1998 1.9 100,000 mile report

“This little four-pot BMW is all the sports car I need.”, Road & Track, March 1999.

Our 5/98 1.9 recently hit 100k miles. At the time of purchase, deciding between an 2.8 and an 1.9 was difficult. Well, after exactly forty months of ownership, I’m pleased to reflect that, for a myriad of reasons (most anticipated, a few not), choosing an 1.9 has best fulfilled our requirements as a fun *tool* as opposed to a less practical *toy*. I knew it didn’t have much power beforehand, of course. However, it’s turned out to do everything else sooo well…Surpassing my overall expectations. In fact, my only real gripe about the decision is having to look at those Z-Stars…Urgh!

No major problems/repairs, as of yet. Tho, a cracked upper radiator hose left Mrs BMV stranded once. It still has original battery, brakes, clutch, and top.

Not my first, second, nor, presumably, last BMW…Neither the sportiest (R65LS), nor best (E30 325e) BMW…Just simply and unequivocally the most FUN!

Nonetheless, being a finance guy, the following #’s & $’s provide a better synopsis.

100,003 miles

89,344 mi. – from OEM front ‘Pilots; last 38,749 while mounted on back.

49,595 mi. – from OEM rear ‘Pilots.

$47,049.76 = total expenditures.

$32,545 = MSRP = $29,425 Base + $1,150 Leather + $750 Power Top + $500 Heated Seats + $150 Chrome Trim + $570 Destination.

$30,840 = purchase price, incl. $100 *tip*.

$20,046.98 = accum employer auto allowances –> *tool*.

$16,209.76 = accum oper & ‘admin’ expenses (defined below).

$8.949.66 = accum operating exp of gas, oil-related, parts & accessories, service/repair, tools, and club memberships

$7,260.10 = accum ‘admin’ exp of taxes, fees & insurance.

$5,842.05 = gas exp; 3,429.627 gals @ $1,703 avg px; 90.30 ‘composite’ octane rating.

$3,837.22 = allowances minus expenses.

3,429.627 – # of gals pumped.

$2,560.34 = $1,416.68 parts & accessories + $596.65 service/repair + $248.10 tools/books + $161.34 car care + $137.57 clubs dues.

1,217 – # of days to reach 100k mi.

$547.27 = oil changes + samplings.

426 – # of trips to the gas station.

421.0 miles – furthest range on single tank; 11.686 gals.

$201.15 = accum BMW CCA discounts (only $2.25 from impulse item).

$112.57 = prorated BMW CCA dues.

85 – # of tankfuls ranging 300-349mi., 12+1x 350-399mi., 3x 400+mi.

~82.2 miles – avg distance driven each day, everyday.

30 – # of oil filter changes.

29.693mpg – current incremental mpg, since Dinan CAI & StageII and Bosch Plat +4’s

29.159mpg – overall mpg, Life-To-Date = 100,003mi / 3,429.627gals.

28 – # of oil changes.

$22.30 = fuel savings from +4’s over 18,570 mi., vs. $25.88 cost.

2 – very happy owners!

$0.27 = cost per mile, if we’re to give away tomorrow.

$0.099-$0.128 = net cost per mile using KBB.com estimates of $17,095 private resale (LOL!) & $14,205 trade-in, respectively.

Statement of Cash Flows (‘freestyled’ Direct Method)

CFO

$20,046.98 – auto allowances

($16,209.76) – oper & admin expenses

$3,837.22 = Cash Flow from Operations

CFI

($30,840.00) – orig purchase price

$14,205.00 – value using more realistic kbb.com trade-in estimate

($16,635.00) = Cash Flow from Investments

CFF

$0.00 = Cash Flow from Financing

===========================

($12,797.78) = Net

Under The Hood

Before – One of the pleasures of owning an M roadser is to show off your engine.

After – I decided to add a little more spice in the look of it. I started to add some chrome accent. Most of the parts came from Ron J. Stygar expect for the strut bar, which came from Paul Ebeyer Sr.

After – Here’s what I’ve added;

* Battery Ground post

* Diagnostic connector cap

* Engine Lift point

* Oil filter lid

* Oil filter cap

* Radiator Cap

* Steering pump cap

* Radiator Spacer screws

* Valve cover nuts and washers

* Various Z8 nuts

* Windshield wiper jug screw

After doing so I felt that I could go the extra mile and have my valve cover and fuel line cover painted in Imola Red. Needless to say that I was really impress with the result.

