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MF Review: The JCW Leather Dash

There are few MINI accessories out there that are as seemingly extravagant as the new JCW Leather dash. I mean, it’s a MINI right? Why in the world would you spend the cash on something so exotic? Well I’ve asked myself that very question and all I’ve come up with is… there is no good reason. But then again there is no real reason to do what most of us have done to our cars. It’s all about a personal preference, a look, a feel, and with a leather dash, an atmosphere.

One thing you notice when you spend time in a Bentley, Aston or modern Ferrari are the large swathes of leather covering almost every concievable interior surface. This use of old world material gives the occupant the feeling of a handcrafted product with character and personal touch. Not exactly the thing you expect in a modern car. It’s one of those little atmospheric additions to exotic cars that I’ve always found immensely satisfying. Seeing the obvious hand stictching in a Ferarri reminds one that each car is a bespoke product tailored to the owner’s exact specifications.

The MINI (despite its price point) could be looked at in a similar light. A car that is effectively tailored to each owner’s preferences, the current MINI surprisingly shares some of that charm of cars costing 5-10 times more. I can imagine an Aston owner having that same feeling of pride and satisfaction that I had when first laying eyes on my custom ordered Cooper S.

Yet there are a few major differences between the two; price and quality of materials. Price is obviously a no brainer and a difference the MINI can be proud of. But more concerning for the MINI owner are the various interior bits and pieces that don’t live up to that tradition of a personally tailored automobile. The MINI is unfortunately saddled with a couple of major material shortcomings in the interior of the car – namely the large shiny swath of plastic that occupies a healthy portion of the dash. Enter the JCW Leather Dash. The dash goes a long way in both eliminating that and adding a subtle, bespoke touch.

But here’s the rub: $1010. Yup, that’s the suggested retail (not counting dealer install if you can’t do it yourself) of both the JCW Leather Dash and Leather Downtubes. Even with a healthy MotoringFile/Morristown MINI discount bringing the price down to around $700, it’s way more than the average MINI owner would probably spend to customize the interior of a car that may have only cost a little over 20 grand to start with. But that’s really the beauty of the MINI. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to creating your own. Each car has the potential to be a personal creation not that different from the long tradition English sports cars costing $100,000 more. And there are few MINI accessories that live up to that tradition more than the JCW Leather Dash.

Installation:

If you’ve ever installed an auto-up circuit or an iPod adapter, you probably know getting the MINI dash apart is a fairly easy process. In fact it’s almost scary how quickly it can all be done. However there is one big exception to this when it comes to the downtubes. Previously, taking out the downtubes was as easy as tipping them forward and just sliding them up and out. However for the 2005 and 2006 model year MINI designed a small lip on the bottom portion of the tubes which doesn’t allow for this. So the only real way I found to take them out unharmed was to pull the entire platic enclosure that houses the seat heater switches, cup holders and shifter. Okay, I admit I actually didn’t take the time to do that. Instead I used a (please don’t try this at home kids) dry-wall saw to cut off the majority of the downtubes. From there I compressed and pried the remainder of the tube (about an inch) until I could easily fit them out of the encloser. Not the most elegant solution but after visiting the area with a shop vac, no one was the wiser.

The dash is as simple as popping off the old and popping on the new. You do have to take the tach off but that’s simply a matter of two screws and disconnecting a plug. Otherwise the only suggestion I can give is to (A) don’t be afraid to pull on the old dash getting it out and (B) don’t be afraid to push on the new dash to get it in.

The leather dash is simply the best interior modification I’ve ever seen in a MINI. Still I have a really hard time actually rating it like other reviewed accessories. Even using Morristown’s price of just over $700, it’s still as expensive as some aftermarket exhausts. But if you get beyond that, it really comes down to personal preference. My rating is simply that: my rating. There will be some owners who will see it first hand and fall in love with it as I did. And then there will be others that will never understand the point of putting dead cow on your dash (let alone on your seats). That said, it’s one of those key elements that make the MINI in my garage my own creation. And for that, it’s worth every penny.

