BMW Ultimate Driving Experience

For those of you with a teenage, or soon to be teenage driver, you can now rest easy. You no longer have to fear that your teen will wreck your Z3. BMW has stepped in and saved the day. Thanks to BMW’s generosity, you can know sign up your young driver for a free driving class called the Student Driver Course. This class is offered at the Ultimate Driving Event, which travels across the United States.

Saturday, December 4, I drove up to the Arlington International Racecourse to participate in the Student Driver Course. At 9:15 in the morning, I arrived amid a parking lot full X5s. There were beautiful Bimmers everywhere. Off in the distance, there was the wild scream of a 750iL speeding out of the AIR parking lot. I have never heard such a sweet sounding engine.

After going through registration, I made my way to the Orientation Room. The instructors, all involved in the field of racing, gave a 30 minute speech in vehicle dynamics. The speech alone was more information than I had received in a semester’s worth of Driver’s Education. The instructors discussed how to control a skid and the definitions of understeer and oversteer. The instructors also explained the various benefits and faults of traction control and ABS brakes.

After being divided into three groups, we finally hit the pavement. There are three different exercises we would complete before the class was over. They are as follows:

Emergency Braking:

This exercise has real world implications. Even if you don’t own a BMW, or don’t allow your teenager to drive your Bimmer, there is a lot to gain from this exercise. To begin, we pulled up to the starting line. When instructed, we floored the gas pedal and accelerated to approximately 45 mph. When the instructor’s fingernails were sufficiently dug into the center arm rest, he would tell us to brake.

On my first try, the instructor had me brake 3/4 the way down the straight. On my second try, the instructor had me brake through the turn. I was really impressed by the stability of the car. My mind told me it was impossible to brake hard and turn. But, the 328i stayed right on course. It took a conscious effort not to let off the brake when the ABS engaged. Like most drivers, I knew not to let off the brake, but my mind told me otherwise.

The Skid Mat:

For those of you who live in the Snow Belt, the Skid Mat holds a wealth of knowledge. The Skid Mat is essentially a giant tarp covered in soapy water. To begin, we pulled up to the edge of the mat and then gave the steering wheel 1/4 of a turn. Then we floored the gas pedal and tried to make a full right turn without losing control.

On both tries, I successfully negotiated the Skid Mat. The traction control was flawless, and smoothly back down the throttle. On both tries, I had to counter-steer a bit, although I never felt like the car was going to spin out of control. After my turn was done, I took my position in the back seat. To have some fun with the other driver, the instructor turned off the traction control. Instead of taking the turn, we spun out.

Accident Avoidance

Many drivers, when confronted with an accident ahead, instinctively slam on the brakes. A better solution would be to avoid the accident all together. Often, there isn’t enough time and space to brake. To prove this point, the instructors had us do our own emergence lane changes. To start, we accelerated full-throttle down the straight-away to about 40 mph. Then when we approached the lane change, we swerved quickly, and then braked to a stop.

On my first try, I anticipated too much. Instead of quickly swerving through the cones, I merely “carved” my way through them. The second time around, tried to act as surprised as possible. Another driver was attempting the same exercise. But, he braked as he was swerving to the other lane and really lost it. No harm was done though. In fact, that is the great thing about the Student Driver Course; you can exceed your limits and not do any harm.

Being 17 years old, I am a relatively new driver. I found the Student Driver Course to be an excellent resource. Don’t allow your teenage driver to drive you BMW unless they agree to take this course. Being a BMW fan, and hopefully a future BMW owner, I found this to be the best 2 hours of my life. Hopefully, those 2 hours will make for a lifetime of enjoyable driving. For more information, call BMW at: 1-800-961-4BMW.

Philips Bluevision and Allweather Bulbs

I replaced the stock bulbs in my 1999 M Roadster with Philips Bluevision and Allweather bulbs. The entire process took about 15 minutes.

The part numbers are:

Philips 9006 55W Bluevision (low beam) $34.95 per pair

Philips 9005 65W Allweather (high beam) $34.95 per pair

I recommended the Allweather for the high beams for mixed weather driving.

