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LC60677 – Part 3: Conclusion

January 29th, 2014 Comments off

Front Bumper After

Before going into the beautification process of our 2nd project coupe, I’d like to bring some closure to the unfinished items from the previous Mechanicals article.  The glove box sag fix kit installation was my first, and I can say it was a pretty cool little project.  It’s always helpful to have step by step instructions, and the online instructions provided with the purchase of this sag fix kit were perfect.

If you haven’t done this on your coupe, there were really only two items that proved more difficult than expected: removing the plastic screw caps without completely destroying them and screwing the reinforcement bar into final position.  The plastic screw caps are deceptively difficult to pop out of their recessed holes, and it took me a while to find the right tool for the job.  I settled on a flat head jewelry-sized screw driver, which was thin enough to wedge between the cap and the dash, pry out the edge, and pop off the cap.  My first attempt resulted in a sliced cap, but the damage was minimized with additional practice, and it turned out fine in the end.

Glove Box Fix

Once the glove box is fully removed, the reinforcement plate is mated to the OEM metal frame with some beefier bolts, and this is where I had some short-lived frustration.  Once I fed the bolts through the holes and lined up the plate, there wasn’t more than 1 or 2 threads visible to tighten the nut on.  I thought maybe I had misaligned the plate, but after removing the plate and taking a closer look at the OEM metal frame, it was curved after over a decade of sagging.  Manually straightening the frame was simple, given how thin it is, and it allowed the reinforcement plate to mate more closely.  Once the nuts were tightened, I slid the reassembled glove box back into place, secured the screws and…voila…no more sag!  All in all about an hour’s worth of time and $37 out of pocket.  Not bad.

Before:
Glove Box Before

After:
Glove Box After

With the glove box reinforced, all I had left was to pop off the original shift knob and replace it with a brand new ZHP knob ordered from LeatherZ.  I successfully avoided hitting myself in the face by sitting in the driver seat and using my right arm to apply constant upward force to the knob.  It took some effort, but eventually slid right off without much fanfare.  The new knob is the non-lit variety, so I simply slid it back on the shifter, pushed straight down and it popped into place. Ta-da!  A whole new feeling to the interior.

With the issues now properly sorted, it’s time to bring this car to it’s original beauty.  Cosmos black is a gorgeous color, but with any black-painted car, it looks beautiful without any imperfections, but the slightest rock chip or swirl mark shows up very easily.

Overall, the paint was in very good condition across the whole coupe.  It was obviously garaged most of it’s life, given how smooth the paint was to the touch and how bright the M emblem colors were.  That said, it’s a 14 year old vehicle and had it’s share of knicks.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

The front bumper had a smattering of rock chips and the underside of the splitters was slightly scraped.  Rock chips appear as little white spots on black paint, so they stand out easily.  I also discovered that there must have been a light front end collision with the primary impact occurring at the license plate holder.  Once I removed the license plate holder, there was a 3-inch diameter impact scrape.  A front bumper re-spray seemed the best fix.

I asked around and RJ’s Paint Shop in Pleasanton was the consensus recommendation.  They’re a small shop that handles mostly high end exotics, so I had a great time visiting the shop and peeking at the Porsche 911 GT3 they were working on.  I wouldn’t have it any other way for my own coupe, and after RJ suggested plugging the license plate holes (which I was already considering) we finalized the deal.  He also suggested shaving the corner lights, but since it wasn’t going to be my coupe forever, I opted to keep it stock.  I’m intrigued by that shaved corner look, so I might explore that on my own Alpine White coupe when I have the front bumper resprayed in a few months.

The results speak for themselves.

Front Bumper After

Front Bumper After

With the big ticket item taken care of, I turned my attention to a quarter sized dent on the passenger side door and a few pin-head sized dings in the passenger rear quarter panel.  For those of us obsessed with our coupes (who, me?) there’s nothing quite as annoying as a door ding.  They ruin the smooth reflections on the paint like a slight ripple on a calm pond, and I’m quick to call my local painless dent repair (PDR) guy, Chris at Diablo Dents.

Dent

Paintless Dent Removal

For those that might not be aware (I wasn’t until about a year ago), PDR experts utilize a series of long metal rods inserted behind a car’s body panels to push dents out from behind.  The rods are flat enough to fit between the window and weather stripped to slide down into the door panel, and the end of the rod has a 3-4 inch section that is bent 45 degrees like a small golf putter.  Once he finds an ‘in’ to the damaged panel, he uses a large light panel suction cupped to the door to cast shadows on the panel so he can determine when it’s smoothed out.

