Pro-Road Racer Pedal Set

Pros: Great looks, much improved heel-toe
Cons: Some required hardware not supplied
Cost: $159.95, plus options, from BMP Design

A popular after market accessory among Bimmer owners is a racy looking pedal set. Most offer a cosmetic advantage only, but a pedal set I saw in BMP Design’s catalog, called the Pro-Road Racer Pedals, offers real practical benefits to drivers who pride themselves on their expert high-performance driving techniques. Unlike most sets I’ve seen, BMP’s Pro-Road Racer Pedals offer an optional heel-toe extension they call the Fast Track. In addition there is a matching dead pedal, also an option. The Pro-Road Racer set costs a not insignificant $159.95, while the Fast Track heel-toe extension is $69.95 and the dead pedal is $75.95. All are CNC machined billet aluminum, the heel-toe extension black anodized while the other pedals are in brushed finish.

For those not familiar with heel and toeing, a brief explanation. The technique is employed when entering a corner to simultaneously brake and downshift in order to put the car in the optimum gear to accelerate through and out of the corner. Smooth downshifts require raising the revs as the shift is made. With one foot on the brake and one on the clutch, a third foot would be useful to “blip” the accelerator! If you don’t have a third foot then the best you can do is to use the right foot to operate both brake and accelerator. At one time racing cars placed their accelerators between the brake and clutch and it was practical to brake with the toe while pressing the accelerator with the heel, thus the term. Now, a true heel-toe motion would require a clumsy, uncomfortable twist of the ankle. A more workable technique on modern cars is to brake with the left side of the right foot while blipping the accelerator with the right side. Assuming that you can physically span the gap between the brake and accelerator here’s how it goes. Place the left side of the right foot on the brake pedal with the right side poised over the accelerator. Depress the clutch pedal with the left foot and blip the accelerator with the right side of the right foot as you downshift, then release the clutch.

Most cars I’ve driven are almost impossible to heel and toe because the brake and accelerator pedals are too far apart and/or because the relative heights of the two pedals doesn’t permit the necessary gymnastics. Apparently BMW engineers have heel and toeing in mind when they determine pedal placement because I’ve never driven a Bimmer which wasn’t fairly easy to heel-toe. As a matter of fact I learned to heel-toe over 30 years ago on my 2002. Still, it would be helpful if the brake and accelerator on my M Roadster were closer together and if the accelerator were just fractionally closer to the same height as the brake pedal. BMP’s Fast Track heel-toe extension does both jobs.

Installation of the pedal set is straightforward. The BMP pedals are attached using provided machine screws and nuts after removing the rubber brake and clutch pedal covers and drilling the factory pedals. The clutch and accelerator are plastic and easily drilled, while the brake pedal is steel and takes a little more effort. The dead pedal is attached to the car’s plastic dead pedal cover using power-drive screws…no drilling required. It turns out that the machine screws provided with the Fast Track heel-toe extension are not long enough to pass through the Fast Track, aluminum accelerator pedal, and plastic accelerator so a quick trip to the hardware store was required. Note that the Fast Track can be installed without the aluminum pedal, if desired, and then the machine screws would be the right length.

Once installed, the new pedals really do the trick. The aluminum brake and clutch pedals are about the same thickness as the stock rubber pedal covers. At the same time, the combined extra thickness of the accelerator pedal cover and the heel-toe extension raise the height of the accelerator to just the right level for easy heel-toeing without a clumsy twist of the ankle, and the increased width of the Fast Track places the pedal right under the right side of my sole. To my eye, the new pedals add a racy new look to the foot well, though I wouldn’t spend too much time looking down there while driving. Meantime, I’ve been reacquainting myself with the heel-toe technique, honing my lost skills by doing heel-toe downshifting even at low speeds. At first I was pretty clumsy, but after a few weeks practice it’s become second nature. Even if you aren’t planning any racing activities, it’s one of the skills which add greatly to the sports car experience. Let the fun begin!

How to Build a Z3 Dual Arm Rest

With a trip to your local BMW dealership for one $25.00 part and a visit to your local Home Depot for another $20.00 in hardware you can construct this dual arm rest (uncovered) for your Z3 or ///M with simple hand tools.

This arm rest was inspired by my wife Sharon. I would be the driver, she would be the passenger and as I would raise my arm to shift she would steal the arm rest or as I would raise my arm to steer she would steal the arm rest. I decided to invent my Z3 dual arm rest. In doing so I have also come to learn that it is now possible to rest my elbow on the new arm rest while steering. This is not really possible with the OEM arm rest as it is to far away. I’m 6’4″ with long arms and people with shorter arms that have tested the dual arm rest prefer this arm position. So many thanks to my wife Sharon.

I have tried many different variations on this project and what I give you now is the best I have found to work. You have a few choices to make, such as, color of hardware and felt, painting it or dipping it and whether it is going to be leather covered by Jon Maddux at www.leatherz.com. It’s REALLY not that complicated once you read through the instructions and get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. My personal choice was brass hardware with a black felt covered forward bumper support catch that was dipped in black Plastic coat. Then sent to Jon M. at www.leatherz.com for matching tan cover with the word Roadster embroidered on it.

Generally speaking the parts will cost you anywhere from $34.00 to $42.00 depending on if you get a discount at BMW dealership, the choices you make regarding felt and plastic dip, sales taxes and what you may already have available to you. The tools on the other hand could add up to $150.00 or more. Then if you are sending it on to leatherz to be covered more $. Yeah, but it’s your “baby” right.

You will need to remove the cupholder assembly from your Z. The one in your car now is not the one we will be working on but will be replaced by the new . Note: there may be cases where the one in car is the one to be retrofitted. Anyway this is no big deal. We are talking about removing one screw or one nut and bolt. OK it is a tight spot but you can do it. There is even a great article on the www. leatherz.com site for removing the cupholder assembly. See Rachels excellent cupholder assembly instructions there.

If you are not having this leather covered (why in the world aren’t you) you may want to spray paint the top ring of the rivet nut and possibly both hinges black to match the lids. If you are doing an installation WITHOUT the rivet nut the top nut and lock washer should be painted or better yet plastic dipped black to match lids and prevent clothes catching on it. This nut REALLY bothers me especially if it’s going to be leather covered so I wish you would reconsider and do the rivet nut option.

Collecting the Parts

Start by collecting all parts and tools you will need. Here is the list.

1. Cup holder assembly BMW part # 82-11-1-469-516

2. 1 pair of 2″x 3/4″ hinges. National or simuilar with removeable pin in brass or silver (your choice). Home Depot # 218-995 (brass) # 218-979 (silver)

3. 1-Grip clip. Home Depot # 201-739, 4 to a package, only need one.