Headlight Switch Options

Pros: Easy to Customize and Install, Doesn’t cost very much
Cons:
Cost: Varies from $6.40 to $16.60

For most, the stock headlight switch has a black cap (61-31-8-400-003) on top of a black sleeve (61-31-8-389-547). Some Z3 were ordered with a chrome package installed at the factory and might have a different all chrome switch but this is how the majority of Z3s rolled off the assembly line between 1995 an 1999. The cap simply snaps onto the sleeve, the sleeve is screwed on and held in place with an 8mm nut. Both can be replaced in a couple minutes.

If you just wanted to replace the cap you could order BMW part number (61-31-8-400-004) which is an all chrome cap. This is a very eye catching combination but some think that the all chrome cap is a little too eye catching. The chrome cap lists for $6.83 and it simply snaps on in place of the black cap. Be careful snapping the new cap in place, there are three pins that line up into some slots so make sure those line up before trying to snap on the cap.

If you wanted something a little less flashy, BMW also offers a chrome trimmed black cap. BMW part number (61-31-2-694-602) lists for $10.20 and it also just snaps on in place of the black cap. This cap is trimmed in chrome with the face remaining flat black. This is the same cap that is now standard on the model year 2000 M roadsters.

If you are wanting even more chrome, the sleeve behind the snap on cap also comes in a chrome version. BMW part number (61-31-8-389-880) lists for $6.40 and once the cap is removed a single 8mm nut can be seen that holds the sleeve in place. The sleeve also has metal threads so once the nut is removed the sleeve has to be unscrewed and replaced.

Z3s that were ordered from the factory with the chrome package received a chrome cap (61-31-8-400-004) on a chrome sleeve (61-31-8-389-880). The total list cost of the two parts is $13.23

What I choose to install in my M roadster is the combination of a black chrome trimmed cap (61-31-2-694-602) on the chrome sleeve (61-31-8-389-880). The total list cost of the two parts is $16.60 and it blends well with my ever growing chrome collection.

Not pictured, but also available is an Aluminum cap (61-31-8-401-196) and an Aluminum sleeve (61-31-8-401-270). These were offered as part of an Aluminum package on the now discontinued 2.8 coupe.

Chrome Lock Pulls

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy To Install
Cons: Lock Pulls Stick Out Slightly Further
Cost: $9.36 (list)

Click for Larger ViewHere is another simple and inexpensive upgrade for chrome lovers. The stock Z3 lock pulls are black, but BMW makes it easy for you to change to chrome lock pulls. The picture below is BMW part 51-21-8-399-241 which lists for $4.68. Technically there are left and right versions of this part (51-21-8-399-241 & 51-21-8-399-242). When there is a left and right item the odd part number is the “left” item assuming you are seated in the drivers seat. But for our use you can order 2 lefts, 2 rights or one of each because we’re going to only use the chrome cap on top of each operating rod.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger ViewRather than take the door apart to replace the entire operating rod, if you pull up on the lock pull and keep twisting it around it will eventually come loose and you can pull the plastic lock pull cover off the operating rod. Do this on the new parts you just purchased and on the stock (black) lock pulls. Then place the chrome lock pull on the stock operating rod and twist it back down. These parts really are not designed to be screwed on and off but they are plastic and can be replaced in this manner.

Update: I have received several email questions regarding this removal. Yes it is difficult, the plastic is held in place with a bump on the operating rod. Twisting and pulling is what worked for me, just be careful not to damage the finish on the plastic part.

Click for Larger ViewIt may be easier to do this with the doors open. When the doors are open the central locking system will not allow the lock pull to be depressed. With the lock pulls held in place by the central locking system, and using the twist and push method I replaced both sides rather quickly. It is much easier to do it this way rather than take the door apart and replace the entire operating rod.

Chrome Hand Brake Button

Pros: Looks Good, Inexpensive, Easy to Install
Cons: Only For Chrome Lovers
Cost: $3.10 (list)

Here’s a real easy upgrade, that doesn’t cost much, and looks good. Change the black hand brake button to chrome. BMW makes a chrome hand brake button part number 34-41-1-163-199 that lists for $3.10. I’ve added several chrome accessories to my black and gray interior and this small inexpensive upgrade adds to the look.

The button just screws onto the hand brake. To remove the old button simple unscrew it. It takes a lot of turns but you should be able to notice it slowly coming free of the hand brake. Once the old one is unscrewed simple screw the new chrome button on in its place.

Clear/White Front Light Replacement

An Illuminating Project – Front Light Install

It’s a kind tradition in the BMW world to replace your orange blinkers with white lenses. I’m not sure where this tradition came from. Perhaps it’s just a way of selling more aftermarket parts, but it certainly makes the car look cooler!

