City Lights Project

Pros: Lights up your highbeams when your parking lights are turned on. “Rounds out” the light display on the front of the car when the low beams are turned on. Inexpensive parts.
Cons: Pretty worthless for anything other than display purposes. Not an easy install.
Cost: ~ $25,00

Ever look inside your high-beam? If you do, here’s what you’ll see: See that black spot? It’s actually a hole in the reflector. You may ask yourself “Why is there a black hole in my light?”. The answer is “Manufacturing Efficiency”.

Basically, that black spot is where a small light, called a European City Light, would go if you happened to live in Europe and owned a 1.8 Z3. “What’s a 1.8?”, I hear you asking, “don’t you mean 1.9?”. Nope. I mean 1.8. The most inexpensive Z ever produced. The base model we never got here. The 1.8 was an 8 valve version of the euro 1.9 engine. The cars were produced as inexpensively as possible. In order to cut down on cost. As part of this cost reduction, there are no front bumper lights (hey! saved close to $40).

In Europe, the front marker lights work differently from the US. When we turn on our “parking” lights, the amber corner lights and the amber bumper lights come on. In Europe it’s illegal to have amber lights in the front, so they replace the amber bumper lights with white ones and they make it so the corner lights don’t come on. The corner lights are used only as turn signals. On the 1.8, instead of putting bumper lights on the car, they elected to mount the lights inside the high-beam enclosure producing a forward-facing white light. Here in the US, the City Lights were never used. However, because the 1.8 needed them, every Z has the vestigial hole in the reflector (note: so do other bimmers).

The hole is plugged at the back by a kind of “blank” on the back of the light. If you could peer inside, however, you would see that they do include the molding required to seat the socket. I decided I liked the idea of City Lights because I thought they would look good, showing off the entire light housing on low-beam and when the parking lights were turned on. The job looked easy, although I knew I would have to remove and remount the lights.

First thing I did was to find the part numbers:

The parts I was interested in were those labeled “8” and “9” in the diagram shown above. #8 is the socket (63-12-8-389-744 “Lamp Socket”), #9 is the bulb. #3, by the way is another European feature which allows you to aim your headlights from inside the car. This power is considered far too dangerous by the DOT for Americans to have access to, but that’s another story.

I called my local dealer (Herb Chambers) and ordered the parts ($17.03). It took about two days to get them. I was very happy until I actually saw the parts:

The socket connects via two very small pins. The problem is that I know of almost no connectors to mate to this to provide the power. I checked the diagram and, sure enough, there is a special connector, but it’s part of the European wire harness. I’d have to buy the whole harness in order to get the two connectors. Rather than shell out these kinds of bucks, I went in search of other possibilities. I checked the Boat Store and the Car Store before remembering good, old You-Do-It Electronics. Sure enough, YDI actually had a part which, with some significant modifications, would work.

They are called Molex .093 Connectors. They are basically a nylon housing around a set of connectors. I also bought some 1/2″ screw-size (5/8″ Chassis hole size) Vinyl Grommets (more on this later). In addition, I had a couple of wire-taps, some wire and a couple of grounding connectors. The next step was to fabricate the connections.

I did this by wrapping a grommet around the “Male” Molex connector. I then inserted it, “backwards”, wrapped in Saran Wrap into the lamp socket and used epoxy to fill in the spaces around the grommet (the Saran Wrap keeps the whole thing from getting stuck to the lamp socket). Once these were set, I attached the wire to the metal “female” inserts which would grip the two prongs on the inside of the socket. I inserted them into the holes (once again, backwards, it takes a little muscle) and once again used epoxy to seal them up.

The result, although still looking home-made, is actually pretty good. The Grommet makes a good seal on the wires and good seal on the lamp socket. The female molex connectors require a little bit of muscle to force them onto the pins, but once there they stay stuck on, further reinforcing the seal. The next step was to remove the lights from the car. See this article for more information on how to do this.

Once the lights were off the car, it was time to drill the holes. I used a Dermal tool to make the holes. Looking at the light socket, you can see two “wings” which are clearly meant to secure it when it is inserted intot eh light. I had a few hint’s from mod-god Ron Stygar who has also installed these. He sent me a picture of the inside of the “plug” (left – don’t ask me how he took this – I suspect one of those “Mission Impossible” microcameras or a team of miniaturized technicians helped). Judging from the picture, the big “wing” goes on top, the little “wing” goes on the bottom. I used the Dermal tool very slowly, while holding a vacuum hose near the work to suck out any small pieces.

