LanEvo Reader
Aug. 17, 2017 7:02 p.m.

So, I was just offered a Z3 roadster for 2017 Challenge money. Looks clean, straight, and rust-free.

The catch is it was someone's project car with an SR20DET swap. He then pulled the SR20 "to drop in an LS1 and go drifting." That never happened.

So now the car is just sitting without any engine at all under the hood. I've always liked these cars and it may scratch my itch for a small British roadster while still being reasonably reliable and water-tight.

What are you thoughts? Buy it an proceed with LS1 swap. Try to do something more interesting?

Two_Tools_In_a_Tent New Reader
Aug. 17, 2017 7:29 p.m.

These are money pits with or without an engine. Depending on your location, an engine swap will have to meet the full emission requirements for the year of the car. Just one step below a Miata on the "Girlie Scale," decline the offer and walk away.

mad_machine MegaDork
Aug. 17, 2017 7:40 p.m.

stock the Z3 is not a bad car. Not as focused as the Miata, more a grand tourer than a hard core sports car. Good thing is all the M goodies bolt in from the rest of the E36 lineup.

Bad news, you have a rolling chassis with no idea about how butchered it is.

Good news, E36s are also like legos, all the parts across the line up bolt in, this includes the sub-harness for the engine electronics.

Robbie UberDork
Aug. 17, 2017 10:09 p.m.

There's an e46 m3 that's wrecked and ready to donate it's engine in the classifieds here...

dculberson PowerDork
Aug. 17, 2017 10:50 p.m.

It depends on what you mean by challenge money. $2000? Walk away. I've seen complete drivable but ugly z3s for $1500. A hack job swap that was then torn out makes the shell worth scrap money plus maybe some parts. So I would say $300-$500. At that price it might be worth parting out then scrapping and buying an unmolested one. ;)

pointofdeparture PowerDork
Aug. 17, 2017 11:02 p.m.

More so than any other BMW these like to rip the subframes out of their mounts when serious power is put down. Always something to check on these.

I have seen decent running 1.9's in the $3500 range so I would pass.

LanEvo Reader
Aug. 17, 2017 11:16 p.m.

Thanks, guys. My knowledge of BMWs ends somewhere around 1992. The price struck me as good (turns out it isn't really) and I've always kind of liked the styling.

I've been looking for a "fourth car" type of project: already have daily drivers for me and my wife, plus the race car. I'd really like a TR4 or TR6, but can't find anything but rust buckets under $10k

Chadeux Dork
Aug. 18, 2017 12:25 a.m.

This is what I thought of when I saw Z3 and LS1.

Somebody else's hacked drift car project is probably the wrong way to start though.

Aug. 18, 2017 2:58 a.m.

So, my question here is, since all the e36 M3 bits bolt up, how does such a car fare compared to a Miata?

When I drove a stock six cylinder car, in good shape mind you, the turn in was, to me, horrible; motor seemed not willing to rev much, almost felt like my eta car. I've not driven an e36 M3, so I have no idea what the driving dynamic is.

My ultimate goal was a 2-seat, convertible, six cylinder sports car - but the subframe issue steered me to the Miata.

pointofdeparture PowerDork
Aug. 18, 2017 5:52 a.m.

In reply to OldGray320i:

Keep in mind the market segment these occupied when new. Aside from the hardcore M variants (which is basically an E36/E46 M3 drivetrain in a Z3) they were sort of a "doctor's wife" kind of car so the stock suspension tuning is a bit sleepy. Like any BMW there is potential there; they have the E30 rear trailing arm suspension so they are trickier at the limit than E36s, but many Ms live on the track, they can be very quick cars.

JoeTR6 HalfDork
Aug. 18, 2017 7:41 a.m.

I had a Z3-based M Coupe. It was a fun car to drive, but in a different way than a TR6 or Miata. The torque was fantastic and it felt like it wanted to just gobble up asphalt. It was reliable for me, and I had no issues with the subframe. But my ownership only lasted 7 years. That's still the only car I wish I hadn't sold.

But for something like an autocross, I'd much rather drive a Miata, or even a modified TR6. The chassis had some interesting handling traits that required a certain lack of self preservation. You just had to chuck it into a corner and hold on, using power to balance the car. It could go from understeer to snap oversteer rather quickly, even without throttle lift. It's definitely an exciting car to drive, but took a better driver than me at the time to get the most out of it. If you throw an LS motor in there, it would be even more of a handful.

