BMW 3 Series (318i 323i, 325i, 328i, M3 (E36 Chassis), 1994-99
Convertible Top and Convertible Top Parts
The tops on this page fit all the "E36 Platform" BMW models:
U.S. Models: 318is, 318zi, 325, 328, 318, 323 and M3
European Models: 316i, 318i, 320, 323, 324, 325, 328 and M3
BMW 318i, 323i, 325i, 328i & M3 Convertible Top Information:
- Quality: Made to BMW specs, 100% fit guarantee.
- Original Factory Material: Sonnendeck (Twillfast) canvas.
- Original Colors: Black, BMW Blue, English Green, Titan Grey and Grenadine.
- Alternate Materials: Haartz Stayfast Canvas, Chrysler Sailcloth Vinyl.
- About Top Materials: Twillfast and Haartz Stayfast Canvas are almost indistinguishable outwardly. Twillfast has premium construction with a woven underside fabric. A very attractive alternative fabric is Chrysler Sailcloth vinyl (original to late model Mustangs and Sebrings and less expensive than canvas.)
- Relief Pockets: In 1994-1995 these BMW tops were made with small pocketed areas in the corners for decorative purposes. Click here to see relief pockets. They serve no function and BMW eliminated them in 1996. Our replacement tops are made without relief pockets. The tops will fit all 1994-1999 BMW 3 Series perfectly. If you're fond of the pocketed tops please request (no price difference.).
- Installation: Professional installation is suggested. A handy and meticulous person may consider DIY installation. This includes rivet work and use of contact cement. There is no sewing involved. We offer a very thorough installation manual (see at 'installation supplies.' ) To locate a professional installer please enter "automobile upholstery shops near me" in your browser search bar.
- Tension Straps: These must be in good condition as they slow down wear in the top. Warranty may be voided if new straps are not ordered with top. We urge replacement of straps if more than 3 years old.
- All seams are doubly electronically welded and sewn for added reinforcement. Convertible top fabrics are mildew & mold resistant, and UV treated for color fastness. Plastic windows are DOT rated heavy 40-gauge thick vinyl.
- Warranties: Kee Auto Tops carries a 6 year factory warranty with no labor allowance. Robbins Auto Tops has a 5 year factory warranty with 18 month labor allowance.
The original dealer fabric was Sonnendeck (Twillfast) canvas.
Alternate Fabrics: A5 German Sonnenland canvas, Haartz Stayfast Canvas, Chrysler Sailcloth Vinyl.
About The Fabrics:
German Sonnenland Canvas is the original German made canvas used in many Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and other convertibles. It's general construction is very similar to the other two canvases. It is hard to tell the surfaces apart among the three. But the manufacturing specifications make this the longest lasting top. There is an approximate twenty percent greater wear rating for Sonnenland than for Haartz Stayfast. Some of this is due to the abrasion resistance of the exterior canvas. This is a factor in certain tops where the framework design tends to produce friction between the top's surface and the car's hardware. (It is a well known 'trade secret' that the Haartz Division of Glen Raven Mills purchased the Sonnenland factory.)
Sonnendeck Canvas (also called 'Twillfast') is an American made canvas, true double texture topping like the Haartz Stayfast. Many purists who own Mercedes and other German cars want to see the particular German weave (that is called "dobby weave") when they look up inside the car. Haartz Stayfast canvas has a plain (unwoven) inner lining. So for Porsche, Mercedes and BMW owners who will spend a little more in order to see that "dobby" weave we offer a fabric called Sonnendeck (in addition to the original German Sonnenland or Happich canvas. The wear rating of Sonnendeck is also greater than for Haartz, by perhaps 10%. This is due to the slightly heavier inner lining and subtle bonding specification differences.
Haartz Stayfast Canvas has a canvas outer layer and a preshrunk cotton inner layer. The two are bonded with and separated by a butyl rubber core. It is this core that makes the fabric last a very long time, with both better static and dynamic wear ratings than vinyl toppings. Haartz Stayfast is the American substitute for the German canvases used in Mercedes, Porsche, BMW, some models of Mustang and Lebaron and others. Canvas is widely regarded as "richer looking" than vinyl. It is a little harder to clean. The inside of the top is pre-shrunk cotton. The inner lining is usually black.
In 1994-95 these tops were made with small pocketed areas in the corners for decorative purposes. They serve no function and BMW eliminated them in 1996. Most of our replacement tops are made without relief pockets. The tops will fit all years perfectly. For those of you who are fond of the pocketed tops we do offer that option: see the top selection list.
The elastic straps under the top serve an important function and must be in good condition to prevent premature wear in the top.
There is a green plastic window sealed into the top as original.
Full Power and Half Power Frames:
These tops, just as the original ones, will fit both types of top frame which appeared from 1994 to 1997 (latch up and automatic lock up.) However there are subtle headliner differences as indicated in the headliners listed.
Headliners are often re-installed under the new top. If you are ordering a new headliner you will transfer the quarter section hardware from the old to the new headliner.
