Let’s say you want to start a car collection, and for ease of argument’s sake, let’s say you’re really into BMWs. Which is the model you want? You could be a 507 enthusiast, love the classic 3.0 CSL or 2002, envy every E30 or lust over the modern muscle the company produces. But odds are if you’re reading these pages you, like me, gravitate towards BMW’s Motorsport models.
Within the Pantheon of classic models, there then comes the difficult decisions. How do you choose between the E30 M3 and the 1M, for example? Well, Enthusiast Auto Group has a suggestion. Why not have them both? Or, even better, why not assemble all of the greatest hits from BMW’s M division over the past 40 years and put them together into one curated, turn-key package?
There is a Z8 that lives near me. It’s silver with a red interior and is quite striking. I don’t think its owner drives it daily, but if the weather is nice I see him just about each morning (presumably) heading to the office. Top down, lovely exhaust note burbling in the background. It’s a beautiful car with a road presence few other cars possess. That presence isn’t in the same way certain high performance machines command the road. It definitely isn’t the way a Dodge Hellcat commands the road. Actually it’s about the opposite of that. It’s grace and elegance and timelessness wrapped together. With almost 400 hp it performs pretty well too.
I’ve said before that I didn’t really like the Z8 when it debuted. I love them now.
The one we see here is not the one owned by my daily driving neighbor. Not at all. This one, a Triple Black 2001 BMW Z8 located in Connecticut, has 15 miles on it. Yes, you read that correctly, 15!
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.
A few weeks back I was sitting outside enjoying a beverage and some fantastic fall weather when a Z8 drove by. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I will readily admit that I wasn’t a fan of the Z8’s styling when it debuted. I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s purposeful blending of vintage and modern didn’t appeal to me in my early 20s. But it’s aged incredibly well, i.e. not at all, and as I’ve aged I have now come to appreciate these machines much more. I’m fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of a Silver one and while I don’t see it frequently I do cross its path from time to time. And I’m glad I do. With around 2,500 sold in the States you’re not likely to see one often and as with most limited-production cars prices are high, but there’s really a lot to love about these BMWs. The performance ain’t too shabby either.
Part of the appeal of cheap(ish) cars to me is that when they get older they’re so infrequently seen. It’s not that exotics are daily drivers around me, but once a generation of car’s usefulness has been eclipsed they all but disappear from the roadways, replaced by the newest model. Do you really want a clean Audi 5000CS quattro Avant, for example, or an impeccable BMW 630CS? They can be found, but few and far between best describes the frequency with which they come to market. But as the price goes up, so rises the number of examples that are available at any given time. They may still be classified as “rare”, but they’re rare not because they’re hard to find – just hard to afford. There is nothing particularly rare, for example, about most of the Porsche 911 model range from any generation – they were all effectively mass produced sports cars. But because they were highly priced and treasured, the number of good examples that are on the market today exceeds the actually rare 924 Turbo and late 944 Turbo, for example. Looking in another direction, I marveled that on eBay this week there was not one, not two, not even three – but no less than six Z8s tuned by Alpina. That represents just over one out of every 100 that was produced, all for sale at the same time, all in perfect shape, all with low miles and high prices. In fact, this pool gives us a chance to check out exactly how much mileage changes perceived value – or at least, asking price:
On a recent visit to Berlin, I was surprised to come across a black BMW Z8 parked on the street in Die Mitte, a central borough of the German capital. Since reunification 25 years ago, a lot of money and talent has flooded into this city, with high end shops and consumers with Euros to spend. The Z8, though, was a bit of short lived flagship for the Bavarian marque, rarely seen in the wild today. At first values held steady to right around where they sold for new, but now collectors are becoming hip to this rare roadster. The fact that James Bond made the Z8 famous in The World Is Not Enough just adds to the vehicle’s cache. This Z8 for sale in Florida has just over 5,000 miles on the odometer and will catch your eye in its red hue, a departure from the silver and black paint jobs that usually adorned these Bimmers.
Debuting at the end of the 1990s, the BMW Z8 arrived during a time when carmakers were exploring the retro styling theme, such as Volkswagen with their New Beetle and Ford with their revived Thunderbird. The Z8 was meant to harken back to the 1950s during the heyday of the 507, a limited production V8 roadster that made an impact with its dramatic styling. Fast forward to 1999 and the Z8 arrived with a V8, this time shared with the E39 M5. The engine was placed aft of the front axle for optimum weight distribution. One innovation the car employed was neon lighting for its tail lamps and turn signals. This was perhaps an answer to what modern day LED lighting can offer. Most Z8s you come across are silver, but this Topaz Blue over red leather example is a real eye-catching combination.
Every time I come across a Z8, I start thinking about the funny place it holds in the market, slightly appreciating but not very appreciated, an interesting but maligned attempt at a German Cobra… and then I see it from the rear. While the F-Type’s reiteration may be making a play for the top derrieres list, the Z8 viewed from behind erases reason and makes me dream of using the monster S62 to slither a mountain road. This one looks classic in black and very serious with the hard top on. The Teutonic, measured approach to a passionate type of car makes them a bit of an odd duck, and a Z8 owners meeting would most likely host more of investors than enthusiasts. Alas, I dig these cars, but will never own one.
The Z8 is a bit of a wallflower these days, its handsome looks appreciated by those who remember when it hit the roads but a less eye-grabbing than the ultra-faceted and streaked cars coming out 12 years later. Even to the trained eye, they don’t show up that often, and it seems like a lot of owners are hiding them away in the hopes of selling them for more later. I still get excited when they do come out of their garages, and the today’s silver example reminds me of the sunny afternoon drive 7 years ago that shifted my opinion on convertibles. Structural rigidity be damned, there’s nothing wrong with having your ears a few unobstructed feet from the S62’s rumble.
The BMW Z8 is one of the most exotic cars I’ve driven, though I recognize it’s pretty mundane on the exotic-car spectrum. Maligned for not having the chassis to back up the looks or the M5’s bonkers S62 V8, I didn’t care as I was not on Dunsfold but raging a few foothill roads behind Palo Alto. Hearing 4.9-liter masterpiece unbuffered by any roof at all is worth it, and then you realize you’re driving a Bond car with looks so good Jaguar stole most of them for the new superstar F-type. At first I thought its 10k miles were a low rarity, but a little more investigation reveals that most of the Z8s for sale have very few miles. This is a shame, as few cars seem more suited for long cruises up and down the coast. I guess they’re mainly garage padding and the owners are ready to cash in, as they regularly sell slightly above their original MSRP.
Engine: 4.9l S62 V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 10,600 mi
One Owner Z 8 10,600 miles, 6 speed manual, Hardtop with storage cart, owners manuals, 2 original keys, boot cover, full car cover, trickle charger, like new, no accidents, clean Carfax.
“Hardtop with a storage cart” makes me laugh, but it’s clear this has been well cared for and has spent the majority of its 12 years inside. 10k miles isn’t the lowest but it’s close, and while almost $133k is big money no matter how you count it, it’s a good price for a Z8 this well cared for. I won’t be buying it, but given the means, I think these cars are underrated and a total blast.