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2001 BMW Z3 Coupe

A Spirited Run

Classic Velocity

After a fuel filter change, the next logical thing to do is to make sure that fuel flows at the most demanding levels of performance right? Well of course that’s right. So, it was off to my favorite proving grounds for a thorough test. High RPMs, sustained running, “spirited” cornering, sudden top gear roll-on, 100-0 braking, etc. Any auto magazine editor would be proud. 2 hours of shenanigans did not produce a single hiccup in fuel flow. So have we solved the issue with a simple fuel filter change? Don’t know, but what a helluva lotta fun testing !!


Intermittent Fuel Flow

Classic Velocity


The Coupe’s Issues are mostly sorted out, but it has a rather scary periodic issue. At high speed, like in the fast lane on an interstate, the car will periodically stutter. Correction, it is more like an abrupt cut in fuel or ignition, than a stutter. Correction 2, I cannot say that it would not happen at low speeds, or at lower RPM. I also cannot intentionally reproduce it. As you can imagine, this is pretty disconcerting at 80 mph. The diagnostic trail will start with a fuel filter, as I have no reason to suspect ignition, and it should be showing up elsewhere in the rev range. We shall see.....

Precision Footwear

Classic Velocity

No, not that kind of footwear. It has admittedly been a while between posts, but not a lot has been happening with the Coupe. This entry is due to the good folks at Bavarian Autosport relentlessly sending emails with cool stuff. A great way to protect your floor mats from the ravages of footwear and from the variety of abrasives on the bottom of said footwear, is to get some quality floor mats. Lloyd is well known in the arena of quality floor mats, and BavAuto had a deal on the translucent plastic mats designed to cover nice mats. They took a little while to arrive, because they are made to order for your specific vehicle. I am impressed with the precision fit, and the protection. Now when it is wet, or when there is some sand/dirt on the shoes, there are no worries stepping into the Coupe.


Bluetooth Blues

Classic Velocity


It is amazing how quickly we become spoiled by technology. Just the other day, I had a bag phone in my car and it was amazing to make a call on the road. Now, the absence of Bluetooth in any car is a problem ;-) Thankfully, the Chinese can make any technology compact and accessible. This cigarette plug bluetooth device allows you to use an FM frequency to connect any device. It is not perfect, since a quiet frequency in one place, may be noisy in another, but it is pretty easy to adjust. It also makes your phone a hands free device using the car speakers. All for $17. Even if this does not have a 10 year life expectancy, that is amazing! 


The Achilles Heel

Classic Velocity

The Coupe, and particularly the more powerful S54 version, have a known issue with weakness of the rear subframe. The factory spotwelds fail as a result of stress from the too soft subframe bushings. This car showed no signs of the issue, but I felt compelled to change the subframe bushings anyway to the stiffer poly bushings. Same for the Differential carrier bushings. These changes are thought to prevent the issue or at least significantly reduce the probability of issues. Surprisingly, the subframe bushings were in fairly good shape and were probably done at some earlier point in time. However, the diff bushings were a mess on one side, and becoming a mess on the other. A good and timely replacement.


The Quest

Classic Velocity


Even from the official launch, the E36/8 has produced polarizing reactions. Love it or hate it. The swoopy styling quickly gave rise to knicknames like the bread van, and then the clown shoe. Not flattering. However, just like the BMW GS, 2000 CS, and many other BMWs over time, this was an example of the engineers winning over the accountants and the sales people. The legend maintains (with plenty of evidence to back it up), that a group of engineers led by Burkhard Göschel, worked after hours an on weekends to turn the Z3 platform into a vehicle which would realize its full potential. They toiled away into the night, and developed a car with more than 3 times the torsional rigidity of the roadster, and the M# engine shoe-horned into the engine bay. They then asked BMW for permission to produce it. The answer was yes, with two big caveats: First, in order to control costs, it would have to share as much as possible with existing cars. Second, it could not outperform the M3. 

The engineers were thankful, and with a wink and a nod, the result is a true driver's car worthy of the M label. The wink was that it did in fact outperform the M3 due to a superior power to weight ratio, and so gearing was altered to slow it down a bit. The nod was that from the nose to the A pillar, it shared sheet metal with the Z3. Mission accomplished. The result is patently unique, and for some people, beautiful in its own way. Rear wheel drive, 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, and top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Three engines were used over the short 4 year production life, eventually producing 315 hp and 251 ft/lbs of torque from a 3,130 lb car. The design of tokyo-born Joji Nagashima is officially designated a "shooting-brake", although it can also be considered a hatchback. Almost immediately upon production, the M Coupe began to rack up both design and performance awards and accolades. Road & Track, Automobile, Car & Driver, Top Gear, etc. All acknowledged the future icon. 

As is often the case however, sales were not as kind. While the regular Z3 enjoyed robust sales, the M Coupe struggled. It was already aimed at a narrow slice of the market, and the styling was enough to further limit appeal. 6,318 M coupes were produced over the 4 year production span from 1998 to 2002, with 2,870 of those for the US market. It was replaced by a much less polarizing, and less insane, Z4 M Coupe. Regardless of how you view these cars, they represent perhaps the last time in modern times that the engineers at BMW were left in charge. As a driving enthusiast, however that happened, I am very glad it did.

This machine ended up here after an on/off search for 2 years. I went to look at 4 or 5 during that time and they were not right for one reason or another. Premium pricing, color combo, condition, etc. Then one day, less than 90 miles away, this specimen appeared and it was finally a match.