Chrome Rings in the Instrument Pod

Pros: Looks really good
Cons: Cost
Cost: $200

This is definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Your local BMW parts department can take your VIN number and order you a replacement dash pod for around $200 (yes, you will need to get an entirely new dash pod). The BMW dealership can then swap the dash pods for you for roughly two hours of labor. This is something you might be able to do yourself, but I highly recommend you let a dealership do the swap for several reasons.

1. Well documented that the dash pod was switched (in case there is any odometer questions later on).

2. Lots of electronics in this dash pod. The dealership will probably set off a few sensors (mine did) and resetting the sensors is something you can’t do at home. So you would probably end up back at the dealer anyway.

I got lucky; my original dash pod had a scratched fog light indicator lens in it. I was going to get a new dash pod under warranty. The service advisor was kind enough to order the chrome ringed dash pod upon my request (no extra charge). So consider this if you ever have warranty work done on your dash.

Bavarian Autosport Floormats

Pros: Very durable, probably last forever
Cons: Didn’t stay in place until I purchased some clips
Cost: $79

Purchased from Bavarian Autosport for $79. They are very durable and will probably last forever.

Initially I was a little let down because they kept sliding forward, but I purchased some $1.99 clips (lower picture) from a local car parts store (PepBoys), now the floor mats stay in place.

Robert’s Wood Dash Saga

Pros: Wood looks good with tan interior
Cons: Still looks “stuck on” in places
Cost: $240

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Short Version:

One day I was gawking at a green and tan Z3 with a wood dash, it looked so incredibly good I decided I had to look into a wood dash kit for my Z3. I went back and forth trying to decide what dash kit would look good in my silver/black/gray Z3. While contemplating this my wife decided a dark walnut wood dash would look good in her 318i. I ordered her a kit from New England Wood Dash and it was horrible (for further details see “The Bad”). I ended up returning that kit, and purchased a kit from Auto Designs (for further details see “The Good”). The Auto Designs kit fit like a glove and looked great. The looks were so good I finally talked myself into purchasing a carbon fiber kit for my Z3. Well, that kit also fit perfect, unfortunately I didn’t care for the look of the “real” carbon fiber (for further details see “The Ugly”).

Update: Apparently AutoDesigns has gone out of business since the creation of this article. ///MZ3.Net recommends HMS wood dash kits as well as those from MG Racing.

Long Version:

# The Good:After my horrible experience with New England Wood Dash I was pretty soured on any wood dash kit. Thankfully, Jonathan Gentry of Auto Designs contacted me (he saw a post I had made on the message board about my ill fitting wood dash), we exchanged e-mail a couple of times, and I sent him the pictures I had taken of the New England Wood Dash. He assured me his kits were of a higher quality and I eventually ordered a wood dash from him for my wife’s 318i.

The kit promptly arrived two days later. Still a little leery I tested (dry fit) each piece and was elated to see how precise the entire kit fit. After a final go-ahead from the boss (my wife), I started applying each piece. The kit was very easy to install (and kinda fun). About 30 minutes later it was all done. My only complaint about this kit was that I wished it had more pieces. Unfortunately the 318i kit doesn’t cover as many areas as a Z3 kit does. That small complaint aside, I was very pleased with the end result.

I highly recommend Auto Designs to those of you considering wood dashes. The product is precise and the wood is beautiful. I even received a unsolicited e-mail from Auto Designs asking if everything went well after the sale (pro-active customer service, kinda rare). (return to top)

# The Bad:When the New England Wood Dash kit arrived for my wife’s 318i, one of the first things I noticed was that they sent the wrong instructions (the instructions were for a 2 door convertible). So I started looking at each piece and trying to figure out where it would go. I tried the pieces, starting with the center armrest. On the armrest the pieces fit okay, but not perfect. The biggest flaw made a cup holder slightly smaller in diameter. I go ahead and install these pieces on the center console and was fairly pleased with the results. It was late that night so I stopped for the evening.

The next evening I tried the piece around the gear shift. This piece just did not fit at all. The geometry was off and I started to think that maybe New England sent me the wrong kit. This theory was further backed up when I discovered that the four door panel pieces couldn’t be installed because where the wood was to lay down, there was cloth fabric on the door (they would never stick for longer than a week). The final blow was the wood piece for a rounded coin holder, the piece was square. At that point I gave up and tried to resolve these issues with New England Wood Dash.

At first I called them and ended up talking to an “Eddie”. Eddie confirmed that I had received the correct kit, so I started addressing the individual flaws. I got the impression that Eddie either didn’t understand me, didn’t believe me, or that he thought I was an idiot. After not getting anywhere I told him I would write him an e-mail describing the problems I was having and attach a bunch of digital pictures and e-mail them to him at New England Wood Dash.

Two days passed, no response. So I called Eddie again, he said the e-mail showed up but no pictures (he didn’t say why he had not responded). I sent the e-mail again, this time actually sending several separate e-mails each with it’s own picture. Two days passed and once again no response.

Needless to say at this point I’m a little upset with New England Wood Dash and call them once again. “Eddie is not here can I take a message?” I leave a message but Eddie never calls back. The next day I try again, this time catching him while he’s in the office. I hardly get a word in as Eddie boldly tells me (paraphrased) “You don’t like any of the pieces, something must be different with your 318i, it would cost me too much money to make a kit just for your car, return the kit for a full refund”. I ask him about the pieces that are already installed, he said it was my fault for not testing (dry fitting) the entire kit first. He said to return the pieces I had not installed for a full refund. This left me with a wood arm rest and nothing else (Eddie didn’t care).

I packaged the remaining 17 pieces up and send them back. Nearly two weeks pass before I see the credit on my VISA card. And when the credit finally shows up it was $180 (I purchased the kit for $198) Eddie shorts me $18 despite his claim of a full refund.

In my opinion you should avoid doing business with New England Wood Dash. I have only dealt with them this one time but my opinion is that their product is flawed, their support is evasive, and their ethics are questionable. (return to top)

# The Ugly:After dealing with Auto Designs for my wife’s 318i, my impressions of wood dash kits was once again very high. I talked myself into ordering a carbon fiber kit for my Z3. (When I purchased my car alarm the little plastic clicker thing was carbon fiber and I liked the looks of the black and gray pattern). When I was placing the order with Auto Designs, I was asked “do you want real or synthetic carbon fiber”. Not knowing that there were two different kinds of carbon fiber, I decided on the more expensive “real” carbon fiber (only the best for my Z3). The kit promptly arrived two days later. I tested (dry fit) every piece and once again the kit fit precisely. However the look of the carbon fiber was not what I was expecting. Apparently there is a big difference between real and simulated carbon fiber. The real stuff is reflective, kinda like a hologram. This is pretty neat but very distractive. It also surprised me because it wasn’t black and gray (like my little plastic car alarm remote). It was black and hologram like. The color depended on what kind of light you were under. In direct sunlight the dash looked black and bluish white (kinda cool). However, in the shade it picked up a yellow/green tint. In my garage, it had a nasty burnt yellow tint. After showing some of the pieces to a couple other Z3 owners, we all agreed (Yuck!). So this kit got returned, in the end I decided to stick with the stock black plastic dash. (return to top)