What amazes me is how fast he knocked these things out.  Just a couple hours and $200 later, the door dent and 3 small rear quarter panel dings were smoothed out with any paint scrapes polished clean.  Awesome!

Now that the exterior was looking quite flawless, all that was left was an interior cleaning with some Meguiar’s Quick Interior Detailer on the plastic surfaces, Meguiar’s Leather Care on the seats/steering wheel, and some glass cleaner on the windshield/windows.

It didn’t take long before we heard from an interested buyer looking for a low mileage black M Coupe.  He flew up from SoCal, got the car checked out at Performance Technic, was amazed at how clean it was, and drove it home as his first M Coupe!  Awesome.

Uniting coupes with new deserving owners has become quite a fun and rewarding hobby.  Stay tuned for an introduction to our next project coupe: a supercharged (370 hp!) S52 with some high dollar modifications and a lot of work needed in the rear hatch compartment.  Fun!

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LC60677 – Part 2: The Mechanicals

December 16th, 2013 4 comments

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Before I bought my first coupe, I had test driven several others here in California.  At one point I was considering a 2001 Titanium Silver over Black sunroof delete (that ended up being sold to a gentleman from Canada I believe), and when I was reviewing the seller’s records, he had quite a bit of work done by a independent shop called Performance Technic.  He had nothing but good things to say about them, and I remembered telling myself I’d check them out once I had a coupe of my own.  You can get to know the owner, the technicians and their work here: http://performancetechnic.com

Once I finally bought my first coupe, it needed a new valve cover gasket, a valve adjustment and an oil change, so I made the 15 minute drive from San Ramon to Pleasanton to visit the guys at ‘PTech’.  I’m not much of a DIY guy (something I’d like to remedy through the Project Coupe experience), so it was nice to know that the gentlemen at Performance Technic take a consultative approach with their customers.  Every part and procedure was explained, and they took the time to show me around the shop to check out the other cars they were working on, even encouraging me to follow along as they performed their projects.  They’re 100% focused on BMW’s, and it shows in their craftsmanship and enthusiasm for the cars they’re working on.  It was great pulling into the shop to see the techs so excited to work on an M Coupe.  You just don’t see that everywhere.  Needless to say, their work was awesome at a good value, so I’m a happy returning customer.

Once I sold my original coupe, they were sad to see it go but I reassured them I’d be back in my next one.  So they were thrilled when I dropped by in the project coupe to have them give it a once over.

As I noted in the first article, there were a handful of items that I noticed, but since I hadn’t performed a PPI, I wanted their professional opinion on what was going on under the hood.  I scheduled an appointment for an initial inspection and to get the obvious items taken care of.  Here’s what I already had in mind:

Inspection Light down to yellow
Oil Service Light on
Airbag light on
AC only working on high fan setting
The driver-side window button being elevated
Shifter handle pretty worn/slick & doesn’t light up
Glove box sagging

After getting the car up on the rack, I took out my DSLR and started shooting photos of the undercarriage…for your viewing pleasure.  You can see that it looks insanely clean.  Just as I would expect a 40k mile coupe to look.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

After finalizing the inspection, they gave it a clean bill of health aside from the items mentioned above.  No surprises! Rear shock mounts and subframe bushings were in good shape, tires are new, brakes have plenty of life left in them, cooling system and all belts are in proper working order, and best of all they confirmed the rear trunk floor and differential mount were in perfect shape.  No sunken welds or tears in the U-shaped mount.  Awesome!

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige Diff Mount

The oil was drained out and replaced with OEM recommended 5w-30, along with a new oil filter.  The rear differential fluid was also drained and replaced with Redline 75w-90 fluid.  The final fluid to be flushed was the brake fluid, so they bled the lines and replaced with ATE DOT 4 brake fluid.  All fresh and clean!  I asked about replacing the transmission fluid, and they didn’t recommend it, so we left that alone.  They, too, have heard good things about Amsoil, but would only recommend it to me if I planned on driving the car aggressively on the track or Autocross.  Given that this will be given a new home soon, I opted to leave it stock for now.

As for the Air Conditioning/Heat fan only working on the highest setting, I did some searching and came across this excellent DIY: http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum/showthread.php?632391-ac-fan-only-works-on-4-write-up-)

Fairly simple when it’s broken down step by step, with illustrated instructions!  I did the simple thing first by blowing on it and cleaning it off with some WD-40, and voila the fan now works on all four speed settings.  Done and done!

