At $8,450, Is This Hard-Top 1997 BMW Z3 2.8 a Good Deal?



To be clear, today’s Nice Price or No Dice Z3 is not a Miata, which, as we all know, is always the answer. That being said, some buyers may be asking a different question. Let’s figure out what this answer should appropriately cost.

While prolific over his short career, folk singer Jim Croce remarkably had only one song hit number one on the Billboard charts. That was Time in a Bottle and sadly, it didn’t reach the chart-topping position until after Croce’s untimely death in an airplane crash.

Some might say that the 1967 Jaguar 420 saloon we looked at on Friday also captured time in a bottle. After all, its ad did describe it as a “time capsule.” It also pretty much topped our charts, earning kudos in the comments, and its $17,450 asking price achieving a solid 88 percent Nice Price win.

The 1997 BMW Z3 2.8 we’re beginning the week with today isn’t quite so much a time capsule, although it does look pretty nice for its age. Moreso, however, it’s more of a throwback. That is, it represents a kind of car—the small two-seat open-top sports car—that, to a certain extent, had fallen out of fashion beginning two decades before the Z3’s launch.

The catalyst for BMW’s surprising entry into this niche was Mazda’s introduction just a few years earlier of the MX-5 Miata. That roadster set the world on fire and seeing the little Mazda’s success in both sales and the motoring press, BMW’s bean counters said “we gotta get us some of that.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing. And naturally, they said it in German.

The Z3 proved a reasonably successful hit for BMW, enough so that the model line earned an M version, a weird coupe edition, and, eventually, a successor in the multi-generational Z4.

This one comes in Bright Red over a black interior with faux wood trim to fancy it up. It also offers four-season motoring as it comes with the optional detachable hardtop roof.

Like last week’s Viper, this BMW is said to have come from a collection, and as such it’s only done 84,000 miles since new. It rolls on brand-new tires mounted to factory Style 18 alloys. Nicely, those wheels still have their full roundels on the center caps. The one on the clamshell hood, however, has seen one too many car washes.

The paint looks to be in excellent shape despite that, as do the lenses for the headlamps, which can be a pain point on these cars. One thing to note; the dealer selling the car does not show the convertible top, nor does it mention its condition. No one should buy this car without first popping the hard top off and giving the soft top an erection or two.

Inside, things appear to be in perfectly serviceable shape, although it does have some sort of weird hooded screen mounted to the dash. That dash is also plagued by a saggy glovebox, something that is endemic to almost all of these models. According to Pelican Parts, that’s a quick $20 fix. An aftermarket alarm or hidden radar detector has been added to the car, as evidenced by the red LED below the HVAC dials.

Along with the hard top and the overall condition, another of this Z3’s attractions is its drivetrain. That’s comprised of the 189 horsepower 2.8 liter M52 straight six and Getrag 250 five-speed manual transmission. As fitted, that gives the Z3 a lot more oomph than the base four-pot, but not enough to overwhelm the car’s somewhat simplistic chassis.

A clean title wraps a bow around this roadster, which signals to us that it’s time to talk price. As I noted, this is a dealer-offered car so the $8,450 asking price may not include the transactional fees that dealers inevitably attempt to tack on to a used car sale. It also means you can’t game the sales tax on the car at the DMV. Not that I have ever done that. Just keep that all in mind while ruminating over your vote.

To that end, what’s your take on this Z3 and that $8,450 (give or take) price tag? Does that seem like a deal considering the car and its condition? Or, hard top or not, would you give it a hard pass at that price?

You decide!

Orange County, California, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

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