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wc123wc 05-06-2013 11:51 PM

E39: How much space is there under the cupholder tray?
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What's under the cupholder tray? I know it is the transmission housing, but how much space is there between the cupholder tray and the transmission? (Please see image.)

Hopefully someone who has stripped the centre console out can give me an idea.

Thanks in advance!

wolf_e39 05-07-2013 12:57 AM

you probably have a couple of centimeters of space, really not a lot, its tight in there.
on the other hand you have tons of space under your ashtray between your gear shifter and arm rest its all empty in there
what do you want to do ?

propr'one 05-07-2013 09:51 AM

between the housing or the trans itself?

take out your shift boot you'll see, its more than a couple centimeters

wc123wc 05-07-2013 07:05 PM

Thanks to both of you!
Thanks. I will remove the transmisison boot to see how much space I have.

I am planning to bore out that tray under the cupholders, and create custom fit cupholders for my car because I don't like any of the options on the market (including the OEM cupholders).

The problem I have with the OEM cupholders is that it is about 1" deep which means if you have any cup filled with more than 2" liquid then the cup will flip in corners as the weight shifts. So if I can bore the tray out and create a custom cupholder that will add say 1"-2" to the OEM cupholders, then it will be good enough.

wc123wc 05-09-2013 01:58 PM

I talked to a machinist today.
I talked to one of the suppliers I deal with (he has a machine shop) and he said he can make it either from Al or plastic. Labour + part <$200 (for Al or plastic) and that’s a lot of money for me since I don’t drink coffee and drive. But I am more interested in making it for storage.

Al can be anodized because Al is soft comparing to Steel and porous, but that will add $100 on top of the price. But if I don’t anodize it and coffee spills on it, the coffee will be “absorbed” into the Al. But of course, I can always plasti dip the block instead of spending $100 on anodizing it! (I can have it black anodized.)

The plastic needs to have a softer finish to the top portion because when plastic is machines, tool marks will be visible so if I paint it the paint might not be smooth. This will add about $20 extra on the price. But I checked the tooling marks and they are soft enough that plasti dip can take care of it without having to have a softer finish.

If I order 10pcs or more then the price will be closer to $150/pc rather than $200/pc, but why do I need 10pcs! So in summary:


Al ~ $200; Al + anodized ~$300
Plastic ~$ 200; Plastic ~ $220


Al ~ $150; Al + anodized ~$250
Plastic ~$ 150; Plastic ~ $170

Anyway, I still have to remove that whole centre console to see how much space I really have. Thanks for the helps guys!

windwagen 05-27-2013 09:04 PM

My biggest complaint about the cupholder is that the cabin temp sensor draws in air from the little square shaped grill in front of the cup. So a cold drink in summer cranks the temp up and a hot coffee in winter ..... does no one else experience this? I swear it's a ploy by German engineers to discourage drinking while driving!

I got some cheap Crappy Tire cupholders and slip them under the trim next to the tunnel. They actually rest on the car floor. It's a bit of a stretch to reach but any spills go onto the floormat.

Let me know if you want a pic...

wc123wc 05-27-2013 11:01 PM

I don't really need the cupholders...
I don't drink coffee or any hot beverage while I drive. I only need a water bottle and that fits well into the door packet.

The problem I have is that I am a mechanical design engineer and things like this get on my nerves--I just got to "fix" it or at least try! So (this is where it gets really weird), I ordered a 3D printer last week and I am waiting for it to arrive! I have few projects that need a 3D printer and this E39 cupholders project is right on the top of the list.

You mentioned a good point about the drink temperatures affecting the AC control. I will definitely keep this in my mind when I start designing my own cupholders. Thanks for the tip. :)

windwagen 05-27-2013 11:23 PM

Fawk - you sound like me!

My best friend and I are mech eng too. When a part fails, HE will choose to replace it with the same thing. His reasoning is that it's already designed and ready to go. I disagree.... a properly designed part shouldn't break in the first place and obviously needs to be improved. So I would fabricate my own "improved" part.
Plus I'm a cheap bastard so I don't want to pay for a part ... that will just break again.

btw - only the LEFT vent sucks in air. The right one is fake!!! Yes a FAKE cosmetic detail!!! I'm really curious to see what you come up with. I've often thought of re-routing the airflow away from my coffee somehow.

wc123wc 05-27-2013 11:44 PM

LOL! I guess we are in the same boat!

Yes, when I took the AC unit out I realized there is only one fan and it's on the left side, and that explains why only the left vent collects dust! But, I am not sure the fan is what regulates the temperature. (What does the fan do? Do you know?) There is this shinny glass-like dot on the right "vent" and it might be a sensor! Do you happen to know what it is? If you look at the image above, it is located in the lower right corner of the bottom groove of the right vent.

And I agree with you: if something breaks, I try to fix it my way by improving on it. Especially the E39 cupholders which have so many design flaws!

1) They are shallow so any half filled cup tips over.
2) They are flimsy so they don't hold cups in place and break easily.
3) The cups block access to the AC controls.
4) Drink temperatures affect the climate control.

^BMW really dropped the ball when it came to the cupholders (even though I love the rest of the car)!

windwagen 05-28-2013 08:21 AM

The fan draws air into the vent. The temp sensor is in there somewhere. But really, is that the only place to locate this thing?

The glass dot is a light sensor. During the day, the display is bright. If you cover the sensor simulating night, the display should automatically dim.

The crappy cupholders is intentional.... My old 03 VW Wagon was worse. It was made of a bunch of plastic sticks that fold up into the dash when stowed, located above the radio. Even a small bump would jiggle you coffee so it spilled all over the radio, gear shifter and you and your passenger's pants. Newer VWs had a much better design.

I'm convinced that the German cupholder engineer had a mad scientist moment....

"Hans.... look where I put zee cupholder! Ist right nix to zee HVAC sensor! Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Now zee American will be kalt when he tried to drive with a hot cafe!! ha ha ha"

wc123wc 05-28-2013 08:52 PM

LOL! And thanks for the info!

windwagen 05-30-2013 05:14 PM

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Here's a crappy pic of my solution... I got these at crappy tire for $3. I didn't see them there any more though. They are supposed to hang off your window.

They are the "Type S" brand so these are super Hot with the ricer crowd!!

wc123wc 06-17-2013 12:35 AM

Just so you guys know, there is no space under the cup holder tray (I checked today). So making a deep cup holder that goes into that space is a not a feasible solution.

MLue1 07-31-2013 11:53 PM

I've used these since Sept 2012...
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I've used these since Sept 2012 and I highly recommend them. The installation is easy and the fit is as close to factory as you'd expect for $13. I used the heavy duty 3M velcro that came with my #407 transponder to hold the cup holder in place instead of what came in the kit and they have performed well. The instructions said to remove the factoty cupholder assembly but I left them in place without issues.

The cabin sensor is still a problem when I place a hot cup of Tim's in the cup holder but I live with that, I don't want to relocate and have to contend with spills because the cup holder is further away.

I have an E38 buddy that purchased them and adapted them, they weren't designed for the E38 but they still work fine.

Cheers :)

wc123wc 08-06-2013 11:47 PM


Thank you for the replies. :)

I don't like any of the solutions on the market. First, the place of the original cup holders is really bad because it blocks the climate controls which I fiddle with often. Second, I can't put anything on the side because I am on the heavy side so there isn't much space beside my legs. Third, I am taking designing cup holders for the E39 as as a design exercise and I have something in mind that I like! I will keep you posted. :D

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