The British brought us the classic sports car in the '50s and '60s, the Japanese modernized it with the Mazda Miata and now BMW is taking it a step upscale with the new Z3 roadster.
It seems to be a step lots of people have been ready for. The scene-stealing walk-on star of the latest James Bond movie and cover car for last year's Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue, the Z3 started generating orders before the first production cars began to leave the assembly line.
The assembly line is a story in itself, because it's in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA. That's right. Made in America. Thanks to dollar-deutschmark exchange rates and the high cost of building anything in Germany, BMW elected to create an all-new factory in the U.S. for its new car. The new plant, which also produces the 318ti hatchback coupe, is the sole source of the Z3. Which is one of the reasons there's a long waiting list. Although there's some flexibility in Greenville's Z3/318ti production mix, Z3 production will be about 30,000 cars annually, once the factory is up to full speed. That will take awhile, because BMW is being very deliberate about the production ramp-up, to make sure quality is up to BMW standards. And those standards are high indeed.
The other reason for the long waiting line is simpler. This is one nifty little sports car.