The old adage goes: Fast, Cheap, Reliable - pick any two. Although I appreciate the sentiment, allow me to knock that outdated phrase into the middle of next week. I present the BMW Z3 M, a car that's not only fast, cheap, and reliable, but impressive everywhere else. Here are a few reasons why you should buy one

(Photo by Matt Czarnocki on Flickr)

5. It's An Affordable Collector's Item.

I'm a bit surprised that this wasn't mentioned in the article outlining future classics, but this car would definitely be on my short list of appreciating future assets. To start, the production run of this car was quite limited. A little over 10,000 examples were made in the car's 4-year run. When you compare that to an equally desirable M car, the E46 M3, with its 40,000+ examples built, you can appreciate how rare the little bimmer really is.


Here's a video featuring the long-hair-don't-care advocate Mike Spinelli asking if the BMW Z3 M is worth a shot over a new Subaru BRZ:

In addition to that, it's cheap. Actually, maybe cheap isn't the right word, as this car is more rigid than an involuntarily celibate chaperone at the prom. The car is at the point in its depreciation cycle that it's affordable to anyone who responsibly put some money aside for a rainy day. Well, it just so happens that you've stepped outside the house and it's pouring.


You can find decent running examples of the '98-'00 roadster for around $10,000, while prices on ultra low-mileage, low-owner cars are skyrocketing, the average asking price increasing over $1k in the last few months alone. While the rare-as-unicorn-turds '01 M Coupe still fetches quite a premium, it's still a tremendous value for the performance and exclusivity. Find one on eBay now before it's too late.

4. Even the Slowest One Is Seriously Quick.

(Photo by Grant.C on Flickr)

By now, some readers are halfway into their novel-sized comment, telling me that the North American version of the car got the E36 M3's wheezing, barely-above-a-328i-inline-6, and that it couldn't propel a fart out of Michael Moore's ass after three quesaritos and a Diet Dr. Pepper. Well, ever-vigilant commenter, the 240 horsepower lump that came in the '98-00 Z3 M got the car from 0-60 in a shade over 5 seconds. It did the quarter mile in mid-13s, which is faster than your car now. Yes, your Oldsmobile Alero, Mark. This is due to the fact that the car's geared for better acceleration, rather than fuel mileage, with the roadster weighing in about the same as a half-full can of Pringles, with a few chips added for the coupe.

3. It Out-Miatas The Miata.

The Z3 M Roadster is the luxury step-up the Miata never had. It's a few hundred pounds heavier, but it carries nearly 100 more horsepower (twice that for the '01-'02 models), has a power-operated soft top, and doesn't look like you just got fired from your 15-year accounting gig and had to downsize during your mid-life crisis. It has nearly 50/50 weight distribution, a subtle-yet-refined exhaust note, and more driver feedback than a 10-car pileup. It's also pretty not-bad at avoiding cones.

(Photo by Grant.C on Flickr)

I'll be the first to admit that I haven't driven a Miata, but I have driven a pristine Z3 M, and I wager that if any Miata owner and I switched keys for a day, the first thing they'd do after they switched back would be to put their obsolete Mazda for sale. I hear Travis Okulski has one. All I got is time, baby.

2. Its Looks Are Timeless.

There are certain cars that were made in the 90s that simply got design right. The Mazda RX-7 FD, the Lexus SC300, the Toyota Supra MKIV, and the BMW Z3 M. There's not a flat line anywhere. There's nothing that looks dated - its silhouette creates a shape as if it was sculpted and meticulously formed, not stamped and mass-produced by the lowest bidder.

(Photo by Matt Czarnocki on Flickr)

It doesn't stop at the interior, either. The dials are all analog, with everything you need and nothing you don't. It's a small space to occupy, but it isn't cramped. The M-Sport steering wheel (same as the '00 E39 M5) is extremely beefy and feels just right when you're manhandling the car as you wring out all 240 fuel-soaked ponies from its six tiny cylinders.

The seats and shift knob are covered in a supple leather, with the bolsters of said seats being firm enough to let you know you definitely didn't purchase the base model, for that would be beneath you.

1. The Clown Shoe.

(Photo by Ken Meisch on Flickr)

Here's the aspiring Jalop's wet dream - the BMW Z3 M Coupe, also known as the "clown shoe" - you get 3 guesses why.

It ticks all the right boxes. Quirky? Check. Fast? Double Check. Weird Name? You bet your sweet arsch. Who would need something named the Hellcat when you go to work in a Clown Shoe, made, ironically enough, by a company that possesses the same sense of humor as the collective efforts of the Internal Revenue Service?

(Photo by Ken Meisch on Flickr)

Sure, these cars are unicorns in their own right, only about 10 percent of all Z3 Ms were coupes, even less were made with the 333-horsepower S54 engine in '01-'02, but they're what collectors, enthusiasts, and art lovers appreciate, the world over.


Driving this car will never get old and you owe it to yourself to get one. What are you waiting for?

Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.