Z3 Hardtop Hoist

After receiving a new hardtop for my 1999 M Roadster as a gift from my wife (good woman!) I needed a place to keep the top in good weather. I did some research and decided to buy the E-Z Top from The Hard Top Hoist Company in Houston, TX.

I placed an order online and received a confirmation phone call the next day. The hoists are built to order and custom sized for each vehicle. It took approximately 5 weeks to receive the kit. They were extremely helpful, and even shipped me the piece of wood used to secure the winch to the garage wall.

The hoist arrived with detailed installation instructions in color. Installation took approximately 1.5 hours. Placing the central hoist point just behind my garage door opener worked out fine, as this position was right above the car when backed into the garage. I secured a 2×6 to the joists above the garage, so the hoist could hold several hundred pounds if needed. Actually, the hard top weighs less than 100 pounds, so this would be a huge margin of safety.

The hoist is made of steel and powder coated with a black crinkle finish. It is beautifully made. The hardtop is supported at two points inside the top, placing no uneven stress on the top. The supports are covered in sheepskin (wool) pads that distribute the load and protect the inner liner. The front strut of the hoist has another wool pad to protect the paint on the front edge of the hardtop. The cable is vinyl coated and the winch is a worm-gear type that cannot slip. They even include a cordless drill adapter that allows me to use my drill to raise and lower the top. I suggest using this, as the top moves very slowly with the hand crank. There is a lot of mechanical advantage built in, so the effort to move it is very small.

Placing the hoist on the top involves a few simple steps.

  1. Park the car as far back in the garage as you can.
  2. Loosen the retaining screws at the windsheild and turn the latches in the back.
  3. Lower the hoist to just above the hardtop.
  4. Pull one of the quick pins from the hoist arm and lift the arm outward 90 degrees.
  5. Slip the hoist pads under the top and reinsert the pin.
  6. Lift the top.
  7. Secure the storage cable to the front of the hoist arm. This levels the top.

The system has worked flawlessly and the hardtop shows no signs of hoist use at all. I heartily recommend this product. The price was $385 plus shipping. There is no need to order the much more expensive electric winch, as any electric drill will do the job.

White Z3 Top

Custom white top, details unknown.

TopDown Windscreen for BMW Z3

This article reviews TopDown’s windscreen. This product eliminates turbulence in the cockpit formed while driving with the top down. I will preface this by saying I own a 1999 Z3, which I purchased new. I used the factory windscreen, and was mildly satisfied with it; I then upgrade to this one. Briefly, this is one of the best purchases I’ve made so far for my beloved Z3. This windscreen cost $164.

TopDown’s windscreen attaches to the roll hoops on the later model Z3’s, on a total of 6 points, using Velcro-based fasteners. This windscreen is made of clear 1/4 inch Plexiglas. When installed, it does not shift or rattle. I ran my car up to 100 mph, and it didn’t flex or move about.

What’s unique to TopDown’s windscreen are the winglets, flaps folding out extending coverage, blocking the turbulence between the car door to the outside seat edge. Typically, every other windscreen mounts onto the seats, which blocks only the turbulence that enters between the seats. Therefore, occupants are protected on one side, the inside seat edge. TopDown’s windscreen with winglets prevents turbulence on both the inside and outside edges of the seats. The winglets fold out, sealing the gap from the outside edge of the seat to the door windows. Then, the winglets can be folded back in, so the windscreen can remain in place when the top is placed back up. All-in-all, these winglets are a great idea that really provides a lot of performance.

Performance:

The biggest fan of this windscreen is actually my wife, who has long hair. Without any windscreen in place, her hair blows around terribly. With the factory windblocker I was used, the turbulence is still moderate, and my wife’s hair still swirls around somewhat. With no windscreen, she’s tolerant of driving top down for 15 minutes. With the factory windscreen, she’s tolerant of driving top down for 60 minutes.

This is the only windscreen that my wife doesn’t mind driving around all day with the top down; her hair no longer swirls about. For me, with this windscreen in place, I can talk clearly on my cell phone, hear my expensive stereo system, and cruise at night gazing at the stars out without freezing. With the factory windscreen, I could do these activities, but to a lesser degree. This windscreen provides much better performance, hence a better top down driving experience.

