Having a car fit me properly is very important: I always feel like I'm trying to run in wrong-size shoes if it doesn't. Project 325 was never quite right. The factory power seats didn't offer much lateral support for the track driving I plan to do. Furthermore, the driver's-side seat had broken switches, resulting in a driving position that could allow the rearview mirror to conceal an entire Hyundai Accent two lanes over. I tried to remove the switches for replacement, but couldn't free them. At the same time, the seat weighed a hefty 67 lb--offering a superb opportunity to reduce the 325is' battleship-like curb weight. My goal for new seats was to save weight, lower the driving position for proper visibility and greater helmet clearance, and gain support and comfort. I found a solution at Sube Sports.
The Cobra Daytona is a great seat for a daily driver that will also see track duty. It should reduce weight in most modern cars, especially those with power-adjustable seats. It combines excellent lateral support with the flexibility needed for everyday comfort for a variety of body shapes and sizes. It provides slots for a competition or DOT-legal harness but also works properly with factory seatbelts.
The Daytona features a double-locking Keiper/Recaro tilt mechanism, in which a knob on the side provides infinitely fine tilt adjustment, and a bar across the bottom of the seat back allows the back to tilt forward for rear passenger access. Sube Sports offered the Daytonas in fabric or leather for Project 325. I like the idea of keeping the BMW's leather interior all leather but, in the end, applied the "go fast or suck" criteria and chose comfortable, breathable and ultra-grippy black rock fabric with reinforcements in high-wear areas on the bolsters.
Most aftermarket seats have a universal mounting interface and require a vehicle-specific bracket for installation. However, while the mounting bolt pattern is standard on most seats, there is no standard for the rest of the seat; the width of bolsters, reclining mechanisms, shoulder "wings" and other parts are entirely up to each manufacturer's designers. That makes it tricky for anyone attempting to design a bracket that will mount every seat in a car. Wedge Engineering is among the most experienced and widely used seat-bracket manufacturers and was recommended by Sube Sports.
My first attempt at installing the passenger-side bracket resulted in the inboard seatbelt mechanism running into the carpet. Danny Paisano at Wedge stayed late one evening to show me how the bracket fit. It was designed with a wider seat in a 325is that came with a smaller seatbelt tensioner assembly. Danny and his technician also were invaluable in removing the seatbelt latch sensor wire from the stock driver's seat so it could be transferred intact, a delicate and difficult task.
After several trial installations to assess various configurations, I realized that the bracket put the seat in just the right position if I mounted it directly, with no sliders and the upper, U-shaped brackets set evenly. It gave the lowest seating position for the lowest center of mass in the vehicle as well as being the lightest possible installation. The only downside is that only small people can be comfortable in the back seat, but the few who will ride there are likely to complain. The brackets offset the seats slightly outboard. I got used to the change easily enough but may decide to do something about it down the road. A Cobra Daytona by itself weighs just 29 lb, but with the brackets and belt tensioner, it weighs 45 lb--still a savings of 22 lb per side.
I found the best procedure was to install the inner seatbelt latch to the bracket, not even finger tight, providing plenty of wiggle room. Then assemble the seat to the brackets. With the seat assembly secure, I installed it in the car. Some force is required to press the seatbelt tensioner into the carpet padding so all the holes align. Tighten the fasteners only after all are threaded in. Last, tighten the bolt holding the seatbelt tensioner to the main bracket by sliding a box wrench between the seat and the center tunnel.
BMP Design provided a Schroth Quick-Fit four-point harness (see "Select Gear," December 2002). It is a version of the DOT-legal Rally-4 asm(R) harness. Schroth's patented asm (Anti-Submarining Mechanism) shoulder-belt design greatly reduces the likelihood of submarining during an accident, limits peak loads on the chest and neck and reduces intense contact with an airbag. The Quick-Fit belt is designed to be installed or removed from the vehicle in just seconds after the initial fitting. By mounting to the inboard seatbelt clip, rather than the mounting for the seatbelt tensioner, it combines the functions of factory belts and the superior driver location of a competition harness. The outboard end clips to a pigtail that is mounted to the factory seatbelt mounting system, using the factory bolt. (You bought your set of Torx bits months ago, right?) Quick-Fit belts are available in red and black for BMW E36, E46, E39 and MINI, and must be used only in the vehicle model and on the side for which they were designed.