I bought a new set of cover since I have use a lot of Armorall of these cover. My dealer told me that even if he would prep the cover very well, I could end up with fish eye on the cover.

After – Here’s the part number for the covers

* 11-12-1-404-466 – BMW M Power valve cover

* 13-54-1-740-160 – Fuel line cover

This really didn’t bring any power to the car but it sure looks more beautiful.

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.

AC Schnitzer V8 Roadster

Click on Pictures for Larger Image

AC Schnitzer BMW M Coupe RS

Click on Pictures for Larger Image

I have been told that this coupe is one of 2 that was built by AC Schnitzer. One was built as an demonstrator and this one that was made for a custumer. The car is cosmos black and has black and red leather interior. The car is equiped with the following parts…

* RS height adjustable suspension front and rear

* RS brakes front and rear, 333 mm front disk internaly ventilated, with floating brake calipper and 328 rear disk internaly ventilated. 200 kph – 0 kph in 5,2 sec (app 140 meters)

* RS exhaust 2 x twin

* Removal of the toppspeed limit

* Front spoiler*

* Rear spoiler*

* Specially made Seats, reduce the weight of the car by app 50 kg

* Navigation system

* Velocity High End sound system.

* Short Shift system

* BBS Le Mans wheels 8,5 ET 30mm – 10 ET 23mm x18″

* Continental Sport Contact N1,225/40-18 and 285/30-18. This is a special tire developed for the Porsche 996 GT3 and has an extremly soft rubber mix

* The engine is stock but was build with the use of handpicked parts that are individually picked to fit 100% together

* Spoilers reduce the lift in the car form app 35 kg in the front and 55 kg in the rear to 0 kg front and rear at 200 kph

The former owner drove the Nurdburgring in Germany on 8 min,14. That is fast. They also tested this car on the Hockenheim ring and timed it to 1,15,38 sec. To compare the Ferrari 360 Modena use 1,17,09, Porsche 996 GT3 use 1,15,08 and the Viper GTS (Euro) with 384 HP use 1,16,34 sec.

ref: Auto Motor und Sport no: 23 3 November 1999.

Prototype Camera Mount

Picture taken at the 2000 Z3 Homecoming

Owner: Arnie Coleman

Video taken from this prototype camera mount can be seen here. The final version will probably differ from this prototype. It was my opinion that the additional contact points around the roll hoops was overkill. The heavy metal support has a thick rubber pad under it. The rubber keeps the unit from sliding, even after a day of mountain driving it never moved. The straps on the prototype were velcro, I’m hoping the final version will have clip-straps like the BMW roll hoop windscreen.

Velvet Blue Z3

Individual Z3 finished in what I believe are Velvet Blue exterior and Light Siepia leather.

Note: The BMW Individual program is currently not available in the US. Velvet Blue was first seen on the 100,000th M car (a 1998 US M roadster) which was on display at the 1998 Z3 Homecoming.

UUC M Roadster/Coupe Short Shift Kit

Pros: Reduced shift throw, solid shifts (no “play” in linkage)
Cons: Requires some crawling on the ground if you don’t have access to a lift
Cost: List price: $300 (from UUC motorwerks)

The UUC motorwerks M roadster/coupe short shift kit comes with all the parts you need to reduce the shift throw of your M roadster or coupe by 15-20%. The kit includes a replacement M roadster shifter lever with a custom bend in it, a CNC machined adaptor to mate the shift lever to the shift selector rod, all clips, pins, washers, and lubricant needed for the installation, replacement Delrin bushings for the shift carrier, and a special tool for removal of the shifter cup.

The kit also comes with a 17-page booklet detailing every aspect of the installation. The instructions are detailed, but it is wise to take some time to familiarize yourself with all the different terms used before beginning, and to constantly go between looking at the parts on the car and the pictures and descriptions in the booklet. If you don’t know what all the parts are (I didn’t when I started), it may not be immediately obvious what the “carrier” is, for example.

