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Group Title: BMW Z3 Roadster and Coupe Club E36/7
Group Description: BMW Z3 Roadster and Coupe Club - 1995–2002 - E36/7 - E36/8- series

History BMW E36/7 Z3 four-cylinder. The Z3 is nearly 20 years old now and prices are low but we reckon it’s the four-cylinder model that actually offers the true vintage sports car experience…

The Z3 was the affordable roadster with a BMW badge that everyone had been eagerly waiting for and it finally arrived in the UK in late 1996. Its super-smooth, sleek looks were attached to underpinnings from a 3 Series, although at the rear the Z3 borrowed its axle from the older E30 rather than the E36.

Compared to modern cars the Z3 may have seemed a bit basic but the standard specification for 1996 was actually pretty decent. All Z3s came with power steering, central locking, ABS and electric mirrors, seats and windows. However, the foldaway fabric roof was manually operated and covered only by a tonneau cover whilst the very earliest cars didn’t actually have a radio unless the option box was ticked, although this soon changed. An electric roof and heated seats were also on the options list and worth having. At first, there was only one engine in the lineup and that was the four-cylinder, 16-valve 1.9-litre – again shared with the E36. It was a strong unit that put out a decent 140hp and 133lb ft of torque to go with it and came connected to a five-speed gearbox, although less than year later a four-speed automatic version was added to the options list.

Six-cylinder versions soon joined the range and in late 1999 the four-cylinder model received a new engine. Confusingly, it often became listed as a 1.8, although it now featured a different 1.9-litre engine. This time it was an eight-valve that produced 118hp and 132lb ft of torque. The power decrease inevitably led to a performance decrease and the automatic gearbox was no longer available.

In 2001 a Sport version was released with larger wheels, Sports seats, a better interior and M Sport suspension, plus an LSD. However, the 1.9 engine was phased out completely in 2002, marking the end of the four-cylinder cars.

BMW Z3

The Z3 was a curious departure for BMW, being something of a hybrid of different 3-Series generations. The chassis is largely derived from that of the second-generation ‘E30’ model, while the electrical archictecture and engines are from the later ‘E36’ model and the internal development code for the Z3 is ‘E36/7’.

Like its competitors, the Z3 was inspired by the MX-5 and its retro styling harked back to the era of the original 328. The Z3 was initially available only with four-cylinder engines, but the addition of the 2.8-litre straight-six created a quick and slightly unruly car in the mould of the TR6. Things were subsequently made even livelier, not to say completely terrifying with the adddition of the 286 bhp M3 engine to create the M Roadster. The E30’s semi trailing arm rear end was barely up to the task of controlling the power and without any electronic traction aids the Z3M was a kind of German TVR.

As far as the cooking Z3 goes, all are very practical cars and if you want six-cylinder power then the 2.2-litre 170 bhp unit makes the ideal compromise for its refined nature and reasonable economy.