March 13th, 2004

Ahh yes, it has finally arrived. The first track day of the year for the M Coupe! I've been waiting for quite some time to see how the car feels on the track with the H&R suspension and Goodyear GS-D3 tires. It was an Alfa Romeo day at PIR. I decided to start out the day in the Intermediate group, as I was running it last season, but figured I would be moving up to advanced after a few sessions. I could tell immediately that the car was so much improved from last season with the H&Rs and the Goodyears. For some reason, the tires seemed to make a bigger impression on me than the suspension did. Perhaps because I had the suspension on the car for a lot longer than the tires, so I was just use to it by now (even though I hadn't tracked it yet). The tires stuck like glue (for street tires), and were very predictable and forgiving. I never got into a harry situation whereas with the previous setup (stock suspension and Kumhos 712s) I really felt like I was pushing the car.

Photo courtesy David Birkbeck Photo courtesy David Birkbeck
Photos courtesy David Birkbeck

The first session of the day that I had a camera (which was the 3rd overall session) I ran a 1:38, which is nearly 2 seconds faster than my best time ever. The traffic in the intermediate group was getting pretty bad, and I was doing all the passing (had yet to be passed) so I figured it was time to move up. The 4th session of the day was my first ever in advanced. To my surprise, I was still doing most of the passing, with 7 passes completed my first session and only being passed once. Not bad. I seem to wait too long to move up in the run groups (I did the same on the bike). In this first time in advanced, I ran a 1:35.9, my fastest time ever; a full 4 seconds faster than my best time last year. I ran a total of three 1:35.9 laps during the day. Great improvement. The whole day I was running consistent 1:36 laps without traffic, and at one point ran 3 consecutive 1:36.1s. Weird that they were all within .1 seconds of each other.

Both the tires and suspension really are amazing. I can't talk enough about them. I feel so much more in control of the car than I use to. I really felt like I was almost on the harry edge last season at times. I didn't feel that once today. If I ever was to overcook a corner just the slightest bit it was very easy to get things back under perfect control. This seemed to be more related to the tires than the suspension. They never slipped and I was pushing much harder than I ever did with the 712s, as they did let loose from time to time. The Kumho 712s are still a good tire for the price, but the Goodyear F1 GS-D3 really stomps them in every category. I think the tires made me feel more confident with the car, and the suspension perhaps made me faster. Things are so flat now compared to stock. The car is perfectly tossable. I'm loving the setup.

There wasn't too much exciting stuff happening with me at the track, nor in front of me, so there wasn't much material to pull a video from. The former part of this is quite good... means no spins for me, and no harry moments. I did manage to put together a video of a few semi-interesting moments (8.3 meg mpeg). First, one thing that was rather annoying was that sometimes through the chicane I got some really loud, disruptive rubbing coming from the right front wheel. I'm not sure quite what this is, but you can clearly hear it in the video. This isn't the same type of rubbing that I was experiencing on the street before I cut the fender wells back. It was probably under near full compression of the right strut. At first I was wondering if the inside of the wheel was rubbing against the strut, but I took the wheel off after the track day and didn't notice any rubbing on the strut, or any other offensive spot. I did notice that there is still a spot of rubbing in the fender well. Since I thought I cut all that out, perhaps this really is all it is. I will cut back that bit soon. The third clip shows what seemed to be a spec Miata race... at times it really felt like it, as that's all that was in front of me and behind me.

The third new thing (besides the tires and suspension) I had at the track was the B&B exhaust. Anyone who says these things feel like they add horse power is just being silly. It definitely looks better and sounds better, though, which is nice enough. Hearing the exhaust echo off the wall on the front straight, pulling out of turn 12, is awesome. However... the major bummer is that despite our efforts to get the exhaust centered, it apparently still was able to rub up against the plastic bumper and melt it! At stop, the exhaust was still centered, so it seem as if under hard cornering the exhaust pushes towards the outside of the car. A major bummer... my melting doesn't seem to be quite as bad as Dave's... yet. Maybe I can do something about it... I'll have to think about it. Once I pulled the black crud from the melted area, it didn't really look all that bad... Here are some pictures.

