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Replicating the late 02 model console panels


Jesse

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I have been experimenting and researching how BMW manufactured the console panels on our beloved 02s. This all started about six months ago, when I was faced with my 76 raggedy panels and interior renovation. I first tried to find replacements that were new or nearly new ones.  That proved to be a dauntless task, as mine were actually in better condition than many of those that I was finding and or the prices were excessive. After giving up finding new replacements, I resorted to try to figure out and research how they were actually made by BMW. Then maybe I could try to reproduce me a set.

 

The biggest question I had, how the heck were the edges of the vinyl joined around the perimeter of the panels such that the ends look so crisp and straight and held up so well for so many years? If they were not glued, sewn, stapled, what kind of method or process allowed the manufacturer to produce such crisp robust console panels? In putting my old 02 units under the magnifying glass, I noticed that they came apart at the edges due to the inner particle board swelling and expanding more than the tight-fitting vinyl could stretch.  

 

Over several months, I felt like I finished the internet, Lol. For hours at a time, I googled all I could lay my eyes on regarding vinyl joining/bonding techniques, such that the end product had the appearance and durability of the OEM panels. At the same time, I was experimenting with different types of vinyls. I was mostly experiencing separation failures as I applied controlled heating and pressure techniques and the final results were not impressive. This went on for many weeks, gradually changing the way that I applied heat to the edges and varied the pressure as well. At the same time, I was also trying different wood types and edge cuts and profiles that were as close to the OEM.

 

After months of research and experimenting, I was about to give up when I came across videos on vinyl floor bonding with heat. This gave me some ideas. I accepted the fact that I was not going to find out the BMW secret. However, I did, be it accidentally, discovered and resorted to the fact that I could weld the vinyl in a way that looked similar and stayed together in the same way as OEM! And guess what?, no staples, stitches or glue to hold it all together! So, yes, the solution was to weld the vinyl together at the edges, which in essence makes two vinyl pieces into one, and result in something close to OEM! Admittedly, the welding was the key part, but there was also a lot of figuring out of applying the right amount of stretch and not produce any wrinkles on any of the edges, while maintaining a uniform surface front and back.

 

Many days later, I was able to fabricate a set of panels where I made some aesthetic mistakes, but that I was happy with would work on my 02. They looked better than my old worn-out originals and were robust. It was then that I decided to fabricate additional units to see if I could improve upon, primarily aesthetically. So far, it worked out pretty good.  Naturaly, as an engineer, I put together some questions that I asked myself that others may ask with respect to the over-all finished product to evaluate if the panels would even worthwhile.

 

  • In appearance, are the panels exactly the same as OEM?   -  Yes and No.  The front and edges probably yes, the back, not quite, as the OEM has a thin (~1/16") heat seam, while mine have about +1/8" of heat seam and slight bulging on the back resulting from the welding process.
  • Will the vinyl come apart or separate at the edges from extreme heat or cold?  - No, it will not separate or come apart at the edges, as the vinyl (marine grade) itself would have to melt to release the bond. 
  • What kind of material is used for the panel itself?  - The panel is the same thickness as the OEM, additionally, from Wikipedia. Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres, often in a defibrator, 
  • What happens if the adhesive between the MDF and vinyl fails?  - Nothing would happen, as the vinyl is molded around the shape of the MDF and profile and welded together at all surrounding edges.
  • Will the vinyl hold up in extreme hot or cold temperatures?  -  The vinyl is a re-inforced marine product that is incredibly durable and is designed for the outside environment, boats, recreational vehicles, including UV, salt, heat and cold and especially inside the car, it will not degrade with time, hot/cold conditions. 

 

Shoot me any questions that you may have on my endeavor.  I would also love to hear about your interior 02 projects and challenges!!

 

Jesse

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For point of reference, here are some side by side comparisons between the OEM and my replicated panels.

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Agreed: very nicely done. Yes, heat-seaming was a much cheaper and faster alternative to stitching, and was used extensively on the molded vinyl seat panels as well.

 

But this is the first time I’ve seen the console heat-seaming reproduced. Great contribution!

 

Regards,

 

Steve

 

 

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Much appreciated guys! I admit, I consumed lots of vinyl to get a feel for it, Lol. But, in all seriousness, I did not realize that "heat seaming" was used on the seat panels. 

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Jesse, great job on the research, findings and fabrication! i think your pieces turned out fantastic.

Only out of curiosity, because I would not have the time to try this, where did you find the MDF?