Almost all manufacturers use Haartz fabrics. They may specify "heaviest weight" or "original replacement" in ways that seem reassuring. But they do not really tell the whole story. Please bear in mind that two things dominate, by far, the quality issue: (a) the manufacturing quality control in the factory that makes the top and (b) the care and thoroughness of the installation. There is a trade-off in weight: heavier is better for resisting tear through, but lighter is better for flexibility and abrasion from within that may arise from movement. Almost all our tops are a flexible medium density (36 oz.) fabric. Heavier is not better in most cases. Where it is, because of the top design, we will say so and the top will be made of the heavier vinyl.
- Sonnenland® is a German-made 3-ply topping made up of an acrylic twill-weave facing, a rubber inner-layer, and a polyester "dobby backing." The dobby backing is a knit-like weave original to many high-end foreign cars. Customers who value originality over cost often pay top dollar for Sonnenland, just to have that authentic "dobby backing," seen only when you look up at the roof of your convertible top from inside your car. Sonnenland canvas is a top-of-the-line material original to various Audi, BMW, and Jaguar convertibles, among others. Sonnenland Canvas can vary in terms of surface weave and/or weight for acoustic performance, but all Sonnenland Canvas promises elegance and long-lasting durability.
- Twillfast®, also called Sonnendeck Canvas, is an American-made canvas - a cost-effective substitute for Sonnenland. Twillfast is usually a 3-ply topping (though some versions are 5-ply) with Polyester and/or Polyester/cotton backings. This material, original to certain Camaro, BMW, Mustang, and VW Beetle convertibles, among others, varies in terms of surface weave and/or weight for acoustic performance. Twillfast Canvas is identical to Sonnenland Canvas - elegant and durable - only it's less expensive. This is a top-notch convertible top material, one we often recommend to savvy customers who like a good buy and a quality product.
- Stayfast Canvas is an elegant, durable canvas original to cars like the Mazda Miata and the Nissan 370Z. Stayfast is commonly used in replacement convertible tops. Stayfast canvas has an acrylic square weave facing, a rubber inner-layer, and a cotton backing. As with other canvases, the rubber core gives the fabric long-lasting durability. Stayfast canvas is a sleek, beautiful canvas, usually less expensive than Twillfast, but it does not have the dobby backing offered in Sonnenland and Twillfast (Sonnendeck). Stayfast is a popular upgrade to vinyl convertible tops, and as with any canvas, is richer looking and has a higher wear rating than convertible tops made of vinyl.
- Haartz Pinpoint Vinyl is the most popular fabric. This vinyl design is original to most American cars from the fifties to the nineties. Pinpoint refers to the little dots or pips that you see if you look closely at the vinyl surface. European cars, such as the old Beetles and others also used pinpoint vinyl as the topping fabric.
- Chrysler Sailcloth is featured on many late LeBarons, Sebrings, certain Mustangs and other cars. It is structurally (wear quality) equivalent to the Haartz Pinpoint but has a different surface grain. The grain was designed to imitate the look of canvas. As you can see from the scan of this fabric, it is an exceptionally rich looking material. It is sometimes chosen for replacing convertible tops that originally featured pinpoint vinyl.
- Cabrio Grain is also structurally equivalent to the pinpoint. It has a pigskin outer grain vinyl as original to Volkswagen Cabriolets from 1984 onward and to Mazda Miatas and Mercury Capris.
- A5S German Canvas (Robbins) The 100% Acrylic Twill Weave Surface Cloth receives a special flame singing treatment to remove the fabric knap; and is laminated to Black 100% Polyester Dobby backing.
This is the original topping for Porsche Boxster and Cabrio convertible tops. 59 inches (150 cm) wide, made in Germany.
- British Bison Vinyl is the most popular British roadster convertible top material. It is American made Haartz leather grain vinyl and is an imitation of the British Everflex vinyl top fabric. The British Bison Vinyl convertible top fabric is often referred to as 'crush grain.'
- British Everflex Vinyl We are now pleased to offer British Everflex Vinyl for classic English tops. This is the original material used on British convertibles including Jaguar, Rolls Royce and many others. Imported from England, British Everflex vinyl is a supple vinyl with a rich appearance and is more durable than other vinyls. A good, less expensive alternative is Colonial grain vinyl. Colonial has the same texture but is less durable.
- HV Denim (also called Twill Weave Vinyl) is heavy duty sport material composed of a distinctive twill grain PVC outer layer and a polyester/cotton blend inside lining fabric.
- Trilogy Acoustic Vinyl A heavyweight vinyl that is often used on SUVs like Jeep, because the two-ply composite has the capacity to reduce noise by about 20 percent compared to standard vinyls like Sailcloth. The vinyl material is durable, promises long-lasting wear-and-tear, and resembles the sleek twill cloth commonly found on luxury convertible cars.
- Haartz Twillfast RPC This American-made canvas has a twill weave pattern and resembles German-made Sonnenland canvas. It is a great all-purpose canvas and, according to Haartz, is used on 99 percent of convertibles. It is stronger and more durable than Stayfast Canvas and offers more sound protection. Haartz rates Twillfast RPC as a mid-level acoustic product, compared to the low-level sound reduction offered on other top materials like Stayfast
Parts in this category (BMW 3 Series (318i 323i, 325i, 328i, M3 (E36 Chassis)) fit cars for years: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.