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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bburago 1:18 1996 BMW Z3 M Roadster



It's summer time in the U.S. and that's means its time to drop the top on your convertibles if you have one.  Recently I've obtained three 1:18 scale convertible models in my collection, a rarity since I never invest in convertibles much especially in large-scale.  The first one has been a favorite of mine for a while, and still is even in M roadster treatment.  I used to have a 1:18 scale Z3 by UT models but it was base model right down to the steel rims.  I wanted something with more flare and the M roadster was the best way to show it, so finding a used Bburago 1:18 scale model was the best place to start.





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Evidentially the Miata craze that Mazda started in the 1990's also started a new sports car craze that ended the decade with Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW to create their own convertible.  The Z1 was the first small roadster revival for BMW in the early 1990's, but it was too boxy and complicated with the drop-down doors.  The next stop was the Z3 using previous-generation 3-series parts to create a stylish convertible built at the new BMW U.S. plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  The roadster was introduced in 1995 as a 1996 version and was very popular to the start, not to mention a starring role (for a brief while) in the 1995 James Bond movie "Goldeneye."  However, despite the popularity there was a need for more power than what the I-4 could muster.  You can choose between the I-6 upgrade in 1997, or the even more spicier M roadster.  The M motorsports division upgraded the handling, the tires, the engine, the bodywork, and even added a sharp two-tone interior for a more sportier look than before.  The engine was built in Germany and shipped to the US plant and is the 3.2L DOHC I-6 from the 1996 M3 that produced 317 horsepower in Euro-spec (shown), but only 240 hp. in US trim.  All engines were backed by a 5-speed manual transmission and suspension upgrades also lifted from the M3.  The exterior dimensions also differed from US and Euro models: the US got a different front fascia and headlights and used dual rear license plate lights instead of a single lamp on the rear bumper.  Also joining the roadster was the M coupe in 1997 that featured a hatchback design over a typical sloping roofline.





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Bburago made plenty of colors on the M roadster, including 1:18 and 1:24 scale versions, but only the red and blue have the two-tone interior colors that have matching exterior color inserts.  I went for the blue and don't regret it, although when I got this used car it was loose and so dusty that the paint was dull and I thought I might have to use wax to revive the paint.  Turns out the grainy surface just wiped off after a good cleaning and now looks beautiful!  The front nose is nicely curved in the center with the long hood adorned by twin kidney grilles with chrome surrounds.  The headlights feature the detailed round quad lamps and are executed perfectly, while down below is the revised front bumper with wider scoops and actual mesh pattern.  The sides of the hood house revised vents that have chrome trim and M logo's; the left one had a bit of paint flaw below the scoop.  The exterior mirrors sprout out, the windshield stands up nicely, the door handles have chrome, and the flared fenders look awesome.






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The rear has detailed taillights with clear upper signal and reverse lamps, while the Euro plate is in the middle with bumper-mounted light and M-badges.  The third brake light on the trunk is a decal and looks cheap compared to the excellent quality in the rest of the car.  Check out those awesome chrome quad exhaust tips below!  The trunk does open up to a large area, though not much to be seen, and the 5-spoke wheels have a wider outer lip and ride on Michelin directional tires; the brake rotors behind the wheels could use detailed calipers, though.  The hood opens up, a rather large hood that requires the hood prop to the right of the engine to keep it up and has the bonus of a latch that snaps the hood shut (wish the trunk lid has this feature as well to keep it from flapping around).  The I-6 block in silver is visible from here and underneath with very careful attention paid to the individual intake runners and exhaust headers visible below.  The intake piece is nicely done, as is the chrome trim with M-roadster on the valve cover, though chrome trim does seem like overkill for every fluid resovoir and attached to the chrome valve cover logo (obviously to simplify manufacturing).  The front electric fan and radiator are a nice touch and can be seen through the lower bumper grille.





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The chassis is even more impressive.  First note that this is an early Bburago casting that means it was built in Italy.  For starters Bburago forgoes the working suspension for a solid setup, and that's a good thing because this company likes to make parts accurate no matter what size it is.  The front has the detailed lower wishbone suspension arm with detailed ribbing on the steering rack, and oil pan.  The exhaust system beautifully flows from the header towards the center of the vehicle and out to the quad tips at the rear.  Check out the rear axle with the chrome differential and half shafts to the sway bar just behind to the trailing arms just ahead.  It was a miracle to take the tires off and on to clean as the wheel supports are so thin you can brake them easily (a common Bburago trait).





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The interior is another eye-catcher with the blue and black two-tone appearance and each colored interior part is its own separate piece.  The seats have the blue bolsters on black that look as good as they feel.  The seatbelts are integrated with the rear rollbars and nicely-concealed convertible boot.  The console has the storage pocket, parking brake, and shifter where I had to use a black Sharpie to tone down the all-chrome shifter.  Chrome also adorns the floor mats with the M Roadster name stamped, while I added silver to the pedals where it meets a somewhat odd missing firewall.  The doors have detailed two-tone panels and M-roadster sill badging.  The 3-spoke steering wheel sits ahead of chrome stalks and detailed gauges on a two-tone dashboard coved dash.  The only letdown here is the decal used for the center controls, but it's a tradeoff for fine details that include radio, HVAC controls, and auxiliary gauges just below.  A few nifty detail tricks here: the side doors have a little bit of side windows arching out, and the sun visors in matching blue actually move!





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All-in-all Bburago did a nice job with this casting and it shows the Z3 M Roadster at its best.  Yes they do offer a 1:24 scale version but it's not as good as the 1:18 so go on and get one of these in 1:18 in either red or blue to really enjoy The Ultimate Driving Machine.



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