Lastly, I really fried my brakes. I figured the Porterfield R4S pads would be gone after the track day, but didn't expect the rotors to be toast too. During the last session of the day, I kept on screwing up my entrance to the chicane. It became apparent while reviewing the tape that it was probably because the brakes were going. On my last journey down the back straight, the car simply was not slowing properly and I saw sparks shooting from the left front brakes. Sweet. I pulled in and was done for the day. The rotors are really chewed up, exposing the iron core underneath. After dismantling the brakes, I saw that there was actually some pad material left (about 1mm), but the rotors were certainly way toasted. The Porterfields only lasted two track days, and they took the rotors with them. The pads do stop fairly well, and they don't fade, but they do get pretty mushy. Due to how short they last, though, and how rough they are on the rotors, I don't think I'll be using them again. I think I may try Performance Friction Z-Rated pads next. For now, the rotors are on order, and I'll just stick my old stock pads on there until I decide on pads. Until then, I'm commuting on the motorcycle. What a drag.

March 19th, 2004

The day after the track day, the 14th, I put my car up on jacks in the garage in anticipation of the new brakes. A few weeks previous I had received some red caliper paint from LeatherZ. Now was as good a time as any to use it. I removed the outboard pad from each caliper and let the caliper hang on the brake carrier via the inboard pad. This allowed easy access to all the areas that needed painting. The kit comes with this brake cleaner that I hadn't used before. It's kind of weird, because all you do is spray it on your brakes and all the dust just drips off... no wiping required. It worked fairly well, but perhaps I just missed a few spots. Anyway, on to the painting. It's very simple, and each caliper took about 15 minutes per coat. After the first coat it looked pretty terrible, but after the second it was pretty nice, and after the third coat things looked finished. You can also see my lovely, wasted rotors in the picture below.

So it took just under three hours for the whole job. Sunday night I researched rotors on the 'net. It seemed most places had them for around $300 for a set. However, one place, and only one, had a set for under $190! Pelican Parts had the fronts for $49 and the rears for $45! It said they were OEM. Here's the trick, though. The M Coupe uses the same brakes as the E36 M3. If you search for rotors for an M Coupe they're $58 for the fronts, and $81 for the rears. Nearly $100 more than if you search for the E36 M3, even though they're the same parts! I decided to call the dealer just in case their price was only a bit more, so I could have them immediately. They wanted $179... for the front... EACH. And $289 for EACH rear! $936 for a set of rotors! I laughed and then ordered a set of "M3" rotors from Pelican Parts for $188! I also added a bottle of super blue brake fluid ($10 when you're searching for M3 fluid, $13 when you're searching for M Coupe... weird). Next time I'll know to order in advance, though, because it took them two full days to even process my order! And they still didn't do it on their own; I had to call them and ask them why the order status wasn't being updated. So two days after I ordered them they finally shipped. They arrived today, along with Performance Friction Z-Rated pads. I unpacked the rotors and they were in Zimmerman boxes. Good deal. Zimmerman is one of the BMW OEMs for rotors.

Good installation instructions can be found on Ron Stygar's website. I found it easiest to remove the calipers from the brake carrier, and then remove the large bolts holding the brake carrier in (in fact, you have to do this in the rear to get at the bolts with an average wrench). Since the front hubs want to spin when you try to remove the inner hex bolt, I simply stuck a screw driver into one of the vents in the rotor to apply opposite torque as the wrench. These only are applied with 16Nm of torque so removing them is easy. Once the first rotor was off I took some comparison pictures to the new rotors.

Oh yeah... those old rotors were in good shape. I actually had some rotor left in the rear, but they were so severely grooved that I decided I was going to swap them out anyway (especially since I was swapping pads). There was also about half of the Porterfield R4S pads left in the rear. I'll keep them around for some reason, but probably won't be using them again anytime soon. Something interesting was that the outboard front pads were completely toast, but the inboard pads had about 35% life left on them. I didn't think this was suppose to happen. Very strange...

Naturally, before installing the new pads I put plenty of anti-squeal on them. The whole rotor/pad job took me roughly two hours, but I wasn't rushing anything. It could be done in an hour, if needed. I then spent some more time changing the brake fluid to super blue. Kind of neat seeing the fluid color change from amber to blue as I'm bleeding it. And the finished job:

These pictures were taken with about 20 feet on the rotors. Had to take them right after installation because this is the only time they'll look like this! :-) The red calipers is a "This is so cheap, I can't believe I didn't do it sooner," type of mod. $32 for the paint, and I really think it sharpens the car up. Now comes the long process of breaking the rotors/pads in. There is a fantastic writeup on rotor seasoning here, and pad bedding here. This is the process I will follow, so since I installed rotors and pads, I'll first follow the rotor procedure, then the pad. They say to drive regularly for 5-6 days before doing any rapid stops, but at that time you're suppose to gradually hit them pretty hard over a day or two. I should barely have enough time to break them in before the next track day on Friday. I don't think I'll do the track day if it's raining anyway, though. If not though, and if I feel comfortable bedding the pads by that time, I'll be there. Hopefully these pads will treat me better than the R4S.

