In recent times many motor manufacturers, particularly those with a significant sporting heritage, have felt the need to reference iconic models from the past when launching their latest. BMW has proved adept at exploiting this ‘retro’ trend, commencing in 1996 with the Z3 coupé and convertible, the styling of which brilliantly recalled its fabulous ‘328’ sports car of pre-war days. Its next effort along similar lines – the ‘Z07’ concept car of 1997 – took its inspiration from the post-war Alfred Goetz-designed ‘507’, a luxurious limited-edition roadster which, despite its sublime looks and superb performance, all but bankrupted the struggling German company.
The sensation of the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show, the Z07 was received so enthusiastically that BMW took the decision to press ahead with a production version: the Z8. Some of the Z07’s less practical features were deleted, including the four-spoke steering wheel, ‘double bubble’ hardtop and driver’s headrest fairing, but for the most part the Z8 remained remarkably faithful to the original concept, retaining the 507-like twin-nostril front grille and distinctive front-wing vents. A period-style interior had been one of the Z07’s most remarked upon features, and that too made it into the Z8. Car & Driver was moved to remark: ‘In truth, the Z8’s visual charisma is so powerful that just sitting in this car with the engine off is more fun than driving many other cars. Then when you press the starter button set apart, also a tribute to the past another level of excitement begins.’
The Z8’s body panelling and spaceframe chassis were fabricated in lightweight and corrosion resistant aluminium, while the 32-valve 4,941cc V8 engine, shared with M5 saloon, was built by BMW’s Motorsport division. With 400bhp on tap, the Z8 raced to 100km/h (62mph) in 4.7 seconds and only the built-in rev limiter stopped it from exceeding 250km/h (155mph). Power reached the run-flat tyres via a Getrag six-speed manual gearbox. Needless to say, the Z8 also came with all the modern appurtenances one would expect of a flagship model: traction control, stability control, front and side air bags, GPS navigation, climate control and power operation of the seats, steering wheel and convertible hood all being included in the package.
The fact that the Z8 was a low-volume model assembled, for the most part, by hand, enabled BMW to offer customers considerable freedom in personalising their cars. Further enhancing its appeal to collectors, the factory announced that a 50-year stockpile of Z8 parts would be maintained. Despite a (US) launch price of over $128,000, initial demand was so high that a bidding war broke out, with many Z8s selling for well in excess of that figure. By the time production ceased in 2003, 5,703 of these fabulous cars had been built.
This lovely example has only covered a mere 37,000 kms from new and is presented in silver with red/black leather interior. A fabulous investment at a realistic price, these iconic German sports cars are still the envy of many and this one is no exception.