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Go Back   Bimmerfest - BMW Forums > BMW Model Discussions > Z Series > E36/7 Z3 (1996-2002)

E36/7 Z3 (1996-2002)
E36/7 Z3 Roadster, Z3 coupe, Z3 M Roadster and Z3 M Coupe talk with our gurus here.

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  #1  
Old 08-02-2014, 07:19 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Location: Florissant
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
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Mein Auto: 07 328i 97 Z3
on the fence about a '97 z3

We have a perfectly nifty '07 Z4 (husband's) and '07 328i (mine). Love them. And we know they will need repair. We do maintenance. We study BMW to some extent. We read these forums.

I got bit by the toy car bug. And it took exactly one test drive for me to fall-hard-for a 1997 Z3 1.9. 79,000 miles.

I read the Bimmerfest FAQ about what to look for before buying. It has had some brake work done and the dealer shared where the work was done (not a BMW place but a decent shop).

Before we buy I will do a more thorough check and a tougher test drive than I took today. Mostly I was giggling as I wound her up, so I was biased.

We know anything can happen. But aside from the cooling system/water pump, the spare tire, the trunk welds, the electrics, the seat wobbles, window leaks, what else should I be looking for?

Spouse is concerned about ongoing costs of ownership. I am concerned that the driver side rear view mirror wiggles alot as I am driving.

Also can this car make it another 10 years under my care? Is it possible?

Finally, someone put a fancy stereo in it. Is there a way to check if it was installed properly? It sounded ok but I am concerned about the wiring.

What we hope is that I can drive it and enjoy it with minimal additional expense this year. As the years go on, we will service and care for it. We just don't want to BUY a problem car.

UPDATE:
Bought a Carfax. It has been serviced regularly at BMW dealerships. Had the brakes done in 04. If the trunk welds check out and the electrics work, I think husband's immediate costs are all fluids and a cooling system/waterpump. It has new tires, which worries me. It did not pull and felt tight, steered well. But sometimes new tires are hiding a problem. This is a tough decision.

Last edited by katfish1121; 08-02-2014 at 07:52 PM. Reason: update
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  #2  
Old 08-02-2014, 09:02 PM
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CarterTG CarterTG is offline
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Location: Chicagoland
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 1.9L BMW Z3 roadster
Given your know-how, it sounds like it'll be a nice addition to the fleet. My '96 is at the 83k mark and I've found that the DIY maintenance has been very approachable... not terribly surprising given its share of parts coming from E36 and E30 bins.

As a garaged car, I'm on my original top, clutch and cooling system. Of the three, the cooling system will be next in line for preventative overhaul.

With the mileage I've had, I'm on my third set of tires... the majority of those miles twisting through mountain switchbacks on the way to Z3 Homecoming for the first twelve years.

The maintenance things I've done in-person: Spark Plugs, O2 sensors, Camshaft Position Sensor, Belts, Cold Air Intake, Brake Pads, Brake Flushes, Rear Shock Mounts, seat bushing fix, glovebox fix, trunk battery... easily tackled stuff with its fair share of write-ups online or through the Robert Bentley Z3 Manual. Add the Peake Research OBD code reader and consider it a must-have if you have a propensity to do self-maintenance.

The '97 model year brings one-touch windows and traction control ($1100) standard.

I'd doubt there's much to worry about the stereo wiring if it's only the head unit that got replaced... high likelihood that a wiring harness was used to interface the existing factory wiring to the new stereo. If you pull the head unit, existence of a harness should alleviate the worry (as opposed to wiring individually and manually spliced together) Bonus points if the previous owner was saavy enough to transplant the little "finger" at the back of the OEM head unit over to the new stereo. The finger is a trigger that ties into the optional (dealer) alarm system. Down the road if you were to add the alarm/keyless unit (pre-wire behind the glove box) the stereo finger keeps the alarm from sounding off.

The '97 models didn't ALL have rear speakers or a rear bulkhead subwoofer. But if you do have rear speakers and they're larger than 3 or 4 inches, the owner might have made extensive aftermarket changes... then again if it sounds fine, seems like it got wired OK. Back in the day, I've known fellow owners to rip everything out and drop their custom stereo system & wiring into place -- only to get nailed with problems with stereo whine (tied to vehicle speed)
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  #3  
Old 08-03-2014, 04:37 AM
Bob's Shoe Bob's Shoe is offline
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Location: Newport News, Virginia
 
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Mein Auto: 1996 Z3 E36(7) M44
My 96 Roadster was pretty maintained before I bought it. The past year the things that are so well documented here are starting to creep up. Cooling system is on my short list next. With there cars, with their age, I think it is what it is. A beautiful car that needs attention. It makes me feel good to tinker and appreciate it it more.
Theses cars can go through some tires, If the Carfax looks good and front end is in good shape after a solid inspection I probably would not be too concerned.
When car stereos get changed usually if its wired wrong it pops up immediately and is fixed. Why get a nice system and it not work or cause other issue and let it go?
It sounds like you are already bitten. Good luck with your decision.