April 10th, 2004

The average temperature at the Oregon coast in April is 58 degrees. Today was expected to be in the mid 70s and just beautiful, so I figured a drive to the beech was necessary. Unfortunately, while traveling down highway 26 I heard a loud explosion and glass rained down on my passenger and me. I was in shock for a few seconds as I tried to figure out what happened. Looking up it became apparent...

I honestly looked around a little bit for the shooter. But there was a large flat bed semi truck in front of me, but he didn't have any equipment on the trailer. It did seem to be kicking up a bit of gravel, so I had just begun to pull back away from him when the sunroof exploded. It really was quite shocking... as my passenger noted, there was a loud chirp at the very same moment that the sunroof detonated. Kind of weird, but it was probably just the glass breakage sensor of the alarm, but I'm surprised it'd make any noise since obviously it wasn't armed. What it made it seem like was some Star Wars men shot us with their lasers. When we pulled over we both got out of the car, shook whatever glass was on us off, and made sure we were okay. Surprisingly, no cuts.

All of the paint on the roof is chewed up from the broken glass. Little gouges and cuts everywhere. As bad or worse (deeper) than the sand blasting on my front bumper. What a drag. Looking at the carnage I figured the best idea would be to pull off as much glass as possible from the sunroof so that more glass didn't fall on us while we drove. It cracked right off, then I moved on to cleaning out the car with what was suppose to be our beach towels (believe me they wouldn't be used for that anymore). After over a half hour of work we got on the road again, and there was this horrendous wind buffering noise, probably around 110dbs, but very low frequency, above 40mph. It was completely unbearable. I quickly pulled over again. Upon getting out of the car additional glass fell out of my pants. I tried to cram one of the towels in the sunroof to close off the hole. Once we got on the road again the towel quickly blew off the front, but remained crammed underneath it in the rear (I lowered the roof), which was enough to break up the wind pattern and stop the noise. No point in letting the busted glass destroy our trip, so we continued on and had a wonderful day at the coast. Unfortunately it's suppose to start raining continuously on Monday, so it'll be hard to get quotes. I'll be sure to call my insurance though and find out the story...

UPDATE: Got back from the adjuster. The total for the roof and paint is $913 - my $50 deductible. He cut me a check on the spot, and I went to Kuni BMW. After setting everything up, I almost left, but asked for an ETA on the part. He runs around, gets the parts guy and I hear him say, "Oh wow... you should go talk to him." They both walk out and tell me that there are none in the country, and they checked and show none in Germany. I asked what that means for time-frame, and he said it could mean anything. They could place an order for one and it will go straight to the top of the order cue at BMWNA and in Germany, since none exist, but it could be months before they manufacture one. MONTHS! I'm planning on leaving on a track vacation to Laguna Seca & Thunderhill in three weeks. This could totally screw things up! Not to mention I don't have a freakin car. Hopefully I can find a line on a used one out of a parted out car, or some such thing...

April 16th, 2004

After learning it could be months before a new sunroof would arrive from Germany, I went off on my own hunt for one. I posted a message on the M Coupe message board at roadfly asking if anyone knew where I could get one, or if by some freak reason someone had an extra. Through this message I was actually able to locate two sunroofs! One from an M Coupe that was being parted out after an accident, and another from DannO's track M Coupe, which does not have a sunroof after he put a solid roof in its place. I went with DannO's roof. Much thanks to the board and DannO for delivering when it looked like I may be without my car for months! After working out the deal and paying the $100 for next day shipping (ouch), the roof arrived yesterday. I attempted to take out the old roof in the dark but after slicing my finger open I decided to wait until today.

Removal of the roof is pretty straight forward. The roof is attached to the rear by a couple of small pins going through some arms. To remove the pins, simply remove the e-clips and push the pin out (You want to remove the top e-clips and pins, not the ones at the bottom of the arms). You can now remove the rear of the roof from the arms. The front is just resting in place by a couple of ears. Simply pull the roof straight back and it's free! The new one goes in just as easily.

