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Mike Fishwick View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12 Oct 2014 at 12:10pm


BMW Z SERIES – THE COMPLETE STORY                                               BY MICK WALKER    

Book Review by Mike Fishwick

 Although best known for his books on Italian motorcycles, Mick Walker has also written some well-known books on those produced by BMW. It was perhaps inevitable therefore that he would turn his attention to the Z series of BMW cars, and has produced what is probably the best account of this varied series.

As many readers will know little of BMW’s turbulent history, a simplified version of the BMW story is included, setting the scene for the establishment of BMW Technik GmbH, the München-based think-tank which was instrumental in the birth of the Z1 and its descendants.

Z1 enthusiasts will wish for more than a single chapter on this epoch-making car, but the story of its development makes interesting reading, while the photographs show that it still looks modern, almost twenty years later. I for one feel that in another twenty years the Z4 will look somewhat dated, while the Z1 will remain evergreen.

As one would expect, the Z3 story occupies the majority of this book, from the selection of South Carolina for the new factory and Spartanburg’s initial production of the 318i, to the birth of the Z3 and beyond.

The Z3 probably has the distinction of being the most-criticised small sports car ever made, with praise from the specialist media being a rare occasion indeed, but Mick Walker has produced a balanced critique which I for one agree with.

Various aspects of the four-cylinder 1.8 and 1.9 litre Z3 models are covered in detail, as are the changes introduced on the six-cylinder 2.8 litre model, coupé, and M Roadster variants. The coupé story is particularly interesting, for the ‘Breadvan’ was devised by a small group of BMW Technik engineers, working in their own time without the knowledge of the Company! Changes for the face-lifted versions introduced in the 2000 model year are also covered, as are their six-cylinder engines.

Depending upon whom you ask, Z stands for ‘Zukünftig’ (Future) or ‘Zentral Entwicklung’ (Central Development) so the story does not of course end with such well-loved cars as the Z1 and Z3.  Few Z Series cars ever gained production status, but all are covered in this book, although some remain under wraps for a future launch – such as the Z2, which may yet become the 1 Series sports car. 

Throughout the book there are interesting notes describing some of the personalities involved, technical details, and the author’s impressions of driving each model.  The quality of the photographs is excellent, many having been provided by BMW.

The Z8 is well described, as is its ancestor the Z09, these beautiful cars being the last BMWs of the pre-Bangle era – the stylist responsible, Henrik Fisker, certainly knew his job.

The final section of the book deals with the Z4, which although credit (or blame!) for its body shape is usually ascribed to Chris Bangle, it is closely based upon the work of those who produced the very good looking Z9, which may be considered as a refined Z4 without dents in its sides!  The Z9 can be considered as the forerunner of the new 6 Series.

Most authors of books such as this are dependant upon the manufacturer for provision of information, and this book is no exception. Unfortunately this shows in some areas, such as the chapter describing the M Roadster, which can only be described as having an overdose of obscure BMW pseudo-technospeak! Perhaps something was lost in the translation.  Many other details lack the ring of truth, such as the statement that the Z3 body panels are ‘bolted then welded to make replacement easier’ or that the Z3 anti-roll bar ‘provides anti-dive characteristics.’

These bits of BMW propaganda are leavened by the author’s comments, which show a clear liking for BMW’s sports cars, with a mature appreciation of their vices and virtues.  He sees them as real-world, road-going cars which are capable of far more varied roles than such as the Lotus Elise, or any other sports car of similar price.  Whether it is the cause or effect of writing this book is not clear, but Mick Walker now owns a 2.8 litre Z3!

To sum up, this book is not perfect, but comes as close as can be reasonably expected, containing a lot of information on various aspects of some remarkable cars. It is well-written by an author who has been as objective as possible, and should be on the bookshelf of all Z Series enthusiasts or admirers of the marque.

 

BMW Z Series – the Complete Story, by Mick Walker.  Crowood Press, £19.95.

(ISBN 1-86126-424-0)



Edited by Mike Fishwick - 12 Oct 2014 at 12:21pm
A Z3 is not just for Christmas - it's for life!
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Jamalski View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jamalski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Oct 2014 at 3:15pm
I have that book, but does "Z" also translate differently depending on who you ask? Im sure it is spelt 'Zukunft', at least I thought it was. Either that or I made an almighty c0ckup on my website.
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Mike Fishwick View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike Fishwick Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Oct 2014 at 3:50pm
I have heard it called 'Zukunft' for 'Future' too, but according to my German dictionary 'Future' translates as 'Zukünftig!'

Maybe 'Zukunft' is a variation with a subtley different meaning . . .
A Z3 is not just for Christmas - it's for life!
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