BMW E46 Sedan Rear Armrest Console Cup Holder OEM Modification Pictorial DIY PROLOGUE:
This DIY is about 12 years late. Since 1998 BMW dropped the rear console /cup holders as they went from E36 to E46. Our E46 lack the rear seat amenities that I enjoyed as an E36 driver. As a driver I used the rear cup holders more than anyone else in my car for keeping extra supply of water or drinks on hand (or even using the rear cup holders for my drinks and reserving the front console cup holders for other things like cell phones and iPods.
Now after about a year of planning this DIY I finally figured out the best way to keep my car OEM fresh and install a rear functional armrest cup holder. I dropped the idea of using lots of aftermarket cup holders and console trays and went with a cup holder unit from another BMW. Note: The dealership have special console/cup holder armrest for the E46 sedans at about $600 to $700 a pop. Some E46 Premium Wagons also come with a rear console armrest.
So I went on eBay and found a curious little unit that original came with the E38 7 series. On the 7 series it is BMW Parts # 51168212131 (Rear Seat Can Holder aka Cup Holder) and it is inserted into the center of the lower seat cushion so that your right or left seated rear passengers can reach down and pop open this little holder and insert cups. This cup holder is very hi tech and actually holds cups from 12 oz coffee cups to 16 oz Poland Spring water bottles to 32 oz big gulps via springy rubber grips.
I picked mine up from eBay for around $40. There are lots of them in Grey and Tan on eBay ranging from $19-starting bid to $125-Buy It Now. Don’t pay more than $50 on eBay and make sure the one you buy have functioning holders as the springy grips can be broken off or loose on used units. The dealership also sells them for around $180. DIY:
This DIY took me about 1 year to plan and build up the courage to cut into my car’s fine leather and about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish.
Box cutter or similar style blade: For cutting leather (don’t use a serrated knife or kitchen knife)
Serrated Knife or Kitchen knife: For gouging out the inner foam.
Tape measure (get one with centimeters) and Sharpie marker to setting up your cut outline
Cheap scotch tape: The ones from the 99 Cents store that don’t really stick to anything but have a dry thin cloudy skin that you can mark on with the sharpie pen
Index card or paper: For your test pattern if you care to test out your cut pattern before cutting the leather.
Enjoy. ImageShack - PART ONE: Removing and taking a close look at the Armrest