Road to the Perfect Armrest

Folks who have seen pictures of the then yet-to-be-released Z3 in 1996 have reported that it showed pop-up cupholders. When the roadster was finally into its US production, the center console instead sported a 6-cassette holder sitting behind a rubber cubby bin. The uncovered bin was big enough for a garage door clicker and some loose change, but that was about it.

BMW took it to heart when attendees at the first Z3 Homecoming voiced their concerns about the lack of a cupholder. I’m certain that the ruckus from this oversight made it’s way into the Bond Film “The World Is Not Enough” in the form of an inside joke when “Q” tells 007 about the cupholders his Z8 has!

Sometime in late 1997, a bulletin was issued that instructed dealers to swap out the cassette holder for an armrest/cupholder console only upon request of the owner. This involved removing the rubber cubby bin and cassette holder, drilling a hole behind the emergency brake lever, and mounting the new armrest (82-11-1-469-516) in its place.

The chintziness of the construction and material used in the OEM product provided ample opportunity for improvement; that’s when Z3 enthusiast Jon Maddux stepped up to plate and has been slamming homers over the fence ever since. His padded leather armrests have been touted by legions of customers as works of art. The selection of leather, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail are all top-notch. His skills have brought forth numerous other cockpit goodies as shown on his website,

As much as I would have LOVED to own a LeatherZ armrest, my desire for functionality wasn’t being met by BMW’s offering. My dirty little secret is that on a sweltering summer day, I might occasionally stop into a 7-eleven and indulge in an icy-cold 44oz Super Big Gulp. There was simply no way BMW Cupholder #82-11-1-469-516 was going to accomodate. Surrendering my unused cassette holder for a seldom-used cupholder wasn’t the solution I was looking for.

When I found out the original pop-up cupholder (51-16-8-398-250) was obtainable, I got it mostly for the novelty of it. The novelty wore off soon enough since it’s nearly flush-mounted design provided zero opportunity to serve as a place to rest the elbow. Any attempts otherwise might cause one of the cupholders to pop-up. It’s ability to hold a variety of cups was equally useless to me. An enthusiastic turn around a corner would be cause enough for a small cup to topple out of the cupholder’s grip.

Model Year 2000 cupholderDuring the 1999 Z3 Homecoming, I was pleasantly surprised to find out another center console design was going into production. BMW gave the OK for a design apparently carried over from the 318ti. The new cupholder (51-16-8-413-622) was slated to be standard-issue for all 2000 model year Z3s. The front edge features a coinholder for quarters, dimes and nickles. Two cupholders follow behind it with a deep storage bin bringing up the rear. Both cupholes are multi-tiered to accomodate a variety of cups, but the cleverest thing about the first cuphole is that it features a removeable plastic ring that effectively gives it a much wider opening. Joy and elation came when I found out the widest opening can accomodate a Super Big Gulp. Functionality-wise, this was THE center console that fit my needs. Comfort and aesthetics however, would have to take a back-seat since it was an open-top design. I had trained my elbow to rest lightly on the irregular hard plastic surface.

LeatherZ Mk2 ArmrestLeatherZ can do no wrong and undeniable proof is in their newest product, the Mk2 Armrest. Made of the same high-quality leather as their previous products, this armrest shows PLENTY of thought in its execution. The first obvious feature is its shape. The extra width is sure to end any long-standing elbow-wrestling matches between driver and passenger — there’s plenty of armrest surface to share. This is achieved without obstructing access to the emergency brake handle in any way.

The coinholder and first cuphole remain accessible since these are the two items used most often. In everyday driving, my elbow rests on the front third of the Mk2 Armrest. Taller drivers would probably find their elbow resting further back. Having an armrest that extended any further forward would be a waste not only because it would never get rested on, but quick access to the coins would be cumbersome if the armrest had to be hinged away everytime. Here again, LeatherZ provides comfort without sacrificing functionality.

Installing the Mk2 Armrest shows yet more thoughtful consideration from LeatherZ. The instructions were straightforward and simple. A piece of thin cardboard was used to provide a tiny smidgeon of gap-space near the rear hinge. All that needs to be done is to drill two holes with a 5/32th bit into the cupholder rear. The existing Mk2 Armrest hinge holes provide an easy guide for this. LeatherZ goes the extra mile by providing two metal plate reinforcements. This has proven to be an extremely sturdy setup. The result is a pleasant asthetic look that could fool any onlooker into thinking this armrest is stock from the factory.

Metal plates slip behind the drilled plasticMetal screws sandwich the plastic between the hinge and metal plate

Aesthetics aside, how does it feel? Maaaaahhhhh-velous! On a 960 mile Memorial Weekend trip with the Midwest Z3 group I had the chance to use the Mk2 Armrest extensively. Jon’s selection of padding density is dead-on perfect. Not too mushy as to feel squirmy yet not too hard as to cause uncomfort or bruising over the lenthy drive. It didn’t dawn on me until a few hundred miles into the trip that the lack of fatigue I’m usually accustomed to was because the Mk2 Armrest encourages optimal posture. Before the armrest, my right elbow would rest on the bare cupholder about an inch or two lower than the driver’s door armrest. This means that the spine slumps over to the right. This can really take its toll over long distances. The LeatherZ Mk2 Armrest is at a dead-even height with the door armrests. How could I tell? After installing it, I laid down a wooden slat spanning from the LeatherZ Armrest to the door armrest. A canister was then laid on the slat and it stayed put without rolling toward either end. Was this a happy coincidence? Given LeatherZ’s reputation, I’m virtually certain it’s not. With the elbows at a matched height, the hands easily fall into the 9 and 3 o’clock positions on the wheel. The track instructor would be proud.

By the time you read this, LeatherZ should have their Mk2 Armrest available and ready to ship — check their website for details. In this reviewer’s opinion, the perfect Z3 armrest has been found. With the LeatherZ Mk2 Armrest installed on the Y2K cupholder, all criteria have been met with overwhelming satisfaction. Versatility, usability, comfort, aesthetics; it’s all there. Great job, Jon!

Harman TrafficPro

At Homecoming 2000 last Labor Day Weekend, there was an additional commotion beyond the regular vendor area frenzy.

Harman Industries of Harman/Kardon kept a Pistachio Green roadster in their tent to show off a special head unit called the TrafficPro. This gadget is befitting of our “Bond-cars” in that aside from being a DIN-sized in-dash CD Player, it integrates a GPS Navigation system.

The current dealer-installed BMW Z3 Navigation System made by Philips consists of a bulky CD-ROM reader to eat up precious trunk space and a prominent LCD pod mounted above the center vents certain to incite a glimmer in the eye of any passing thief.

The Harman TrafficPro sports a dot-matrix display with backlighting and knob trim that glow amber to match the original BMW instrumentation. And why shouldn’t it? According to one of their reps attending Homecoming 2000, this unit is intended to be OEM equipment for future Z3s. Harman’s plan was to have this unit available in European Z3s followed by inclusion into Stateside roadsters.