Unfortunately, while trying to re-attach one of the e-clips, it went flying off into oblivion, never to be seen again. Hopefully I can just find clips that will work at home depot so I don't have to wait 3 months for BMWAG to manufacture some. Another bummer is the "new" (used) sun roof has all kinds of little chips in the glass, on the inside. I'm not quite sure what could have caused this. When it arrived it seemed to have a bit of sand on it, so perhaps this is how? I didn't even notice them until I cleaned off the glass, but once clean they're quite apparent. It looks like something's on the glass, but it's really just little pits all over the glass. I tried to focus the camera on them, but it was difficult. You can certainly see some of them by clicking on the images below though. In real life it's quite a bit more apparent. The glass in the pictures was totally cleaned on both sides, so any spec you see is a pit in the glass. Scraping my finger nail across a couple of them picked off a gnarl of glass and just made the pit worse. So I guess I'll leave them as they are, which makes the glass not a very smooth surface.

Oh well. Beggars can't be choosers, right? And I was certainly in dire need of a roof. It's in though, and I think will function just fine. I didn't memorize exactly how the old one went up and down, and how it sealed, but I think this one's a little different. I'll have to wait and see. I did wash the car right after installing it and no water came in, so that's a good sign.

I also spent some time vacuuming out the inside of the car. I've thoroughly done this twice now, and the second time there was tons more glass. So I bet there are stock piles of broken glass underneath my seats that is coming out when driving. I really should just remove the seats and be sure to vacuum everything up really good. Currently when you move the seats forward and back, you can hear them driving over pieces of glass. It sounds terrible.

Oh yes, I almost forgot BMWNA's humor. After seeing my post about the broken glass on the message board they sent me this email:

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2004 13:41:38 -0400
Subject: Your shattered sunroof

Mr. Paris:

Your recent posting on Roadfly has been referred to me by our Internet Team.

First of all, I am very glad to hear that you and your passenger were not
injured by this very unfortunate incident. This is certainly a testament to
"Safety Glass".

The breaking of tempered glass (safety glass) into very small pieces is
consistent with high impact of a small object in a concentrated area , such
as a small stone thrown by a tire of a vehicle. A check of our database by
our engineering department has not revealed any reported problems of the
sunroofs of E36 M coupes shattering from other than outside influences.

I am sorry that I cannot be of further help.

Steve Kossar
Customer Relations and Services
Executive Representative
BMW of North America
(201) 573-7820
(800) 831-1117 EXT. 7820
(201) 930-8362 Fax

My reply:

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2004 13:42:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: David Paris
Subject: Re: Your shattered sunroof


At first I wasn't even going to reply, but I figure I'd let you know of a
few things. First, why do you bother posting on a message board suggesting
you're going to help and then write me this lame email simply saying how
great your "safety glass" is and that there's nothing else you can do? Why
bother? I'm not sure what you're after in doing so. Since you offer no
help, it certainly doesn't make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. I'd
say no reply is better than this email. If you want to help, how about you
stock the sunroofs? I don't know if you saw my other post on the message
board, but I went to Kuni BMW in Beaverton, OR and when I tried to order a
new roof I was told that there were none in the country, and none in
Germany. He told me it could be months before one was made! And I'm just
suppose to sit without a car for that long? That's acceptable? Not to me
it isn't. I'm really lucky that a board member was able to sell me a used
one that he happened to have from his wrecked M Coupe.

And while I may not have a severed head from your "safety glass," you may
have also failed to read the post where I stated that I was picking little
pieces of "safety glass" out of my head that was actually embedded into my
skull for days. Some pieces were 5mm's into my skull, and when they were
removed they brought a bit of blood with them. My head was speckled with
little cuts after that. "Safety glass" you say? My passenger also
received a cut on her hand as she was carefully picking up your "safety
glass." BMWNA is as lucky as I am that a piece of "safety glass" didn't
land in my, or my passenger's, eyes. How about using laminated tempered
glass instead? Or is that too expensive for our safety? I couldn't believe
it wasn't laminated.


Surprise, Surprise: I did not hear back from them after this.

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David Paris
Last modified: Fri Jun 4 16:04:53 PDT 2004