Besides all the parts in the kit, you will need some tools. An 8mm hex bit or 8mm allen hex wrench is absolutely necessary. You will also need some blue “Loctite” threadlock. A small hammer may be necessary to tap some things into place, and a flashlight is a must. A large flat-bladed screwdriver is needed, and snap ring pliers (tips to the side, not straight out) and work gloves are recommended although not absolutely necessary (I made do without them, but having them would have made the job easier). You will also either need access to a lift (recommended if you have any chance to get your car on one) or jackstands to lift the front of the car. Two final notes before beginning: First, make sure the car is cool. You will be working all around the exhaust. Second, some parts of the installation are almost impossible without two people. For example, sometimes one person will need to be under the car, working to attach something to the bottom of the shift lever, and at that time it is very useful if you have someone else above the car to hold the shift lever in place and keep it from flopping around.

Step 1 is to remove the shift knob by pulling up on it forcefully. Be careful not to mash your nose, and also be careful not to rip loose the wires for the lighted shift knob that M roadster and coupes feature. After you have the shift knob loose, pull on the leather boot on the sides towards the center and lift the boot up. This will expose a foam insulating insert which covers the connection to the lighted shift knob.

Tug the foam insert up out of the way and unplug the connector for the lighted shift knob. You should now be able to set the shift knob, leather boot, and foam insert to the side.

If you feel like having a little fun at this point, you could try driving your car around the block using just the stub of the shift lever–the effort is noticeably increased, but you get a great Miata-like feel to the shifter. This just makes you look forward to getting the short shift kit fully installed!

Notice in the pic of the bare shift lever that there is a rubber boot around its base. Your next step is going to be to pull up on it to remove it.

Once the rubber boot is off, you can see the top of the aluminum carrier. In this is the nylon cup which holds the ball of the shift lever in place.

Now that the rubber boot is out of the way, push the shift lever to the right and look down on the left hand side of the carrier underneath it. You should see a circlip. This clip is what is holding the selector rod in place in the hole in the bottom of the stock shift lever. You can push the clip off with a screwdriver, use a pair of snap ring pliers to remove it, or push it off with a gloved hand. After removing it, remove the small yellow washer and you should then be able to push the selector rod pin out of the shift lever.

I was naive about how the shifter lever in an M roadster actually connected to the transmission. I had no idea what a “carrier” was. The carrier is a metal piece that attacnes to the top rear of the transmission and extends rearward into a rubber fitting behind the shift area. The shift lever itself has a round ball that mounts into a nylon cup which fits in the circular area of the carrier. The bottom of the shift lever is under the carrier and attaches to a selector rod which extends forward to the transmission. The UUC instructions are about to tell you to remove the nylon cup and then to remove the carrier. This is a picture of the carrier next to the car so you can realize how long it is–this will keep you from a little bit of puzzlement as you try to figure out where various clips are (that you need to remove) in relation to the shifter lever.

I’m going to fast forward a bit in the installation. The instruction booklet from UUC contained better pictures than I could take with my camera–since I didn’t have the car on a lift, I just didn’t have room to try to take any pictures from under the car. The UUC instructions clearly take you through removing the shifter cup (either with the supplied shifter cup removal tool or, in a pinch, with a pair of small screwdrivers). The instructions then take you through removing a clip/pin that attaches the front of the carrier to the top of the transmission. Take your time feeling out where the carrier ends and where this clip is. It is not immediately obvious and is hard, if not impossible, to see–you just have to feel along. The clip can be hard to pry up–as the instructions say, “some cursing and swearing tends to make the job easier”. I really recommend trying this tip, as it really works!

Once you have the carrier out of the car (see picture above of it laying next to the car), you can remove the stock rubber bushing shown already out at lower right in this picture) and replace it with the Delrin bushings shown on either side of the hole in the carrier in this picture.

Before reinstalling the carrier, you need to flip the selector rod (which is currently still attached at the transmission end) from side to side and end to end. You will need to remove a circlip from it at the transmission end just like you did at the shift lever end. Make sure to note where yellow washers are used when you take it off and put new ones (supplied with the UUC kit) in place when you reinstall the selector rod. When you take the selector rod out, you should see that in its original position, it had its pins pointing towards the left side of the car, and had a “kink” or bend in it near the transmission end, which bend “pointed” up, giving the rod a little clearance over the driveshaft. When you flip the rod end to end and side to side, you will be reinstalling it with the pins pointing to the right side of the car. If done properly, the kink will now be towards the rear of the car and will still be pointing “up”. This is important to maintain clearance of the drive shaft.