Update from Harmon: Approval in Europe is for the BMW Accessory Group

In a preprogrammed demo mode, the TrafficPro showed off guiding the driver using a male/female selectable voice by indicating how far the upcoming turns ahead were. The display named the road you were travelling on, the next road, a pointer with remaining distance, and a graphical bar that illustrates your progress until that next turn. The screen gives you the critical information you need at a glance while keeping your eyes on the road.

All this is backed by the accuracy of GPS and a data CD-ROM. Where the old Philips system requires stopping and unloading the trunk to swap out one of SEVEN discs for a coast-to-coast roadtrip, the Harman TrafficPro covers the entire United States on only TWO discs that get inserted into a disc-slot behind the flip-down display. The 8 megabytes of memory allows it to store approximately 50 destinations along with 50 last arrived destinations. The unit is able to compensate if the driver goes off the planned course and features several modes of route computation probably most important to us twisty-seekers is highway-exclusion mode.

Update from Harmon: The 8 Mb memory does not directly relate to the capacity for destination storage – however, I believe the T/Pro storage capacity for destinations is bigger than Travelpilot and VDO systems. The 8 Mb is more relative to the speed of data loading and, modifications while driving as well as, the number of times the system requires disc access during operation.

Turning the right knob scrolls through state, city and street while pressing it makes the selection. The TrafficPro allows music to be played while the navigation system does it’s thing. The volume of music can be mixed independent of the navigation voice. Nice touch.

While the new wizz-bang features dazzled, more typical concerns like how it integrates into the Z3 were assuaged when the Rep indicated this head unit used BMW’s proprietary I-BUS control system to operate the existing 6-disc trunk changer. Furthermore, since this was intended to be OEM, the head unit would simply plug-n-play into the factory DIN connector. In addition to a detachable faceplate, the TrafficPro uses a similar code lockout like the stock cassette head unit. Since the introduction of the Z3, thefts of the stock head unit have virtually been unheard of likely due to widespread knowledge that they are worthless without the code.

The rep claimed that this unit was supposed to be available when the Z3 was first introduced and that was why all roadsters featured a recessed shelf underneath the instrument pod for the GPS antenna module that comes with the TrafficPro. Obviously, no such unit was offered and 1996 model year Z3s built for the United States only shipped with the stock cassette head unit.

Fast forward 7 months since Homecoming 2000 and no word of a new Z3 navigation system has been heard. If it were available, tidbits of information would’ve been trickling into the message board from new Z3 owners. Curious as to the progress of the TrafficPro into BMW’s family of accessories, I contacted Harman International directly.

Rob Barnicoat fielded my call and indicated that the TrafficPro was indeed already approved by BMW of Europe. Fellow IRC Chat bud Fred Kern points out this page apparently showing European availability. As for the United States, it has been languishing under OEM consideration by BMW North America. (Does this sound familiar, E36 M3 owners?)

Complete TrafficPro Hardware – Click for Close Up ViewMr. Barnicoat patiently reassured me that the TrafficPro does use the I-BUS controller for the CD changer and that it uses an adapter harness to connect into the Z3. It’s up to BMW to determine what the TrafficPro will cost, but I suspect it should be roughly in the same ballpark as the old Philips Navigation System …minus the additional bulk and disc requirements. He was delighted that he is still getting inquiries from interested Z3 owners about the TrafficPro, however the demand is misdirected. We gadgetfreaks should be asking the Z3 Brand Manager at BMW North America when they’ll include this into the family of Z3 options and accessories. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also let the dealers know it’s time to retire the stock cassette head unit next to the 8-track and to let us have our TrafficPro.

For More Information: Hand-out spec-sheet from Homecoming2000

BMW of North America

1 BMW Plaza

Montvale, NJ 07645


Harman/Becker Automotive Systems

39001 West Twelve Mile Road,

Farmington Hills, MI 48331


I Can See Clearly Now, Too!

Let me state for the record that I DO enjoy the fact I have a folding rear window like the classic roadsters of days gone by. The day I start whining about wanting a defrosted glass rear window, seating for four, and more storage space — please sentence me into a LeBaron for 30 days. Even so, after reading Robert’s eye-opening article on Meguiar’s plastic window product, I figured I should recommission the one I bought months ago and shelved away.

I’ve never really done too much to clean mine since delivery back in September ’96. Upon recommendation from the dealer, I remember once trying Pledge spray on it. That didn’t work well. It just resulted in me having to exert lots of work getting rid of oily residue off the surface. I HAVE taken care of the window by using the supplied Rear Window Blanket #82-11-1-469-778, but two years will build a hazing no matter what precautions are taken. This hazing or fogging is caused by microscratches on the surface. The bad practice of using a glass cleaner might rid the surface of dirt and waterspots, but thanks to FredK’s excellent explanation, you’ll know better to stay away from it…besides, it doesn’t remove the microscratches.

Robert used the heavy-duty regimen of Meguiar’s #17 Cleaner followed by Meguiar’s #10 Polish. I used a slightly different product, Meguiar’s #18 Cleaner/Polish. I suspect most who’ve cared for their rear window as I have will only need to use this all-in-one product. The steps are quite simple — spray on, wipe with cloth, and use a drier side to buff clean.

I elected to use smooth cotton polishing cloths. They were the consistency of a thick cotton t-shirt (which would probably work just as well). One cloth was used to spread the sprayed liquid, another cloth was used to polish dry the area. I worked in small sections at a time and only used straight back and forth motions… not circular! Both inside and outside of the window was cleaned this way. The passenger’s half was done first to show how dramatic the difference was.

Use newspaper or a beach towel to line the rear console plastic as errant spray droplets will be bothersome to buff clean. Once you’re finished, the plastic window will look just as clear as the day it rolled off the assembly line! The bottle was hardly used and I suspect the window will only require no more than three cleanings a year.

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BMW Parcel Net Installation

I’ve never taken stock in the notion that the roadster is an impractical car. If there’s a need for something, there’s bound to be a solution. After many miles of driving, I’ve noticed the need for something to keep bits of paper, receipts, post-it notes, and driving directions from fluttering away. On one occasion, I had actually witnessed a receipt spiral around and up in the cockpit before disappearing in my rearview mirror.

Since the glove box and rear storage hatch were already stuffed with goodies, my interim solutions ranged from weighting paper down in the (when empty) passenger seat, wedging it under my right leg, or filing it in the gap between the seat and center console. None were terribly effective or appropriate. A collate of loose-leaf papers sitting between the seat and center console would often result in a footwell of windstrewn mess.

Most 1998 Z3 roadsters were delivered with a Parcel Net on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel. Initially, I thought this was another eccentric accessory, but in light of my reoccurring paperchase it was the solution. Kudos to Mark Volk’s initial installation notes for making this a painless project…

To install one in your roadster, you’ll need the following items:

One #51-47-2-261-407 Parcel Net & Frame

Four #51-47-2-263-062 Fixing Element Screw

Masking Tape

Sheet Metal Screw

The Fixing Element Screw is designed to twist into and beyond the transmission tunnel carpeting. This leaves the plastic clip that will hold the Parcel Net’s frame.

