Think of the 2023 BMW XM (Label Red), which is only the second car the Motorsport division has built from the ground up (the first was the mid-engined M1 introduced back in 1978). This 735 hp hybrid super-SUV with an MSRP of $185,000 must be the epitome of modern BMWs, then. Now take a look at the BMW Z3 M Roadster, which comes with none of the driving or infotainment tech of the XM, and imagine a twisty road on a weekend day. Which one would you rather drive?
If your answer is the XM, then this story is going to be considerably easier to digest. That’s because the Z3 M Roadster in question was flooded by Hurricane Ian over in Florida back in late September.
The no-nonsense driver’s car that is the M Roadster
What is the Z3 M Roadster, you ask? Nowadays, BMW had to team up with Toyota to deliver the third-generation Z4, which will probably never grow into an all-out M model due to the limited sales of the sports car segment. However, back in the 90s, the auto world was a very different place and BMW hardly missed an opportunity to build a car that would wrap around an enthusiastic driver like a dream.
As such, the Bavarians revived a sports car recipe that had been around for decades (long hood, short rear end, front-mounted engine sending the power to the rear wheels via a manual) in the form of the relatively lightweight regular Z3. And then they stuffed this full of M goodies, including the heart of the M3—first the E36 M3 (1997-2000) and then the E46 M3 (2001-2002).
Sure, the M Roadster, as well as the Z3 M Coupe version that we lovingly call the Clownshoe, were handicapped by gearing and the number of ratios of the manual tranny (6 minus 1) compared to the heavier M3s to prevent cannibalization.
But the Z3 Ms were and still are a hoot, even in North American spec where the emission regulations meant the power was seriously down compared to the rest of the world.
For the “phase one” Z3 M we have here, this means the naturally aspirated S52 straight-six makes 240 hp (Europe got a 321 hp S50 engine). But that’s still more than enough to place the Bimmer in a totally different league to the just-as-brilliantly-handling Miata, for instance.
The end of the line for this BMW M Roadster
The example you’re looking at is one of the just 8,938 of its kind, as described on Bimmerforums. However, unlike the Hurricane Ian-flooded Plymouth Superbird, which had already entered the restoration process, or the storm-ruined McLaren P1, whose new owner may still wish to revive despite the Florida certificate of destruction, this Z3 M Roadster is… headed for a parking spot up in motoring heaven.
Of course, the car will be parted out first, which means that many BMW owners out there will get some valuable bits for their Ultimate Driving Machines.
The harsh financial reality that led to this is simple. When in good condition, such an E36 M3-powered Z3 M Roadster comes with an average price of $24,000—the Coupe and especially the meatier E46 M3 engine would both boost that value.
However, with the salt water corrosion causing extensive damage, reviving this one simply doesn’t make sense as far as money is concerned.
Cleaning up the Hurricane Ian-flooded Z3 M Roadster
Still, the Z3 M Roadster had to receive a thorough clean-up, with J&J Auto Wrecking, the specialist that bought it, having turned to Brent and R.J., the YouTubers behind the WD Detailing channel, for the job. As for the temporary lake parking, this stunt was done after the Hurricane Ian damage, so it’s the least of the car’s problems.
The duo, whose clean-up wonders we’ve discussed in the past (would you look at what they did for this 1994 Viper!) was tasked with giving the M Roadster a thorough detailing, which involved the exterior, interior, and the engine bay.
The boys lived up to their social media rep, power washing the hell out of the Z3 M inside and out and even giving the leather seats a proper restoration treatment. So yes, this is one hell of a silver lining for you to enjoy in the vid below.