Buffy Gets a Pedicure

Required materials:

    Folia Tec brake caliper lacquer
    1″ fine natural-bristle brush
    wire-bristle brush
    container to mix paint
    popsicle/mixing sticks
    masking tape & newspaper
    lacquer thinner (for cleanup)


    about $60 for kit and other materials
    a few hours time

What do you do when even though your car has a red top, you think it just isn’t quite loud enough? Easy, you paint its toenails … err … brake calipers.

Required materials:

Folia Tec brake caliper lacquer

1″ fine natural-bristle brush

wire-bristle brush

container to mix paint

popsicle/mixing sticks

masking tape & newspaper

lacquer thinner (for cleanup)


about $60 for kit and other materials

a few hours time

As you can see from this picture, the stock calipers really don’t stand out at all, even though they are good-sized. I had seen other cars with bright glossy calipers (yes, even P-cars…shhh) and I liked the look. When I found out that Folia Tec made lacquer specifically for brake calipers, I had to try it out.

The Folia Tec kit comes with a can a lacquer in your choice of color (I chose red, but yellow, blue, green, black, silver, gold (shudder), etc. are also available), a can of “hardener”, and a spray can of brake cleaner. Before beginning, put blocks behind the wheels of the car, make sure the handbrake is set, and jack up the car (now might be a good time to call BMW and complain if you are an M roadster owner without a jack).

The instructions say to use the supplied brake cleaner and the wire-bristle brush to clean any brake dust off of the caliper. Clean it well–you don’t want anything to come between the paint and the metal of the caliper. Be careful to avoid damaging any rubber parts towards the rear of the caliper with the wire brush. After allowing the caliper to dry for a few minutes, you should mask off anything you don’t want to get paint on (if you’re too lazy to remove the caliper from the car, like me!). Don’t forget to put some newspaper on the floor under the caliper to prevent drops of color on your driveway or garage floor.

(Now’s a good time to see a cool detail I hadn’t noticed before about the M calipers–the nifty ///M cast into them.)

Before you can begin, you must mix the paint and hardener in a 3:1 ratio. Since I didn’t have a lift and was doing one wheel at a time, I didn’t want to mix the full contents of both cans all at once. I just eyeballed the amount I poured out of each can into my mixing bucket and it seemed to work out fine. After stirring the paint and hardener, wait 15 minutes and stir it again.

Use the brush to put on a thin even first coat. It will start to harden quickly, so quickly brush out any runs or drips in the paint. The rear of the caliper is hard to reach, but you can’t see it when the wheels are on anyway, so don’t worry too much about painting there. I’ll appreciate no giggles about my masterful masking job.

Let the first coat dry for 15 minutes and then apply a second coat. After the second coat, let the paint dry for one to two hours before replacing the wheel. If you are doing the job with one jack/one wheel at a time, you will want to rinse out your brush using the lacquer thinner now, or it will be completely stiff by the time you get around to doing the next caliper.

The final result is, in my biased opinion, pretty sharp. I hope some others out there try this kit as well, as I’d really like to see some of the other colors. I believe Folia Tec even makes a chrome-look caliper paint, which would look sharp on a certain monochrome car I know…

Magnetic Stone Guards

Pros: Looks great (911-ish), Protects from paint chips, Easy to take on and off
Cons: none?
Cost: $39.95 pair (from Z3 Solution)

The rear wheel wells on the 2.3 Z3, 2.8 Z3 and M roadster stick out quite a bit. A few owners started picking up rock chips in this exposed area. Porsche ran into similar problems with its 911 and solved it by adding some sporty looking protective pads.

The say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Keith got the idea to create some stone guards for the Z3 based on the 911 design. Using the same thin magnetic material that people use for those stick on door advertisements. Keith’s original design (pictured on the right) was cut to match the contours of the fender flair.

Later Keith redesigned the shape of the stone guards, the protected area is slightly larger but basically the new design is just cosmetically different from the original design. Using the stone guards is pretty simple, it took me a couple minutes to get them installed “just right” the first couple times but now after some practice I can slap them on pretty quickly (for me the secret was to start at the bottom first). As far as care and maintenance goes, I remove the stone guards every time I clean the car and hand wash them with soap and water. I always make sure to dry them off and I never put them back on until everything is dry (don’t want water trapped under them). When I wax the car I give the front and back of the stone guards a layer of wax at the same time.

