Z3 Home





//M Car






BMW Z3 - E36/7


The Z3 was developed for the highly competitive roadster market created by the Mazda MX5. BMW was no strange to open top cars with class leading pre-war examples and the 1950's 503 and 507. But the fabulous Z1 was the only modern BMW soft top and that had been a limited production model with features too advanced for a full production car. So the Z3 broke new ground for the company and we've had successful two seater convertibles in the model range ever since.



Mine! Love it.

The car was the first to be made in the USA at the purpose built Spartenburg plant in South Carolina and is up to German build standards except in a few small areas (centre console materials and door mirrors). The model designation was E36/7. It was a surprising blend of proper old school BMW driving manners in a modern looking body and is a delight to own. They're also stunning value, mine cost 900 pounds!

The rare //M Coupe (originally called the Z5) was aimed at the high end of the sports market and was a very raw two seater coupe. One of the most desirable BMWs of all time with ever climbing values. My friend described his //M Roadster as a four wheeled motorbike, huge fun.



Z3 1.9 with signature early wheels.

I originally had a Z3 1.9 on order for delivery in around April '99. But I canceled it after a year on the waiting list. To be honest I'd gone off the idea as a two seater isn't very practical and the soft top isn't a great idea in Scotland. But 16 years later I finally bought a Z3, didn't know what I was missing.



Pretty sure the engineering department designed this one.

Model Body styles Engine Weight
Power / Weight
(bhp / 1000kg)
Final drive ratio
(manual / auto)
f/r mm
Z3 1.8 (8V early) Convertible M43 1250 93 3.45 286x12 / 272x10
Z3 1.9 (8V late) Convertible M43TU 1250 94 3.45 286x12 / 272x10
Z3 1.9 Convertible M44 1275 110 3.45 / 4.44 286x12 / 272x10
Z3 2.0 Convertible M52 1345 111 3.45 / 4.44 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 2.2 Convertible M54 1345 126 3.38 / 3.45 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 2.5 (early) Convertible M52 1345 126 3.15 / 4.27 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 2.5 (late) Convertible M54 1345 141 3.46 / 3.64 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 2.8 Convertible M52 1335 145 3.15 / 4.10 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 3.0/TD> Convertible M54 1335 171 3.15 286x22 / 272x10
Z3M USA Convertible S52 / S54 1420 169 / 241 3.23 (3.14 S54) 315x28 / 312x20
Z3M euro Convertible S50 / S54 1420 226 / 241 3.15 315x28 / 312x20
Coupe 2.8 Coupe M52 1350 143 3.15 / 4.10 286x22 / 272x10
Z3 3.0 Convertible M54 1350 171 3.07 / 3.46 300x22 / 272x10
Coupe 3.0 Coupe M54 1350 171 3.07 / 3.46 300x22 / 272x10
M-Coupe USA Coupe S52 / S54 1450 165 / 236 3.23 (3.14 S54) 315x28 / 312x20
M-Coupe euro Coupe S50 / S54 1450 221 / 236 3.15 315x28 / 312x20


See the engine details page for power figures.



Nice. Very, very nice.


Driving a Z3

When I first drove a Z3 (M44 1.9) I couldn't believe how much like an old school BMW it was. None of the vagueness or isolation from the road you get in modern cars, this car was direct and raw. It did what it was told and drove eagerly. The M44 is a development of the superb M42 my E30 318iS uses and loves to rev, the perfect engine for a small roadster. Of course the Z3 uses the same basic suspension layout as the E30 so you'd expect it to be fun, but it ads the superior E36 steering rack (far more direct) and much better brakes with excellent feel.

So the Z3 drives like a truly sorted E30 with E36 upgrades, after all that's pretty much what it is. It's an eager and direct car that's fun to drive at any speed and loves corners.

With the roof up it's fine below 80 but you always know it's a soft top. With the roof down it's another world and the big shock was how good it is in cool weather. The heater is superb and there's little wind buffeting with the side windows up. I've done 100s of miles in cold Scottish weather with a good hat and my thin autumn cycling gloves, loads of fun.

I'm not going to count how often I've used the word "fun" on this page but I'm sure it's quite common. That's the word that sums up the Z3 above all else. Add in a car that's reliable, easy to work on and has cheap parts and you just have to own one. The 1.9 M44 16 valve is all you need, just rev it and smile.



The "bread van", the rawest BMW ever?