By on February 16, 2018

Image: 2001 BMW Z8We’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.

Image: 2001 BMW Z8Some 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.

Image: 2001 BMW Z8Body 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 before LED all things.

Discussing the Z8 would not be complete without mention of its considerable use in the James Bond film 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…

Image: 2001 BMW Z8While 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.

Image: 2001 BMW Z8Right 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.

Image: 2001 BMW Z8The 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).

Image: 2001 BMW Z8[Images via seller]

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30 Comments on “Rare Rides: A BMW Z8 From 2001 Empties Your Wallet...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    ‘Hand built, expensive and rare, yet BMW went with the central location for the information panel? Isn’t the primary reason to go with a central panel based on making the vehicle less expensive to build as right or left handed drive?

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I had the same thought, looks like cost cutting. Although the savings would have been minimal given they still had to make left and right hand specific side panels. So you’re left with two unnecessary panel gaps in the dashboard.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Always had a soft spot for the Z8, beautiful design. I believe this is the first production car with tail lights that feature light piping.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Chris Bangle can’t have been too involved in the design. The Z8 is the exact opposite of ugly.

    Putting the instruments in the center was a weird choice for such an expensive car. I could understand putting secondary instruments in the center angled toward the driver. But the tachometer and speedometer belong right above the steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “Chris Bangle can’t have been too involved in the design. The Z8 is the exact opposite of ugly.”

      Well played, sir.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      But the Z4 looks better than the Z8

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I am also finding it hard to take these center gauges. Maybe they make sense for roadster driving, as in “nothing ahead of me but steering wheel, engine, and open road.” But it looks very annoying for regular driving.

      Regarding Bangle, it’s true that he did some weird things. But I personally prefer the looks of the E90 to the F30 or the E46, and that’s Bangle’s doing. I also think the “blimpy” 7-series was a pretty good design until you got to the tail. And even that was distinctive.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Am I seeing correctly, is that the ignition switch high up on the dash between the steering column and the instrument pod? I suppose that it’s not really an issue for the likely owner of one of these, but if one had an actual key ring, the additional items on the ring would flop around on the dash. Not very elegant.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The Z8 is a car that I think I “should” love, but don’t really. At least not enough to spend the very high price even if I were a billionaire.

    I think there are a few problems: 1) center gauge pods are dumb; 2) a bit too many retro details on the outside; 3) two seats isn’t really appealing to me right now for a fun car — I’d like to take my kids along!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    F-ing gorgeous. PLUS it’s a Bond-mobile. PLUS the V-8 from the M5. PLUS it’s a manual. I do believe I’m in love.

    Well, I was in love, until I saw the radio, which looks like something you’d pick up at Wal-Mart. Most unseemly on a car with a six-figure price tag.

    By the way, this car looks even more spectacular in black Feast your eyes on this lovely:
    https://www.jamesedition.com/cars/bmw/z8/2003-bmw-z8-alpina-for-sale-1198845

    • 0 avatar

      Alpina version was even more special!

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Drive one, and fall out of love as soon as you hit 70; and realize that thing has the worst wind management of any roadster in history. Would be a suitable collector car for some rich guy named Warren (or whatever) Buffet.

      It does look cool, and the almost Chris Craft like feeling of openness at parade speeds, is cool. Great car to see, and be seen, in. But with that much power, BMW should have given more thought to wind management at speed.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      I’ve only ever seen one Z8 in the wild. They have incredible DRG. Hard to take your eyes off of it. Motorcycle style speedo is a cool touch too.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    I was fortunate enough back in high school to put quite a few miles on one of these, my g/f’s Dad had this and a Vanquish at the time (he thought he was James Bond). He even let me take it to my prom!

    The Z8 is much more GT than canyon carver but being of a reasonable weight with short gearing it rocketed off quite strongly with that torquey S62. Great car to cruise in with the top down at a quick pace. Would love to have one as a weekend ride, just needs an aftermarket exhaust to hear that beautiful V8.

  • avatar
    ajla

    It is a huge plus this uses a manual transmission instead of some horrific late 90s – early 00s SMG/F1/SSM/Egear/Duoselect bullcrap.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Was there an “Alpina” version of the Z8?

    • 0 avatar
      e30driver

      I remember spotting an Alpina Z8 in my office parking lot, circa 2006.

    • 0 avatar
      windnsea00

      Yes, and it was a downgrade from the Z8. It had the M62 4.4L V8 from the 540i and a 5-speed automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I thought the Alpina V8 Roadster had the 4.6 liter out of the X5M, but I looked it up and the Alpina version of the Z8 had a 4.8 liter M62. I don’t know how it was a downgrade from the Z8. It traded 19 hp for more torque, a higher top speed, cost more, and was equipped to reflect what sort of people were buying the vast majority of BMWs by 2003. Bangle and recyclability had already driven the right crowd straight into the arms of the competition.

        • 0 avatar
          windnsea00

          My bad, you are right it had the 4.8L M62 which is still not a true M engine like the S62 that had those beautiful 8 individual throttle bodies. And the fact it only came with a 5-speed automatic vs the 6-speed manual, I would consider both of these a downgrade from the non-Alpina Z8.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    I knew of a man in MA who owned a Z8. His was identical to the one in the photos above. I had the fortune of taking a close look at it back in ’05 when he happened to drive it to work the day I was visiting his office. I remember being struck at how timeless the Z8’s exterior styling was. I always admired the Z8s in photos, but in person it was proportioned very nicely and was quite fetching. Retro styling was the rage back then and I wasn’t sure if the Z8 could pull it off. It did. Surprisingly, the interior underwhelmed me. I wanted more.

    A few years ago, I had a chance to pour over a BMW 507 at BMW Museum in Munich and found the opposite to be true. I was a bit underwhelmed by the 507 exterior in person while the interior knocked my socks off. For the era, I thought the interior was stellar.

  • avatar
    signalmtb

    Car being discussed is being auctioned here https://seconddaily.com/2001-bmw-z8-e52-6-speed-manual/

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Yummy, but for that kind of money I could have a 911 or more. I feel as if this will be just a paperweight for someone collecting dust most of the time. I suppose smoke ’em if ya got ’em.

  • avatar
    craiger

    I remember sitting in the Z8 while waiting for my 530 to be serviced. One thing I noticed was that the silver panel surrounding the shifter was glossy painted plastic and already scratched. As I recall the sticker was around $150k and I couldn’t help but think why anybody would take this over a 360.

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