BMW E36 M3 Race Roll Bar Installation
Installation of a race roll bar in a BMW E36 M3 is relatively easy but it will take some time. This is not meant to be complete installation instructions but merely a guide as to the process involved in installing a roll bar. Roll bars for other cars are installed with a similar procedure. There are some tricks to each car to make installation easier. This guide will discuss some of the basic ideas to make your installation easier. Photos shown are by Dick Dugan of Lafayette, California (pictured here driving his M3 at Buttonwillow race track).
First, place the car in an area that will provide room enough to open both doors completely. Make sure you can walk completely around the car. Grab a friend to help you. This installation took about 4.5 hours but most installations take only about 2.5 to 4 hours. Allow plenty of time.
Make sure that you have all the tools that you will need for the process. For this job we needed a drill with 3/8" bit, 9/16" and 10 mm sockets, 9/16" combination wrench, 7/16" wrench or socket, screwdriver, razor blade knife and a T-50 Torx socket. Other handy items that you might need are a hammer, file, and air tools to make things go faster.
Remove the front seats retained by four 10 mm bolts. Be sure that you disconnect the wiring before yanking the seat out of the car. It has been noted that you may want to keep the ignition key out during installation to avoid air bag problems. Now remove the bottom seat cushion of the rear seat. Just pull up in front to release the spring clips. The folding rear seat backs can now be removed. Remove the plastic cover from the center pivot position. This exposes the retainer for the seat pivots. The retainer holds the seat pivot pins with a spring loaded action. Press the metal catch with a screwdriver against the spring action to release the pivot pins. The other side of the seat back will now pull out of the side cushion. Notice the plastic bushing in the side cushion. Remove it.
The side cushion must be forced free of the spring clip on the top of the cushion. To do this, pull out at the top and then slide the whole piece upward to free the bottom.
For the cleanest installation, do not cut the carpet at this time. Remove the seat belt from the B-pillar and from the floor. Pull the carpet up and toward the front of the car at both rear corners. You can just pull it free, you do not have to remove the rocker panel covers. We want to install the roll bar Metal-to-Metal. I like to remove the sound insulation material from the floor to achieve the best fit although this is not always necessary. This tar-like material can be chipped away using a wood chisel. In order to know exactly where to chip, you will need to put the bar into the car and rest it in place.
You will find at this point that there are wires running right where the roll bar wants to sit. You will need to remove the plastic wire cover from both sides and then cut or grind off the metal stud toward the rear that holds the cover in place. OK, now you can trial fit the roll bar.
I find it is usually easier to guide the bar into the car from the passenger side. This is where a friend comes in really handy. Have the friend on the driver's side of the car to help you guide the bar in. Also, if you have bought the Bolt-in Cross Brace option, remove the cross brace for easier working. Once the bar is inside the car, install the rear braces. Now tilt the bar into position and, while making sure not to scratch the side panels, push the bar as far back as possible. You may find that the bottom of the side panel where the rear braces meet will need to be trimmed. Now you can mark the floor around the feet of the roll bar as to where the sound insulation will be removed. Slide the bar forward to where it is out of the way and then remove the sound insulation.
Slide the bar back to the rear of the car as far as possible. Check for proper alignment and be sure that all four feet of the roll bar are sitting evenly against the metal of the car. With your Bolt-in Cross Brace reinstalled, when everything is in alignment and you are happy with the position it is in, and will stay in, drill three holes in the car floor through both bottom feet of the roll bar. (Always check under the car to make sure you will not be drilling through any brake lines or the like.) Place a bolt though each hole as you go along to keep the bar from walking around on you. When you have drilled these six holes, place the backing plates on the under side of the car and tighten the nuts up.
Drill the three holes in each rear brace and put on the backing plates. You will find that only two of the bolts will fit. Install these two bolts and tighten. Now redrill the third hole to ream out the backing plate hole. This time, place the bolts from the bottom up to provide more tire clearance. You will probably need to jack the car up to get to the rear wheel well.
When all mounting points are drilled and tightened, go ahead and check the torque on all nuts and bolts. Spin on the second nut on all mounting bolts to lock them on.
Now you can remove the Bolt-in Cross Brace (if you have this option) and ream the holes out for easier installation.
Put the carpet back and mark and cut holes for the roll bar to go through. (See photo at left.) You will also have to cut the carpet to allow the seat belt hardware to go back.
Reinstall everything in reverse order. The side cushions in the rear seat will need some persuasion to reinstall but it can be done! See the following pictures of Dick Dugan's car for the completed installation. You will notice that the bar comes very close to the roof line and about ½" to 1" away from the side panels. Depending on your driving position, you may want to install roll bar padding. If you are intending to carry passengers in the rear seat (only if you have the Bolt-in Cross Brace option), you will need to have every square inch of the roll bar hoop and rear braces padded. This bar could be very dangerous without the padding in an accident for the rear passengers.