Pick of the Day: 1996 BMW Z3, classic roadster motoring at a reasonable price

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

(Editors note: This being the traditional deadline week for filing federal income taxes — yes, we realize that deadline has been extended this year because of the pandemic — were focusing the Pick of the Day selections to vehicles being advertised for sale for four figures. The thought is that you might be getting enough of a refund to buy one of these cars, or after paying Uncle Sam, you might have enough left over to consider one of our suggestions.)

My challenge was finding the best modern roadster available for less than $10,000 that is not a Mazda Miata.  What I came up with as Pick of the Day is a 1996 BMW Z3, which is in fact a better sports car than the Miata.

The Z3 was the first BMW roadster since the 507 of the 1950s. The Z3 has a wonderful classic look, incorporating many BMW stylistic elements from the past but thoroughly modern mechanically.

This Z3 advertised by a Concord, North Carolina, dealer on ClassicCars.com has covered 101,353 miles from new, and its original Arctic Silver paint with black leather interior look to be in exceptional condition, and with no signs of rust underneath. The car still has its stock BMW cassette-deck audio system, and it comes with the owner’s manual and extensive maintenance records, the seller says.

Miata owners are probably upset at my calling the Z3 a better roadster. But having driven countless first-generation Miatas and having owned a 1996 Z3, I can knowledgeably say that the BMW is a better car, with more power, a more-capable chassis and a cockpit that is certainly more luxurious than any first-generation Miata.


Not that there is anything wrong with a Miata, but the BMW is a more upscale car, which is not surprising since the Z3 cost a lot more when new. But the fact is that today, first-generation Miatas and Z3s cost around the same amount of money, which presents an opportunity for the BMW buyer.

As for maintenance costs, these early 1.9-liter 4-cylinder Z3s are fairly bulletproof with no serious mechanical issues that are typical, so that ownership is not usually expensive. 


The Z3 really is a perfect retro-modern roadster that is both fun to drive and nice to look at. They are among the last BMWs that you can easily service yourself, and they offer an excellent value for a European roadster.

The asking price of $9,995 and is reasonable for one of these fun and engaging cars.

To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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