Chrome Roll Hoops

Pros: Look Really Good, Easy to Install, Half the price of the AC Schnitzer.
Cons: Doesn’t work with the BMW windscreen.
Cost: $595 from MyRoadster.net

I’ve always enjoyed the chrome (actually polished stainless steel) roll hoops on my Z3, but the AC Schnitzer price (ouch). For those Z3 owners that are looking to replace the stock (black) BMW hoops, but cringed at the AC Schnitzer price, MyRoadster.net offers similiar polished roll hoops for much less money.

The shape of these roll hoops are slightly different than the stock BMW hoops and the AC Schnitzer hoops. MyRoadster.net’s design is more round on top and much thicker. They remind me of the Audi TT roll hoops, very sporty. 60mm or 2.4 inch diameter (compared to approx 50mm on the Schnitzer design). With a wall thickness of 2mm or .08 inches. The installation of these roll hoops is nearly identicle to the AC Schnitzer hoops (installation instructions). Three torx 40 bolts hold the hoops in place, the installation is surprisingly easy the only non-standard tool needed is a torx 40 driver (I found one at my local hardware store).

The difference between the installations is the (gasket like) rubber rings at the bottom of the roll hoops. The rubber rings are partly for cosmetic reasons, but they also make sure you don’t end up with metal on plastic rattles. Installing the rubber rings was a little confusing. There is a slit in the rubber ring, its designed to slip on over the end of the roll hoop. That installation isn’t as easy as it sounds but the design is better than the Schnitzer solution (at least the ones I received).

MyRoadster.net also provides roll hoops to Z3Solution.com, you can purchase from either vendor and end up with the same high quality product at nearly half the price of the AC Schnitzer brand.

“Clear” Turn Signal Blubs

In case you have ever wanted to make your turn signals completely clear rather than seeing the tinge of amber from the turn signal bulbs, there are two ways to do it. First and most expensive is to find the Philips Silvervision bulbs usually sold in Europe. These are amber bulbs with a translucent silver outer finish. When off they appear clear, when on they appear amber.

The second method is to make them yourself at home by painting your bulbs with a light coat of Rustoleum High Temperature silver spray paint, sold at Home Depot for less than $5. This process is well documented on the BMW M5 messageboard. I did this for my M5, and now have done it for my M Roadster. The picture to the right shows the left lamp after treatment and the right as original:

I think you’ll agree that the 10 minutes or so required for the job is well worth it. It’s also possible to treat the front turn signals this way if you like. Enjoy.

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.

Under The Hood

Before – One of the pleasures of owning an M roadser is to show off your engine.

After – I decided to add a little more spice in the look of it. I started to add some chrome accent. Most of the parts came from Ron J. Stygar expect for the strut bar, which came from Paul Ebeyer Sr.

After – Here’s what I’ve added;

* Battery Ground post

* Diagnostic connector cap

* Engine Lift point

* Oil filter lid

* Oil filter cap

* Radiator Cap

* Steering pump cap

* Radiator Spacer screws

* Valve cover nuts and washers

* Various Z8 nuts

* Windshield wiper jug screw

After doing so I felt that I could go the extra mile and have my valve cover and fuel line cover painted in Imola Red. Needless to say that I was really impress with the result.

I bought a new set of cover since I have use a lot of Armorall of these cover. My dealer told me that even if he would prep the cover very well, I could end up with fish eye on the cover.

After – Here’s the part number for the covers

* 11-12-1-404-466 – BMW M Power valve cover

* 13-54-1-740-160 – Fuel line cover

This really didn’t bring any power to the car but it sure looks more beautiful.

Road to the Perfect Armrest

Folks who have seen pictures of the then yet-to-be-released Z3 in 1996 have reported that it showed pop-up cupholders. When the roadster was finally into its US production, the center console instead sported a 6-cassette holder sitting behind a rubber cubby bin. The uncovered bin was big enough for a garage door clicker and some loose change, but that was about it.

BMW took it to heart when attendees at the first Z3 Homecoming voiced their concerns about the lack of a cupholder. I’m certain that the ruckus from this oversight made it’s way into the Bond Film “The World Is Not Enough” in the form of an inside joke when “Q” tells 007 about the cupholders his Z8 has!

Sometime in late 1997, a bulletin was issued that instructed dealers to swap out the cassette holder for an armrest/cupholder console only upon request of the owner. This involved removing the rubber cubby bin and cassette holder, drilling a hole behind the emergency brake lever, and mounting the new armrest (82-11-1-469-516) in its place.