This shows how the clip will fit on the frame towards the end of the installation. Since the frame is shaped like a wide “U”, two screws along the bottom and one on each side will suffice.

Start by clipping a Fixing Screw at each side of the frame. Put a piece of masking tape on the carpet at the points where each Fixing Screw will land. Allow yourself plenty of thought and time on how this frame will be positioned. Too far down and repeated scuffing from a shoe might wear out the netting. Too far down and forward would make it difficult or dangerous if the driver had to stretch for something in it’s hold. Too high and it won’t be able to hold a magazine without that magazine’s corner jabbing into the glove box panel. When the Parcel Net is where you want it, press the fixing screws firmly into the the masking tape to make an indentation.

With the indentations serving as location markers, find a sheet metal screw and hand-twist it into the carpeting. The pointed metal tip will burrow through the thick fibrous pile and emerge to create a starter hole for the wider plastic Fixing Screw. Remove the masking tape before securing each Fixing Screw. If that sheet metal screw was thin enough, you’ll find the Fixing Screw firmly seated with no tendency to come loose. There’s no need to drill holes in the chassis metal underneath the carpeting!

Be sure the side screws are spaced wide enough so that the frame sides are parallel to each other. Once the sides are positioned, complete the bottom two Fixing Screws. How these last two are located will determine the height and levelness of your Parcel Net.

Snap the Parcel Net Frame into all four clips and that completes your installation.

The closeness of the Parcel Net makes short-term or important items immediately accessible. It’s been getting use nearly every time the car’s being driven. Quite a value for $25 worth of parts.

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BMW Z3 CD Changer Installation

BMW Z3 CD Changer Installation

October 12, 1998

By: Carter Lee

After performing an easy speaker upgrade in the factory kickpanel locations, it was time to investigate the addition of a CD Changer. Numerous options exist, but not all are well-suited:

Fallacy: Add an aftermarket CD Changer using an adapter.

Previous generation BMW stereo systems of the 80’s and 90’s used relabeled PIONEER and ALPINE stereo head units. This allowed purchasing name-brand CD Changer units found in the competitive market and plugging it in or at worst, requiring a rewiring adapter. The current stereo in E36 BMWs including the Z3 is manufactured by Alpine but with proprietary signal/pinouts to BMW’s specifications. This means purchasing an Alpine-branded CD Changer for the factory head unit will not work.

Fallacy: Add an aftermarket CD Changer using FM broadcast signal.

The quality of the stereo’s FM has already been cited as poor, so what is the point of listening to CDs if their signals must travel through this weak path? Yet, some insist this as a viable option. It isn’t. Adding an aftermarket CD Changer that feeds it’s signal to the Z3 stereo’s FM receptor is akin to drinking champagne through a sewer pipe. Get the picture? In addition, such a unit would require a Changer Control Remote rattling around in the cockpit.

This leaves two solutions, gut the system and reinstall ALL aftermarket components (matching stereo head unit and changer), or install the OEM BMW CD Changer. Since MY goal of expanding the stereo system hasn’t changed since the previous stereo article, the latter option shall stand. One minor bonus to selecting this route is this CD Changer is relatively worthless to the thief who’d want to relocate it into his/her riced-out Honda Civic.

The BMW CD Changer is a $750 dealer-installed option. All Z3s are prewired for this changer. Although installation is a breeze and the Changer can be found for much cheaper via other sources, it has been mentioned that installation by the dealer will subject this part to the same remaining warranty as other parts of your car. Having said that, let’s focus on installing this CD Changer. NOTE: The following outlines some of the steps involved and in NO WAY should serve to replace the installation manual. MZ3.NET and the author assumes no responsibility for mishaps that may occur from failure or incompetence.

On 1996 and 1997 Z3 roadsters, the BMW part numbers required are #82-11-1-469-404 for the six-disc CD Changer and #82-11-1-469-440 for the Z3 Installation Kit.

The CD Changer includes a sampler disc of contemporary Chesky Records artists and a 6-disc magazine cartridge. The Z3 Installation Kit contains the mounting bracket, installation pamphlet, and a carpeted cover. This cover matches the Z3 trunk interior and has a storage pocket for an additional magazine cartridge.

For this 1996 Z3, the TWO prewired harnesses are found behind the right quarter carpeting. One harness was found easily by reaching behind and unfastening a piece of black securing tape. The other cable was found after removing the black cubby bin at the bottom of the trunk.

The CD Changer is shipped with locking screws intact to secure the internal dampening mechanism. Remove these three screws from the bottom of the CD Changer and cover the holes with enclosed sealing stickers.

Both sides of the Changer have pins set to the Horizontal setting by default. Secure this setting by covering the area with the enclosed Pin Labels. After the Pin Label is in place, look for the patch of Velcro and center it in the same area… it will be easier to do this now rather than after the Changer is mounted.

Screw the mounting bracket to the CD Changer. On the mounting bracket, the tab with two holes should be on the right of the CD Changer.

Attach the cables to the CD Changer… after both harnesses are plugged in, be careful not to pull on the Changer too much.

Three mounting bolts protrude from the top of the trunk cove. Use a 10mm socket wrench to fasten the CD Changer assembly to these bolts. There isn’t much room to swing the socket wrench… maybe 10 or 20 degree arcs… just keep working at it. Remember, you’re working with a lever so don’t over-torque the hardware or you risk striping the bolt threads.

The carpeted cover pushes into place. Velcro tabs attach to the Velcro patches you so thoughtfully stuck on earlier. The bottom slot is sized so an extra cartridge will fit snugly if it’s molded recessed arrow points outward. This is designed to prevent any rattling.

The cover stays closed with Velcro on the lip.

This CD Changer hardly intrudes into the trunk’s usable space. With the installation finished, it’s time to enjoy your tunes.

The included 6-disc cartridge has trays that slide partially out. The BMW CD Changer sees the bottommost tray as disc 1. When the cartridge is inserted, the Changer has access to power to check each tray for a disc. The shipping carton indicates that additional 6-disc cartridges are BMW part #82-11-1-469-406.

A seemingly viable alternative is to look for Alpine 6-disc cartridges. Stores that carry Alpine’s 6-disc CD Changer should be able to offer the cartridges. Most have found this two-pack at Circuit City.

Factory cartridge and Alpine cartridge work interchangeably despite the difference in appearance. The Factory cartridge is opaque black and has trays that stop after sliding out partways. The Alpine cartridge has a transparent upper casing and has trays that slide completely loose. While this may make for easier tray loading, reassembling all the trays back into the cartridge will require added caution. All six trays must be reinserted into the cartridge regardless of whether or not it contains a disc.

Once tooling top-down through your favorite stretch of road the CD Changer is activated by pressing the TAPE CD button on the stereo head unit. This button alone toggles between Cassette or CD Changer. Once in CD Changer mode, the six station preset buttons along the bottom is used to select disc. Pressing the left or right arrow button will skip tracks within the selected disc. Pressing the M button prior to an arrow button will allow scanning within a song. Hitting the SCAN button will cause the CD Changer to play an intro from each track on all the discs. Bill S recently e-mailed me to indicate that holding down the SCAN button will cause the Changer to Shuffle Play… This definitely wasn’t mentioned in the Radio Manual. I’ve verified that it will shuffle all tracks in non-sequential disc order.

