The engineers working for the think tank first established as BMW Technik GmbH created a sensation with their first development. They pooled their ideas for a completely new vehicle concept in a two-seater roadster.
During this process, they developed a type of car that had virtually been forgotten in the mid-1980s. The first project was therefore already a perfect example of the very special approach being taken by the company.
The highlights of the BMW Z1 went far beyond the body design that was received with such rapturous acclaim by the public and the 125 kW/170 hp six-cylinder in-line engine that served as the power unit.
Development of this open sports car started in the second half of 1985, and ultimately this car was planned as a pilot project for innovative vehicle structures, the manufacture and application of new materials, and the optimisation of development processes.
The structure of the BMW Z1 comprises a monocoque-type steel chassis with a bonded plastic floor.
The car’s bodywork is made of special elastic plastics that are not sensitive to damage. New thermoplastic materials and sandwich components were used.
The comparatively high side sills provide a degree of protection for the passengers that had not previously been achieved in a roadster. The powered vertical sliding doors were the eye- catching visual highlight of the design.
Engineers developed a completely new suspension for the rear-powered wheels in order to ensure that the BMW Z1 with its top speed of 225 km/h also qualified with flying colours in the discipline of future-proof driving pleasure.
The so-called centrally spherical double wishbone system used for the rear axle formed the basis for the handling of the roadster, which resembled the performance of a go-kart.
This design was later to form one of the key factors in the agile handling experienced in the mid-range models of BMW, when it became the Z-axle in the BMW 3 Series.
The team at BMW Technik GmbH also achieved the aim of cutting down development times from a standing start.
Series production of the vehicle was launched three years after the start of the project. The BMW Z1 has achieved legendary status and was received with open arms by the highly sophisticated roadster fans.
In the period between 1988 and 1990, 8 000 vehicles were built. Even today, the BMW Z1 is a model for aficionados – even though the concept was originally not intended for series production.