M3 PILOT

Steve Smart - BMW Enthusiast

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Losing my socket, or losing my mind?

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After recently replacing the air filter in one of my cars, I was reminded of one of my recurring life lessons. Panic is rarely warranted. Over and over again, life presents this principle to me: When I think something is lost, it’s probably not.

For whatever reason, I seem to frequently lose things… sort of. My keys, my wallet, my Bluetooth earpiece and the garage door clicker are all subjects of frequent searches. They don’t really get lost, just temporarily misplaced.

This drives my wife nuts! She NEVER seems to lose anything. She’s not more organized, she just doesn’t misplace things like I do. Maybe it’s that monster-sized purse she hauls around. I exaggerate, of course, but there might be something to it.

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2017 M Madness – Road Trip to Peoria

Rick Roudebush and the Illini Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America invited neighboring chapters to join them for their seventh annual ///M Madness day in Peoria. For several years, I’d been wanting to go to one of these. I finally got my chance.

We met at BMW of Peoria on Saturday, June 17th. With the threat of severe weather, the turnout wasn’t as good as expected, but we had a great time. I met people from Peoria, Bloomington and Chicago. Several people from St. Louis showed up too. The dealership provided lunch in the form of brats and dogs, along with chips and chili. The vast majority of the 30 or so cars were M cars. M2, M3, M4, M5 and an X5M. An example of an E30 M3 was parked in the show room. Maybe not the finest example, but it was nice to see.

As always, it was great to get together with other BMW enthusiasts, chew the fat and admire each others’ machines.

Rigging My Helmet to Cut Wind Noise and Shaving Lap Times at Gateway Kartplex

Whether recording video in my car or when racing go-karts, capturing audio without wind and other background noise has been a challenge. When editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, I’ve been able to use Soundbooth to remove rumbles. In many situations, however, the results have been less than satisfying. Even when racing karts indoors, I get unwanted wind noise.

At a recent kart race I tried something new. As the videos show, the results are pretty good. There was, however, one downside.

Helmet with GoPro rigged for better audio, cut wind noise

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B-G Racing Mechanic’s Kneeling Mat

The latest tool in my garage is this B-G Racing mechanic’s kneeling mat.  I recently used it when I replaced a part under my dash. It saved me heaps of pain and more than a little frustration. Far better than one of those gardener’s mats, it folds out to a pretty good size. There’s also a smaller one, but I prefer the fold-out unit. When folded with the strap keeping it nice and tidy, it can be used as a seat. The foam is firm but comfortable. Whether folded or flat, it provides plenty of support. I bought it here from Mittler Brothers.

A Pain in the Fan!

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Some parts are easier to replace than others. No real mystery there, but it’s also true that some parts are easier to replace if you know what the heck you’re doing. In this case, the blower was failing in my ’97 M3. Hot and cold air wasn’t coming out with much force . With a driving tour and the promise of warm weather coming up in a couple weeks, I had to act quickly.

Diagnosing the problem was easy enough. Research online showed the blower resistor (also called the final stage unit) to be the likely culprit. It simply controls the fan speed. A call to Bavarian Autosport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire confirmed my suspicions. They had none in stock, but had a handful on the way to them in 2-3 weeks.  Not soon enough to help me. Luckily, they worked some kind of magic and arranged to have one sent to me in a couple days. My guess is that they got it from an alternative, less profitable source, just to satisfy me. Kudos to the crew at Bavauto.com.

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Thanks for the Binaural Head Trip, Bozzy!

Get your headphones ready! But first, check out this interview with one of your favorite YouTube content producers.

YouTube offers one of my favorite forms of entertainment. Maybe like you, I spend too much time watching videos of race cars, kart racing, auto detailing and other car related stuff. It’s all part of the addiction.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a guy’s channel named 19Bozzy92.  If you’ve chosen to read this, you’ve probably seen his work. His specialty is high end sports cars and race cars, especially their sound. His videos of BMW Z4 GT3s at Monza are among my favorites in audio pleasure. The snarling, growling and popping does something special for me. The fuel bark on the downshifts sound like gunshots. Here’s a link to one of them.

Bozzy has taken his videos to the next level with binaural 3D sound recordings. Gotta say, these should come with a label. “Warning: Addiction Ahead!” Seriously, though, this aspect of Bozzy recordings really got my attention with the video below, covering the 2017 ELMS test at Monza. Don’t ask me why it’s special. Just grab your favorite set of cans and listen.

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Leather Headrest Restoration on BMW E36 M3 Vaders

E36 M3 Leather headrest restore

Some things are better left to the experts, even when you have some DIY pride. For me, one example is the headliner I replaced a couple years back. Always interested in saving a little dough, I read up on the process, and figured I’d be over my head on that one. Still, I did save some bucks by removing the headliner baseboard myself. I had a pro remove the old fabric and glue in the new stuff. I’m glad I took that approach.

Caring for leather is just a matter of regular maintenance in my world. Restoration, on the other hand, is out of the question. No research, no DIY, just head straight for a pro. In this case, it’s Brandon Merz. Pretty much every day, he’s working his restoration magic on one kind of collectible or another. I figure he knows his stuff.

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Close Encounter with the NP01

NP01_fuzzyI’m not a racer. Not a real one, anyway.  I am a frequent flyer at local arrive-and-drive karting tracks, but that’s a different story. As a racing fan, NASA’s Elan NP01 caught my attention a few months ago. While recently at Gateway Motorsports Park on business, I was very happy to have a chance encounter with one. Up close and personal.

Being relatively new on the scene, I’m pretty sure that the NP01 is generally unknown by the average motorsport fan. This Mazda powered prototype, however, captured my interest when videos circulated on social media.

The car was developed when NASA approached Elan Motorsports Technologies to design and build an affordable prototype race car. It fulfills its mission through tube frame construction (no carbon) and smaller body bits that are less costly to replace than large panels. If the Elan name rings a bell for you, it’s because the Braselton, GA company was founded by Don Panoz of ALMS fame.

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