I installed the MOMO Aluminum Sport shift knob from Project Rally MINI in Project 325. A 1/2-in. flat washer drilled out to 9/16-in. and dropped over the shifter held the shift boot higher to avoid exposing the shift lever. The MOMO knob is not as tall as the factory knob, so it is a little farther from the steering wheel and less comfortable to reach. Because it is aluminum, it transmits heat from the transmission when the car is parked. I love this shift knob, but it's not working as well as I'd hoped in this car.
MOMO's Corse steering wheel is proving to be a much better match. MOMO's E36 adapter hub was perfect. Be sure to disconnect the battery before going near any airbag, which is removed when changing the wheel. I smeared a little of the copper-based, conductive grease from the original wheel's horn contact ring on the adapter's corresponding surface and bolted it in place. The whole thing took just minutes.
It's taken some work, and a lot of tinkering, but Project 325's driver interface is now nearly perfect for my 6-ft 4-in. frame. One more area of Project 325 is now ready for the track.
Special thanks are due Graphicsworks, which provided vinyl graphics for the month's cover shoot on short notice.
Cobra Daytona seats and a Schroth Quick-Fit harness improve driving position, location and comfort, enabling the driver to focus on a quick lap time instead of just hanging on.
Cobra Daytona seats and a Schroth Quick-Fit harness improve driving position, location and
Wedge Engineering's seat bracket being test-fit on the driver's side. Tighten the seatbelt tensioner assembly only after every other fastener is tight, or you will have trouble getting the others to align because of carpet clearance. A race car would have no problem.
Wedge Engineering's seat bracket being test-fit on the driver's side. Tighten the seatbelt
I like to deburr and soften the corners of the seat mounting brackets with a Scotch-Brite pad in a die grinder. This helps prevent nicking the car's interior during installation and scrapes when rummaging under the seat for that dropped doohickey down the road. Don't forget a quick dusting of black spray paint to finish.
I like to deburr and soften the corners of the seat mounting brackets with a Scotch-Brite
The upper bracket bolts either directly to the seat or to the sliders on its flat part, and the tabs bolt into the ends of rods on the seat brackets. I found that hammering on the tab until it formed a perfect 90-degree angle with the main surface made everything fit a lot better.
The upper bracket bolts either directly to the seat or to the sliders on its flat part, an
Since I was mounting the seats in the lowest position, I trimmed the ends of the upper brackets to leave only the uppermost hole, cutting them with an abrasive cut-off saw and smoothing them with a big, bad Craftsman belt/disc sander. Again, spray paint made it pretty.
Since I was mounting the seats in the lowest position, I trimmed the ends of the upper bra
I purchased grade 10.9 hex-head bolts to fasten the upper brackets directly to the bottom of the seat, then installed the main bracket to the upper brackets, using button-head cap screws. When all the bolts were well started in their holes, I first tightened the bolts holding the upper brackets to the main bracket, then used an open-end wrench to tighten the hex-head bolts holding the upper brackets to the seat.
I purchased grade 10.9 hex-head bolts to fasten the upper brackets directly to the bottom
MOMO's E36 hub adapter helps the replacement of the original steering wheel perfectly, leaving a universal six-bolt pattern that fits MOMO, Sparco and other steering wheels.
MOMO's E36 hub adapter helps the replacement of the original steering wheel perfectly, lea
I was amazed by how much more I like driving the car with the MOMO Corse wheel. It feels perfect in my hands and is a joy to twirl. Steering feedback is improved because of the better grip. I loved the MOMO Aluminum Sport shift knob in Project Rally MINI, but here it is shorter than I would like and conducts heat from the transmission when the car is parked.
I was amazed by how much more I like driving the car with the MOMO Corse wheel. It feels p
This tab is the only permanent part of Schroth's Quick-Fit harness belt system on the driver's side. It installs in minutes using the factory bolt. The rest of the system clips into factory seatbelt latches, enabling it to be removed easily and thrown in the trunk at the end of a track day.
This tab is the only permanent part of Schroth's Quick-Fit harness belt system on the driv
An interior makeover isn't finished until the car is properly clean. Griot's Garage has an interior detailing kit with the basics needed to maintain leather and vinyl surfaces--pretty much everything in the BMW. Add glass cleaner, and you'll have it. Griot's 76-page Detailer's Handbook is a worthwhile and educational read for the owner of any car that's not a total beater, no matter how small a part perfect automotive detailing may play in one's collection of neuroses.
An interior makeover isn't finished until the car is properly clean. Griot's Garage has an