Last edited by Bob's Shoe; 08-03-2014 at 04:39 AM. Reason: grammer
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  #4  
Old 08-03-2014, 06:09 AM
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vintage42 vintage42 is offline
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Location: Louisville, KY
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW Z3 1.9 5MT
Quote:
Originally Posted by katfish1121 View Post
... it took exactly one test drive for me to fall-hard-for a 1997 Z3 1.9. 79,000 miles.... can this car make it another 10 years under my care? ... Bought a Carfax. It has been serviced regularly at BMW dealerships... aside from the cooling system/water pump, the spare tire, the trunk welds, the electrics, the seat wobbles, window leaks, what else should I be looking for?... the driver side rear view mirror wiggles a lot...
It sounds like a good Z3, and you sound like a good owner for it.

I like my 1997 1.9 (built in 10/96). Here's a post about it:
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...8#post27090138
I finally removed the black tape around the windshield, which I think improves the looks:
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...4#post27567724

My '97 does not have a rear speaker. Take a look at all the features of your proposed car by putting the last 7 characters of the VIN into this decoder:
http://www.bmwarchiv.de/vin/bmw-vin-decoder.html (Click on the little US flag for English)
For instance, I did not realize my clock was really an On Board Computer until I saw it listed.

Here's info on fixing the loose mirror, and should prevent you from breaking it:
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...mirror+removal
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...e-view-mirrors
http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...9&postcount=29

The trunk floor welds should not be a problem in a low-powered 1.9.
Compact spare tires are no longer available, but I have a good unused one for sale.
If the car no longer has its Owners Manual, I can email you a PDF to read.

Last edited by vintage42; 08-03-2014 at 06:31 AM.
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  #5  
Old 08-03-2014, 12:00 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Mein Auto: 07 328i 97 Z3
Thank you all for the info. After the test drive we sat in a restaurant and I did the vin search, but did not study it. Thanks for the link, I need to do that again.

The carfax (paid for, not free) checked out.

She has an onboard computer, and a couple goodies, but is mostly mechanical, which is fine by me.

Thanks also for the info on the stereo. No added speakers. In fact, pretty original (3 year old top I think). I can see myself replacing the aging AC and other buttons where the writing is worn off. The owners manual is in there.

With 2 aging BMWs, I think I am nuts to add another. But she does drive like a ton of fun.
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  #6  
Old 08-03-2014, 01:10 PM
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vintage42 vintage42 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW Z3 1.9 5MT
Quote:
Originally Posted by katfish1121 View Post
... 3 year old top I think... I can see myself replacing the aging AC and other buttons where the writing is worn off.... she does drive like a ton of fun.
A new top would likely be aftermarket with a sewed in window. The AC should not need replacing at 80,000 miles, unless you mean the AC button. There are DIYs for replacing the various button switches. I liked the easy way my 1.9 drove, better than an M and 2.3 that I tested, though they also had various problems that scared me off.
http://forums.bimmerforums.com/forum...4#post27134494
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  #7  
Old 08-03-2014, 01:55 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Mein Auto: 07 328i 97 Z3
Definitely an aftermarket top, but in decent shape. We already have the sealant since husband has a Z4.
I mean the AC buttons, in time I want to refurbish her to close to new(ish).

I read your write up on the engine. My husband's Z4 (3.0 si) is powerful and I really have to pay attention. I liked that the 1.9 wound up and let go, but was manageable at merge and highway speeds. She got up to 70 effortlessly and just a tiny bit slower than my 328's. I suspected the concerns you wrote about.

Money-wise, still a tough decision. The cash to buy her is one thing, the ongoing is the problem. Remembering we have 2 other BMWs.
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  #8  
Old 08-03-2014, 01:55 PM
Bob's Shoe Bob's Shoe is offline
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Mein Auto: 1996 Z3 E36(7) M44
Lol you are hooked....
To work on them not that bad. My friends can't believe I do some of the work on mine.
I tell them the manuals are in English.

