We all remember the Z1 as the quirky roadster with plastic body panels and vertically sliding doors, but here’s an interesting fact about the low-volume original Z car you probably didn’t know. In an interview with YouTuber Four Eyes, Dodge Viper Chief Engineer Roy Sjoberg revealed the first two generations of the V10 supercar used a headlight design rejected by BMW.
The story goes BMW contacted General Electric to build the headlights at GE’s expense but pulled out of the deal. That left GE stuck with the tooling and headlight design. The development team working on the Viper got in touch with GE and apparently received the whole headlight system for free. Roy Sjoberg mentions it would’ve normally cost $2,500,000 plus $1,000,000 for development. Dodge used the headlight for the first two generations of the Viper, sold between 1991 and 2002.
The tidbits don’t end here as the headlights rejected by BMW and repurposed by Dodge had the closest cars have ever gotten to using blinker fluid. Both Gen 1 and Gen 2 Vipers had a bubble level built into the headlights. It was there to properly align the headlights while the vehicle was being assembled at the factory.
It would’ve cost Dodge $1.50 to remove the bubble level from each headlight to create a cleaner design, but Roy Sjoberg decided to cut costs and just keep it there. By sourcing a headlight that was originally intended to be used by BMW for the Z1, it meant the Viper’s hood and the front bumper had to be designed to blend with the headlight assembly.
BMW ultimately went with a more squared-off shape for the Z3’s precursor. Only 8,000 Z1 roadsters were ever made, all of which had a naturally aspirated inline-six and a five-speed manual sourced from the E30 325i. It had an innovative multi-link rear suspension, removable body panels, and a plastic flat floor that was partly bolted and partly glued on. Some 66 cars were converted by ALPINA into the Roadster Limited Edition (RLE) while BMW M even engineered a Z1 M, but it never made it to production.
Source: Four Eyes / YouTube