The object you see here is a pre-production body shell for the original Z3 roadster. It was produced in 1995 for display purposes, meant to indicate the various parts that comprised the Z3’s steel chassis, based on that of an E36 3 Series but with a shorter wheelbase and a few other adaptations to suit the roadster body style. It also shows the crumple zone and other safety features that protect the car’s occupants.
Like all Z3 bodies and indeed all Z3 roadsters and coupes, this body sheel was built across the street from The Ultimate Driving Museum at BMW Manufacturing Spartanburg. It was the factory’s first all-new vehicle, production having begun with the familiar E36 3 Series sedan in 1994. In 1995, BMW Manufacturing began producing the Z3, BMW’s first roadster since the 507 of the late 1950s. The Z3 became an enormous success, and so did BMW Manufacturing. From its modest beginnings, the plant has grown to be the largest in BMW’s global manufacturing network, producing well over 400,000 cars per year and exporting about 70 percent of them to markets worldwide. Thanks to Spartanburg’s output, BMW is the largest exporter of vehicles from the NAFTA region.
After producing more than a quarter-million Z3 roadsters and coupes from 1995 to 2002, BMW Manufacturing went on to build that car’s successor, the Z4, from 2003 to 2008. The plant had also begun building BMW’s X-vehicles, which were soaring in popularity as roadster sales were declining. The Spartanburg plant built only about two-thirds as many Z4s as Z3s, and roadster production was moved to Germany in the Z4’s second generation. Today, BMW Manufacturing builds the X3, X4, X5, X6, and X7 for worldwide consumption.