Stealth Install of a Valentine One
Radar Detector in a BMW E39 5 Series
Note: The newest V1 is about 1/4" more thin
and permits a more "stealthy" install. In the E39, it fits
in the same location with no cutting of the panel required. I'm leaving
the old instructions up since some other cars still require additional
clearance to fit.
This page describes a "stealth"
install of a Valentine One (V1) radar detector in my 97 BMW E39 540i
6-speed. The same basic approach can be adapted to other BMWs that have
the same type of sunroof access panel and detectors other than the V1.
Because radar detectors are
As side benefits, since the
detector isn't as visible I don't have to worry about removing or hiding
it when leaving the car, and I don't have people lining up behind me
on the highway when they see the detector.
This really isn't worth doing
for most people, but I've had enough questions about it that I made
this page. And, yes, I'm sure that there is some reduction in range
when the detector is mounted this way (see "How's
it work" below). The main benefits of this location are that the
unit is accessible, it's an easy and cheap install, and it doesn't require
irreversible mods to the car.
See the following sites for
more detailed info regarding the V1, hard-wired installation, and some
other installation ideas.
Valentine One radar detector:
Research, Inc. web site.
Peter Glaskowsky has put together a great set of instructions for hard-wiring
the V1 unit with lots of detail and pics. Refer to Peter's page for
instructions regarding how to wire the main unit and the concealed display:
For absolutely the most clean
and "stealthy" install, take a look at the new "StealthOne"
integration with the BMW instrument displays. Just plain too damn
cool. Doesn't get any better.
More install ideas:
to more install ideas for BMW and other vehicles.
If you know of others, send
me a link and/or pics and I'll post them here.
The main unit is consealed
above the sunroof access panel as shown below.
Panel in place - side view.
The unit is hard-wired basically
along the same lines as described in Peter's write-up.
The V1 main unit is about
1/4" too thick to allow the cover to properly seat with the unit under
it, so I had to provide additional clearance by cutting away the area
marked in the picture below. A Dremel tool and cutting wheel (and a
very light touch) makes this relatively easy to do. The plastic is fairly
soft and the wheel makes quick work of it - too quick if you aren't
careful. It will also make quick work of your fingers (insert obligatory
"I'm not responsible, blah, blah, blah..."). The most difficult part
is cutting through the plastic panel without also slicing through the
fabric covering. There's a little grace since the fabric has a thin
layer of foam padding under it. Just need to go slow and not use too
much pressure as the cuts are made.
Stock Access panel cover
and area to be cut away.
The panel shown above is BMW
part number 51 44 8 206 531. This one has the cut-out for the UGDO panel.
The panel without the cut-out is part number 51 44 8 206 529. Both are
about $10 discounted from a dealer. It really doesn't matter which is
used - the center area is removed anyway. Obviously, the part numbers
vary depending on the vehicle and color.
After making the cuts, I used a razor blade under the edge
of the plastic and between the thin foam backing to remove the plastic
from the fabric. Need to be delicate when doing this. If too much of
the foam backing is pulled away, it won't look smooth when the panel
is in place.
Once the center area of the
panel was removed, I placed a thin piece of foam over the cut-out as
shown below. This isn't necessary, but it makes the final appearance
more smooth when the unit and panel are in place. A little spray adhesive
(too much will stain the headliner material) helps keep it in place.
Foam padding in place.
It wasn't necessary in this
case, but additional strips of foam could be used above and below the
unit to "aim" it top-to-bottom.
Main unit in place.
The main unit is positioned
in the cut-out and the panel and unit are replaced. It's a press fit,
and the pressure of the panel and the foam holds everything in place.
The final install isn't particularly
noticeable if you aren't really looking for it.
Panel in place - bottom view.
If I could find a way to fit
the unit under the panel without the cut-out, then none of the above
would be required; however, it doesn't fit in my 97 540, or in my 95
E36 M3 or a 91 E34 that I've owned in the past where I've done similar
installs (at least without altering other components under the sunroof
I've considered mounting it
up under the headliner, but then it wouldn't be as easily accessible.
