Cleaning the Conforti Air Intake System

I’m a big fan of the Conforti Air Intake System, since installation the unit has not given me any trouble and has offered great performance (plus it sounds good). But the time had come to clean the filter. Thankfully cleaning this air intake is nowhere near as involved as cleaning the dinan air intake.

I simply unscrewed the bracket around the filter and then gave the filter a light tug. Once removed, I beat the dust off the filter with my hand then used water to flush it clean. I let it sit awhile to dry, then sprayed some more of that dust catching spray that came with the Conforti kit on the filter and reinstalled it. Later I was informed that soap and water is the recommended cleaning method.

While the filter was drying I looked at the area under the filer, there was a lot of sand and debris in there so I used a shop vac to clean up the area. Once everything was back together I went for a drive to see how much more power I could feel…. couldn’t tell a bit of difference, oh well cleaner is better anyway.

Conforti/Shark Air Intake System

Pros: Factory appearance,improved performance,great sound
Cons: Slightly tricky installation
Cost: $449 plus shipping from Eurosport High Performance

Shark Intake

Publishing product reviews on the MZ3.Net is beginning to take on a life of its own! After I posted a complimentary article on Jim Conforti’s OBDII Performance Reprogram I received an e-mail from Josh MacMurray, head man at Eurosport High Performance in Salt Lake City. Eurosport is one of Conforti’s two national distributors, and Josh invited me to review Jim’s new Shark Air Intake System. I don’t need much prompting to try out the latest wrinkle on my M Roadster, and since I had already reviewed the ECIS Evolution Air Intake System I was anxious to see if the Shark Intake lives up to the great comments which have been appearing on the BMW bulletin boards. Eurosport arranged to ship me the appropriate system for my M Roadster, and the system arrived several days later carefully packed in styrofoam pellets with individual components of the system sealed in foil or plastic envelopes. Very neat!

The intake system consists of a molded plastic shield, an intake pipe with O-ring and clamps, an ITG Maxogen foam intake filter with a spray can of retention oil, plus all of the clamps, seals and fasteners required to complete the installation. The included instruction sheet is a model of clarity and features photos of critical steps in the removal of the stock air box and the installation of the Shark system. My first installation attempt ended almost before it began when I got too muscular with one of the intake pipe clamps and broke it off of the pipe. I e-mailed Eurosport and they responded immediately, overnighting a replacement intake pipe assembly. Comforting to know they’re ready to help out even the most ham handed! Josh MacMurray tells me that they have experienced about a three percent breakage rate for this part, a rate which they consider much too high, and have redesigned the clamp attachment point. The redesigned intake pipe should be available by the time this article is posted.

Given the new pipe, I completed the installation. Casual mechanics should have no problem with this 30-45 minute procedure as long as they pay attention to step 10 of the instructions which says in part; “Install the shield. Sounds simple, but it will require a little patience and wiggle technique.” Indeed!! If I hadn’t been forewarned, I might well have thought they sent me the wrong shield. But by applying “a little patience and wiggle technique” the shield did slip into place as promised. Once in place, the shield is fastened to existing mounting points, no drilling or fabrication required. I got a little nervous when the install was complete and I discovered that I had a few small parts left over, but a quick review of the instructions revealed that Conforti includes parts necessary for all versions of the six cylinder Z3, which vary in detail model to model.

Jim C has obviously gone to a lot of trouble to design a system which maintains a factory appearance under the hood. The black plastic intake pipe attaches to the mass air sensor with factory-like spring clamps and the black shield, with its seal, looks very much like the electronics bay next to the firewall on the right side of the engine compartment. The hose clamp which secures the ITG filter to the intake pipe appears to be identical to the BMW clamp which secures the rubber air duct to the back of the mass air sensor, and the ITG filter itself has a really businesslike look with black foam filter and aluminum trumpet. Very attractive! Not to enter into any ITG vs. K&N controversies, but a non-automotive friend of mine thought my own K&N looked like a pink lampshade. I’ve been reading posts on the BMW bulletin boards from lots of K&N owners who are switching to ITG just to improve under hood cosmetics. Additionally, the ITG is claimed to provide superior filtration ability, especially of harmful particles in the 10 to 20 micron range, and exceptional dust load up tolerance; the ability to absorb large amounts of dust without reducing air flow capacity

Road test time! On a brisk run on local farm roads my butt dyno senses a definite performance improvement, particularly at higher RPMs, accompanied by a subtle shriek approaching redline. Though I don’t have access to a dyno, several dyno runs on late model M3s equipped with the Shark Intake have appeared on the net. Eurosport provides a dyno sheet in Adobe Acrobat format, but to save time here’s the Eurosport Dyno Run as a .jpg file. Boston Performance Group, Inc. has also posted a comprehensive E36 Intake Shootout on their web site, including dyno runs, and both sources validate my butt dyno impressions (Editors Note: Web link removed, web page was no longer valid). If you’re buying the Shark Intake, seriously consider getting Jim C’s OBDII Performance Reprogram at the same time. The Conforti reprogram is great value and is optimized for use with the Shark Intake. The combination is my candidate for leading bang-for-the-buck performance enhancement for your Z3.

