This weekend was BimmerFest East, a huge meetup of BMW owners organized and sponsored by Turner Motorsports. These events have been going on for a few years on the west coast, and came east for the first time last year. Like last year, it was held at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD.
I caravaned up with some fellow E39 M5 owners I had first met last fall. It was good to see those guys again, and meet some new enthusiasts as well. Some came from as far away as Texas and California.
Thanks to all those who helped organize meeting up Saturday AM in Columbia. Despite the inevitable toll booth disconnect we maintained an impressive convoy of M5s up to Aberdeen. When we got there almost the entire parking lot was packed with hundreds of amazing cars. The official registration number was over 1,500. Weather was overcast but the rain held off and the temperature was very comfortable for August.
Here’s a thread that runs down the winners of the Stock and Modified competitions. And here are some of my favorites – click to enlarge.
Over at GigaOm Mathew Ingram is doing some excellent reporting on the evolution of Twitter. Twitter is evolving from a sort of free informational utility to a media company that uses other people’s content to sell advertising and drive eyeballs to other media partners.
The company is adding features like expanded tweets and providing curated editorial products for NASCAR (above) and NBC Universal. It’s cutting off API access to companies like LinkedIn, Instagram and most recently Tumblr. Twitter wants to more fully control the platform, the content and the user experience.
How you feel about these changes depends on your perspective. Advertisers are no doubt pleased. Developers of apps that depend on access to the Twitter API, probably not so much. As Ingram points out, the only opinion that really matters is that of the users. They (we) are creating the content that is the foundation of Twitter’s advertising model.
Why do we do it? Twitter offers a lot of utility at no cost to the user. It can be a distribution channel, a research channel and a personalized news channel. I enjoy using Twitter personally, and I counsel my clients on how to leverage it to further their business goals.
Twitter is a very prominent example of what I like to call the (largely) unspoken quid pro quo online. Users get cool, free tools in exchange for sharing personal information. The companies that offer the most popular tools are given huge amounts of consumer data, which they eventually attempt to monetize.
Which is exactly what Twitter is doing. It will need to balance the amount of advertising presented to users so it doesn’t damage the experience, as all media companies do. But unlike any other media companies, Twitter’s users are also the “talent,” creating all the content that Twitter curates, analyzes and puts at the disposal of advertisers. Never before have the terms “the customer is king” and “it’s all about the content” been so intertwined.
Many of the features that have made Twitter so popular were developed because of the company’s open API. The challenge will be for the company to continue to develop new products and services that excite users, as well as advertisers. If the quid pro quo becomes less attractive and we stop sharing, the company fails.
My 13 year old M3 is approaching 60,000 miles. In BMW vernacular, that means the car should receive an Inspection II service. An Inspection II involves a large number of things getting inspected (hence the name), but when you look at the work actually done it boils down to a general tune-up. Spark plugs, air filter, fuel filter, cabin filter and oil change.
Much of this work is straightforward and doesn’t require much mechanical skill. Instead of spending $800-$1,000 for someone else to do it, I’m doing the job myself. To make the job easier to tackle I’m doing the work in stages.
This weekend I replaced my spark plugs and air filter. This excellent, detailed video from Bavarian Autosport was a great resource:
The video shows the entire ignition coils being replaced, which is expensive overkill at this mileage. Replacing the spark plugs and the boots is more than sufficient. When you remove the old boot and place the new one on the new plug, you can feel a clear click as it engages. That’s the only thing I’d add to what is shown in the video, which is spot on.
My air filter is not stock. Soon after I purchased the car, I had a Conforti cold air intake (CAI) installed. The theory behind a CAI is that by making the air colder, it’s more dense. That increases the percentage of fuel combined with the air at detonation, meaning more power.
That’s the theory anyway. In reality the performance gain isn’t that much. Modern BMW engines (normally aspirated, not turbos) are very optimized stock, and harvesting power gains is difficult. My car has the CAI, a Conforti software download (known as the Shark) and a Dinan exhaust. All of that probably produces 15 extra horsepower, maybe 20 tops.
Unfortunately, after I had the CAI installed I never cleaned it. Periodically the foam filter needs to be cleaned and reoiled, and somehow it just never was on my radar. So the foam deteriorated to the point where I needed to replace it. Paying $85 for a new piece of foam with a metal funnel on the back was my penance.
Check back here soon for a report on the fuel filter and the cabin air filter. Last month I did my cooling system replacement and rear shocks, and was lucky enough to have a master mechanic give the underbody an inspection and a thumbs up. After this tune-up is complete, I’ll be a set of front shocks and a brake job from a total maintenance refresh on my car. (I did my oil barely a year and 4K miles ago so that can wait until spring).
And by then, it will be time for more preventative maintenance, or the unexpected repair. So it goes if you want your out of warranty BMW to run like new. But it’s well worth it, especially if you DIY the simple stuff.
My latest WashingtonExec Wine and Dine column was published today. It highlights a debate in the wine world that started between the New York Post and New York Times wine critics, and has spread from there.
What kind of wine list do you expect when you go out for a fine meal? Do you want to learn something new, or enjoy a wine you already know? Does it have to be one or the other?
In the end diners will answer this question through the restaurants they choose to frequent. Here’s to enjoying wine, rather than debating wine.
Last week I described replacing most of the cooling system components in my M3. While doing that job, I also replaced my rear shock absorbers.
My car only has 57,000 miles, but it is more than 13 years old. While replacing and reinforcing the rear shock mounts (RSMs) last year, I noticed the shocks were pretty worn. Since the RSM job requires removal of the rear shocks, I also saw first hand how straightforward the job is.
It’s literally three bolts. Two of them attach to the rear shock mount, which you access from inside the trunk after removing the carpeting. Underneath the car, the shock is attached to the rear trailing arm by a single large hex bolt.
I decided to go with the same shocks that came stock on the car, from BMW supplier Sachs. I considered Bilstein aftermarket shocks, but decided there was no reason. I’ve owned the car since it had less than 16,000 miles on it, so I remember the ride when it was practically new. That’s the feel I wanted back, the handling that earned the Car & Driver crown as the best handling car in America back in 1997.
The front shocks replacement is more involved, so I’ll need to tackle that job separately. While the car was on the lift at the Auto Skills Center, the master mechanic at the facility was kind enough to inspect the underside of the car. All the bushings and ball joints still look good.
This car can still outperform 98 percent of the cars on the road today, and I enjoy doing what I can to maintain it properly. Doing that is a lot less expensive than a new car payment every month.