The chintziness of the construction and material used in the OEM product provided ample opportunity for improvement; that’s when Z3 enthusiast Jon Maddux stepped up to plate and has been slamming homers over the fence ever since. His padded leather armrests have been touted by legions of customers as works of art. The selection of leather, the craftsmanship, the attention to detail are all top-notch. His skills have brought forth numerous other cockpit goodies as shown on his website, LeatherZ.com

As much as I would have LOVED to own a LeatherZ armrest, my desire for functionality wasn’t being met by BMW’s offering. My dirty little secret is that on a sweltering summer day, I might occasionally stop into a 7-eleven and indulge in an icy-cold 44oz Super Big Gulp. There was simply no way BMW Cupholder #82-11-1-469-516 was going to accomodate. Surrendering my unused cassette holder for a seldom-used cupholder wasn’t the solution I was looking for.

When I found out the original pop-up cupholder (51-16-8-398-250) was obtainable, I got it mostly for the novelty of it. The novelty wore off soon enough since it’s nearly flush-mounted design provided zero opportunity to serve as a place to rest the elbow. Any attempts otherwise might cause one of the cupholders to pop-up. It’s ability to hold a variety of cups was equally useless to me. An enthusiastic turn around a corner would be cause enough for a small cup to topple out of the cupholder’s grip.

Model Year 2000 cupholderDuring the 1999 Z3 Homecoming, I was pleasantly surprised to find out another center console design was going into production. BMW gave the OK for a design apparently carried over from the 318ti. The new cupholder (51-16-8-413-622) was slated to be standard-issue for all 2000 model year Z3s. The front edge features a coinholder for quarters, dimes and nickles. Two cupholders follow behind it with a deep storage bin bringing up the rear. Both cupholes are multi-tiered to accomodate a variety of cups, but the cleverest thing about the first cuphole is that it features a removeable plastic ring that effectively gives it a much wider opening. Joy and elation came when I found out the widest opening can accomodate a Super Big Gulp. Functionality-wise, this was THE center console that fit my needs. Comfort and aesthetics however, would have to take a back-seat since it was an open-top design. I had trained my elbow to rest lightly on the irregular hard plastic surface.

LeatherZ Mk2 ArmrestLeatherZ can do no wrong and undeniable proof is in their newest product, the Mk2 Armrest. Made of the same high-quality leather as their previous products, this armrest shows PLENTY of thought in its execution. The first obvious feature is its shape. The extra width is sure to end any long-standing elbow-wrestling matches between driver and passenger — there’s plenty of armrest surface to share. This is achieved without obstructing access to the emergency brake handle in any way.

The coinholder and first cuphole remain accessible since these are the two items used most often. In everyday driving, my elbow rests on the front third of the Mk2 Armrest. Taller drivers would probably find their elbow resting further back. Having an armrest that extended any further forward would be a waste not only because it would never get rested on, but quick access to the coins would be cumbersome if the armrest had to be hinged away everytime. Here again, LeatherZ provides comfort without sacrificing functionality.

Installing the Mk2 Armrest shows yet more thoughtful consideration from LeatherZ. The instructions were straightforward and simple. A piece of thin cardboard was used to provide a tiny smidgeon of gap-space near the rear hinge. All that needs to be done is to drill two holes with a 5/32th bit into the cupholder rear. The existing Mk2 Armrest hinge holes provide an easy guide for this. LeatherZ goes the extra mile by providing two metal plate reinforcements. This has proven to be an extremely sturdy setup. The result is a pleasant asthetic look that could fool any onlooker into thinking this armrest is stock from the factory.

Metal plates slip behind the drilled plasticMetal screws sandwich the plastic between the hinge and metal plate

Aesthetics aside, how does it feel? Maaaaahhhhh-velous! On a 960 mile Memorial Weekend trip with the Midwest Z3 group I had the chance to use the Mk2 Armrest extensively. Jon’s selection of padding density is dead-on perfect. Not too mushy as to feel squirmy yet not too hard as to cause uncomfort or bruising over the lenthy drive. It didn’t dawn on me until a few hundred miles into the trip that the lack of fatigue I’m usually accustomed to was because the Mk2 Armrest encourages optimal posture. Before the armrest, my right elbow would rest on the bare cupholder about an inch or two lower than the driver’s door armrest. This means that the spine slumps over to the right. This can really take its toll over long distances. The LeatherZ Mk2 Armrest is at a dead-even height with the door armrests. How could I tell? After installing it, I laid down a wooden slat spanning from the LeatherZ Armrest to the door armrest. A canister was then laid on the slat and it stayed put without rolling toward either end. Was this a happy coincidence? Given LeatherZ’s reputation, I’m virtually certain it’s not. With the elbows at a matched height, the hands easily fall into the 9 and 3 o’clock positions on the wheel. The track instructor would be proud.