Another idea that I'm considering is to see if the unit will fit without
cutting the panel if it's positioned a little forward of where it sits
now, and cutting away the center portion of the overhead light. This
probably would give better results as far is performance is concerned
since the mirror wouldn't block the forward view of the detector as
much. I've not yet tried it, so I can't say.
There are lots of options
for mounting the remote display (see links).
I've mounted mine in the switch panel above the cup holders as show
Remote display mounted in switch panel.
Mine is the older model without
the control knob. For units with the knob, I think the ashtray
mounting is the nicest that I've seen. Also very nice are
the remote units mounted in the rearview
I had to get a different blank
to replace the remaining unused areas in the switch panel. These come
in four lengths, depending on how many blanks you need to fill. The
part number for the blank switch covers are 51-16-8-161-567 (single),
51-16-8-161-568 (double), and 51-16-8-161-566 (three-blank). They just
snap straight in and out.
The blank where the remote
is located is covered with a thin piece of dark orange acetate film,
backed with a thin piece of more rigid plastic film. This matches the
appearance of the other display panels and makes it look almost stock
(moreso than it looks in the pic because of the way the light reflected).
An on-off switch is installed
in the panel next to the unit as shown below. The switch is made from
a gutted used ASC switch (part number 61-31-8-363-694, $50 new!) and
a small spring-loaded SPST switch. Trust me, you don't want to do this!
lol. What a pain in the ass.
Remote power switch.
Rub-off lettering was used
to label the switch, with a light coat of spray-on varnish to keep it
from rubbing off. Unfortunately, the lettering is very hard to come
by these days, and I couldnít find a font and size to match exactly
the lettering of the other switches. It's pretty close though. I was
tired of screwing with it, so the switch does not light up (yet anyway).
Again, you really donít want to do this - I would have been happy with
a simple on-off switch that matched other panel switches, but as far
as I know there isn't a stock switch that you can get that isn't a momentary
contact switch and I didn't want to screw with building in a circuit
to make it work. In hindsight, that probably would have been easier.
Update 11/30/2001: I still
had my old V1 after I got the new version, and I had an opportunity
to do a side-by-side test with the old unit mounted in an optimal location
high in the center of the windshield and the new unit mounted as described
above. Any differences in detection were minimal... maybe one or two
seconds at highway speeds. I'd guess that better circuitry in the new
version probably evens things out some. The new version also sits up
a little higher, clearing the mirror better. Again, note that my experience
applies only to the area where I drive, which involves mostly short
distances and lots of traffic to reflect signals. At the fringes of
the range of the detector, you'd probably see more of a difference.
I'm sure that I lose some
range versus having the unit installed in a more optimal location; however,
in practical use, any reduction to the maximum range of the detector
really doesn't matter much with the distances that I encounter radar
here and the amount of traffic and other types of reflectors providing
bounced signals. Actually, it works suprizingly well versus what I'd
expected given the placement of the mirror in the E39.
The main factor affecting
reception isn't having the unit mounted up high under the cover - there's
not much metal in the area in front of it - it's the mount for the rearview
mirror. I have the unit positioned so that it peeks out just above the
mirror, with the front antenna positioned to the side of the mount.
Still, I'm sure that it limits the forward view somewhat.
In any case, I've had the
unit mounted like this in several different BMW cars for 5+ years and
I've always had plenty of time to react to any signals detected (*knock
on wood*). I'd guesstimate that it might reduce reception up to maybe
20%, but I have no real basis for that number. Even with any reduction,
I still pick up signals long before I'm within range to be tagged. The
amount of warning distance varies depending on the area. As always,
YMMV, particularly if you're in an area where you may be subject to
radar at extremely long ranges.
Obviously, laser detection
front and rear is not functional, but my feeling is that it's of limited
The unit is easily removed
when I want to move it, and it's accessible for adjustment of the volume
and other controls. Also, the cut-out panel is easy and cheap to replace
with another stock panel when the time comes.