Keith also has some new chrome versions of his magnetic stone guards, the chrome version really makes a statement. Not sure if the chrome ones will visually work on every car, but on some colors they should look pretty cool. Keith sells these and a few other “Z3 Solutions” via his web site. He also has a gallery of pictures of Z3s with his stone guards on if you want to see some more examples.

Z3 Side Grills/Gils

Pros: Easy to Swap, Model Confusion
Cons: Price, Model Confusion
Cost: 51-13-2-492-949 M grille left $169.00 retail (unpainted)
51-13-2-492-950 M grille right $169.00 retail (unpainted)
51-13-8-399-719 Z3 Grille left $46.75 retail (unpainted)
51-13-8-399-720 Z3 Grille right $46.75 retail (unpainted)
painting the pair should cost $75-$100

The M roadster’s side grill design is pretty neat (pictured on top), but I prefer the less flashy shark gill style of the Z3 design (pictured on bottom). Its funny how this picture makes the M roadster one look smaller than the Z3 one, but the Z3 gills are actually ~1/16 inch shorter in length than the M ones? This slight difference will leave a larger gap between the gill and the body panel but not enough to really be noticeable.

Both designs are attached to the vehicle similarly. Five plastic snap connectors and one mounting point secured by a screw. To remove, I started by removing the single screw. Then using needle nose pliers, I squeezed the plastic connector wings together and pushed the plastic snaps back through the hole. Took about five minutes before I got them all loose. If you end up breaking one of these plastic snaps the replacement part is 51-13-8-399-231 and those clips list for $3 each. If you wanted to by the BMW nut it is part number 07-12-9-925-730 which lists for $0.08 each.

Once I was able to put the two designs side by side I noticed a small difference between the M roadster design and the Z3 design. The single mounting point required two different sized screws. After a quick trip to the hardware store I was back in business. The Z3 design required #10-23 1/2 inch machine screws, the M roadster design was a different size.

Putting the shark gill Z3 design vents on the M roadster was very easy. With some gentle pushing, the five plastic tabs snapped into place. I then secured the final point with the newly acquired #10-32 1/2 inch machine screw.

Very happy with the end result, now I truly have an MZ3. I’m keeping the M roadster design (so don’t email me asking for them). Do to mood swings I see myself switching between the two different designs a couple times a year. But for now, I think of it as being an M roadster in stealth mode.

When Z3 owners were asked: Which Z3 side vent design do you prefer [106 votes total]

Z3 Shark Gills Design 61(57%)

MZ3 Classic Design 45(42%)

Clear Rear Turn Signals, Side Markers and Front Bumper Lamps

Pros: Neat looking upgrade without much cost or effort
Cons: Not sure if this is officially street legal
Cost: $135.73 (each)

BMW Part#: 63-21-2-493-616 (left), 63-21-2-493-615 (right)

This lamp replacement is more difficult than the side markers or front bumper lamps. If you do not feel handy, or if you do not own a Dremel-type tool or feel comfortable using it to cut through plastic in a small hole, you should ask your dealer to replace the tail lights for you. I’m not terribly handy, and I had never used a Dremel tool before (bought one just for this), and it took me about 2 hours to do this upgrade. If I had to do it again, I think it would take less than an hour.

The way the tail lights work on a Z3 is that there is a pod with all the bulbs in it. You must remove this pod by unscrewing the plastic knob in the center of it. Just open your trunk and you will find the pod for each tail light right inside your trunk.

Once you have unscrewed the knob, the pod will feel loose in your hands but will not immediately come out. You may need to bend back the carpet in the general area of the pod at this point. You must pull the pod straight towards the front of the car. Don’t use too much force as the pod has all the bulbs attached to it, and you don’t want to break one against the metal holes they are being pulled through.

After you have the pod loose, just lay it on the floor of the trunk. If you now lean over and look at where the pod was, you will see there are two nuts which must be undone. Use a 5/16″ wrench and they should come off easily.

You can now remove the old tail lamp lens from the rear of the car. It may feel like it won’t budge–this is because part of it that is towards the center of your trunk is trapped under the rubber seal there. Don’t worry about it– it will come loose with some force and you won’t hurt anything. I suggest banging on the bolts that you just took those nuts off of with a hammer–light to medium hits–and the cluster will start to come out. Once it has started to move, you should be able to grab the whole thing with both hands and pull straight back.

Congratulations–you are halfway done. Note the tiny bulb in this picture–and note the tiny hole in the next picture. This little bulb goes in this hole in the tail lights that came with your Z3. Apparently whatever Z3s that come with clear lenses do not use this bulb, because the little hole it goes in is sealed. What you do here is up to you–you could remove the bulb and not worry about it, or you can drill out the hole. Since I didn’t know what the bulb was for, I drilled out the hole (see next picture).