The windscreen also comes available with a high quality vinyl satchel, which I use to store my windscreen when not attached to my car.

Conclusion:

I’m glad I purchased this windscreen It has the highest performance of all windscreen available for the Z3, it looks good, and it doesn’t impede the rear view.. I would recommend this product for those considering purchasing a windscreen, or as an upgrade to the factory windscreen. The only knock I have on this product is that it works only for the Z3’s with the roll hoops. It’s a great product, and I wish it could be made available for all Z3’s.

Contact:

TopDown can be contacted at www.topdown.net, or 206-222-8058. This windscreen costs $164.

Gotcha Covered – BMW Boot Cover

I got a new job! – Yay!

Better pay, better title, better crew to work with. However, there was one big problem: In my old job the Z3, which is my daily driver, got parked in a garage. Nice and safe, walls on both sides, protected from the elements. I am now faced with the issue of parking in a public lot, with loads of other people with their doors aimed squarely at my car on a daily basis. In addition, since I like to keep my tonneau cover on during the summer months, I had to figure out something to keep the car interior protected from the elements (in the winter I run with the hard top, so it’s not as much of an issue). I, of course, suggested to management that they build me my own, private garage. The suggestion was not well received.

What to do?

Z3Solution to the rescue!

I remembered that Z3Solution was now offering a cover that also includes unique padded door protection. This would allow me to not only protect the cockpit, but also the sides of the car from those that would poke my baby. A cockpit cover is a great idea if you park outside a lot. Remember – BMW says that you must use your tonneau when you are running top-down or your top may get worn prematurely. Putting the tonneau on and taking it off is much more of a pain that putting on a cockpit cover. A Cockpit cover will also keep your interior cooler than leaving the roof up.

I ordered the cover the week before I was scheduled to start my new job in order to give me some time to get acquainted with it. I also own another cover from MM Marketing that I have used on occasion, but it was no where near as nice as the Z3Solution cover. The Z3Solution cover is cut much fuller than the MM Marketing version and also includes the door protection with built-in foam pads. I can actually put the cover on the car with the top up or down and it fits just fine.

The cover attaches at several points:

* There are Velcro ties in the front that attach to the wipers.

* There are small “barrels” in the back. These are basically fabric-covered tubes that can be shoved down between the tonneau cover or placed into the trunk opening to secure the back.

* Unique to the Z3Solution cover are the tie-downs that slip into the crack at the bottom of the door. These help secure the sides and the side-padding.

Overall Impressions

The quality of the cover is excellent. It is well made from something called “Weathershield” fabric from Nextec. Weathershield is light, compact and very weather resistant. While most covers have a weatherproof layer appied onto them, Weathershield actually has the waterproofing applied to each individual strand of fabric. This means that the protection is much better than most traditional car-covers (see comparison chart). It compares very favorably with NOAH, but with significantly less bulk. The stitching on the unit is very sturdy and all the parts look like they will last a long time. The entire cover and all parts that touch the car are covered in a soft flannel. The number of connection points to the car is excellent: two in the back, two in the front, two on either side. There have been several windy days and the top stayed securely anchored and I have noticed no “rubbing”. I have used the cover for several weeks and have found that the design works well with the top up or down. The ability of the top to repel water is simply amazing!

As I intend to use the cover to protect my top from weathering, being able put the cover on with the top up was critical to me. In the spring and fall it will act as a safeguard against the torrential rains we sometimes get in New England and in the summer it will protect the top from sunlight and keep the cockpit cool.

With the top up, it’s easy to attach the cover. Simply plunk it on top and make all the connections. It does require a trip around the car, but I can do it in about 20 seconds. Removal is even quicker. It’s not quite as easy to put the cover on with the top down (it tends to billow around a bit), but it’s also not particularly difficult. In general, it’s much more time consuming to put the cover on than to put the top up (assuming you don’t use the tonneau cover), but the extra protection justifies it’s use for me. If you do use the tonneau religiously, you’ll find it much easier to deal with a cockpit cover than taking the toneau off and raising the roof.