I succumbed to white light fever a while ago when I replaced everything except the front lighting pods following the instructions on this article. The new clear rear lights looked really great. The effect of the white lights was not so much as an addition of anything, but more of a subtraction of an annoying other aspect of the car. On a black car like the Manx, it really helped to smooth out the lines. But there was still something wrong — the white lights looked great, but there were still those annoying orange ones in the front pod. They became even more annoying when I switched to yellow fog lights. Too many colors. However, at the time, the cost of replacing the front pods would have been close to $600. For that, I could live with a little annoyance.

But then things changed when BMW released the Y2k Z3’s. White lights were now standard on all Y2K Z3’s. In addition, they have decided to make the white lights available for all US models. This brought the price down to $500. Let’s see, 20% BMWCCA discount and we’re at $400. Hmmmmmmm. May be a possibility…. The final straw was when Zeroster posted that a Circle BMW was running a sale on the white lights at $344. $344! For that price I could not resist. A quick phone call and the lights were on their way to me.

The lights came about a week later. The interesting thing was that they included not only the main headlamp units, but also the various side markers (which I had already, but they’re not very expensive, so it didn’t matter — now I have spares). The lights came complete with bulbs as well, all-in-all a very good deal. Of course, you also get those cool multi-lingual instructions which are really, really helpful (honestly, it amazes me that BMW has not figured out that it’s main market being the US, the main language (the one which accompanies the pictures) should be English.

It’s quite easy to remove the lights. All you need to do is remove four screws. the problem is the re-installation of the lights. That’s where it gets tricky.

First of all, start with the driver’s side of the car. The passenger side is harder to remove because of the washer fluid reservoir. You should remove the the top two screws first. However, there’s a special precaution to take: The screws do not go into metal. BMW have developed an incredibly Rube-Goldberg-esque system for attaching the lights to the body which also serve as aiming devices: the enclosures the screws fit into actually screw and unscrew themselves into the body of the car. If you unscrew the screw-sheath, you can move the light. Before attempting to unscrew, place a wrench on the screw-sheath to stabilize it. The wrench will hold it in place, preventing you from seriously changing the alignment of the lights as you remove them. This works well on the two front screws, for those in back, you need to get a bit more creative. I used the flat blade of a small screwdriver to stabilize them, but even then I could feel them moving.

Once the lights are removed, you can simply reach behind them and unplug all the bulbs. You then position the new white lights and reverse the process. If you have not changed the positions of the screw-sheaths, everything will be pretty much aligned and you’ll be ready to go. Before you do, however, try this simple test: Take a small piece of cardboard and run it under the lights. If you encounter any resistance (like the light is resting on the body of the car) you will need to take them out again and realign the screw-sheaths in the back. Once you are done, close the hood and make sure the edge of the lights line up with all the body parts. Sometimes, you just need to play around with it until you get it right. The first time I did it, I removed and reinstalled the lights in about five minutes. When I noticed they were not aimed properly, I did the procedure again and it took me about 30 minutes per side, but the alignment is perfect.

Another tip – when you get to the passenger side you’ll need to complete the install with one last screw down the back. The problem is that the screw need to be positioned before you can tighten it and there’s no way to get back there because of the reservoir of washer fluid. I solved the problem by taping the screw to the driver using the handy-man’s secret weapon: duct tape. This allowed me to position the screw and complete the install.

The final results is exquisite! The White lights look great — for only $344 I’ve completely removed that annoying orange from the front of the car. The replacement lights are BMW OEM, but there were some differences. The new lights did not have the cool liquid/bubble level and it seems to be missing a vestigal gear. The purpose of this gear seems to be to mount to a motor in the car. Many european cars actually allow you to change the aiming of the headlights from inside the car. They allow you to raise and lower the lights depending on your load. This is particularly critical in soft-sprung French cars, but somewhat wasted in the firmer German builds.

1.9 ROAR “RAM-AIR” Intake

Pros: Improve sound and performance, carbon fiber components and shield to hinder recirculating hot air intake
Cons: Vague installation instructions, intake system enclosed in engine compartment
Cost: $348

Despite the discontinued sales of the 1.9 Z3 in the US, there are many 1.9 owners who want added performance and most of all who still love their cars. With this in mind, there has been a slow start of third party manufacturers that offer upgrades and modification(s) to these loved but not forgotten Z3s.

