It's safe to say that Project M3's engine, with its AA Turbo kit and water-injection system, is undergoing more than a little stress. Because monitoring the vitals, particularly oil and water temps, has become even more important, it was time for auxiliary gauges.

Auto Meter is a well-known maker of gauges, and it carries lines for just about any imaginable need. Auto Meter also builds a considerable amount of OEM instrumentation. I ordered an oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, exhaust temperature gauge, water temperature gauge, two-channel intake charge temperature gauge and a boost gauge. All gauges are electrical save for the boost gauge. A fuel pressure gauge is important, too, but I had nowhere to put it.

The technicians at evosport performed the installation. They began by replacing the sunglass holder under the onboard computer with a BMP Design custom instrument console. It offers room for three 2 1/16-in. gauges and retains a factory-like appearance.

Considering the power output of the M3 at this point of the project--417 whp--the oil temperature and oil pressure gauges are critical. As has been shown on the racetrack, the temp rises quickly because the turbo is cooled by engine oil. It can read up to 300*F, and although oils like Redline and Mobil1 are reportedly still effective at such temperatures, I'd prefer to keep it at 250*F or below on the racetrack. I installed the oil pressure gauge for obvious reasons--no oil pressure means no motor in a matter of seconds.

The water temperature gauge is a great thing to have, because the factory gauge needle doesn't move away from the middle unless there's been a very large change in water temperature--when the red light comes on, it can be too late. The Auto Meter gauge, however, reads in accurate increments of 15*F.

The exhaust gas temperature (EGT) gauge is important because it's a good indicator of the air/fuel ratio. It responds more quickly than the traditional air/fuel ratio gauge, and its use has grown quite popular. On the dyno, the car has been registering a rich state of 11.0:1 air/fuel ratio (safe, but that's about to change in exchange for a little more power). This indicates about 1,200* to 1,300*F on the EGT gauge under full boost. But once I had the car's air/fuel ratio checked on the dyno, there was no need to look at the EGT any longer, so I took it out. If your car is not dyno-tuned, however, you may want to have an EGT gauge--a bad air/fuel ratio is a recipe for catastrophic damage.

I appreciate the intake charge temperature gauge, which reads intake charge temps in two locations. It also includes a module to toggle back and forth between the two locations, with an additional peak temperature recall feature.

evosport's Josh Rickards tapped into the turbo piping between the compressor and the intercooler for air temp readings before the intercooler. At boost levels over 12 psi, the temperature before the intercooler actually exceeds 200*F! Even at 6 psi the intake temperatures were nearing 300*F, which underlines the importance of the intercooler.

The second Auto Meter probe was tapped into the intake manifold, right after the throttle body, about 6 in. after the water-injection jets. This gives me an accurate reading of the intake temperature just before the air goes into the motor, allowing me to monitor the efficiency of both the intercooler and the water-injection system. Both of them together brought the pre-intercooler 300*F intake charge temperature to a chilly 60* to 70*F--even after repeated, full boost runs in 60*F weather. What peace of mind! The boost gauge also is a necessity--I'm changing charge pressures all the time.

Then there's the fuel-quality issue. At straight 91 octane, I like to keep the car at 8.5 psi or below. The built-up motor will handle probably up to 12 psi, but the graph isn't perfectly smooth so I don't risk it. When I mix race gas into the equation, I can turn up the boost as the octane is increased--as you can see I'm constantly fidgeting with the boost controller. On the street, I don't see over 9 psi with 91 octane, and I like to see at least 97 octane before I dial in 15 psi. On the road course, it's straight 110 to 112 octane no matter what.

Auto Meter's boost gauge also monitors vacuum, which is good for revealing leaks in the intake manifold. A turbo M3 likes to see vacuum around 17 to 20 in. Hg at idle.

For the true road racer, other gauges to consider would be transmission and differential fluid temperatures and perhaps a voltmeter. Auto Meter offers these in two different sizes and different color combinations.

In Part 9 of the project (ec 05/02), HIDS4Less was called upon for its xenon conversion, and it's been performing admirably. Just make sure the lights are aimed correctly, or you'll see lots of birdies from angry fellow motorists. MTC Lighting now offers a Stage 2 upgrade, and I jumped on it. According to HIDS4Less, the Stage II system emits light with a color temperature of 6000K--hotter than sunlight! The difference between Stage I and Stage II lies in the type of bulbs used. Stage II uses different gas mixtures that emit a bluer light and are true, German-made Phillips 6000K bulbs.

When compared to the stock lighting, both xenon kits look very white. But when they're put up against each other, Stage 1 is a little more yellowish by comparison, and the Stage 2 looks purplish-blue. With trickle-down technology from lighting used at the Le Mans 24-hour races, this Stage 2 xenon kit is extremely bright and still only consumes 35 watts. The Stage 1 system? It went to the high beams, and the factory optional Euro-spec ellipsoid city driving lights were retained.

With the HIDS4Less xenon low-beam and high-beam conversion, it's hard to explain how brightly the road is lit up. Let's just say I'd be very comfortable doing track sessions in the middle of the night. However, for street use it's imperative to aim the lights correctly or they can be hazardous to other motorists.

HIDS4Less offers xenon upgrades for a variety of vehicles, including Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Porsche, Saab, Volvo and VW. In many cases it is a plug-and-play installation. It also carries a full line of OEM clear corner accessories for a variety of BMW models to give the car that European look. Hey, if I want to keep the "Vader"-look of this car, there's no place for amber-colored factory lenses.

SOURCES
Auto Meter Products Inc.
(815) 895-8141
www.autometer.com

BMP Design
(800) 648-7278
E-mail: bmpdsales@bmpdesign.net
www.bmpdesign.com

evosport inc.
(714) 731-6040
Order: (888) 520-9971
E-mail: info@evosport.com
www.evosport.com

Griot's Garage
(800) 345-5789
E-mail: info@griotsgarage.com
www.griotsgarage.com

MTC-Lighting LLC/HIDS4Less.com
(866) 571-5538

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