If you want to drill out the hole, use a Dremel-type tool with a drill bit and very carefully drill out the floor of the hole. Then, put on a cone-shaped sanding bit and widen the drill hole you made until it is the same diameter as the opening for the bulb. You will now have tiny plastic shavings everywhere, including inside the tail lens! Use a vacuum cleaner with a small attachment to suck out the plastic shavings. Try to seal the attachment as best as possible against the hole, and you will suck out most of the shavings. You may need to bang on the lens to loosen some of the shavings. Before vacuuming, you may wish to take the lens to the car to make sure you widened the hole enough for the bulb.

Now, you just have to put everything back together. Slide the lens into place on the back of your car. You will notice that the black plastic part of the lens towards the center of your trunk is on top of the rubber seal on your trunk. You will need to bend this seal back and work it on top of the black plastic part of the lens. When you have done this correctly, the lens will seat properly in the car.

Then, screw back on the nuts–don’t use extreme force–you don’t want to crack any plastic. Just use the wrench to screw them on until it feels like they really want to stop. You’ll have half to three quarters of an inch of the bolt sticking out past the nut.

Now, insert the tiny bulb into the hole you drilled out with the Dremel tool. Then, guide the pod with the bulbs back into place–note the holes the bulbs go into and push straight into place. You will need to adjust the carpet around the area at this point because it probably got moved out of place when you first removed the bulb pod.

Finally, screw the pod into place with the black knob, and you are done!

Replacing the side markers with clear lenses

BMW part numbers: 63-13-2-493-613 (left), 63-13-2-493-614 (right)

Push the side marker lamp towards the rear of the car. Pull out on the front of the lamp after you slide it towards the rear. It should come out without too much effort.

Once the side marker lamp is off of the car, it is easy to disconnect the wire to it. You will need to pull up slightly with your fingernail on a little clip on the connector for it to come apart easily. Be careful at this point not to drop the wire through the hole in the side of your car.

Attach the wire to the new clear side marker lamp and install the lamp in the hole in the side of your car. Start by placing the rear of the lamp in the hole first, pushing towards the rear of the car. Then, push the front of the lamp into the hole and push the whole lamp towards the front of the car to secure it. Check the rubber seal around the lamp at this point to make sure it isn’t folded or crimped under the lamp.

Replacing the front bumper marker lenses

BMW part numbers: 63-14-8-400-409 (left), 63-14-8-400-410 (right)

Push the front bumper lamp towards the front of the car. Pull out on the back of the lamp after you slide it towards the rear. You may need to exert a bit of force–I broke the plastic of one of my yellow lamps as I tried to get it out. Don’t worry–the clear ones go back in much easier.

Once the front bumper lamp is off of the car, it is easy to disconnect the wire to it. You will need to pull up slightly with your fingernail on a little clip on the connector for it to come apart easily (just like the side marker). Be careful at this point not to drop the wire through the hole in the side of your car–on my car, on the left side the wire barely made it to the hole.

Attach the wire to the new clear front bumper lamp and install the lamp in the hole in your bumper. Start by placing the front of the lamp in the hole first, pushing towards the front of the car. Then, push the rear of the lamp into the hole and push the whole lamp towards the rear of the car to secure it.

Front License Plate Holder for European Style Plates

Pros: Looks good
Cons: Some states require front license plates
Cost: $15

BMW Part Number:


I didn’t really care for the look of my Texas license plate on the front of my Z3. I tried to find a better look when I purchased a chrome front license plate holder. Then at the Z3 reunion I saw a Z3 with a European front license plate. I thought it looked really cool and was pleased to find that it was a BMW part. I thought that a front license plate was required but after driving around and looking I noticed how many here in Texas don’t have front license plates. I keep the license plate in the trunk just in case I need to prove that I still have it (and didn’t sell it).

Many have also asked me about the “roadster” plate on the front of the Z3. This is a custom made plate created by Harvey Darden. Harvey has both roadster and M roadster plates available for sale, contact him for details via email or by mailing him at 78 Dixon Street, Newnan, GA 30263.

Chrome Front License Plate

Pros: Easy and Cheap
Cons: Flat design where the stock one is bend with the bumper
Cost: $15

This is a simple $15 upgrade if you are looking to add more chrome to your Z3. The existing black plastic license plate frame and this chrome frame are direct replacements. The BMW part number is on the lower license plate.