Tiny European convertibles always get the same derogatory nickname—they’re “hairdressers’ cars.” It’s dumb and unfair but that’s the truth. However, that stigma can actually work in our favor, as enthusiasts. The BMW Z3 is a car that’s always had that nickname and, because of the stigma from so-called “car enthusiasts,” the Z3 has never been hugely desirable on the second-hand market. So it can be had for cheap at the moment. Which will only work for us real enthusiasts in the long run.
See, convertibles, I will argue, are actually the most fun type of car. Unless you’re feeding your family with race winnings, who really effing cares about a lack of structural rigidity and the added weight of convertibles? Only nerds who’ve never actually driven cars at the limit truly bemoan that sort of thing because, unless a convertible is so floppy that it actually gets dangerous over bumps, a drop-top sports car will almost always be more fun. Why? Because it adds noise and open air to the experience of driving. Removing the roof involves you more with your surroundings, thus making the experience more engaging. It also increases the sensation of speed, so you don’t need an incredibly powerful convertible for it to be fun, which is one of the reasons why the Miata is so fun.
The BMW Z3 can provide all of those great convertible experiences but in a unique way. While Miatas and S2000s are incredible, none of them have big straight-six engines under the hood. The Z3 was offered with four-cylinder engines too but you can still find plenty of cheap ones with 2.5-liter inline-sixes under their hoods. A straight-six engine, with that lovely mechanical straight-six BMW noise, a give-speed manual, and rear-wheel drive in a convertible the size of a shoe? Sign me up.
And since they can be had for cheap right now—nice examples can be found for under $5,000 all day long—they’re only going to rise in value as electrification becomes more common. All older internal combustion sports cars will become valuable in the coming years because they’ll become special, vintage experiences that will only become rarer and rarer as the years go on. So your $3,500 Z3 project car will soon increase in value, thus making it an actually wise financial decision. Even if it doesn’t make you a ton of money, you’re almost certainly not going to lose money on it (so long as you don’t trash the car).
BMW also isn’t going to make many roadsters anymore. After this generation of Z4, BMW has no plans on reviving the two-seat convertible as an electric car. That’s not to say it will never happen but there are no plans in the immediate future. That means convertible BMW experiences will become more and more desirable. So cheap little BMW Z3s could soon become future classics.