I am in the market for a very solid used "small car". Have noticed that a
'96-'98 Z3 can be had for reasonable money ($5-8k in midwest US per Kelly
Have never owned a "sports car". Have owned several sports
I'm retired, and put only 2-3k miles on a car annually. A Z3 may or may
not fit my needs.
A '97 Z3 roadster (E36/7) is built on the E36 platform? Equivalent
to a '97 318is chassis in the US? I am trying to penetrate BMW E-
designations (not easy). What differences might I find (aside from
body and interior)?
They rate Ride Quality as 4/10, Quietness as 2/10, Value within
Class as 2/10, overall 37/100. For the 318i: Ride Quality as 4/10,
Quietness as 4/10, Value within Class as 5/10, overall 46/100. Does
all this make any sense?
A '96-'98 318is could be considered to be "very dependable"? Would a
Z3 be as reliable, etc as, say, a 318is of the same year?
I once test-drove a Porsche 944. Wasn't much impressed with the
power/weight ratio. Even the salesman told me it wasn't really a
daily transportation type vehicle. Subsequently heard some 944
horror stories about repair and maintenance costs. Might a Z3 be
similar wrt costs?
Any/all opinions, info, etc much appreciated.
"Law Without Equity Is No Law At All. It Is A Form Of Jungle Rule."
You have a good grasp of the Z3. Might I suggest for your consideration, a
similar year 3 Series convertible. I'm not certain the Z3 is built on a 318
chassis or not, but now that you mentiion the possibility, I can see the
resemblence and you might be right.
I am not retired, but I generally have only me and my wife in the car, or me
and the dog, and occasionally me the wife and the dog. This last scenario is
when the extra seating comes in very handy.
The wife and I took a ride one pleasant Sunday to the electronics superstore
near us. We went to get a flat panel dislay for one of our computers. While
at the store, we decided to buy a Christmas present for our daughter, so we
selected a Toshiba notebook. We could not fit the two boxes into the trunk
of the car -- a '94 325i Convertible -- which means you would not get the
same payload into the trunk of a Z3.
Our problem was easily solved by puting one box into the back seat and the
other into the trunk. We could have taken the items out of the box and then
carried both items in the trunk, but if that's not an option AND you're
plying the highways and byways in a Z3, then you're gonna have trouble
because the back seat option isn't ging to be available to you.
I'm VERY happy with my 3 Series convertible as a fun car to drive. You will
be happy with the Z3 too, but the lack of space can become a serious issue
without proper planning, Trips to the electronics superstore can toss any
and all "proper planning" right out the window.
Take a look at the 3 Series cars as an alternative to the Z3. In the years
you are looking at, you can select a 325 or 328, and if you go a year or two
newer, the 330 becomes a very good option and does not exceed the price
point you have dialed in on. Well, there are the M-car convertibles, but
they are going to cost a bit more than you appear to be looking to spend.
The problem sould have been avoided with a Coupé.
Recently a friend of mine gave me a 17'' monitor in its original box plus a
medium-tower PC and accessories. I easily put all the equipment into the
At home, surprized of this feat, I tried to put the box of a 19"". It
entered as easily as the 17'' did. The sole problem was with the rear window
touching the edge of the box, avoiding to close the hatchback.
In my old E30 I even wouldn't have been able to put the box into the trunk
and I'm not sure that the monitor box would have passed through the rear
A Z3 alone is probably not convenient because of its two seats only.
However, I'd recommend the coupé, because of the trunck's room and the I6
engine for its smoothness, regularity and power.
Rather economic, one youth failure over 130000 km (thermostat at 17000 km)
plus a broken fuel gauge that is common to all the series whatever their age
and their type are and a battery after 7 years. Two tire sets for 110000 km.
An average of 9 l/100 with 36 km kighway + 24 km in the city for the daily
Should I add that I might put a carpet on the garage floor without fearing
stains on it !
That wasn't the same with the Spitfire !
