Z3 History

An article by Fred Kern

The Z3 was announced at the North American International (Detroit) Automobile show in 1995, and went on sale in Europe in that spring. Potential US owners had to wait until December, 1995 when the Z3 appeared in the Nieman Marcus Christmas catalogue. These cars were all Atlanta Blue with beige upholstery, black top, and special features such as chrome windshield trim, a subwoofer and "007" floor mats.

The first demonstrators arrived at the dealers in March of 1996. These cars were owned by BMW NA and could not be sold as no paperwork was provided with them. By May the 1996 model year was completely sold out, and dealers were taking orders on the '97s.

At Spartanburg, the plant built to produce 318i's and a few Z3s was converted 100% to Z3 production.

The original Z3 had its battery in the engine compartment, on the right side in front of the passenger. Throughout 1995 and to mid 1996, BMW officially denied that they would ever build a 6-cylinder Z3. Vic Doolan, then head of BMW NA broke the silence at the Pebble Beach Concours by telling the press that not only would there be a 6-cylinder, but that the ///M Version (shown that year at Geneva as a concept car) would go into production. When the battery was moved to the trunk in mid 1996 speculation was that this was to accommodate the 6-cylinder (2.8 liter) engine.

In the summer of 1996, the Bond film "Golden Eye" hit the theaters. The Z3 appeared in the movie only at the very end and in a very static role. At the time of filming it was one of the few prototypes in existence, so chases and stunts with it were forbidden. This car is now on display in the Zentrum in Spartanburg. It is also Atlanta Blue.

1996 was a significant year for a number of reasons. (1) the first products were coming out of BMW's Spartanburg Plant. (2)The new Z3 was an exclusive product of that plant. (3)The Summer Olympics were held that year in Atlanta - close to Spartanburg. Everyone who bought a Z3 prior to the opening of the Olympics received a license plate frame commemorating BMW as a sponsor of the Olympics. Not coincidentally, the signature color for the Z3 - used in "Golden Eye" and all the ads was called Atlanta Blue. Since the dawn of the automotive era, light blue had been the color of French racing cars, while dark blue and white were the colors of the US. Curiously, the light blue in BMW's palette took the name "Atlanta" while the dark blue became "Montreal Blue". Because of the number of orders received for Atlanta Blue Z3s exceeded the company's ability to produce them, it was withdrawn from the color offerings in 1996. Arctic Silver became the most popular exterior color, with the black and tannin leather interior. In 2000 BMW attempted to replace Atlanta Blue; however BMW received so many nasty letters that the color was reinstated. Thus Atlanta Blue became (along with black, red and white) one of the few colors to span the entire production run of Z3s. The other colors besides these were: Boston Green, Dark Green and Violet Red and Turquoise.

Late in 1996 the BMW Z3 Register was founded by Wayne and Amy Lester. This became the Z3CCA.

The 1996 model year ended with a group of Z3'ers from Atlanta deciding to drive to Spartanburg over the Labor Day weekend to see the plant. Others from all over the country joined them. This became Homecoming. We all shared common experiences on the wait for our Z3 and what it was like to be the first one in your neighborhood to have one.
It was there that it became evident that the Z3 stirred a passion in those associated with it -- not just owners, but factory associates would come up, ask your production date, then tell you what they did on your car. The Z3 created a family among those who owned them and those who made them. The reply to "Thank you for buying one" was "Thank you for building them."

The Z3 family has grown since 1996. The 2.8s. ///M's, Coupes, 2.3s, 2.5s and 3.0s have all joined the original Z3. If you are a new Z3 owner, from all of us who have been here since the beginning - Welcome to the family!

To contact Fred email him at fkern@us.ibm.com

1996 BMW Z3 Specifications

(from www.fast-autos.net)

General Information
Price: $28,750
Miles Per Gallon: 23/32 mpg
Curb Weight: 2690 lbs
Layout: Front-Engine/RWD
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual
Type: Inline-4
Displacement: 1895 cc
Horsepower: 140 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 133 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
Redline: 6350 rpm
0-60 mph: 8.1 sec
0-100 mph: 21.3 sec
Quarter Mile: 16.1 sec @ 84.5 mph
Skidpad: .91g
Top Speed: 116 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph: 118 ft
Slalom Speed: 62.2 mph