In the bastions of BMW nerdism, few enclaves are as fervent as the Z3 coupe and Z3 M coupe community. I know this because I’m not only a fan, but also a member! We rejoice and celebrate our nerdism by focusing on the build numbers and rarity of our clown shoes, with low-production examples garnering the most enthusiasm. Rare colors, options, or the lack of sunroofs really get our dander up. Occasionally, such an example will show up at my shop, and this one deserves to have its story told.
Last summer, I got a call from a long-term Z3 coupe owner who purchased his 2001 BMW Z3 coupe in 2003. He had actually gone to the dealership to look at a “normal car,” but the funky lines of the Z3 coupe pulled at his heartstrings. He drove off with it a few days later and has kept it ever since. He contacted me to do a round of regular and preventative maintenance, then dropped the car off while I was flying. When I got back to the hangar and saw it in person, my jaw dropped!
Here are the specs: It’s a 2001 BMW Z3 coupe finished in Titanium Silver Metallic over a Walnut leather interior. Notable options included the Chrome Line trim package, Sport package, heated seats, and a sunroof delete. It also featured the BMW accessory rear spoiler. The Chrome Line trim added chrome side gills, a chrome shift lever, chrome door handles and door locks, matte chrome interior trim, and a more prominent chrome rear hatch trim piece. The Sport package added sport seats, a sport steering wheel, a shorter final drive ratio, a limited-slip differential, and seventeen-inch Style 42 wheels. Normally, chrome bits on any BMW ooze of less-than-tasteful rad-era excess that overstayed their welcome into the aughts decade, but on this Z3 coupe, they complement it perfectly. Maybe it’s the Titanium Silver paint or the Style 42 wheels (one of BMW’s best), but in the early 2000s Saturday Night Live nomenclature, the only way to cure this Z3 coupe’s fever is with more cowbell—I mean chrome!
Having truly established my nerdism with that last line, let’s look at some numbers. According to the Z3 M Coupe Buyer’s Guide and Z3 Coupe Buyer’s Guide websites, 2,858 M coupes were produced, of which 678 were the 2001 and 2002 model years with the S54 engine. A total of 458 came without a sunroof. Options for the M coupe were limited, as the entire package was comprehensive. Z3 coupe production totaled 2,071, with 1,053 for the 2001 and 2002 model years. In total, there were only 296 sunroof deletes. While the 1999-2000 Z3 coupe’s M52B28 engine was arguably one of BMW’s most reliable, the later M54B30 engine closed the gap on the S52-powered M coupe with only a nine-horsepower difference (240 horsepower in the S52 vs. 231 horsepower in the M54). The M54 is also 30 pounds lighter, but some do suffer excessive oil consumption. There were a variety of options on the Z3 coupe, including an automatic gearbox. The Z3 coupe also offered things you could not get with an M coupe, like Walnut leather, and because they didn’t have the quad-tipped exhaust, you also got an actual spare tire.
Use the VIN decode option on the Z3 Coupe Buyer’s Guide to sort all of those production numbers down by year, exterior and interior color, transmission, and the lack of a sunroof, and this 2001 Z3 coupe is a one-of-one! Add the shorter final drive, limited-slip differential, and late-model M54B30 engine, and it’s nearly an S52 M coupe. Nearly…
The gap between a Z3 coupe and an M coupe was smaller than most BMW models to begin with, and I would also say this one is on par with looks thanks to the Style 42 wheels, the chrome bits, and the factory rear spoiler. For a street car, it’s also more civilized than its M brethren, thanks to a more compliant suspension, better rearward visibility thanks to flag mirrors, and the added assurance that you can complete your journey if you get a flat tire. Silver BMWs don’t usually exude rarity (it was the most popular color for a reason), but the contrast of rich, warm Walnut leather and matte chrome adds a Scandinavian atmosphere inside. And then there are the rest of those chrome bits…
The owner asked me what he should do once we finished sorting the mechanicals, and I told him that he’d had it for two decades and should keep it for another two. He agreed. It’s a special car that will provide an exponentially special experience compared to most Z3 coupes, and there is only one. And if he ever wants to sell it, I’ll be first in line!—Alex McCulloch