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1989 BMW Z1

BMW took a big leap at the end of the 1980s and introduced some pretty extreme design language. First was the E31 8-series, a seeming quantum leap from the outgoing 6-series. That chassis pioneered, for better or worse, a tremendous amount of technical and electronic innovation for BMW. The 8s relied on a bevy of computers to control its chassis, electronic suite and engine. Side by side with the more famous Grand Tourer though was a diminutive roadster BMW produced based heavily on the E30 chassis. Instead of a heavy reliance on computer technology, the futuristic (hence Z for the German word for future – Zukunft) plastic bodied Z1 looked like a supercar even if it didn’t go like one. Park one next to a E30 convertible and you’d never know the two are related!

The Z1 was a complete departure for BMW; while they were not strangers to small cabriolets, their previous efforts were in the 1930s with the 315/1 and the 1960s with the 700. BMW went away from the idea of an integral body and frame to a separate chassis with removable, plastic body pieces. The idea was that the owners could replace the panels themselves to “repaint” the car with minimal effort. It was something the Smart car would be notable for – a car that launched a decade following the Z1. To get the paint to adhere to the bodywork, BMW had to partner with AZKO coatings to develop a flexible paint which they termed ‘Varioflex’, while the bodywork had to be attached using a unique elastic joint technique. The doors didn’t open out – the slid down into the supporting chassis structure. The underbody was flat, not only for aerodynamics, but the tray turned into a diffuser towards the back, assisting in sticking the rear to the ground as speeds rose. In front was nothing new – the venerable M20 from the E30 popped up here, too – but in the rear the Z1 was new with a multi-link rear axle of its own. This new design would later be incorporated into the E36. It’s interesting that with the Z3 BMW opted to go the opposite route and incorporate earlier E30 pieces into the rear of the /7 and /8. While performance was relatively leisurely, the Z1 nevertheless garnered praise for its innovation, unique design and great looks. They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but a few have crossed the Atlantic now that they’re old enough to be more easily imported:


Year: 1989
Model: Z1
VIN: WBABA91080AL00501
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 66,443 km (41,285 mi)
Price: $65,900 Buy It Now

The BMW Z1 is the first model in BMW’s line of Z series roadsters (two-seater convertibles ), and was produced in limited numbers from 1989 to 1991. The Z1 is unique for its plastic body panels and vertically sliding doors which drop into the door sills. It is one of the first BMWs to use a multi-link rear suspension. The sole drive train specification is the 2.5-litre straight-six engine and 5-speed manual transmission from the E30 325i. This car is offered AS/IS, with no written or implied warranties or guarantees. Buyer will be responsible for for a dealer document fee of $350, and all applicable taxes, tag, and titling fees. Please contact us with any questions.

The color here is 257 Toprot with 0300 Gray suede interior and came with Style 11s. There weren’t too many options on these cars outside of color combinations, so what you see if effectively what you get. Little is offered in terms of history of this car and we don’t get to see under the hood, but mileage is fairly low and condition appears to be generally good. The asking price probably seems quite optimistic at first; however, a very low mileage Z1 sold last year at nearly $80,000 . It’s not indicated here if the factory hardtop is included with this example and it’s less well documented with much higher mileage, so the value shouldn’t be as high. The ask here is about $25,000 less than the last two examples I checked out, but it’s still a stiff entry price and it’s no surprise that it’s been for sale for quite a while. With BMW mania continuing it seems unlikely the asking prices on this ground-breaking convertibles will come down much soon as dealers seem willing to sit on these cars until just the right person comes along.


One Comment

  1. David
    David May 15, 2019

    This dealer seems pretty scammy. On their website, it says the $65,900 price include the $225 “dealer closing fee”, whereas on the ebay ad, it says there needs to be paid an additional $350 “dealer document fee”. Anyone who pays a dealer hundreds of dollars to sign some papers is nuts.

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