IT'S the European sportscar that still turns heads after more than 20 years.
BMW's Z3 roadster burst on to the world stage in 1995 when it was James Bond's controversial choice of transport thanks to a product placement agreement for the film GoldenEye.
Controversial because Bond drove British Aston Martins, Lotuses, Bentleys. Not these German drop tops.
The Z3's credibility also fell when we realised these sporty looking numbers were packing just an 85kW 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine good for a 0-100kmh times of more than 10 seconds. That's not going to help you escape from SMERSH henchmen.
Thankfully, BMW made the Z3 a proper sportscar soon after, such as Chris O'Dempsey's example which boasts a more suitable 2.8-litre straight-six engine with 141kW. Its 0-100kmh time of seven seconds is far more fitting to the car's sleek design.
Chris grew up in Melbourne as a mate of Peter Brock's, so sporting cars have always been a part of his life. "Peter had his Austin A7 and my first car was a 1956 VW Beetle, so he got up the hills a bit quicker,” Chris said.
His love of classic cars had him own and restore an early 1950s MG TD, but it was on a European hockey trip that he began to take a keen interest in BMWs.
"I saw the Z3s in Germany and Holland and the styling of them reminded me of the MG A with its classic sweeping curves and lines,” Chris said. "It looked like a proper sports car.”
In 2009 his search for a Z3 led him to a 1998 example in silver with red leather interior and a mere 38,000km on the clock. "It was in Adelaide for sale at $36,000,” he said. "I told the dealer I could buy a brand new Mazda MX-5 for that, and eventually got him down to $27,500. I wanted the top of the range in the best condition; silver body with red interior is a good sports car mix, and this was it.”
He had a mate in Adelaide check the car over, he bought it sight unseen and it was delivered to Coastline BMW on the Sunshine Coast. "They had given it a wash and made it feel like we'd bought a new car,” Chris remembered.
"When I first saw it, it was all I had wanted and more. It was a delight to drive with a strong engine and quality ride. The car wraps itself around you, you sit very low and your feet feel as if they're almost touching the road.”
Chris says he drives it when it's top-down weather only, and says he's got used to people staring at the modern classic roadster. He's added only 17,000km to the odometer during his tenure, with hinterland runs from Montville to Maleny, Kenilworth and Obi Obi his favourite drives.
Despite being nearly two decades old Chris's Z3 still presents beautifully, highlighting the care that's been lavished on it and its low kilometres.
The red leather interior is in remarkable condition, and the simple switches and controls are a lot less fussy than some modern cars with their sea of buttons on the dash console and steering wheel.
"Modern sports cars have gone more for technology and big sweeping lines externally,” Chris said. "Many have given up on the look and feel of what a classic sports car should be inside and gone for plushness instead. Something has been lost there I think.”
Certainly the drive of the Z3 is still as refined as you'd expect from a BMW. The naturally aspirated six-cylinder is silky smooth in both sound and power delivery, and there was not a rattle nor squeak to be heard as we cruised around in this little convertible.
This 2.8-litre model's wide rear arches and lovely bonnet bulge remind it's a focussed sports car as well, and proved a lovely direct thing to hustle into the corners on our test drive.
Chris also says it has remained trouble free during his eight years of ownership. He's replaced the perspex rear window for the soft top and some minor leather repairs were needed when he bought it, but mechanically it has been near perfect. For a six-cylinder BMW engine, 55,000km on the clock is only just getting run in.
"It's part of the family, so I never plan to sell it,” Chris added. And pictured in glorious Sunshine Coast weather, why would you ever want to?
Model: 1998 BMW Z3.
Details: Two-door two-seat roadster built between 1995 and 2002.
Number built: 297,000 (Roadsters and Coupes).
Owner: Chris O'Dempsey, Buderim.
Engine: 2.8-litre straight-six cylinder with 141kW and 275Nm.
Transmission: Four-speed automatic.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.1-seconds.
Did you know? A blue BMW Z3 roadster prototype was used in the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye. A BMW Z3 007 Edition production car followed (100 were made) with 007 dash plaque and floor mats, telephone, beige leather and Bond blue grey body paint.
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