After moving the selector rod, you now need to reinstall the carrier. Again, the clip that fastens it to the transmission is going to give you fits. UUC provides a replacement clip, which you need because you will probably destroy the original clip when you remove it. Make sure to get the replacement clip snapped down all the way when you install it.

Once the carrier is back in place, you should slip the UUC-provided new nylon cup over the ball of the shift lever, slide the cup into the hole in the carrier, and snap it into place as per the instructions. Use the provided grease to lubricate the ball of the shifter before placing it in the nylon cup. Unlike the stock lever (shown at bottom of picture), the UUC lever (top of picture) has a bend in it. Make sure that the lever leans towards the back of the car, and that the bottom part of the lever is also pointing towards the back of the car.

You now will install the supplied adaptor onto the bottom of the shift lever. Note that it can be installed in one of two positions. You should install it in the 15% reduction position to match the way you have now flipped the selector rod. Continue with the instructions to attach the selector rod to the adaptor.

Back to the rubber boot–after you have the shift linkage reassembled, and you have tested your way through the gears, you need to reinstall the rubber boot. The instructions do tell you to make sure to get the bottom of the rubber boot around the top “lip” of the carrier. However, they don’t say that the best way to do this is probably from beneath the car. Get your fingers up in there and tug the boot down around this lip–this is important to keep dirt from getting in the pivot point of the shift mechanism. After reinstalling the rubber boot, reinstall the foam insulation, reconnect the lighted shifter wires, and reinstall the leather boot and shift knob, all in the opposite of the order in which you took them off.

gear pair Stock

throw UUC

throw difference

(savings)

1-2

2-3

3-4

4-5 3 11/16″

3 3/4″

3 11/16″

3 11/16″ 3 3/16″

3 3/16″

3 3/16″

3 1/4″ 1/2″

9/16″

1/2″

7/16″ So, what is it like when you are done? I took the following measurements. In general, the UUC short shift kit reduces the throw about one-half of an inch between each pair of gears. This may not sound like a lot at first, but it certainly feels different when shifting and is a very nice change. The shifter feels like it should have come this way from the factory.

The animation below shows the stock shifter on the left and the UUC shifter on the right. This gives you some idea of what it is like to shorten your shift throw the UUC way.

All in all, I recommend the UUC short shift kit. The installation is difficult for a first-timer, but having been through it once, I think it would be much easier the second time around now that I know where all the components are and what they look like. It feels great in my car, and I have been enjoying it each day since I installed it.

Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

Short Shift

The Short End of the Stick

(A romp in the Connecticut woods with some seriously height-impaired shift levers)

Ron Stygar is a man of small tolerances. – Very small tolerances.

In engineering terms a tolerance is a lack of precision. Manufacturers build in many tolerances into their product. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes tolerances give you an added measure of safety. Sometimes, however, tolerances are merely a way of appealing to the most common tastes or a way of saving money. The shifter on the Z3 is a perfect example. The shifter in most Z’s feels like it belongs in a family hauler instead of a low-slung sports car.

Ron does not like this type of engineering tolerance. He believes in precision in his gear shifting and has invested a serious amount of time developing an approach, which both preserves your warranty (mostly) and offers you some serious short shifting fun. In addition, he’s come up with a magic do-hickey to improve your driving (more on this later).

Row Row Row your gears…

OK, so a little exercise is not a bad thing, but don’t we live in a world of modern-day laborsaving devices? Turns out we do.

It was Ben Liaw who first noticed that a significant change had been made between the M3 and the MZ3 shift levers. Ben took the shifter from the MZ3 and transplanted it into his M3, making short-shifting history. A number of people followed his lead, transplanting the heart of motorsport shifting into their more mundane vehicles, resulting in a serious amount of short shifting fun. But the fun was not without a price – the transplant of MZ3 shifters into 1.9-Z3’s resulted in issues with 5th gear hitting the transmission tunnel, but more seriously, while 328, 2.8-Z3 and 1.9-Z3 owners were enjoying the fun, MZ3 owners were left out of the party.

Enter Ron Stygar…

Ron goes back a bunch of years with BMWs. He has a 318ti with and ///M Coupe on order. In addition to his many other projects with his cars, Ron has spent a year investigating the ins and outs, ups and downs and the backs and forths of BMW shifters.

