Now that the BMW Z4 is here and has been driven by our own Editor-in-Chief, Horatiu, we know that it’s a very fun car to drive. In fact, the cars he said the new Z4 reminded him of were his own 1 Series M and the M2 Competition. That’s some pretty fine company. So we know that, despite its controversial looks, the new Z4 is a worthy entry to BMW’s line of ‘Z’ roadsters. However, it’s always good to read the origin story. So Top Gear recently test drove the original BMW Z1.

The BMW Z1 was the first Bavarian to ever get the ‘Z’ name and it was its first roadster since the 507, all the way back in the ’50s. Though, it wasn’t really ever intended to spearhead BMW’s roadster line, as it was really just a bit of a design and engineering exercise.

It debuted back in 1989 and was quite revolutionary at the time. It had a chassis was a steel monocoque, with bonded plastics in certain areas. That resulted in a very strong, very stiff chassis that allowed BMW to make a convertible out of it without having even if a bit of cowl or body shake with the roof down. But because the sill of the car was very deep and tall, BMW decided to fit doors that actually slid down into the chassis, rather than open outward.

Those doors are really the main talking points of the Z1. Not only do they slide down but the windows slide down into the doors and they do it all in one, smooth, electrically-operated motion. So it’s very slick and very cool. Unlike anything else on the road, before or since. And yes, you can drive the BMW Z1 with the doors and roof down.

So what’s it actually like to drive? According to TG, it’s pretty fantastic and we’re reminded of why BMWs from that era are so revered. “Any road, any speed, it’s a delight to aim the Z1. The steering is a highlight: one of the last before the oddball early Servotronic arrived. Narrowish 225/45 16 tyres and light nose weight anyway, mean it’s you, not the assistance, doing most of the work. The rack is fairly indirect so you have to flail your arms, but the precision and feel are just sweet as.” said TG.

It also seems to be a riot to drive with the doors and top down, giving you the most open-air experience you can get outside of a Caterham or Ariel Atom. That is, as long as you drive under 50 mph, after which the wind becomes too great to make the drive enjoyable.

If you want a BMW Z1, you’re going to have to spend quite a bit of money now. With its production being limited way back when, and the novelty of its design and doors, the BMW Z1 is quite rare and quite expensive. However, if you can afford it — do it.

[Source: Top Gear]