By the time you read this, LeatherZ should have their Mk2 Armrest available and ready to ship — check their website for details. In this reviewer’s opinion, the perfect Z3 armrest has been found. With the LeatherZ Mk2 Armrest installed on the Y2K cupholder, all criteria have been met with overwhelming satisfaction. Versatility, usability, comfort, aesthetics; it’s all there. Great job, Jon!

BMW Side Impact Protection

At BMW factory in South Carolina there is a Z3 Safety Shell Exhibit that shows off some of the design and technology BMW is using to make these cars as safe as possible. One of the improvements they are especially proud of is the yellow bar you see running horizontally across the door.

It looks simple enough but this bar is designed to protect the occupant by spreading the impact in front of and behind the driver. At the exhibit we were told that this could easily make the difference between walking away from an accident or not.

Okay forget marketing hype, Mike Dwyer saw this device work in real life. “I had someone run a red light and hit me directly on the drivers door at about 35mph. Only a few minor nicks for me, but the M roadster had the back left wheel tweeked and the total bill was almost $12k”

Looking at this picture you can see that the door was the impact zone. But notice the raised ridge (and picture that yellow bar from the safety shell exhibit).

Retrofitting BMW Roll Hoops

Pros: Upgrades both safety and image of pre-98 Z3’s to 98+ standards. Added protection in the event of rollover. Creates framework for additional accessories, like the windblocker.
Cons: Long, involved procedure. Plenty of opportunity to break stuff. Relatively high retrofit cost for what was a no-cost upgrade to the ’98s.
Cost: $633 ~ $840 (not including installation)

If your BMW Z3 does not have rollhoops it may be possible to retrofit them into your vehicle. BMW has an upgrade kit, but it can only be used on Z3s built on or after 1/97. Specifically 1.9 VIN LB83105 and later; 2.8 VIN LC01377 and later. No earlier production will work (and remember — some “1997” cars were actually built in 1996).

There is no external indication of this. The cars made in 1996 and in 1997 look the same. However, the designers clearly thought that the car needed rollhoops and tried to plan for it, even though the hoops were not ready in 1996 and 1997. It looks like some kind of manufacturing error led to the release of the ’96 cars without the hoop supports, but in ’97 they had (at least) started to install the critical braces. In ’98 the hoops became a factory installed option, standard in the US, optional in Europe and other parts of the world.

(Editors Note: Another rumor was that BMW Legal held up the release of the roll hoops, but manufacturing had already made the design changes. So just the hoops themselves with removed from the scheduled production.)

If your car meets the VIN requirements, it means it can be retrofitted. When you order the kit, you will receive new hoops and a set of instructions. Unfortunately, there are a couple of problems:

First, the kit is not complete, there are some additional parts required. The list of parts varies depending on the type of car you have (color and rear-console configuration).

Second, the instructions with the kit do not cover the install for a Harmon Kardon equipped vehicle.

This article seeks to address these shortcomings and to provide the potential hoop-installer with enough information to make the decision to install themselves or to have BMW do the job.

General Instructions

BMW will generally quote about 5 hours of time to do the install. Most BMW dealers charge around $75 per hour. A competent do-it-yourselfer should plan on about 8 to 10 hours. Although it’s not a technically complex procedure, there are lots of steps and some fabrication required. In general, anyone handy with a wrench and power drill can probably do it. The only “special” requirements are for the special tools required: TORX bits, metric torque wrench, Hex keys, dremal tool or power drill and screwdrivers.

Although your car can be driven during this procedure, it will likely have a lot of small parts loose, so it’s not advisable. Therefore you should plan ahead and have all the parts and tools ready beforehand.

Before you start, clean the rear window. Once the hoops are on it will be a lot harder to do so you want to do a really good job. In addition, have a couple of towels around to protect the window as you work. Generally speaking, the top is down for most of the install, so only a small part of the window is exposed.

As with all procedures read all the instructions first. Print these instructions beforehand. You’ll want them close by as you start to take your car apart. The hoop kit will come with instructions as well, but they will be in German with an English transation in the back. It’s much easier to follow these instructions in English (unless, of course, you speak German 😉

As you remove small parts, tape them to the instruction sheet or tape them near where they came from (whichever is easier for you). There are lots of different sizes and shapes and they are easily confused.