I'd only buy that roller for cheap if you wanted a project. Getting a swap sorted will take time/money, and you won't be driving for a while.

Spoolpigeon PowerDork
Aug. 18, 2017 8:06 a.m.

What to do with a Z3? Stock up on Polo shirts, buy some golf clubs, and move into a gated community.

KyAllroad PowerDork
Aug. 18, 2017 8:31 a.m.

My mothers' boyfriend just bought one. A 2002 2.5 5 speed car in the best shape of any Z3 in the country. I've spent some time driving it both on the street and a couple of autocross runs. It's.....meh, it certainly isn't a bad car, it's just lazy and lacks the aggression I want in a little sports car. I feel like the M52 engine should do something at some point, it never comes into a powerband, it doesn't rev high enough, it doesn't sound very aggressive.

It's a cute car and will be perfect for a couple in their 60's who want a weekend toy to cruise the back roads in, otherwise pass.

***and there is nowhere to rest my elbow while I drive!

02Pilot Dork
Aug. 18, 2017 9:02 a.m.

In addition to the various tuning decisions BMW made with these mentioned already, I always felt they had too much tire on the for the power available, especially the four cylinder versions. Hard to downsize and have them look right because of the styling, but I imagine that less rubber would make that suspension feel a lot more entertaining.

mad_machine MegaDork
Aug. 18, 2017 10:50 a.m.

If you can still get it, the Brillstein PSS9 coilover kit really wakes up the handling. I had the 318ti (same basic suspension as the Z3) and with starspecs on M rims (235/45/17s) and the coilovers, you could feel the rear end dig in as the car accelerated out of a corner.

I think the biggest issue with the Z3 as handling goes, the driver is WAY back in the chassis, so you do not really feel the front end doing it's work, all you notice is the rear wheels trying to go straight.

dannyzabolotny New Reader
Aug. 18, 2017 10:54 a.m.

Put an S52 into it. Just buy a whole wrecked/salvaged E36 M3 (the car, not the poop), take the drivetrain, and part the rest of it out. Then you can build it into a quasi-M-Roadster which would be rad. I'd definitely recommend a BMW engine of some kind, cross-brand swaps are always a nightmare with BMWs, you pretty much have to replace all the electronics.

Robbie UberDork
Aug. 18, 2017 11:15 a.m.
dannyzabolotny wrote: cross-brand swaps are always a nightmare with BMWs, you pretty much have to replace all the electronics.

I slightly disagree with this statement. I had a sbf powered e36 sedan. Electronics were easy. Engine has its own computer and harness, connected to power and ground. Car had its own harness, connected to power and ground. Only a few connections had to be made between the two, like tach, and temp gauge, (I even connected the oil pressure idiot light, alternator idiot light, and check engine light) but those were straightforward. AC would add a little more complication.

However, after the swap the car felt like a mustang, not a BMW with more power. and I did not like that.

Aug. 18, 2017 12:07 p.m.

Ok, so comments here seem to say that though it can be woke up, would never be as lively as the Miata (especially when considering a Miata with a little work done to it).

I really wanted an inline six, but if my ultimate goal is a 2-seat, convertible, six cylinder sports car, I'll want to do that Honda V6 swap someday...

Jumper K. Balls PowerDork
Aug. 18, 2017 3:46 p.m.

I wish I liked the styling of these. They are getting cheap, I love BMWs and the missus wants a convertible.

There is just something a bit "scrubbing bubble" about the styling.

KyAllroad PowerDork
Aug. 18, 2017 4:06 p.m.

This is the one I'm talking about.

Agreed, it does seem to have too much tire under it. 18" wheels but it also has Koni sport shocks and is super pristine.

irish44j UltimaDork
Aug. 18, 2017 4:38 p.m.

you can sell me the steering rack :)

killeen_john New Reader
Aug. 18, 2017 8:03 p.m.

Does it come with that removable hardtop? If so, that piece alone is worth around $2,000 which, could help pay for some ///M goodies.

dannyzabolotny New Reader
Aug. 19, 2017 2:30 a.m.
Robbie wrote:
dannyzabolotny wrote: cross-brand swaps are always a nightmare with BMWs, you pretty much have to replace all the electronics.