Presently, there are a few manufacturers who offer an ‘air-intake’ solution to the 1.9 Z3. According to a previous article on the MZ3.NET, the K&N filter charger has some inconsistent performance results. THe K&N filter charger successfully addressed the restrictions in the stock intake allowing more volume of air to enter the engine. However the flaw with the K&N filer charger system was that the source of intake air was the (hot) air trapped under the hood of the Z3. While the intake was allowing more air volume to enter the 1.9 engine, the actual air mass varied greatly depending on the air temperature under the hood. Because of this flaw it was actually possible to loose engine power. (In case you haven’t caught on, cold air has more mass than hot air). Because of this, many Z3’ers (especially those living in hotter climates) avoid in installing such a design in their vehicles.

Since I received the DINAN UPGRADE for my 7/97 build 1.9, there has been no answer as of yet for the release of the DINAN COLD AIR INTAKE SYSTEM for the 1.9 since its debut for the 6 cylinder Z3s. Because of this I wanted to see if there are any third party companies that offer such a system for the 1.9 besides the K&N filter charger. I came across a company called “ROAR” (www.roarfilter.com) that offers such a system for most BMWs including the 1.9 Z3. Though fairly new to the name I decided to call and investigate what this company offers and stands for: I called the company and left a voice mail message with them explaining my interest in their air-intake system for my 1.9 Z3. Two days later I received a call back and spoke to a very nice and enthusiastic sales manager of Roar named Scott. He was very friendly and excited to explain to me how their air-intake system functioned and how it was designed. He welcomed the challenge of putting the ROAR air-intake system against any other system designed for the BMW Z3.

The ROAR intake system is similar to the K&N filter charger system in that it addresses the air flow restriction of stock BMW airbox. Where the ROAR system differs is that it also addresses the problem of air intake temperature, by providing a carbon fiber shield that helps reduce the engine’s intake of hot air from inside the engine compartment. The construction of the Roar air intake system is mostly comprised of carbon fiber due to its low relative heat absorbence.

Review: After installing the Roar “Ram-Air” Intake System to the DINAN equipped 1997 1.9 we put it up against a 1998 1.9 which only consisted of an exhaust upgrade (Supersprint). Both Z3s being tested are manual and had no passengers in the vehicle. The test consisted of both 1.9s cruising head-to-head at 50mph in 5th gear. Once each front nose were equal we then cued each other to accelerate without downshifting. Both of the 1.9s remained head-to-head up until we hit 60 mph (3600 rpm) and the 1997 DINAN equipped with Roar system pulled out ahead of the 1998 Supersprint exhaust 1.9 by almost half a car length. This concluded that the ROAR system with the DINAN upgrade improves performance at higher RPM.

Other test(s) included 0-60mph runs recorded before and after the installation of the ROAR system. With a passenger operating the stopwatch, four runs were record before the installation and four runs after the installation. The results showed that after installing the ROAR system with the DINAN upgrade, the 0-60mph timing was reduced almost 3/8 of a second.

Note: testing in this manner resulted in extra weight due to the timekeeper sitting in the passenger seat. It should also be noted that potential human error is possible, due to the time it takes a human hand to start and stop the stopwatch.

Stock 1.9Roar Intake Installed

6 month update

With the Roar Ram Air System installed and after few thousand miles later, I have concluded that I am quite happy with my investment. The performance gain is a plus as well as the sound. The sound will be noticed when the engine is at load as opposed to a constant, maybe annoying, low resonance sound.

The journey of the Roar installation

After leaving several messages with Scott at Roar and no return calls, I received the package on the very day that was discussed during the sales transaction. With the help of Carter Lee (CTG) and Fred Byrom (Teachum) we immediately looked at the contents within the package and read the instructions. Let me first tell you that the instructions were vague and offered no pictures of installation. This is not a plug-n-play upgrade for those who are not ‘handy’.

Fortunately, with the help of Carter and Fred, the three of us made the installation procedures a lot easier. The first step is to remove the stock air box: unlatch four(4) clips which removes the cover and after doing so the box itself is only held down by two(2) 10mm bolts. For more detailed instructions on the removal of the stock BMW airbox, please see this article on MZ3.Net.

