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Technical_   Exterior_  Shadowline Trim Procedure

Shadowline Trim Procedure
Fred Kim


  • 2 or 3 cans SEM 39143 flat black trim paint
  • adhesion promoter (optional)
  • scuff pad and rough sandpaper (around 220 grit)
  • masking tape
  • 8mm socket with ratchet
  • lots of newspaper
  • damp rag

The 84-87 E30s had the misfortune from leaving the factory with not one, but two layers of chrome around the side windows (one around the doors and another around the windows). BMW must have taken a page out of the old American designbook, thinking that chrome makes cars look fancier, but it looks awfully tacky to me (besides, chrome belongs on Cadillacs, not Bimmers ;-) ). The 88-91 cars had only one layer of chrome around the windows, but the factory also offered a "Shadowline" option package consisting of black trim around all windows, including the front and rear windshields. I blacked out all the chrome on my car, but it's up to you if you want to black out the either window trim, the door trim, or all of it. It would also be a lot easier to remove the trim from the car when you paint it, but I did it while it was on the car to avoid the hassle of removing and reinstalling.

1) Go to to your local paint store and grab a can or two of SEM 39143 flat black trim paint. It costs around $9 a can, but it looks and feels OEM so it's worth the money. Some people like gloss black, but I feel flat black looks more appropriate.

2) Inside the car, remove the door tweeter or black triangular mirror cover (depending on how your car is equipped). Using the 8mm socket, remove the two bolts that hold the outside rearview mirror in place and disconnect the harness. It may help to roll the window down and hold it in place, otherwise the mirror will fall to the ground and you will be upset.

3) Tear off a piece of sandpaper and use it to scuff the surface of the chrome trim. Be sure to use even strokes and sand all the way to the edges, otherwise the paint will not stick evenly or will flake at the edges. Also be very careful not to scratch the paint or windows, as loose parts of the sandpaper will scuff them up. When the entire chrome surface is evenly dull, use the scuff pad and go over the surface again to clean it up.

4) Clean off the surfaces with a damp rag or with soap and water. Wait until the surface dries, then clean off any excess dust.

The more newspaper, the better! This is the minimal amount of newspaper that should be used.

5) Now use the newspaper to mask off all surfaces adjacent to the chrome trim. Use lots of newspaper and spread it around to protect your car because there will be overspray, even if you work inside a garage. Masking the edges takes a good amount of time, and you want to be extremely careful where you lay the tape. If you lay it too far from the edge, then you will hit the car's paint or window glass when you start spraying, but if you lay it too close then you will see a strip of unpainted chrome when you remove it. It may help to use a blade or flathead screwdriver when laying the masking tape. It is very important that you do this step right, so take your time!

Not much overspray here, but better safe than sorry. :)

6) Some people also use an adhesion promoter on the chrome surface prior to painting to make the paint stick better. If you choose to do so, follow the directions on the can. (FWIW, I used it on one side and not the other and I ended up with the same results. Perhaps over time the difference will show.) Now before you start spraying the black paint on the car, shake the can very well and spray some leftover newspaper on the ground first (sometimes when you first use the paint it will have a watery texture). When spraying on the car, hold the can 6-8 inches from the surface and use short, even strokes. Wait about 5 minutes between coats. I used about 4 coats for my car, you may want to use more or less depending on how it turns out.

7) The surface will dry to the touch in about 15 minutes, but I waited an hour before removing the newspaper and tape. Once you do so, you may see some areas that you missed. If you weren't careful laying the masking tape, then some paint may chip off when you lift it. If either if these happens to you, remask the areas and try again.

8) For best results, wait 24 hours before driving the car to allow the paint to settle.

I actually do not recommend painting the chrome (or brown, if yours is really old) windshield mouldings black. The front will definitely chip, especially if you do a lot of highway driving, so I ordered a set of black strips from the dealer. The part numbers are as follows:

51-31-1-968-445 (front moulding)
51-31-1-906-604 (front metal cover)
51-31-1-968-447 (rear upper moulding)
51-31-1-968-448 (rear lower moulding)
51-31-1-940-279 (rear metal covers) (x2)

You may also want to black out the chrome strip on the side mouldings to match the window/door/windshield trim and to complete the look:

9) To remove the door moulding off a 2-door, open the door and remove the black nut located on the inner doorjam. Once that's out, grab the edge and just pry it out. You will hear several loud cracks as the clips release (or break). If they break, just go to your dealer and pick some up (part number 51-13-1-829-904). It's less than $1 each.

10) The rear quarter panel moulding comes off the same way, but the nut is located inside the wheelwell. It may help to jack up the car to remove it if you are using a ratchet.

11) The front fender moulding does not have a black nut and is held on by a few clips. Simply grab one end and pull it off the car.

12) Clean all the dirt off the mouldings and use the scuff pad to scratch the surface. Also make sure that all the edges of the chrome strip are dull. Then use the SEM trim paint and spray several light coats, using the same technique previously described. For best results, wait 24 hours before reinstalling the parts.

Lots of ugly chrome around the windows.

Some people like a little chrome, so here how it looks with the window trim untouched.

(1 layer remaining)
Entire side blacked out. Much better!

(all black)


1.) Don't do this if you have a hot date later in the evening. This takes a lot of time and patience to do it right, so set aside the entire day to do it. Besides, your date probably won't even notice the blacked-out trim anyway.

2.) Masking tape and newspaper are cheap; a paint job is not. Don't be afraid to use a lot of both.

3.) For a really smooth surface, spray a few layers of black paint on the trim and allow it to dry. Then wet sand it using 600 grit sandpaper, clean off the surface, and spray a few more layers on.

4.) If you happen to scratch some of your car's paint with loose sandpaper, try washing and waxing the scratches out. I accidentally did this to my A-pillar and a little bit of Zymol wax took it right out.

5.) When placing the newspaper on your car, try to use sections that you are interested in, such as sports, entertainment, car classifieds, local news, etc. That way you can read the latest headlines while you wait for the paint to dry :-).

Many thanks to Mariano Garcia ("CleanAzzE30" on the DTM forum) for giving me the motivation to do this. After personally seeing how well it looked on his car, I just had to do it to mine :-).

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I am in no way responsible for any damage you may inflict on your car. If you decide to perform this procedure, you are doing so at your own risk. If your sanding and painting skills are lacking, then I cannot guarantee that you will have the same results that I did. Sorry, but I gotta watch my back.


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