BMW Z8: What you need to know before you buy

Photograph Courtesy BMW

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Classic Motorsports, when Bavarian Autosport was still in business.]

The stunning looks of a multimillion-dollar BMW 507 yet the drivability of a late-model sports car: That was the promise of the BMW Z8. And it delivered. The easiest way to tell that the model has its fans? Ever since its release nearly 20 years ago, prices have remained strong.

First, there’s the aluminum, 507-inspired bodywork penned by Henrik Fisker (who would eventually design the Aston Martin DB9 as well as the all-electric cars that bear his name). Despite the retro influence, the Z8’s lines were taut and thoroughly modern-even by today’s standards.

Under the hood sat the most powerful BMW production engine offered to date, a 394-horsepower V8 sourced from the company’s M5 sedan. The engine featured eight throttle bodies plus variable valve timing. BMW offered one sole transmission, a six-speed manual.

Luxury appointments? Plenty, including a Motorola cell phone and Nappa leather interior. The headlights were Xenon low-beams, while the turn signals and brake lights relied upon neon tubes. Each car came delivered with its own personalized, handmade book. Only 5703 units were produced during the 2000–’03 model run, with a base price of $128,570.

The Z8 shape also became the basis for the Alpina V8 Roadster, which offered a little less horsepower, a little more torque, and an automatic as the sole transmission choice. The goal here was to create a slightly more comfortable tourer. Just 555 Alpinas were built-all for the 2003 model year-with 450 heading stateside.

Why You Want One

■ The Z8 was good enough for James Bond, sharing the screen with Pierce Brosnan in 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough.” Steve Jobs owned one, too.

■ Only a roadster was offered, and the matching hardtop came standard.

■ There was no follow-up model, meaning you won’t see Z8s at every other car show.

■ Even though only 2382 cars were imported to the U.S., they’re still a common sight at the big auctions and dealerships.

■ Zero to 60 takes about 4 seconds.

■ From the Fantasy Junction website: “surely to be coveted for decades to come.”

■ Elvis drove a 507. If the King had lived longer, he would’ve owned a Z8, right?

Shopping Advice

Godron Arnold
Sales manager at Bavarian Autosport

The Alpina cars tend to hold collector value due to the name as well as the lower production numbers. If the prospective owner is looking at a Z8 as an example of a full BMW hotrod, though, the original production models are by far the higher-performance choice.

Of course, as with most other Bimmers, the most common production color is silver-Titanium Silver, to be exact. Red works very well for both desirability-aren’t hotrods supposed to be red?-and collectability, as only about 300 were produced. If pure collectability is the goal, one of the models ordered through the BMW Individual program, with custom colors, would be the way to go. An Individual Alpina V8 Roadster model would hold a high collectability quotient.

Specifics to inspect: distorted/bent front shock/strut towers, faulty neon taillights, dashboard delamination, common S62 engine issues (just as with the M5) like VANOS solenoids and cam sensors, valve cover leaks, and timing chain guides with higher mileage. Also check for common BMW issues: delaminating mirror glass, fogged headlight lenses, moisture in headlights, brittle plastic cooling system parts, and radio and other electronic glitches.

Most parts are available but may have to come from Germany. Neon taillights seem to be not only expensive but often difficult to acquire. BMW originally promised a 50-year parts support for the Z8. We’ll see.

The Alpina V8 Roadster Z8 is considered a tamer version with a more compliant suspension, a less expensive (and less powerful) engine, and an automatic transmission. You get the styling of the original Z8-with a few added interior and wheel changes-in a more docile cruiser format.

Owning a BMW Z8 can be considered similar to owning any other low-production manufacturer’s styling exercise and marketing showpiece, but with one main exception: Most of what makes the Z8 go is standard BMW. This means you can actually drive and enjoy it. If one is seriously considering a Z8, it really should be assumed that the cost of ownership is not-and should not be-an issue. The Z8 is one beautiful supercar that was designed to be collected and driven.

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Dmorse New Reader
4/12/23 5:22 p.m.

Elvis didn't have one but Steve Jobs did...

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