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.

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Chrome Grill Kit

Pros: Looks great, Very solid, 1-2 hours to install (depending on how anal you are)
Cons: Pricey for a vanity upgrade, Adventuresome ordering and shipping process
Cost: $95.00 from MG Racing & Tuning

Most of the upgrades to my Z have been either to make it go faster, louder, or handle better, but not really to change its physical appearance. OK, so the wheels are very noticeable, but they were justified as a handling upgrade. Anyway, for no apparent reason I decided to spice up the grill area. I called all three Houston area BMW dealers to get a price and delivery date on the MY2k chrome grill, and received answers of: “Huh?”; “they don’t make those”; “the grills haven’t changed”; and so on. I decided to order the chrome grill insert kit from MG Racing & Tuning instead.

MG Racing & Tuning is an unusual business. Based in St. Maarten, N.A., they are a small company that sources cool parts for cool cars from all over the world, and sells them over the Internet. It can be a slow, tedious process, due to the weird Caribbean telephony, parts delays, and service and attitude problems with their US shipper. Giampiero, owner of MG Racing & Tuning is an honest guy, and will shoot straight with you. The problem is making contact. The best method is via eMail, and then Giampiero will call you back. I had initial problems with the ordering process, due to my extremely impatient nature, but Giampiero made it right. I would order from MG Racing & Tuning again.

I placed my order and 24 days later it arrived. The kit is packaged nicely, and the English instructions were a pleasant surprise. These would be important later. The instructions would have you install the slats with the grill on the car, but I decided to remove the grill assemblies to clean them thoroughly. Besides, it was hot as hell that day, and I wanted to work inside. Please note that if you want to work with the grills out, you will need to remove the chrome trim ring to help align the slats. One side note, I was very disappointed to see that the “chrome” trim ring on the Z3 is a cheap piece of chromed plastic. For BMW, happiness is cutting corners.

To remove the grills, I simply gave them 2-3 whacks with the palm of my hand, and they popped right out. No problem. The chrome trim rings had some sticky foam/tape inside of them (they’re hollow, too), but they pulled off as well. The car now had a toothless look to it, and a huge amount of wax build-up that I cleaned away. With grills in hand I went inside to work.

I gave the grills a nice bath in the kitchen sink with some Maguiars. I didn’t wash the trim rings that way, since I didn’t want to get the foam/tape wet. Next came the tape. The kit supplies exactly enough double sided tape to put two pieces on each grill fin to receive a slat. Simple enough. Where I made my mistake was applying the first slat without having the trim ring in place as a guide. As a result on a trial fitting, the slat was too high, so I had to remove it, snap the trim ring in place, and then put on the rest of the slats. They went on pretty easily, especially when I followed the instructions advice to use a little soapy water to ease the fitting. A few of the slats were spread too wide, but a little squeezing made them fit perfectly. I would imagine that installing the slats is easier with the grill off the car, since you can press them into place from overhead. Whichever way you do it, you may want to wear some gloves, as it can be pretty rough on the thumbs after eighteen slats.

Each slat has a number and letter to signify its position. It works best if you orient the box (where the slats are in proper order) and the grill the same way to make sure the slat and fin locations are matching. Once I finished, I popped the trim rings off the grills, and was ready to reinstall them on the car. The grills now weighed about two pounds each – very substantial.

Reinstalling the grill assemblies on the car was the worst part (another argument for installing them on the car to begin with) due to the fact that the hood hydraulics wanted to lift the hood past the optimal working position. Also, the rings had to be stretched a little bit to clear the grill slats. But, after fifteen minutes of work, the grills were on the car, and looked fantastic.

A week later I am still amazed by the appearance of the grills as they are simply dazzling in the bright sunshine, and complement the Boston Green paint very nicely. While this is purely a vanity upgrade, it is one I’d recommend if you are in the market for such a look. About the only thing I’d do differently is to install the slats with the grill on the car.

