Manufactured from 1998 through to 2002, the BMW Z3 M Coupé is a leading ‘youngtimer’ collectable offering sheer driving pleasure and a background story that defies the corporate red tape. The legend goes that engineer Burkhard Göschel and his development team set about creating the ultimate driver’s car by adding torsional rigidity to the existing Z3 Roadster chassis, which meant the addition of an ungainly structural roof.
This didn’t sit well with the bean counters and board of directors, and it took some serious convincing to get the go-ahead for production. When it was finally granted, the condition stipulated was that its manufacture had to remain cost effective. To meet this requirement the doors, everything from the A-pillar forward and majority of the interior were borrowed from the Roadster parts bin. Engineers initially used the 3.2-litre S50 engine from the E36 but soon replaced this with the more powerful S54 engine from the E46 M3 – good for 239kW and 354Nm.
The announcement of the new Z4 saw Z3 M Coupé production cease in February 2001 with a total of just 1 112 units of the S54 – 947 left-hand drive units and 165 with steering on the right. Approximately 40 of the new right-hand drive S52s came to South Africa where they were fitted with parts from well-known German tuning house AC Schnitzer – these included a more sporting suspension package, exhaust, short-shift kit, gear knob, grey dials and 18-inch wheels.