Conforti OBDII Performance Reprogram

Pros: Smoother, quicker, new hard-edged sound
Cons: So-so documentation, four days downtime
Cost: $399 from Turner Motorsport

There may be little that the participants in the web’s BMW bulletin boards agree on, but one product which seems to receive almost unanimous approval is Jim Conforti’s line of Landshark chips and OBDII programs, so I decided to give Jim’s reprogram a try on my M Roadster. Jim’s Bonneville Motor Werkes doesn’t deal directly with the public, but he has appointed several national retailers to handle his products. Because of their excellent web page, I decided to order from Turner Motorsport. Though I could have ordered on line, I chose to call their 800 number so I could ask some questions about the process. The idea of sending my expensive DME off to be tinkered with filled me with dread! The customer representative I spoke to was very helpful and I was happy with the answers I received, so I placed my order. Two days later I received my shipping kit; DME removal instructions, an upgrade checklist, a shipping label and a static-free bag. Note that the DME is shipped direct to Jim in Utah not to Turner Motorsport in Massachusetts. When I placed my order, I was told to insure my shipment for the replacement value of the DME, $1200, but the shipping documents made no mention of this. Also, Turner’s web site says that shipments must arrive in Utah on Tuesday so that Jim can reprogram Tuesday night and return ship on Wednesday. This restriction was not mentioned either. Considering that your car won’t run until you get the DME back, I think that both these considerations should be clearly stated in the documents which accompany the shipping kit.

The removal instructions provided were, frankly, not very impressive; a simple line drawing and three brief steps of instruction. Fortunately, the job is relatively easy and I was able to remove the DME in minutes. The only hangup was a two prong plug just behind the DME, not mentioned in the instruction sheet, which needed to be unplugged before I could get enough slack in the wiring harness to fully remove the DME from it’s enclosure. The process is as follows:

Locate DME enclosure just in front of the passenger side fire wall Loosen cover by unscrewing three cross point screws.

Remove cover, then unplug small two prong connector behind DME Carefully lift wiring harness high enough to lift DME

Remove DME completely from enclosure Extend metal lock tab and remove connector

Once the connector is removed from the side of the DME, place the DME in the provided static free bag and prepare for shipment. The DME should be accompanied by your copy of the sales receipt and the completed upgrade checklist. The DME is well protected by it’s metal enclosure so only minimal padding is required for safe shipment. I sent my overnight shipment out on Monday and, as promised, received it back on Thursday. Installation is just the opposite of the removal, and the car fired up at the first turn if the key. Whew!! My first brief drive, down to the corner and back, immediately impressed me with the new hard-edged authority of the engine sound. After rechecking that the wiring harness was properly installed, I replaced and tightened the cover on the DME enclosure, then took the car out for a longer run.

Once the engine was thoroughly warmed up, I let it fly on a local back road. Response was immediate, almost as if the accelerator pedal was wired direct to the tach. Crisp, clean response with no flat spots or hesitations right up to the new 7000 rpm limit. In deference to my life and my license I didn’t check the top speed limiter, but I’m sure the M-ster will now come close to pegging its 160 mph speedometer. Popping smooth shifts is child’s play because the revs drop off more readily when the accelerator is released and, if you indulge, heel and toeing is much easier because the engine revs up so much more freely with the clutch disengaged. And all the while this electric wail from engine! I can’t swear it’s really quicker, but who cares? It feels positively supercharged. The car is so much more fun to drive that it’s hard to understand why BMW doesn’t tune it this way to begin with. After all of my fears, the process turned out to be quite painless and the result is worth far more than the cost. The only downside I can see is the incomplete documentation…and, of course, you can’t drive your bimmer for four days. Do it!!

UPDATE: April 15, 2000

Just two days after this article was first published on the MZ3.Net, I received an e-mail from a reader, Tom Leath, to let me know that Turner Motorsport is now performing the reprogramming at their facility and are promising that your DME will be returned on the same day it is received. The result is a three day turnaround rather than the four days I mentioned in my original article. Tom later let me know that he had sent his DME to Turner and that it was returned in three days, as promised. More recently, Turner has announced the May release of Jim Conforti’s “Shark Injector,” a handheld reprogramming device which will permit late model Bimmer owners to reprogram their own cars without removing the DME, and may be used again later to reload the performance reprogram if your dealer should return your DME to the factory program. Amazingly, this device will cost the same as the reprogram, $399. This thing sounds like the real deal! Check the Turner Motorsport web page for information and ordering instructions.