Ron has developed a number of shift levers, which just scream short shifting fun! At the prompting of Jon Maddux (the leather guy), Ron sent me a picture of some of his creations a while ago and invited me down to sample them in my Z3-2.8. Ron had heard that I had upgraded to the MZ3 shifter, but had gone a little further – I had dropped the height of my shifter by installing a round aftermarket knob. This, effectively, shortened the shifter another inch. The upside was seriously short shifts. The downside is the loss of the gorgeous BMW knob.

Ron said he had the solution.

Bug Collecting…..

It seemed like a good day for bug collecting, so I headed south to rural Connecticut where Ron does his work.

What I found when I got there was a meticulous garage, a workshop complete with fiche reader, and loads of special tools which Ron makes himself. Ron was interested in trying a number of prototype shortened MZ3 shift levers on my car. The plan was to start with the standard 2.8-Z3 shifter and work our way down to his most shortened unit. Along the way we would take key metrics:

The height of the stick (with the standard BMW knob),

The length of the throw from 3rd to 4th and the amount of force needed to shift from 3rd to neutral and from neutral to 4th.

We would tabulate these metrics into a guide for shift-lever reduction.

Levers 101…

Give me a lever long enough to move the world, a fulcrum big enough and a place to stand and I will break my lever!

Short Shifting in concept is an easy thing to comprehend if you think of the basic physics of a lever. A lever has two parts: the lever and the fulcrum.

The most common lever we are familiar with is a seesaw. Remember when we were kids and the seesaws had several adjustments, which allowed you to lengthen the lever on one side and shorten it on the other? The purpose of this arrangement was to allow you to distribute force in the most effective way. The lighter kid would sit on the longer side, the heavier kid on the short side. Do it right and each kid exerted the same amount of force. The difference was in the length of the lever on their side of the fulcrum. The longer side of the lever takes less force to move, but translates the force over a shorter span on the short side. The lever is a classic force multiplier.

If you imagine the seesaw stood on end, you’ve got your shift mechanism. The lever is your shifter. The fulcrum is the pivot ball which sits under your shift boot. In general, if the longer end of the lever is on the top, you will have to travel more to move the shorter end any significant amount, but it will be easy to move. This is the situation right out of the box. The advantage is that it’s easy for everyone to move the lever because of the force multiplication of the long end.

But it’s not much fun.

Adjusting the See Saw…

You can shorten the shift in a couple of ways: You can “adjust the see-saw” by extending the shift lever below the pivot ball. This is basically what the MZ3 shifter does in the 2.8-Z3 and 1.9-Z3 applications. This has the effect of slightly increasing the effort needed to shift, but it’s really not all that noticeable.

However, the 1.9-Z3 shifter has and additional twist – or rather an additional turn: it’s bent. The bend in the lever accommodates the different transmission in the 1.9-Z3. In the 1.9-Z3 implementation, the straight MZ3 shifter results in the bottom of the shifter and the transmission being seriously out of line, resulting in a condition called “notchiness”, or the difficulty in getting into gear. When you replace a bent 1.9-Z3 shifter with a straight MZ3 shifter, you can compensate for the increased vertical off-axis force by raising the fulcrum point of the lever. Ben Liaw sells a kit call the “ERK” (Effort Reducing Kit”) which allows you to do this. Luckily, in the 2.8-Z3 the difference in height is negligible, so this does not become an issue.

Where’s my Chainsaw?

Another way of changing the relationship of the lever in the shifter is by taking a more radical approach: Shorten the top of the lever.

Using this approach, you can, effectively, shorten the throw down to just about nothing, but there is a cost: as you shorten the upper part of the lever, the force needed to move the bottom part increases. Any reduction in shift throw results in an increased effort regardless of the method you choose to shorten the throw. Remember how the lever works. Extending the length below the pivot ball as well as shortening the length above the pivot ball will result in increased shifting force Shortening the upper part of the lever is the heart of Ron’s idea for short shifting the MZ3. Although Ron chose to shorten the prototype levers 3/4, 1 1/8, and 1 1/2 inch, to equate with a 5% , 10% and 15% reduction, this distance could be any value in between.

It’s actually quite a simple approach. It also leaves all the important parts, those below the lever, in the same relationship and generally intact. Other short shifting kits sold for the Z tend to replace more components, thus encroaching on your warranty. Ron’s approach trades off increased effort in exchange for a more standard implementation where it really counts. The question has always been – how much effort?

