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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

  • Michael

    Love, love, love the red stitching! Sure, it’s expensive, but like any mod, to each his or her own.

  • Dennis

    Looks nice! I’m trying to convince my wife that she wants them in her MINI. Hopefully this new low pricing will help. Thanks for the review.

  • http://www.iniw.net Randy K.

    Love the look Gabe. I was planning to pull and paint my dash pieces Space Blue but perhaps this is another option.

    Nice review – Thanks.

  • Donna

    Outstanding…well worth the price, in my opinion.

  • http://cjupin.com Chris Jupin

    Looks great! I think I could suck it up and spend the cash for the dashboard, but I have a hard time spending $200 for downtubes (althought it really does complete the look). Great write-up.

  • http://www.dickdavid.com dickdavid

    WOW! That looks great, giving the MINI an all new level of sophistication. That red stitching is definitely the way to go.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    If I had any leather seating surfaces (half leather or all leather) I’d seriously consider replacing my (gasp) piano black dash with those pieces.

    As it is though, with all cloth seats, I think it would be a little strange to have more leather on the dash than on the seats.

  • Giskard

    Looks pretty sweet! The red piping really matches your red seat inserts and shift knob well. If they had a Lapis blue piping option to match my future blue leather (my first MCS is due to be unloaded from the Integrity this weekend), I’d be extremely tempted! Thanks for the gread write-up and pics.

  • THE ITCH

    Gabe that looks great!. Is it really that much of a problem to remove the center console? I would like to save my original downtubes and am curious to how difficult that would be. Thanks Steve

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Is it really that much of a problem to remove the center console? I would like to save my original downtubes and am curious to how difficult that would be. Thanks Steve

    It’s not that hard – just double the time and little tedious.

  • Tim

    Gabe, I apologize. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have doubted your eye for design. For some reason, I thought the leather would be on the top portion of the dash and not the … facing bits. I also assumed it would be a lot looser or something. As the pictures show, it’s neither of those things. Gabe. Forgive me. It looks amazing dude.

  • alpinamike

    Too bad the steering wheel seats and dash uper and doors are not leather also :( , It would be like the BMW individual(which we don’t get) or like the M5 or 760li. I have to give them props on the fit and finish VERY high grade work here, the stiching is perfect, it almost looks printed on from far away, the stiches are the same number on each side and the embossment is great to the leather, and now it just needs it on the seats! I had a chance to buy the whole set but i just could not replace my Hot Orange Dash, It Hot!

    -alpinamike

  • LTZMTOR

    It that under the “Whore it up” options? Maybe Peter Sellers and Brit Ekland would like it, oh yeah they are both dead.

    In the Bentley the whole car is a complete thought… this in a MINI? Let’s slap a leather dash in a sports car with an all plastic interior? Too Me…. unless your getting that same look on the seats and elsewhere it makes no sense and looks piecemeal.

    This is just my taste not a condemnation of anyone else’s taste.

    Nice write up Gabe.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    It that under the “Whore it up” options? Maybe Peter Sellers and Brit Ekland would like it, oh yeah they are both dead.

    Ah Robert, I knew I could count on you to spice it up.

    I thought the leather would be on the top portion of the dash and not the … facing bits. I also assumed it would be a lot looser or something. As the pictures show, it’s neither of those things. Gabe. Forgive me. It looks amazing dude.

    Glad you’ve come around :)

    So Gabe, is this actually on your car or did you see the interior on someone else’s MINI?

    That is my MCS in the photos.

  • GSKChicago

    So Gabe, is this actually on your car or did you see the interior on someone else’s MINI?

  • http://www.bitwitty.com Bryan Crow

    You can already get them for almost as cheap as the MF price from Mike at:

    http://www.newministuff.com/new/shop.php?action=products&cat=11

    He also sells them with blue stitching for any of you with the Lapis Blue Leather seats! I know I’m saving up for them!

  • scott

    It looks great, the price is not ALL THAT bad … but is that embossed JCW logo tilted up on the right side????

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    It looks great, the price is not ALL THAT bad … but is that embossed JCW logo tilted up on the right side????

    That’s sort of an optical illusion.