Tools Needed:

* 10mm socket and wrench

* 10mm bolt

* 2.5 in drill bit and drill

After complete removal of the stock air box:

* The next step is to mount the mounting bracket (a) to one of the existing posts where that previously held the stock air box. You can use either the same bolt that held the stock airbox in place or use another one.

* Take one of the filter(s) provided and spray oil on the outer shell. The oil is located in the white aero-spray can that is provided. Do not spray the inside of the filter. After spraying the filter, place it within the funnel system and tuck the filter underneath the carbon fiber nose to hold it in place.

* Get ready to drill a 2.5in. hole into the air-intake system (b) for the temperature sensor location. There should be a rubber boot for allowing the temp sensor to be inserted. The boot acts as a tunnel/bridge connection from the air-intake system to the temperature sensor.

* After mounting part (a) you then will need to install two (2) rubber washers (provided) to size match the filter system (b) prior to installing it. After this, you can insert the filter system onto the the Z3’s hose intake located where (b) is on the picture. Once installed (remember it is going to be a tight fit so you can use water to moisten the rubber washer for easier slip) you want the mounting bracket (a) to have its clamp to hold the very end (located where the Roar filter system and the Z3 intake meets) of the filter system.

* Once the clamp is successfully holding the system (do not tighten at this time) take (c) vacuum/valve cover and insert it to the air pressure vacuum hose located where (c) is on the picture. Position the vacuum/valve cover opening tilted opposite from engine (there will be a filter opening and you want it position towards the driver’s side opposite from engine). After the above steps are installed, tighten the clamps just enough so its stays in place (do not overtighten).

* Next step is to locate the temp sensor. After completing the drill, making sure it will be snug, plug the temp sensor into the rubber boot on the air-intake system that was placed.

Taking out the stock box Stock box removed Roar Bracket

Discuss this article and other Performance upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

The Harman Kardon Affair

One of the reasons I got a 2.8 instead of a 2.3 was the “premium” Harman Kardon stereo system with “upgraded” speakers. Granted, it wasn’t the ONLY reason, nor was it the PRIMARY reason, but it was A reason. I have to admit that as far as stock sound systems go, I’ve heard worse. But I’ve heard better, as recently as the day I got my Z3, which is when I turned in my 1998 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer with a Mach 460 stereo system. Without getting too much into an acoustics argument, the Harman Kardon system, well, how can I put it….. SUCKED.

I am not an audiophile. I am not a music hardware nut. However, I do enjoy my music, and I like it loud and I like it distortion free. The first clue that the HK was a POS was the rattling of the subwoofer enclosure. However, through my “investigation”, I found out that the HK amp was “tweaked” to produce 10% harmonic distortion. Now, I am not an audio engineer, but for something that is usually measured in FRACTIONS of ONE PERCENT, 10% cannot be good. Cranking the volume up supported this conclusion. The distortion was there, and life sucked.

The Amp has GOT to GO

In one of those fits I am famous for (hey, the car cost me quite a bundle with all the stuff I put in it, so I WAS frustrated), I took it to the folks at Tampa Bay Audio Sound, and they hooked me up with a couple of brand spanking new Alpine amps — an MRP-F306 and a MRP-F406.

Alpine MRP-F306 4 channel amp

MAX POWER (EIAJ)

75W x 4 (4 Ohm Stereo) 180W x 2 (Bridged 4 Ohm)

FEATURES

RMS Continuous Power (Watt) (at 14.4V, 20-20 kHz): 4 Ohm Stereo (0.08% THD) 30W x 4; 2 Ohm Stereo (0.3% THD) 40W x 4; Bridged 4 Ohm (0.3% THD) 80W x 2

Alpine MRP-F406 2 channel amp

MAX POWER (EIAJ)

90W x 2 (4 Ohm Stereo) 240W x 1 (Bridged 4 Ohm)

FEATURES

RMS Continuous Power (Watt) (at 14.4V, 20-20 kHz): 4 Ohm Stereo (0.08% THD) 40W x 2; 2 Ohm Stereo (0.3% THD) 60W x 2; Bridged 4 Ohm (0.3% THD) 120W x 1

Why two? Trunk space was a prime concern (or lack thereof), so any of the premium solutions that ate up trunk space were unacceptable to me. No 1000 watt amps for me. I wasn’t looking to win a BOOM BOOM competition, just clean, distortion free, loud music. Simple.