When you are done, sweep up before moving the car, that way you will not run over an errant screw and ruin a $200 tire.

BMW only wrote up instructions for cars with the “Storage Compartment” option. They did, however, provide parts for retrofit of HK subwoofer cars, but with no additional instructions. Since the majority of the instructions in this article come directly from the BMW english instructions shipped with the kit, they are intended for the “Storage Compartment” installation, but can generally be used with the HK subwoofer. I have added notes where the Harmon Kardon installation differs. These are identified by “HK NOTE:”. There are no instructions for the Nokia subwoofer and no one I have ever talked to has attempted to retrofit hoops to a Nokia-equipped car.

Parts

The part number for the main kit is 54-61-9-408-817. BMW list price is $640.00, but you can find them at a discounted cost of $430 from some internet-friendly BMW parts departments. You can also try your local BMW dealer who will generally give BMWCCA members a discount on parts (15 or 20%).

In addition to the kit you also need to order a replacement set of plastic covers for the rear storage/subwoofer area:

The actual part numbers will differ depending on the color of your interior and your rear compartment type (Storage or HK Sub). See the following table for the list of parts you’ll need to order in addition to the hoop kit:

Harmon Kardon Subwoofer Storage compartment

Beige interior

51-16-8-407-986 $59.41

51-43-8-407-167 $28.09

51-43-8-407-168 $28.09

51-43-8-407-173 $4.45

51-43-8-407-174 $4.45

65-10-8-407-995 $8.57

65-10-8-407-996 $8.57

Total: $141.63

51-16-8-407-179 $10.01

51-16-8-407-180 $10.01

51-16-8-407-239 $88.72

51-43-8-407-167 $28.09

51-43-8-407-168 $28.09

51-43-8-407-173 $4.45

51-43-8-407-174 $4.45

Total: $173.82

Black interior

51-16-8-407-985 $59.41

51-43-8-407-165 $28.09

51-43-8-407-166 $28.09

51-43-8-407-171 $4.45

51-43-8-407-172 $4.45

65-10-8-407-995 $8.57

65-10-8-407-996 $8.57

Total: $141.63

51-16-8-407-177 $10.01

51-16-8-407-178 $10.01

51-16-8-407-238 $88.72

51-43-8-407-165 $28.09

51-43-8-407-166 $28.09

51-43-8-407-171 $4.45

51-43-8-407-172 $4.45

Total: $173.82

The kit for the subwoofer will only work with the Harmon Kardon subwoofer. There is no kit available for Z3s with the “regular” Nokia subwoofer.

HK Note: If you’re doing HK, you’ll also need six 6×20 (6 mm x 1mm) pan-head screws which can be bought from Home Depot or your local hardware supply.

You may also want to order a number of small caps for the screw heads:

Black Screw Cap: 51 161 949 793

Beige Screw Cap: 51 168 398 920

You will be removing about 6 of them and will, more than likely, destroy most of them in the process.

You should also order a gasket: 51 168 399 072

This part fits in between the new rear covers. Although you do get one gasket with it, the extras will allow you to seal up the area between the covers.

Thre are two extra projects which are easy to perform as part of this install. For them you will need 4 size “00” washers, a small strip of velcro “loop-side” and a piece of foam padding approximately 12 x 12 inches large and 1/4 inch thick. These projects are not absolutely necessary to do for the hoop install, but since you will have the car apart, it’s a good time to do it.

Although it’s beyond the scope of this article, hoop-install is also a perfect time to replace your rear speakers.

54-61-9-408-817 Kit Contents

HK Note: You will need to modify part H. You can toss parts I and J – you won’t need them.

Extra Parts:

You should have the following “Extra parts”:

m. seatbelt tower covers (L & R)

n. inner covers (L & R)

o. center cover

p. brackets (2x)

q. gasket set

r. pan head screws (from Home Depot – HK only) (6x)

Tools

Note: In the instructions, the word “spanner” means “wrench”. The instructions were clearly written by Germans for the UK market.

You’ll also need a socket set (with philips screwdriver bits for hard to reach places) and a saw or a dremal tool if you are doing the HK install.

Important Safety Tip: When sticking tools down inside the car, be sure they are tightly attached. When I did this, in the final tightening of the hoops, I dropped a TORX attachment down into the opening and had to take the whole thing apart. Don’t let this happen to you. Suggestion: tape your tools together.

Phase I – Lay out your parts

Lay out a sheet or large towel and place all your parts on it. Take inventory and make sure you have everything:

Phase II – Strip Your Car Naked

In order to install the hoops, you will need to remove a large number of parts from the car. Before starting, lay down a sheet, or large towel where you will place the parts you remove. Be sure to label each part as you remove it, this will help when you go to put it back together.