  • Tim

    To be honest, I’m not altogether impressed as I have always loved the Mini’s unique painted instrument panel, regardless of it being plastic. The panel brightens up the interior and makes it sporty, whereas the new leather “upgrade” simply blends in like most car interiors.

  • The Seeker

    But then again there is no real reason to do what most of us have done to our cars. Most of us make them faster …

    It’s all about a personal preference, a look, a feel, and with a leather dash, an atmosphere. You also use “atmospheric” …

    adding a subtle, bespoke touch. Now I’m worried, I count two “bespokes”.

    Gabe, what were you wearing when you did this ? Looks good, though.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Now I’m worried, I count two “bespokes”.

    I ran out of adjectives :)

    Gabe, what were you wearing when you did this ?

    Jeans and a tshirt – I swear!

    I’m not altogether impressed as I have always loved the Mini’s unique painted instrument panel, regardless of it being plastic.

    I actually don’t disagree with you there. That was one of my reservations with the leather dash. But in person it creates the look and texture I had hoped for.

    What about quality and feel? Is it padded underneath and soft to the touch? Is it just stretched over the plastic and hard? If it was well padded then for example people could buy just the downtubes instead of getting separate knee pads.

    It is not padded. I’ve thought about this and come to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t look or feel quite right if it was too padded. However a very subtle padding would have been nice. As it stands the only padding you get is from the leather itself. It does help a bit on the left downtube while driving but it’s hardly a MyMini knee pad.

  • radiationman

    Once I get beyond the price, I’ve got to say I really like the look of this…

    But the problem I have is that I have the body colored dash and can’t bring myself to cover that it. That plus the fact that I’d constantly be concerned about scuffing or scratching the leather…

  • http://www.jwardell.com/mini/ Josh Wardell

    What about quality and feel? Is it padded underneath and soft to the touch? Is it just stretched over the plastic and hard? If it was well padded then for example people could buy just the downtubes instead of getting separate knee pads.

  • GSKChicago

    I really do like the look. With Anthracite it’s probably even better.

    Quasi off topic – I like the new web site affect when viewing photo’s in the posting. Being a non-web or technical person, that is wicked cool.

  • Vanwall

    Hmmm. Leather. Hard to keep those stilleto heels from marking it up.

                BCNU,
               Rob in Dago
    
  • http://dbmini.us DB

    I said it already, but that really makes the interior of your MINI Gabe! Good show.

    It definitely adds a bit of sophistication and charm. Especially with the shiny bits everywhere. I would kill for this in my MINI.

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    I really like my red dash interior, and I still can’t get the JCW for GBMINI#3, but … nice, Gabe :)

  • LTZMTOR

    “Ah Robert, I knew I could count on you to spice it up.” ……My pleasure.

    “Well I’ve asked myself that very question and all I’ve come up with is… there is no good reason.” ……… You said it not me.

    How much weight does this, ahem, thing, upgrade(?) add to your car? Maybe one of those hidden bars will be next? Why not just get a Maybach?

    Gosh I wish I could do that greyed quote thingy! I’ll have to contact Ian, he’ll tell me how.

    Oh Yeah……………………. ;¬]

  • LTZMTOR

    I especially liked the “Whore it up” remark.

  • Mark (Ohio)

    Wow Gabe that looks totally awesome! Kudo’s to you for installing it yourself!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    How much weight does this, ahem, thing, upgrade(?) add to your car?

    Actually because these leather downtubes don’t have the big plastic lip on them they actually weigh less. And I couldn’t feel any different from the rest of the pieces. I specifically held both old and new pieces in my hands since I knew someone out there would complain about weight. If there is a difference (and I’m pretty sure there isn’t) it’s maybe an ounce. I suggest thinner socks or a closer shave, that should pretty much make up any difference. Of course those lighter downtubes would more than make up for that one ounce weight gain as well.

    And finally,…. you’re joking right?

  • RudyT

    Gabe,

    I am jealous. What a fantasic job on installation. It really adds that “hoopf”.

    I would buy one and install, but I have the ChkMate package and it was the Space Blue color dash matching the same as the outside body that made a great color combination. This dash is perfect for any red or black cars. Truely the icing on the MINI.

