BMW Z3 1.9


This was a car built for the mass market, and BMW sold more than they likely ever hoped for. All in all, nearly 300,000 were built between 1995 and 2002, with the vast majority of those being roadsters. The most popular models were the 1.9 four-cylinder and the 2.8 six-cylinder; nearly half of all cars built had one of these engines. The coupés are particularly rare, with only 17,815 ever produced, and there were only ever 21,613 Z3Ms produced. The holy grail is the Z3M coupé; just 6,291 were ever made worldwide.


The Z3 has retro looks that have always appealed to both sexes. BMW has a history of making elegant roadsters, and the Z3’s ancestors wouldn’t be too disappointed by the way this one turned out. Many preferred the wider rear wheel arches, which gave the later facelifted models a bit of an edge.

Price When New

The basic models could be picked up for under £20k when the car was first launched, making it a viable up-market option to the likes of the MX-5. Top of the range models, on the other hand, were selling for close to £35k.

Running Costs

No 20 year old BMW is going to be cheap to run, but thankfully there were plenty produced and many components were shared with the 3-Series, meaning parts should be easier to come by than some other models from the same era. If the car you’re looking at has been well looked after and serviced properly, there shouldn’t be any major areas of concern, although you will need to keep an eye out for corrosion. Owners have reported the Z3 as generally being a very reliable car.

Game Changer?

It was a very important era for cars of this type. The MX-5 was taking over the world and European manufacturers wanted to get a piece of the action. BMW timed it perfectly and positioned the Z3 in an area of the market where they knew it would be successful. The number sold is testament to what a great car they produced, and it was replaced in 2002 by the Z4 which continues to see considerable success today.

Time to Buy?

The Z3 had been under the radar for many years, but with the explosion in price of the Z3Ms in recent years (some of which are listed for £45k plus), the price of the lesser engined models has been on the increase. The 1.9 is the most common on the market, and you can still pick up a decent one for under £4k, but there are some outstanding 2.8 and 3.0 cars available in the £4k – £8k bracket.

Anything Else?

BMW produced a special 007 edition of the Z3 to celebrate its appearance in Goldeneye. Just 100 were produced, each featuring a dashboard plaque and a number of other tweaks. Sadly, the ejector seat, missiles, and self-destruct button were not included on the production model.


If you’re on a particularly tight budget and want a fun, retro roadster then it may be worth throwing a few grand at a 1.9. But our choice would have to be the 2.8 or 3.0 models; we think it’s worth spending a few extra quid on one of these given the difference in performance and rarity they offer. Overall, a good, fun little car which you shouldn’t lose money on if you pick a well maintained example. A great opportunity to own a piece of BMW history at a bargain price.

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