MotoringFile Rating: 4.5 (out of five)

Where to Buy

There are two versions of the leather dash in the US – black w/black stitching and black w/red stitching. And while the dash can be ordered from all MINI dealers, I’ve been told that it will be very limited in availability. So that means if you’re interested, you might want to get your order in sooner rather than later. MotoringFile sponsor Morristown MINI has a few of the kits in stock and is pricing them substancially lower than list for all MotoringFile readers:

JCW Leather Dash – black/black: $ 697.50 | MF Price: $ 495.00 (picture)
Down Tubes – black/black: $ 275.00 | MF Price: $ 195.00 (picture)

JCW Leather Dash – black/red piping: List $ 720.00 MF Price: $ 505.70
Down Tubes – black/red piping: List $ 290.00 | MF Price: $ 203.80

(Since the dash is only produced in the three panel design, it’s only available for cars produced after 07/04.)

Watch for them to go up on the Morristown MINI site very soon. (To take advantage of the MF price, just mention your a MotoringFile reader in the comment section when you order).

Other colors (Updated)

Outside the US the JCW Leather dash is also available with panther black, chili red, lapis blue, green, gray, white, yellow, brown and beige stitching. MF sponsor NewMINIstuff.com currently has these kits available (at a great price) for both right and left-hand drive.

Written By: Gabe

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    My question Gabe, is whether or not the leather on the dash clashes with the rest of the textured dash materials in the MINI, and also how well it matches the leather on your seats. The tones look not quite the same, but it’s tough to tell in the photos just how much a clash that is. Maybe they’ll introduce a matching glove box and parcel shelf or retrofit covers. Just curious as to what your impression is. It just seems like now there are like 4 different tones of gray going on.

    I LOVE it otherwise, especially with your seats. It looks so wonderfully finished.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    My question Gabe, is whether or not the leather on the dash clashes with the rest of the textured dash materials in the MINI, and also how well it matches the leather on your seats.

    It matches perfectly.

    Maybe they’ll introduce a matching glove box and parcel shelf or retrofit covers. Just curious as to what your impression is. It just seems like now there are like 4 different tones of gray going on.

    In the sun, at some angles, the door and the glove box have a very slight blue tint to them. This has always created a conflict with the black leather in the MINI. Since the dash has the exact same color leather as the seats, there is technically a conflict there as well. However in the real world it’s not something you readily notice in normal conditions.

  • MillieTheMini

    Question – has anyone thought of taking their existing dash, and getting it trimmed in leather?

    After seeing numerous TV shows where cars are ‘overhauled’, rebuilt, whipped up, etc, it seems a lot of time that these car customizers just take an existing panel, slap some glue on it and stick a hide of leather on it. In essence, one should be able to have that done to an existing dash, I just wonder if there would be some significant savings to doing that.

  • Wetworth

    Looks great! But… I don’t remember have a problem with removing the downtubes in my ’05. Maybe it was being an Aug build helping me this time (wish I had LSD!). Not complaing though… love my car!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Question – has anyone thought of taking their existing dash, and getting it trimmed in leather?

    After seeing numerous TV shows where cars are ‘overhauled’, rebuilt, whipped up, etc, it seems a lot of time that these car customizers just take an existing panel, slap some glue on it and stick a hide of leather on it. In essence, one should be able to have that done to an existing dash, I just wonder if there would be some significant savings to doing that.

    The panel gaps are very tight. If you were to just put leather over the exsisting panels, the gaps will most likely be nonexsistant and the panels will rub. Also the panels will most likely not even fit into the enclosure since there really is no space around them as is.

    The JCW Leather Dash has a plastic base that is slightly smaller than the standard dash, allowing for the leather to increase the panels to the appropriate size.

  • Rollin

    I like your shift knob’s touch of red, but don’t you find the plastic top a sensory displeasure, especially with all the nice tactile leather around you now? I put in the Momo knob from Outmotoring and now love the feel of leather when shifting — same as the steering wheel. Wish MINI or JCW would come out with a full leather knob.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I like your shift knob’s touch of red, but don’t you find the plastic top a sensory displeasure, especially with all the nice tactile leather around you now? I put in the Momo knob from Outmotoring and now love the feel of leather when shifting — same as the steering wheel. Wish MINI or JCW would come out with a full leather knob.

    I had a Momo knob (also from Outmotoring). I found it a huge let-down as compared to the design of the OEM knob. Much too small for my hand and the tactile quality didn’t really match up with anything else in the car (it had real metal and nicer leather!). I actually prefer the plastic top since it doesn’t get too hot or cold yet it looks like chrome and the weight is perfect IMHO. However that’s just me and your results will certainly vary!

