Ethan Smale profile picture Ethan Smale a month ago
Used Cars

My £950 BMW Z3 Project Car Has Turned Me Into A Petrolhead

As CT's resident non-car person, the thought of taking on a project was daunting, but it's been a great ride, and I finally get the whole petrolhead thing

Remind me later
BMW - My £950 BMW Z3 Project Car Has Turned Me Into A Petrolhead - Used Cars

If you’ve followed Car Throttle for a while, you’ll know I’ve never really been a petrolhead. I love filming with cars, but before now I’ve not been passionate about them in the way that other CT team members like Alex, Jack and Matt are. Inevitably, my motoring noobishness is often tapped into for YouTube gold, and not long ago, it was decided I’d be taking on my own project car.

We talked about a few different cars including an E36 BMW Compact (we did eventually buy one of those for another series), but I was determined to have a convertible. I’ve never had one, and if my mechanical ignorance was to be exploited on screen, I figured I might as well tick that box.

BMW - My £950 BMW Z3 Project Car Has Turned Me Into A Petrolhead - Used Cars

We were pretty limited by choice given our £1000 budget. One with a six-cylinder engine wasn’t going to happen, so we settled on a 1.9-litre inline-four. That’s plenty for me, anyway, as you’ll have seen from the many times I’ve shouted at Alex to ‘slow down’ when I’m riding shotgun.

Given that we spent £950, the team’s expectations weren’t high, but to our surprise, it was pretty tidy underneath. Initially, we couldn’t even find any rust. The roof leaks a bit, but otherwise, we seem to have lucked out with a really solid Z3. It also looks great in Boston Green - the colour is one of my favourite things about it.

I might need to fix this at some point...
I might need to fix this at some point...

I’ve had a couple of mishaps with it (extensively documented on YouTube), but overall, it’s been a great car with which to learn how to spanner. Everything’s nicely visible, so it’s easy enough to diagnose and fix problems. I was nervous about changing the clutch, but that was straightforward enough with some assistance from Bruno at BDS Motorsport. I’ve also renewed the brakes, swapped the exhaust and added lowering springs - jobs I never thought I’d be able to do.

The big surprise for me is how much I’ve enjoyed driving it. Cars have always been about utility for me, but since moving away from London suburbia and more into the country, I’ve loved driving it on twisty roads in my Z3. Finally, I see what petrolheads are banging on about - it all makes sense to me now. The fact that I’ve got the car to the condition it’s in now (well, with a little help) makes a ‘spirited’ drive all the more fun.

It’s still pretty standard at the moment. We added the Cobra exhaust a little while ago, which sounds great on country roads at the expense of some motorway cruising comfort. We have a new set of wheels to go on it once they’re refurbed, but there are also some more ambitious plans in the works.

See also: 7 Things I’ve Learned Running A £500, 180k-Mile Saab 9-3

We’ve talked about turbocharging the 1.9 ‘M44’ (as I’m told it’s called) for ages, but I’d love to engine swap it. To make it more straightforward, this would probably involve a BMW inline-six. Yes, we could just go out and buy a Z3 with a six-cylinder engine already, but this is all about the challenge.

What would you like to see from our Z3 next?