Hamann Chrome Rollhoops

Sold By:

MG Racing

http://www.mgracing.an/

800-788-1281

M Roadster Trunk Organizer

Using Carter’s instructions I installed the BMW trunk organizer installed in my previous Z3. I used the trunk organizer to store the BMW manual and many other assorted items. I grew quite fond of it and considered it a well spent $90.

Now I own BMW’s M roadster, and the trunk lid in the M roadster has an additional liner installed that interferes with the installation of the BMW trunk organizer (part number 82-11-1-470-187). The liner can be uninstalled quite easily since it is only held in place by four plastic screw like connectors. A quarter turn on each of these fasteners and the liner can be quite literally pulled off. However I liked the way the liner looked and wanted the best of both worlds, so I started looking for a way to have both the liner and the trunk organizer installed.

Once the liner was removed I laid the organizer on top of it to take this picture. This was the “look” I was after, I just had to figure out how to do it. The back of the organizer has two sided tape but there was no way the tape would hold/stick against the liner. I had seen a picture of a trunk organizer than had been sewn onto the liner. This sounded like a good idea but I knew I couldn’t sew through the hard plastic backside of the organizer with a needle and thread. I didn’t want to take the time or pay the expense to have an upholstery shop do it, so I came up with another solution.

The liner itself is form molded to fit the contours of the trunk. I did some measuring and found that if I followed the edge of one of the moldings (shown with a red line) it made the perfect pattern for what needed to be cut out. The theory I was going on is that if I cut a hole in the liner I can install the trunk organizer just like in Carter’s instructions. Then I could add the liner and the trunk organizer would slip through the hole I cut out for it.

So with a brave and steady hand I took an exacto razor to the liner following the molded line in the liner. The exacto razor worked well as the liner cut more like paper or cardboard then fabric. While the razor wasn’t cutting all the way through the fabric, I found that bending the fabric along that cut made the cutout area practically snap off clean. I was initially worried about fraying or soft uneven edges but the material made the cut very clean and sharp. I messed up one curve because I was pressing to hard with the exacto and deviated from the line I was trying to follow. This slight imperfection can be seen in the finished installation so I recommend a light and easy touch when cutting the material.

Once the hole was cut out I test fitted everything, looking at the back side of the liner and organizer everything looked good. At this point I took the trunk organizer and installed it using Carter’s instructions. Then once the organizer was installed, I then installed the liner and was pleased to see the organizer cleanly slide through the cutout area in the liner.

The finished installation matched the “look” I was after. The tape is holding the trunk organizer to the metal panel on the trunk lid (just like it was designed to). And the liner covers over the exposed metal areas around the organizer. The one imperfection can be seen below the right (passenger side) pocket. You can just make out the arctic silver paint through the gap that my overzealous razor left. However despite that one flaw I am pleased with the final results.

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Digital Temperature Gauge

In my old 1.9 Z3, I had the on-board computer which told all sorts of interesting things such as estimated range, average speed, and outside temperature. Call me strange, but with my new M roadster I miss that. I miss the 400 mile trips during winter in the dead of night with the top down, watching the temperature fall to below freezing, with the reassurance that yes, I was out of my mind.

On the Euro-spec M roadsters, they get an outside temperature gauge. According to rumor, it doesn’t work that well. Besides, to add that to my US-spec M roadster would cost more than $200, which I don’t have. I finally found a digital temperature gauge that met most of my needs, RadioShack part number 63-1023. They offer 2 different temperature gauges for cars, this is the better one (and more expensive, about $20).

The good things about this gauge are that it displays both the inside and outside temperature at the same time, it records the highest and lowest temperature, and it has a nice electro-luminescent backlight. On the down side, the LCD is hard to see from some angles, the backlight only stays on for 3 seconds when the button is pressed, and it uses batteries instead of car power. But altogether, it’s the best one I’ve seen anywhere.