4. 1-7/8″ dia. bumper. Home Depot 3 524-062, 4 to a package,only need one. Black if you can find it but I couldn’t.

5. 1- 8″x 11″ sheet of felt (or less) with sticky back. Color of your choice. I got mine at Rag Shop in black, two sheets to a package. Home Depot -Felt Gard # 423-234. Choice of biege or brown in medium and heavy grade. I suggest medium.

6. Opinional. Plastic dip. Available at Home Depot in red, yellow and blue. I used black and got mine at local hardware and also available from Harbor Freight. This is to coat brown bumper black or cover exposed nut and lock washer in non- rivet, non-covered lid. Note: you can get away without plastic dip if you chose to leave bumper brown or paint it. But you should use it on non-nut rivet installations.

7. 1-Machine screw (1 1/2″ 10-24 thread) slotted round head in brass or silver (your choice)

8. 3- 10-24 nuts and 3- #10 lock washers (color match)

9. Loc-tite or Permatex nut lock (permanent type) only for non rivet nut installations. READ ON FOR MORE INFO ON THIS TYPE INSTALLATION.

10. Styrofoam ( the softer white that comes with everything. Not the harder flower arrangement stuff.)

***Part #’s are for reference only. Please make sure you get what is described.

Tools

* Drill

* 3/16″ and 17/64″ possibly 11/64″ drill bits

* Normal rivet gun

* package of 3/16″ with 1/4″ bite aluminum rivets

* *Rivet nut gun – This can be gotten via Harbor Freight for $20.00. It is a cheap(er) version of one that is available at Napa car stores for $114.00. Both come with the 10-24 nut rivet you will use.

* Razor knife

* Scissors

* Hacksaw with blade

For cupholder assembly removeal and installation:

* Allen wrench

* Metric or adjustable wrench

* I’ll tell you how to do it without this tool but it is much better with nut rivet!

Let’s Make It

DISCLAIMER: The writer of this article assumes no responsibility what-so-ever for this armrest. It is given to you as a do- it- yourself project and you and you alone assume ALL responsibility for it’s construction, installation and any possible damage to your vehicle in connection with it. Also note that it may be unwise or illegal to obstruct the hand/emergency brake. Again you and you alone bear full responsibility. READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS THOROUGHLY BEFORE PROCEEDING WITH THIS PROJECT.

First if your OEM arm rest has no metal rod in back for the rear lid, has only little rubber bumpers without plastic surrounding them and a rubber mat in storage compartment instead of nice soft material you have the “old style”, pre-1997, and I would highly recommend you use the new cupholder for this job. For everyone else why not use the new cupholder anyway since it’s unscratched and not in the car. Yes, you will have to remove the cupholder assembly in the car and replace with the hinged one you’ll make. I see no way to drill, align and rivet on the assembly while still in the car. It’s only one screw or one nut and bolt.

OK, Let’s begin to make YOUR Z3 dual arm rest.

If you are going to dip or paint the bumper stop DO IT NOW! Screw in 1 1/2″x 10-24 machine screw through bumper until it’s recessed under the opening and flush with bumper base. Bumper is not threaded so this will require a little force. Give bumper 2 coats of dip or paint. Try to keep dip off threads. Let dry overnight. Take lids off new assembly (un-hook o-rings). The lids in your car now will replace these on this side of cupholder assembly LATER. Remove with either a hacksaw or razor knife the lid latch tabs on both lids. Cutoff flush with lid side.

PUTTING ON HINGES

Pull the pin out of one of the hinges. Get some seperation using putty knife then use wide blade screwdriver to pry out. Align 2 barrel half with the back edge of assembly, get it lined up with lid and even with top edge. Mark holes and drill 3/16″ holes. Clean off any drilled material. Note: Line up back lid (SMALLER ONE WITH BOTH CORNERS CUT OUT) with outside edge of assembly. This gives a nice space between old and new lids. Line up hinge on lid and back of assembly. Make sure edge of hinge is even with both lid edge and assembly edge. This is very important to understand, pay close attention to this picture. First visualize that the back lid is on the top left hand side of the assembly (where I made the pen marking.) You need to line up the lid with that side in order to get space between the two armrests. Now you also need to align the hinge halfs. One on back lid and one on assembly. Take note that this hinge half is NOT centered in that assembly space so we can create that needed spacing BUT it will be centered to the matching other half of hinge. We do that by holding up the FULL hinge with lid on assembly and marking sides of top and bottom hinge. Now one more thing. When you get set to mark holes you line up hinge half with edge of assembly (this case) or in next case edge of lid. This is the model you follow for each hinge. VERY IMPORTANT!

Get rivet gun loaded with 3/16 rivet, place hinge over holes and rivet. Keep it level and flush (both assembly edge and hinge edge are flush.) **Please note these rivets touch the inside wall of the assembly when first inserted, pushing the rivet head away from hinge. With a light squeeze take up on the rivet so that it gets flush with hinge and only then finish snapping rivet. Take other 1 barrel half of that hinge and do the same to the back (2 arched cut outs) of rear (smaller) lid. Be careful to line up hinges and keep hinge and lid edges level and flush with each other

Follow the same proceedure. Remove pin from second hinge and use the 1 barrel half for the front (non arched cut out side) of rear (smaller) lid . Continue on by putting the 2 barrel half on the back (non sloped end) of the forward lid. Again be careful to line up hinges with each other and have hinge edge with lid edge and keep centered. Remember to clean off any excess drilling material. *SMALLER BACK LID SHOULD NOW HAVE A 1 BARREL HALF OF HINGE ON BOTH SIDES.

Next Step

This next step is for rivet nut installation ONLY! – Hole for and installation of nut rivet in lid

Drill 7/64″ hole in the front of front lid (large lid arch cutouts on sides) at this exact location (see picture). Hole is on the OPPOSITE side of where the arch cutout is. That is the driver side of armrest. Look at lid and you will see where rounded edge ends and flat top begins a straight line appears. Pencil (red in picture) a straight line on top of it. Do this on front edge and side edge. From front line measure in 3/8″ and place a mark and from side (non-arched side) measure in 5/8″ and place a mark. Drill a 17/64″ hole where marks meet. Clean away any drilling material. Load up rivet nut gun with 10/24 rivet nut and insert into hole, (put 10-24 nut on thread of arbor as block) squeeze nut in place. Note: I stripped 2 rivet nuts. (cheap rivet nuts??) The theaded arbor on rivet nut gun pulled right through. I suggest you thread arbor all the way through rivet nut and place a 10-24 nut on arbor thread to act as a block so arbor can not pull through. Be gentle but make sure nut is firmly in place. Feel and touch sort of thing!

