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1991 BMW Z1


This post is in our archives. Links in this post have been updated to point to similar cars available to bid on eBay.

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. 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! They never made it to U.S. shores and only around 8,000 examples were ever produced, but surprise! They’re 25 years old now….


Year: 1991
Model: Z1
Engine: 2.5 liter inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Mileage: 29,800 mi
Price: Reserve Auction

The BMW Z1 is a two-seat roadster automobile developed by BMW. It was produced from March 1989 to June 1991. The Z1 featured doors which dropped down into the door sills. A total of 8,000 cars were produced. All the Z1s were left-hand drive.
The first example of the Z1 was released by BMW to the press in 1986 and later officially presented at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show. Initial demand was so fierce that BMW had 5,000 orders before production began. However, demand dropped significantly around 1988 and BMW ended production in 1991. There is speculation that the drop in demand was due to the early inflated demand from speculative investors. In 1988, however, BMW was quoted as saying that they had 35,000 orders for the Z1.

The chassis was specially designed for the Z1 and features a number of innovative features: removable body panels, continuously zinc welded seams, a composite undertray, and the unusual dropped doors. Parts of the car (including the engine, gearbox, and front suspension) were borrowed from the BMW E30 325i and 325Ix, but the Z1 remains largely original.

The body was made from plastic and could be removed completely from the chassis. The side panels and doors are made of General Electric’s XENOY thermoplastic. The hood, trunk, 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.

The doors retract vertically down into the car’s body instead of swinging outward or upward. The Kaiser Darrin was the first car to have retractable doors; they slid forward into the front fenders. The inspiration for these doors came from more traditional roadsters which often feature removable metal or cloth doors. Because removable doors did not fit within BMW’s design goals, the retractable doors were installed instead.

The body with its high sills, offers crash protection independent of the doors, the vehicle may be legally and safely driven with the doors up or down, although this is not legal in the U.S.

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.

This particular example has less than 30.000 miles. It has spent its entire life in dry south america.

I know there are parts of South America that are dry – very dry – but I have to admit that the first thought I have of everything south of Belize is pretty wet. Not that it matters much, since the plastic construction of the body precludes any rust. There isn’t much actual history of this example given in the ad copy which is primarily borrowed from Wikipedia, but condition wise the car appears to be in line with its quite low mileage. Perhaps the oddest E30 derivative, a Z1 would certainly make a serious splash at the local Munich Lovers Anonymous meeting – but the requisite would be you turning up with the doors down. Pricing on Z1s has remained relatively tame considering the limited production and cult-status; this one still has a reserve on at $26,000. Considering that there are a fair amount for sale in Europe between $30,000 and $40,000, I wouldn’t expect it to go much higher than that but the wow factor and that it’s one of a handful at most located in the U.S. could drive bids higher.


One Comment

  1. John
    John March 17, 2016

    High bid of $48,699.99, but the listing doesn’t say that it was sold?

Comments are closed.