Although the work was a little rough, the socket fit in fine and stayed in when I twisted it to the right. After drilling out both lights, I completed the job with the wiring:

I got power by tapping into the connectors for the side marker and connected to a convenient ground. On my car the positive lead was the light gray wire, but I suggest you check with a multi-meter on your car. Note that I have connected it “downstream” of a BMW connector. This way, if I ever need to remove the city lights, I can simply replace the pigtail which goes down to the marker bulb (I actually happen to have a couple of spares anyway). This ensures there’s no issue with dealer support on an electrical issue.

I put the lights back into the car, cursing BMW designers the whole way (would it have killed them to leave an inch or so slack in the wires going to the bulbs?).

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this project a 7 or an 8 in terms of difficulty, mostly because of the need to remove and remount the lights and the necessity to fabricate the connector part. Overall I’m happy with it. It took me about four hours to do and the total cost was about $25.

Update: I got an email from Greg Paul who wrote me to say that he had also been looking for the connector for about a year with no success. He had bought replacement lights from Circle BMW and they gave him Euro Lights with the City Lights already installed. Unfortunately, no connectors. He had asked the dealer and even went so far as calling the factory to see if anyone knew which connector they were… No luck… He then had an unfortunate incident — he smashed a fog light.

When they went to replace the fogger, he noticed that the connector looked familiar, in fact it was the same as the City Light! He looked up the parts and was able to find the socket and pigtails to connect the fogger to the car. He ordered extra parts and was able to also connect the city-lights.

That’s the good news (and special thanks to Greg for writing me to let me know about the part). Bad news is the price of the connectors: About $25 each (list). Using the BMW connectors just about doubles the cost of the project:

You’ll need 2 each of 61138352390’s (Sockets $20.48 each) and 4 each of 61130007569’s (pigtails $2.85 each). The pigtails need to be inserted into the socket to form the entire connector, but it’s real easy. (see cl1.jpg)

After inserting the pigtails, you need to lock them in. You do this by inserting a small screwdriver and pushing the black locking collar as indicated. (cl2.jpg)

Once this is done, you have your connectors and you can hook them up as described earlier in this article.

SSR Competition Wheels with Kumho V700 Tires

Subject: SSR Competition 17″ x 8.5″ Wheels
Kumho Victoracers V700 225/45-ZR17 Tires
Cost: $ 2,118
Good: Sticky, Light Weight, Good Cost vs. Performance Ratio
Bad: Dedicated for racing – off goes the stock system and on goes the racing system and repeat. Plus, I need to put on a “GASP” trailer hitch and pull a trailer with my Z!!!!
Installer: Mounted, Balanced & Heat Cycled by The Tire Rack. Mounted on car by yours truly

When I started autocrossing my car, I used stock 16″ tires & wheels, even though I race in the ASP class in North Carolina & Virginia, which allows for larger & wider systems. I found myself a consistent 2 seconds back from the winner. So I promised myself that I would go to the next step to start winning some races if not close the gap, by purchasing a tire/wheel set for autocrossing.

After viewing past posts on the message board and the Tire Rack Q&A section. I made a list of things that I expect from this investment.

1. Best Cost vs. Performance ratio for the tires & wheels

2. Best Lightest weight vs. Strength ratio for the wheel

3. Capable to rotate tires from front to back to maximize usage

Wheels: The list of wheels I looked at was BBS RK & RX, SSR Integrals, Forge Lines, IFG, and various other lightweight track wheel manufacturers. I wanted my wheels to be spoked, so that the maximum amount of air can cool the brakes and make it easy for me to clean the wheels. I came close to purchasing either the SSR Integrals or the BBS RKs. But this past Christmas, I saw those new SSR Competitions and saw the estimated weights and costs and I was sold on them. After calling Aaron of The Tire Rack (www.tirerack.com), we determined that the 17 x 8.5″ wheels would work for me. I want the wheels to be the same size all the way around so that I could rotate my system from front to back. Aaron informed me that he weighed one of the wheels and it came in at 15.1 pounds. Now I could not verify his weight, because, I had Aaron mount and balance my system before shipment. The cost of the wheels was: $ 365/ea