This next step is for those NOT using rivet nut. – Hole for machine screw with nut on lid

Dril1 3/16″ hole in the front of front lid (large lid arch cutouts on sides) at this exact location (see picture). Hole is on the OPPOSITE side of where the arch cutout is. That is the driver side of armrest. Look at lid and you will see where rounded edge ends and flat top begins a straight line appears. Pencil (red in picture) a straight line on top of it. Do this on front edge and side edge. From front line measure in 3/8″ and place a mark and from side (non-arched side) measure in 5/8″ and place a mark. Drill a 3/16″ hole where marks meet. Note: If you have a 10-24 tap drill a 11/64″ hole instead and tap it. This will add some strength.

Felt and Grip:

Place grip onto felt and trace width of grip. Add 1/16″ to 1/8″ when you cut felt with scissors. I found it better to use one continuous strip from inside grip from bolt hole around both loops and back to other side of bolt hole (approx. 7″x 1/2″ ). Leave hole uncovered. Trace open sides (outside diameter) to exact size. Flip over grip and do other side. This makes a “butterfly” shape. One for each side. DO NOT COVER YET! Now place the grip on the Styrofoam and push grip into it to fill holes. My piece of foam was 1/4″ thick and I placed on ground and hammered on block of wood. Did this twice. This filled the cavities in grip. Cut off any extra so foam is flush with sides of grip.

Next Step

Bumper support catch for nut rivet installation:

If you have not done so already, remember dipping, thread the 1 1/2″ 10-24 machine screw through the bumper. After screw is all the way into the bumper ( screw head is recessed in bumper) put screw through hole in grip from the inside to the outside. Push bumper to be flush with grip metal. This can be very tight. You need to bend the grip a bit for bumper to get seated and you also need that bend plus a little more so grip guides onto hand brake and does not clamp it. It should have just some grip. This is a good time to test it on your hand brake. OK, now put on a #10 lock washer and 10-24 nut and tighten. Put another 10-24 nut and #10 lock washer onto screw about 3/4″ down. This is then screwed into the nut rivet on the front lid. The nut down the threads is to adjust height of arm rest to match other and then tightened to lock in place. ** You do not send this to Jon M. Put aside with your hinge pins. Remember where you put them! You can install this when they are returned covered.

Bumper support catch for non-nut rivet installation:

If you have not done so already, remember dipping, thread the 1 1/2″ 10-24 machine screw through the bumper. After screw is all the way into the bumper ( screw head is recessed in bumper) put screw through hole in grip from the inside to the outside. Push bumper to be flush with grip metal. This can be very tight. You need to bend the grip a bit for bumper to get seated and you also need that bend plus a little more so grip guides onto hand brake and does not clamp it. It should have just some grip. This is a good time to test it on your hand brake. OK, now put on a #10 lock washer and 10-24 nut and tighten. Put another 10-24 nut and #10 lock washer onto screw about 3/4″ down. This is then screwed (if tapped) or put through hole on the front lid. The nut down the threads is to adjust height of arm rest to match other and then tightened to lock in place. If there is extra screw protruding out top cut of with hacksaw and grind /sand. Use permanant lock thread compound on top nut and thread to help prevent it coming off. If you are not and perhaps even if you are sending lids to be covered I’d suggest you use plastic dip on top nut. Tape around it leaving a little hole cutout enough for dip to attach to lid and then coat nut. Let dry and razor cut dip in circle shape. If you are sending this to Jon M for leather covering YOU MUST SENT IT ATTACHED WITH LIDS. He will cover over that nut and washer.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE DONE.

Well I don’t know about you put but I sure would want to test this out in my Z. It takes minutes to exchange the cupholder assembly in your car PROVIDED you take your time AND do not drop the nut into the well. Go to www. leatherz.com and read Rachels how to install cupholder assembly. My first experience in removing the assembly I encounter “old style” anchor screw (see picture in extra picture section) that just keep on turning and turning. Finally I lifted up on back of unit and forced it up. New style gives bolt and nylon lined nut. That nut is what you DON’T want to drop. It’s a tight fit but I haven’t dropped one yet. I would suggest to you, DO NOT put on the nut for testing out your new dual armrest. Just the bolt in hole and tabs in front will be OK for now. Plus nylon lined nuts are meant to be screwed on ONCE. Have Fun!

Final notes:

You need to talk to Jon Maddux concerning filling the front corner. Originally I had all 4 corners filled with Styrofoam. When Jon went to cover it his glue dissolved the Styrofoam. Jon made up wood corners for my arm rest and covered it. This was alot of work for Jon and also caused some “stacking” problems with the leather. We feel it is best if only the front corner is filled. The back two you don’t see and the other front lids back corner is on the side facing the other arm rest and will also be unnoticed. Besides Jon does great work on the regular corners and it may well look fine with out ANY corners being filled.

When you put lids on assembly for “final” time push pins in all the way. this takes out some play in them. This is a little tough if assembly is in car but I use a pair of wide channel locks and squeeze pin in WHILE supporting lid and hinge with my other hand. You will find it is also a little harder now that it is leather covered. You will also notice arm rest unit is less wobbly. A putty knife blade will seperate pin from barrel enough to get a wide blade screw driver in that space to remove pins.

Rear View Mirror Adapter

There is something you just have to love about Z3 owners. We drive one of the best roadsters on the market yet it seems that dozens of owners have come up with ways of making the car ever closer to being ‘perfect.’ Does the car make them creative or does it draw creative people to it? It doesn’t matter really, either way we all benefit.

A very common owner complaint is that the rear view mirror blocks a large portion of your forward vision out to the right side. It is caused by two things. The mirror itself is positioned to low and it is rather large. On the ‘M’s the mirror is even larger and presents more of a problem. After taking delivery of my car in ’96 I quickly learned to duck down and look under the mirror for right hand turns. This was annoying but what could I do? Nothing… at least for a while.

Early in 1999 Gary Hansel bought his M-Roadster. Like many owners before him he was annoyed with the rear view mirror. Unlike everyone else he decided to tackle this problem and see what could be done. He came up with an elegant solution.

The result is Gary’s ///Mirror Adapters. http://www.z3mirrors.com/

Gary’s adapter lets you mount a GM, Chrysler or Ford mirror, depending upon the adapter used, to the BMW lug that is glued to your windshield. Unlike BMW mirrors GM mirrors are adjustable vertically, you can move the entire mirrors face up and down to suit you. We want the mirror up high near the windshield header to improve visibility. With Gary’s adapter and a GM mirror you can position the mirror so its top edge is hitting the header just to the front of the dome light. This gives you the best forward view possible.

