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BMW E30 Trim Modifications
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

BMW E30 Trim Modifications

Robert Bowen

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
The CarTech BMW 3-Series Performance Guide

Whether for on-track duty or simply improved street performance, the E30 series cars have proven to respond to well-chosen upgrades. The CarTech BMW 3-Series Performance Guide offers current and future owners a wealth of important information, including a buyer's guide, year-by-year upgrades and changes, and more. This book is a valuable addition to every BMW owner's library, and Pelican is proud to present you with the excerpt below.

Trim Pieces

As with many 1980s-era cars, the E30 is blessed (or afflicted, depending on your perspective) with numerous exterior trim pieces that can really add to the car's appearance if they are nice, and detract from it if they are in poor shape. An abundance of black or chrome (depending on the year) parts exist all over the E30s, including the rub strips down the side of the car and trim around the windows, grille, and bumpers. The condition of this trim adds to the overall look of an E30. Keeping it all in good shape makes your car look significantly better than the average E30 and a few simple modifications can even update the look.

Early cars were an explosion of bright aluminum (sometimes erroneously called chrome) and bright chrome plastic. Bright trim along the tops of door window frames butted up against bright trim along the beltline and competed with bright trim outlining the shape of the roofline/drip rail. Both front and rear windows had bright plastic trim in their rubber seals. The grille kidney surrounds were bright chrome as were the top and bottom of the massive diving-board bumpers. Rub strips along the doors and quarter panel broke up the car's "slabsidedness" but featured even more shiny trim. BMW was clearly trying to push the car up-market, distancing it from the European look of contemporary VWs, for example. The abundance of chrome was a bit dated, however, even for the early 1980s, and gave the car a somewhat stodgy, "American" style that many people do not like.

Later, post-facelift cars retain the bright trim around the roofline, beltline, windshield, and back window, but the trim along the tops of the door window frames and the door rub strips was simply painted black. More streamlined bumpers reduced the chrome quotient even more. The M3 and late 318is models had a "Shadowline" trim option that replaced all of the bright molding with black, although the grille kidney surround was kept bright. An optional Shadowline kidney surround with black pieces could be ordered as well. If you have the black trim, use a product such as Mothers Back to-Black to keep it looking good if it's already in decent shape. The chrome-looking trim is actually polished aluminum with an anodized flashing, which requires a bit more care, including periodic polishing and waxing. Even so, twenty years later, much of the trim on an average E30 has faded to an ugly brown or purple color. What hasn't faded is likely cracked or damaged.

If you have bright trim and want to keep it that way, you probably have to replace the window trim with new parts. The original parts are polished and then anodized for protection against corrosion. Unfortunately, once the anodized layer fades there is no easy way to get the shine back. You can take the trim off the car, strip, and polish it back to shiny using progressively finer sandpaper starting with 80 grit. However, without the anodizing, the trim corrodes quickly to a dull white color and requires weekly applications of metal polish. For this reason, and because they prefer the look, many E30 owners choose to black out their trim instead (you can peruse the Internet for how to articles). But in my experience, the only right way to do it is to remove all of the trim pieces from the car first. Then, carefully sand them with 220-grit sandpaper to remove the original finish. Once you have bare metal, use a quality etching primer for a base coat. Once cured, sand the primer lightly with 320-grit sandpaper, and then use a paint such as SEM Products' Trim Black, which is one of the only products available in a spray can that withstands normal handling and sunlight.

Removing the moldings can be difficult because each one has a particular kind of hidden clip that must be released. The moldings around the drip rail/roofline just snap over the drip rail. Remove the trim with great care to prevent damaging the trim and/or the clips. The other moldings are held on with various clips that are exposed when the coat hook, door window rubber, and seatbelt shoulder anchor are removed.

If you have an early car with silver door moldings, you have to remove the nuts hidden in the doorjambs and up inside the rear wheelwell, and then pull the molding off the clips. Expect a few to break. They are cheap, however; PN 51-13-1-829-904 is the one to get.

Early cars had bright trim around the windshield and rear window, while later cars had black.
Figure 1

Early cars had bright trim around the windshield and rear window, while later cars had black.

The black tends to fade over time; unfortunately, the only lasting cure is to replace with new.
Figure 2

The black tends to fade over time; unfortunately, the only lasting cure is to replace with new.

Luckily, later E30s lost the bright rub strips in favor of all black
Figure 3

Luckily, later E30s lost the bright rub strips in favor of all black. Again, it's not hard to change your silver rub strips for black.

Later 318is models had all-black side-window and door trim
Figure 4

Later 318is models had all-black side-window and door trim. This look is not hard to achieve with a bit of work and a few dollars' worth of spray paint.

The M3's front window and window seal are very different than on regular E30s
Figure 5

The M3's front window and window seal are very different than on regular E30s. The windshield is glued in place, not held by the rubber seal.

Hidden behind this hook is one of the screws you need to remove to gain access to the rear side-window trim
Figure 6

Hidden behind this hook is one of the screws you need to remove to gain access to the rear side-window trim. The hook just pops out but be warned, it can take quite a bit of force to get it out.

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Comments and Suggestions:
ZEESHAN Comments: REQUIRED PART FOR WIN NUMBER WDB 11402110006913
FRONT WIND SCREEN RUBBER
REAR WIND SCREEN RUBBER
FRONT DOOR RUBBER LEFT AND RIGHT
QUOTER GLASS RUBBER AND DOOR MIRROR LEFT AND RIGHT
April 29, 2015
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