article. He presents a table which indicates that a 3/4″ shorter shifter on an M Roadster would result in a 12% reduction in throw. I figure that the 130R will shorten throw by 8-10%. Additionally, the 130R weighs 9 ounces—5.5 ounces more than the stock knob. That extra heft should further improve the new short-shift feel.

Unlike many aftermarket knobs, the 130R is designed expressly for the BMW. This means that, rather than being installed using set screws, the 130R is fixed to the shift lever in the same way that BMW engineers have designed for the stock knob; a snap ring arrangement to hold the knob on the shaft and, to prevent turning, a pin inside the knob which engages a notch in the top of the shaft. Once properly installed the knob cannot rotate, and it would take 80 pounds of vertical pull to remove. If you worry about the knob coming off in your hand in the middle of a fast sweeper, this is the only way to go.

Installation is quite easy. Remove the stock knob by grasping it firmly with two hands and giving it a strong upward yank. Careful that your chin isn’t in the way! Knobs with internal lighting have a long enough wire that breaking the wire shouldn’t be a problem, but take care. If the knob is wired then lift the edges of the shift boot, locate the connector at the end of the wire, unplug it, then thread the wire and connector through the shaft hole in the boot. Installation of the new knob is just the reverse. Slide the knob down over the shaft, insuring that the internal pin is aligned with the notch in the top of the shaft, then press down until the snap ring engages. Done!

Road test time! So, what does it feel like? As expected, it doesn’t change the feel in any revolutionary way. The throw is tightened up, and the extra weight of the knob adds some inertia which helps the shifter across the gate. To my eye the looks are wonderful, but don’t leave the car outside with the top down or you may burn your hand. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, the knob is unpleasantly cold to the touch until it picks up warmth from your hand. I particularly like the standard BMW mounting method and, on balance, I consider this a worthwhile addition to my M Roadster—at least until Santa brings me a UUC shifter.

Stopping BMW Glovebox Rattles

Start under the glovebox, remove the three rotary plastic clips in the back under the glovebox. If you haven’t encountered these clips before you need to rotate them 90 degrees and then you should be able to pull them loose. The picture to the right points out the three rotary clips that need to be removed. Once they have been removed you can remove this entire section of plastic.

If you have footwell lights you will need to either disconnect the wiring or leave this section laying on the floor (assuming the wiring has enough slack).

Note: You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a larger view.

Open the glove compartment and remove the two screws on the front edge. Then remove the other four screws that are pointed out in the picture to the right. There are trim caps over the six screws that need to be removed. Every time I mess with these trim caps I usually end up tearing them up. Because of this I usually have a supply of extra caps on hand. BMW part number (51-16-1-949-793 black) lists for $0.38 each I usually tack an order of 10 of them on to some other order whenever I’m running low. If your interior is tan use BMW part number (51-16-8-398-920). You can try and pry the caps off with a thin edge or pick. I’ve heard that there is a way to pop them off with the curved side of a paper clip but I’ve never tried it. When you are removing the glovebox be careful and gentle, the design of the glovebox is fragile and some of these mounting points are very fragile.

Once the screws are out you can remove the glove box by pulling it down and towards the passenger door. The drivers side will catch on the center console trim panel, you will have to work this free so go slow. There isn’t much room to work it free, so it will be a little frustrating at first but it will work free (try working it down first, and then out).

Once the glovebox is removed take a look at it and how it is built, not very impressive is it? My theory is that the thin sheet of moulded plastic the comprises the entire backside of the glove box is the cause of the buzzing-rattles that a lot of us are hearing. You can see that the thin plastic layer is hot stamped on the sides of the glovebox in an attempt to secure it to the rest of the glovebox. On my glovebox two of these hot stamps had broken loose, and all the screws that hold the metal latch in place were loose. The goal of this upgrade is to secure this thin plastic piece tightly against the rest of the glovebox to eliminate some of the buzzing rattles.

Once the glovebox is removed you can move this project indoors. I spent an evening sitting on the living room floor working on the glovebox while watching TV.

While you are inspecting the glovebox notice that BMW hot stamped the sides of the glovebox but they did nothing to secure the plastic around the lock and handle. You can easily move this section of thin plastic around since it is not secured to anything. It’s easy to picture this part vibrating against the metal frame while your driving. Besides the normal road vibrations there are a lot of wires and harnesses directly behind the glovebox. So anything that is not secured tight can be susceptible to vibration rattles. As a simple approach you could place a few drops of superglue on the underside of the front edge of this plastic and glue it in place (get the gel-type superglue). Besides this loose side around the lock, look around and secure any other loose areas that could vibrate and cause noise. And check the screws that are securing the metal latch to the glovebox.