GM manufactures many different mirrors, with Gary’s adapter you have a choice of an assortment of mirrors that you can install. Gary typically sells four different styles of mirrors to go with his adapters.

A rectangular compact mirror (8 5/16″ x 2 1/2″) This is the mirror you want if you are only interested in getting the best forward visibility possible.

A medium rectangular mirror (9 1/2″ x 2 1/2″) Just a little larger version of the mirror above. The extra length to the mirror adds a little more vision to the rear.

A dual reading lamp mirror (10 1/4″ x 2 1/2″) This mirror isn’t quite a rectangle. Its sides are slightly curved and the upper edge has a very slight curve as well. It has more depth to its body. On the underside it has two toggle switches to turn on/off each of the lights built into the base of the mirror. If you were looking to add map lights to your car this is the way to go. The lights on the GM version of this mirror will also illuminate when you open the doors. This mirror is wider than the mirror that came on my Z3 but not quite as tall. Since you can position it higher you still get a nice increase in forward visibility. The mirror needs to be wired into the car.

The last is the electrochromatic (EC) self dimming mirror. (10 1/2″ x 2 3/4″) This mirror’s sides angle in similar to the factory BMW mirror. It also has a small projection on the bottom with a “Off/Lo/Hi” switch that illuminates in green when power is applied to the mirror. On the upper right hand side of the mirrors face there is a small circle for the rear facing light sensor. The body on this mirror is the largest of all. The mirror needs to be wired into the car. This is the mirror I have had installed in my car for over 6 months.

Most mirrors have two surfaces that reflect light for the day/night positions of the mirror. In the day position you will always see faint ghost images caused from the night surface. When you put the mirror into the night position bright lights above the mirror will reflect full brightness at you. The result is when you drive under a street lamp at night with the top down you are going to be blinded.

The EC mirror is totally different. It is a normal mirror in that it has a single reflecting surface. There are no ghost images seen in this mirror and driving under street lights no longer blind you. The surface of the mirror literally dims itself as needed to reduce the amount of light reflecting off it. It constantly adjusts the tint based on the amount of light to the front and rear sensors built into the mirror. The switch on the bottom controls the amount of dimming. I leave mine on ‘HI’ all the time and the mirror does the rest.

I installed all of these mirrors in my car and measured their positions to see how they compared to stock. I measured from the top inside edge of the windshield down to the bottom edge of the mirror to see how much higher each mirror was.

* Stock: 4.5″

* Small: 3.25″

* Medium: 3.25″

* Map light: 3.25″

* EC: 3.75″

All the replacement mirrors lower edges were closer to the top of the windshield. In all cases the replacement mirrors face was about 3 – 3 1/2″ closer to you then the stock mirror as well. The EC mirror’s bottom sits lower than the others for two reasons. The mirror itself is taller but also the pivot on the mirror is more in the center of the mirror. On the other mirrors the pivot is right on top. So for the EC mirror to clear the top of the windshield header you need to adjust the mirror somewhat lower. Even so it still gives you a nice increase in forward visibility but not quite to the same degree as the other mirrors.

The different pivot position of the EC mirror can cause a problem for taller drivers. When I received my EC mirror and adapter from Gary months ago I quickly ran into a problem. I am 6’5″ and I wasn’t able to tilt the mirror up enough to see straight back out of the car. The two pivots on the mirror were at the edge of their adjustments. I mentioned this to Gary then modified my mirror to let me adjust it as needed. This worked fine and I promptly forgot about it.

Gary didn’t. At Homecoming I stopped by the ‘Owner Solution’ tent to meet everyone and check out their products. Gary showed me a ‘tall guy’ version of his adapter to correct the problem I had run into. This adapter is a little different then his others. Instead of being a flat disc it actually is an angled spacer that changes the orientation of the mount on the GM mirror. This ‘tall guy’ adapter lets the EC mirror adjust properly for a taller driver. Another elegant solution to a problem!

The ‘tall guy’ adapter is not needed on any of the other mirrors, just the EC. If you are over 6’2″ or so you probably will need the ‘tall guy’ adapter if you want to install the EC mirror.

Installation:

How difficult the install is depends upon the mirror you choose. For the first two mirrors they install will take a minute or two. With the second two mirrors (map light and EC) the installation is more involved.

To remove the factory mirror just grab the stalk that attaches to the windshield. Twist the stalk clockwise about a ¬ turn and the mirror will be released from the lug that is glued to the windshield.

If you are installing the non-powered mirrors you just line up the new mirror, with adapter already attached, at the same angle the factory mirror released at. You will feel the adapter fit over the lug when you have it correct. Then just rotate it counterclockwise about ¬ turn and it will lock into place. Adjust the mirror as needed and you are done. Don’t forget you can now move the mirror up and down as you desire.

If you are installing the reading lamp equipped mirror Gary has full instructions. Basically you need to tap into the existing wiring for the dome light to power the map lights. When you are done you mount the mirror and connect the plug into it.

For the EC mirror things are a little more complex then the map light wiring. You need to supply switched 12v power to the mirror. You can not use the dome light wiring as it is unswitched and the mirror could drain your battery over time. You need to decide where you want to get a source of switched power. I used the switched power that runs to the radio you could also use the connector for the cellular phone setup or any other switched source of 12v power.

Start out by disconnecting the battery. Assuming you use the radio power you will need to remove it. Depending upon the radio it may be held in place with an Allen key or it may use a special BMW 5 sided tool. If your radio needs the 5 sided tool you might be able to get it out using a 2 mm Allen wrench if you are lucky. Take the radio out so you have some room to work.

You need to run a power wire for the mirror from the radio up to the mirror. I ran the wire around the passenger side footwell and up the A-pillar then across the header so that the wire ends behind the dome light. You will want to tuck the wire away as much as possible. Pop the dome light out so you can make the electrical connections easier. Slide the cut end of the mirrors wire harness behind the trim panel in front of the dome light. Solder the power wire you ran up from the radio to the 12v input on the mirrors wiring harness. Insulate it well. For a ground there is a torx screw behind the dome light, take it out. You need to mar the surface on the bottom of the screw head to get a good electrical contact from it. Do that then reinstall the hex screw with the ground wire for the mirror under it. You can reinstall the dome light now.