Tires: The list of tires were of-course Hoosiers, BF Goodrich, & Kumhos. Since the Kumhos were the least expensive tires and the “new-kid-on-the-block” for track tires, I searched the website for people that has experience with these tires & The Tire Rack has an article on how to use the V700. I found that they were satisfied with the purchase and any down falls were minimal. This was good news for me, because of the Kumho’s low cost versus the other brands’ high costs. I originally wanted 235/40-ZR17, but after looking at the Tire Rack’s ad and talking with Aaron, I had to be satisfied with 225/45-ZR17 tires. Kumho does not offer a 235 in the V700s, only 225 & 245. I also had The Tire Rack heat cycle the tires, so that they will be ready for racing. For those persons who do not know what heat cycling is, The Tire Rack has a good explaination. The cost of the tires was: $ 130/ea, The cost to heat cycle them: $ 15/ea.

When the system arrived it was nicely packaged so that the wheels would not be damaged during shipment.

The wheels also included mounting bolts that works with the SSRs and a center hub adaptor to make the wheel hub centric. Now I would rather wished that SSR made the wheels dedicated to the BMW, but that is only wishful thinking. I do love the look of those center adaptors. They are made of aluminum and anodized black with the “Mille Miglia” logo printed on the surface.

Conclusion: I did a brief drive around my neighborhood. Of course I could not do any speed trials or see how she corners. I did not feel like using up my tires before I could race them. But, I can say this, that I could tell the difference in stiffness and stickiness of the rubber – – WOW! All due to the larger rim diameter, thicker sidewalls & slower durometer of the tires. I will give an update later during the racing season after I have a couple races under my belt with these new tires and wheels. Plus, I might bring home a trophy =:o

Update: I recently talked to my friend who autocrosses a Mustang 5.0L in the ESP class and he told me I could use the 245 on an 8.5″ wheel with no problems, because he does. I guess I know what tire size I will be purchasing next.

Valentine-1 Installation

In search for a power source to wire up my V-1, I found the article “Finding power in your center console” by Vince Parsons. Sure enough, I found the connector he describes, and started thinking how to run the wire and stuff. Then I realized that the connector that’s part of the wiring kit that comes with V-1 is the exact size of the tabs next to the ASC button on the console in my ’97 1.9 Z3. I tried it, and it fits perfectly! I used some glue to stick it from the inside.

Initially I was thinking of hiding the wire of the V-1, but then I realized that, since I keep my V-1 on the dashboard in the center of my windshield, in case I get stopped by police it would be inconvinient for me to disconnect the wire from the side of the radar detector. With my setup, all I need to do is unplug the wire from the connector in the console, then grab the V-1 from the dash board (it sits there attached with velcro) and throw it under the seat. And more importantly, the connector is very neatly mounted in the center console.

4 Inch Rear Speakers

In the continuing quest for better sound in a Z3, I decided to replace the stock rear 3″ speakers in my 99 2.3 with 4″ speakers, or possibly 4×6″. Model year 2000 and newer have 4″ speakers, so I knew that in theory at least, I should be able to fit a decent set of 4″ co-ax’s back there. The stock 3″ speakers are pitiful single paper cone drivers, “designed” for “filtered” midrange sound from the factory amp. I found their sound lacking, even annoying. They did not add anything to my audio experience. I am cheap, …..let’s say cost conscience,…… so I am always looking for more bang for the buck and aftermarket speakers have always provided more satisfying sound over stock OEM drivers. The first step was to see what kind of volume and interferences I had to work with. I popped out the little hatch, shown in first photo, but even with a flashlight it was difficult to get a clear view. The 3″ speakers are held in place by a threaded collar, essentially a giant knurled nut. If you take a large screwdriver and tap the knurls through the little hatch counter clockwise with a rubber mallet to start, it then unscrews easily. The speaker pulls out to reveal a circular hole with a chord (flat spot), that is supposed to prevent the speaker from spinning. This allowed a better view and some discouraging news as well.

There’s a bunch of stuff in there…the seat belt retractor, the structural steel for the roll hoop and the re-enforcing cross member that goes across the vehicle. The steel is a problem because it is so close to the plastic trim housing. This limits where the speaker can be placed, because either the driver basket or magnet will hit something. Depth is about 2 ½”, but variable because the housing slopes. In addition, the 3″ speaker opening is located far to the outside, because the tiny magnet does not interfere with anything. It is actually easier to install a new speaker if you have NO rear speakers; ie. you can cut a new hole farther inboard without worrying about the existing hole showing beyond the coverage of the speaker trim/grill.