After a month of driving with the CD Changer, it’s worth noting that the music has only skipped once when rounding a turn while hitting a rough track crossing. The CD Changer hasn’t skipped since. Suspension hasn’t been modified and wheels are factory-standard 16″ Michelin Pilots. Whether switching to AM/FM, Cassette or shutting off the car, the CD Changer will be suspended on the last-played disc and track position until it’s activated again.

That concludes installation of the BMW Z3 CD Changer. It should be tops on the consideration list for those intending to keep the factory head unit. It’s prewired to integrate fully and easily. It resides in unused trunk space. It installs easily. And unlike an in-dash CD head unit, there’s no indication to thieves of it’s existence or any removable faceplates to carry. An in-dash CD would likely find the cockpit cluttered with some type of CD wallet/album that would require stashing away or risk losing to passers-by…unless your collection exclusively consist of Chipmunks Sing the Holidays.

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Wot Guv’nah? ‘Nothah Bleedin’ Project?!?

I know there’s a BMW first-aid kit (51-47-8-163-269) but a few things about it didn’t suit me right. Without any dedicated place in my trunk for it, it’d likely make itself known rolling around back there every time I’d find some corners to attack. It also looked a bit bulkier than I liked. Oh, I’m sure it’s probably outfitted with damn near everything short of a defibrillator..and a nice lawyer-approved Roundel embossed on the leather case…but I’m just looking for something that’ll hold the occasionalBand-Aidd and alcohol wipes for minor scrapes and cuts. Anything more serious and I’ll warm up the PPO medical card.

I filed away a mysterious part number that’s supposed to be a bracket (51-47-8-398-906) for the first-aid kit, but never went to check if this was for the Z3 and if so, where it would take up trunk space. Since manufacturer information was typically sparse and suggested dealer prices are high, I wasn’t about to reward the behavior with a purchase. I struck out to add a practical boo-boo kit to the Z3 — my way…

For this kit I’d suggest obtaining the following items:

Compact first-aid kit. The one I found at Target measures 4″ × 6″ and might’ve cost around $6. It contains a light smattering of adhesive bandages, sponge dressing pads, knuckle bandage, alcohol pads,antisepticc pads, sting relief, iodine packet, adhesive tape roll, gauze, latex gloves and aspirin tablets — all in a sturdy plastic case with better hinges than most kits in this category. I’ve enhanced this kit with some junk-mail samples of PepcidAC, Tylenol and allergy tablets. I’d like to round this out with a quality pair of fold-up metal scissors and some zip-loc bags (medical waste).

Someone told me to look for a liquid bandage. Sounded neat. I found something called New-Skin — antiseptic liquid bandages. These were sold as a box of ten small individual 1.0ml packets. I replaced five of the first-aid kit’s old-tecBand-Aidsds with the New-Skin packets. The New-Skin liquid is supposed to congeal to form a protective barrier against further infection. This appeals to me because traditional Band-Aids would take up 3 inches to protect a 1 inch spot and wouldn’t always stay put.

A package containing 30 inches of each side of Velcro®. (Generically known as Hook & Loop fastener) Look for the sew-on plain-back version. Don’t get the peel-off adhesive-backed version.

And lastly a needle, some thread to match the Velcro and a pair of scissors.

Since most of you will find different-sized kits in your area, I’m only going to emphasize the procedure and omit measurements. I trust you all are competent enough to adapt and extrapolate your sizing without bugging me.

Up on the top right corner of the trunk (behind the driver’s rear wheelwell hump) is a spot begging to be used. I dare say the trunk molding is such that it was meant for something. I’m not sure what the three cut-out ovals are for, but it was a primo opportunity for a fastening point.

I fished a piece of Velcro® through the two middle slats successfully. This tells me I found a suitable mounting point. My first-aid kit was light enough where it’d never cause any weight-related damage to the spot. Now to fashion a Velcro harness. This would secure the kit onto the slats in a manner that allowed quick and easy access. The Shortcut Crowd is probably wondering: ‘Why go through the pain and just simply try to Velcro® the kit to the semi-fuzzy carpeting?’ If you somehow find that to work, congratulations. I, however, don’t consider that secure enough. A few bounces & corners and the carpeting will likely release.

The Velcro® harness I’ve made looks like a sideways “T” when laid flat. It requires stitching together two areas — three if you want to get fancy.

The pieces overlap and get stitched in the manner shown. The “Hook” strip feels harder to the touch. The “Loop” strip is softer and fuzzy. Both strips have a useful and useless side. Pay attention to the orientation of each strip. It would help to look ahead in this article to see how each piece serves it’s purpose. This should allow you to cut the appropriate-length piece. Once you finish the first two critical stitches, that’s it! The project now only needs to be mounted. Start by wrapping the cross-arms of the “T” over and under the boo-boo kit. These tips should overlap and Velcro together.

The long body stem of the “T” simply goes around the box, fishes itself behind those carpeting slats, and comes back around the other side of the box. Tighten up any slack here before Velcro’ing the Hook surface over the fuzzy cross-intersection. The third fancy stitch can be done to the very end of this “T” stem. Fold a half inch of the very end back under itself to cover a bit of the Hook surface. Stitch this closed. This creates a grip tab to start pulling from.

So there you have it; a useful, compact, sturdy boo-boo kit personallized to your needs and occupying a spot in the trunk you’d otherwise never use. If it weren’t for the $5 box of liquid bandage packets, total project cost would be $7.50.

Don’t plan on taking up razor blade juggling? No problem, you can probably find other things to keep in this re-claimed trunk space…emergency CD wallet? snack box? ammo? ant farm? Hey, it’s your space.

Notice: The author assumes no liability nor offers any guarantees your project will go as smoothly or result in the same improvement or usability. Attend a qualified first-aid and CPR class to ensure you administer proper aid to yourself or others. All known issues have been laid down in the clearest manner possible. Despite this, the amount of redundant e-mail sent to the author is expected to be substantial. Not all questions will be answered…some might even get laughed at.

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Did You Know Your ’96 Roadster HAD a Stereo?

Let me preface this entire article by admitting I’m no audio-maven…far from it. The true audiophiles out there can save themselves from wasting any time by skipping this article. I have a good grasp on what you expect, and it’s far different than where my meager goals will lead you. I would HIGHLY recommend following the efforts of gutsier enthusiasts like Robert Leidy, Alan Riley, Phil Ehlen, and Brian Powell.

