Monday, December 19, 2011

A Shiny New Brake LIght Switch

As I mentioned on the forum a few days ago, cars behind me at night had begun to flash their brights at me last week.  I finally figured out that the brake light switch was only working when I depressed the brake pedal very firmly. Therefore no brake lights, except when I actually stomped on the pedal.  A bad deal for city driving with all the inattentive, nonattentive, and attention-deficit drivers on the roads.

The next step was to determine where the switch was located.  The 2000 had two versions; a later one mounted inside the car behind the brake pedal, but of course I had the early model, a hydraulic switch on the master cylinder. 

1) The old switch

It looked fine but then the workings aren't exactly visible.

So I acquired a new one; alas the BMW version seems to be NLA.  After a moment's wrestling to loosen the nut on the old unit, the new switch went on quickly.

2) New switch

Now let's hope other drivers stop flashing their lights at me.

POSTSCRIPT:  Since the owners manual indicates that one should flush the brake fluid once a year and mine had last been changed nearly 12 months ago, I filled her up with new fluid today. Now the brakes are firm and operate like new. Best of all, the brake lights illuminate with just a tap on the pedal.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Futile Attempt at Washing

Despite having been caught driving in the rain only once - at least in recent months - the wheel wells have collected their share of detritus from fallen leaves, conifer needles and other assorted road flotsam.  So I washed the underside of the car today.  Driving back into the garage I decided to photograph my now pristine wheel wells. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that during the brief trip across the yard even more crud had kicked its way under the car.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cleaned Valve Cover

Having noticed this week pictures of other engines with much shinier valve covers than mine, I decided to brave the cold garage and apply some Autosol and elbow grease to the top of the motor, as well as to the oil filler cap.  A fun project with immediate gratification.

1) Before

 2) After

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Radio Wants to Talk

The radio is sending me a message - 'please please hook  up the power.'  I recently took the On/Off knob apart and cleaned it; the button now responds with a solid "click" when depressed.  Must be ready to go...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Volvo Has a Birthday!

This is sort of off-topic, but now is the time to celebrate the 200K milestone of our dear Rain Forest Monster.

Still running strong despite signs of wear

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Inclement Times

It's raining as if the entire Pacific Ocean is trying to drain into Puget Sound. The car's inside waiting for good weather.  Here's a corner of the garage plus a reflection of the original bridge over the St. Lawrence River at Quebec.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Close Enough But Still Fools the Camera

I pulled the rear shelf completely, a chore that requires removing both cushions of the back seat, and spray-painted the thing because I was not satisfied with the touch-up job I had done previously.

To the naked eye the color appears nearly the same as the rest of the upholstery but of course my digital camera thinks differently. Nonetheless, we can put this problem to bed.

I kind of like the two-toned effect.  Too bad only the camera sees it so dramatically.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Like a Beacon, for Those Who Need a Road

Given that I constantly think about what to do next for the car, it was inevitable I would eventually turn my attention to the p/s tail light. There is nothing wrong with the assembly but the piece is older than the d/s unit - which is new.  In the beginning the p/s lights looked better so I changed the older, cracked one on the left. The situation then reversed itself; now the right side fixture looked bad. A relative thing, of course.

I talked to the good folks at my local NAPA store after reading about possible fixes on They recommended a 3M product.  Apparently you attach this special piece of sandpaper to a grinding pad, have at it, and presto! the tail lights become new again.

I was skeptical.

But I bought the product; it happened to be on sale.  And I do like to grind things.  After years of scouring wooden boats, fiberglass boats, furniture, and what-have-you, I have an affinity for the torturous activity.

To my great surprise, fifteen minutes worth of work made a real difference.

1) Before

2) After

Were every other aspect of life so easy...