That was what we intended to find out.

The Measure of Success

Ron had created several prototypes of shortened sticks from BMW ///MZ3 shifters. Each change in length reduces the throw by five percent: The sticks were shortened by 3/4, 1 and 1/8, and 1 and 1/2 inches. We set out to measure the differences in throw and effort between both the standard 2.8-Z3 shifter, the ///MZ3 shifter and Ron’s shortened ///MZ3 shifters.

Jack of all Trades

Ron is an amazing guy. Not only is his garage neater than just about any room in my house, but he has the most incredible collection of tools, many of them specially made for the sole purpose of swapping out BMW shifters. The first hurdle was to get the car jacked up. Not an easy task. First of all, floor jacks don’t work because the nose is so close to the ground, same problem with ramps. Solution: Ron had built a set of “mini-ramps” which raised the car enough to get the jack under. Next problem: standard jack stands won’t fit the indentations on the bottom of the Z3 at the jack points.

Solution: Ron has built a set of adaptors for jack stands, which exactly fit the Z3. (Ron actually sells jack-stands modified to fit BMW’s, he has been asked by an owner to create a set of jack stands which will fit his Z3, but that’s another story). Once the car was up on the stands, we inserted standard ramps under the front wheels as a backup. We also chucked the rear wheels using Ron’s modified Tru-Cut chucks in the back of the car. This car was not going anywhere!

Mr. Wizzard Goes To Work

We measured the height of the MZ3 shifter with the modified aftermarket knob, then put everything back to standard 2.8. We then measured the height of the standard 2.8 shifter, removed the knob and measured the throw from 3rd to 4th.

We then used a calibrated scale to test the force needed to move the shifter from 3rd to neutral, then from neutral to 4th. By this point I thought I was back in Mr. Wizard’s physics class. Only Mr. Wizard was nowhere near as precise as Ron was!

How to shorten a Shifter

Ron, with the help of Manoj Mehta, Alan Alfano and his coworker Jim Guyan has come up with a way to shorten the upper portion of a shift lever that works well. He and his friend Alan Alfano have been dissecting BMW shift related parts for about a year now.

They cut apart a number of shifters to find out how they are constructed. They’ve discovered a couple of things about how the units are made: The shifter is a rod within a rubbery substance, surrounded by a metal shell. The purpose of the rubber is to isolate shift knob from the vibration and heat of the transmission. The upper portion of the inner rubber is glued to the inner rod. The lower portion is not.

Ron with the help from his dedicated and fanatical crew (OK, he buys them beer) has discovered a way of removing the outer casing from the unit without damaging it. They then cut down the top of inner rubber core to the desired length, while, at the same time cutting down the bottom of the outer casing to match. Afterwards, they re-glue the shortened parts together and polish the unit to a dazzling brilliance. The end product rivals BMW for workmanship.

Instead of adonizing the stick, Ron polishes his to a high gloss

Getting Bent

Ron also bends the ///MZ3 shifter to fit the M3/328 (and, presumably, the 1.9-Z3). His method uses a number of specially machined parts, which places no stress on the shift lever. The bending tool and clamping pieces were made by Alan’s Dad. Ron places the shifter into a vice and bends it to an angle and length known only to High School Math teachers.”When we first started to bend these things”, said Ron, “we assumed that the angle should be the same as the OEM shifter. But it turns out, that this results in the top of the shift lever being too far back, depending on the car. The increased length below the pivot ball, brings the top of the shift lever back”. That was way too much tolerance for a guy like Ron. He wanted precision, so he calculated the X-Y delta between the stock and new lever and bent the new lever accordingly. The new lever duplicates the position of the stock lever in neutral accommodating the height of the new lever.

Note: of course this does not apply in the 2.8-Z3 since the stick in both the ///M and the 2.8 are straight to begin with.

SAT’s (Shifting Attitude Test)

In order to quickly swap out the shifter, Ron developed several special tools to do the job. The first mimics the BMW tool used to remove the nylon cup from the carrier. Unfortunately, the tool must be applied from underneath the shifter, a tight squeeze. We loosened the heat shield under the car to make room. Once you reach it, a simple turn and the tool unhooks the nylon cup and the shifter pops out the top. “You know, a smart guy like you should figure out how to remove this things from the top, then anyone could do it”, I said. I guess Ron took this as a challenge to his engineering prowess, because a couple of weeks later, he sent me a picture of his new tool — the Upper Cup Removal tool. Unlike the BMW tool, this can be used from the top, significantly simplifying the job. Ron’s the only one in the world who makes these things.

