Design Study: BMW Z13 – The Personal Car

Interesting | March 30th, 2010 by 19
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In 1993, the engineers at BMW Technik GmbH were given a new and exciting mission: the search was on for a contemporary compact vehicle with …

In 1993, the engineers at BMW Technik GmbH were given a new and exciting mission: the search was on for a contemporary compact vehicle with mould-breaking active and passive safety, enhanced comfort, impressive performance, and realistic economic and environmental credentials. The brief also included driving pleasure and understated elegance to embody the inimitable values of the brand. The specialists developed the BMW Z13 on the basis of this specification.

The fully functional prototype combines the advantages of a comfortable touring saloon with the dimensions of a compact car. The engineers involved in this project took an exceptionally unusual route to achieve their goal. The BMW Z13 was given the title of Personal Car and designed principally as a single seater.

The driver was positioned behind the centrally located steering wheel, with seating space being provided behind the driver for two passengers. The driver’s seat positioned in the middle allows all the control elements to be positioned with ergonomic perfection, while also offering advantages if the car is involved in a side crash and when entering and leaving the vehicle parked at the kerbside. The left-hand or right-hand door can be used to match the particular traffic situation.

1993 BMW Z13 Concept 655x487

The variable baggage space is located directly behind the driver’s seat, and it can even accommodate skis up to two metres in length. Alternatively, two additional seats can be folded down, which are positioned obliquely behind the driver’s seat. This unconventional configuration offers unparalleled legroom with an enhanced level of comfort for passengers seated in the rear of the car.

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The supporting structure of the BMW Z13 consists of a lightweight chassis made from aluminium extrusions (space frame). The 60 kW/82 hp petrol engine is rear mounted. The low vehicle weight of only 830 kilograms contributed towards achieving average fuel-efficiency values between five and six litres for every 100 kilometres travelled.

The highly unusual vehicle concept is packaged in an extravagant design that outperformed the conventional benchmarks for an automobile at that time. Moreover, the BMW Z13 gave a very concrete perspective onto the future of mobile communications. A satellite navigation system was installed on the instrument panel alongside a telephone and fax.


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19 responses to “Design Study: BMW Z13 – The Personal Car”

  1. Andrew says:

    This thing is strange but I actually like it a lot. I think the shape is similar to a Renault Clio but with a seating arrangement from a McLaren F1.

  2. Bryce says:

    All the glass on the canopy, the horizontal kidney grills, and the choppiness of the rear end all remind of the Vision Concept. They’re both concepts designed to be ahead of their time, and while they’re very different vehicles, I think I see a resemblance!

  3. Doug says:

    Interesting. What powers this thing? The hood is extremely low- it’s surely not a standard bmw gas engine.

    It could be safer, considering how much space the driver has around him to absorb impacts from SUVs.

  4. Laszlo says:

    Doug – article states its a rear mounted engine. Besides that fact I like it.
    The red car – the real prototype – could have been a nice small BMW city car.
    It needs to evolve into something more attractive and more useful. These are almost 20 years old designs.
    I think the FWD cars will take the hatch shape and will compete with vehicles like Mazda 3 and VW Golf. The 1 series failed to do that job.

    • Doug says:

      Whoops… I missed that.

      How could this be a hatch if the engine is rear-mounted? You could… but the trunk space is limited because you’ve got that rear deck over the engine compartment, and the rear seats limit the space…. are they fold-down, perhaps?

      What’s on the sides of the driver, is it just open space?

  5. n8n says:

    As in 5GT front is cute and back ugly, this model is completly different – front is ugly and back is quite… interesting :D

  6. bob says:

    P90056857, please. :-)

  7. Laszlo says:

    I think for this prototype they used a 3 cylinder engine which was slanted under the trunk floor. The front of the car was small and held everything else such as battery, radiator, etc. for better balance. I think it is VERY MUCH a prototype and nothing else. Form has to follow function in a small car segment.
    If you go to luxury then you can do it reverse. Example is the Infiniti FX (the original) Awesome looking SAV or whatever but they forgot to include a trunk. Huge vehicle and the trunk is about half the size of a 3 series coupe ! Pointless and useless vehicle but the original X5 wasn’t much better, its trunk was less then the 3 series wagon yet the footprint of a car was much much bigger. The 2nd gen X5 corrected this huge mistake (imho) and indeed a better all around TRUCK.

  8. viper says:

    what a groundbreaking design!

  9. viper says:

    What, a groundbreaking design?

  10. X5SoB says:

    A nice design with one minor flaw- too much windshield. It needs to be chopped, with the roof angled down to meet it, that would address the ungainly proportions and make it look much sportier, without impeding headroom. This is the kind of car that BMW should build with the Mini’s FWD drivetrain, with the engine in back driving the rear wheels, as God intended.

  11. ROHIT says:


  12. Garfield.13 says:

    I eventually SAT in this prototype (the blue one) at Geneva Motor Show, it was in 93.
    And the good answer about the engine is: a four cylinder straight from a BMW K100 motorbike ;-)
    (remember this 4-in-line is lying flat: head at the left, crankcase at the right)
    The press release also told the Z13 was fitted with an (unknown…) automatic drive; I remember the shifter was a rotary knob on the dasbord, with the usual P-R-N-D symbols.
    At the same motor show, the fabulous F1 was displayed at Mac Laren’s.
    i also took the chance to sit behind the wheel :D, but accessing the driver’s seat in the BMW was much easyer.
    Still don’t understand why any manufacturer didn’t give a chance to this 3 seater design; the Smart should have been smarter with seats for mum and two kids…
    A Z13 fitted with a K1 (motorbike…) tuned engine and sequential gear box would have been a GREAT fun to drive, thanks to the mid engine, large trails and short wheel base!!!

  13. Rob says:

    It is interesting to see that the Z13 is back in the press!. I conceived and designed the Z13 while I worked for BMW Technic in the 90’s. The red car had a more conventional 5 speed gearbox and was even greater fun to drive. The central driving position was excellent and, as ‘garfield’ said, easily reached, as we moved the sill ‘in’ and the doors where extended into the roof.

  14. Carmaker1 says:

    This wasn’t developed in 1993, but started in July 1990 and approved by Reitzle in May 1992.

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