My Car Quest

May 28, 2024

A Homage Concept Car Is Respected In and of Itself – The BMW Z8

by Wallace Wyss –

Sometimes it all depends on a person with a strong mind. In this case, when BMW wanted to make a dream car to honor the old 507 two seater from the Fifties, a BMW executive thought “Why stop at a concept?” And so it was; the production two seater was made from 2000 to 2003.

The design is credited to a design team led by Chris Bangle, an American, who oversaw Henrik Fisker (now an automaker himself) doing the exterior and Scott Lempert doing the interior. I remember back when it was introduced there were stories in the British press that the executive in charge had an E-type roadster so maybe this was his idea–to build a BMW E-type.

The Prototypes for the production car had a long gestation period–three years–between 1996 and 1999. It was introduced as the Z07 and was a big draw at the October 1997 Tokyo Motor Show.


BMW Z07 Concept

Z07 Concept

The production Z8 only had a few changes. The windscreen had to be made more upright. The optional hardtop in the production car had a double-bubble form. To have a bit of vintage look to the interior the modern equipment is hidden under retracting panels. They are as built on a MIG-welded aluminum space frame.


BMW Z07 Concept

The Z8 was far more expensive to build than say the Corvette of the time. Even with a retail price of $128,000, its all-aluminum chassis and body, was more what you expect in a Ferrari.

The engine was a 4,941 cc (4.9 L; 301.5 cu in) V8 engine rated at 400 PS (294 kW; 395 hp) at 6,600 rpm and produced 500 N⋅m (369 lbf⋅ft) of torque at 3,800 rpm. The engines, code named S62, were built by BMW Motorsport and shared with the E39 M5 sports saloon. The engine is fairly far back behind the front axle in order to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution.


BMW Z8 – photo by Wallace Wyss

It was fast, a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds equal to a 427 Cobra. Car and Driver said it outperformed the contemporary benchmark Ferrari 360 Modena in three important performance categories: acceleration, handling, and braking.

But even though it was built in a country that has unlimited speeds on some sections of the Autobahn. A the top speed of the Z8 was electronically limited to 250 km/h (155.4 mph). Theoretically take off the limiter and it would have topped 180 mph.

The Z8 started some new trends in lighting using neon for exterior lighting, the tail lights and turn indicators are powered by neon tubes that offer quicker activation than standard lightbulbs and are expected to last for the life of the vehicle.

Each one came with a color-matched metal hardtop with a rear defroster. The goal of the interior designer was to make many controls multifunctional controls such as the power window switch and mirrors controlled by a single instrument.

BMW must have been aware that not many 507s were restored due to lack of parts so on this one they promised that a 50-year stockpile of spare parts would be maintained in order to support the Z8 fleet. Maybe a Z8 owner can write us to see if they kept their promise. They also permitted customized options so there are some with bespoke paint and interior treatments run by BMW Individual, a division of BMW AG.

BMW Z8 - photo by Wallace Wyss

BMW Z8 – photo by Wallace Wyss

Steptronic transmission joined to a 4.8 L Alpina-tuned BMW M62 V8 engine derived from the Alpina E39 B10 V8 S. The suspension was set softer, and the run flats were replaced with conventional soft sidewalls mounted on 20 in (51 cm) Alpina wheels.

An Alpina steering wheel went on it replacing the original which copied the 507 wheel. The peak power was reduced to 280 kW (381 PS; 375 hp), while peak torque was raised to 383 lb⋅ft (519 N⋅m); and this torque was achievable at lower RPM for more relaxed cruising.

These Roadster V8s accounted for 555 units, 450 of which were exported to the U.S. market and only eight to the UK. In the United States, this car marked the first time Alpinas were sold directly through BMW dealers.

The Z8 gets a “collector car” status from me mostly by it styling, its performance and its rarity. A total of 5,703 Z8s were built: 3,160 for the world market and 2,543 for the North American market. Compare that to say the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing of which 1,485 were made. So only roughly 600 were made compared to Gullwings and Gullwings are now approaching a million dollars each.

Any limited edition car has problems. I knew about electrical glitches. One Z8 owner told me “This car has more problems that all my cars put together”. On a website called the list of topics seem to show some frame problems. Anybody investing in one should see if there’s a fix for any major problems.

The great car evaluator Doug Demuro wrote in 2016 “Rather than dropping in price like all other expensive German cars, the Z8 has dramatically appreciated — to the point where these things now routinely list for well over $200,000. In fact, the cheapest one currently listed on Autotrader is offered for about $165,000, which means the Z8 has roughly kept pace with inflation”.

IN SUM It is rare for an automaker to make such a limited edition car. But BMW did. I give it a B-plus on upside potential…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a co-host of Autotalk, broadcast from KUCR FM 88.3 Riverside, CA weekly at 6:30 pm.

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A Homage Concept Car Is Respected In and of Itself - The BMW Z8
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A Homage Concept Car Is Respected In and of Itself - The BMW Z8
The BMW Z8 gets a "collector car" status from me mostly because of the styling, the performance and the rarity.

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