We used another special tool, a bent screwdriver to remove the clip, which secures the bottom of the shifter to the rod, which connects with the transmission.

Using Ron’s tools, a shifter can be removed in a minute or so. You simply follow the reverse procedure, making sure the nylon cup is aligned properly for reinstallation. Push the securing back on and the new shifter is in. In the Z3, there is actually no need to remove the carrier or other parts to change the shifter. However, we did discover one “gotcha” — when reinstalling the rubber boot on the shifter at the end of the day we found out how hard it is to actually reseat the boot properly. There is actually a “lip” which needs to be hooked below the carrier. Ron’s tool which is designed to reseat the lip around the carrier in a 328 does not work in a Z3. We somehow managed to do it through brute force. Most do-it-yourselfers (like me!) tend to just let the boot sit on top of the carrier when they are done. The problem is that it will then get dirty and gritty, sure recipie for trouble down the road. Luckily, there was no need to reinstall the boot every time, instead we just swapped out the shift levers to take our measurements.

Even with the special tools, it still took us the whole afternoon to test all the sticks (and we weren’t even drinking beer yet!). The results are tabulated below:

Height “ Change “ Throw “ Reduction “ Change Change Force1 Change Force2 Change
std 2.8 5.0000 3.8750 2.8 ///M 3.75 5.75
//MZ3 4.7500 -.2500 3.2500 -.6250 -16% 4.75 +1.00 6.75 +1.00
“3/4 3.8125 -.9375 2.8750 -.3750 -26% -12% 5.25 +.50 7.50 +.75
“1 1/8 3.5000 -.3125 2.6875 -.1875 -31% -17% 5.75 +.50 8.25 +.75
“1 1/2 3.1875 -.3125 2.5000 -.1875 -35% -23% 6.25 +.50 9.13 +.88

The table shows the results of our obsevations in white and the calculations in gray. Force 1 is the force needed to go from third to neutral and Force 2 is that needed to go from neutral to fourth as measured by Ron’s force meter.

Basically, we found what we expected — as you decrease the length of the shaft, the effort to shift increases. We found that for every third of an inch the shaft was shortened, the effort increased by about 3/4 of a pound of force. Although it does not sound like much, it does tend to add up when you get down to the shortest stick. However, the increase in effort for all sticks was still in the “quite acceptable, thank you” category.

In addition to the metrics, I also offer my subjective impressions of the various levers:

2.8 Standard– Effort to shift is very light, but the throw is enormous. Coming from a Miata, the standard Z3 shifter feels like a giant step in the wrong direction. Feels like I’m driving my Maxima.

3.2 (//M) standard– Better, feels much more like a sports car should, but there seems to be room for improvement. There does not seem to be a great deal of effort or increase in notchiness by stepping to the //M shifter, even though the figures show that this is the largest increase in the force figures. If you’re looking for a marginal improvement, nothing drastic, in fact, something that even a BMW tech could not detect, this is the way to go. If you’re looking for something more read on.

3/4″ short– Effort is still very reasonable, but the shift throw is starting to come down significantly. But there still feels like there’s room for improvement. Personally, I think this stick falls into the gray area of either “too short” or “not short enough”, depending on what you’re looking for. Interesting side note: This is the stick which closely approximates the Miata throw. However, because the standard BMW knob is taller than the standard Miata knob, the final throw is more losely approximated with the 1 1/8th short.

1 1/8″ short – This was my favorite. When we measured the height of the standard knob with this unit it was almost exactly equal to the height of my aftermarket knob on the //M shifter. I’ve been very happy with the throw reduction, but this unit allowed me to use the standard knob. Very Nice! This definitely qualifies as a short-shift implementation. The shifts are more than an inch shorter than the standard 2.8-Z3 shaft and about 1/2-inch shorter than the MZ3 shaft.

1 1/2″ short– This approach was a little too extreme for me. Although it gives you toggle-switch-like performance, the effort increase and the notchiness were beginning to show, but not actually to the extreme where it was unmanageable, but the knob had begun to sink into the shifter well and getting into reverse was starting to be a pain. In addition, the reduction of the amount of external metal sleeve was beginning to show. I would have some questions about the longevity of this diminutive stick with a heavy-handed shifter.