The first thing I did was add a black sticker to the front that covers up the “RadioShack” name. It’s a small thing, but call me anal-retentive. Next, I went out and bought a radar detector windshield mount. I decided the best place for me to put the gauge was above the rear-view mirror, on the driver’s side. I had to be careful about the angle I placed the gauge at, since from some angles it’s hard to see. Once I had the angle figured out, I had to cut the detector mount down to the right size.

Next, it’s time to do something destructive. Cut the lead for the external probe halfway between the display unit and the probe itself. You will need to attach some extra wire to make things work. The place I placed the probe was up in the front bumper, behind where the front license plate goes. I took the black mounting bracket that comes with the gauge, removed the rubber piece, and superglued the mounting bracket in place. Next, I connected some more wire to the probe piece and ran them into the passenger compartment.

In the cockpit on the passenger side, underneath the glove compartment there is a piece of plastic held in place by 3 plastic screws. Remove this piece of plastic by turning the screws a half turn and removing them, then the plastic piece slides out. You should be able to see a rubber grommet by the speaker grill.

On the inside of the engine compartment you should be able to see the other side of it. Run the wires for the temperature probe through this hole, you should be able to push the rubber grommet aside enough to get the wires through. I then attached one side of a plastic 2-lead connector to the wires I ran through the hole. Don’t forget to use lots of nylon wire wraps to hold things in place in the engine compartment.

You can see (kind of) how I ran the wires along the passenger side of the engine compartment. Now it’s time to remove the plastic covering the inside of the pillars. To remove the side coverings, simply “pop” them off. I would recommend using a screwdriver with the tip covered by a towel (to prevent marring the surface) and wedge it in the top, then pull down. These should come off with a nice “pop”. You need to do both sides. Next, you need to remove the top frame covering. The clear plastic around the dome light gets scratched very easily, so please be careful (it’s white plastic under the paint, so it really shows when it’s marked up. The clear plastic pops off, try prying from the drivers side – that side is supposed to come off first. Then remove the light bulb assembly, it also pops out. Once again, be careful not to mark up the paint. Next, remove both visors, you will need a torx screwdriver. Then remove the one remaining torx screw that holds the top piece in place, it’s behind where the light assembly was. Last, just pull up to remove the covering.

Now it’s time to start placing things where they go. Use some superglue to attach the gauge to the radar mount, and be sure to let it dry thoroughly. Place it on the windshield in the proper location, and run the wires where they would need to go (you will have to attach more wire, the gauge only comes with 10 feet of wire and much more than that is needed. You will be running it along the top of the pillar and down the sides, next to the glove compartment. Once down there, attach the other end of the nylon 2-lead connector.

Now, just plug the connector in, replace the plastic piece below the glove compartment and put the molding back in place along the pillar and you are all set! Not quite as good as a factory installation but it does the job.

Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

Chrome Stereo Trim

Before Look close the difference is subtle, but with the chrome surround around the stock stereo all the gauges and radio finally look like they belong together.

Its been bugging me since I first got the M, but MG Racing solves the problem with this $63.90 part.

After

Just like the chrome door speaker trim this chrome part uses the ultra sticky 3M tape to secure itself to the stock radio. There are two important things to remember when adding anything that uses this tape. The first rule is clean, clean, clean, clean… Using rubbing alcohol I cleaned the face of the radio and was surprised how much gunk I cleaned off. The reason for the through cleaning is so the 3M tape sticks to the radio and not just the dirt on the radio.

The second rule is to get everything hot, the glue in the 3M tape is activated by heat. I used a hair dryer to get the face of the radio and the backside of the chrome part really hot (almost to hot to hold). When the part is this hot the orange backing tape will start to wrinkle and peel a little. At that time take the tape off and C A R E F U L L Y line up the part before sticking it onto the radio.

I really like the look, but I think I got the part just slightly off center to the left (probably something only an owner would notice). The chrome part does have a top and a bottom to it, the bottom is thinner than the top so it will fit in the narrow area below the station selection buttons. The only downside I see to this upgrade is that it covers the tiny access doors you would use if you ever need to remove the radio.

