Let me start this off by stating that I honestly do not hate the Mazda Miata. I have driven every generation of Miata, raced in the MX5 Cup Series, been to Miata racing school, and know the designers of the car well. That being said, in the last few years used first generation Miatas with low miles have been selling for crazy amounts of money. How crazy? Think in excess of $20,000. This is for a car they built tens of thousands of that sold new for less than $30,000. The biggest issue with this for me is that there is a car that in every way was a better car when new, and it remains a better car now that actually costs less than a nice first gen Miata. That car is the BMW Z3 Roadster.
The Z3 Roadster was launched in 1995 as a 1996 model, and it took what the Miata did in 1990 and made everything, nicer, better built, and with any of the inline 6 cars, faster. I owned a 1996 Z3. and after doing a side to side test with a 1996 Miata found that the Z3 was simply more car in every category.
This is not surprising, as the Z3 was a more expensive car when new and it had to be a better car than the budget-minded Miata. What is surprising to me is that a nice Z3 is still less money in the collector car market than the Miata. People say this is because the Z3 is more expensive to run and less reliable than the Miata. This is nonsense. I owned my 1996 Z3 for 3 years, driving it on 3 road tours, to Monterey and back twice, and from Connecticut to the Hilton Head concours once. In all that the my total service bill at the dealer was less than $1,000. I loved that car so much, and I have so many fond memories of it that I am actually trying to buy it back from its current owner in Seattle. Yes this means that my mint and fully loaded 2005 Z4 roadster, which is actually a better driving car than any Z3, is going to be for sale soon. That’s how much I like the Z3 as a car.
The Pick of the Day is one of these amazing BMW Roadsters, a 1998 BMW Z3 located in Ross, Ohio. I know I just did one of these on the Z3 Coupe but I actually prefer the roadster due to the styling and the fact that the top goes down.
This Z3 is painted in its original Hellrot red over its original Beige Oregon leather interior with a black convertible top.
This specific car is said to have covered only 77,192 miles from new and one the owner calls one of the cleanest examples you will find for sale anywhere. They add that this Z3 is loaded with all the right options including: rare optional factory 17″ staggered width alloy wheels wrapped in excellent Continental tires, heated seats, wood interior trim, chrome trim package, on board computer, trunk mounted CD changer, wind deflector, black canvas top, and nice original BMW Z3 logo floor mats. The car is powered by the BMW 2.8 liter M52 inline 6 cylinder engine with 189 horsepower with a 5-speed manual gearbox. Try to find that kind of power under the hood of a Miata.
The seller closes his ad stating that this car really must be seen to be appreciated to see just how clean and vibrant the paint, leather interior, dash, carpet, and especially the wood interior trim are. They add that it has always been kept in the garage under a car cover that is included with the sale.
From behind the wheel the Z3 with the M62 2.8 liter 6 is a fast car for the day, covering the 0-60 in in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 135 mph, again both faster than any stock 1998 Miata. It also benefits from the wonderful sound of the BMW inline-six when you get near redline. The Z3 also handles well, partly due to a longer wheelbase and wider track, but also due to the 225/45ZR17 front and 245/40ZR17 rear tires. Road feel is a BMW forte in this era, and this car simply goes where you point it and is a blast to drive. A Z3 is a nice place to be from a driver’s perspective with excellent materials used in the interior including seats with long wearing high quality leather mixed with nice wood trim. Ergonomics are also great with all controls easily reachable and logically laid out. The convertible top is an engineering marvel in its simplicity and may be the best roadster top mechanism ever developed, easily raised or lowered from the drivers seat. A Z3 just feels like the upmarket car it is everywhere you look.
Finally one of the best parts about buying a Z3 is the price. This nice example has an asking price of $14,995 or basically the same as you would pay for a 1998 Miata in the same condition. So, you can buy a Miata and be one of the many people who have one, or you can think a little differently and treat yourself to a Z3. It’s all a matter of how you see yourself, I guess. Personally I’m hoping that the guy in Seattle sells me back my old Z3, as I know what the car can do and how I feel when I drive it.