Sunday, October 2, 2011


My car has never been better and I wonder today what to do next, or indeed if any projects should be renewed.  The engine doesn't burn or leak oil, doesn't smoke, and idles at a perfect 800 RPMs. The suspension handles the ubiquitous Seattle potholes with aplomb. My seats are far more comfortable than those of any modern vehicle, and I can drive the freeway with hands-free steering, should I wish to tempt the fates (not to mention the horrible condition of Interstate tarmac).  The car corners like the race car so many of its peers were modified to run as.

On the auditory side, the stereo blasts out NPR or old rock music with perfectly-pitched ease, from a variety of speakers. I can even plug in an Ipod, although I've never owned one.  I guess the windows rattle a bit unless fully closed, but so what.  The road noise is muted and barely noticeable.  It's much more fun to listen to the music of the M10 engine.

Okay, the rear of the transmission dribbles the odd drop of oil and the dash cover is an amateur refit.  The original windscreen glows with 45 years worth of pitted use when exposed to direct sunlight.  And I have yet to return the color to its original Tampico.  Again, who cares.

But the feeling of completion is by its very nature illusory. At any time any number of scenarios might arise.  Major mechanical malfunctions always lurk nearby with a vehicle of this age and of course, the plethora of abysmal drivers in Seattle present a constant hazard to its well-being, each and every time I exit the driveway.

Today the car sits in the garage, awaiting fresh orders. What will the next cruise bring?  The future is unfathomable.

Resting quietly on a Sunday

DESCENDING THE CAIRO SIDE - a novel of the traveling life
Available as an e-book on

Buy the book on Amazon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Pesky Coolant Hose

A coolant leak developed recently in the hose from the water pump to the intake manifold, evidenced by antifreeze leaking on the engine.  Feeling around, I detected what felt like a pinhole underneath the hose.  I was too annoyed to a photo of the old offending piece but did order the replacement, shown here as # 2. 

Parts diagram 

What arrived was a straight piece of hose, not the one pictured above. It seemed to fit but looked awkward. Sure enough, upon installation, the neck began to leak at the manifold.  I wondered at first if the neck had cracked but that wasn't the problem. The hose didn't join to the manifold properly and was sent straight back to BMW.

A second attempt to order the correct hose (#11531266474) brought us an S-shaped item, designed for later manifolds.  Not serviceable either.  So BMW stocks two different hoses with the same part number, neither of them useful.

The mechanics at Eurocar Service custom-cut another piece of hose, a longer one.  That fit nicely and the leak stopped. I should add that they used some sealant as well.  Given that they initially installed the wrong hose I wasn't charged for the work.  A good deal all around.

The new hose; the damned camera flash sure makes the engine look rusty

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dyeing the Rear Shelf

The rear shelf behind the back seat needed attention.  I guess years of sun had faded the brown color, or a PO had done a bad job at changing the color from black to braun.  Hard to say.

1) Splotchy

Interestingly, nobody ever seemed to notice the situation, but I certainly did.
I found a touch-up kit online for $8, shipping included, and laid the pieces on the trunk the day after getting it in the mail.

2) The container colors nicely match the sports pic in the morning paper

After mixing the generic brown that was provided with some black, to darken the tint, I found that it matched well and I used the cylindrical foam applicator to touch up the spots.  The only thing I hadn't counted on was that the paint was glossier than the tint on the shelf.

3) Glossy

So I scuffed the paint after it dried with a paper towel, lubricated with a bit of Armorall. Still not entirely satisfactory but much better than before.  Eventually I will pull the shelf and redo the whole thing to get it perfect.  But not today.

4) That's it for the moment

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ready for Action: the New Rear Seat

I installed the new rear seat today after picking it up from Steve at Classic Interiors - the go-to place for interior restos in the Pacific Northwest.  He would have gotten to it sooner but was working on a 50s vintage Aston Martin that had kept him overtime.

Looks great and when I sat down on it I felt a lot higher than when on the old one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

DHL and USPS GO OVER the Top: The Carpet Saga

Two months ago I ordered a trunk carpet from Germany, a new reproduction of the original vehicle accessory, now long NLA.