Now you need to tap into the 12v switched power to the radio. On my car it was pin 5 on the radio connector and the wire was violet with black. Use a sharp razor to peel back the insulation on the wire without cutting the copper itself. Then solder the wire for the EC mirror to that. Be sure to insulate it well when you are finished. Reinstall your radio and install the EC mirror and adapter into your car. Plug the mirrors wiring harness into the mirror then reconnect your battery.

When you turn on your ignition the switch on the mirror should illuminate. If it does your electrical connections are fine and you should be all set, if it doesn’t you need to recheck your wiring. Most likely the ground isn’t good. You can double check the power wire and the ground with a multi-tester.

Gary’s ///Mirror adapter let me kill two birds with one stone. I reduced the blind spot caused by the factory mirror and as a side bonus it let me convert to the EC mirror that I really love.

This mod is highly recommended! I could not imagine going back to the factory mirror.

Z-Roof Cover With Built-In Door Ding Protection

Pros: Easy to Install, Good Protection, Lessons the Chance of Door Dings
Cons: Harder to fold and store because of the extra door padding
Cost: $79.99 from Z3 Solution

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the BMW boot cover. I would like to use it because it helps keep the inside of the top clean (and I like the looks of it). But it is such a pain to put on and take off I rarely use it except on long trips. On those rare occasions when I do use the boot cover I find myself wanting to leave the top down rather than hassle with uninstalling the boot cover and putting the top up when I park. I’m not comfortable leaving the top down all day while the car is parked, not so much for security reasons just don’t want to leave the interior exposed (birds, bright sun, rain, etc).

Z3 Solution (the same company that makes the magnetic stone guards) has a new car cover. Its kind of a mini car cover, specially designed for the Z3. It can be used with the top up or down, and works on Z3s with or without rollhoops, rollbars, windscreens etc. I first saw this new cover at the 1999 Z3 homecoming and recognized that it could be just the solution I was looking for. With this new cover I could put my top down, install the boot cover and use this cover rather than have to remove the boot cover and put the top back up when the car was parked. But the big advantage of using the Z3 Solution cover was the built in door ding protection. The lower portion of the cover that covers the doors has foam padding inserts that (at least in theory) would lesson your chance of getting a door ding. It doesn’t cover the entire door, but it does cover the portion of the door most likely to receive a door ding.

It takes me a couple minutes to install the cover in the morning, and about half that time to remove it. It attaches to the vehicle in 10 separate locations so it is very secure. One benefit of living in Oklahoma is that I can report the cover stays in place even after 8 hours of thirty plus mile per hour winds. However installing, uninstalling and/or folding a car cover in that kind of wind is not necessarily fun. Which leads me to my only negative point of this car cover. Because of the anti-door-ding foam padding, folding and rolling up the car cover is more difficult than I expected. However I have become more adept at it so it hasn’t been that big of an problem. Z3 Solution has a simular car cover without the anti-door-ding foam padding which should be easier to fold but then you give up the door ding protection (which at least to me is a very good feature).

Unintentionally, I tested this covers ability in the rain. A short-lived surprise afternoon shower left some standing water on the cover. But after careful removal of the cover (so not to dump the standing water in the cockpit) I was relieved to see that the interior had remained protected. I’m not sure you would want to rely on the covers ability to defend your car from rain all the time, but its nice to know that it can handle it.

Z3 Solutions CoverI don’t use this cover every day, but if the weatherman is forecasting several consecutive top-down days in a row I’ll use this cover and the BMW boot cover. Considering my parking situation at work I should probably use the Z3 Solution cover every day (to help protect myself from door dings). But so far I’ve really only used the cover on “top-down” days. The cover is designed to be used even when the Z3 top is up, which has some interesting possibilities. In the summer the use of this cover should repel some of the heat and keep the Z3 interior cooler. Look for a long term update to this article in the late summer of 2000 in regard to this.

When you consider all the potential benefits this cover has to offer, I think it is well worth the $79.99 price, but only if you really intend to use it. Z3 Solution also offers an optional bag that holds the rolled up cover. I find the bag to be useful since it limits the amount of space the cover takes up in your trunk.

HMS Motorsport Soft Boot Cover

Pros: Small enough to fit behind seat, looks great, perfect fit and finish
Cons: Does not completely cover top storage area
Cost: $279 from HMS Motorsport

All roadster owners are familiar with the BMW factory soft top boot cover issues. On the good side, it looks great and is easily installed and removed. However, when the top is up and you have to carry the cover with you, it takes up a large amount of space no matter what you do.

Enter the HMS Motorsport soft boot cover. Here’s a great addition to the traveling roadster owner’s arsenal that not only looks great, but folds up into an included bag and can slip behind a seat.

When I bought our 1998 Z3 1.9 back in February of 98, I saw no problems with the boot cover. Truthfully, it was the last thing on my mind. It could have been a potato sack for all I cared, as I gazed affectionately across the dealership showroom at our newly delivered baby. As my wife and I prepared for our cross-country travels in the Z3, we desperately needed a solution. I was willing to forget about the aesthetics part of it and leaving the folded top just exposed. But the need to keep out road dirt and dust was an important factor in my decision. Scouring all of the aftermarket websites and finding nothing, I started thinking about designing and developing a soft top myself in the great tradition of John Maddux’s LeatherZ armrest and Z3Solutions’ Magnetic Stone Guards. I posted a message on the Bimmer.Org message board, and one gentleman replied with a much easier (though maybe less fun) solution. He directed me towards HMS Motorsport. I, of course, had already searched their online catalog but the item had not been added. Still hasn’t as far as I know. So I did the unthinkable….I actually picked up the phone (*gasp*) and called them directly, credit card in hand. Ten minutes later, after the sales guy explained what it was and how it worked, I bought one.

The top arrived two days later and it took me all of 3 seconds to rip the box open. What I found inside was a well-constructed, high quality canvas cover that is a near-perfect match to the OEM top canvas. It was folded neatly into a vinyl storage bag that measures 13 inches by 16 inches, and is only about 2 inches thick. I tripped over myself as I raced for the garage to install this much-anticipated accessory.

The installation of this cover is a snap. Actually it’s 4 snaps.

slide the cover over the folded top snap on the two side Tenex connectors

snap on the two center Tenex connectors The completed install.

Problem solved! We could have the best of all worlds: aesthetics, protection, and convenience. Not bad.

The roll-hoop windscreen fits along with the cover. I am unsure about the other windscreen models. In summary, the HMS Motorsport is a no-brainer accessory for those Z3 owners that travel a lot and never seem to have room for the OEM semi-rigid cover.

