Clear Windscreen

Pros: Better visibility, Good at blocking wind, Cost, Blocks/reflects sound, Makes installing the boot cover easier
Cons: Blocks access to rear storage area (for those without the subwoofer), Blocks access to the area behind the rear console when the top is up.
Cost: $85 includes shipping (fromwww.roadster.8m.com)

My first Z3 was a 1997 1.9, and one of the first “accessories” I wanted was a windscreen to cut down on the amount of back draft that was hitting the back of my head. My desire for the windscreen was greater than my patients when I learned that BMW’s windscreen was available in Germany but not in the US. Even the Atlantic ocean could not keep me away from that windscreen, I had a Z3 owner in Germany purchase the windscreen from his BMW dealership and mail it to me.

Once that 1st windscreen was installed I was forever a windscreen fan. However when I traded in that 1997 1.9 for a 1998 3.2 the old windscreen wouldn’t work with the new Z3 because of the roll-hoop rollbars. BMW had a new windscreen for the roll-hoops, so without hesitation I purchased the new BMW windscreen when I ordered the car. The new design didn’t stop wind as well as the original design but it was good enough and since the only other alternative was no windscreen at all it was a easy purchase decision.

I’ve spent over a year with the BMW roll-hoop windscreen, and I have to admit that a year later I’m concerned about the amount of wear the BMW windscreen is showing. In some places the black material has faded to a yellowish brown, it appears to be sagging in the middle and the single support rod that runs inside the top of the windscreen has torn the material in a couple places. It still functions as well as it did when it was brand new but it is starting to look worn and ugly (at least to this owner).

As luck would have it another windscreen option opened up for me. A Z3 owner named JD was contemplating purchasing the BMW windscreen, but there were some aspects of the BMW windscreen that he didn’t care for. After a discussion on the Z3 message board JD set out to make a clear Plexiglas windscreen on his own. When word spread of his clear windscreen plans several other Z3 owners expressed an interest in his efforts. One thing led to another and now JD is in the windscreen business. After watching the $100~$150 BMW windscreen wear over the first year I decided to try JD’s clear windscreen.

Installation

Before long a long slender box was waiting for me on my doorstep. JD shipped the box well labeled as fragile to ensure the safety of the contents inside.

When I opened the box I found instructions, six Velcro straps, some foam padding and a Plexiglas windscreen with protective tape around it. The instructions informed me that this was version 5, an improvement over the previous version in which some modification were made to the shape to improve its abilities as a windscreen. The instructions also walked me through the brief assembly and installation.

Note: With the instructions below, the text in red is from the original instructions that came with the windscreen. The additional black text are my own comments in relation to that step.

Remove protective paper by carefully peeling it off.

This takes a little longer than you would think it would. The protective backing is stuck onto the glass but peels off cleanly. Be careful around the edges of the Plexiglas because it can be sharp.

Take one of the short pieces of the protective rubber tape and place it 1/8 inch away from the edge of the windscreen. Start from the outside edge and work it around the curve. Finish it off in the center

Included in the instructions is a template, you can lay the clear windscreen over the paper template and it will show you were to install the rubber padding.

Now do the same on the other side.

Make sure the curve of the tape is even and smooth. This tape serves as a cushion between the windscreen and the roll-hoops.

Insert the straps with the soft fuzz on the inside so that it will face the roll hoop.

There is no more soft fuzzy side. JD improved the strap design, the new design is stronger and easier to work with.

Do the same for all the strap locations. Straps need only to overlap about 3/4″ to be secure. They may seem a bit tight at the bottom location.

The windscreen is held in place with three straps per side, one of the straps is longer than the other two and the longer strap is for the lower part of the inner support.

Position the windscreen in front of the roll hoops and behind the seats. It may help to move the seats forward for access.

The bottom of the windscreen has a foam/rubber padding on it so you can rest the windscreen on the top of the rear storage area. However after properly installed the top edge of the windscreen should follow the curve of the roll-hoops and leave a gap at the bottom of the windscreen.

Secure the straps around the roll hoops. Put a slight amount of tension on it, especially at the lower strap so that it bows in just a little. This will eliminate any vibration.