Sold By:

MG Racing

http://www.mgracing.an/

800-788-1281

Chrome Lighted Shift Knob

Since you can never have enough chrome in an M Roadster (open to debate, perhaps) I decided to add the BMW chrome gearshift knob. However, if I did that I would loose that cool lighting effect from the stock gearshift knob. I decided to try and make a chrome lighted gearshift knob.

You will need to remove the standard shift knob. Lift the cover up around it (it’s just held in place by small tabs on the side), and find the connectors for the wires leading to the knob. Disconnect these and simply pull straight up on the knob. It’s tight, but it should come off. Be careful not to hit yourself while pulling it up.

The first thing I did was to take apart the stock knob to see how it worked. It’s really just 3 tiny LEDS and a resistor under a knob emblem that let’s light shine through. Since BMW does not sell this emblem as a separate piece, you will need the one from the stock knob. Put your fingernail under the edge and simply pry up. It’s held on by double-sticky tape and should come off easily. Be careful not to scratch either side. Also important, the “silver” look of the numbers is not really paint. It’s some sort of dust that very easily wipes off. Do not get your finger anywhere near it, or you’ve just ruined the emblem.

The next thing you will need is the wire connector off the standard gearshift knob. Cut the wires (but leave some space to work with). I choose to get some nylon connectors from a local electronics store and solder it on the end of the BMW connector. That way I can still take my knob off without dealing with the BMW connector (which is a little big and won’t come off though the hole in the cover that easily).

Now it’s time to work on the chrome knob (which you need to purchase, of course). You need to get the emblem off without scratching the knob itself. The knob itself is covered in some sort of thin film that protects the metal (which is very soft). If you scratch the knob, it will look BAD. So don’t do that *smile*. The emblem is held on by the same double-sticky tape, but lots more or it. The best way I found is to use a dremel and drill directly into the center of the emblem with the dremel screw-like attachment, then yank the emblem off. Remove the remaining double-sticky tape, but save it – you will need it later.

Under the emblem you will find a little hole which is almost the right size. If you were to put the M emblem over this hole, the “R” and the “5” would not light up, because the hole isn’t big enough. Carefully grind the edges away where those two spaces would be (i.e. instead of a round hole, you would create a hole that looked like it had mickey-mouse ears). You don’t need to go very deep, long enough so that light can shine through. Now look at the underside of the knob. Inside you will see a couple horizontal plastic bars that hold the knob in place and keep it from spinning around. Through the center of the knob (in the hole on the top) drill out a vertical line that intersects the horizontal bar. Go all the way through till it’s completely open. You are almost done at this point.

Go back to your car. Figure out where that horizontal bar would go (it’s plainly obvious). Now cut (grind, actually) a small groove down one side of the stick. It doesn’t need to be very big, but you need something to run the wires in. On the stock knob, the wires actually run along the outside of the knob, but with the chrome knob we can’t do that so we need this grove. It won’t affect the functionality at all, there’s still PLENTY of metal left. When I did this, I took a vacuum and left it up close to where I was grinding to keep all the particles from spraying through the inside of my car.

Back to the chrome knob. Take some very small gauge wire (I used the individual strands of a telephone wire) cut two 18″ pieces. One one side, solder an LED to it. I used a jumbo orange LED from radio shack, their part number is 276-206 and the color matches the rest of the car pretty well. On the other end of one of the wires solder a 470 ohm resistor. Then solder on the mating end of the connector that you soldered on the BMW connector.

Go back to the car. Thread the connector attached to the knob through the leather shifter cover, and place the cover back on the car. Now carefully place the chrome knob on the car. Line up the wires in the groove you cut and on the top have the wires come out next to the horizontal bar (i.e. the LED [attached to the wires] still isn’t in it’s final position, it’s sticking out further). If you did everything right, the knob should be in position and on tightly, but if you hold both ends of the wires you can gently slide the LED back and forth. Pull on the wires until the LED is flush in the hole.

