Should You Replace Your Glass Windows with Polycarbonate?

BMW’s first production car arrived more than a century ago, and ever since, BMWs have been known for their perfect blend of comfort and handling. It wasn’t long after their first cars hit the road that BMW became a popular choice for driving enthusiasts and race car drivers due to their quality construction, superior performance, lightweight body, and the fact that they are easy to modify with performance upgrades.

The earliest vehicles from most manufacturers utilized plate glass for windscreens, windshields, and windows. Plate glass served the purpose of keeping bugs, dust, and rain out of your car and face, but it was extremely fragile, and once broken could lead to severe injuries in the event of an accident or crash. As automobiles continued to be developed over the years, plate glass disappeared and was replaced with safety glass, which had been engineered to cause minimal or no injury if it was broken. Safety glass is what BMWs have used for windshields and windows for decades and it has helped to create BMW’s reputation as one of the safest cars on the road. But with BMWs being one of the most popular cars to modify for the racetrack and the road, polycarbonate windows became a popular performance upgrade for stock glass windows.

What are Polycarbonate Windows?

The use of polycarbonate windows for any application where glass windows were once used has become more popular than ever in recent years, and chances are you have heard about them in one form or another, but what exactly is a polycarbonate window? Polycarbonate is the transparent or clear sheet of thermoplastic that is used in place of a traditional glass window, and in many ways, it is a far superior product compared to glass and other plastics.

The polycarbonate material is extremely resistant to impact. It is estimated to be over 200 times stronger than glass and about 30 times stronger than acrylic plastic. They offer better heat resistance, provide better insulation, and often provide better UV (ultraviolet) protection than glass. A polycarbonate window is far lighter than an example made from glass, and is easier to cut, modify, and install than a glass window. All of these reasons have made polycarbonate the go-to choice for homes, schools, hospitals, offices, and buildings that require multiple windows with different thicknesses and might be subject to high winds and bad weather. They can also be found in the cabs of heavy construction equipment and tractors that are used for working in environments where safety is extremely important.

Polycarbonate windows have also become a popular BMW performance part and a must-have for race cars due to their durability, lightweight construction, and the fact that they are easy to install and remove. 

Pros of Polycarbonate Windows

If you are building a BMW for use as a track car, show car, or an all-out twice-around-the-clock endurance racer, then polycarbonate windows might be the BMW performance part that will set you apart from the competition and give you that extra edge. 

Replacing glass windows with polycarbonate parts has many advantages, especially in a competition car. They are only about half as heavy as the stock windows that a car comes with from the factory and are sometimes thinner than glass. Removing the door glass also allows you to strip out the mechanism that allows them to function. The removal of these leftover parts, such as regulators, electric motors, rubber seals, and switches provides even more weight savings. 

Many racing series require you to remove all of the door glass, ¼ windows and often even the back window to meet their tech requirements - Every series rulebook is different depending on where and with whom you race so make sure you read the rules before building your car. All of our polycarbonate door windows are held in place using two easily removable pins, so they can be taken out and reinstalled with ease. This also means that you can have all windows in place if your car is being stored or transported to avoid dust and debris building up inside, and while some may not be completely waterproof around the edges, they provide way more protection from rain than having no windows at all.

Polycarbonate windows not only provide a performance upgrade on track, but also give any BMW a stylistic upgrade as well. Anyone who has followed professional road racing for the past few decades and has seen stripped-down E30, E36, and E46 M3 GTR purpose-built race cars knows how cool these machines are, and their look is often replicated on show cars. Many polycarbonate windows can be ordered with useful options such as sliding window vents that allow air to flow into the cabin at the driver’s discretion and NACA ducts that allow for airflow without sacrificing aerodynamics. These are functional upgrades that also look great. A set of polycarbonate windows with sliding vents and NACA ducts combined with the right wheels and a perfect stance will make your BMW function as well as it looks.

Cons of Making Your Own Polycarbonate Windows

Even with all of the reasons to install polycarbonate windows, they have a few cons that anyone planning to create their own will need to consider. Firstly, it is difficult to make a template of original glass and transfer this exact pattern to a sheet of polycarbonate so that it makes a snug fit to the window frame. Also, while being easier to cut than glass, polycarbonate windows are still quite tricky to cut yourself with any type of tool to get that nice, smooth finish. 

Polycarbonate panes are primarily sold in 4" x 8" sheets, so anyone looking to make their own windows will see a decent amount of waste in materials and, by extension, money towards these polycarbonate sheets. Overall, polycarbonate windows are best purchased custom-fitted for dedicated racing cars. No matter if you're building a track-focused E36 coupe or a vintage 2002 for open track days, Condor Speed Shop is your go-to destination.

Decisions, Decisions

So, should you replace your glass windows with polycarbonate windows? If you are building a car that will only see time on a racetrack, then the answer is yes. They provide a significant weight reduction that will improve your lap times at the track and will make your car look good and perform better at tracks like Sebring, Daytona, or Road Atlanta.  

Where to Buy Polycarbonate Windows

Anyone who is serious about racing a BMW will want the best BMW performance parts available. Luckily for BMW enthusiasts, Condor Speed Shop carries the best polycarbonate windshields, rear windows and side windows for the most popular models to race. They offer window upgrades for models as early as the 2002 and E21 3 Series all the way up to the E9x chassis. They have kits to replace side windows for sedans and coupes, and E30 quarter windows have options for replacing the fixed OEM windows held in place by the original frames, replacing the glass in pop-out windows, and removing frames altogether with windows that rivet into place on the car. 

Condor Speed Shop’s polycarbonate windows are made from the best UV protected polycarbonate material available, and they are CNC-profile cut to provide perfect fitment. They offer several options including window slides for front driver windows and several configurations of NACA ducts for rear windows. They carry rear polycarbonate windshields for many models and have all of the hardware and accessories to go with the windows they sell for easy installation. If you need lightweight racing windows made from high quality materials for your BMW, Condor Speed Shop has the setup for you.

The Best BMW Performance Parts Available

If you are building a BMW race car, look no further than Condor Speed Shop for the best BMW parts out there.  Check out their online store, place your order, install your new performance parts yourself or have your favorite independent shop install them for you, and hit the track! 

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