You can “scoot” the straps around so that the end of the overlap edge is up in the cutout portion. That gives it a much neater appearance. To eliminate the static build up and also to clean your windscreen, periodically apply one of the many brands of plastic cleaners. Do not use any abrasive cleaners on the plastic.

Once the windscreen was installed my initial reaction was positive, however I wanted to wait before making up my mind. I decided to give this new windscreen a couple months and then record my feelings about it rather than make any snap judgements. There were a couple upcoming Z3 events so I knew I could get other’s opinions as well.

Long Term Update

After the initial installation JD contacted me and said he was working on some different straps to secure the windscreen in place. The original straps I had received with the windscreen were solid Velcro with differing material on the two sides, the straps worked well for me but JD was concerned that the straps might not hold out well over time.

JD tried a couple different straps before coming up with the ones pictured to the right. The new straps hold the windscreen firmly in place and appear to be well constructed.

Since there are now two windscreen designs available for those Z3’s with roll-hoop rollbars, it only makes since to compare the two designs against each other. Each design has its strengths and weaknesses, the following is a discussion on each aspect of a windscreen and how the two compare against each other.

Cost

The BMW windscreen usually sells for around $150 from the average BMW dealership. You can mail order the BMW design for roughly $108 including shipping. JD charges $85 for his design and that price includes shipping. At least for me the BMW design started showing a lot of wear and tear after the first year. We’ll have to wait to see how the Clear Windscreen holds up but currently it appears to be doing fine.

Ability to decrease the wind turbulence

Comparing the two designs I can tell that there are differences. At times the BMW design seems to do better on really windy days, especially with strong side gusts. However I think on the average day the Clear windscreen might stop more wind. Its really too close to tell both do an adequate job.

Rearward Visibility

Personal preference is going to make this different for different individuals, but for me I prefer the increased rearward visibility that the clear windscreen offers. The BMW mesh windscreen is harder to look through which has its advantages and disadvantages.

At night the BMW design decreases the light that comes from the headlights of cars behind you, but in general I always felt a little blind at night with the BMW windscreen. On the positive side, the BMW mesh windscreen can also function as a sun shade if you park your car facing away from the sun. In regard to rearward visibility this is where the two windscreen designs differ the most, some will prefer the increased rearward visibility with the Clear windscreen, some will prefer the privacy and decreased visibility of the BMW windscreen.

Cabin Noise

Although not intended in its design, the clear windscreen also seems to change some of the acoustical characteristic of the Z3 interior. The solid Plexiglas appears to function as a sound wall that blocks some of the road noise coming from the rear of the car while also reflecting some of the stereo sound back into the middle of the cockpit.

Access to rear storage area (for those without the HK subwoofer)

The BMW windscreen is designed to rest against the back side of the rear compartment. The advantage to this design is that those Z3 owners that don’t have the HK stereo have a storage area back here and can lift the lid while the windscreen is installed. The version 5 Clear Windscreen blocks access to this storage area since it installs over the lid. However if you have a Z3 with one of these storage areas JD makes another design (version 4) that rests on the back side of the roll-hoops allowing the storage compartment to be opened.

Installation

Both windscreens can be installed and uninstalled somewhat easily. The BMW design uses clips that snap the windscreen in place holding it down over the roll-hoop rollbars. The clear windscreen uses six Velcro straps to tie the windscreen to the front of the rollbars. If you use the BMW boot cover the BMW windscreen interferes with the rearward snaps making installation more difficult. The clips on the BMW windscreen can also come in contact with the clear plastic window when the convertible top is lowered/folded. Some owners have reported scratches in the clear window from the BMW windscreen clips. The clear windscreen’s installation does not come close to the lowered/folded convertible top.

I guess the bottom line is that I like JD’s Clear windscreen design over the BMW design. For me the important facts are (a) it blocks wind just as good, (b) costs less than the BMW windscreen, (c) gives me better rearward visibility and (d) should last longer than the BMW design. I now own both windscreens and have decided to use the clear windscreen for these reasons. There might be times when I go back to the BMW design but for the majority of the time the clear windscreen is now standard equipment on my Z3.