We’ve had more BMWs featured on Rare Rides than any other marque. Aside from the BMW-powered Vixen motor home and the Alpina B7S, there was the Freeclimber, the mid-engine supercar flop called the M1, and the first experiment in the cabriolet Z category, the Z1.
Let’s see what happens when BMW makes a car eight times better than the Z1.
Some big names had their hands in the development of the Z8 you see before you. The design team was headed by Chris Bangle, and one Henrik Fisker drew up the exterior. There was a singular goal in mind at BMW: a follow-up tribute car to the rare, expensive, and beautiful 507 of the late 1950s. The 507 ended up a failure because it was so expensive (just 252 produced), and BMW was keen not to make the same mistake again.
To this end, the Z8 wore a base price of $128,000. Though that’s not exactly cheap, there were a couple of reasons to justify those six figures. Underneath the Z8 lie a complicated aluminum space frame, and each car was finished by hand at the BMW factory in Munich.
Body panels were also aluminum, keeping the roadster’s weight down to a relatively light 3,494 pounds. For reference, a similar Mercedes SL weighed between 4,125 and 4,455 with its steel construction. Under the long hood rested a substantial 4.9-liter V8 producing 400 horsepower. Developed by the people over at the M division, it was the same V8 as you’d find in a contemporary M5 sedan. Technically front- and mid-engined, the V8 is mounted behind the front axles, securing a 50/50 weight distribution.
All Z8s came with a color-keyed hardtop for all-weather motoring. Neon tubes illuminate the tail lamps and turn indicators, a sign the Z8 was from the time beforeÂ LED all things.
Discussing the Z8 would not be complete without mention of its considerable use in the James Bond filmÂ The World Is Not Enough, released in 1999. Pierce Brosnan eschews his Aston Martin for the BMW, making use of it in several scenes. What a great movie! Moving on…
While some interior components look straight from the BMW parts bin, others seem unique to the Z8. Considering the era and the cost of the Z8, the interior is a bit underwhelming to your author’s eye. It’s all a bit piecemeal spartan and uneven panel gaps. But maybe that’s just me.
Right from the start, BMW intended the Z8 to become a collector’s item. In advance, the company promised to keep a stockpile of parts to last 50 years, citing the hand-built nature of the Z8. Many Z8s also received custom-order color schemes from the BMW Individual division, adding many thousands to the base price.
The plan of attainability and collector exclusivity appeal worked. Between 2000 and 2003, BMW shifted 5,703 Z8s, with 2,543 made to US specification. Today they fetch high prices at auction, with today’s example expecting bids between $180,000 and $225,000 per the listing (sitting at $100,000 at time of writing).
[Images via seller]