If glue alone isn’t doing the job, you may want to consider drilling small holes and using nuts and bolts to hold the plastic down firmly. This is what I decided to do. You will need four #4-40 x 3/4″ machine screws, four #4-40 nuts, eight #6 zinc washers and eight #6 rubber washers (cost was under $2). You can use #4-40 1/2″ machine screws but it will be a more difficult to get the bolt started (it’s just barely long enough). In addition to this hardware you will need a screwdriver, 1/4″ wrench and a drill with a 3/32 drill bit.

Let me forewarn you that the heads of the screws will be visible when the glovebox is open, but not when the glovebox is closed. You may want to consider painting the zinc washers and screw heads black (or tan) to match your glovebox. I secured the front of the glove box with two bolts and each side with a bolt. The sides were probably overkill but this is where I had one of the hot-stamps break loose so I wanted to make sure I got this done right the first time.

In each of the locations that I decided needed to be secured I drilled a 3/32 hole, then used the #4-40 screw with a zinc washer and rubber washer on each side. I decided to use the rubber washers because this glovebox plastic is thin and brittle (didn’t want the zinc washers cutting it). Besides this hardware is so cheap why not take the extra precaution. So the bolt head is on the glovebox side the nut is on the back side. Each side has a rubber washer against the glovebox and a zinc washer on top of it (so the bolt head and/or nut doesn’t cut the rubber washer).

Reinstalling the glovebox takes about as much effort as getting it out. You start by working the glovebox back into place remembering that there are tabs that go behind the side of the center console. Pay attention to the wiring behind the glovebox as well. If you see any loose wiring harness or anything else that may be rattling against the back side of the glovebox find a way to secure them. Once you have everything worked back into place reinstall the six screws (see the second picture in this article). Be sure that all the screws get threaded back into the speed clips and the entire glovebox is held firmly in place. Lastly reinstall the lower panel.

ECIS – Evolution Air Intake System

Pros: Measurable performance improvement and great sound
Cons: I can’t think of any
Cost: $225 plus shipping from East Coast Intake Systems

I monitor the M3 bulletin boards regularly for news and opinions on performance modifications which might apply to my M Roadster, and there I saw quite a bit of favorable comment on the ECIS cold air intake system. ECIS stands for East Coast Intake Systems, and their product is called the Evolution Air Intake System. Common unshielded open air intakes seek to increase air flow by providing a larger air filter, but often produce less power than the factory air box because of the twin problems of turbulent fan wash and underhood heat. ECIS insures that the larger filter receives only cool, non-turbulent air by constructing a shield which completely isolates the filter from the engine compartment, receiving air from the same source as the factory filter box. They offer both their complete Evolution Air Intake System; consisting of their custom heat shield, mandrel bent inlet tube, 6″ K&N cone filter, brackets, silicone connection hose, clamps and detailed instructions for $225; or the heat shield alone for $70. The heat shield can be used with a number of aftermarket open filter systems available from BMP Design, Bavarian Autosport, and Turner Motorsport, as well as other aftermarket suppliers.

At the time I first read about ECIS they offered only systems for the M3, but I e-mailed them and quickly received a return message from Sean Cain at ECIS informing me that the M Roadster system was in the design stage and due out soon. Then, 45 days later, I got another message from Kenny Bernatsky of ECIS to let me know that the M Roadster system was now complete, with details available on the ECIS web page. Their web page provides just about all the info you need; photos, dyno runs, testimonials, an FAQ, and ordering information. The web page does not support on-line product ordering, but they have a handy order form which you can fill out and print, then mail with your check. I sent my order in that day and several days later received an e-mail from Kenny citing a delivery date and Airborne Express tracking number. My shipment arrived as promised, neatly packed. My relations with ECIS couldn’t have been better. Sean and Kenny answer inquiries promptly and keep in touch, qualities often absent with other web merchants. As I was writing this, I got a Christmas card from them. How’s that for customer service?