Important Safety Tip: You will need to have the top folded down. The rear window will be exposed and will be very close to where you are working. You should take extra care to cover the window with a towel to protect it.

Note: Those darn screw covers! They are easy to tear. I’ve used a strong paper clip to remove them, but you are better off just buying a bunch before you start and not worrying about how badly you screw them up in the removal process. There is a small hole along the edge, you can grasp onto this hole and pull. Usually the cover just shreds at this point.

Note that you just gently lifting up the console enough to get at the screws. Be careful, it’s still attached at the front and you can damage it if you pull too much.

Hint: raise the roof at this point. It gives you a little more room to work in for the next step and there’s less danger of hurting the rear window as you remove the screws behind the storage box.

Now lower the roof.

HK Note: In order to gain access to the HK compartment, pull up on the cover, hard, from the front center area. It is hinged at the back and should just fold back. Don’t worry about breaking it – you’re just going to throw it away.

Next remove the grill for the HK “speaker”. You can do this by grasping the sides and pulling towards you. Remove your “snorkel” (this is the part which moves the sounds from the HK down to the grill) by pulling it outwards through the grill opening. Next, remove the HK subwoofer by unscrewing it from it’s mounts (4 screws) and unhooking it from the wiring harness. (for more information see this article from //MZ3.NET)

The instructions “Undo the clips(1) on the rear floor covering” refers to the plastic piece behind the seats. The diagram shows you looking from the drivers side towards the passenger seat belt. Unfortunately, in order to get this part to move as much as you need to, you also have to undo the sill strip at the bottom of the door. I just pulled up (HARD) and it came off. While you’re pulling it feels like you’re going to break it, but it’s pretty resilient. There’s probably a better way to do it. I suspect if you pull up and “reverse curl” the sil, the part will release from the fasteners. However on mine, 2 fasteners pulled out, still attached on both sides. This was not a big deal, I simply removed the third, and inserted it into the sil on reinstallation.

Phase III – Install the Hoops

OK, you now should have a naked car. The next step is to start installing the hoop supports and the hoops themselves.

HK Note: Before starting, attach your extra “HK part P” to “Part B” (see the parts list) with the screws you got from Home Depot. This bracket will support your HK subwoofer later on in the install.

HK Note: Skip this step, you don’t need the hinge

HK Note: Skip this step (F 36 54 059)- don’t remove the old silver “hinge supports” – you need them to back up the Tenax fasteners.

HK Note: you’ll need to “modify” the box which fits inside the console by cutting off the ends as indicated by the red line in picture. You don’t use the center box, but you will need the “ears” (the ends). Keep as much of the ends as will allow you to preserve the slots (these are used for the trim parts to secure with).

HK Note: Skip this step (F36 54 060). You will not need the hinges. Look at the next step, but skip down to the next HK Note instructions.

HK Note: Secure the side parts (highlighted in red in the picture) as indicated in the instructions. Next put the HK Subwoofer back in, reconnecting it to the wiring harness. The HK Cover does not use the hinges. Instead, it is secured by small tabs in the back. The new top will need to be inserted vertically. Before doing so, you must modify the metal plate (highlighted in yellow)

You’ll need to drill a couple new holes in the plate which secures the front of the cover. The problem is that the “studs” in the cover don’t line up the way the ones in the old cover do. I put some masking tape onto the cover and “pushed” an indentation into it to see where the holes should go. I then used my demal to make the holes. Careful: I made a mistake and made the holes a little too large, so I to buy a new part and start all over.

You also need to enlarge the existing holes to make room for some new screws on the cover where the old studs went. The new top then just “drops in”. You need to be careful to place it down vertically or you might break the small plastic parts which hold it on.

Phase IV Additional Hints and Tips

Now that you’ve taken most of the back console apart, you can take the opportunity to improve things a little more. There are two major areas in the rear console which can be improved with a little extra work:

– Eliminate the buzz from the HK subwoofer

– Improve the Tenax Fasteners (these are the little round knobby bits you fasten your boot cover to)

First wrap your subwoofer snorkel in some kind of foam insulation when you are reinstalling it. This prevents it from vibrating. I used some backing foam, but you can find this stuff at any harware store in the insulation section.

Next, get some velcro. You’ll just need the “fuzzy” (loop) side. Cut it into small (1/4 inch) strips. Look for wear-points on the inside of the grill. If you can’t find any, simply place the velcro near each corner. If you do find a wear point, place the velcro over it. This prevents the grill from buzzing.

