The BMW Z3 M – affectionately dubbed “The Clown Shoe” – is one of those cars that appreciated over time and became a cult. Released back in 1998, the Z3 M immediately captured the eye of the automotive world, but it also brought on itself a hate it or love it relationship with the would-be owner base – all due to its quirky looks. However, if you ignored its unique design, the Z3 M actually brought out an impressive performance for that time. The vehicle actually shared its engine with the BMW E46 M3, a well-known performance model from the Bavarian car maker.
The first Z3 M models (produced from 1997 – 2000) featured the S50B32 inline-six engine which delivered 316 horsepower and 258 lb-ft (350Nm) of torque in the EU-spec model and 240 horsepower and 225 lb-ft (305Nm) of torque for the US model. Later on (from 2000 and until the end of its production life) the EU spec was upgraded to the 321 horsepower S54B32 inline-six engine, delivering 250lb-ft (350Nm) of torque. The US-spec version was powered by the same inline-six engine, delivering 315 horsepower and 251lb-ft (340Nm) of torque. The sprint to 62mph (100km/h) took around 5.2 seconds for both vehicles.
The compact coupe was intended to be a BMW Z3 Roadster with increased torsional and structural rigidity. The car was developed under the leadership of engineer Burkhard Göschel and it almost never saw production. The development team had a hard time convincing the Board of Directors to approve the BMW M Coupe – the development on the coupe model was done by a group of BMW engineers outside of work hours in their own time – but the car eventually received the green light.
One of the helping hands in this situation was the fact that the Z3 shared numerous components with the BMW Z3 Coupe, so it remained cost-effective to produce. For a lot of casual BMW fans, the naming nomenclature can be a bit confusing. The vehicle is often called the Z3 M, M Coupe of the first-generation or, for those die-hard fans, an E36/8 M Coupe naming is used.
For most of us, however, talking about a “BMW Z3 M” does the trick and negates any possible problems with the subject at hand. Pretty much a similar confusion was brought on when the BMW Z4 M Coupe was released, as it was basically a follow-up or a second generation of the BMW M Coupe. The same principle of naming it a BMW Z4 M did the trick to avoid confusion.
The BMW Z3 M got off to a rocky start when it was introduced to the market. Dealer sales were slow but steady and the Z3 M received numerous awards upon release, with the Automobile Magazine’s “Design of the Year” award in 1999, among them.
Like so many before, the owner of this Silver Metallic Z3 M is bitten by the modding. But, before you bring out the pitchforks and torches, this is an example of a well-kept and nicely tuned vehicle. The parts list is as extensive as it goes. The engine was the first thing to be revamped, thanks to an Active Autowerke supercharger kit. This followed by the Active Autowerke catless headers, a Magnaflow 14815 Catback exhaust, VAC Performance coated rod bearings and a Bimmerworld stainless Vanos line.
The drivetrain is upgraded with a set of UUC Oval Delrin shifter carrier bushings, a Turner Motorsport stainless clutch line and clutch delay valve delete. The drivetrain upgrades are finished off with a Rogue Engineering finned differential cover.
The suspension upgrades consist of a set of Ground Control coilovers, camber plates, and rear shock mounts. Additionally, there is a set of Status Gruppe adjustable sway bar link ends upgrades and Ireland Engineering poly subframe bushings and trailing arm bushings. Turner Motorsport front control arm bushings and an H&R 28mm front sway bar was installed after that, followed by a Strong tower strut brace. Final suspension upgrades are the Randy Forbes rear subframe reinforcements and the dual differential mounting points.
As for the brakes, the owner installed a set of Rotora four-piston 355mm / 355mm rotors and Turner Motorsport stainless steel brake lines.
Featuring a set of deep-dish CCW LM20 wheels, the car pops right up and its aggressive stance is really something else. The wheels come from CCW Wheels, a US-based wheel maker most known for their racing wheels. Translating that know-how into street applications, they’ve produced a set of wheels that have a familiar design, reminiscent of the great racing wheels like the BBS LM or the BBS E88, for example.
Thanks to a Brushed Gold finish and deep, step lips that come adorned with a Polished Finish, these custom wheels look great on the Clown Shoe. Additionally, the long nut bolts give the wheels that much-coveted ’90s look as well. Wheels are sized 18×9 in the front and 18×11 in the rear. The wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero tires, sized 245/35/18 and 315/30/18 in the front and rear, respectively.
Overall, the vehicle looks clean. Even the license plate fits the bill. Truly, this is definitely one of the more interesting builds we’ve seen so far this year. This Silver BMW Z3 M Coupe build is shot by Mike Kuhn Racing. Take a closer look at the entire photoshoot in the media gallery right below.