The package was promptly dispatched from Saulheim.  Unfortunately it took from July 29 to Aug 30 to get to Frankfurt. Thanks, DHL!

Upon arrival in New York it sat for two weeks in the Black Hole of the Jamaica, New York Customs clearing house - goodness knows, patience please, a terror-free Amerika comes first. Thanks, USPS!

Finally, my local post office never bothered to deliver the item, instead leaving a note in my mail box telling me to pick it up at the post office.  Go figure; they'll be bankrupt and out of business soon enough.

On the bright side, the wrapping was delightfully done.

1) The wrapping from Germany, very precise

And the carpet fit nicely in the car.

2) A bit wrinkled at the far edge but well-tailored

3) Looks better after putting water jugs in the corners for a few hours to press down the edges

The only adjustment I had to make was to the grip for the floorboard; I had to remove the screw and re-attach it so that it was pointed toward the rear.  Its bracket did not allow the grip to be turned so the grip is now mounted outside the bracket rather than within. No worries.

4) Snug

This carpet was of far better design and manufacture than the American reproduction piece I once bought for the trunk of my 2002.

I now consider the trunk officially restored.  Except for the paint, of course.

Rear Seat Resto

The day has arrived to yank the back seat in anticipation of having it restuffed and recovered. When you sit down in back if feels as if you're going to sink right through the floor.

1) B.R.: before resto - the camera is too kind; there are also two tears in the seat bottom

2,3) Under the seat; duct tape holds those speaker wires

Now I have to wait until the upholstery shop does its thing...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Manifold Destiny

The nuts that hold the manifold on the M10 engine are notorious for coming loose and then leaking oil.  On my car two of the little critters recently started to leak. The first nut had visibly loosened itself; my attempts at re-tightening only worked for a couple of days.

1) Loose and leaking oil right on the manifold

The second nut wasn't so bad but if unattended will only get worse.

2) Also leaking

As I investigated the issue I discovered that BMW produced a newer one-piece gasket for later cars that you can use to replace the four individual gaskets.  This newer version incorporates a heat shield that helps protect the spark plug wires from nuclear fusion. Despite having an aluminum heat shield already installed - they say that most of these have disappeared from the engine bays over the years - it was recommended to use this all-in-one gasket.  So the metal heat shield will have to go away. As one helpful person suggested, "Throw it over the fence into your neighbor's pool."

I'll have to consider that.

3) The existing heat shield; at least the spark plug wires are already tucked to the side

To complete the task I ordered new studs and new copper nuts.  The combination seems counter-intuitive; combining two kinds of metal in the rig sounds like a recipe for electrolysis, but on the other hand, the car isn't in salt water (yet).  So I laid everything on the trunk, awaiting the day later in the week when the parts will be installed. 

Since the manifold has to be removed, I grabbed the extra down-pipe gasket I had lying around and will change that one, too.

4) Nice and neat

Friday, September 2, 2011


A tool roll was part of the trunk accessories for the NK 2000, just as it was for the 2002.  I've never seen an original kit and many owners I know are not even aware that the roll existed. Undoubtably these items vanished quickly from the cars, falling prey to both sticky hands and absent-minded loss.

Naturally I wanted one.

It didn't take long to discover that Coupe King in California, the same folks who located the ultra-rare 9-prong turn signal relay for my car, reproduces and sells the vinyl roll.  I ascertained as well that the tools themselves are available on Ebay.  The proper individual Heyco tools sell for prices from mild to wild and I chose the cheapest offers.  I didn't quite buy everything that the kit contained; the tubular wrench seemed like something I'd never use.