You make several good points, all of which merit consideration. I'll try
to become more familiar with the 3xx series say, '96-'00, as time
I should have mentioned that I am sort of a "loner retiree", it's just
me and my crazy birddawg, I'm not very active (health's not so great),
etc. Lack of cargo space would eventually inconvenience me, but,
hopefully, one can still rent a lite pick-up or such for $25 or so.
With careful planning, the inconvenience should be minimized.
"Law Without Equity Is No Law At All. It Is A Form Of Jungle Rule."
You might meet the next Mrs. Wonderful at the shuffleboard court and wish
you had the backseat.
I love my '94 325i convertible (E36), but I still drool with desire for the
clean E46 convertibles. I've not driven the 2-seater (Z3 or Z4), and this
experience might change my outlook but I doubt it. I think you can get a
nice 4-seater and get the meaningful driving experience. You may find the
insurance policy is cheaper too, but I don't know that to be factual.
In any case, my suggestion is to not get fixated on the Z3, but include the
entire line of 3 Series convertibles. My humble opinion is that the space is
very desireable, and the lines of the car draw lots of attention.
I fitted my car with 17" rims (225/45ZR17, BFGoodrich) from a '95 M3. This
tire combination is the same overall diameter as the factory fitment, but
LOOKS waaay better. Perhaps this is what causes pedestrians to make positive
remarks about my old car.
All you need to say is 3 Series, not 3xx.Series. The E36 cars were built
until '99-ish, then became the E46. The E number defines the chassis, so any
3 Series from '93-ish until '99-ish is the E36, the Z3 is the E37 (as you
already pointed out) The 3 Series generation that follows is the E46. The
convertibles in this generation get a glass back window and a better top,
the earlier cars get a plastic window that folds in half, and the fold can
cause a distortion of your view out the back. Of course, the glass window
gets a defroster that the plastic window does not tolerate. I bring this up
because your price range appears to include the earliest E46 cars, and I
think the upgrades that the E46 brings to the table are well worth the cost
up, if any.
The two seaters are funny to drive, especially because you're sitting
(almost) on the rear wheels :)
So, you're able to make the comparison of 16" wrt 17" with lower & wider
Did you fit the 245x40 on the rear ?
What's your feeling ? I'm interested because the Z3 on bad roads, with large
tires is a pain.
I've to avoid some streets of my city otherwise, a lack of inattention would
throw me against the curb.
I run the 225/45x17 on all four corners. They fit perfectly without any
modifications too the car. My car came equipped with the Sports Package, and
that gave me 225/55x15s. There is a 16 inch equivelent to the tires,
225/50x16, and the 17 inch variant. The 15 gives an overall diameter of 24.7
inches, the 16 is 24.86 inches, and the 17 is 24.97 inches. The change in
the revs per mile is -7.4 when the change goes from the 15 to the 17 -- the
17 is larger by 1/4 inch on the diameter, or 1/8 inch on the radius, so
there are fewer revs per mile. The result is that the speedo is damn near
perfect -- when it says I'm doing 85, my GPS reports 83.7, 1.3 mph below the
indicated speed. Formerly, when the indicated speed was 85, the actual speed
was closer to 80. (This is common, by the way)
If your car has 16s already, the revs per mile is 811.3, so the difference
with the 17s is -3.7, so the change to the speedo for you won't be so
noticeable. Your speedo is already closer to being accurate than my car was,
so the change in tire size won't have the impact it had for me.
The 245/40 takes a staggered rim -- the rear rims are wider than the front.
My rims are all the same at 8.5 inches.
225 55 15 24.744
225 50 16 24.858
225 45 17 24.972
Notice that for every 5% decrease in the aspect ratio (the second set of
digits in the size), the rim increases 1 inch to maintain the overall
225 55 15 77.736
225 50 16 78.094
225 45 17 78.453
Revs / Mile
225 55 15 815.068
225 50 16 811.325
225 45 17 807.616
Width in Inches
ALL SIZES 8.858
225 55 15 4.872
225 50 16 4.429
225 45 17 3.986
Thanks Jeff for the details.
