1998 BMW Z3 COUPE (EUR 24.900)
– Engine: 2.8 liters naturally aspirated DOHC in-line-six
– Transmission: 5-speed manual
– Mileage: ~160.000 kilometers
– Color: Arctic Silver over Tanin Red
– Location: Berlin, Germany
– Price: 24.900 €
What is the current condition of the vehicle?
The car is really presentable. It got much attention during my ownership, with minor and major work carried out. It ́s used of course but has always been looked after meticulously. As far as I can tell, it must be one of the best Z3 Coupes on the market right now.
Tell me about yourself.
I grew up with a rally-driving dad who ran an IFA workshop behind the Iron Curtain. Therefore, I was always surrounded by cars or motorcycles. Although my first memories go back to Trabants and Ladas, I fell in love with sports cars from BMW or MG as a teenager. Later, my passion translated into a career as a motor journalist and photographer. This allows me to enjoy vintage cars and exotics on a professional level. However, my own garage is filled with down-to-earth classics. The Beemer, a tiny pre-war Austin, or an MGB GT.
Why specifically this BMW model?
I immediately fell in love with the Z3 Coupe when it was presented in 1997. I was 15 at that time, admiring all sorts of sports cars. Their inaccessibility made them extremely desirable for my teenage self. The Z3 Coupe with its distinctive hatchback was a special thing though. I never fancied the convertible. But the shape of the “Shoe” just blew me away. The performance was promising as well. Sure, everybody dreams of the M Coupe. But, honestly- it comes with some drawbacks, that make daily life and real-world maintenance a bit of a struggle. So the standard Coupe is perfect to me. Non-M-cars are much more durable, not slow at all, and also pretty rare.
How did you find the car?
I cannot remember exactly but must have tested a dozen of options until I found this one. It offered the best platform, came with a comprehensive history, and ticked all the boxes: The body was rock-solid, needed no welding. It ́s painted Silver, which expresses the body shape better than a darker tone. I also love the contrast of the red interior. And it ́s manual, of course. On top, this car is one of the very early 2.8 liter double-VANOS cars (with variable valve timing for in- and outlet), introduced in October 1998. I also prefer the early alloy dashboard over the face-lift. So I made my teenage dream come true.
You have been improving the car from the beginning. What exactly have you done to the Zett?
Working and restoring classics is a bit of a hobby. So I did the maintenance and addressed typical weak spots of the Z3-series. For example, the mirror and seat mounts, front lights, or the electric window mechanisms have been tweaked. Repairs like new exhaust headers and a precaution overhaul of the cooling system were carried out, too. Being a driver’s car, the suspension was serviced as a matter of fact, with the front axle reworked just recently. But there ́s so much more – from new engine mounts to an unscratched NOS center console. I cannot list everything, although parts in excess of 6.000 Euros went into the Zett. But it ́s worth mentioning that the whole car is cavity protected. The overhaul has been well-documented, with invoices and photos of every detail. Additionally, I did a couple of features for classic car magazines – from a big Z Coupe buyers guide to epic road trip reports. So the car is kind of an open book.
Your Coupe comes with upgraded wheels and M accessories. Let us know more about these modifications.
Yes, it has the shorter M gear knob and M mirrors, which look better than standard. Front brakes and the suspension are upgraded, too. There ́s more than enough comfort for long distances, but a noticeable improvement in sharpness and handling. The BMW runs on 18-inch wheels, mimicking the appearance of legendary cross-spoke rims, but adding a
contemporary vibe. A reconditioned set of 17-inch “Styling 32” wheels are available as an extra. I had the car in the paint shop at a certain point, removing even the tiniest bits of rust. This was my chance to respray the handles of doors and trunk in body color – which gives the car a much cleaner, coherent look.
In my opinion, the Z3 Coupe is one of the most desirable “Youngtimers” of the late 1990s. What makes it so special?
I guess there are many reasons. With little over 17.000 units worldwide, it ́s relatively rare. The millennial era was special for BMW, discovering new territory in the US, where the Z3 or X5 were built. Combine that with BMW ́s six-cylinder-legacy, a sports car developed by an enthusiast in night shifts, plus the unique shape of a two-door hatchback, and you’ve got it all together.
As Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, a former member of the board of BMW AG says “This vehicle will not be everyone’s favorite, but it is a BMW through and through, sporty, powerful and dynamic”. What is your opinion about this after owning one?
I totally agree. The Z3 Coupe offers a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. Airbags and ABS, but no CAN bus. Heated seats and electrical windows, but an old-school mechanical limited-slip diff – for “Sheer Driving Pleasure”, as we all know. It ́s a no-nonsense machine, completely true to BMW ́s core values.
It is a car that brings together many aspects of very BMW design and also from past decades which makes it a classic icon. Do you have a favorite detail of the Z3?
Well, I cannot break it down into one detail. I love the overall concept, the awkwardness, that subtle extravagance. And the fact that – apart from a car enthusiast in the know – you are pretty much under the radar with this versatile, but seldom BMW. I once drove it to Southern France over Alpine mountain roads, passing a couple of Ferraris on this 5.000-kilometer road trip, but not a single Z3 Coupe.
How can you describe your driving experience?
Enjoying this car in daily traffic, but also on trips to the Mediterranean or Scandinavia, I can tell it ́s a pretty analog experience. Handsome and practical, with its big boot and plenty of power to handle both Autobahn and B-roads. You can just let it do its job and cover mile after mile. Or unleash its involving nature, if you dare – with heel-and-toe downshifts, a great feel for balance, and the engine happily revving to the red line. With this potential and obvious 1990s vibes– like orange turning lights or E36 parts…, it ́s not just a future classic to me, but one that already reached cult status, especially in this condition.
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