BMW Z1 – The origin of the modern-day BMW roadster family

The 1989-1991 BMW Z1 is the origin of the modern-day BMW small-roadster family that includes the Z3 and Z4 models. This particular model belongs to BMW Classic in Munich and was recently brought out to the international media launch of the new Z4 Roadster.

The very same car attended an excited drive two years ago, in the Land of Dracula (Transilvania, Romania) where we managed to capture it in all its beauty. Now, it was time for the Z1 Roadster in Swimming Pool Blue to accompany us in Sintra, Portugal for another photoshoot.

The first of the “Z” labeled roadsters – the Z1 – was a fascinating car for its time. The public saw the BMW Z1 in 1987, at the Frankfurt Motor Show and blew everyone away with its combination of stylish good looks, removable plastic body panels and slide-down doors.

With so many customers desperately eager to be among the first to order a Z1, a German motoring magazine decided to try its luck at buying the Reed Green exhibit straight off the stand. But despite being offered DM 150,000 in cash, the BMW team stayed firm: it was simply not possible, as the Z1 was one of just ten test vehicles, all of which were still urgently required.

Speeding up the development process had been a pilot task for this project, and after a development time of just three years a limited number of the 170 hp front mid-engined sports car would go into small-scale production from June 1988.

The four paint finishes for the Z1 were bearing the highly descriptive names of nature Green metallic, Dream Black metallic, Fun Yellow and Top Red.

25 years of the BMW Z1

With a bespoke chassis, plastic body panels and the same 2.5 liter I6 engine and 5-speed manual gearbox from the E30 325i, the BMW Z1 was extremely light and fun to drive.  The Z1 had a top speed of 225 km/h (140 mph) and could dart to 100 km/h (62 mph) from stationary in just under eight seconds.

It also had a bespoke multi-link “Z-Axle” rear suspension. But it’s real party trick was its slide-down door design. Instead of opening outward, like every other automotive door, whether it be out or up, the BMW Z1’s doors slid down into the body of the car, allowing passengers to step over and into it. This allowed for top-down, door-down driving.

After a run of 8,000 BMW Z1 models, production came to an end in June 1991, and it paved the road for some great BMW roadsters.

Download below your favorite Z1 images:

























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