When I unpacked my carton from ECIS, I found the ECIS custom shield, the K&N filter, still packed in its original box, the various bits and pieces to attach the filter to the air flow meter, and a colorfully illustrated set of installation instructions. I was impressed to find that the silicone connection hose was in place on the inlet tube, held on by the loosely tightened hose clamps. No possibility that this amateur mechanic won’t know where the parts fit. More impressive still, a bolt which is required to attach the inlet tube support to a bracket on the inner fender of the car was carefully taped to the end of the support. For sure, this bolt isn’t going to be thrown out in the trash! The shield itself is a really neat piece. Constructed from lightweight, slightly flexible material which I believe is sheet fiberglass. The fiberglass was obviously cut from a single sheet, then folded and riveted into its final shape. The outside is finished with insulation which matches the car’s underhood finish, and the inside is sprayed with undercoating. The top edge of the shield is weather stripped to seal against the underside of the closed hood, fully enclosing the filter. Three holes are provided in the shield at the points where the shield mates to the air flow meter, the air inlet flange, and the car’s rubber air box support grommet. No holes need be drilled in the car in order to install the ECIS system. I had expected to provide a step-by-step installation guide, but ECIS’s instruction sheet is so well presented, and the installation so easy that I’m going to dive right into my driving impressions and performance testing.

On my first drive, my admittedly inexperienced butt dyno couldn’t detect any obvious performance improvement, but the engine seems to run smoother and, though not loud, the intake makes a low, pleasant moan which sure makes the car sound more powerful. My wife—she of the exquisitely sensitive hearing—approved of the new sound. More driving convinced me that, though not dramatic, the car did accelerate more forcefully, especially as it approached redline. I decided then to go back and perform before and after objective tests to validate the performance improvement my butt told me I had achieved.

The almost trivial installation procedure made returning the stock air box to the car a matter of, perhaps, ten minutes. Not wanting to torture the clutch, skin the rear tires, or invite the unwanted attention of the sheriff, standing start tests wouldn’t do. I decided to perform acceleration tests in second gear, timing from 1000 rpm to 6500 rpm. This test had the advantage of testing almost the entire rpm range, without having to exceed the speed limit. I drove the car hard for about 100 miles to insure that the ECU had readapted to the stock air box, then took the car out to a straight, flat section of country road nearby. I let the car settle at 1000 rpm in second, then started my watch as I floorboarded the accelerator, stopping my watch as the tach reached 6500 rpm. I timed eight runs, four in each direction, discarded the fastest and slowest times, then averaged the remaining six times. My average time for this series of tests was 5.71 seconds. I then reinstalled the ECIS intake, another ten minute job, and again drove the car hard for 100 miles to readapt the ECU. Another trip to the country road, using the same timing techniques as before, yielded an average time of 5.55 seconds, an improvement of .16 seconds.

So is the ECIS Evolution Air Intake System a worthwhile performance modification? For my money, the sound alone is worth the price of admission. Dealing with Sean and Kenny made the purchase really pleasant and I’m particularly impressed with the clarity of the instructions they provide. The system itself is well designed, with high quality construction. That it provably provides a small but measurable performance improvement is icing on a very large cake.

BMW Ultimate Driving Experience

For those of you with a teenage, or soon to be teenage driver, you can now rest easy. You no longer have to fear that your teen will wreck your Z3. BMW has stepped in and saved the day. Thanks to BMW’s generosity, you can know sign up your young driver for a free driving class called the Student Driver Course. This class is offered at the Ultimate Driving Event, which travels across the United States.

Saturday, December 4, I drove up to the Arlington International Racecourse to participate in the Student Driver Course. At 9:15 in the morning, I arrived amid a parking lot full X5s. There were beautiful Bimmers everywhere. Off in the distance, there was the wild scream of a 750iL speeding out of the AIR parking lot. I have never heard such a sweet sounding engine.

After going through registration, I made my way to the Orientation Room. The instructors, all involved in the field of racing, gave a 30 minute speech in vehicle dynamics. The speech alone was more information than I had received in a semester’s worth of Driver’s Education. The instructors discussed how to control a skid and the definitions of understeer and oversteer. The instructors also explained the various benefits and faults of traction control and ABS brakes.

After being divided into three groups, we finally hit the pavement. There are three different exercises we would complete before the class was over. They are as follows:

Emergency Braking:

This exercise has real world implications. Even if you don’t own a BMW, or don’t allow your teenager to drive your Bimmer, there is a lot to gain from this exercise. To begin, we pulled up to the starting line. When instructed, we floored the gas pedal and accelerated to approximately 45 mph. When the instructor’s fingernails were sufficiently dug into the center arm rest, he would tell us to brake.

On my first try, the instructor had me brake 3/4 the way down the straight. On my second try, the instructor had me brake through the turn. I was really impressed by the stability of the car. My mind told me it was impossible to brake hard and turn. But, the 328i stayed right on course. It took a conscious effort not to let off the brake when the ABS engaged. Like most drivers, I knew not to let off the brake, but my mind told me otherwise.