Before ordering the cover, I also considered a full car cover. I decided not to go that route because I did not want to put the cover on the car when it was dirty. I was primarily interested in protection for the parts susceptible to rain and sun: the interior and the fabric top.

The Z3Solution cover doestouch parts of the car and I’ll have to see what the long term effects will be, but early indications are good: the sides do not move significantly because of the bulk of the foam padding and the tie-downs, therefore the cover does not rub on the paint.

At $109 The Z3Solution cover is slightly more expensive that some of the competitors (MM Marketing offers its unit for about $80), but the full cut of the cover, the Weatherguard material and the ding protection make it well worth the increment. It’s significantly less expensive than a full body cover and takes up less space in the trunk (but it should be noted that the padding makes it bulkier than a normal cockpit cover).

The cover comes with a nice carrying case, but so far I’ve never used it. I just fold the thing up and dump it in the trunk.

Cockpit covers may not be for everyone. I have a number of friends who are comfortable with parking their cars outside for long periods of time with no protection. For me, however, the protection afforded by the cockpit cover, including the protection from the inconsiderate co-worker’s doors, easily justifies the cost of this new accessory…..and I get to keep my new job!

Comparison chart from www.covercraft.com

BMW Strong-Strut Tower Brace

Pros: Price, quality, strength, breathtaking finish
Cons: Careless installation could “ding” your hood
Cost: $315 and up from Strong Strut

Not surprisingly, my M Roadster displays a subtle cacophony of assorted squeaks and rattles which seem to be standard equipment on even the stoutest of convertibles. MZ3 Netmeister Robert Leidy’s review of the Dinan Strut Brace suggested that a tower brace could provide help. Meantime, I had been seeing quite a few posts on the Z3 message board discussing the new Strong-Strut tower brace. Strong-Strut’s own web page made their strut seem particularly attractive so, as I’m always eager to try out the latest wrinkle, I ordered a Strong-Strut for my car.

The Strong-Strut arrived in a long triangular USPS Priority Mail box. Weighing in at 12 1/2 pounds, the all steel structure is clearly up to restraining errant movements of the strut towers. More, the Strong-Strut is absolutely beautiful to see. The flawless powder coat and deep chrome will look wonderful under my hood. I chose black powder coated tower rings with a chrome strut, but Strong-Strut offers a wide choice of attractive sounding finishes with prices ranging from $315 for an all black powder coated assembly to $365 for all chrome finish. Other, more expensive, special finishes are also available and Strong-Strut is even prepared to provide custom finishes to the buyer’s specs. How about candy-apple purple rings with a gold plated strut?

Strong-Strut provides six pages of instructions, most of which are concerned with insuring adequate under hood clearance. The penalty for failing to carefully follow these instructions would be two dings in your hood when you slam it closed on the Strong-Strut. Happily, the procedure is clearly explained, and Strong-Strut even includes two cubes of modeling clay to check under hood clearance. Once proper clearance is insured, the installation is a matter of ten minutes or so, using common hand tools. Take your time as you bolt it in and admire the lovely weld beads and precision stainless steel hardware. Note, too, how the tower rings are contoured to exactly mate with the complex curvature of the top of the strut tower.

Not only does the Strong-Strut look great under my hood, it works! I don’t track or autocross my car so I can’t comment on its handling benefits, but I noticed immediately on my road test that a persistent rattle from the dash area was gone. Problem is that some rattles from the back are now more obvious, but Strong-Strut is working on a rear brace and I’ve told them to put me first on their waiting list. I had thoroughly surveyed the list of available strut braces before I bought my Strong-Strut and I’m convinced that it provides an unbeatable combination of price,strength, quality, and under hood good looks. So, whether you’re looking for useful strengthening of the front end, or just eye candy, the Strong-Strut is hard to beat.

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.

Why is That Boot Cover so Hard to Install?

