1.9 to M Conversion

Why I did it:

I am poor, but I love the M Roadster. You may know me as WannaM on the message boards. The M’s full, muscular rear end is much more masculine and finished looking than the other Z’s in my humble opinion, but alas, I can’t afford an M. I think the 1.9 liter’s rear end looks dilapidated and unfinished. However, as background, I rent a two-car garage and live in the other half. In other words, all of my money goes to my car, and I live like a bum. How many other people can claim such loyalty to a car? In addition, I do upgrades as I have money instead of just picking the ones I want and doing them. Robert Leidy’s beautiful roadster was the target template for my car as I have a 1996 Arctic Silver 1.9. What finally convinced me was that the rear track width on the 1.9 and M roadster are nearly identical, unlike the 2.5 and 2.8 which are noticeably wider, especially with M rims on. Thus, the conversion compatibility was the decision maker.

What it cost:

I tried to keep the costs down by selling the old parts and buying from salvage yards. The two biggest problems are 1) it takes a long time and patience to find the parts from salvage yards and 2) some of the parts are damaged and replacing/repairing ends up costing more than new parts. In the end, I had hoped that I could keep costs very low. I was wrong.


The upgrade is pretty simple (but intense). I contact the Mazjun’s who had upgraded their 1.9 to a widebody format like a 2.8 after a minor accident. The reality is that a LOT of parts are only slightly different but need to be completely replaced. I searched for most of the parts on the newsgroups, ebay, and the salvage yards. The following parts are needed for a (1996) full exterior conversion to an M:

* Both Bumper covers

* Both rocker panels

* Both quarter panels

* Gas filler flap

* Both Rear plastic wheel linings

* Roll bar/hoops

* Both side mirrors

* Both hood gills

* Trunk Lid

* Electric trunk lock mechanism

* Rear trunk license plate assembly

* License plate lights

* Chrome trunk button surround

* 4 Satin chrome M wheels

* 4 new tires

* Custom spliced exhaust (picture included, and it’s the best I could do without jacking the car up)

* Two new mufflers

Other work:

Removing the black plastic covering on the A pillars/windshield frame. For cost sakes, I did not replace the head/taillights with clear lenses, nor replace the side mirrors. You must extend the license plate lights wiring from the rear bumper to the trunk lid. For this, I simply used wiring I bought from Home Depot.


Painting is expensive. I found a great shop in Lincoln Park (Chicago), European Auto, that matched the paint wonderfully without “blending.” The con is that it is relatively expensive and takes a while to mix a good match, but I would recommend this shop to anyone getting any type of paint job. I also noticed during the re-assembly, that the parts that were “used/salvaged” definitely exhibited “fit” problems. Using new parts is certainly the preferred choice if you can afford it. Was it worth it?? Since costs started to get out of hand, I’m not sure if it’s worth it. If you have access to cheap parts and a lot of time, the look is definitely cool, but car novices might not even notice the difference. I like the new look though. I only wish it were a real M. Perhaps BMW might realize I’m their biggest enthusiast and donate another car for me to modify.

European Auto Ltd

2547 N Lincoln Ave

Chicago, IL 60614-2313

Phone: (773) 348-5440

I had major problems with the trunk locking mechanism. I wasn’t sure how the reverse placement of the trunk button would affect the lock. It was minimal work to refit really, BUT, in the process, I could not figure out how to reuse the electric locking control, thus I need to use the key to lock/unlock the trunk.

Visible Discrepancies with the M:

The interior had been modified over the years to a more chrome finish like many others. The noticeable differences inside are the lack of leather wrapped dash, M sport seats, no Oil Temp/Analog Clock/Oil Pressure gauges, power roof, rear view mirror, etc. I do have a sprinkling of LeatherZ products which are awesome. The exterior lacks the M side mirrors (which irks me a little each time), fit-and-finish of the new panels is not as great as my original stock 1.9. Also, the lights have the original amber, not the later “clear” look (but I considered Robert Leidy’s as a template). I also have not yet put the plastic wheel well linings in as the pictures show.


As I said, this project really put me in the poor house — literally. Towards the end, I became a prostitute and even tried soliciting companies to donate the parts to me if I put a decal on my car. Semi-happily, no one took me up on my offer. The things that I would like most to add eventually would be:

* Any type of windscreen

* Any type of supercharger

* Any Spring lowering kit

* Additional leather treatment to the interior

In retrospect, it might’ve been easier to sell my car and put the upgrade money into getting a used 2.8 or something, but I had no idea how few Z3 parts would’ve been on the salvage market and how expensive dealership parts would’ve been. Live and learn – I suppose. Until then, I believe that I have only 1 of 2 Z3 1.9’s with a widebody conversion, the only 1.9 with M body technics, and – in the spirit of making the MZ3 an actual vehicle – a real MZ3.

If I had one wish right now, I would like to add a supercharger, as I have been attending many of the local import tuner shows. My car gets a lot of attention, but on the drag strips, it gets quite embarrassed.

Pros: Looks great… almost like an M.

Cons: Unjustifiable cost, car is out-of-commission during upgrade, is not completely a DIY project.

Ben Liaw’s / Short Shifter Conversion – Has your Z3 been BL/SS’d (Blessed: Get It?)