HMS Window Blanket for BMW Convertibles

Pros: Provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.
Cons: Harder to fold and store because of the bulkier design
Cost: 39.95

BMW created a device we owners quickly named the “window blanket”, it was a simple yet functional blanket that draped across the rear window and protected the window from scratches when the top was folded down. But the one thing the BMW blanket didn’t do was stop the window from creasing when the rear window folded incorrectly (with a wrinkle). HMS improved the BMW design and took it one step further by adding a bulky area to middle of the blanket which makes the window fold in a more rounded way in order to keep the window from creasing. It also appears HMS used a heavier fabric so there is some additional padding associated for the entire area that the blanket covers.

The bulky area appears to be filled with beans or something similar. The added weight from this bulky area forces the top to fold correctly and keeps it from folding to sharply (which can cause creasing). The improved design works better than the original design in protecting the top from these creases but there are some trade-offs. The HMS design is harder to fold and store because of the extra padding. The padded area is divided into three sections so folding it width wise is limited to three three sections. With the original BMW blanket I kept it tightly folded up and stored in one of the pockets of the trunk organizer. However with the bulkier HMS design this was no longer possible. I end up rolling it lengthwise and laying it in the area behind the center console. This might actually be a better location since it helps remind me to use the blanket when I want to put the top down.

I’m trying to get in the habit of using the boot cover and HMS blanket more often since I was starting to see some wear and tear on the plastic window. For this reason I like the HMS blanket more so than the BMW blanket. It keeps the top folded correctly and provides additional protection for the delicate and expensive rear plastic window.

Sold By:

HMS Motorsport

www.hms-motorsport.com

(888) HMS-3BMW

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.

Padded Leather Armrest

I took delivery of my Z3 in April of 1998 and had the dealership replace the factory armrest/cassette holder with the free armrest/storage area. By August of 1998 my armrest was already showing the typical peeling wear that many other Z3 owners have experienced, so BMW replaced it under warranty.

While it was nice of BMW to replace it, I wanted to find a solution to this problem so I wouldn’t be requesting a new armrest every 5 to 6 months. The most reputable theory behind the cause of the peeling is that some lotions (like suntan lotion) react with the top layer of the plastic armrest. I wasn’t about to give up suntan lotion and subject myself to sunburn to save the armrest so I needed another solution.

After consulting with an upholstery shop I decided to have the surface/contact areas on the armrest covered in leather. It cost me $100 and afterwards the upholstery shop said they would need $150 to do another one. When I posted the details on the Z3 Message board the reaction was mixed. The majority agreed it was a good idea but the price was just too high.

This is where Jon Maddux enters into the story. Jon is a Z3 owner that has experience working with leather. After some development time Jon announced that he was able to produce a similar leather covered armrest for only $75 (that’s half the cost). I asked Jon to route one of his armrests through me so I could take pictures of it and compare it to my armrest for this article. About that time Mark Volk had requested that Jon make him an armrest and Mark was nice enough to let his armrest be delayed a few more days so I could take pictures and compare it to my more expensive armrest.

I have to admit that I my checkbook was very angry with me once I got a look at the armrest Jon made. Jon was able to work the corners much more smoothly then the local upholstery shop (view this article to compare).

Jon’s armrest also seems to have more padding then mine. The additional padding makes the armrest not only more comfortable but it also gives the armrest a slightly more rounded and smooth look. My camera flash brought out detail that normally can’t be made out. You can see the outline of the padding Jon added under the leather.

The other major difference I noticed was the edges around the hinge. because the hinge area is narrow both my local upholstery shop and Jon and had to cut the leather here (rather than tuck it under). Jon’s armrest made this area look much cleaner than my armrest.

I realize this is petty of me, but I kept looking for some place where my armrest was better than Jon’s. The closest I could come was the area under the lid. The upholstery shop that made my armrest (pictured) managed to fit the cloth to the underside of the lid and wrapped the leather up the sides. Jon’s design has the cloth also coming down the sides and it appears a little bulkier and less attractive. However to be honest, I really didn’t notice the difference until I got the two armrests side by side.

I’m reminded of the old phrase “if you want something done right, do it yourself”. Jon may be more adapt at working with leather then the upholstery shop that did my armrest, but I doubt it. I think this is just a case of Jon being a Z3 owner and taking the extra time to make something that he would be willing to put in his Z3.

If you are interested in purchasing one of Jon’s leather covered armrests he has a web page at http://www.leatherZ.com/. He charges $85 to cover your existing armrest, and offers two ways to get around the logistics of the upgrade. You can either send him your armrest and $85 which he will cover and then mail back to you. Or you can send him an additional $22.35 ($107.35 total) and Jon will mail order a brand new BMW armrest which he will cover and then mail to you.

In general ///MZ3.Net is a supporter of Z3 owner built products, and once a year the site give out a Best Owner Designed Product Award. After reviewing Jon’s leather covered armrest I’ve decided to make it the first official nomination for the 1999 award. Nominations will be made throughout the year and the voting for the winner will be done by MZ3.Net readers in December of 1999.

Update 7/19/99: Jon Maddux (of http://www.leatherZ.com/) talked me into upgrading from my original lessor quality leather armrest to one of his newest creations. Once he described his idea to me the vision of a dark gray leather armrest with custom embroidered ///M logo made me an easy target. Jon sent me many dark gray samples and let me find the one that matched my dark gray interior. Once the right color was identified he went to work making my armrest. I watched his progress via LeatherZ’s on-line order status webpage in anticipation of its arrival on my doorstep. It had been over four months since my original review of Jon’s armrests and after holding his newest creation for a couple minutes it was apparent that several improvements had been made. Since that initial armrest Jon has upgraded to an even higher quality of leather, as well as improved his own skills in the manufacturing process. It really is a super high quality work of art and I am very happy with my decision to upgrade.

Inner Cover/Top Liner

Pros: Reduced road noise, Increased insulation, Folds away neatly without affecting the use of the boot cover
Cons: Slight loss of head room, Maintaining a “perfect” installation requires occasional adjustments
Cost: $329

I love owning a convertible, every chance I get to drop the top I take it. However there are times when the top must stay up because of rain, extreme heat, or extreme cold. There are pluses and minuses to everything, and it is during these “top up” times that the minuses of owning a convertible become evident. I always thought the Z3 top did a fairly good job, but my only previous experience with a convertible was a 1980 MGB. The Z3 top was clearly better than the old MG one, but then I saw a real convertible top. Some friends of mine had just taken delivery of a new 3 series convertible and invited me over to take a look at it. After seeing and experiencing the top on that convertible 3 series I noticed the key difference. That 328ic had an second inner layer to the convertible top. With two layers instead of one the 3 series top looked better, you couldn’t see the metal frame because it was hidden between the two layers. The extra layer also appeared to cut down on wind and road noise as well as provided more insulation.