Does it come in various thicknesses? Is it easy to cut?

I have a '76 and am hoping to finish replacing the fuel pump this weekend and firing it up after almost 4 years. 

I am trying to keep it as stock as possible... diving boards, side reflectors and all. ?

Take care

Philip

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Thanks Philip. Yes, the MDF comes in various thicknesses. and it's carried by the major lumber suppliers. I got mine at Home Depot and they carry one that's about the perfect thickness for our panels. It definitely is easy to cut, it's firm/tough and the best part is that it cuts true, clean and consistent.

I finished spraying epoxy primer on my 76 body panels just before the winter. I had to fully strip the paint due to random under-paint rust spots. I have a long way to go on the interior.

I'd like to see photos of your 76 if you have some handy! What condition is it in? My email address is Jss_strg@yahoo.com.

 

Cheers,

Jesse

 

 

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Thanks Philip. Yes, the MDF comes in various thicknesses. and it's carried by the major lumber suppliers. I got mine at Home Depot and they carry one that's about the perfect thickness for our panels. It definitely is easy to cut, it's firm/tough and the best part is that it cuts true, clean and consistent.

I finished spraying epoxy primer on my 76 body panels just before the winter. I had to fully strip the paint due to random under-paint rust spots. I have a long way to go on the interior.

I'd like to see photos of your 76 if you have some handy! What condition is it in? My email address is Jss_strg@yahoo.com.

 

Cheers,

Jesse

 

 

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This is impressive R&D!  The results are very impressive also.  Reverse engineering 50 year old parts is a daunting task whether interior panels or, in my case, 2002ti linkage systems.  It is also very rewarding (though not necessarily financially!).   I expect we will see many more of these kinds of projects as our cars (and bodies) age.  

If you have the time, you might try to create a manufacturing process that would allow you to make this product available to the community.  Molds and jigs might facilitate the process.  And you can always find willing teenagers to help cut the manual labor costs.

Good luck!

 

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Thank you for the generous comments! It was a bit tiresome, but definitely rewarding at the end based on the feedback I'm seeing. You offer good fodder for thought on the manufacturing process. I'm fascinated by the replication of 2002 old parts..I'm very curious about these linkage systems of yours and I'm looking into them :)

Thanks again!

Jesse

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33 minutes ago, Jesse said:

I'm very curious about these linkage systems of yours

Here are some pics of the system.  

If you decide to try to manufacture these panels, I'd be willing to share what production knowledge I picked up in making the linkage system, the caliper spacer kits, and many other 2002 parts.

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Big Brake Caliper Spacer Kit.jpg

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Thanks for posting the photos. These are beautiful quality parts and factory rugged. This is about the level of quality I would love to achieve with the console panels if it were feasible to do so! One thing I would like to do is seek feedback somehow to get an idea on demand in the forum...and yes, I appreciate the offer for your thoughts. I would like to learn or get some idea on what it could take to set up a manufacturing process. 

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You might first determine any costs associated with the manufacturing process.  Don't forget to include your time and any R&D expense.  Then calculate what price you would have to get to recoup that cost and make enough profit to continue the business.  At that point you might ask what that interest level is on the FAQ.  

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Okay, thank you for the guidance. Especially helpful since I am more of a hands on type, than entrepreneur minded. These seem like sensible first steps. Being that it is quite a labor-intensive process to integrate the parts into a panel, it appears that I have lots to consider regarding the skilled labor aspects. Thanks again for these great thoughts! 

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Ha, ha, ha... now you are in trouble! You asked for photos of the car, well I am going to overload you! No, just kidding, but I will send some. Hopefully this weekend.

Take Care

Philip

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That would be cool! It sounds like your 02 is actually all put together and drivable, so it would be awesome to see what this bad boy looks like. 

 

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These are shots from about 8 months ago, when I was focusing on the trunk stripping and sealing. 

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I've received emails about panels and have had good conversations. Here's a short video clip on the edges. It appears that server is optimizing video to reduce file size. Hopefully this helps a little. Thanks to those who reached out in emails and chats! 

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Thanks again to questions and positive comments! Understandably so, there are still questions on how I join the vinyl edges around the panel perimeter, and belief that bonding agents/glues/adhesives are being used. But no glue is used, as it is done similar how BMW joined them.  Here is a video to provide an idea on how they are joined with heat and pressure. It is not exactly the same way, but it is the same principle and results as shown. I hope this is helpful! :) . Thank again for the positive comments and questions!

 

 

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