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Now for the two trickier items to be addressed, the airbag light and the raised driver side window switch.

PTech pulled the code for the airbag light and it came back with the seat belt tensioner needing to be replaced, a quoted price north of $500.  Ouch.  I started doing a bit of research and discovered that this was  quite common, with a possible solution coming by thoroughly cleaning the connectors underneath the seat, applying lithium grease to keep them clean, and then re-connecting them.  I haven’t taken the time to remove the seats just yet, but will keep you posted on this progress, as I don’t intend to spend $500 to get a light to turn off.

As for the raised driver side window switch, it seems as if the previous owner did some DIY altering of this button and glued it in place so it’s permanently raised.  The techs showed me that it wasn’t able to simply be pushed down, and that when downward force was added, the center trim piece would also bow downwards.  So, without taking the whole center console apart, we could assume that the bottom portion of the button was somehow glued or otherwise connected to the underside of the trim plastic, neither of which NEEDED to be replaced, so this is being kept as is.  The button works perfectly, and it’s actually kind of nice to reach down without looking and be able to feel the elevated button for eyes-free operation.  What a feature!

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Another small item to be addressed was the shift knob not lighting up.  I removed the knob and saw that the two wires had been cut, eliminating the possibility of the knob lighting up.  This could have been by design by the previous owner to eliminate the light, or there could have been a short caused by that light, solved by disconnecting the wires.

Either way, the shift knob was pretty slick and not in the best shape, so I decided to replace it altogether with the non-illuminated ZHP knob.  Once it arrives from LeatherZ, I’ll share some photos of it installed.  Should be a welcome improvement.

Finally, the all too common glove box sag.  This is a simple DIY fix, and I’ve recently ordered the Glove Box Sag Fix Kit from eBay.  You can find them here: http://www.ebay.com/usr/netlocksusa.  Costs less than $35 shipped to your door, and I’ll gladly go into more detail once I’ve completed the fix myself.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige Glovebox

All in all, not bad for a coupe that didn’t have a PPI done and didn’t have any service history aside from CarFax records.  She’s now in perfect mechanical condition and ready to be beautified!  Stay tuned for the next article covering the exterior paint, body and detail work!

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LC60677: 1999 Cosmos Black over Dark Beige – Part 1

November 11th, 2013 5 comments

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

M Coupe Buyers Guide Project Coupe #2 presented by Mark Rand:

The first M Coupe Buyer’s Guide Project Coupe started as a fun experiment between Jon, Rick and myself in late September, with the intent of finding a coupe in need of some TLC, bringing it up to our exacting standards, then uniting it with a deserving owner. We didn’t anticipate it becoming an addiction, but it looks like we’ll be making a habit of it. All in all, the coupe was delivered to Jon on 9/23, brought up to what we’d call “cartel approved” status in less than a month and was picked up by it’s new owner on Friday 10/25. Time flies when you’re having fun, but I didn’t think we’d have a second project coupe so quickly.

Two days later I had an email from Jon pointing me to a Craigslist ad in Phoenix saying “Seems like it would be a good one.” I clicked the link and examined five photos of a 1999 Cosmos Black over Dark Beige Oregon M Coupe. Looked to be in good shape, but with only one exterior shot and a handful of interior shots, it was tough to tell. A very minimal description and an asking price of $19,000 didn’t leave me particularly impressed, until I took a closer look at the odometer photo. It read 40,849! It takes a very particular or a very busy owner to only put 3,142 miles on a car per year, and every sub-50k mileage S52 coupe I had seen for sale were all asking more than this one, so I was curious what was wrong with it or if it really was a great deal.

