The birth of the BMW Z8
BMW chose the 1997 Tokyo motor show to unveil a special concept car they had been working on. Featuring sculptured bodywork, a wide stance and striking design details with a retro vibe, the car unveiled was a modern homage to the classic BMW 507 from the 1950s.
Called the Z07, it did not take a genius to work out that the 507 was the Z07's inspiration. It was a bold move by BMW, as the 507 is arguably the prettiest BMW ever made, and a car famously owned by Elvis.
Concept cars rarely see production, but just two years later in 1999, BMW unveiled the Z8, which looked remarkably similar to the Z07 concept. This was just the start of the BMW Z8's foundation story.
Read on to discover more about this properly interesting, yet somewhat misunderstood BMW icon.
- Was the BMW Z8 misunderstood?
- Was the BMW Z8 limited edition?
- Is the BMW Z8 is a genuine Bond car?
- Has time been kind to the Z8?
Was the BMW Z8 misunderstood?
Upon launch, the BMW Z8 had a retail price of almost £90,000 (circa £190,000 in today's money). For a BMW, that was hugely expensive at the time, especially when the BMW Z8 was only available as a left-hand-drive car.
The Z8's retro looks were interesting, but on first impressions, the motoring press' acceptance of the Z8 was not exactly buzzing with excitement. Which is interesting, as it was not exactly lacking in typical BMW firepower.
That is because the Z8 borrowed the beefy 4.9-litre V8 engine from the E34 M5, despite the Z8 not actually being a full-blown M car. Other key factors of the Z8 were its aluminium structure, along with a cutting-edge space frame chassis too.
This made it BMW M-like quick, with 0 to 62mph taking just 4.7 seconds. But it was not an M car, so why did it have the heart of one? The Z8 was not a sports car either. Instead, it was more of a GT car with sporty characteristics.
Maybe this is what put buyers off? As the Z8 did not exactly fly off the shelves at launch.
Was the BMW Z8 limited edition?
With an M car engine, but more GT-like ability, and a hefty price tag, were the mixed messages eased by a limited production run?
In a word, yes, but also depending on what part of the world you were from. 5,703 BMW Z8s were made, between 1999 and 2003. Around half were made for North America, with the other half coming to Europe.
Being left-hand drive only, the UK only opted for just over 100 units. So, if you see a UK Z8, it is very rare, but in the states, not so much.
There was also an Alpina Z8. Even rarer with 555 made out of the 5,703, with only 8 coming to the UK. Alpina ditched the M engine and instead used an Alpina 4.6-litre V8, mated to an automatic transmission.
Is the BMW Z8 is a genuine Bond car?
The legendary Aston Martin DB5 is undoubtedly the most iconic and go-to car we think of when talking about 007.
In GoldenEye, Bond could be seen driving a BMW Z3, albeit not for very long. Fast forward to 1997 and Tomorrow Never Dies and Bond's BMW of choice was an E38 7 Series.
It was 1999, and the launch year for the BMW Z8 that we saw Pierce Brosnan behind the wheel of the prettiest BMW bond ever had, as he opted for a Z8.
Again, the Z8 story gets even more interesting as in the film, the Z8 gets chopped in half. Was this a seemingly odd move by BMW allowing the 007 franchise to chop up BMW's latest 'halo' car on the big screen? Or was it a case of shock marketing from both parties to get people talking about it?
Either way, Bond's Z8 will not be forgotten.
Has time been kind to the Z8?
Too expensive, an engine to mislead many on what the Z8 is about and an unpleasant end to its time on the silver screen, the BMW Z8 has not had the easiest ride.
Fast forward to 2023, and at the time of writing, a used Z8 will set you back around £180,000. Not bad if you managed to buy a Z8 when they were new, or when they undoubtedly went for less than their RRP.
Today, the BMW Z8 is seen as an iconic piece of design and a halo BMW, especially for collectors. With today's BMW design being constantly talked about, are we going to see history somewhat repeat itself?
Henrik Fisker designed the Z8, whilst under the management of Chris Bangle, who himself went on to pen many somewhat 'unloved' BMW designs which became loved, once a little more time had passed.
Interestingly, the Z8 was never not seen as a stunning piece of design, it seemingly needed more time to be truly appreciated, a theme we are seeing with many cars that we will never see the likes of again.
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The BMW Z8 is another icon in the story of BMW. If you enjoyed this particular blog, why not check out the rest of our blog articles, with some featuring even more BMW, BMW M and spotlight articles on some of the world's most interesting cars.