In my time looking at cars owned by the famous, I’ve run across a wide variety of people. From earlier this week of the ‘King of Basketball’ to the ‘King of Rock & Roll, I’ve even looked at actual kings. Sometimes the cars have a cool story but most of the time it is merely a name on an old piece of paper or if I’m really lucky, a photo or two of that person in the car. But today’s car, the gorgeous BMW Z8, was owned by a guy who changed technology and how we use it forever — and I could really care less.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: Steve Jobs’ 2000 BMW Z8 at RM Sotheby’s
Engine: 4.9 liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 15,200 mi
Price: No Reserve Auction
Before his untimely passing in October of 2011 at the age of 56, Steve Jobs and Apple contributed unimaginably to technology integrated into our daily lives as we know it today. Making computer technology user-friendly and accessible to the masses, Jobs turned computers and technology from tools for commercial use into objects of art and aesthetic design, showing that a product conceived to make communication and organization more efficient can also be intuitive, user-friendly, and beautiful. Steve Jobs endeavored to “Think Different;” so did Apple, and thanks to them, many other organizations and individuals did as well. The iPhone, in particular, upon release surpassed not only the transformation of the mobile phone, but proved to be virtually magical from the standpoint of both users and the industry.
BMW similarly chose to think different when developing the Z8 throughout the 1990s and into the car’s regular production in the early 2000s. Serving as a halo car for the marque and a test bed for new engineering technologies, the Z8 convertible showed where not only BMW, but automotive technology could be heading in the 21st century. With styling evocations from the highly prized 507, but decidedly forward thinking, it pioneered an advanced technique of welded and extruded aluminum space frame construction. Modern amenities were abundant, and with 400 bhp on tap, those lucky enough to own a Z8 new were left wanting for nothing. Widely considered by many to be one of the most attractive, yet innovative cars of the 2000’s, it quickly became a bona-fide modern collectable. In their road test of the car in their May 2000 issue, Car and Driver concluded with the statement “name another car that is both fabulous to drive today and likely to be found on the 18th green at Pebble Beach in 2025.”
THE STEVE JOBS Z8
While not known to be a car enthusiast per se, Steve Jobs did have a penchant for German automobiles and design, owning BMW motorcycles, as well as Mercedes-Benz SLs. According to legend, Jobs was convinced to buy the Z8 by Larry Ellison the iconoclastic CEO of Oracle, who enthused to Jobs that the car was a paragon of modern automotive engineering and ergonomics, reflective of Steve’s own products and psyche.
Jobs’ Z8 was well suited to his signature, minimalist style, finished in Titanium over a Black leather interior. With a production date of April 1, 2000, this early example was delivered to him on October 6th of that year. Within the recorded production of Z8s, this makes his car the 85th Z8 produced for the first year of U.S.-specification production and the 67th customer car. Jobs’ ownership is documented through several service invoices accompanying the car, as well as a copy of the all-important California “pink slip” registration in his name and at his personal residence. This is significant because Jobs famously rarely registered his cars to protect his anonymity (and also perhaps because of his anti-authoritarian streak!).
Jobs kept the car until 2003 before it was sold to the Los Angeles-based current owner. This individual subsequently kept the car for about one year, driving it regularly during that time, before deciding to sell the car onto its third owner, unsurprisingly a Bay Area tech executive in September of 2004. Almost immediately regretting his decision to sell and missing the car after about eighteen months, the current owner contacted his buyer from San Francisco and convinced him to sell the car back, and he did. In April of 2006, the car returned to its current (now second and fourth) owner and it has remained with him ever since.
Rather than leave the Z8 dormant as a museum piece, he opted to drive the car regularly. Over the course of the last seventeen years, the car has been driven just 15,200 miles from new, averaging less than 1,000 miles a year. As one would expect, it remains in exemplary condition throughout, and has always been serviced and maintained as necessary on a regular basis by its current custodian.
The car comes with a plethora of important accessories, including its proper hardtop and hardtop stand, car cover, owner’s and service manuals, service records, two keys, navigation CDs, and – most significantly, its original BMW-branded Motorola flip-phone. Interestingly enough, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Jobs was known to have hated the Motorola phone…
Even today in the new millennium six years after his untimely passing it is difficult to think of anyone more iconic or influential to our modern culture than Steve Jobs, speaking to not only his superior intellect and entrepreneurial spirit, but also the quality of his products and reputation of Apple within the market, which has evolved into the world’s most valuable public company, bar none.
His work in founding and subsequently reinventing Apple with the Macintosh, iMac, iTunes, the iPhone, the iPad and finally the realization of the science fiction “wristwatch phone,” Jobs revolutionized how people interact with computers, the internet and music, and in so doing making the Apple logo as recognizable around the world as that of Coca-Cola. Jobs’ involvement with Pixar and subsequently Disney revolutionized the animated film industry, bringing joy to millions with blockbuster after blockbuster. His work captivated a generation and transcended cultures, not unlike musicians such as John Lennon, Bob Dylan, or Janis Joplin in the last century
Without a doubt, BMWs most iconic car of the 21st century, upon its launch the Z8 was the pinnacle of BMW design and technology, and it is not surprising that the car attracted the attention of someone like Steve Jobs. To the general public, Jobs’ legacy and influence in technology is unquestionably tangible and highly accessible, with over one billion iPhones sold to date, not to even mention Apple’s computers which brought high concept design and intuitive functionality to the masses.
However, Jobs only owned only one Z8. This is that car.
I honestly lost track of how many times I rolled my eyes when reading that ad copy. The lengths the author went to that try to give this Z8 some sort of tie in to Steve Jobs’ life or whatever else they were shooting for is actually impressive. The bottom line is that this is a car. Jobs bought this car and drove it for a little. He didn’t design it, he didn’t build it, he has nothing to do with this car besides getting it in and driving it. I highly doubt it held some special meaning in his life or inspiration for the iPhone or some other Apple product. To jump to some kind of assumption that the Motorola flip phone in this car was hated by Jobs is ridiculous. He probably didn’t even think about this Z8 all that much because when you are CEO of Apple, you probably have a bunch of other things on your mind. It’s just a car, owned by a guy who co-founded a really successful company.
RM Sotheby’s has this Z8 booked for somewhere between $300,000 to $400,000. Just as a refresher, a regular Z8 with relatively low mileage can be had for $150,000 up to about $200,000 for super low mile cars. The Z8 Alpinas are being listed around the $250,000 mark and for good reason as they are much more desirable and rare. So the fine people at Sotheby’s think that Jobs owning this car adds over $100,000. I’d love to know how these conversations go when coming up with these figures. Are a couple of guys sitting in a room and saying ”Well, Steve Jobs did own this car. How does $100,000 in increased value sound?” Then someone replies ”Hmm, we better make it $150,000 or maybe even $200,000.” I get it, auction companies inflate prices as much as they can to pad their bottom line on every car. But to just make up an arbitrary number of over six-figures just because they guy who spearheaded the iPhone owned it for a little is where I get off this ride. I just have a hard time swallowing that every other Z8 out there for sale is worth X but this Z8 is worth X plus $150,000 because it was owned by a famous guy. Maybe it’s just me.