Now that they’ve left, I suspect there are a number of you out there who, like me, have this overpowering preference to live with what you have…to make lemons out of lemonade, to accentuate the positives and ignore the negatives. Maybe it’s due to hearing of the horror stories of audio freaks who’ve ripped out their entire stock system only to be saddled with untraceable audio whine, botched installations, and the multi-thousand dollar price tags for a system that could be better spent on a fancy home theater. Maybe the the idea of letting some unfamiliar shop monkey rip into the interior cutting, testing, and sparking all sorts of wires makes you far nauseous than any weak stereo. I have owned my ’96 1.9L since September and have avoided cutting into it in any way. My audio needs were enough where having an audible stereo with the top up was sufficient. My system is full factory stock with consists of a speed-sensitive/theft-deterrent head unit, door panel tweeters, kick-panel mid-woofers and factory amp in the trunk. The HK upgrade wasn’t available at the time of my order and even if it were I’m not sure I would have ordered it without having heard the difference. In fact, I still haven’t spent any appreciable time evaluating a HK-equipped Z3. (All you HK comparison seekers can leave now too) Although upgrades like the CD Changer and rear speaker upgrade became available at better prices than the dealer, I still opted to stay stock.

After all this time, I think I can sum up the existing ’96 setup. The system sounds fine (to my amateur ears) when the volume is moderate and the car is quietly parked. The moment the car’s in motion, the sound is drowned when competing with wind noise. Cranking up the volume when tooling around town can only be done to the point at which 25% of the music peaks are legible. Any higher and all that’s being turned up is mud as the speakers begin distorting…a likely testament of the grossly inefficient amplifier and speakers. In addition, the ’96 setup presents the driver with a wall of sound from the front. Without rear speakers, there can be no immersion of sound. At highway speeds with the top and windows down, there’s no reason to expect any sound from the stereo. At best, I can distinguish a legible 5% of music peaks. Any more volume cranking and it’s all garbage from thereon. The whirr of tires from highway traffic was a death blow to any hope of legibility. There wasn’t much point to pursue the factory upgrades under these conditions.

This didn’t faze me much as most of my driving was off the highway. Once on the highways, I’d be preoccupied visually scanning for state troopers in the horizon anyway.

During a recent road trip with the top up, a friend attached a portable CD via cassette adapter to the roadster’s head unit. Until now, I knew the BMW CD Changer was supposed to be an improvement to the overall system, but couldn’t imagine by how much. The portable CD showed me that the system COULD sound better than it did…and that part of the blame rested squarely on the crappy FM tuner. Yes, I know that CD offers better sound, but I could hardly believe the fidelity I had been missing all this time in listening only to the FM tuner. I would equate this sound to enjoying music in your living room with throw pillows pressed against each ear. The tuner simply did a horrible job at detailing the highs and lows. I now knew that there was room for improvement without confronting my aftermarket concerns. It definitely involved adding the CD Changer as I was willing to abandon FM radio, but the full potential of that $523 investment wouldn’t be realized without also improving the speakers.

Calvin Jennings had mentioned the improvement he got when replacing the kick-panel speakers with ones from a company called MB Quart. I checked out their website and brochure. This Obrigheim, Germany company’s mobile speakers have won the majority of IASCA World Finals since their US arrival in 1987. Even more appealing was how their brochure mentions specific applications, like BMW, and how certain MB Quarts “can drop right into the existing speaker cut-outs…” Physical fit was one thing, but I knew nothing about the OHM (resistance) rating, how changing it affected the system, and whether doing so was foolish. Nonetheless, Calvin mentioned they dropped right in, so I investigated further.

Speakers 101. The gap between the audiophiles and no-nothings is a wide one. I was clearly in the latter category as I immediately came across vaguely familiar terms like coaxial and component. In speaker design, sounds do not come from one single speaker. In a two-way setup, highs come from tweeters and the rest from the woofer. With a three-way setup, there are tweeters, midrange and woofer speakers all working in unison. Coaxial speakers have tweeter and woofer mounted on a single unit. You can see how the tweeter is often suspended above the woofer. In a Component setup, the tweeters, midrange and woofer are separated and installed in different locations according to the car’s design. Your ears can distinguish where tweeter highs come from directionally, but woofer sounds are vague and thus can be located anywhere.

The ’96 Z3’s design has a woofer (or mid-woofer) in the kick panels and the tweeter/midrange located in the door grills near the side mirrors. This is clearly a component setup. Removing the door panels to access these tweeters has been known as a major pain. I reasoned that typically, volume-cranking distortion was heard on the low sounds, so let’s see what replacing just the kickpanels would do.

This meant sticking coaxials (woofer AND tweeter) down there was inappropriate. Trying to do so would mean we don the cap of stereo design engineer, and based on who should be reading this it’s out of our expertise! I needed to look into buying the large speaker from a component setup. Luckily, MB Quart does sell things separately, and what I needed in the Z3’s kickpanel was the MB Quart QM 130 TX3. This is listed as a 5¼” (130mm) component midrange loudspeaker.

Calvin mentioned the QM 130 TX3 cost $89 each. I stopped by a local electronics/appliance store and salesman Mike Blanchard offered them for $74 apiece. Their new mobile electronics room is a gee-whiz experience. I’d recommend stopping by if you get the chance. Check out their PC-controlled switching and price quote system. After waiting nearly a week for a special order, I was ready to proceed with installation.

For no particular reason, I chose to start at the passenger’s side kickpanel first. Each panel is held in place by a plastic cam. Use a simple flathead screwdriver to turn this 90° in either direction.

With the panel now unlocked, wriggle it out by first undoing the catch area shown by the arrow. There is a plastic extrusion that’s held by the door sill cover. The rest of the edges are simply wedged in place. Pay attention to which edges come out first though, as you’ll probably need to reinsert it in reverse order when you’re done.

Meet the factory stock kickpanel speakers. These are held in place by four screws. Use a 5/16th socket to remove the bolthead screws.

Remove the four screws and the speaker simply drops loose. As King has indicated in the past, the wires from the amplifier to this speaker are coded blue/red and blue/brown. The positive wire is held in place by a 5mm connector. The negative by a 3mm connector. Disconnect them to complete the removal.

A visual inspection of both speakers clearly show the reason why decent speakers cost what they do. The factory stock unit is manufactured in Germany by Nokia Audio Electronics. In addition to computer monitors, Nokia has been known to supply Mercedes Benz with speakers. Looking at this unit, I find it appalling that BMW gave these things the thumbs up. The cone looks to be composed of cloth laminated with some sort of slightly-tacky material. Other markings indicate 4 ohms and 40 watts. The MB Quart’s cone is smooth and feels stiffer. Its markings say 4 ohms and 40-100w. The depth of each unit is noticeable. At this point I decided that even if there was ZERO sound improvement, I’d never reinstall the factory ones.

A small hiccup arose when I saw the MB Quart tabs were each one size higher than the factory tabs. After an hour of weighing out what to do, I decided to cut and replace the factory connectors. The reasoning was that moving the connectors up from 3mm & 5mm to 5mm & 6mm respectively would STILL allow the factory speaker to be reinstalled for whatever reason, and more importantly, bring the connector sizes up to aftermarket norms. (a presumption) Luckily, I had the salesman throw in a handful of 5mm and 6mm connectors.