Craigslist Listing

We called the number from the craigslist ad, and were greeted with “Earnhardt Nissan, this is Alex.” It wasn’t being sold by an individual owner, but by a Nissan dealership. Interesting. The ad was written by a salesman who had just taken it as a trade for an Altima. He explained it was previously owned by an older gentleman who needed more room for driving grandkids around. We were the first to call about the coupe, so we asked for the CarFax and any other information he could provide on the car’s history and we’d call back shortly. He sent over the CarFax report and about a dozen photos, mostly of the exterior this time. Exterior looked to be in great shape. No major curb rash on any of the wheels, no major body frame gaps or dents/dings that I could see. Looked mostly stock as far as I could tell, until I saw the exhaust. Definitely not stock, but no way to tell what brand. The CarFax showed up as clean with the coupe having 2 previous owners. The first owner leased it for 18 months and drove it 15,656 in Pennsylvania. The second owner had it ever since and only put on an additional 25,193 miles in over 12 years of ownership in Washington. Wow. A long term owner with low mileage and a clean CarFax are all huge pluses, so we wanted to learn more.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Checking the dealership website’s pre-owned inventory, we noticed they had it incorrectly categorized as a 2.8L Z3. Not uncommon, given the rarity of these cars, but that got us thinking that maybe that’s what led to the relatively low asking price. Maybe they didn’t know what they had. Or maybe there was something wrong with it, that they hadn’t shared yet. Although they have not historically been the most accurate reference for M Coupe valuation, KBB lists the value of a 40,000 mile ’99 Z3 coupe at $15,460 in very good condition, while a similarly spec’d M Coupe fetches $24,570. Even if the dealership knew what they had, they had still listed it $5,575 below KBB value, so it seemed like a pretty good deal unless something catastrophic was wrong with it. Alex said he’d talk to his manager and call us back the following Monday. Let’s just say it was a good enough deal to convince me to offer up my credit card right then and there for a $1,000 deposit while simultaneously booking a flight to Phoenix. I figured shipping would cost $500-$600, more for a closed carrier shipping truck, so when I saw that Delta had one-way flights for $171 from Oakland to Phoenix and the drive back home would only be about 750 miles, I decided to book tickets for my wife and I for a weekend road trip!

It was a long week of anxiously waiting for our Saturday morning flight, so when my alarm woke me up at 4:00 am I was up quicker than expected. We took off from Oakland International Airport at 6:15 am, made a connection in Salt Lake City after a 2 hour layover, and finally landed in Phoenix just after noon local time. Reading that sentence makes me feel insane. Alex picked us up in a Black/Black Dodge Charger (odd, considering they’re from a Nissan dealership) but when I asked him about it his response cracked me up. “This car is the fastest one we have…except for the GT-R.” “Well, don’t forget about the coupe!” I reminded him. “Yea, but I couldn’t have picked you both up in that. Not enough seats.” The 15 minute drive felt longer than the flights. I couldn’t wait to see the car and find out what I was getting myself into.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

We pulled in to the lot and the coupe was sitting in a shaded spot near their service garages. Alex went in to grab the keys and I immediately circled the car. Paint looked to be in good condition, with a deep luster. Wheels were in good shape, with the driver side rear wheel being the only one with a noticeable 1″ scratch. I had replaced the windshield and driver side window on my previous coupe, so I checked to make sure all glass was PPG and/or Sekurit branded. It was. The front splitters had some scrapes, but nothing major. I found a quarter-sized ding in the passenger side door a few inches below the window and a few more smaller ones in the rear quarter panel. Nothing a good PDR guy couldn’t fix. When I got around to the back of the car, I was surprised to find AC Schnitzer DTM exhaust tips. Unexpected, but cool nonetheless. Alex returned with the keys and I opened the doors, hatch and hood one by one, verifying matching VIN tags on each. The interior looked and smelled great. I love the smell of Nappa leather, and this car still smelled brand new. Very minimal wear on the driver side bolster, with supple soft leather on both seats. This was my first time seeing Dark Beige Oregon in person, and although I hadn’t liked it much in pictures, I was quite pleased with it in person. I love two-tone interiors, and while there isn’t much contrast in pictures, this is definitely a two-tone interior. The engine bay was clean and it didn’t look like anything had been modified under the hood. The rear hatch opened slowly, like my last coupe, and revealed a Noah car cover stored in the back. Sweet! I popped up the hatch floor and revealed a full toolkit, including the often missing lug nut adapter. Only thing missing was the jack, which would need to be replaced. So far, it passed the eye test. But, this car wasn’t made to be looked at.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

I sat in the driver’s seat, depressed the clutch and brake, turned the key and she roared to life. Having primarily owned and driven a S54 coupe, it wasn’t the same idle that I was used to, but it was smooth and sounded beautiful. I quickly checked the interior bulbs, front headlamps, turn signals and brake/reverse lights. All illuminated as expected. Time to take her for a drive! I found first gear smoothly and carefully made my way out of the parking lot. I had my iPhone in the center console constantly giving me voice directions back to the dealership so I could just drive wherever for 10-15 minutes and then follow the directions when I decided to head back. I first noticed the clutch pedal was much easier to press in that my previous coupe, a welcome change. Shifting was a smooth experience, finding each gear without issue. I was delighted to discover that after shifting into and out of fifth gear, the shifter centered back in neutral without any lean. This coupe hadn’t been abused and the shift pins were in great shape. Acceleration and braking were linear, steering was crisp, and there weren’t any clunks or squeaks while going over speed bumps.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

