Leather Covered Z3 Console Valet with Universal Transmitter

Pros: Convenient, Looks Great
Cons: Wired to switched power, so it doesn’t work when the car is off.
Cost: The retail BMW price of part number 82-11-1-470-399 is $179.00. This does not include a “base” which retails for $25.00. The LeatherZ version starts at $300

Ever since Alan posted an article detailing his James Bond-ish garage door opener I’ve been wanting to add the same functionality to my Z3. Like a lot of projects I never got around to doing it, but this time procrastination rewarded me. BMW released a new accessory, BMW Part number 82-11-1-470-399 is a console valet universal transmitter. It replaces the rear lid on the (optional) Z3 center console and provides three programmable buttons. Jon Maddux of LeatherZ worked his magic on the plastic BMW part and covered it in matching gray leather so the new rear section would match my custom LeatherZ armrest. Once that was done, it was time to install this new armrest. The BMW instructions were pretty good. My only real complaint with the BMW instructions was that the text instructions were difficult to match up with their drawings. The rest of this article will contain those original BMW instructions (in black) with my additional comments in red and my own original pictures. You can click on any of the pictures in this article to see a closeup view.

The Z3 Console Valet must be removed to allow for drilling of wiring access holes and the routing of the wiring harness. When you order BMW part 82 11 1 470 399 the following parts are included with the kit. 1 Z3 Console Valet rear lid with Universal Transmitter Assembly. 1 Z3 Console Valet forward lid. 1 Universal Transmitter wiring harness. 1 White two position socket (female) terminal housing. 1 White two position pin (male) terminal housing. 2 Cord clip with self adhesive mount.

1. Removal of the Console Valet Remove trim cap located in small rectangular well at the rear of the console valet.

2. Detach hand brake “boot” to gain access to console valet fastener located under console.

3. Remove socket head cap screw and locknut.

4. Carefully lift rear of console valet upward and pull rearward to dismount forward position tabs of the console valet.

These instruction assume the console valet is installed via BMW’s latest instructions. I’ve seen two other methods dealers have used to install the console valet. Sometimes the rear bolt is just a screw. Sometimes screws and bolts are not used at all and the valet is held in place via velcro. It’s rare but some have a second screw in the bottom of the storage area

1. Preparing the Console Valet Remove rear console valet lid by “slipping” the two O-rings off of the stanchions located to the rear left and right of the lid. Pull the rear lid clear of the hinge rod.

2. Locate the position where the top hole is to be drilled. Drill a 17/64″ (7mm) diameter hole.

3. Turn over the console valet and drill a 17/64 (7mm) diameter hole through the inner support rib. For ease of installation, a larger diameter hole may be drilled through the inner support rib since it will not be visible.

4. Remove debris from the previous drilling procedures.

5. Remove the forward console valet lid by “slipping” the two O-rings off of the stanchions located on the lateral left and right of the lid. Pull the forward lid clear of the hinge rod.

6. Install the kit supplied replacement forward console valet lid in reverse order of the previous step.

You can see the location of the hole I drilled in the picture below. I did not replace the forward lid since my current forward lid was already leather covered by www.leatherz.com

1. Installing the Console Valet Universal Transmitter Lid Remove the three self tapping screws that secure the inner cover to the Universal Transmitter lid.

2. Feed the pin (male) and socket (female) terminated wires (one wire terminal at a time) from the top to bottom through the upper hole until the heat shrink portion of the wire harness is centered in the top hole.

3. Insert the 3-position connector into the Universal Transmitter module connector.

4. Affix a self adhesive cord clip to the underside of the Universal Transmitter rear lid.

5. Position the harness neatly from the Universal Transmitter module connection and running adjacent to the Universal Transmitter module through the cord clip feeding all excess wire harness down through the upper hole.

6. Reinstall the three self tapping screws that secure the inner cover of the Universal Transmitter to the lid.

7. Feed the pin (male) and socket (female) terminated wires (one wire terminal at a time) through the lower hole until most of the excess wire harness is positioned forward of the lower hole.

8. Affix a self adhesive cord clip to the underside of the console valet.

9. Attach the Universal Transmitter lid to the hinge rod and reattach the O-rings over the stanchions. Note: Care should be used not to cur or score the O-rings during this step

10. Gently pull any excess insulated wire down through the upper hole leaving sufficient length of heat shrink covered harness sufficient length above the hole for the Universal Transmitter lid to open and close easily without binding the wire harness.

1. Wiring Locate the factory installed cellular telephone (provisions) connector X400 in the area adjacent to the hand brake. This connector is a black AMP 8-position connector with five socket (female) terminated wires occupying the housing of this connector. Note: Disconnect the X400 connector if currently connected to the cellular telephone connector.