Last edited by Bob's Shoe; 08-03-2014 at 04:03 PM. Reason: spelng
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  #9  
Old 08-03-2014, 01:59 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Mein Auto: 07 328i 97 Z3
[QUOTE=Bob's Shoe;8502970]Lol your hooked....
To work on them not that bad. My friends can't believe I do some of the work on mine.
I tell them the manuals are in English.[/QUOTE

I may be intrigued, but husband is the breadwinner. We shall see.

I would do the cosmetic and non-mechanical/electrical stuff. We have at least 3 indy shops in town and a couple dealerships. They already know me, so...
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  #10  
Old 08-03-2014, 02:46 PM
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vintage42 vintage42 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW Z3 1.9 5MT
Quote:
Originally Posted by katfish1121 View Post
... an aftermarket top, but in decent shape. We already have the sealant since husband has a Z4... I liked that the 1.9 wound up and let go, but was manageable...
So the glass window of the Z4 needs sealant? I doubt the sewed in plastic window of the Z3 top you are looking at could ever need that. The window and canvas are tightly sewed around a sealing tape. Even the loosely applied sealing tape of an OE plastic window does not leak.

Last edited by vintage42; 08-03-2014 at 03:01 PM.
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  #11  
Old 08-03-2014, 09:59 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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I am sorry, I meant the fabric top of the Z4 uses a sealant to keep it waterproof.
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  #12  
Old 08-04-2014, 06:07 AM
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vintage42 vintage42 is offline
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Mein Auto: 1997 BMW Z3 1.9 5MT
Probably this, recommended by the maker of our Twillfast tops...
"The Haartz Corporation recommends using... RAGGTOPP™ Protectant..."
http://haartz.com/cleaning-guide/cloth-top-cleaning
http://www.roadstersolutions.com/page55.html
Which reminds me, I had a new top put on last fall, haven't seen it since April, and I ought to pull it up and treat it.
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  #13  
Old 08-04-2014, 09:45 AM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Mein Auto: 07 328i 97 Z3
Quote:
Originally Posted by vintage42 View Post
Probably this, recommended by the maker of our Twillfast tops...
"The Haartz Corporation recommends using... RAGGTOPP™ Protectant..."
http://haartz.com/cleaning-guide/cloth-top-cleaning
http://www.roadstersolutions.com/page55.html
Which reminds me, I had a new top put on last fall, haven't seen it since April, and I ought to pull it up and treat it.
I don't know what he has but I am sure it is the right stuff for his Z4. She is our pet car.
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  #14  
Old 08-04-2014, 09:50 AM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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And now the dance begins...
I am still ambivalent about buying an old car and caring for it, since I have various animals and humans to care for.

But the dealerships are closing in and I am fighting them off. I have dealt with dealerships for many years and am ALWAYS surprised how they push a car. At the same time they are telling me about all the interest they have had in the vehicle. My response is always "great! then the car will have a home if I am not buying it. Sell it if you can."
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  #15  
Old 08-08-2014, 07:17 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Miss Nelly is home now.
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Last edited by katfish1121; 08-08-2014 at 07:37 PM. Reason: add pic
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  #16  
Old 08-08-2014, 08:07 PM
Bob's Shoe Bob's Shoe is offline
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Congradulations !!!! She's a beauty.
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  #17  
Old 08-09-2014, 11:19 PM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob's Shoe View Post
Congradulations !!!! She's a beauty.
Thank you. I have already put 200 miles on her. We took her down some winding roads and over a couple rivers. She even got a ferry ride!

Needs a lot of interior work but I am satisfied.
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Old 08-09-2014, 11:41 PM
_alvin_ _alvin_ is offline
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Hi Katfish, I followed your posts here and it made nice reading.
I'm not a Bimmer nut at all and have never had one before, but... just like the E type Jag and a number of other wonderful designs, they got it right with the Z3.
There's something very special about this design and they are fun to drive.
Congrats (;->
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Old 08-10-2014, 08:27 AM
katfish1121 katfish1121 is online now
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Thank you to Alvin and everyone else who helped with this decision.

I am enjoying Miss Nelly. She is going to a tropical fish auction today. As I fix her up I will post under a new thread ("Miss Nelly's rebirth") with pictures. I hope my experiences can help others.

Alvin you are right. The very first time I saw a Z3 I was gobsmacked. Since I am a fish keeper I suspect the gills did it.

The Z3 drives very well and has really great road feel. Responsive but I don't feel like I am being shook up.

To anyone looking for a Z3, do your research! Read, read read. And pull the carfax on the vehicle you want. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions of the dealer ("You say you had this detailed but it has popcorn kernels in it...")
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