When we did the Junkyard Build Quality challenge with door panels, the Audi 80 won handily, with top-shelf fasteners, few hidden corners cut, and well-thought-out design. We're moving into sportier— and pricier— territory here, with a 1993 BMW E36 yielding its speedometer to Shawn's crude-yet-effective junkyard toolkit.

Here's your typical sensible German instrument cluster, but there's no telling what Teutonic complexity lurks under the skin. My experience pulling German clusters (as I collect car clocks for a ridiculous project) has taught me that Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen designers and engineers haven't always been able to resist the lure of oddball fasteners, or just excessive numbers of fasteners. Let's see what happens when Shawn starts spinning the ol' wrenches, shall we?

The first thing you do when you're messing about with a German dashboard is survey the territory for cleverly hidden trim fasteners and disguised latches. One of the guidelines we've set for the Junkyard Nightmare Build Quality Challenge prohibits— well, discourages is the better word— excessive collateral damage when removing parts. Good thing we've got a Peachy Peach Little Tree™ air freshener to mask That Junked Car Smell!

Sometimes it's possible to just pop the plastic bezel right off, after which you can just unscrew the cluster from its mounts. Sometimes. Shawn applies a little muscle here, only to be rewarded with the sounds of cracking Bavarian plastic.

Finding the location of the cracking plastic enables Shawn to find some previously invisible screws.

This is getting frustrating. Maybe disassembling the center console will help?

Damn it! Even after removing several hard-to-reach screws, we're no closer to getting access to the cluster.

However, Shawn has scored a weird antenna-cable adapter from the guts of the dash; this means he'll be able to use one of his collection of oddball Euro-market stereos in his GTI.

Hold on! It appears that the cluster will pop out even with the dash bezel in place. Too bad we don't have a factory shop manual, eh?

Unfortunately, he's run up against another wall of incomprehensible German complexity; no way to get this thing out without breaking something.

Perhaps a little persuasion with the prybar will help. We'll need to loosen the restrictions imposed by the "Thou Shalt Not Tear Up Junkyard Cars" rule if we're going to get that speedo in a reasonable amount of time.

And, since we don't have the huge socket needed to remove the steering wheel— which is probably pressed on, anyway— Shawn will be forced to apply Neanderthal methods to create some cluster clearance. Tip: when selecting your assistant for a Junkyard Build Quality Challenge, select a huge dude with a Mohawk.

I hate doing this, but E36 steering wheels are plentiful in wrecking yards.

BMW normally uses very high quality electrical connectors, and that's the case here; no fingernail-busting, ribbon-cable-snapping Detroit hardware in this car.

Look at that! BMW must have spent an extra 1.29 Euros per car on this sort of thing.

Mine, all mine!

But this is the Speedometer Edition of the Junkyard Nightmare Build Quality Challenge, not the Cluster Edition, so Shawn's job isn't over yet. We move the cluster to our workbench, i.e. the trunk lid.

These handly little latches get our hopes up that cluster disassembly will be a breeze.

The Phillips screws are no sweat. So far so good!

But then Shawn runs across some Torx screws, and who brings Torx bits in his junkyard toolbox? We don't! OK, we'll need to sacrifice a few more E36 parts here.

Now that we've split open the cluster, the individual gauges may be reached.

And there it is! Overall, we'll give the Germans a very high rating for component quality, but the Pain-In-The-Ass Quotient (PITAQ) comes to a depressing 7 out of 10, due to unnecessary complexity and general fastener overkill.

OK, let's move on to the Japanese, with the 1993 Infiniti J30 up next!

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