Easily one of the quirkiest cars BMW has ever made, the Z1 was a short-lived, low-volume model that continues to mesmerize even after more than three decades since production ended. A new (and rather excellent we might add) video tells the story of the first product developed by BMW Technik AG to serve as a direct successor of the stunning 507 Roadster from the late 1950s.
There was more to the Z1 than its electrically operated pop-out doors as the tiny roadster about the same size as the Mazda MX-5 Miata was built by hand. The vehicle’s frame was hot-dip galvanized in an immersion bath to boost the monocoque’s torsional resistance by 25% and greatly improve corrosion protection. In addition, the floor was bonded with the frame and partly bolted to it.
The highly elastic plastic used for the bumpers allowed them to go back to their original shape even after impacts at 2.5 mph (4 km/h). Fiber composites were used for the hood and trunk lid while the plastic panels required special paint with three different degrees of hardness. BMW sold the Z1 in Fun Yellow, Top Red, Dream Black, and Nature Green.
It used a 2.5-liter straight-six engine with 168 horsepower and 222 Nm (164 lb-ft) borrowed from the 3 Series of the time. It also got a five-speed manual gearbox and front suspension from the same 325i E30. While that might not seem much by today’s standards, the Z1 only weighed 1,250 kilograms (2,760 pounds), with a nearly perfect 49:51 front/rear distribution. Another interesting feature was the then-new multi-link rear suspension with two transverse control arms and one longitudinal control arm.
Although it’s been reported BMW received 35,000 orders from customers, the Munich-based company ended up making only 8,000 units (all in LHD) from March 1989 until June 1991. The Z1 was originally unveiled as a concept at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show where it was presented alongside the first V12 model (750i) and the first 3 Series Touring.
Fun fact – BMW was offered by a German magazine DM 150,000 in cash for the Reed Green showcar, but BMW refused to sell it. That was one of the just 10 vehicles built at that point and the company needed it for testing purposes. The subsequent production car ended up costing DM 83,000.
When BMW celebrated the Z1’s 25th anniversary back in June 2012, there was at least one car on the road with a certified mileage of over 330,000 kilometers (205,000 miles)
Source: Big Car / YouTube