"A garage queen” is how one specialist we spoke to described the BMW Z3 M Coupé of 1998 to 2002.
“They’re put in a garage and left there while their values rise,” he grumbled. Coincidentally, one private seller we contacted for his views on his 2000/W-reg car with 83,000 miles advertised for £26,945 said he was only selling it to see if he could turn a profit, having bought it last September at auction. “I’ve barely driven it,” he admitted.
It’s a shame but to be expected since, as of the end of 2018, there were fewer than 500 of these extraordinary cars in the UK – half of them on the road and half (the garage queens) SORNed. This out of a total sold in the UK of 990 – 821 of them being the earlier S50-engined cars and the remainder the S54. Given that S50 cars have no electronic safety aids to help drivers out of a tight spot, that’s not a bad survival rate.
Naturally, on the back of these low numbers, prices have been rising for some years. In 2012, high-mileage examples cost from £9000 and the best cars around £20,000. You can double, and on occasion treble, those figures now, with prices for decent high-milers starting at £20,000 and rising to £60,000 for the best, low-mileage 2002-reg cars.
What are people getting for their money? One of motoring’s more interesting gambles for a start. The Z3 M roadster was already doing good business but BMW engineers hankered after producing a stiffer, coupé version combining major parts from the roadster and E36-generation M3. The board took some persuading but, when they saw what the men in white coats had created in their spare time, they were impressed enough to give the project the green light.
The first-generation, or pre-facelift, cars used BMW’s 3.2-litre S50-series straight-six engine from the E36 M3, producing 317bhp and driving the rear wheels via a limited-slip diff and a five-speed manual gearbox. There was some early resistance to the car’s looks, some folk likening it to a clown’s shoe. Fortunately, the way it drove was no joke.
The facelift of 2000 brought more chrome here and there, some special colours and the inclusion of the fuel filler flap on the central locking system. Oh, and the new 321bhp S54 3.2-litre straight-six engine from the E46-generation M3. On paper, it’s a little torquier and more powerful but the real improvement lies in its wider spread of torque and punchier mid-range. It also has a drive-by-wire throttle for smoother responses. Dynamic stability control keeps it all pointing in the right direction.