Cool Cars: BMW Z1

Vorsprung durch ‘BMW Technik’

When BMW launched its ‘Technik’ – ‘Technology’ – division in 1985, the company may not have had a full idea of just how effective it would prove to be in developing not just new parts for use in current and future cars, but the cars themselves.

The first director at the new division was none other than current Aston Martin chief, Dr Ulrich Bez. Staffed by an incredibly talented team, the department’s output began attracting global attention almost immediately.

The most eye-catching feature of the left-hand-drive-only Z1 is the classic ‘disappearing doors’. Forget the novel doors on the Koenigsegg, or the often-replicated Lamborghini-style winged effect, the doors on the Z1 are two of a kind. Due to the plastic-based body parts, the engineers were able to make the doors slide down into the sills, just as side windows would normally slide into the doors.

Trend-setters everywhere could not get enough of this new technology, and shortly after its debut at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show, BMW already had some 5,000 deposits on the books. There was, at one time, speculation of more than 30,000 orders in the pipeline, but demand was not quite that strong and just 8,000 examples were built.

The roadster was not legal in the US at the time of launch, though it is now possible to run one there, provided of course that you jump through certain legislative hoops and persuade the authorities of its historical significance.

At the time of production Z1s sold for just over £39,000, and one was sold back in 2004 at Bonham’s Olympia for around £20,000. In today’s car market they are something of an investment. A clean second-hand example will still set you back about £15,000, but the exceptional examples are selling well north of £25,000. Other than perhaps the M1 supercar, few other post-1950 BMWs can lay claim to such bullet-proof residuals. Anyone who loves the Z1 can understand exactly why this is.

For: Those doors, and sheer exclusivity

Against: It’s made of plastic

Coolness: 80%

Agree? Disagree? Leave a response in the comments.

Next in the series: the Ferrari 275 GTS…

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