This was a MUCH simpler process than I figured it to be. Cut off the old connectors and stripped ¼” of jacket material to re-expose the wire, slipped on new connectors and crimped their collars to the wire. No soldering was necessary, but I did it anyway to obtain a gorilla-strength connection. I also slipped a piece of heat-shrink tubing over each crimp area to prevent excess moisture and corrosion. To be on the safe side, attach the uncrimped new connectors to the MB Quart tabs to check their fit.

The MB Quart’s bracket ring can ingeniously be flipped to provide two mounting depths. I chose the depth that positioned it deepest. I connected the freshly-prepared factory wires to the MB Quart tabs and mounted it into place using the old factory screws.

Replace the kickpanel by working it back into place. It might be easier to remove that plastic cam and reinsert it after the panel’s in place.

I placed a work light in the driver’s footwell, but made sure to have it sit atop a sheet of metal to prevent the work light housing from burning the carpeting. The kickpanel is molded to the footrest. Start by removing the hood latch handle. This will expose the plastic locking cam underneath. Turn that 90°. To simplify the kickpanel removalloosenen the panel covering the pedal sets.

…this is because there’s a catching clip at the top of the footrest. The pedal set panel doesn’t have to be removed, jloosenedened enough to get uncaught from the kickpanel’s footrest. Also notice the right side of that footrest has two plastic blades that sit inside gashes in the carpeting.

Again, pay very close attention to how this panel comes out. In addition to watching the clip and blades, you’ll need to clear the spot where the hood latch handle was. Once the panel’s off, remove the stock speaker and replace the connectors with attention paid to crimping the larger 6mm connector to the positive yellow/red wire. A 5/16th socket was used to reach the bolthead.

With the new connectors on the MB Quart speaker, put everything back together. Replacing that kickpanel proved trickiest of all. Patience will ultimately be the key. Be sure the footrest is pushed far enough to the left where those plastic blades will seat back into their respective carpet gashes. Use your fingers to feel your progress.

With the kickpanel in place, turn the locking cam, replace the hood latch handle, and lock down the pedal set panel. The project is complete!

So now comes the $148 question…how does it sound? Knowing that cranking the stereo up with the car parked won’t tell the tale, I struck out for the nearest highway. Instinctively, I turned the stereo up to the normal threshold level…a 270° clockwise twist from dead silence. Whoa! What’s this? I think I hear lyrics. I further turned the stereo up and headed into a wolfpack of cars deliberately seeking the sound of tirewash. YES! Music! I could feel the footrest vibrating from the MB Quart’s bass…if I ever turned up the old speakers to this level, all I would get was distorted mush…no thanks to the old crappy coated fabric cones. Will this new setup ever bdistortingoring? Yes. But unlike the old system, there is an appreciable span of volume travel with the top down, with the windows down, at highway speeds and amongst the din of tirewash where you can hear the music and lyrics with far greater detail than the old system ever hoped to give at 35mph with the windows up. This volume limit is where it will hamper the attempt at conversing with your passenger.

On my second run, I hooked up a portable CD Player to the head unit via cassette adapter to give me an idea what a future CD Changer upgrade will be like. WOW! These speakers go even further to show how night & day the move away from the FM tuner is. I had to readjust my bass/treble levels to tone down the shininess I never heard before. Listening to the clarity of the Cranberries’ “Dreams” with the top down was the reward for a job well done. This cassette adapter may have added more volume as I heard more volume even though I didn’t touch the knob. When I ejected the adapter, the volume from the FM tuner was lower. I’m not sure if this characteristic will occur when I get the BMW CD Changer. Finally, the last step I am looking forward to investigating is how adding the factory rear speaker and amp upgrade will improve things. The new amp supposedly delivers a hair more power in addition to the rear channels, but I don’t know by how much. And no one’s mentioned if those 3½” rear speakers are a coaxial type. Based on my new experience with MB Quart, I might look for an equivalent 3½” replacement when it comes time to add the factory rears. Having a rear set of speakers ought to provide a satisfyingly immersive experience. This modest approach to upgrading will position me where I’ll be able to hear at least 85% of the music at top-down cruising speeds and know that I haven’t lost any storage space or given passing thieves a hint there’s actually something worth stealing underneath those panels. I’m certain the audiophiles can show me how their $4000 setup differs from mine; how their fidelity can reveal Pete Townsend’s breathing during the faint guitar riff in “Who Are You”, or how the wife can feel them returning home by the ground tremors. Despite that, I’m sure I’ll remain happy with this simple, inexpensive, not-too-invasive upgrade. Guess I’m just an underachiever.

Items you’ll need to gather for this modification:

Two (2) MB Quart QM 130 TX3 midrange speakers

Flathead screwdriver

Phillips head screwdriver

Crimping pliers

5/16″ socket

Two (2) 5mm crimp connectors

Two (2) 6mm crimp connectors

Four (4) one inch segments of heat shrink tubing or electrical tape

Compact work light

Long Term Update:

The speakers featured in the article may no longer be available

Notice: The author assumes no liability nor offers any guarantees your upgrade experience will go as smoothly or result in the same improvements. All known issues have been laid down in the clearest manner possible. Despite this, the amount of redundant e-mail sent to the author is expected to be substantial. Not all questions will be answered…some might even get laughed at. Journalistic integrity ofarticlecticle has been backed up by theBaba. Send all complaints to him.

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Tender Lovin’ Car Care

For all the fun your roadster brings you, it’s only right that you treat it with the proper cleaning only an owner can provide. If it were a slab-sided sedan or SUV (Some Ugly Vehicle) you’d be well within your right to hand the keys to those scrub monkeys at the local auto-wash or sandblast it with the recycled water often found at the self-serve BayWash.

But how exactly do you go overboard to indulge your Ultimate Driving Machine? Want to take pride in redefining the word “anal”? Read on…

First, let’s lay down some ground rules. The purpose of this article is to maintain that silky smooth factory finish for as long as humanly possible without resorting to permanently encasing the car in solid lucite. This does NOT include slathering it with some miracle laser-deflecting, scratch-healing, fireproof, SuperTeFlornPolymerSilicone wax or protectant. If you think your roadster’s finish won’t look good without these late-night infomercial snake oils, you’ve probably been clueless on proper car care. The following procedures will instruct you to go as far as you can to be LEAST harmful to your factory clearcoat.

You’ll want to gather the following items:

A plastic 5 gallon bucket or larger. A metal one close to the car might scratch it if tipped.

One or more cotton wash mitts

Large soft sponge

Wax applicator pads

Half or full dozen 100% cotton terrycloth handtowels, laundered using no detergent and dried without fabric softener.

Medium firmness fiber bristle wheel brush

California Mini-Duster™

Synthetic Chamois

Small Window Squeegee

Concentrated Car Wash Solution

Pro409 or Simple Green cleaning solution

Vinylex for leatherette interiors

Lexol for leather interiors

Meguiar’s #18 Plastic Cleaner or Pledge furniture polish

Pre-Wax Cleaner

Carnuba-based Wax (no Polymer Waxes!)