Luckily, 4″ speakers are strange creatures, many appear to have grills with trim that increases the coverage area. This was critical in this case; if the trim were any smaller, it would not have been possible to mount the speakers and avoid interference, and still cover the existing opening. The last photo shows the grill coverage outline (courtesy of dirt sticking to Armorall……will stop using that stuff!). I looked at installing a 4×6 speaker, but quickly found that only Blaupunkt 4×6 seemed to come with grills! The other manufacturers assume you are replacing an OEM installation and do not include them. I was not impressed with the Blau 4×6 specs, so I decided to go 4″.. Based on listening and a car audio store recommendation, the speakers I installed were Pioneer TS-A1086. They had nice plain black grills, and once I dremeled off the Pioneer name and made a P-touch label that spelled “BMW” to put in its place, it really looked stock. They have a cut out requirement of 4 1/16″, and a magnet diameter of 2 3/4″ . The trim and grill actually covers a diameter of about 6″.. I also looked into installing Infinity 452i speakers which are a “plus one” 4 inch size; ie the cone is 30% larger for the same cutout. It has a magnet that is ½” larger in diameter and ½” deeper, so it would be trickier to fit, but has a rubber surround, silk tweeter, and higher power handling capability. It would be easier to install the 452i, if there had not been any rear speakers. And since they were out of stock at the time, I went with the Pioneers. My cutout (from the outside edge of the hole, closest to the measuring point) ended up being 3/8″ vertical down from the upper trim piece end that starts the groove (leaves about 1/8″ left in bottom trim piece TO the groove) and 1 5/8″ horizontal from the center trim piece. This allowed the magnet to clear (actually JUSTS touches the carpet over the cross member), the speaker trim to cover the old opening, and still contain the plastic cut within the lower trim piece. I was afraid that cutting into the upper trim piece would cause the assembly to be too flimsy and buzz or rattle. There are also some interference issues, if you feel up under and into that area. The upper and lower trim pieces snap together, and I wanted to try to avoid breaking that connection for aesthetic and structural reasons. The plastic is thick, about 1/8 to 3/16″ and is ribbed on the backside for more support. I used a Dremel tool with a cutting blade that resembles a tiny circular saw. It cut through the plastic like butter, but it is CRITICAL that you tape the surrounding area, as it is VERY easy for the saw to jump and instantly mar the surface for good. It is easier to work the saw with the seats removed but I actually only removed the driver side; once I had my measurements I did the passenger side with the seat moved all the way forward, but then I also have a flexible extension that really helps…YMMV.

The pictures are pretty self- explanatory. There was a very noticeable increase in clarity and volume with the new speakers, even hooked up to the stock amp. I ended up running dedicated, unfiltered speaker wires directly from my Toronto head unit under the center console to get full range (for a 4″, anyway) sound, which sounded MUCH better than the stock amp connection. Even firing into the back of the seats, they are so close to you that they provide significant “top down” midrange and high sound. I find the stereo sound similar to that of wearing headphones; it is as if you are “in” the sound, not “in front” of it. Some people don’t care for that…I like it. Another idea to try instead of the Infinity co-ax’s, would be to use a 4″ component set and locate the tweeters up and outboard in the upper trim unit for better separation and directionality. I found the Pioneers to be a significant upgrade to the sound system for very few dollars. Now if I can just find a way to put in a powered subwoofer and lose no legroom or storage space……..

2.8 SuperTrapp Exhaust

Subject: Muffler system upgrade for a 2000 2.8 Z3 Roadster
Cost: $150 for the exhaust plus installation (approx $75), I just checked the website and the price increased to $160.
Good: Customizable sound & performance, low cost AND lightweight
Bad: Non-that I am aware of at this time.

Why do this: As the immortal Tim Allen said “MORE POWER”. One of the first things I did to get more power out of my 2.8 was to Fogg the cold air intake (CAI). Even though Shawn never did a 2000 2.8, I took his ideas and suggestions from both his instruction on the 1.9 and from communications with the immortal himself and I was able to modify my CAI to work similar to his.