  • Bud

    The pictures look very nice. The matte finish definetly tone down the otherwise rather tacky plactic high gloss appearance. I would opt for the wrinkle finish black paint that was once used on classic Ferraris. This may be out of the qustion since classic Ferraris had metal dashboards that were paintable. I di like the contarsting sycihing that a leather dash offers however if it coordinates with the seats.

  • Rollin

    I thought you had mentioned on Whiteroof you had tried a Momo before. Would be great if MINI or an aftermarket shop would offer one – hint, hint – more in line with the MINI’s design and orginal knob size.

    The interior looks great – enjoy on the trip to the Dragon.

  • Al Sayegh

    Gabe

    Would you happen to know the parts numbers for the JCW leather dash kits and down tubes?

    Thanks,

    AL

  • http://vinreddy.blogspot.com vin.

    Very nice!

    I’m dying to upgrade to either a piano black or leather dash on my ’04 MCS. Has anyone tried to retrofit ’05+ panels to a pre ’05 car?

  • 05DSMCS

    I don’t think retrofitting a dash from an 05 or 06 is possible.

  • Henrik

    No, Britt Ekland is not dead … but Peter Sellers is …

  • Greg W

    Old classic Mini Coopers had leather covering applied to the dash where the ashtray sits in, and on the panel that holds the light, ignition and wipers swtiches. These panels are above and below the centre speedo. So the new MINI thing is not new – only retro.

    What next? Maybe we could have “vinyl roof” covering. BMC cars of the 60/70 era had leather/vinyl glued to the roof to give a impression of a convertible top. Many USA cars did the same. Only problem was the covering caused severe rusting of the roof panel.

  • http://www.myfrappr.com/mnigrl MNIGRL

    I want one! For my New MINI Cooper S Works! Any chance you have pics of the Leather with white stitching????

    Text to link

    Text to link

  • http://www.myminiparts.com Pete

    You can’t feasibly retro-fit the late dash to an early car-you will sacrifice the passenger airbag assembly. It’s not worth the effort. Check our website in a week.

  • http://mini2.co.za timmee

    there he goes again! Gabe the JCW posterboy! :p Just kidding – it looks superb.

    Alan – please post pics once you have installed the lapis blue version.

  • THE ITCH

    Gabe is the glovebox also Leather?

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  • Goaljnky

    If they come out with this in cordoba I am all over this? Any plans for that, Gabe?

  • http://www.newministuff.com mikeythemini

    I now have all the various stitching colours available in Left hand drive too, along with the cup holder & gear ring in leather. Please note though the colour stitching options are made to order so do take extra time

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  • Andy

    So will this kit work on an ’04 Cooper (non-s)?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    So will this kit work on an ‘04 Cooper (non-s)?

    The JCW Leather dash only fits 2005 and 2006 MINIs.

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  • EBMCS03

    DANG!!!! I want it! Only if I had a MINI to put it onto.

  • Edge

    Pics of the “Lapis Blue” version to come soon. :)

  • Stephan McKeown

    Gabe,

    “(A) Don’t be afraid to pull on the old dash getting it out and (B) don’t be afraid to push on the new dash to get it in.”

    Hope this thread hasn’t gone cold…I’m getting the leather dash for my ’06 but am paranoid about breaking plastic trim trying to get it off without understanding how to apply force, and how much force to apply. Do you grab the old panels on the lower outer corners with your fingers and pull hard straight down or pull down and out at the same time? What’s the best way to remove the panel around the steering wheel, if like me, you have the knee bolster and not the parcel shelf? To install the new bits, do you push the panel straight up from the bottom, having aligned it with the lower edge of the dash? What do the clips or fasteners that hold the panels to the underlying dash look like/work like? Any tips on removing the cup holder/seat heater console? I read elsewhere that this is not a straightforward job, especially releasing & re-clipping the seat heater control module.

    All insights much appreciated,

    Stephan

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  • jerome

    hello I comme from to paris .i would like to know if you have the downe tubes with red stickes ? and what is the prix ?

    i’m interessted in that item and i would like to know if you can ship it to france on my expence of course ? thank you

  • Wondering

    Do they offer this for the 07 & 08 models? I have been looking around and cannot seem to find anything about the current year offerings. Even the Morristown MINI site has nothing.

    Thanks in advance.


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