Perfecting one of the greatest BMWs by … changing cup holders?
The E39-chassis BMW 5-series was built from 1995 to 2004. I became a fan of the car during my first ride in a late-1990s 540i Sport, but that condition blew up into full fanboi adoration after test-driving a Sterling Gray E39 M5 at a dealer in 2003. Love for this platform isn’t rare in these parts: This site’s editorial director, Eric Weiner, once called that model of M5 “the elite-level sport sedan on planet Earth from 2000–2003.”
Regardless of spec, every E39 manages to hit a sweet spot of size and engineering quality from the Munich brand’s glory days. Even given the car’s slightly overboosted steering, the 1998–2003 M5 still feels like the perfect sports sedan, almost 20 years after the last one left the line.
While I rarely need a cup holder in a car like this, I know how bread gets buttered in America: The Big Gulp grew to 44 ounces in 1986. Even with a decade to brace for that drink’s impact, the Germans gave the E39 shallow and flimsy cup holders, woefully inadequate. Most aftermarket alternatives were mediocre at best.
For many years, the “big cup” solution came from a company called TEC. That part requires modification of the factory center-console storage partition. I demonstrated one on YouTube (above) before photographing the car it came from for my Vellum Venom column. (My passionate on-camera delivery and professional videography are clearly worth of big influencer ad dollars. Please tell your friends.)
TEC’s work was ingenious and durable, but the part has since been discontinued. Used examples tend to sell for outrageous cash. Luckily, a new aftermarket company has entered the scene. Australia’s Trick Bits now offers a cup holder built from modern production methods. More to the point, it is worthy of the brilliantly engineered E39.
The Trick Bits cup holder works much like its aftermarket predecessor, living in the BMW’s console storage nook as its home. Said nook utilizes a roll-top cover, like an antique desk, for a clean look. To install the TB part, you remove that cover. The roll top’s guiding rails become the cup holder’s mounting rails, which prompts a question: Why mess with perfection when you can leverage it?
At publication time, the Trick Bits cup holder goes for $35.90 on Amazon or eBay, with a price break for volume purchase. It provides fantastic bang for the buck and is far more functional for large or tall cups than any E39-fitting alternative, whether current production or vintage.
Installation is straightforward. The factory part pops out of the console with a few strategic finger pulls.
As the above images suggest, it takes a few more presses and pulls to disassemble the BMW part. At that point, you should do a test-fit, on the bench, trying the Trick Bits piece in the factory part. If you don’t “learn” the install process before final assembly, the console’s lack of space and visibility will ensure frustration.
That’s all you need to know from me—this YouTube video from Trick Bits explains everything else. (A video is worth at least 1000 words here, at least in my book!)
My test vehicle for my TB install was an E39 M5 with an awful pair of aftermarket metal cup holders in the front footwells. Those pieces were an interference fit between the carpet and the console, and they look about as terrible as a “universal fit” aftermarket part can. Especially within this M5’s decadent caramel-leather interior. Off to the metal scrap pile they go, their fate sealed by just one test fit of my Mod Pizza plastic cup into the Trick Bits part.
The TB cup holder is far more functional, and it installs in straightforward and precise German fashion. But what blew me away is how it acts like a loaner jacket at a fancy restaurant: It dresses up any cup deemed worthy to sit in a car built in the “good old days” of BMW design and quality.
The end result is so impressive that I suspect Trick Bits could sell it for double the price. The company’s work even inspired me to OEM-plus the M5 in question with a set of (cheap aftermarket knock-off) folding cupholders for the rear seat.
I lost two cupholders in the front when I ditched those metal footwell affairs, but I gained two in the rear seat. And they certainly look better. (Sure, the comparison is apples to oranges, but at least the math works!)
Bottom line: If you have an E39, you need the Trick Bits part. The value, quality, and styling are great, and the part integrates nicely into one of the finest BMW interiors ever made. And if you don’t have an E39 yet, what are you waiting for? Get the cup holder—it’s a start!
Full disclosure: Trick Bits provided the front cupholder for this story. The rear cup-holder assembly was purchased by the author.
This was fun. It’s a mod I would use.
Can they do something for the E34 owners among us, namely me?
Never hurts to ask: https://trickbits.com.au/pages/contact
“Perfecting”? Really, Sajeev? You sure that’s the word you want to use? Since perfection does not exist, maybe you want to go with “vastly improving” instead? 😄
However, since I’m a coffee guy, I’ll applaud efforts to make for better cup holders in ANY vehicle. I have no idea how I made it through life driving so many ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and even some ’80s autos and trucks that didn’t fit my basic needs – or how I ever lasted through the era of those flimsy “clip-fits-over-the-window-sill” poor excuses for aftermarket upgrades. I mean, when I got a 1986 Toyota SR5 that had a semi-adequate slide-out-of-dash twin holder, I thought I’d reached Nirvana.
Although too vehicle-specific to be of any use to me, I like reading articles that share inventive improvements to our rides – even if they don’t quite reach “perfection” levels. 🙄
Carry on, Mr. Mehta, and I’ll keep reading your articles!
You’re a good man Mr. DUB6. To be brutally honest, I personally felt that (when new) the E39 was the maximum extension of my beloved Fox Body Ford products, taken to a level that no Ford accountant would allow. That’s some perfection right there, but it’s also Peak BMW, as its everything you expect from a mainstream luxury brand that makes performance and restrained style a priority.
The cupholder is really perfecting something so close to perfection for Big Gulp-ing Americans.
In my ’66 Poncho, there are obviously no factory cupholder provisions. Due to period-correct-late ’60s-hot-rodder under dash mounting of SW gauges and a Craig-Pioneer 8-track deck, there is no place to mount any sort of holder there. I tried finding a “tray/cupholder” combo thing that fits over the driveshaft hump (there is a center console from firewall to just behind the front seats, so it’s reachable between the bucket seats). The one I settled on has a curved cutout on the bottom that is too wide for that portion of the tunnel (it’s probably designed to go over the broader trans-hump area). So, using pop rivets, I affixed two BB-weighted leather tubes on either underside “wing” of that saddle area. They are just slightly shorter than the tray, so they don’t show much. It rides pretty well, but on a curvy mountain road, I certainly wouldn’t trust it with the weight and slosh of a Big Gulp going side-to-side. I’ll just stick with my travel mug full o’ hot java – – – besides, soda pop will kill ya!
That is a very good point! I barely have sodas these days, I treated myself to one just for this article!
I wished for and installed a trick bits cup holder in my 03 530i/5 during these recent holidays. Was concerned with the size of drinks and relative space with arm rest and shifter.
Happy to report that it is everything the author has lauded. Installation was a breeze, and having it there works perfectly.
Could not be happier with my $35 upgrade.
Glad to see the cup holder worked out for you too!