    Now if you can just find a Leather wrapped bonnet, hood, and doors. It would minimize the scratches. :-)

  • cct1

    Well, like my parents always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

    So my thoughts on the leather dash are as follows:

  • http://www.mc2magazine.com Gary Anderson

    Regarding cutting the down tubes, one of our alert feature car owners who removed them for his custom works says:

    “Wow, I would have never done that. I did remove the tubes for painting, but it was only a few minutes extra work. I removed the screws in the bottom of the cup holders, and (I believe) one screw in the cubby area to loosen the bottom console, I then popped the dash loose to give me more room to work with. I did remove the shifter ring anyway because that was painted as well. Once I had everything loosened, I simply pulled the down tubes down, and slid them out. I can’t believe that someone would have cut those before figuring out an alternative method. I hope this helps.” Gary Anderson Editor, MCsquared Magazine

  • Damon

    Gabe,

    I love that. I have the same red tartan/ black leather interior. Does the red stitching match the red cloth? It looks like it in the pics.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gary – that procedure is exactly how I’ve done it in the past and what I would have done this time as well… if I didn’t need it to all be done in 5 minutes. So out came the saw. Plus it makes for a better story.

    BTW the sawed downtube goes on eBay this afternoon :)

  • http://Motoringfile.com Mark Hendrie

    Looks amazing – I am going to fit it in my GP when it arrives as I am hoping that the black with red colourings will match perfectly with the black/red Recaro seats.

    Great write up!

  • rkw

    Gabe, it looks fantastic. Does it make an impression as a high quality leather, or is it like the MINI leather seats, where people might not be quite sure whether it is leather or vinyl. Do you plan to go further with JCW leather, such as the steering wheel (in photos, it also looks great) or the shift and e-brake boots?

  • LTZMTOR

    …………… ;¬]

  • Steve Thompson

    Wow. Looks really great! I have a 2005 MCS and have taken the downtubes out many times by pulling the clips loose along the bottom of the center dash piece (pull hard – a real leap of faith the first time you do it) and lifting it up just enough to rock the tops of the downtubes toward the rear of the car and pull them up and out. Much easier than disassembling the center console.

  • http://blu-iguana.us J/C

    I agree with what some have said about it complementing one’s leather seats. This isn’t for everybody, but then again, a MINI isn’t for everybody either.

    Nice write-up and pics.

    Listening to NPR while installing?

  • Alan

    OH yes!!! Sitting here in South Africa I have just ordered the downtubes with Lapis blue stitching for my brand new 2006 Hyper Blue Cooper S. Should look awesome with my colour coded dash, lapis blue full leather seats, chequered roof, bonnet stripes. By the way, thanks to you guys and White Roof Radio, I have fitted JCW intake and injectors, Glove Box organiser and helix short shift adaptor. You guys make my MINI Rock. Keep up the awesome work.

  • Edge

    That DOES look good… but I have the lapis blue leather interior… so if I can ever get my hands on the left hand drive version of the lapis blue stitching one… I’m IN! :D In the meantime, my body color (Hyper Blue) dash will remain.

  • bb

    Would the red stitching clash with BEP body color and anthracite interior?

  • docjohnboy

    Gabe, I think that looks awesome. Personally, I wouldn’t buy it simply because it doesn’t fit my MINI’s style. I have a BRG with silver roof and bonnet stripes, so the silver interior just seemed logical. I get a lot of compliments on it too.

    Maybe on my next MINI though. :)

  • rkw

    I have the JCW accessories catalog from my dealer. It says the stitching is “available in a wide variety of colours to suit all tastes”.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Yeah we had that info last year when we broke the new on the new 2006 JCW accessories. However there are only two version (black/black, black/red) currently available in the US.

    FYI, here’s the full list of stitching colors originally mentioned on the MINI install guide we posted awhile back:

    panther black chili red lapis blue green gray white yellow brown beige

  • gokartride

    I agree…that does look very good. The embossed JCW logo will be hard for the JCW owners I know to pass up.

  • http://www.marksmini.com Mark

    Looks great Gabe. Personally I wouldn’t opt for the red piping, but in your MINI it fits in nicely.

    If only it could have fitted in the before 07/04 MINI then I would have to give it some serious consideration.

  • amp

    me likey, I think i need 2 set aside a little cash for my next diy. thanks 4 the nice write-up


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