Lastly, you need to put a diffuser and the emblem back on. For a diffuser, you can use the white plastic one from the stock shifter, or simply cut a piece of white paper in the appropriate size. Use that double sticky tape you saved earlier to put the emblem back on. Re-connect the wires and put the leather cover back in place, and you are all set!

Another thing to watch out for is to test-fit the emblem into the chrome knob. I’ve had two different knobs, in one the M emblem fit just fine, but in the other I had to slightly grind the emblem down to get it to fit. Also, be careful not to push too hard getting the emblem in place, it CAN crack internally and have ugly white lines running through it. In direct sunlight, the knob can get VERY hot – so you may want a pair of driving gloves. And the wires you use to connect the LED can get damaged very easy, so if you take the knob off again you may want to plan to replace those wires.

All in all, I’m happy with my unique shift knob!

1998 Best Owner Designed Product Award

In choosing the nominations for this award MZ3.Net decided that each nominated product needed to be a unique addition and/or upgrade for the BMW Z3. The product must be created by a Z3 owner and marketed by that owner to other Z3 owners. Most importantly, the product needed to receive positive feedback from the general Z3 audience.

Using these guidelines, MZ3.Net nominated six products and then asked its readers the following question…. “There have been several third party accessories made for the BMW Z3. What in your opinion is the best BMW Z3 owner designed product of the year?”.

The six nominations were….

Kathy’s Z Window Pillow, which helped keep the rear plastic window from getting crease/fold marks.

Greg’s Chrome Kidney grills, which added an additional flash of chrome to the vertical slats in the front kidney grill.

Keith’s Atomic Cupholder, initially cut from PVC pipe, the design was so good it was later sold to HMS motorsport.

Bill’s Bike Rack, because only a custom job would work with the Z3 bumper.

Carter’s Roadster Tonneau, which quickly covers the Z3 interior while leaving the top down.

Keith’s StoneGuards, which were thin magnetic strips designed to protect the rear fender flares from rock chips.

Voting went on for several months and ended on December 31, 1998. While all the nominations were outstanding products, in the end the voting revealed a clear winner.

StoneGuards 95(32%)
Roadster Tonneau 71(24%)
Chrome Kidney Grills 48(16%)
Atomic Cupholder 29(9%)
Z Window Pillow 27(9%)
Bike Rack 21(7%)

///MZ3.Net would like to thank all its readers for participating in the voting and congratulate all the nominations. The 1998 Best Owner Designed Product Award to Keith Shelburn for his Magnetic Stone Guards.

Chrome Ringed Shift Boot

Pros: Easy Installation, Perfect Fit, Great Look
Cons: Shift boot tie string
Cost: $95

With the introduction of the M roadster, BMW showed 1.9 and 2.8 Z3 owners how a chrome ringed shift boot would look in the Z3 interior. It gave the Z3 interior a more retro look, some liked the retro look, some did not. Those 1.9, 2.3 and 2.8 that liked the look were left longing for the same addition to their Z3.

Unfortunately the standard Z3 shift boot is different than the M roadster shift boot. A direct replacement using BMW parts was not possible unless the owner replaced the entire Z3 center console with the center console from the M roadster. To do this would cost over $500 plus several hours of labor, so for most this was not a viable alternative.

However an aftermarket replacement is now available from MG Racing that is a direct drop in replacement specifically designed for the 1.9, 2.3 and 2.8 Z3. To swap the stock shift boot with this chrome one all the Z3 owner has to do is pull off the shift knob, loosen the shift boot (its just clipped down) and remove it.

The replacement drops snuggly right into its place and secures tightly with a set-screw. The fit was very precise and the entire installation took less than 5 minutes. The new shift boot has a draw-string tie that is used to tighten the leather just below the shift knob.

