If you have followed the M Coupe Buyers Guide at all, you've probably seen the Project Coupes. There have now been 9 of them after all. I'd like to introduce you to the inaugural Z3 Coupe Buyers Guide Project Coupe. I've been maintaining this guide for 4 years now, and I realized I had not driven a non-M Coupe since the very first time back in 2001. The guidance counselor at my high school had just purchased a brand new 3.0 Coupe and trusted me enough to let me take it for a spin. From then on, my love for coupes was forever sealed. But after hosting 10+ M Coupes at my house, how would the non-M stack up? That question will be answered over the next few articles.
The very first Project Z3 Coupe is a 2001 3.0 in sterling gray over black with chrome-line interior trim, a sunroof-delete, and a (gasp!) automatic. While everyone knows I LOVE gray coupes (see here), this was a new experience for me in a lot of ways. Aside from being my first non-M, it's also my first sunroof-delete and of course, first automatic.
I first came across this coupe several years ago when it was in Hawaii. It was lower mileage but seemed to have been somewhat neglected. It was lacking in maintenance and obviously had been parked outside. It was a sterling gray sunroof-delete though and definitely caught my eye. I wasn't in a position to pursue it at the time, and an Air Force airman stationed in the islands picked it up. Luckily he was a long-time BMW owner and did a great job catching up on maintenance including fluid changes, brakes and cooling system. He planned to keep it forever and treated it as such, but as often happens, life changes necessitated a sale. Luckily for me, he was now located in Tucson which was far more convenient than Oahu.
My wife Jenn and I booked a one-way flight to Tucson and decided to road-trip it home. It was the end of November which is always risky in Colorado, but it had been a relatively mild Fall so far so we chanced it. The seller installed the new tires he had purchased for it and was nice enough to pick us up at the airport. I realized when we pulled up to his hosue that I probably hadn't fully prepared Jenn for what we were getting into. She was not impressed. It needed some paint work on the bumpers and passenger rear fender, the chrome-line trim was hanging off both doors, the rear hatch almost closed on my head and it was parked over a fairly oil covered piece of cardboard. I knew its maintenance history better and was confident it would get us back the 1,000 miles home.
A couple months earlier, I had helped Joe from Tucson find an oxford green Z3 Coupe in Colorado. We were unfortunately unable to connect when he and his wife picked it up and drove it home. When I told him my wife and I were picking up our own 3.0 coupe in his backyard, they were gracious enough to invite us over to hang out, look over the new coupe, and impress us with their ridiculous home theater setup. Graham had driven his very cool S54-swapped Z3 Coupe down from Phoenix, so while the guys looked over all the cars; the wives headed to the mall (it was Black Friday after all). Joe helped me top off all the fluids, and we tentatively diagnosed the oil leak as the oil filter housing gasket. After a pretty thorough once over, the three of us determined it would make it back to Colorado the next day. We proceeded to setup some photos, eat delicious lasagna, drink beer and watch Terminator. The stop was well-documented here.
The next morning Jenn and I got an early start on a beautiful day in Arizona The weather report in Colorado was not as promising, so we wanted to make it as far as possible before we hit weather. After the obligatory Starbucks stop we headed east towards New Mexico. Initial driving impressions were positive. The slightly higher and softer non-M suspension was noticeably more comfortable on the highway than the M suspensions I've grown used to. The automatic transmission was kind of handy driving on unfamiliar roads - though my left foot was searching for the clutch at every single stop. The Bluetooth stereo was awesome for streaming Spotify and audio books.
After a quick Chipotle stop in Albuquerque, we headed north for Colorado. As we approached the border, we could see a wall of clouds in the distance. They never thinned. In a few hundred feet we went from beautiful, sunny desert to 100 foot visibility. That would be the last time we saw the sun that day. As we headed north it got colder and the rain turned to snow. The new tires were a big plus, but they were new summer tires. We took it slow and saw multiple cars head for the ditch both in front of and behind us. In the end, the 150 miles between Raton, NM and Colorado Springs took 5.5 rather than 2 hours, but we emerged from the storm unscathed for the remaining 150 miles north to Fort Collins. I can't say "never seen snow" anymore, but I can say it's been weather tested on summer tires and did just fine.