The top on the 3 series was clearly better than the top on the Z3, so the hunt began for an aftermarket inner liner or an altogether improved convertible top. My efforts didn’t turn up anything, about the closest I got was at the 1998 Z3 homecoming. The producer of the Z3 top attended the event so I asked one of them what the chances were of getting a top for the Z3 similar to the top on the 3 series. They said they would look into it but seriously doubted that they would be creating such a top. Imagine my surprise when not more than a couple months later MG Racing posted a message on the Z3 message board about an aftermarket inner liner specifically made for the BMW Z3. The liner claimed easy installation, decreased road/wind noise and increased insulation all for $330.

After exchanging a few e-mails with MG Racing a gray colored liner was on its way to Dallas. Once it arrived I opened up the instructions and got my first real look at the product. The instructions were pretty straight forward, they described how the black plastic parts replaced the current ones on the Z3. They snapped on over the support ribs in the top and held the liner. The rest of the installation involved velcro straps that wrapped around the folding metal frame and held the top in place.

The material was thick and soft, it reminded me of a high dollar college sweat shirt. After that initial inspection I knew the product would cut down on road/wind noise as well as provide insulation, the only remaining questions were the installation and how it would handle the folding top. My primary concern was if the top could still fold down flat enough to use the boot cover.

Sold By:

MG Racing

http://www.mgracing.an/

800-788-1281

Installation

The first part of the installation was to remove two of the existing black plastic sleeves from the convertible frame and replace them with the sleeves that were sewn into the inner liner. There is a glue like goop under the plastic sleeves that helps holds them in place, so its best to start on one end and slowly work the support off. When installing the replacement support I would rotate the sleeve slightly so that the stitching is slightly rotated forward instead of facing straight down (I’ll come back to this later when I talk about tweaking the installation). This part of the installation should be done with the top unlatched and slightly opened to reduce tension. It’s important to get the support centered, I just eyeballed it the first time and later had to go back and make adjustments.

The next part of the installation involves working with the various velcro straps to finish securing the inner liner to the frame. I would suggest opening the top up a little further while you work on the side straps. The instructions do their best to try and explain in words where each strap should go, but a little trial and error was needed for me to get it installed. Resist the urge to get each strap as tight as possible.

From this angle to can see how the liner is attached to the frame, at this point I had spent a lot of effort to get each strap tight. Later I realized how loosening up the straps let the top hang straighter and fold down with less tension. The one gap that you see I was never able to get rid of, but when sitting in the seat you don’t notice it. This is also the side of the top that has the additional frame pieces for the power top. I think the liner is really designed for the manual top because it doesn’t fit as well around the additional power top mechanism on the drivers side. It fits much better on the passenger side which doesn’t have any additional items related to the power top.

Once you get the velcro straps on the side secured there are a couple in the back. These were somewhat difficult to secure because of the close quarters back there and you really can’t see what you are doing. I found it easier to sit backwards in the seat and reach back into the opposite side area (ie when sitting in the drivers seat work on the passenger side and vis versa). Remember that tighter is not necessarily better when working with these straps.

The last step of the installation secured an elastic strap to the frame. There is a plastic pop-rivet like thing that comes with the top liner. It pops into an existing hole in the convertible frame. The elastic helps keep the liner tight in the corner and a piece of velcro on the strap holds the liner down.

Once the installation was complete I sat in the Z3 and gave it a visual inspection. I could see areas that seemed too loose or too tight, but basically it was there and looked pretty good. I like what it did to the interior, the gray material lightened up the interior and made it feel bigger. But I could tell that my installation needed some adjustments.

It was time for the real test, how would it handle lowering the power top. I was especially concerned about the tops ability to fold down enough so the boot cover could still be used. With the uncomfortable sound of velcro tearing/loosening the top went down, the installation really needed adjusting. However despite my obviously sloppy installation the inner liner folded away neatly and somehow folded just as tightly as it did before. The boot cover could be installed without any problems. When I raised the top back up most of the velcro straps that I had spent so much time tightening were now loose, it was time to tweak the installation.

Tweaking the Installation


The droop over my head needed tightening because it would occasionally touch my head. When I looked at the area over the passenger’s head there wasn’t a droop. I concluded that the plastic sleeve in this area must not properly centered. Once I centered it the droop was less on the drivers side but more so on the passenger side (the key is that after getting the snap on support centered the two sides were now equal). Once I had the two sides equal I found that rotating the plastic sleeve tightened up this area and got rid of both droops. You can’t actually rotate the sleeve because of the glue like goop stuff under the sleeve, so by rotate I actually mean remove the sleeve and reinstall with it slightly rotated forward.It was obvious my installation needed some adjustments, There were two things that were bothering me. The first was a droop in the liner right over my head, the second was the velcro sound when the top was lowered.

I then turned my attention to the velcro straps on the side, what I discovered is that tighter was not necessarily better. By loosing the straps the liner was able to hang straighter and it actually made the top material fit better against the frame. The now looser straps also allowed the liner more flexibility when it was being lowered and folded away. This cured the velcro tearing sound when the top was being lowered. The secret is to let the material hang naturally and then secure the velcro strap so the material continues to hang there. Don’t think of the straps as tie downs but rather rather as supports during the folding process.

Conclusion

I’m pleased with the end result, however if I had it to do over again I probably would have chosen a black liner. I like how the gray liner makes the cabin feel bigger and less confined. However the lighter color also shows every detail. This is why I’ve been so picky about the installation and felt the need for additional tweaking. That is because I can see every fold, crease, tuck and strap on the light gray liner. I’ve seen the exact same liner in black installed in a Z3 and you really can not see any of these details when it is black on black. I also wonder what my gray liner is going to look like after a season of top down driving, I suspect its going to need a good cleaning since it will probably be a brownish gray from all the dust.

This hasn’t really affected me, but it might affect some Z3 owners over 6 foot. Since the liner hangs on and below the frame, you lose a little head room. I adjusted my seat up just to see how annoying it would be if your head made contact with the liner. After only a few minutes my hair looked like Kramer’s hair on Seinfield (stood straight up).

The liner really does cut down on road and wind noise, even more than I expected it would. I think the softer fabric has also increase the acoustics inside the Z3, I have no way of proving this, but to me it appears that the stereo sounds better. I can’t really comment on its insulation capabilities at this time, I live in Dallas and even though its Thanksgiving weekend its still 70 degrees here. I’ll update this article again once the cold weather hits, however it would appear that this liner will make quite a difference. I guess the bottom line is that the liner is probably a wise investment for the winter months, especially for those who live in colder climates.