The ///MZ3 shifter in a 2.8-Z3 results in about a 17% reduction in the throw. The 1 1/8th shortened lever results in another 17% improvement over the ///MZ3 shifter. Ron figures that a 30 to 40 percent reduction in throw is about optimal. Anything more than that is too extreme in his opinion. The 1 1/8th short results in about a 30% reduction from the standard 2.8 shifter.

Conclusion: if you were happy with the upgrade to the //M shifter, you’ll be twice as happy with the 1 1/8th short.

In the end, I decided to leave the short stick in my car. It allowed me to get the same performance I was getting from my aftermarket knob, but with the standard BMW knob which matched my dash. In addition, it also gave me an additional feature: by keeping aftermarket knob for “special occasions” I can shorten the shifter by another inch to almost the same dimensions as the 1 1/2 short! It’s a nice option if I feel the need for the occasional bout of “toggle-switch shifting”. If you’re interested, Ron is still looking for someone with an ///M to go through the same exercise with.

You want one of these bad!

Before I left, Ron showed me another special modification. It’s very simple: it’s an adjustable clutch stop.

If you look at the carpet floor in back of your clutch pedal, you’ll see a small black knob. The purpose of the knob is to stop your clutch at the end of it’s travel (it’s a sort of cushion). BMW has actually engineered in another tolerance in the clutch: the last 3 or 4 inches of travel don’t actually do anything!

Try it: Sit in your car with plenty of space in front of you. Shift into first and slowly let up on the clutch. Try to figure out the exact point that the clutch catches then press your foot down slightly. Look down at the floor and notice the amount of space till you hit the floor. What a waste! When you shift, if you are pressing your foot to the floor, you spending close to six inches of travel time in the tolerance zone.BORING!

Ron has the solution: This little do-hickey replaces your standard clutch stop, allowing you to raise it up. This prevents you from going all the way down to the floor with every shift. The result is a much quicker uptake from the clutch and a much faster launch. In fact, as I found out in front of a gang of bikers at a rest stop, it may be such a quick uptake that you’ll end up stalling out the first couple of times. (The bikers were actually very nice and waited to make fun of me until I left the parking lot).

This is the next best thing to sliced bread. Ron sells these things, but he also has a page to show you how to build one yourself. Believe me, if you can get your hands on one of these, do so ASAP!

The Future

Ron has indicated that he will soon be retiring from his job at the East Hartford, CT Pratt & Whitney motor mill. Ron helps maintain the computer / instrumentation systems facilities used in testing the F100 military jet engines. Although he now does things by request, he plans to offer his shortened shifters (and all his other neat thingees!) on a small commercial basis in the near future. If the quality of the work he did on the prototypes can hold up in production, I predict he’s got a ready market out there.

The smile never left my face in the 99 miles of driving back to Boston from Ron’s house. I parked just long enough to jot down these notes and switch to my “short-shorts” aftermarket knob (which shortens the shift by another inch!). Time to take my precision instrument out on the road again!

Postscript: If you think this modification was cool, let Ron know. If you’re hard up for projects for excuses to spend time with your car, Ron can help. Check out his web page which lists more than 120 separate articles with pictures showing stuff Ron has done with his and other BMWs.

Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

Why is That Boot Cover so Hard to Install?

The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill
  • 1st design: thinner leather was more flexible and easier to install
    2nd design: thicker and stiffer material than the 1st design possibly more durable but a pain to install
    3rd design: same thicker and stiffer material with redesigned tenax snaps

    Installing the boot cover on a 1996 or early model 1997 Z3 was a relatively easy job. However something happened during 1997 and BMW redesigned the boot cover with thicker and stiffer material. The new stiffer material makes it much harder to install. We confirmed this by swapping Eileen’s 1996 boot cover with my 1998 boot cover. I was able to install her boot cover in less than half the time it usually takes.

    We then started comparing the boot covers from the different Z3s that attended the event and noticed three different designs. Besides the flexible and stiff versions, we found a variation on the stiff version that had improved the tenax fastners. The front ones slide to make it slightly easier to install when compared to the other stiff material boot cover, but still harder than the original flexible material boot cover. If you have a Z3 with the stiffer boot cover, you may be interested in reading this article.

    Chrome Front Grill