The Skid Mat:

For those of you who live in the Snow Belt, the Skid Mat holds a wealth of knowledge. The Skid Mat is essentially a giant tarp covered in soapy water. To begin, we pulled up to the edge of the mat and then gave the steering wheel 1/4 of a turn. Then we floored the gas pedal and tried to make a full right turn without losing control.

On both tries, I successfully negotiated the Skid Mat. The traction control was flawless, and smoothly back down the throttle. On both tries, I had to counter-steer a bit, although I never felt like the car was going to spin out of control. After my turn was done, I took my position in the back seat. To have some fun with the other driver, the instructor turned off the traction control. Instead of taking the turn, we spun out.

Accident Avoidance

Many drivers, when confronted with an accident ahead, instinctively slam on the brakes. A better solution would be to avoid the accident all together. Often, there isn’t enough time and space to brake. To prove this point, the instructors had us do our own emergence lane changes. To start, we accelerated full-throttle down the straight-away to about 40 mph. Then when we approached the lane change, we swerved quickly, and then braked to a stop.

On my first try, I anticipated too much. Instead of quickly swerving through the cones, I merely “carved” my way through them. The second time around, tried to act as surprised as possible. Another driver was attempting the same exercise. But, he braked as he was swerving to the other lane and really lost it. No harm was done though. In fact, that is the great thing about the Student Driver Course; you can exceed your limits and not do any harm.

Being 17 years old, I am a relatively new driver. I found the Student Driver Course to be an excellent resource. Don’t allow your teenage driver to drive you BMW unless they agree to take this course. Being a BMW fan, and hopefully a future BMW owner, I found this to be the best 2 hours of my life. Hopefully, those 2 hours will make for a lifetime of enjoyable driving. For more information, call BMW at: 1-800-961-4BMW.

HMS Motorsport Soft Boot Cover

Pros: Small enough to fit behind seat, looks great, perfect fit and finish
Cons: Does not completely cover top storage area
Cost: $279 from HMS Motorsport

All roadster owners are familiar with the BMW factory soft top boot cover issues. On the good side, it looks great and is easily installed and removed. However, when the top is up and you have to carry the cover with you, it takes up a large amount of space no matter what you do.

Enter the HMS Motorsport soft boot cover. Here’s a great addition to the traveling roadster owner’s arsenal that not only looks great, but folds up into an included bag and can slip behind a seat.

When I bought our 1998 Z3 1.9 back in February of 98, I saw no problems with the boot cover. Truthfully, it was the last thing on my mind. It could have been a potato sack for all I cared, as I gazed affectionately across the dealership showroom at our newly delivered baby. As my wife and I prepared for our cross-country travels in the Z3, we desperately needed a solution. I was willing to forget about the aesthetics part of it and leaving the folded top just exposed. But the need to keep out road dirt and dust was an important factor in my decision. Scouring all of the aftermarket websites and finding nothing, I started thinking about designing and developing a soft top myself in the great tradition of John Maddux’s LeatherZ armrest and Z3Solutions’ Magnetic Stone Guards. I posted a message on the Bimmer.Org message board, and one gentleman replied with a much easier (though maybe less fun) solution. He directed me towards HMS Motorsport. I, of course, had already searched their online catalog but the item had not been added. Still hasn’t as far as I know. So I did the unthinkable….I actually picked up the phone (*gasp*) and called them directly, credit card in hand. Ten minutes later, after the sales guy explained what it was and how it worked, I bought one.

The top arrived two days later and it took me all of 3 seconds to rip the box open. What I found inside was a well-constructed, high quality canvas cover that is a near-perfect match to the OEM top canvas. It was folded neatly into a vinyl storage bag that measures 13 inches by 16 inches, and is only about 2 inches thick. I tripped over myself as I raced for the garage to install this much-anticipated accessory.

The installation of this cover is a snap. Actually it’s 4 snaps.

slide the cover over the folded top snap on the two side Tenex connectors

snap on the two center Tenex connectors The completed install.

Problem solved! We could have the best of all worlds: aesthetics, protection, and convenience. Not bad.

The roll-hoop windscreen fits along with the cover. I am unsure about the other windscreen models. In summary, the HMS Motorsport is a no-brainer accessory for those Z3 owners that travel a lot and never seem to have room for the OEM semi-rigid cover.

Philips Bluevision and Allweather Bulbs

I replaced the stock bulbs in my 1999 M Roadster with Philips Bluevision and Allweather bulbs. The entire process took about 15 minutes.

The part numbers are:

Philips 9006 55W Bluevision (low beam) $34.95 per pair

Philips 9005 65W Allweather (high beam) $34.95 per pair

I recommended the Allweather for the high beams for mixed weather driving.