After sitting in an M Roadster at the dealership one day, I notice that the shifter was much shorter than my ’96 M3. After some research, I discovered that all E36 cars can upgrade to this new, shorter, throw with this upgraded shifter lever. You are only replacing the lever itself, nothing else.

These detailed instructions will cover the procedure for the home mechanic, doing it him/her self. There is another procedure which is easier and quicker, but requires a lift and unique tools which is very expensive. Otherwise, this method works (I had to do it this way the first time) and should take about an 45 minutes. 60 minutes if you’re a klutz.

The coolest thing about this is that while the AC Schnitzer short shift kit is between $700-$1000, this conversion, which does the same thing, costs about $50. Please note that this is NOT the same as the $99 Autothority shifter kit as the AutoThority kit simply lengthens the distance from the ball to the lower linkage with a machined piece. This has known to shorten the shift, but also known to increase the sloppiness.

This has become a very hot upgrade as there are no shifters in the country at the moment. Just order it and be patient.

The Details

Shifter throw is reduced 31%.

Less slop than stock shifter.

Increased shifter effort decreases chances of mis-shift.

An upgrade that virtually no one can tell (UUC approved).

BMW Parts You Need

M Roadster Shift Lever (# 25-11-2-228-384) [required] – Part lists for $52.25

Nylon ball joint cup (# 25-11-1-220-600) or (# 25-11-1-469-397) these two parts are identical [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $14.87

Washers (2) (# 25-11-1-220-439) these parts can be damaged during the removal of the stock shift knob if you are not careful. [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $0.47

Circlip (# 25-11-1-220-379) this part can be damaged during the removal of the stock shift knob if you are not careful. [recommend but not required] – Part lists for $0.68

Carrier Bushing (# 25-11-1-221-822) [recommended if you have slop] – Part lists for $6.98

Tools You Need

Flat bladed screwdriver approximately 8 inches long

Grease (like white lithium)

Floor Jack

Jack Stands (2)

Step 1: Get the knob off

This procedure is best done while the car is cool and has not been running. Leave the car overnight and do this on a Saturday morning. After the front end of the car has been jacked up and supported with jack stands, you’re ready to start.

Pull off shifter knob (straight up, don’t hit yourself in the face). Do not try to twist the knob off, there are no threads on the shifter lever.

Step 2: Unhook the Shifter

Crawl under car and locate the end of the shifter lever. It is connected to a “linkage” arm with a circlip.

Remove circlip and yellow washer. On an older car, the circlip may be stubborn and you’ll ruin it taking it off. On newer cars, you can push it off with your fingers. Make sure you replace both yellow washers on either side of the bottom of the shifter lever.

Disconnect linkage arm from bottom of shifter lever.

Step 3: The Bitch of a Clip

The silver carrier which holds the ball joint of the shifter lever needs to come out. It has a “pointed” end which is facing towards the rear of the car…ignore that end. You want to focus your efforts on the FRONT of this carrier.

You’ll notice that the front of the carrier is buried above the tranny housing somehow. The carrier is secured to the car via a “pin” which is secured in a peculiar manner. Instead of a nut/bolt passing through the hole, there is a pin which is secured with a “latch” type of function. You’ll barely see it, but you can see the pin.

Once you locate the side which has the “latch”, use the side of the flat bladed screwdriver to pry up on the latch. You’ll need to get the latch to point upwards (it’s horizontal in the “lock” state). I found that if I kept prying upwards, pushing, more prying, the latch worked its way up slowly. When you’ve finally gotten the latch “up”, you can push the pin out, towards the latch direction.

Note for those with excessively sloppy shifting: If you notice, the pin comes out of a rubber bushing on the end of the carrier. If you have excessive play while the car is in gear, replace this bushing. Doing this BL/SS install will NOT fix sloppy shifting. You will have SHORT sloppy shifting. I don’t know the part number off hand, but Steve D. does. I’ll post the part number here and modify these instructions to include the bushing.

Step 4: Take Out the Carrier

You must remove the silver carrier/shifter lever assembly from the car now. I find that if you pushed the entire assembly forwards and backwards, you’ll be able to give enough room for the rear “pointy” part of the carrier to slip out, allowing the entire assembly to be then dropped down.

Step 5: Replace and Lube the New Lever

Once the assembly is out, you’ll have to remove the shifter lever from the aluminum carrier. It’s held in by a nylon cup. You have to get the cup out of the carrier, and I’ve found a screwdriver to work. Once you get the lever/cup out of the carrier, pull it straight off.

There is no incorrect way for the new shifter can be installed since it is perfectly straight, unlike the one you’re removing, which has a bend to it. Just be sure that the lower linkage hole is pointed in the correct direction. When you hook the linkage back up, it will be all lined up, ready for the shifter to be put on.

Replace new shifter lever into the cup, but make sure you lube it.

Press it back into the carrier, and make sure it has the “tabs” of the nylon cup sticking out of the slots on the side of the carrier.

Step 6: Reinstall

reinstall in reverse order

Final Notes:

You’ll notice and immediate difference in the shifting, not just in the throw, but also in the smoothness. I’m not sure why the factory doesn’t lube the nylon cup enough, but it sure does make a difference.

So, what do you do with this extra lever, you say? Well, it’s pretty much useless, unless you want to go back to long, sloppy shifts. They do fit in E30 cars, so be a pal and donate it to an E30 owner.

Enjoy your “blessed” shifter.