The Alpine MRP-F356, a 5 channel amp, would have sufficed, but it was BIG. The F406 fit nicely into the space the HK POS amp fit (marked by the red circle in the middle picture below), and the F306 was fitted vertically neat and tidy on an L board on the other side of the trunk with virtually no loss in trunk space.

The guys at Tampa Bay Audio Sound configured the F306 to supply only highs and mids, and the F406 to supply the bass (using a simple switch on the amps themselves).

Now, with this came some good news and some bad news. The good news was that the highs and mids sounded better, cleaner and crisper at high volumes. The HK amp was clearly very deficient in this regard. The bad news? The subwoofer popped, Bad. Of course you genius!!! A subwoofer rated at 30W was getting juice from the F406 which can pump up to 240W!!! Ok, so of I went into the quest for a new subwoofer.

The Quest for a Subwoofer

Putting a subwoofer in a Z3 is like trying to fit an elephant into a Jetta. Reading some more articles at MZ3.net and the Z3 message board I learned of many options, including custom enclosures and Bazooka tubes. None of these options sounded good to me (literally and figuratively) since the Z3 trunk is sealed and the lack of air put a serious cramp in the boom of the subs. Drilling holes in my brand new Z3 was DEFINITELY not an option for me, so on I went trying to find another solution.

I took apart the subwoofer enclosure (thanks to Robert Leidy and his article on Dissecting the HK Subwoofer) and took it to the folks at Sound Advice. They hooked me up with a couple of Boston Acoustics 5.5 ProSeries woofers (I had to pay for two whole kits which included tweeters and crossovers, which sucked) and installed just the woofers it into the Z3 subwoofer enclosure.

Something tells me that I could have gotten off a LOT cheaper than $400, but at that point all I wanted was a functional subwoofer that would fit in the stock enclosure. Money was not an issue (never is until the bill gets here… 🙂 I plugged the enclosure back into my Z3 and… Voila!

Ahhhhh, nice, neat tidy bass. Cool. I cranked up the volume all the way and it was now the tweeters and midranges distorting — the sub was cool as a cucumber. It was a good thing I padded all the contact points as specified in the Z3Bimmer.com Subwoofer Rattle article, since the extra bass would have certainly worsened the rattle problem. Once the proper insulation was installed, the rattling disappeared.

I cranked down the gain on the F306 a notch (to NOM setting) since I don’t listen to music that loud anyway (it was really hurting my ears at that point) and I reached a happy compromise — $1,000 later. 🙁

Upgrading the Front Speakers

With new amps and a new sub, the remaining speakers started to get on my nerves. Having seen the poor quality of the speakers I removed, I wanted the rest of those POS speakers out of my Z3 pronto!!! After reading several messages in the Z3 Message Board, I learned that to remove the tweeters on the doors, I had to remove the door panels. All of a sudden, the tweeters started to sound good to me. Nahhh, I didn’t need to replace THEM (wimp).

So I turned my attention to the kick panels in the front. An article in MZ3.net showed how easy it was to do, so I did the logical thing… took it to the folks at Tampa Bay Autosound to do it for me. 🙂

They replaced the front speakers with a couple of Rockford Fosgate 5.25″ coaxial 2-way speakers. Yes, I know, the stock speakers were component speakers and had no tweeter. However, I am the guy who turns the treble all the way up anyway, so a pair of extra tweeters didn’t bother me. And since I am not an audiophile, I had no clue what this would do to the sound balance in my car (ignorance is bliss…)

Actually, they sound pretty good to me. I can crank the sound up more, but the tweeters in the doors pop a little bit at the highest volume. Darn. I guess I’ll have to remove those door panels after all. Maybe some other day, but not today… 🙂

Upgrading the Rear Speakers

Turning my attention to some easy-to-replace items, I focused on the rear speakers. Removing the covers revealed a couple of 4″ component speakers (again, no tweeters here). Removing the covers was relatively easy. On the Y2K 2.8, the speaker grills and covers are held by five plastic tabs. You can pop a little door on the base of the roll hoops and you will see the top tab holding the cover to the plastic wall of the car. With a long screwdriver you can push down on that tab and pop the cover off.

