Chrome Trimmed Z3 Gill

I’ve always loved the M roadsters Gills but since I decided on the Z3 3.0, I felt it would be somehow wrong to buy some M gills and add them to the Z. So I have been looking for a way to add a little something to the originals.

This is my first attempt at adding a little flash of chrome. I am sending this to elicit some comments good, bad, “don’t mess with the original”!, It is completely removable.

Note: The Chrome trim can be found at most auto part stores.

Chrome Grill Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chrome Front Grill

BMW Grill: still waiting for part number, suspect it will be roughly $40 for the pair of kidney grills
Chrome tape: found at most auto parts stores, easy to install and costs under $10

The Days Events

  • Gathering at Rory’s
  • Fixing Paint Chips
  • X-Pel
  • Swapping Mirrors
  • Boot Cover Swap
  • Chrome Front Grill
  • All 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999 model year Z3s came with the same front kidney grills. The kidney shaped grills were surrounded in chrome with thin black slats running vertically in the middle. It was a great looking front grill but of course everything can be improved upon.

    Starting with the model year 2000 Z3 and M roadsters the front kidney grill is slightly different. The thin vertical slats in the middle of the grill are now trimmed in chrome. It’s a small change but it’s caught the eye of several Z3 owners. The good news is that the new kidney grill can be retro-fitted into older Z3s, however the new part number is not public knowledge at this point so we have to wait to order from BMW.

    Eileen found some thin chrome trim tape at her local autoparts store. After spending a few minutes cutting the tape to precise length, she simple stuck them on and the result looks great. For only a few dollars she made her front kidney grill just like the new grills. Who knows how long the chrome tape will last, but so far it is holding up quite well.