While you’ve got the Tenax fasteners off, do the “Robert trick” – put a couple of “00 washers” behind them to stick them out more and make the boot easier to fasten.

Phase V Cleanup

Parts-is-parts… and if you did the HK install, you’ll have a bunch of extras:

Don’t worry about it. The HK install does not require these parts as they are designed to support the storage compartment install.

You did it!

Congratulations! You’ve now got a safer, cooler looking car.

Now that you’ve got rollhoops you can also avail yourself to another nice feature: The Wind Blocker. There are two versions available, a clear, plexiglas version from Z-Aids and a mesh version form BMW (Part # 82-15-9-408-546). This article from MZ3.net provides a pretty good comparison of the two products. I personally own both of them and enjoy using the clear screen in the spring and fall, reserving the mesh screen for the summer (because you can fold it down if you want the “wind through your hair” effect).

Overall, I’m very pleased with my rollhoops. Hope you are too!

Harman TrafficPro

At Homecoming 2000 last Labor Day Weekend, there was an additional commotion beyond the regular vendor area frenzy.

Harman Industries of Harman/Kardon kept a Pistachio Green roadster in their tent to show off a special head unit called the TrafficPro. This gadget is befitting of our “Bond-cars” in that aside from being a DIN-sized in-dash CD Player, it integrates a GPS Navigation system.

The current dealer-installed BMW Z3 Navigation System made by Philips consists of a bulky CD-ROM reader to eat up precious trunk space and a prominent LCD pod mounted above the center vents certain to incite a glimmer in the eye of any passing thief.

The Harman TrafficPro sports a dot-matrix display with backlighting and knob trim that glow amber to match the original BMW instrumentation. And why shouldn’t it? According to one of their reps attending Homecoming 2000, this unit is intended to be OEM equipment for future Z3s. Harman’s plan was to have this unit available in European Z3s followed by inclusion into Stateside roadsters.

Update from Harmon: Approval in Europe is for the BMW Accessory Group

In a preprogrammed demo mode, the TrafficPro showed off guiding the driver using a male/female selectable voice by indicating how far the upcoming turns ahead were. The display named the road you were travelling on, the next road, a pointer with remaining distance, and a graphical bar that illustrates your progress until that next turn. The screen gives you the critical information you need at a glance while keeping your eyes on the road.

All this is backed by the accuracy of GPS and a data CD-ROM. Where the old Philips system requires stopping and unloading the trunk to swap out one of SEVEN discs for a coast-to-coast roadtrip, the Harman TrafficPro covers the entire United States on only TWO discs that get inserted into a disc-slot behind the flip-down display. The 8 megabytes of memory allows it to store approximately 50 destinations along with 50 last arrived destinations. The unit is able to compensate if the driver goes off the planned course and features several modes of route computation probably most important to us twisty-seekers is highway-exclusion mode.

Update from Harmon: The 8 Mb memory does not directly relate to the capacity for destination storage – however, I believe the T/Pro storage capacity for destinations is bigger than Travelpilot and VDO systems. The 8 Mb is more relative to the speed of data loading and, modifications while driving as well as, the number of times the system requires disc access during operation.

Turning the right knob scrolls through state, city and street while pressing it makes the selection. The TrafficPro allows music to be played while the navigation system does it’s thing. The volume of music can be mixed independent of the navigation voice. Nice touch.

While the new wizz-bang features dazzled, more typical concerns like how it integrates into the Z3 were assuaged when the Rep indicated this head unit used BMW’s proprietary I-BUS control system to operate the existing 6-disc trunk changer. Furthermore, since this was intended to be OEM, the head unit would simply plug-n-play into the factory DIN connector. In addition to a detachable faceplate, the TrafficPro uses a similar code lockout like the stock cassette head unit. Since the introduction of the Z3, thefts of the stock head unit have virtually been unheard of likely due to widespread knowledge that they are worthless without the code.

The rep claimed that this unit was supposed to be available when the Z3 was first introduced and that was why all roadsters featured a recessed shelf underneath the instrument pod for the GPS antenna module that comes with the TrafficPro. Obviously, no such unit was offered and 1996 model year Z3s built for the United States only shipped with the stock cassette head unit.

Fast forward 7 months since Homecoming 2000 and no word of a new Z3 navigation system has been heard. If it were available, tidbits of information would’ve been trickling into the message board from new Z3 owners. Curious as to the progress of the TrafficPro into BMW’s family of accessories, I contacted Harman International directly.