Bug & Tar Remover

Old Newspapers

Halogen Worklight

Unless you’re in a shaded carport or waterproofed garage interior, NEVER wash your car under direct sunlight. The best times of day to wash are dusk and dawn as the sun will probably be behind an obstruction in the horizon. Washing in hot weather is a no-no as well. General rule of thumb is if the car’s surface is warm to the touch, it’s not the time to wash. In direct sunlight, each droplet of water on the surface acts to collect the sun’s energy. If the surface is already hot, this speeds the droplet’s evaporation leaving the water’s natural minerals to etch into your clearcoat thus giving you “waterspots”. No additional scrubbing will get these stains off. A hot surface will also cause wax to be easily stripped from the surface. A proper wash should only serve to lift off dust and dirt. The underlying wax should last for several washes before requiring another application.

Once you’ve moved your car into it’s wash area where you can reach all sides with the hose, put your wipers up before you turn off the ignition. Simply raise the right stalk and remove your keys the moment the wiper arms have reached their apex. This will enable the arms to be hinged away for unobstructed access to the windshield’s forward edge. Check the blades for wear or muddy debris while you’re at it. Don’t forget to return the stalk and blades back to their normal position afterwards!

Fill the bucket with slightly cool water. Warm or hot water will give the same results as having a hot surface. To this, add THE ABSOLUTE smallest amount of wash solution. (Dishwashing liquid does not count as car wash solution) This should only be enough to create a few bubbles when swishing the water with your hand. This wash water merely needs to lift dirt from your surface. The mile-high bubble baths formed from too much wash solution will take much longer to rinse off thoroughly and worse, any areas you’ve missed in the rinse will leave a dull residue when dried. The concentrated solution in these pictures only required approximately a teaspoon to reach the desired results.

Use a wash mitt instead of a sponge to wash the body surfaces. Chances are better that grit or debris can get caught in the sponge’s pores and turn your wash experience into a scratch session. Avoid brushes as well regardless how soft the bristles may feel to you. The soft fibers of a wash mitt will release grit the best.

Spray down the car to wet all areas. Throughout the wash, continuously spray all areas to keep surfaces wet. If there are spots with dried splattered bug parts, moisten a paper towel and lay it over the area. When you return to it later, you’ll find it softened and much easier to remove.

Gently scrub the canvas top. The advice you heeded in avoiding overly soapy wash water will especially prevent soap residue here. Tan tops will probably require more gentle scrubbing and rinsing to lift embedded dirt. If you do spend time on washing the top, be sure to pay close attention to rinsing thoroughly.

Continue to the glass surfaces and don’t forget your side mirrors. Once you’ve moved to the body panels, start from the cleanest surfaces along the top and work your way down. Clean one section at a time to allow for immediate rinsing. Heavy scrubbing shouldn’t be required to lift grime from your previously waxed surface. Work the scrub mitt in a straight back and forth motion. Rinse the mitt of grime repeatedly…better yet, use the hose to rinse away the grime. Heavy scrubbing in circular motions over time will encourage swirl marks often seen under harsh sunlight. At this time, those bug spots should be moistened. If not, apply a commercial citrus-based bug-remover according to directions. The last and dirtiest body sections to be washed are areas immediately following the wheel wells and rocker panels. You’ll find the wash mitt reporting back with brake dust and kicked-up mud. At any point throughout this entire process, if the wash mitt gets dropped to the pavement, do not continue washing without thoroughly rinsing the mitt several times.

If the car hasn’t been washed in a while, check the side marker lamp underside for a layer of dried mud. This lamp assembly is removed by first sliding it towards the back of the car. Clean the area as necessary, but DO NOT force water into the wiring. At the bottom corners of the doors drain holes need to be cleaned and cleared of any grime that may prevent moisture from escaping. When these holes are dirty, they are often the culprits in leaving an ugly streak as water drains from them. Since the grime in these spots are typically greasy, clean it with something you can discard…like a paper towel.

Once all body surfaces have been washed, rinse and remove the wash mitt from the bucket. Soak a large, soft sponge and clean the wheels. The sponge’s ability to hug the wheel’s complex curves should make the job quick and easy. Brake dust should come off easily provided the wheels are regularly cleaned two or three times a month. A long-handled brush will offer better access to cleaning the wheel wells.

Using an inexpensive mini-squeegee will make quick and efficient work of drying the windshield and side windows.

By now the canvas top should have wicked most of the moisture to the surface. Start drying this area next with a synthetic chamois. Open the hood and trunk to let the large water droplets run off. Open the doors to keep the drain holes unobstructed from any possible beads of water tension. Since you’re no longer misting the car at this stage, it’s important to remove all droplets or pools of water as soon as possible. Nothing beats the synthetic chamois for its ravenous water-soaking properties. Wringing out a waterlogged synthetic versus the pricier genuine chamois would show you the benefits of synthetic. Once wrung dry, the synthetic feels just as buttery soft. More often than not, draping the chamois across a spot and dragging it across once will leave a bone-dry surface that no bath towel can match. Dry the hood and trunk moving to the sides afterwards. Don’t forget some favorite hiding spots like the seam under the reptilian side gills or lip edges in front and back. Drying your roadster by immediately driving it after the rinse leans toward foolish as the water droplets will simply serve to collect road dust and exhaust to etch into your paint once the moisture evaporates. The wheels will probably have water droplets that need to be dried as well. After this, it’s time to clean the glass.

Typical glass cleaners may be good for fingerprints, but they don’t cut it for automotive interior glass. The haze you often see is a result of off-gassing from your vinyl dash’s exposure to UV rays. A far more effective solution is to dilute a cleaner like Pro409 or Simple Green according to directions. Using these products full-strength would require more work than necessary in wiping it away and would leave a soapy residue. Keeping the diluted mixture in a small atomizer bottle will make it easier to reach the forward windshield from behind the dash.

As farfetched as it may sound, using newsprint to clean glass is devastatingly effective. Most major-city newsprint contain ink that doesn’t come off. Spray the glass directly with the diluted solution, scrunch a sheet up and begin wiping. You’ll find the newsprint absorbent enough while it cleans the glass thoroughly. Paper towels become waterlogged much too easily and can leave pieces of itself behind.

While near the subject of off-gassing, the interior vinyl should be cleaned with a product that offers some UV protection. Vinylex is a popular choice that (thankfully) does not leave as wet a look as other bigger-name brands. Extra buffing with a dry cotton towel may reduce the shine further.

Cleaning and conditioning the leather seats with an expensive product may be futile as some detailers have claimed BMW’s seats have been sprayed with a thin protective coating of plastic. Notwithstanding, Lexol or Connoly’s Hide Food seems to be the popular picks for those with leather interiors.

A California mini duster is an invaluable gadget for instant interior cleaning. One swipe will remove that reoccurring layer of dust. The mini duster is sized to easily reach the furthest parts of the dash. Be careful not to leave this sitting on your dash for any prolonged time. The duster is lightly embedded with parafin wax (to attract dust) that may leave a wax stain on the dash’s plastic.