When I ordered the car, the baseline was 225x50x16 for the 4 wheels and by
option: 225x45x17 on the front and 245x40x17 on the rear.
I chose the option because of the look of the hell the style # 42 have.
However the handling is very poor on bad roads and the tramlining pretty
heavy as soon as grooves are present. This is particularly noticeable on the
right lane on some parts of the motorways.
I got the car with Dunlop tires (SP Sport perhaps), I replaced all of them
by Bridgestone Potenza S03 then by Potenza SE050 on the rear and Dunlop SP
Sport MAXX on the front.
It seems that the new Dunlop on the front improve a little bit the handling.
However this may be subjective.
The rims are not painted but varnished. Although an alomst weekly cleaning
with wash and wax, they started to oxydize some years ago and now the
propagation is running.
The repair cost, needing to separate the two parts of the rims, is
comparable to the price of aftermarket brand new ones.
I was wondering if going back to the baseline dimensions would solve the
handling issues, the reason why I'm looking for references.
The 245/40 fits a wider rim than the 225/45.
As an option to buying a new set of rims, take the current rims to the
chrome shop and have them done new with chrome. They (the shop) will strip
the existing finish and do the rims over with chrome. This will make them
shiny, which may or may not be a good lok for you, but should be cheaper
than buying all new rims.
In my area, the freeways are grooved and it is common in some areas for my
car to move about (side to side) as I'm driving. The tires tend to follow
the grooves, and if the guy driving the groove making machine was texting on
his cellphone <big grin> instead of driving straight, then the grooves might
waver somewhat and my car will shift a bit in the lane. I weighed the
benefit of excellent handling against the discomfort of my tires following
the grooves, and decided I could live with my tires following the grooves.
Now, I curse the groove machine driver instead of the tires. I have to think
that your car, being shorter than mine, would do this to an even greater
degree. You have added width to the rear tires and a shorter wheelbase --
greater contact with a wavering road surface and less weight to throw
If your trouble is that the cars that have gone down the road before you
have left what amounts to ruts, then I'd fully expect a finely crafted
sports machine to track those ruts. A sloppy suspension system would roll
around under the car and take these ruts in stride, but the tight suspension
would cause the car and the tires to always go the same way at the same
time, leading to the discomfort of tramlining.
My view is that tramlining is an undesireable consequence to a highly sought
after performance package. You paid extra for a finely tuned suspension
system and now seek ways to detune it. The problem as I see it is that you
want the car to go where you point it when you point it there, and follow
your every command immediately. Nothing wrong this, by the way. But the car
doesn't only take direction from you, it also takes direction from the
roadway -- a side effect of you feeling the road is that the car also feels
Whether your car follows grooves cut on purpose into the roadway, or follows
depressions created by the multitudes of cars and heavy trucks that have
gone before you, it is doing what you paid extra to get. Your car is doing
what wide, short, light, and tight car is supposed to do. I do not think
reverting to the base tire is going to fix this. You will still have all of
the same variables -- wide, short, light, and tight. The only difference is
that you will gain 1/2 inch of sidewall flex.
You might find that 5psi of air pressure can do more than anything else.
When tires are soft, there is a larger contact patch and the pliant tire
will grip the freeway grooves and road ruts with the enthusiasm you expect
expensive tires to have. When you fill the tires with a bit more air then
they call for, the contact patch actually decreases and the tires do not
grip the road surface quite so strongly.
By way of illustration, let me talk about offroad travel for just a minute.