Rob Barnicoat fielded my call and indicated that the TrafficPro was indeed already approved by BMW of Europe. Fellow IRC Chat bud Fred Kern points out this page apparently showing European availability. As for the United States, it has been languishing under OEM consideration by BMW North America. (Does this sound familiar, E36 M3 owners?)

Complete TrafficPro Hardware – Click for Close Up ViewMr. Barnicoat patiently reassured me that the TrafficPro does use the I-BUS controller for the CD changer and that it uses an adapter harness to connect into the Z3. It’s up to BMW to determine what the TrafficPro will cost, but I suspect it should be roughly in the same ballpark as the old Philips Navigation System …minus the additional bulk and disc requirements. He was delighted that he is still getting inquiries from interested Z3 owners about the TrafficPro, however the demand is misdirected. We gadgetfreaks should be asking the Z3 Brand Manager at BMW North America when they’ll include this into the family of Z3 options and accessories. It probably wouldn’t hurt to also let the dealers know it’s time to retire the stock cassette head unit next to the 8-track and to let us have our TrafficPro.

For More Information: Hand-out spec-sheet from Homecoming2000

BMW of North America

1 BMW Plaza

Montvale, NJ 07645

1-800-334-4BMW

Harman/Becker Automotive Systems

39001 West Twelve Mile Road,

Farmington Hills, MI 48331

TrafficProHelp@harman.com

248-994-2100

Chrome Gas Cap

This upgrade may be a bit too flashy for a lot Z3 owners, but for those owners with a chrome fettish (such as myself) MG Racing sells chrome Z3 gas caps. These are original BMW gas caps that have been chromed by MG Racing. Simple direct replacment for your stock gas cap, and installing it couldn’t be easier.

To install the MG Racing chrome gas cap, you will need about 10 minutes of time and a screw driver with a Torx-30 tip.

The gas cap is held/clamped in place with two torx-30 screws. The two holes in the support allow you access to the torx-30 screws. You don’t have to remove the screws, as the screw head are really just clamping/holding the gas cap on.

It took quite a bit of force to initially break the paint seal, I took this as a suggestion to use just as much force when I re-installed the chromed version.

There are two add-on parts that you will need to move from your stock gas cap to the new gas cap. There is a rubber bumper that slides out of place pretty easily. The black plastic thing is designed to hold your gas cap while you are refilling you car. It’s a little harder to pop out of place, but still quite easy to move from one gas cap to the other.

Sold By:

MG Racing

http://www.mgracing.an/

800-788-1281

City Lights Project

Pros: Lights up your highbeams when your parking lights are turned on. “Rounds out” the light display on the front of the car when the low beams are turned on. Inexpensive parts.
Cons: Pretty worthless for anything other than display purposes. Not an easy install.
Cost: ~ $25,00

Ever look inside your high-beam? If you do, here’s what you’ll see: See that black spot? It’s actually a hole in the reflector. You may ask yourself “Why is there a black hole in my light?”. The answer is “Manufacturing Efficiency”.

Basically, that black spot is where a small light, called a European City Light, would go if you happened to live in Europe and owned a 1.8 Z3. “What’s a 1.8?”, I hear you asking, “don’t you mean 1.9?”. Nope. I mean 1.8. The most inexpensive Z ever produced. The base model we never got here. The 1.8 was an 8 valve version of the euro 1.9 engine. The cars were produced as inexpensively as possible. In order to cut down on cost. As part of this cost reduction, there are no front bumper lights (hey! saved close to $40).

In Europe, the front marker lights work differently from the US. When we turn on our “parking” lights, the amber corner lights and the amber bumper lights come on. In Europe it’s illegal to have amber lights in the front, so they replace the amber bumper lights with white ones and they make it so the corner lights don’t come on. The corner lights are used only as turn signals. On the 1.8, instead of putting bumper lights on the car, they elected to mount the lights inside the high-beam enclosure producing a forward-facing white light. Here in the US, the City Lights were never used. However, because the 1.8 needed them, every Z has the vestigial hole in the reflector (note: so do other bimmers).

The hole is plugged at the back by a kind of “blank” on the back of the light. If you could peer inside, however, you would see that they do include the molding required to seat the socket. I decided I liked the idea of City Lights because I thought they would look good, showing off the entire light housing on low-beam and when the parking lights were turned on. The job looked easy, although I knew I would have to remove and remount the lights.

First thing I did was to find the part numbers:

The parts I was interested in were those labeled “8” and “9” in the diagram shown above. #8 is the socket (63-12-8-389-744 “Lamp Socket”), #9 is the bulb. #3, by the way is another European feature which allows you to aim your headlights from inside the car. This power is considered far too dangerous by the DOT for Americans to have access to, but that’s another story.

