This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.
The stock seats installed in the BMW 3 Series have never been bad, but they certainly are nothing to rave about to your friends at parties. Most BMW owners who perform seat upgrades opt to replace their stock seats with stock M3 seats. There are a few reasons for this. The M3 seats are an easy, bolt-in replacement for the stock seats, and there's no need to mess with seat rails or fit issues. In addition, the belt buckle and latching mechanisms are the same, so replacing them will not result in problems or warnings from the air bag system.
If you do decide to go with an aftermarket seat, I have a few suggestions. First, you'll want to make sure the brand and style of seat you choose will fit well in your car. I suggest you purchase the seat from a reputable dealer that sells many of them and has sold that particular seat for your model of 3 Series BMW. Seats are very difficult to fit, and if you don't have the proper brackets, and haven't tested the configuration, you may be stuck with an undesirable installation. The seat may ride too high, or it may interfere with the center console; a host of problems can occur. One of the best things you can do is head to one of the Internet chat boards (like the one at PelicanParts.com) and ask other BMW owners which aftermarket seats they installed in their cars. I would list some combinations here, but manufacturers change styles and configurations so often the information would soon be outdated. The best bet is to perform your own research.
If you do install aftermarket seats, I suggest you try your best to keep the stock BMW seatbelt mechanisms in place. These systems are integrated with the air bag controller, and keeping them will reduce the difficulty involved in modifying the air bag system to accept a new belt system. If you remove the stock seatbelts, you will need to have resistors installed across the seatbelt receptacles and also the passenger-side seat sensor (see Project 80). This will help eliminate any errors from the airbag system that may result because of the missing components.
If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.
I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this interior at a recent show. The sport seats installed here, coupled with the custom-matched interior, really add a great look to the car. The seats are tastefully trimmed with matching red leather on the bolsters. Be careful, though--an interior with too much red can really make you yearn for dark sunglasses. However, it's important to note that the harness in this case is attached to a harness bar, extending across the length of the car. This is not the best method of running the harness. Although the bar is attached to the two very strong seatbelt attachment points in the car, these points are not typically designed to withstand the bending and torque that may be placed upon them with a harness bar. The preferred solution is to mount the harness to the floor or rear subframe of the car and run it up over the harness bar. If you install a roll cage in your car, the strength of the cage is typically not an issue, and you can mount belts directly to the cage.
This is a photo of a seat setup I hadn't seen before. The owner of this M3 convertible apparently purchased a set of Sparco sport seats, then removed all of the cloth fabric and had them recovered in leather to match the rest of the car. I thought this was a clever solution to the age-old problem of how to install sport seats in your car without making it look like a track car. To the untrained eye, these seats look like they were a factory option!