Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective

In 1999, when retro was all the rage, BMW’s Z8 roadster did its best to exploit the sense of nostalgia that prevailed at the dawn of the new millennium. Surprisingly though, its sales brochure proves more creative. 

All images: The author

For the launch of its luxury roadster – by some margin the most expensive series production car offered by the Bavarians, at 235.000 Deutschmarks – BMW threw everything but the kitchen sink at its potential customers.

The Z8’s brochure is therefore a lavish affair. The paper is thick and with just the right degree of gloss, the binding is reinforced with a thick strip of fabric and the print quality truly top-notch.

So far, so predictable. What surprises, rather than just delights, is the copy, which not only includes a narrative (experiencing Jamaica through the eyes of a Z8 owner), but even adds the off spark of originality to the requisite hyperbole:

Just to see it isn’t enough.

The Z8 also needs to be heard.

                                  And felt.

                                  And d r  i    v        e               n              .               .

The photos have obviously enjoyed some digital attention, but there’s no doubt that some location shooting was actually part of the creation of this brochure. But most shocking of all is the presence of actual people. Apparently, even the most indulgent of cars was still meant to be used in the real world in 1999, rather than parked on the gravel yards of photoshopped Architectureland.

There’s also some, yes, retro illustrations, but they’re actually rather pleasant as well.

Despite the clear focus on lifestyle and the finer things, there’s even mention of the Z8’s supposed engineering feats. In the case of its aluminium spaceframe construction, the memorable image of a bamboo cane, coupled with the a pleasing catchphrase, does the job just fine.


The graphic qualities are actually the least surprising element of the Z8 brochure. Far more unexpected is the copy’s lightness of touch, how delicately it avoids to be just another utterly predictable piece of excessively boastful luxury marketing fluff. How lovely.

The author of this piece also runs an uninfluential motoring site

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

2 thoughts on “Brochures Redux – A Retro Retrospective”

  1. I’ve always been a sucker for a nice brochure. Especially if each one probably cost the price of a set of decent tyres to produce. I imagine the Z8 would be quite a nice thing to have yet it was always blighted for me by its Bond placement.

    Frankly, blessed DB5 apart, most cars images don’t improve in my eyes by being totalled by the suave thug. But, even if I knew it was just a GRP replica, the image of the BMW being sawn down the middle left me with a subconscious doubting of its structural integrity.

    1. I’m torn right in the middle when it comes to the Z8. Its concept is so very cynical, yet its execution so exceptionally pretty that I can’t quite force myself to hate it. It’s still a car I’d never feel the urge to own.

      About the Bond connection I don’t care too much. The World Is Not Enough did so little with so many excellent ingredients (the Azerbaijan setting! Sophie Marceau!) that I tend to just forget about it. Thankfully, the only indirect mention of Bond in that pleasant brochure was in connection with Ian Fleming’s Jamaican residence, Goldeneye, which doesn’t feel too forced.

      Speaking of structural integrity, you incidentally named the Big Zed’s Achilles’ heel. Maybe BMW should have poached some body engineers from Audi to learn about aluminium space frame construction before they started development work. Stories about bent Z8 frames certainly aren’t anomalies.

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