Of course the major development – the marmite element of the Coupé – was the hardtop roof. Similar in design to a Shooting Brake model, the hardtop was unlike anything BMW had unveiled before or since. Opinion was decidedly split, some applauding the bold new design and others moving quietly aside to throw up. It wasn’t too long before the boxy nature of the design sparked the ‘bread van’ nickname that would follow the Z3 M Coupé for the rest of its life.
Looks though were only part of the package, since the Z3 M was quick. Really very quick, and not just in a straight-line. The new and improved chassis meant balance was almost bang on, allowing drivers to grab the M by the scuff plate and throw through corners at will and unfazed. A rear-wheel drive kicking was inevitable of course when drivers overcooked it, but there was no denying that the Z3 M Coupé was a marked improvement over its non-M counterpart. Indeed, when the Z8 was launched in 1999, the M Coupé had laid a hell of a benchmark.
Whilst critics raved and aspiring boy racers started saving up, BMW had its own way of celebrating the new M, highlighting terms like ‘innovative’, ‘agile’ and ‘dynamic’. That, plus boasting that two golf bags could fit quite easily in the boot. An interesting fact petrolheads ignored completely.
Limited to just over 2000 examples (only 168 of which right-hand drive), production for the M Coupé ended after just four years. Even today though, the bread van has garnered a legacy few in the BMW engineering department anticipated. The European S52 above is almost 15 years old (manufactured as the car was in March 1998), 13 of which have been spent with the same owner in Bahrain. There’s no plans for that to change either, as proves the case with most BMW Z3 M Coupé owners.
Those of you looking to become part of the legacy, you may be waiting a while.
– Our thanks to M7M Photography and Abdulatif
|Z3 M Coupé S52 (as of 1999)
|Inline 6-cyl / 3201cc
|321bhp @ 7400rpm
|258lb ft @ 3250rpm
|McPherson struts lower wishbones coil springs and anti-roll bar
|Semi-trailing arms coil springs and anti-roll bar
|Vented discs / 315mm front / 312mm rear
|17-in front and rear
|225/45 R17 front and rear