Pledge Polish will work for the plastic rear window provided you use an absorbent lint-free cloth. Again, use straight back and forth strokes here. Alternately, Meguiar’s #18 is especially formulated for plastic windows. Scratched and hazed rear windows should try the combination of Meguiar’s #10 and #17.

Before you start putting your water-stained roadster up For Sale because you were careless in avoiding direct sunlight during the wash, you can pamper the paint back to its glory by using a pre-wax cleaner like Zymöl’s HD Cleanse. This is designed to remove existing wax as well as waterspots and pindot droplets of hardened treesap so you can start anew.

Work in small patches on the bodywork. Apply the pre-wax paint cleaner to the applicator and lightly rub into the paint. Do this in a straight back and forth motion — never circular! Once you’ve thoroughly applied a layer to that spot, buff it off with the cotton towel. It may help to bounce the glare of a halogen worklight to more-easily catch areas you missed buffing. Continue in this fashion for the rest of the car, turning the towel or grabbing a fresh one as necessary. Stay away from textured plastic surfaces like wash nozzles and door handles. In the previous formula HD Cleanse, the cotton towel would actually make a scritch-scritch noise on the sheetmetal when the surface was clean! An alternative to liquid pre-wax cleaners is to use a patent-pending product called Clay Magic. This blue slab of slightly-sticky clay is used in conjunction with the included lubricant solution. As the clay is dragged across the paint’s surface (with help of the solution), it essentially scours off imperfections and stubborn debris on the paint surface.

After stripping the old wax from the car, it would be an opportune time to fix paint-chips and scratches with touch-up paint from your dealer. One highly recommended product to help this process along is Langka. Fixing these spots early assures moisture or debris does not work its way to the bare sheetmetal underneath.

The final process in your roadster’s TLCC is the wax. A good waxing will leave a protective barrier between your paint and the harsh environment. It would be far preferable for waterspot minerals to etch themselves to your coat of wax rather than the paint’s clearcoat. Carnuba-based paste wax is the choice of respected detailers. Carnuba is extracted from palm leaves in South America. Finding a $5.00 bottle of liquid wax claiming to be 100% Carnuba would go nicely if you were also buying a bridge in Brooklyn. A TRUE sample of 100% Carnuba Wax would look like a brick and would require you to use the heat of your hand to warm it enough to apply to the paint. That $5.00 bargain bottle likely has a true concentration of 5%…if that. Serious detailing wax only has a 30%-50% Carnuba concentration. These paste waxes with a partial Carnuba concentration work well because it contains essential oils and carrying agents. Carrying agents surround the Carnuba giving it a smoother viscosity thus allowing easy application. This is what gets buffed out leaving the hard protective Carnuba. The oils serve to nourish your clearcoat. While petroleum-based Polymer waxes may protect, it does not nourish.

Using a new applicator pad, apply the paste wax in the same gentle back and forth motion as the pre-waxing process. Work in small sections at a time. Varying brands differ in their application process. Zymöl requires buffing off almost immediately. It does not haze as much as other waxes, so use that halogen worklight for additional help. To use the terrycloth buffing towel efficiently, fold it into four sections and turn to a new section after the last one loses it’s ability to buff the surface clean. It usually takes 3 or 5 handtowels to buff the entire roadster. Once again, avoid getting wax on black plastic surfaces like doorhandles and spray nozzles. Don’t forget to wax and buff the side-mirrors. A slick surface should make the job of removing kamikaze insects from those spots much easier. Once the roadster has been waxed, it should be able to withstand several washes in the months to follow. Typically, a car should be waxed three to five times a year…and HD Cleansed once or twice a year.

Before you reach for that celebratory beverage of choice, don’t forget to clean the paraphernalia you’ve used. Wash mitts and bucket should be cleaned and rinsed of dirt and silt that may have settled. Sponges should be cleaned of anything lodged in its pores. Terrycloth towels should be laundered by themselves in hot water preferably without detergent. Be SURE to ask your significant other if it’s OK to subject the washing machine to this. If not, a coin-op laundromat would work. Wax applicator pads are more difficult to clean and at 95¢ a pack, it’s preferable to get a new one when the occasional wax job is needed. Wash the synthetic chamois under warm water, wring it out and store it in it’s plastic container. If you used Zymöl, store it in a cool location or refrigerate it (don’t freeze!) to preserve the natural oils within. If possible, store the rest of the detailing products in the wash bucket so that everything’s handy for your next TLCC session. Until next time, take the long way home!

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BMW Trunk Organizer

Pros: Nice velcro pockets, easy to install
Cons: Double sided tape (how long will it last?)
Cost: $92

Part Number 82-11-1-470-187

Arrived in four business days via UPS ground.

Underside of the roadster lid. The pneumatic lifts raise it to a vertical position…it’s begging for utility.

The backside of the Trunk Storage System is lined with industrial-grade double-sided adhesive. The plastic backing is molded perfectly to match the sheet metal.

I originally wanted to attach this with Velcro, but the third-brake light isn’t masked and will still be accessible. The only remaining concern was the Toll Free Roadside Assistance sticker would be lost.

Thoughtfully, they’ve included a Roadside Assistance sticker along with the Installation Instructions.

Those who have the Luggage Rack can rest easy. Four removable plastic caps give access to your mounting hardware.

Isopropyl alcohol prep pads are included.

Use them to wipe down the surface. Removing any grease and dirt maximizes adhesion.

To ensure proper adhesion, install the Storage System in ambient temperatures between 60°F and 110°F. During this installation, the temps were under 50°F. A heat gun was carefully used to warm the surface. A hairdryer would’ve done just as well.

Remove the transfer backing to expose the adhesive.

Before exposing the adhesive, dry-fit the Storage System over and over until you are absolutely sure the positioning is familiar. Use fingertips to gauge positioning in the recesses. An extra set of hands may help. Instructions suggest attaching one side and working across.

Once the Storage System is completely attached, apply additional pressure to contact points. To reduce strain to the hinge area, apply counterpressure from the backside of the trunk lid. Use a cotton towel to prevent any scratches. Congratulations! The Trunk Storage System is installed.

Yup, that’s the leather-bound owner’s manual relocated from the glove box.

The Velcro flap fits over perfectly. Now to figure out what to put in my newly re-acquired glove box.

Your dealer did supply you with a rear window cover (#82-11-1-469-778), right? Now there’s a home for it.

Nice ‘n clean.

Profile of the trunk lid shows the Storage System isn’t protrusive.

Storage System matches trunk’s interior as if it were straight from the factory. It’s an innovative use of space and looks great!

Note: The trunk organizer detailed in this article only works with 1996-1999 model year BMW Z3s. Starting in model year 2000 BMW redesigned the trunk lid making the trunk organizer incompatible.

K&N Air Filter

Pros: Easy replacement, improves intake sound
Cons: Questionable performance gains
Cost: $40

Air filter box is located on the front driver’s side. Unlatch all four clips holding the airbox cover.

Lift cover to reveal stock air filter Remove stock air filter careful not to drop sediment into airbox.

K&N Filter vs. Stock Filter Seat K&N filter onto airbox lip

Carefully re-seat cover onto airbox Relatch all four clips