Of course this was not enough. So the hunt was on for a more affordable power upgrades. So I started looking into exhaust system replacements. I looked at every type possible, even asking about replacing the exhaust manifold and/or catalytic converter, not without screwing up my emissions & computer. So I concentrated my search to muffler replacement only. I looked at Bola, Dinan, Supersprint, etc. I searched for all types of information (horsepower increase, cost, material type, etc.) that would help me decide what muffler to purchase. I read all the articles from the MZ3 website on exhaust/muffler systems.

To my surprise, I found that all the stainless steel mufflers’ costs were in excess of $300 to $600!!!! Not including installation. Plus I was not convinced that the performance versus cost ratio was worth the money spent. I then remembered about the SuperTrapp system. They were primary an aftermarket motorcycle muffler. But, I saw them on cars in the past, about the late 70s. Plus I knew that they made systems that were stainless steel and lightweight. So the hunt was on.

First: I found their limited website http://www.supertrapp.com/default/atv_splash.htm not a great site to see what was available. But it did explain on how their system works.

Second: I found a supplier (there were not many in my area): http://www.racesearch.com, Part number: 543-2519, http://www.racesearch.com/CGI/mhp?mode=sbpn&pn=543-2519

Third: I found the one I wanted Stainless steel 5″, now granted if you called SuperTrapp & view the Z3 Coupe message board, they recommend that I use a 4″ system for horsepower up to 250 Hp. The 5″ system is rated up to 400 Hp. The reasons for the 5″ is simple with the wider inner diameter, the exhaust gasses would flow easier, less noisy and the 5″ outer diameter fills the factory muffler exhaust cutout nicer.

Arrow points to the location where the stock exhaust tube was cutWhen I had my muffler installed I had the installer hack off the original muffler and it’s supply piping back to the rear axle. If you look at the picture, you will see that the bend to the muffler has been reduced. He then made some custom hangers to hang the muffler at the stock points. Due to the heat generated from the exhaust gasses and the many discussions on the message board on melted bumper fascias due to the muffler. I instructed the installer to have the muffler hang a little lower and poke out more than normal. Giving it less of a chance of the muffler from melting the bumper fascia.

What is with the metal disks and cover???? The SuperTrapp muffler is basically a “glass pack”, where you have an inner tube that has holes and an outer tube that has insulation between the two tubes. Since there is no bends or baffles within the muffler, the gasses are unrestricted to flow toward the end of the pipe. Now the glass pack system has been around for a long time, if you had a hotrod or muscle car, you will know what I mean. Now for the metal disks and cover. The disks that you see on the side of the muffler are really spacers that have been stamped to allow the exhaust gasses to pass between two spacers. The metal cap is to help tune the performance of the muffler and car. Now the easiest way to explain this is to imagine that you have a large bucket with some holes in it. Now fill the bucket up with water, you will see that the water takes a long time to empty out. Now add more holes to the bucket and add water, you will now see that the water will empty out quicker than before. So the more holes you add the faster the water exits. Now there is more to the SuperTrapp system, which deals with vanturies that help pull the exhaust gases from the car. View the SuperTrapp website for more information.

Basically this is how this works with the car: The less spacers you install on the muffler, will produce more backpressure on to the system. Thus, increasing your torque, decreasing overall horsepower and a more quiet sound. With (6) spacers, the noise was a similar to my stock system. The more spacers you install on the muffler, it will reduce backpressure. Thus, decreasing your torque, increasing overall horsepower and a more robust sound. I ran both (12), (18) & (24-max) spacers. I normally run (24) spacers as a daily driver. Which is has a nice growl during idle and a cool roar during hard acceleration plus, I have had no complaints from my neighbors. I did try the system with NO spacers and it was too loud for normal driving.

I have raced my new exhaust with only (12) and no spacers, only to find that no spacers worked best. I will try my (24) spacer setup to see how it fares. Since the installation, I have not conducted a horsepower comparison, my fault. It will be hard to see if my new muffler has done anything, because I have done a ton of things to get this car quicker than stock. Check out my website for details: http://www.z3power.net

Summery: I am happy with the purchase of this muffler and I would do it again. In addition, if I did not have any performance gains in torque or horsepower, I have reduced the overall weight of the car. Which is always a good thing for our heavy cars.