I slightly disagree with this statement. I had a sbf powered e36 sedan. Electronics were easy. Engine has its own computer and harness, connected to power and ground. Car had its own harness, connected to power and ground. Only a few connections had to be made between the two, like tach, and temp gauge, (I even connected the oil pressure idiot light, alternator idiot light, and check engine light) but those were straightforward. AC would add a little more complication.

However, after the swap the car felt like a mustang, not a BMW with more power. and I did not like that.

That's what I'm saying. It'll "work," but it'll never be 100% unless you spend a lot of time and money sorting out every little issue. I like having working AC and working factory gauges— a lot of engine swaps just use generic gauges and don't have AC. Which I guess is acceptable in a racecar for some people, but I like everything to feel OEM.

JBasham Reader
Aug. 21, 2017 4:13 p.m.
OldGray320i wrote: So, my question here is, since all the e36 M3 bits bolt up, how does such a car fare compared to a Miata? When I drove a stock six cylinder car, in good shape mind you, the turn in was, to me, horrible; motor seemed not willing to rev much, almost felt like my eta car. I've not driven an e36 M3, so I have no idea what the driving dynamic is. My ultimate goal was a 2-seat, convertible, six cylinder sports car - but the subframe issue steered me to the Miata.

LOL, once you're used to a 2,400# E21, everything turns in like a pig. Nothing beats light weight in my book.

The non-M E36 should be a competent track car but the HP is a little low for the weight and it needs a good chassis strip. Spec E36/Spec 3 is by all reports an exciting and engaging place to race, but it seems to get buttonholed as a value/budget proposition. It just never seemed to displace Spec E30.

The horsepower and braking step-up in the E36 M3 is enough to haul the car around the track even with the whole interior in tact. Gets genuinely fun when you strip it, so you hear more fans of GTS2 using the M3 as the base chassis for their build and faster lap times.

I have no idea what a Z3 with an M3's S52 motor would be like as a track car. There are few people that track them, and every one I've encountered is a total apostle. I don't track anything but coupes, so it's not my department.

CyberEric
CyberEric Reader
Aug. 21, 2017 6:00 p.m.

It's been a few years since I've driven a Z3, but I don't think they'll ever be as lively as a Miata. They weigh a lot more, but it's also the driver controls. The pedals, shifter, and steering are just sort of sleepy compared to a Miata.

Also, and perhaps more important to your question, I drove an S52 powered M Coupe once and I found it to be downright scary. The E30-sourced rear suspension, short wheel base, and relative abundance of horsepower made my rectum clench one too many times. Perhaps a better driver could make the most out of it, but it felt way too eager to swap ends for my liking. This was on a stock suspension mind you, but I've heard similar sentiments in highly-prepared cars. Compared to the E36 M3 I owned with the same engine, it was night and day. That car was a Bob Costas cat and gave you a lot of confidence.

1 2

You'll need to log in to post.

Also on Classic Motorsports

Show Us Your Shop and Win Prizes

1 day ago in News

3-car? 1-car? parking lot? We want to see where you mess with your car. Our favorites win some major prizes.

Classic Motorsports Car Catcher: Jaguar E-Type

1 day ago in News

Looking for an iconic British sports car?

Dreams Before the End of the Road

5 days ago in Articles

Told She Had Just Three Months to Live, Sue Patterson Wanted Only Three Things: a Camel, a Kangaroo, and the ...

Join Our Smoky Mountain Tour

6 days ago in News

How would you like to drive your classic sports car the way you’ve always wished you could?

Classic Motorsports Car Catcher: Ginetta G4

1 week ago in News

It's a serious vintage racer for sale.

Classic Motorsports Car Catcher: Mint Condition BMW M1

2 weeks ago in News

An iconic BMW in beautiful Henna Red.

Through the Roof

2 weeks ago in Articles

One of 11 survivors, this hardtop Triumph TR2 embodies the saga of a once-promising Belgian auto industry.

Mlassic Motorsports Magazine

Subscribe Today

Also get your instant access to the digital edition of Classic Motorsports Magazine!

Learn More
FY4FHCRCyDuDpf7wP1WpkI7VFruqZRZF