I had kept the air conditioning and radio off so I could listen for any noises, but after a few minutes I started to get hot so I clicked the AC dial up to 1. Nothing. 2? Nothing. All the way up for 4? Full blast of ice cold air. Phew, at least we wouldn’t have to drive 750 miles without any AC, but it’s too bad that all the fan settings weren’t working. That prompted me to try the windows and sunroof out, and as I felt for the driver side window button, I noticed it was raised significantly higher than normal. Probably a good centimeter above the center console trim, while the other one was flush. Odd. I tried pushing it down and it wouldn’t budge. Upon closer inspection, I noticed some discoloration around the button, like it had been painted. Luckily, it worked as expected and both windows went down fine. Sunroof opened and closed, too.

I took a few tight turns and highway onramps with delight before making my way back to the dealership. I brought it into the service bay and got it raised on the rack. The only thing left that would keep me from buying this could would be a cracked subframe or differential mount. I borrowed the technician’s flashlight and closely examined every weld and every curve of the mount. It was pristine. Guibo looked good from what I could see. All in all, the undercarriage was dry, clean and rust-free and I had no doubts about taking this coupe home with me.

After some paperwork and some handshakes, the coupe was ours. We left the dealership shortly before 3  pm with the goal of reaching Los Angeles by 8:30. One of my buddies from college lives outside of LA and offered us a place to crash, so I didn’t want to keep him waiting too long. From Phoenix to Los Angeles, it’s a straight shot heading west on I-10. I was a bit anxious taking this new-to-me coupe on a 750 mile road trip just a couple hours after laying eyes on it, but we were off. One thing I noticed right away was I got a LOT more looks, stares and thumbs ups in this coupe compared to my silver S54. I might have even gotten more looks on the 45 minute drive out of Phoenix than I ever got in the last coupe. That’s what drew me to the M Coupe if the first place. It’s a lot like nothing else.

The route we took is actually the same route my wife and I took when we moved from Austin to San Ramon, so when we saw an eerily familiar rest stop we had to pull over. I recently bought my wife a new Canon T3i DSLR, and she used the drive to read through the instruction manual. Exciting. This was the first photo we took of the coupe.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

The rest of the drive was directly facing the sun, which was bearable for me with polarized Oakleys. The sun visors in the coupe are hilarious, and probably only there by law. After filling up with gas just outside of Phoenix, we made it another 280 miles until the gas light came on. We pulled over in Cabazon, CA for a fill up. Gas prices were noticeably elevated (or back to normal, if you’re a CA native). The last hour into LA was tough, because we were both starving. There were a few sketchy places that we contemplated, but once we found a Chick-Fil-A on Yelp, we held out. Heaven.

The stay in LA was quick, and nice to catch up with an old friend, but we still had another 5-6 hours of driving ahead of us, so we headed out early Sunday morning, grabbed breakfast at a local diner, and settled in for the last leg of our journey. Cops everywhere! I just recently got my 3rd speeding ticket of 2013 (4th ever) and I couldn’t afford another one, so I made cruise control my friend. Unfortunate, because it takes so much fund out of the driving experience, but necessary. We made it onto I-5 N, which is admittedly the most boring way to drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, but we didn’t have the time for PCH. Here’s a shot of the coupe at the last vista point in the mountains. I took a similar shot of my original coupe when I drove it from San Diego to San Ramon.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Then, we were out of the mountains.

1999 BMW M Coupe in Cosmos Black over Dark Beige

Truth is, there isn’t much difference between central California and west Texas. Flat, boring, dusty and the occasional oil derrick.

That’s how the rest of the drive was. A lot of cruise control, a lot of scanning for radio stations. Luckily this coupe had the optional Business CD player, so we swapped out a handful of burned CD’s, but those got old pretty quick. We arrived home around 4 pm on Sunday afternoon. What a weekend! I’ve got to give my wife, Britney, some serious props for tagging along for a road trip that I might not have wanted to make on my own, and that she wasn’t all that pumped for. I’d like to think she enjoyed the quality time with me! 🙂

Stay tuned for our next article where I’ll introduce you to the guys at Performance Technic, my independent shop of choice. Only then will I really know what I got myself into.

Mark Rand, San Ramon, CA

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