Parts diagram

1) The original roll; the tubular wrench and warning triangle seemed like unnecessary expenses

2) My version

3) Tucked away neatly in the trunk; yes, I have to get rid of the old factory-installed foam that the jack lays on

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bumper Shims

I didn't really know what to call them, only that they were done - as in, put a fork in them, they're cooked.  The rubber pieces that hold the bumper wings to the car had cracked and been oversprayed, abused, and neglected for forty-odd years so it was time to seek replacements.

 1) One of the old ones on the car

As usual the good folks at La Jolla Independent had a good story about these items. It seems that the original pieces were white and stored (by BMW) in little bags of water. They said when they ordered the last of the NOS shims, they crumbled to dust when taken from their protective sacks.  Sounds reasonable to me. 

At the end of the day the rubbers from the 2002 work just as well, they concluded, and so they sent me two new pieces, or at least NOS because the bag they came in looked pretty old.

2) The new rubbers

I removed the old shims easily, if clumsily.  Upon closer inspection I decided they didn't even deserve a formal burial.  They appeared to be 2002 vintage as well, but who knows...

3) Enough said

A few minutes later the new items were installed.

4) Voila! 

The cat plopped himself on my desk to watch me write this ditty and the project came to its natural point of completion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Power to the Radio

Now I am waiting to get the proper plug to hook the speaker into the back of the radio.  Of course Blaupunkt wouldn't have dreamed of making a rig that was compatible with anything Radio Shack has on hand - not that Radio Shack existed in 1967 when the Frankfurt US was assembled.

I could also locate two bullet connectors at an auto store and make my own jack.

In my research I discovered that a huge variety of these radios were produced; there exist a LOT of sub-models that add fun and confusion to the learning curve.

1) The voltage selector blade with "12v" written clearly -that's a relief - you can configure this unit to 6v if that's what your car uses for power

2) The radio looks better from the front

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Dash Speaker

Of course the car was missing the cool Blaupunkt dash speaker when I bought it; I mean, who wouldn't remove such a masterpiece of high fidelity sound reproduction.

But once again I got lucky and found one through someone I met online.  For far less money than the high-end sellers of vintage car audio equipment ask for it.

1) The speaker with its intact wiring and clean look

2) The grill came out like a piece of cake

Under the grill rested a piece of mesh that looked vaguely like chicken wire; perhaps the inside of the dash once contained a mini-coop (bad pun).  Pulling it was touchy as the wires were prickly.

3) The wire mesh removed

I wondered if this was an original BMW piece but decided to replace the mesh as it protects the speaker and the cloth that covers it from random acts of disaster. 

4) The speaker, mounted on pressboard, fit snugly; this was the original deal

5) The chicken wire back in place

5) All back together

Now, of course, I have to hook up power to see if the radio works.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ready for Winter: The K┼▒hlerschutzhaube

It's been cold this year in Seattle, no doubt about it.  That's one reason I jumped at the chance to order a small item from Germany, NOS, that is purported to help the engine warm faster in freezing temperatures.

1) A crumbling piece of paper reveals the provenance of the K┼▒hlerschutzhaube as a genuine BMW accessory

The package was thoughtfully delivered by the post office yesterday to my neighbor, despite being correctly addressed.  Luckily she humored me and hand it over this morning (her husband owned a Bavaria for some years).

Anyway, the theory holds that by blocking cold air from entering through the grill in winter-time, the motor and therefore the entire car will heat faster.  I quickly installed the protection hood to see how it looks. Most cool.

The pieces attach to the grills via spring-loaded hooks.  You push in the hooks, twist them around the back of the slats to catch, and then release. The fit seems tight but adjustment will be necessary to get everything snug.Typically for BMW each piece is slightly different so you have to figure out which bit goes where.

Once I do that I'll mark them with a felt pen so I only have to go through this process once.

2) First time on the car; the kidney pieces are upside down and reversed - oops

Then I will be ready for the blizzards and travails of January in Puget Sound.  And the car will have yet another conversation piece attached (these hoods must be really rare).

3) The next morning. A tighter fit with the kidney grill hoods correctly positioned