When compared to other cars of its time, the BMW Z1 stood out as an exceptional vehicle. During the 1980s, BMW introduced the initial versions of the M3 and M5, establishing an impressive lineup of high-performance cars that showcased some of BMW’s finest models. However, despite leading the market in classes represented by its 3, 5, and 7 Series saloons, BMW lacked a true roadster in its collection. This gap in their offerings led to the birth of the “Z” product line, spearheaded by the introduction of the Z1.
BMW’s approach to their new roadster was both daring and innovative, as demonstrated by the distinctive vertical sliding doors that set the Z1 apart from all other convertibles of that era. With these doors, the Z1 could effortlessly transition from a sleek barchetta to a ready-for-the-beach cruiser.
The car also showcased clever engineering with its thermoplastic removable body panels, allowing for the entire body to be replaced in just 40 minutes, according to BMW’s claims. The front of the Z1 maintained a smooth profile, thanks to its pop-up headlamps, while prominently featuring the brand’s iconic “kidney” grille that instantly identified it as a BMW.
Underneath it all, the Z1 boasted a powerful 168 horsepower 2.5-litre straight-six engine and a five-speed gearbox borrowed from the E30-era 325i. This combination, coupled with the Z1’s lightweight and agile design, provided a truly exhilarating driving experience, especially with the doors lowered. In fact, BMW claimed that the Z1 could achieve cornering forces of up to 1G on standard tires, making it allegedly the first production car to achieve such a feat.