In many ways this aftermarket replacement is ever better than the M roadster chrome shift boot. This one is real metal rather than plastic. The screws around the chrome ring are cosmetic so they can be replaced with any screw design the owner would like. It comes with silver colored screws, but many might prefer black screws (to more closely match the M roadster).

The replacement will also work with the BMW wood dash, the fit is a little tighter but it will work.

Sold By:

MG Racing

http://www.mgracing.an/

800-788-1281

What is the Perfectly Equipped 2.3 Z3? Owner Survey Says….

In the United States, BMW recently stopped selling the 1.9 Z3 and with the 1999 model year started offering a new 2.3 Z3. Despite the name, the new 2.3 Z3 actually has a 2.5 liter straight six cylinder engine. To keep the base price of the new 2.3 Z3 down close to where the previous 1.9 Z3 was selling, BMW started making some features optional that used to be standard. They also saved a few dollars changing the standard tires.

The 2.3 Z3 has a base price of $30,520 (with destination), which at first seems pretty impressive considering the 1.9 Z3 had a base price of $29,995 (with destination). But then you start going through the options and realize how many there are and how expensive a 2.3 Z3 can get. Fully loaded, the MSRP on a 2.3 Z3 can climb as high as $37,430. To help future 2.3 Z3 owners evaluate the cost/benefit of all the various options, MZ3.Net polled current Z3 owners to see what they thought of the various 2.3 options and if they where worth the upgrade price. Following are the results of that survey.



Is the premium package for the 2.3 (power top, leather seats, wood trim) worth the $2000 upgrade price?  [37 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 2(5%)
Nice but too Expensive 24(64%)
Waste of Money 11(29%)

Is the power top worth the $750 upgrade price?  [49 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 6(12%)
Nice but too Expensive 9(18%)
Waste of Money 34(69%)

Is the on board computer worth the $300 upgrade price?  [44 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 12(27%)
Nice but too Expensive 17(38%)
Waste of Money 15(34%)

Is the wood console for the 2.3 worth the $400 upgrade price?  [34 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 3(8%)
Only with the Tan Interior 2(5%)
Nice but too Expensive 12(35%)
Waste of Money 17(50%)

Are the fog lights on the 2.3 worth the $260 upgrade price?  [38 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 10(26%)
Nice but too Expensive 23(60%)
Waste of Money 5(13%)

Is the in dash CD worth the $200 upgrade price?  [31 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 27(87%)
Nice but too Expensive 3(9%)
Waste of Money 1(3%)

Is the HK stereo upgrade worth the $675 upgrade price?  [35 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 3(8%)
Nice but too Expensive 12(34%)
Waste of Money 20(57%)

Are the heated seats worth the $500 upgrade price?  [48 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 29(60%)
Depends on Climate 16(33%)
Nice but Expensive 1(2%)
Waste of Money 2(4%)

Are the sport seats worth the $400 upgrade price?  [42 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 31(73%)
Nice but Expensive 8(19%)
Waste of Money 3(7%)

Are the leather seats for the 2.3 worth the $1150 upgrade price?  [38 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 8(21%)
Nice but too Expensive 24(63%)
Waste of Money 6(15%)

Is the cruise control for the 2.3 worth the $475 upgrade price?  [44 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 8(18%)
Nice but too Expensive 28(63%)
Waste of Money 8(18%)

Is the chrome trim package for the 2.3 worth the $150 upgrade price?  [35 votes total]
Worth Every Penny 14(40%)
Only with the Black Interior 7(20%)
Nice but too Expensive 2(5%)
Waste of Money 12(34%)

So from the survey results it appears the most desirable/cost conscience 2.3 Z3 would be a base model with heated sport seats, an in-dash CD, and maybe the chrome package. A Z3 equipped with these options would MSRP for only $31,770.

Not included in this survey were options like automatic transmission ($975), metallic paint ($475), and wheel upgrades ($500). Those options are more personal preference and really cannot be evaluated via a simple poll.