WARNING: Do this at your own risk. I broke the little tab on one of my covers, although it didn’t seem to mind too much when I put it back. Don’t blame me if you brake your precious little Z3…. 🙂

I took my car over the folks at Tampa Bay Autosound and they hooked me up with a pair of Sony Xplode XS-F1020 4″ two-way speakers. We tried some SAS and some Alpines, but the tweeters wouldn’t allow the grills to be put back on. The Sony’s were a good choice since they had recessed tweeters which did not add anything to the size of the speakers themselves. No drilling or cutting of any kind was a goal of mine, not to mention a depleting budget made the Sony’s a good choice at $85 for the pair, installed. WOW!

Leave the Door Panels Alone

Which brings me back to the “popping tweeters” in the door panels. The folks at Tampa Bay Autosound put in some other kind of crossover that filtered out more of the mids and lows, sending more of the highs to the door panel speaker to address the popping sound. Seem like it took care of most of it. Only when I crank it ALLLLL the way up (and my ears start to bleed) do I hear some popping, but even at the loudest level I use it (which is doing 90Mph with the top down) they sound great. Besides, leaving those door panels alone is worth a lot to me… 🙂

Upgrade Summary

BMW’s “premium” sound system is, in my humble opinion, disappointing. They could have done better.

However, this is the ONLY thing that I can find fault with in an otherwise very, very, very cool car.

In summary, this is what I did:

Replaced Harman Kardon amplifier with a pair of Alpine amps

Replaced stock subwoofer speakers with a pair of Boston Acoustic Pro Series 5.5 woofers

Replaced front footpanel speakers with a pair of Rockford Fosgate 5.25 two-way speakers

Replaced the rear speakers with a pair of Sony Xplode XSF1020 two-way speakers

Filtered out all mids and bass going to the doorpanel speakers

The choices in speaker brands were mostly driven by price and fit into the car. The Rockford Fosgate speakers cost me $85 for the pair plus $20 install fee, and the Sony Xplode cost me $85 for the pair, installation included. For that price, you can’t go wrong! The Boston Acoustics Pro 5.5, on the other hand, cost me $400. Too pricey.

The system as a whole sounds good to me. No, I will not be competing in any auto shows, but it sounds a heck of a lot better than the stock system, virtually no modifications to the car at all, and 99% of my trunk space is still available.

PIAA Replacement Headlight Bulbs

Pros: Fairly easy to replace, same wattage, brighter light, whiter light
Cons: Can’t see more any more road, same coverage area as stock bulbs
Cost: $70

I’ve always been unhappy with the headlight performance on my 1998 M roadster. The brightness of the headlights was okay but the light coverage area was terrible. BMW has apparently designed the headlights with more concern for oncoming traffic than the Z3 driver. There is a dead space (I call it the black hole) that is just left of center. The problem is that if I was driving on a road that was turning to the left (like in the picture above) the black hole ended up being RIGHT in the middle of the lane I was trying to drive in. I’ve never been comfortable driving my car at night because of this. Even after repeated attempts to adjust the aiming of the headlights I still wasn’t comfortable with the results. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to start throwing money at the problem and see if that would fix it.

PIAA makes replacement headlight bulbs (model number 9006) that are the same wattage (51 watts) as the stock Sulvania bulbs, but claim to produce brighter, whiter light without producing additional heat. The pair of bulbs cost a hefty $70 but my frustration with the stock headlights made the purchasing decision easier to swallow. I waited until after dark and then drove the roadster to a dark road so I could take before and after pictures. Replacing the bulbs wasn’t simple, but only took about 10 minutes for each side (picture to the right was taken after upgrading only the left side). It would have been a lot easier if I had tiny hands, but the PIAA instructions repeatedly warned about not letting anything touch the bulb so it was difficult to maneuver everything in the tight space. (I’m sure working on a dark road also made it more difficult but it was necessary for this article.

After getting both headlight bulbs replaced my first reaction was “Wow”. But then I took a longer look and went back to my before and after pictures to confirm my suspicions. I think everyone will agree that the PIAA bulbs are whiter and brighter, but if you look at the pictures closely you will notice that the PIAA bulbs don’t light up any additional area, which is what I really intended to do with this upgrade. So now I have brighter and whiter headlights, but my roadster really isn’t any safer to drive at night.

Mikky’s M Coupe Stereo

Mikky’s 99 M Coupe has a JL Audio 10W3 Subwoofer with a Precision Power 6600 amplifier built in on the top.

You can see the blaupunkt toronto with the remote control mounted on the steering wheel.