I called my local dealer (Herb Chambers) and ordered the parts ($17.03). It took about two days to get them. I was very happy until I actually saw the parts:

The socket connects via two very small pins. The problem is that I know of almost no connectors to mate to this to provide the power. I checked the diagram and, sure enough, there is a special connector, but it’s part of the European wire harness. I’d have to buy the whole harness in order to get the two connectors. Rather than shell out these kinds of bucks, I went in search of other possibilities. I checked the Boat Store and the Car Store before remembering good, old You-Do-It Electronics. Sure enough, YDI actually had a part which, with some significant modifications, would work.

They are called Molex .093 Connectors. They are basically a nylon housing around a set of connectors. I also bought some 1/2″ screw-size (5/8″ Chassis hole size) Vinyl Grommets (more on this later). In addition, I had a couple of wire-taps, some wire and a couple of grounding connectors. The next step was to fabricate the connections.

I did this by wrapping a grommet around the “Male” Molex connector. I then inserted it, “backwards”, wrapped in Saran Wrap into the lamp socket and used epoxy to fill in the spaces around the grommet (the Saran Wrap keeps the whole thing from getting stuck to the lamp socket). Once these were set, I attached the wire to the metal “female” inserts which would grip the two prongs on the inside of the socket. I inserted them into the holes (once again, backwards, it takes a little muscle) and once again used epoxy to seal them up.

The result, although still looking home-made, is actually pretty good. The Grommet makes a good seal on the wires and good seal on the lamp socket. The female molex connectors require a little bit of muscle to force them onto the pins, but once there they stay stuck on, further reinforcing the seal. The next step was to remove the lights from the car. See this article for more information on how to do this.

Once the lights were off the car, it was time to drill the holes. I used a Dermal tool to make the holes. Looking at the light socket, you can see two “wings” which are clearly meant to secure it when it is inserted intot eh light. I had a few hint’s from mod-god Ron Stygar who has also installed these. He sent me a picture of the inside of the “plug” (left – don’t ask me how he took this – I suspect one of those “Mission Impossible” microcameras or a team of miniaturized technicians helped). Judging from the picture, the big “wing” goes on top, the little “wing” goes on the bottom. I used the Dermal tool very slowly, while holding a vacuum hose near the work to suck out any small pieces.

Although the work was a little rough, the socket fit in fine and stayed in when I twisted it to the right. After drilling out both lights, I completed the job with the wiring:

I got power by tapping into the connectors for the side marker and connected to a convenient ground. On my car the positive lead was the light gray wire, but I suggest you check with a multi-meter on your car. Note that I have connected it “downstream” of a BMW connector. This way, if I ever need to remove the city lights, I can simply replace the pigtail which goes down to the marker bulb (I actually happen to have a couple of spares anyway). This ensures there’s no issue with dealer support on an electrical issue.

I put the lights back into the car, cursing BMW designers the whole way (would it have killed them to leave an inch or so slack in the wires going to the bulbs?).

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this project a 7 or an 8 in terms of difficulty, mostly because of the need to remove and remount the lights and the necessity to fabricate the connector part. Overall I’m happy with it. It took me about four hours to do and the total cost was about $25.

Update: I got an email from Greg Paul who wrote me to say that he had also been looking for the connector for about a year with no success. He had bought replacement lights from Circle BMW and they gave him Euro Lights with the City Lights already installed. Unfortunately, no connectors. He had asked the dealer and even went so far as calling the factory to see if anyone knew which connector they were… No luck… He then had an unfortunate incident — he smashed a fog light.

When they went to replace the fogger, he noticed that the connector looked familiar, in fact it was the same as the City Light! He looked up the parts and was able to find the socket and pigtails to connect the fogger to the car. He ordered extra parts and was able to also connect the city-lights.

That’s the good news (and special thanks to Greg for writing me to let me know about the part). Bad news is the price of the connectors: About $25 each (list). Using the BMW connectors just about doubles the cost of the project:

You’ll need 2 each of 61138352390’s (Sockets $20.48 each) and 4 each of 61130007569’s (pigtails $2.85 each). The pigtails need to be inserted into the socket to form the entire connector, but it’s real easy. (see cl1.jpg)

After inserting the pigtails, you need to lock them in. You do this by inserting a small screwdriver and pushing the black locking collar as indicated. (cl2.jpg)

Once this is done, you have your connectors and you can hook them up as described earlier in this article.