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The BMW Z8: From Bond to Alpina

All things BMW Z8 on Automobile.

BMW Z8 Essential History 

If the BMW Z8 looks like nothing you've ever seen from the German automaker, we're not surprised. Today, BMW is known as one of the top purveyors of clean but mostly anodyne designs on sedans, coupes, and a whole heap of SUVs. But the sumptuous curves and art-deco touches on the Z8 look like something out of a designer's fever-dream sketchbook. Really, it looks like a modern interpretation of a car from the 1950s or 1960s.

In that regard, job well done. From the get-go, the Z8 was, officially, a glimpse into what the extremely rare 1956-1959 BMW 507 roadster would have looked like if it were still produced in accordance with modern safety, proportions, and technology. Designed by Henrik Fisker in the mid-1990s, the Z8 arrived for the 2001 model year to much fanfare and promotion, even claiming a starring role in the 1999 James Bond film The World is Not Enough.

Riding on a bespoke aluminum chassis and framework robed in an all-aluminum body, the Z8 incorporated the contemporary E39 M5's 4.9-liter S62 V-8 and six-speed manual transmission. Output of 395 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque was enough for a claimed 0-62 mph sprint of 4.7 seconds, though instrumented tests in the period dropped those times to the low four-second range. As was the case with most German cars of the era, top speed was capped at a relatively low 155 mph. The Z8 was offered in soft-top form only, though owners who hoped to use theirs year-round could rely on the removable color-matched aluminum hardtop that came standard with each car.

Inside, the interior reflected the care and attention lavished on the exterior. It was a design-forward cockpit, free of unnecessary clutter, tucking any required eyesores (like the early infotainment) unit behind a retractable panel. Gauges mounted in the center of the dash in a recessed painted plastic panel evoked the metal dashboards of yore. Even the knobs, switches, and primary touchpoints were sculpted aluminum.

Alpina Takes Over - Alpina Roadster V8 and BMW Z8 Differences

After production of the BMW Z8 ended in 2002, legendary BMW modifier and full-scale manufacturer Alpina took over the project in an official capacity. The subsequent Alpina Roadster V8 was markedly different from the regular Z8, incorporating a raft of changes that transitioned the Z8 into more of a grand tourer rather than a focused sports car. To that end, the suspension was softened and the manual transmission was ditched for a conventional five-speed automatic. The S62 engine was likewise swapped for an Alpina-fettled 4.8-liter M62 V-8. Power was reined back to 375 hp and torque rose slightly to 383 lb-ft; that bump in torque is also available from a lower range, giving the Alpina a long-legged character more suited for cruising down the riviera than attacking your local canyon pass.

Sliding into the Alpina also cost a bit more than the regular Z8, which carried a no-option price tag of $128,000 when new. For the Alpina, that figure swelled to $140,000, making it the most expensive vehicle available at a BMW dealership at that time. Despite the high price of entry, the Z8 was made in relatively large numbers; including the 555 Alpina V8 Roadsters, a total of 5,703 Z8s escaped Munich by the time production completely wrapped up in 2003.

BMW Z8 Highlights

Following the evolution of the BMW Z8 in the collector market is fascinating. Right from the get-go, BMW purposefully designed, created, planned, and marketed the Z8 as an appreciating classic you could drive right off the dealership floor, with a full warranty and service support, going so far as to promise a 50-year stockpile of spares to maintain the fleet.

Immediately, the Z8 was an instant hit among collectors. With a clean, forward-looking design interpretation of one of history's most beautiful cars, the Z8 is essentially future-proofed in a way few—if any—cars from the early 2000s are. It still looks effortlessly modern today, and is already a shoo-in to concours lawns and museum installations.

The values of the Z8 reflect this built-in desirability. Aside from a small dip right after production, the Z8 quickly settled at or slightly above its original MSRP for a few years before regularly used Z8s jumped to the mid-to-high $100,000 range, with well-kept examples fetching well over $200,000. If you're upset over missing the boat on Z8s, don't be—you never had an opportunity to begin with.

BMW Z8 Buying Tips

 

As is the case with most modern collector-grade cars, you'll struggle to find a Z8 in poor condition. After the first few years of ownership when values began to climb substantially, most Z8s were locked away in the garage for fear of extra mileage or damage, so the market is saturated with clean, untouched examples ready to test BMW's 50-year promise of spare parts.

If you do manage to find a Z8 that's enjoyed regular exercise, most of the mechanical stuff under that delicious aluminum skin is off-the-shelf early 2000s BMW. If you can financially maintain an E39 M5, your bills from a trusted independent shop shouldn't be much more expensive for the Z8, provided you don't need any bespoke trim replaced.

Most clean cars purchased at auction are ready for cruising, but if you're buying from a private seller, do try to setup a pre-purchase inspection. A knowledgeable Z8 specialist will look for common problems, like warped suspension componentry, valve cover leaks, failing VANOS solenoids, aging cam sensors, and a host of delaminated and brittle plastic on the interior and exterior.

BMW Z8 Recent Auctions

BMW Z8 Quick Facts

  • First year of production: 2000
  • Last year of production: 2003
  • Total production: 5,703
  • Original price: $128,000
  • One of the prettiest cars of the early 2000s
  • Forever collectible. Expect to see values climb.
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BMW Z8 FAQ

You have questions about the BMW Z8. Automobile has answers. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Z8 queries

How much is a BMW Z8? 

Depending on mileage, condition, and color, most Z8s sell for between $150,000 and $250,000. The same goes for the automatic-only Alpina Roadster V8. There have been a few outliers on both ends of the spectrum, with high-mileage examples trading in the low $100,00s and celebrity-owned Z8s sometimes claiming over $300,000, but the vast majority of Z8s fall in the above range.

How many BMW Z8s were made?

BMW made a reasonable number of Z8s, which shows just how desirable the car was and is. Globally, 5,703 Z8s were made, with 2,543 units for the American market. Only 555 Alpina Roadster V8s were produced, 450 of which made it to the States.

Who designed the BMW Z8?

Renowned Danish designer Henrik Fisker penned the incredible design of the BMW Z8. Yes, the same Fisker behind the last-generation Aston Martin Vantage, the Aston Martin DB9, and the eponymous Fisker Karma.