Be honest; you’ve always wanted a BMW Z8. Ever since those two idiosyncratic little grilles first grinned at you, the two-door roadster has made the list of your most coveted classics. But you don’t really know why. The Z4 and the Z3 are arguably better looking motors — and they cost just a fraction of the price. But the thought remains, burbling away in your brain like a 4.9-litre V8; life would be better with a BMW Z8.
And you’re probably right. But the price has always put you off. Even when new, in 1999, the thing cost £86,650. And today? A quick whirl through online auction sites (the example here is going under the hammer at RM Sotheby’s later this month) shows that a good example costs at least £200,000. But that’s good news. It means that the Z8 is that rarest of beasts — a car that actually appreciates. And that means it might finally be time to buy one…
Think about it. While many of the car’s contemporaries have veered off the investment highway and seen their prices crash by the wayside, the Z8 has only become more desirable. And, while £200,000 is admittedly a lot of money (the same amount would buy you an Aston Martin DB11 V12, a Bentley Continental GT Convertible — or 18 Triumph Bonneville Bobbers), this is a nifty, nippy piece of European automotive history.
And it’s not as expensive as the car on which the Z8 was based. The one-off design that steered this sportster into production (1997’s delightful ‘Z07 Concept’) borrowed its slick style cues from BMW’s 1956 ‘507’. Only 252 of those mid-century motors were ever made, and they fetch north of $2 million today. In comparison, the Z8 is a steal.
And that’s before we get back to those love-hate looks. Undeniably striking, the low-slung chassis and clipped curves are the handiwork of Henrik Fisker; he who brought us the Aston Martin DB9, the Viking Motorcycle and the Fisker Karma. With its exterior neon lighting, there’s a touch of the future about the Z8 even now, and that colour-matching metal hardtop was developed by Fisker as integral to the silhouette of the car — rather than being tacked on as an afterthought.
Inside, there are similarly streamlined touches. To keep the dashboard uncluttered, many disparate functions were integrated into single instruments. The mirrors and electric windows, for instance, are controlled using the same button. Even the gauges, shifted to the middle of the dash, offer an unimpeded view of the road ahead.
Perhaps that’s what enamoured the Bond producers to the car (although a healthy £80 million product placement deal probably didn’t hurt, either). After zipping around in a Z3 in Goldeneye and remote-controlling a 7 Series saloon in Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan’s 007 hopped into a Z8 in The World Is Not Enough (after which it was promptly sliced in half by a helicopter in Azerbaijan).
But that plays in your favour — one less racy Z8 on the roads will make yours all the rarer. But Brosnan’s BMW (which was equipped with surface-to-air missiles and a steering wheel targeting display) did much for the profile of the car, and reinforced speculation at the time of its release that it would become an ‘instant classic’.
And this brings us to perhaps the most persuasive argument to invest in a Z8. Because of the roadster’s positioning as a future antique, BMW made a bold move when it first rolled off the production line. The German carmaker stockpiled 50 year’s worth of spare parts for the car, meaning that each of the 5,703 produced would remain rescuable and repairable for half a century.
It’s a smart move — and one that makes cars such as this RM Sotheby’s Z8 appealing to collectors. With a jet black and sport red colour scheme, a six-speed gearbox and double-spoke, forged, light alloy wheels, this example will likely fetch almost a quarter-million pounds when the bidding begins. And, with power seats, remote keyless entry and a 10-speaker Harmon Kardon audio system with six-disc CD changer, it’s got almost as many gadgets as Bond’s BMW.
Electronically limited to 155.4 mph, the Z8 is a lightweight, lots-of-fun machine. But perhaps its most glowing piece of praise came courtesy of Car and Driver magazine upon its release. Because, when pitting the roadster against a Ferrari 360 Modena in tests of acceleration, handling and braking, the plucky German sportster outperformed the Italian supercar in every category.
So, whether you’re digging deep and investing in one of the most memorable Z-cars in BMW history — or you’ve just decided to keep this captivating classic front-and-centre of your imaginary garage, rest easy knowing you’ve made the right choice.