Jeep drivers, or Land Rover drivers, routinely remove air from the tires to
get more tire grip. They do this to a far greater degree than an errant
driver of the family sports car might let the air pressure drop, but the
effects are the same -- if on a much different scale. Anyway, when I had my
Jeep, I would routinely lower the air pressure to 5 psi while offroading,
normal pressure for the road was 35 psi. At the lowered pressure, the tires
would wrap around the rocks and get the most aggressive grip possible. I
could be driving along and see an opportunity for offroad travel and take it
without letting the air out of the tires. As I was going along and found
that my tires were slipping and sliding on rocks, or not gripping the sand,
I would stop and let the air out. On several occasions, I was stuck and
getting stucker. I let the air out to about 5psi, and the tires would
flatten out on the bottom, and this would provide the traction against the
surface I was on, and the Jeep would be able to move forward without being
My point is that if I aired down to 5psi to get more grip, then you might
get more grip by airing up from what you have to 5 psi more. As a general
rule, passenger cars will take 30psi (give or take) in all four tires. Try
35psi, and see if this makes the tramlining less of a problem. You may find
that the lateral travel is reduced, but the verticle movements are greater.
The movement from side to side is fixed, but driving across the reflector
dots they use to make the lane lines will be harsher.
This is another question I've to dig up with several companies in order to
Basically to correctly process the rims, they need to separate the two parts
they are made of: the rim itself and the hub/beams part, then they've to
carefully reajust the parts and balance the wheels. This is the reason why
the cost is so heavy. The other option is to get them stripped, without
dismantling, then painted. IMO, would result in an ugly look.
I'm already used to put 3 psi more (0.2 bars) on the rear and 1.5psi in the
front tires. More than that produces a tendency to make the car floating a
So, I've to carry my cross tirelessly (no pun in that !), cursing the mayor
until he decides to fill-up these damned ruts and cuttings. At the evidence,
the palm trees of the seaside boulvard are far more important than the
streets 500 meters beyond.
You have two-part rims? Really? I do not believe those are factory rims. I
am not a BMW expert by any means, but I pay pretty close attention to stuff
like this, and I'm not aware of any two-part rims offered by the factory.
I agree, do not paint your rims. That will be a disaster.
I said earlier that there are no BMW-offered two part rims. The picture you
posted certainly appears to make me wrong on that point.
I was not aware of any factory rims that are two-part. I thought they were
strictly an aftermarket product.
It was one of the options when I bought the car. They were on the BMW
To me they are genuine parts. Aftermarket spoke # 42 rims do exist but their
perimeter is a little bit thicker and rounded.
Note that there are some other references (few however) made of two parts on
their current catalogue.
Honestly, I doubt that BMW would put aftermarket parts on their catalogue.
I'm not saying you got aftermarket parts on your new BMW (once upon a time),
I'm saying that BMW has a two-part wheel that got past me. I'm sure that if
you bought them new and they have BMW markings all over them, they are the
real deal. I just did not know that BMW had such a thing. I tend to see
these kinds of things, but just because I haven't seen them only means that
my world is too small and I gotta get out more.
I agree with you, BMW is not going to put aftermarket stuff into their own
catalogs and brochures.
I'm not just after "flash". I'm not even 100% sold on a ragtop. I'd
consider a coupe if I could find one (never seen a Z3 hardtop hereabouts).
All of 'em? Coupes, sedans, etc etc? All with the same chassis, motors? I
was confused on this point.
Yeah, the old plastic windows can be a pain. I've seen some become virtually
opaque. I tend to sacrifice newer years for lo miles and pampered condition.
"Law Without Equity Is No Law At All. It Is A Form Of Jungle Rule."
In the U.S, 1999 was the first model year for E46 4 doors and 2000 for the 2
door models. The '99 coupes & convertibles were the last year for the E36
line. With the E46, BMW dropped the 4 cylinder engines and began offering
only inline sixes. And if you try to associate model numbers with
displacement, it certainly becomes confusing as the 323i was a 2.5 litre,
the 325 is a 3 litre, and while the E46 328i had a 2.8 litre engine, current
(E90) 328i BMWs are 3 litres.
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