Showcasing South African BMWs and its passionate fans

ACSchnitzer M Coupe

Posted on: 8 March 2020

Just like the E46 M3 CSL,  the Z3M Coupe was designed and developed in one of BMWs best eras. Here we find our more behind this underrated gem of an automobile. 


bmw m coupe


As I write this, BMW is launching concept designs of the 2021 4 series as well as the 2021 M3. The internet is buzzing around the new look of BMW with the large kidney grilles made even larger for the 4series production model cars, and we know how full of crap BMW enthusiasts are, they are an unhappy bunch of fanaticals.


But if i recall,  it’s not the first and only time that BMW is under fire for their design notion. One other car which sparked controversy when it was launched, back in the early 2000s,  was the first Z///MCoupe. 




Many didn’t like its’ looks, complaining of its strange silhouette, and some even went as far as saying it looks a bread van. But underneath that debatable body styling is yet another BMW ///M masterpiece. A true handling delight. 


Development was purely an engineer’s joy with design and looks taking a back step and letting the BMW///Motorsport wizards do what they do best.. And that is to build a cracking car for the driver. 




About the ZMCoupe 

The standard Z3///M coupe codenamed E36/8 was launched in South Africa in 1999 and the base model was equipped with a 3.2litre straight engine as well as the 6 speed gearbox from the E36 4door M3.


This list of accolades recorded from Wikipedia about the Z3 M coupe show what a truly magnificent little car the Z3MCoupe is. 


  • The Z3 M Roadster was in Car and Driver's "Ten Best" (1999)
  • "Design of the Year" award for the M Coupe in Automobile Magazine (1999)
  • Automobile Magazine "Design of the Year" 1999.[13]
  • The M Coupe/M Roadster made Car and Driver magazine's "Ten Best" list for 1999.[14]
  • European Car Magazine Grand Prix winner in 1999.
  • The Top Gear (TV Show) "Best Driver's Car of the Year" 2000.[15]
  • The BMW M Coupe was chosen as one of "Hammond's Icons" by Top Gear in 2011.[16]
  • Jalopnik's included the M Coupe in their "Best 10 Cars of the Decade" feature.[17]
  • Top Gear (Magazine) featured the M Coupe as one of "the 149 Coolest Cars Ever" in a supplement included with the October 2015 issue (#274).
  • Autoblog included the M Coupe in their "Greatest BMWs of the last 100 years" feature.[18]
  • The New York Daily News featured the M Coupe in their "Best Bimmers: our 10 favorite BMW models of the last 100 years" article.[19]
  • Top Gear (Website) included the BMW M Coupe in their "Some of the Greatest BMWs ever built" article, showcasing 25 cars, in celebration of BMW's centenary.[20]
  • The M Coupé appeared on the list of Autoevolution's "Ten of the Most Outstanding BMW M Cars of All Time".[21]
  • Mike Spinelli, founder of Jalopnik and host of AFTER/DRIVE, selected the BMW M Coupé on /Drive's "What's The Best BMW Of All Time?" feature.[22]
  • Road & Track included the M Coupé as 1 of just 13 BMWs in their "Best BMWs in History" feature for the company's 100 year anniversary.[23]
  • Maxim ranked the M Coupé in their feature of the "10 Most Killer Rides of the '90s".[24]


Later on the ACschnitzer guys did a bit of an upgrade to make it even better and fitted the Z3///MCoupe with an E46 M3 motor.




Other ACSchnitzer bits added to the production models were : 

  1. AC Schnitzer Springs
  2. Bilstein Shocks
  3. 18’ AC Schnitzer Type III Rims
  4. AC Schnitzer Backbox Exhaust & Tailpipes
  5. AC Schnitzer Pedals, Gear knob with Short Shift & Handbrake Lever
  6. E46 M3 Style Instrument Cluster
  7. Traction Control  



ac schnitzer




The standard Z3M Coupe was the fastest BMW at the time it was produced, and ACSchnitzer made it even faster claiming a 0-100km/h speed of 4.9sec – which 18 years later is still quick. 




There were less than 40 of these ever produced from the factory, and they’ve become quite a sort after “Limited BMW car”  these days, just like the M3CSL or the 333i which are going up in value on a daily basis.


However - just like the 333i the ACSchnitzer Coupe was only produced for the South African market, other countries did get the S54 E46 engine upgrade but not with the ACSchnitzer bits. 


The factory colours of the ACSchnitzer MCoupe models were: Alpine White, Sapphire Black, Imola Red, Titanium Silber, Steel Grey, Estoril Blu and a very rare one in Oxford Green. 


The owner of this beautiful Imola Red example gives us a little story in his own words regarding the S54 ACS///Mcoupe BMW :-




"The S54 Z3M Coupe AC Schnitzer is completely unique to South Africa. Whilst other markets received the S54 Z3M Coupe, they did not receive the AC Schnitzer version.


Thus making this particular model exceptionally desirable, especially to the foreign market, where we have seen a few of these cars being sold to, in particularly Europe.


Because the E46 M3 was the flagship model for Bavaria at the time, you will find that despite the Z3M Coupe AC Schnitzer & E46 M3 sharing the same engine, the power outage from the Z3M Coupe ACS was reduced to 239kW versus the E46 M3 of 252kW. However, due to the Z3M Coupe’ short wheel base and power to weight ratio, E46 M3’s had a rather difficult time against these lessor powered clownshoe’s, as they are commonly known.

Whilst other’s may have had the Prancing Horse or Raging Bull as wall posters growing up, I had the Z3M Coupe, specifically the AC Schnitzer model, which became a reality for me to purchase 9 years ago, before the massive price hike we have seen both locally and internationally.


I have been exceptionally fortunate to currently own two E36 M3’s (As we would say in South Africa, the German Spec & SA Spec), even though there’s no such thing, a 1990 325iS EVO I and this Z3M Coupe AC Schnitzer, I must confess that the M Coupe is the most daring to drive and constantly wants to kill you, without exaggeration. The E36’s are just iconic in their shape and really stands out to the M3 badge and of course we all know the legendary status of the iS!

I suppose my personal dream was always to collect all the naturally aspirated M Cars, with the E46 & E92 still awaiting my grasp, for now…I love my collection and often find myself simply wandering into my garage and just admiring, knowing that these were once a boyhood dream…that has now materialised! " 




The owner tells me that this is one of the only cars he has driven that really scares him. Saying its a bit too fast. Like a go kart with a big motor in it.


bmw m


When i saw the fire extinguisher bolted into the car under the passenger seat  (which comes standard btw) - i immediately understood why he felt scared. 


bmw m


bmw m


So coming back to its main achilles heel, its' looks -

I feel Its looks are distinctive, purpose built for an exhilarating experience. It’s like a car from the future 20 years ago, We absolutely love it.


bmw z3


A huge thanks to RBPhotography.CapeTown for the stunning images 















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