Classic BMW That Never Was: The Coachbuilt BMW ZGT
Scuderia Southwest’s Scottsdale Motorsports Gathering is one of the biggest and most eclectic “cars and coffee” events in the country. It’s no surprise, then, that walking through the rows of cars gathered and awaiting the sunrise over the nearby McDowell Mountains is something of a sensory overload. Each month’s theme is an excuse for local car collectors to bring out a new pick from their garage, be it to join a sea of convertibles, flex with other off-road rig owners or park next to every generation of Ferrari in the main show area. That being said, there’s one car in attendance nearly every month that pulls in fans regardless of the theme or crowd gathered: John Washington’s BMW ZGT.
The Ultimate BMW "What If"
The whole look and feel of the car is based off a “what if” scenario: What if the BMW 507 was a huge success and rivaled the iconic Mercedes-Benz 300SL rather than nearly pushing BMW into bankruptcy? What if a successful 507 in turn led to BMW developing an answer to the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO? The rabbit hole runs as deep as one cares to go, but it’s very possible the answer lies, aesthetically at least, in the ZGT.
Upon first glance it’s difficult to understand what exactly this car is beyond the badging. The only body panels left from the factory are the doors, and even those have had a cap bonded on to help transition the shoulder line from the front to the rear of the car.
Long Way From a Z3
Based on a low-mileage 2002 Z3, the initial prototyping took approximately three years to complete. Melding together the modern underpinnings and mechanicals of the Z3 with body lines of a classic grand touring chassis took time, especially if the kit was to be reproduced and sold as a reliable product.
The result is a no-cut, no-weld installation made to directly replace factory body panels using the factory hardware. The installation takes about 40 hours to reach a paint-ready stopping point, which isn’t bad considering how fundamentally the kit changes the look and feel of the car.
As Fun as Ever
With an M54 straight-six under the hood and Nitto Motivo tires on all four corners, the coachbuilding process hasn’t lessened the famous driving fun of the Z3 one bit.
Interior-wise, the car remains largely factory, with the driver-focused cockpit and low seating position not requiring too much tinkering.
Common Sense Upgrades
With a mechanical fan delete kit and water pump upgrade from BimmerBum installed, the notorious plastic fan (and the radiator-destroying shrapnel it turns into upon failure) has been removed. Considering the car has been driven to BMW events on both coasts of the United States multiple times since its completion, the peace of mind provided by taking out this weak link is likely worth the cost.
While some what-ifs lead to Miatas on all-terrain tires and LS-swapped 240SXs, this one led to a one-of-a-kind coachbuilt grand tourer with the class of yesteryear and performance of today. That’s a win in our book.
This BMW is made for the street, but others are made for the track, like Buildjournal's E46 M3.