2001 BMW Z-3

My wonderful wife arrived in my life with a 2001 BMW Z3. While it "only" has the base 2.5 L straight six, I find it a great car to drive, although I know it doesn't handle nearly as well as the newer Z4. The 2.5 still gives a great power to weight ratio.

Paint Protection: We first put on the factory bra and, as expected, it scuffed up the paint. Then we had installed 12 mm clear plastic adhered to the frontend, mirrors, and top of the rear bumper (for luggage scratches). While the idea of a thicker plastic to better bounce off road debris sounded good, this looked really rippley and had very distinct edges. It also shrunk and left a slight mark next to the edge, not to mention a think cut from the razor blade of the insaller. You could see it from a mile away. (Recommendation, stay away from Autobella in Portland, OR)

After being hit on the passenger side of the car, we had a new, much thinner plastic installed from Paint Impact Technologies in Santa Rosa, CA (but other shops should be able to install their product). It is still thick enough to protect the paint from chips and it is so nearly invisible that one has to get down and look just right to see it or the edge of the plastic. It cost about the same as the thick ugly stuff and was installed by someone who knew what they were doing. They even covered up the razor blade mark from the previous installation.

Stereo: Put in an Alpine retractable head unit.  When the car is turned off, the only thing visible is a blank faceplate, a nice security feature for a convertible. Factory speakers sound horrible.  Someday will put in Focal speakers.

Brakes: I've tried ceramic pads and have had mixed results. I installed low-dust Akebono ceramic brake pads (Front part # ACT558, Rear Part # ACT396; Post Cured And Heat Scorched type; from Auto Parts Warehouse.) I found them to have noticeably increased stopping power, better brake pedal feel, "zero" dust, and definitely better than stock or the previous low dust brakes (unknown brand).

HOWEVER, I found the ceramic brakes to cause EXTREME rotor wear. When the pads were about half worn out the front rotors were so badly worn I had them replaced and temporarly went back to the stock pads all around. I had heard that ceramic pads had higher wear levels, but this was ridiculous. If you don't mind replacing rotors with every pad replacement, you will find these pads to be great. If that doesn't sound like your idea of fun, avoid ceramics.

By the way, brake pads on the Z-3 are one of the easiest brake pad installation I have done (and, no, I'm not admitting how many decades I've been tinkering with cars!).

Rear Window Replacement: Rear windows on a Z3 zip in and aren't terribly difficult to replace for a person who's handy with tools and cars. I installed an aftermarket replacement rear window from emiata.com. Including shipping it is under a hundred bucks. Definately an improvement over the origonal discolored, scratched and cracked window, but can't say I'm completely satisified with it. The biggest issue is that it doesn't have that little rubber seal to tuck the roof fabric into. You glue it down with contact cement instead which leaves an exposed cloth edge around the window. Not horrible but nowhere near as clean a look as a factory replacement. Next time around I'll spring for the extra bucks for the BMW part.

Recommended Links: The most avid BMW enthusiast I know highly recommends the Road Fly chat site.