The Z3 M Coupé is one of BMW’s most interesting, if not odd cars of the last few decades.
In designing the model, Dr. Burkhard Göschel didn’t just want a Roadster, but also something that was actually good to drive. Göschel and his team of engineers proceeded to chop up an early Z3 Roadster prototype, apparently using foam and foil to mould it into a coupé. Calculations showed that the coupé design increased chassis stiffness 2.6 times that of the Roadster, while providing much more cargo space, which wasn’t even part of the goal. After making a whole lot of headway with the project, convincing BMW to actually run with the Z3 M Coupé was the next task, and obviously that worked.
As interesting as how this model came about and what it became, the Z3 M Coupé we’re looking at today takes the ‘Clown Shoe’ to another level altogether.
Desmond Rudman built this Z3 M Coupé with his son Jonathan, who owns Rapid Garage. You might know that name from our recent feature on a crazy Ferrari-powered and Pandem-kitted BMW M3, one of many custom creations to come out of Rapid’s workshop in Boksburg, South Africa.
When the Z3 M Coupé released in 1998, Desmond really wanted one but couldn’t afford it at the time. When a secondhand example came up for sale at the right price a few years later, he jumped at it.
Desmond kept the car stock for quite some time, but eventually felt the need to start tinkering. Initially there were thoughts of turbocharging the S54 powerplant, but after hearing how much BMW wanted for a new motor – should that be required – Desmond decided that it would be too costly to go that route.
Around the same time, Jonathan heard of a complete 2JZ-GTE engine for sale, and at a steal. The answer was obvious.
A bone-stock 2JZ wasn’t going to cut it though, and this one’s been treated to a number of power-building upgrades: a ported and flowed cylinder head, high-flow intake manifold, single GT3076 turbocharger, custom Rapid front-mount intercooler, Mines wastegate, DeatschWerks 960cc injectors, 100mm throttle body, Chevrolet LS1 coils and an equal-length stainless exhaust manifold running into a custom 89mm exhaust with OEM M3 back boxes.
To make it all work, there’s a Spitronics Mercury2 ECU, and depending on the boost setting, the Z3 M Coupé now sees anywhere between 300kW (400hp) to 400kW (536hp) at the rear wheels. Helping it get there is a Toyota Hilux D4D diesel gearbox and 6-puck copper clutch. The rear end meanwhile, is factory BMW spec.
One of the goals with the build was to make it completely reversible, should Desmond ever want to go back to S54 power. I can’t see that happening any time soon though; there’s just too much fun to have.
Desmond’s Z3 M Coupé not only sits pretty, but KW Variant 2 Inox-Line coilovers and sticky Yokohama Advan A048 semi slicks – 225/35R18 front and 265/30R18 rear – ensure that it handles the newfound power too. Ferodo Racing pads all round improve the braking performance.
When I first saw Desmond’s car in person, I assumed that it had been vinyl wrapped – it’s matte blue after all. But that’s not the case; it’s actually been repainted in Maserati Blu Passione Pearl with a matte clear coat, which looks really amazing.
Inside, it’s a fairly stock affair. That’s not a bad thing, as the Z3 M Coupé interior is quite timeless. That said, a full suite of Prosport gauges have been added so Desmond can keep tabs on the under-bonnet happenings, and there’s a new gear lever and shift knob for the Toyota transmission.
I really like this car for a couple of reasons… Firstly, it’s clever that they’ve made the engine swap totally reversible – the Z3 M Coupé was a limited-numbers model after all, and there’s value in being able to convert it back to stock (Desmond has all the original parts in storage) in the future. Secondly, going down the Toyota engine route they could make easy and reliable power.
Taking a drive with Desmond, the 2JZ sounds almost identical to the S54 at low-RPM, but once he opens it up, it gets quite loud and rowdy and the power kicks you back into the seat. What Rapid Garage has created is awesome.