The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill
  • 1st design: thinner leather was more flexible and easier to install
    2nd design: thicker and stiffer material than the 1st design possibly more durable but a pain to install
    3rd design: same thicker and stiffer material with redesigned tenax snaps

    Installing the boot cover on a 1996 or early model 1997 Z3 was a relatively easy job. However something happened during 1997 and BMW redesigned the boot cover with thicker and stiffer material. The new stiffer material makes it much harder to install. We confirmed this by swapping Eileen’s 1996 boot cover with my 1998 boot cover. I was able to install her boot cover in less than half the time it usually takes.

    We then started comparing the boot covers from the different Z3s that attended the event and noticed three different designs. Besides the flexible and stiff versions, we found a variation on the stiff version that had improved the tenax fastners. The front ones slide to make it slightly easier to install when compared to the other stiff material boot cover, but still harder than the original flexible material boot cover. If you have a Z3 with the stiffer boot cover, you may be interested in reading this article.

    Chrome Front Grill

    Improving the Boot Cover Snaps

    When I first got my Z3, I used the boot cover regularly, but then over time I slowly started using it less and less. I had always considered it a purely cosmetic piece of equipment and eventually grew tired of the hassle of installing it.

    When I traded in my Z3 to get an M roadster, I took the new boot cover out of the trunk and put it on the shelf where it pretty much stayed. The few times I used it left me frustrated at how hard it was to install. I’m not sure why the new one was harder to install than the old one. I kept trying to convince myself, “maybe if I use it more, the boot cover will get broken in and be easier to install.”

    Despite my repeated attempts, the boot cover would eventually find its way back onto the shelf for another extended stay. I had become spoiled with the power top, and found the boot to only lesson its usefulness. I had also become lazy and just plain fed up with the hassle of installing the boot cover.

    The boot cover made a comeback when I started using the roadster tonneau cover. The tonneau cover required the boot cover be installed to function, but it also enabled me to keep the boot cover on for extended periods of time. The two products proved to be a great combination when the weather allowed for extended top-down periods. But the tonneau isn’t a year-round product, and eventually the boot cover found its way back onto the shelf for another extended stay.

    Then I installed a light gray interior liner to the convertible top. It didn’t take me long to realize that light gray doesn’t look very good dirty. Without the boot cover, the liner was picking up a lot of dirt and dust when the top was down. So now I’ve got two accessories somewhat dependent on the BMW boot cover. So I find myself once again saying, “maybe if I use it more, the boot cover will get broken in and be easier to install.” I still hold some hope in that theory, however this time I’m going to make things a little easier on myself.

    I remembered an additional paragraph tacked onto the end of the original BMW windscreen instructions that said to install some washers to make the boot easier to use with that windscreen. BMW doesn’t even make that windscreen anymore, but I managed to find my old copy of those instructions and figured I would share an old idea (slightly modified) to those that were not Z3 owners back in 1996 when the first windscreen was introduced. The official name for this “knob thingy” is a Tenax fastener. There are two of them screwed into the back of the storage area that the boot cover snaps onto. The theory behind the fix is that if these fasteners were sticking out a little farther, the boot cover would be easier to install since you were not having to stretch it as much.

    Once you locate these two Tenax fasteners, you can unscrew them with a standard 11/32 open ended wrench. The screws are longer than you would think they should be, but this extra length is about to work to our advantage.

    The original BMW instructions had you using standard everyday washers. However, on the suggestion of an MZ3.Net reader I went to the hardware store and found some black rubber faucet washers. Looking at the different sizes I determined that the “00 Flat Washers” appeared to be just what I was looking for. I used one of them on each side rather than a stack of regular washers.

    With the rubber washers installed behind the Tenax screws, the fastener portion of the snap now sticks out an extra 1/8 inch. That small difference makes the boot cover a little easier to install. However, even with this addition, I still consider the boot cover a pain to put on. But this upgrade cost me under a dollar, so I’ll take any help I can get and I’ll keep telling myself, “maybe if I use it more, the boot cover will get broken in and be easier to install.”

    Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

    ///MZ3.Net discussion forum.