BMW Roadster Tonneau

Pros: Installs Easily, Covers Cockpit, Lightweight
Cons: Requires Boot Cover
Cost: $78.90 (with shipping)

I’ve always been in a love/hate relationship with the roadster’s boot cover. I liked the way the Z3 looked with the boot cover installed over the folded down top, and I recognize the protective benefits of using the boot cover. However it is such a pain to install that I seldom used it except on long drives (when I knew the top was going to stay down). The problem was that I was never comfortable enough to leave the car parked with the top down. The exposed leather interior would be subject to bird bombs, harmful UV rays, dirt/dust, and prying eyes.

Back in highschool I drove an MGB that had this great accessory called a tonneau cover. This thick vinyl cover snapped around the cabin of the MGB on specially designed snaps that were part of the interior. That tonneau cover effectively covered the interior of the car and it was much easier to take on and off than the convertible top was to put up and down. The other really neat feature is that it had a zipper down the middle so you could unzip just the drivers side and drive the car with the tonneau cover still in place. I’ve been wanting a cover similar to that MGB one for my BMW roadster every since I first got the car. However no one made one, and from a development standpoint since the car wasn’t designed for one chances are it would never exist.

M&M Marketing produced a car cover that was very similar to what I was looking for, and I almost got one. Except the M&M design is really closer to a car cover and I never really cared for the looks of it. From a utility standpoint I’m told that the M&M design works well. It stands up okay to the elements and is moderately easy to take on and off. But it just isn’t that attractive to look at (to me it always looked like a small tent had been pitched over the car). I’m told that the M&M cover is actually a Miata cover that happens to fit, but sometimes it looks just a tad too small to me.

Apparently Carter Lee had the same thoughts and undertook a project to design a simple tonneau cover specifically made for the BMW roadster. Carter’s design fits flush with the dash and it is custom made for the Z3’s interior. There are “pockets” designed to go over the seats and dash pod. Carter even designed two different versions to account for Z3s with and without roll hoops. Carter’s design was not the same as the original MGB tonneau I had always wanted, but it was so close that I just had to have one.

My first indication that Carter had gone all out in making these was the very professional packaging that arrived shortly afterwards. However, after admiring his packaging handy work I immediately ripped the bag open, tossed the instructions and went out to the garage to try it out. Initially I fumbled around trying to figure out the best way to install it (guess I should have read the instructions first). But finally decided that I like to slip the custom pockets over the seats, then get the front of the cover tucked in, secure the sides via the velcro straps, and lastly tuck the back of the cover into the crease at the rear of the boot cover. First couple times took me a few minutes but now I’ve got it down pretty good.

Basically there are four places in the design that attach the tonneau to the roadster. The leading edge of the cover has a foam like trim sewn into it, this is designed to be tucked into the area where the windshield meets the dash. The foam slips into the crack with a push but then expands and secures rather well. Around each side mirror the tonneau cover has two velcro straps that secure the tonneau to the mirror. This works well but does require that you leave the windows down. In the back the tonneau cover tucks into the convertible top storage area along the trailing edge of the boot cover. This leaves a nice smooth taught look, I’m told by Doug and Eileen Morgan that it even keeps water out of your interior should you get caught in a quick shower (however it shouldn’t be considered an acceptable cover if you are expecting a rain storm).

With Carter’s tonneau my MZ3 finally had a cover that matched its sleek styling. The tonneau fit nicely over the instrument pod, seats and roll hoops (non roll hoop version available). It seemed pretty secure but I wanted to put this thing to the test. I got out my $30 Sears electric leaf blower and and decided to give it a wind tunnel test, at the same time I was curious to see what the motion sensor on my Clifford car alarm would think of a fluttering tonneau cover. What I found out is that if the cover is properly installed I could not blow it loose. The first time I didn’t get the front tucked in good and was able to get the front of the cover loose but the velcro straps and rear tuck kept the cover in place. Not sure what this says about the motion sensor, but it never went off even the one time the front of the cover came loose.

Needless to say I was pretty impressed with what Carter created, and I knew it was a keeper but I decided to do some additional tests. At the time I got the cover we were in the middle of an extreme heat wave in Texas. Everyday after work it was a race to see how quickly I could drop the convertible top to let off all the heat that had built up in the cabin. For a week I kept a fancy digital thermometer in the car, and every time I parked I would place the additional temperature sensor out side the car in the shade. During that week I found out that on average Carter’s cover kept the interior of the car about 7 degrees cooler than with the top up. I’m sure the color of the tonneau had to do with that (silver vs black) but I suspect the open air made the biggest difference. Carter now makes a version of the cover in black and there is a part of me that wishes I would have ordered the black version, but I’m sure it gets a little hotter.

Removal of the cover is super easy. I just unvelcro the cover from one of the side mirrors and pull, off it comes. A couple of quick folds or more likely just wad it up and shove it into any storage space like the top storage behind the seat (if you have it). I usually shove it in the trunk over the tiny crevice above the power top motor. If you have the trunk organizer it would fit in there as well.

I asked Doug Morgan what he thought of his tonneau cover (he has a black design without the roll hoop pocket), Doug replied

It does keep leaves and dust out very effectively and at least moderate amounts of rain; yes I have tested this out. If you are careful you can even get the water out without getting it on your interior. For those that live in the hotter areas of the country it does a great job of keeping the interior cool. It became an invaluable item on the BAD IV tour to keep the seats from burning your legs when returning from one of the little jaunts (the steering wheel and door edge didn’t burn either). Carter’s tonneau is a must have on the Homecoming Convoy also. The tonneau is make of lightweight water repellant fabric, which makes for great protection without being bulky so it avoids taking up valuable trunk space.

Personally, my only complaint is that it requires the boot cover, without the boot cover it really doesn’t tuck into or get secured in the back. It is still usable but I suspect a strong breeze could blow the back end loose. But considering it is only $78.90 it really is a fantastic cover. I think the fact that it is designed by a BMW Z3 owner tells you that the product is well thought out and functional. I’m very impressed with it and use it quite often, since that initial leaf blower test it has never come loose, and it has still never caused a problem with my car alarm. I guess the motion sensor goes right through the material because the motion sensor still works.

Carter sells the tonneau cover via a web page, and has lots of information about the roadster tonneau at that web site. Carter offers versions designed for Z3s with the BMW roll hoops and for Z3s without the roll hoops. Both versions of the roadster tonneau are available in black and gray. They are made of a strong, lightweight, compact, and water-repellant nylon taffeta. Whichever version and color you choose the total cost including shipping is only $78.90

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