2. Using the BMW special tool #61 1110 2.5mm electrical contact extraction tool (found in BMW Electrical Repair Kit III) extract socket (female) terminated violet/black wire from position #5 of the connector X400

3. Insert the white wire socket (female) terminal of the Universal Transmitter into position #5 of the connector X400

4. Insert the socket (female) terminal of the violet/black wire into position #1 of the 2-position white AMP socket housing connector.

5. Using the BMW 2.5mm electrical contact extraction tool extract socket (female) terminated brown wire from position #2 of the connector X400

6. Insert the black wire socket (female) terminal of the Universal Transmitter into position #2 of connector X400

7. Inert the socket (female) terminal of the brown wire into position #2 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male terminal housing connector.

8. Insert the Universal Transmitter white wire pin (male) terminal into position #1 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male) terminal housing connector.

9. Insert the Universal Transmitter black wire pin (male) terminal into position #2 of the 2-position white AMP pin (male) terminal housing connector.

10. Connect the white AMP 2-position socket (female) and pin (male) terminal housing connectors together to complete the electrical connection of the Universal Transmitter.

11. Reconnect the X400 connector to the cellular telephone connector if previously disconnected

1. Reinstalling the Console Valet Re-install the console valet by positioning the two forward positioning tabs of the console valet into the two slots located in the forward edge of the center console. Ensure that excess wire is neatly positioned underneath the console valet and are not pinched.

2. Reattach the socket head cap screw and locknut and tighten securely.

3. Reinstall trim cap.

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.

Padded Leather Armrest

What you are looking at is the typical BMW Z3 armrest (part number 82-11-1-469-516). Except this armrest has had the two plastic lids covered in nice black leather with padding installed underneath.

The leather wraps around the lid and the underside is lined with felt like cloth. The padding and leather combine to give the armrest a great feel, like it should have rolled off the assembly line this way.

Initially when working with the upholstery shop they were talking about using three pieces of leather that would be stitched together (just like the seams on the seats). But after they tried that method they realized it wouldn’t work. The seams were too bulky and it didn’t look good, so they tried using just one piece of leather. They got the one piece of leather to work, but it took much longer than they had expected. They had to work each corner by hand trying to stretch the leather without leaving folds or loose sections. They also ran into problems around the hinges, there was not enough clearance space to fold the leather under the hinge so they had to trim the leather and just glue it down.

All in all I think they did a good job on the armrest, it is very comfortable and looks good. However I feel obligated to point out the weak points which are the corners, the leather appears very stretched and the edges are not very clean. My only other concern is in the armrests durability. Under this fancy padded leather armrest is still just a $30 piece of plastic. I also wonder about the durability of the leather on the corners, they had to stretch it pretty tight and I wonder how its going to hold up under the constant wear I’m going to give it. The upholstery shop said to use Lexol leather conditioner on it regularly and said it would last a long time so my concerns probably aren’t valid, but time will be the ultimate judge.

Now for the bad part, initially this was ball parked to be in the $100 price range. However that estimate was based on the three piece design. The additional labor to make the one piece design work drove the price up to $150. The upholstery shop and I had made an agreement to do this first one for $100, but they said they would need charge $150 to make any more. They said the next one will require about four hours of labor to complete and $150 basically covers their costs. However after doing 10 or so they could probably get their turn around time down to two and a half hours. At that point $150 is actually profitable for them. So he’s sticking to his $150 price with the hopes that eventually he will get good enough at making them to make a profit.

I asked them about making them in other colors, he said it would be possible but he really didn’t want to get into that. The kind of leather he had to use to make this armrest is special processed leather that has been thinned down to a thickness that can be worked by hand. He can’t buy small pieces of this leather so if he got into making different colors it would have to be in larger quantities. So basically its possible but this thing is barely cost justified as it is, the additional expense is just to much to worry about.

If you are interested in purchasing an armrest similar to this one, contact the maker directly and ask for the owner Howard Finkle.

The Inside Job

2261 Crown Rd. #112

Dallas, Texas 75229

(972) 241-8054

Long Term Update

The armrest is now over six months old and is showing no signs of wear. I’ve used leather conditioner on it twice, the first time at three months and just recently again. The look and the feel has not changed and for these reasons I am extremely happy with the overall durability and quality of this upgrade. However I recently reviewed another leather covered armrest that was made by Jon Maddux (Z3 owner). His leather armrest is better looking, has more padding, and believe it or not is half the price ($75) of this armrest.