Classic Cars Back to Classic Cars
( 1991 )
Mme Curiestraat 8
2171 TW Sassenheim
At the start of 1985, BMW set up a division called BMW Technik GmbH to develop concepts for new vehicles and technologies. In August 1985, the BMW board gave approval to further develop the BMW Technik’s first concept vehicle, the Z1, with the Z standing for Zukunft. The A year later, the first road-going prototype was produced and BMW publicly revealed the project. A coupe model was also the subject of a design study, but it never did reach production.
In early 1987, BMW announced that the Z1 would enter production and in September 1987, the production form of the Z1 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Production later began in October 1988. The original price target was DM 80,000, however by the time production began, this base price had increased to DM 83,000.
The most famous feature of the car, the doors, are unique in that they retract vertically, instead of traditional designs which swing outward or upward. The body with its high sills, offers crash protection independent of the doors. This makes it possible for the Z1 to be driven with the doors lowered, for the ultimate roadster experience. The windows may be operated independently of the doors, although they do retract automatically if the door is lowered. Both the window and door are driven by electric motors through toothed rubber belts and may be moved manually in an emergency.
In addition to the unique door design, the Z1 body featured several other innovations: removable plastic body panels, a flat undertray, a roll-hoop integrated into the windscreen surround and continuously zinc welded seams. The side panels and doors are made of GE's Xenoy thermoplastic. The bonnet, boot, and roof cover are GRP components made by Seger + Hoffman AG. The car is painted in a special flexible lacquer finish developed jointly by AKZO Coatings and BMW Technik GmbH. During the Z1s launch, BMW suggested that owners purchase an additional set of body panels and change the color of the car from time to time. The car could actually be driven with all of the panels completely removed, similar to the Pontiac Fiero. BMW noted that the body could be completely replaced in 40 minutes, although most Z1 owners report that this is way too optimistic.
During its design aerodynamics were a big focus of the vehicle. The flat plastic undertray is used for ground effect aerodynamics and the rear bumper - in conjunction with the aerodynamically shaped muffler - forms a diffuser to reduce rear lift. The front end reportedly induces a high-pressure zone just forward of the front wheels to increase front-wheel traction.
The rear suspension, called the Z Axle, was specially designed for the Z1. It was one of the first BMWs to feature a multi-link design. In the 1990s, the Z Axle would be used on a variety of BMW Group vehicles, including the E36 3 Series and the R40 Rover 75. Front suspension is as per the E30 325i. Wheels, similar to the E30 325i, are 15-inch-diameter (380 mm) by 7-inch-wide (180 mm) wheels on both the front and rear, equipped with 205/55VR-15 tires.
The sole drivetrain configuration is a 2.5 Litre M20 straight-six engine and five-speed Getrag 260/5 manual transmission, sourced from the E30 325i. The engine is a 2,494 cc SOHC straight-six engine, which was capable of producing 168 hp at 5,800 rpm. The engine sits tilted 20 degrees to the right, to accommodate the low hoodline.
The car shown here is a beautiful example of a Z1, in striking Toprot exterior, with grey Nubuck and “camouflage” multi-color leather. This car was delivered new in The Netherlands in 1991 by BMW Den Haag. The car was properly enjoyed throughout its lifetime and it was always serviced and maintained by BMW dealers and specialists.