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History of the 1989-1991 BMW Z1
In the late 1980s, several automakers were playing with the notion of a modern take on the small, lightweight roadster. While Mazda had a huge hit with its MX-5 Miata starting in 1989, few recall that BMW actually introduced one first. Unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show, the Z1 Roadster was available for order in 1988 for delivery in 1989.
The Z1 was certainly ahead of its time in some ways, including the easily replaceable body panels (later adopted by Smart) as well as the composite body and floorpan elements such as those found in the BMW i8 hybrid supercar. Other design elements like those unforgettable doors that dropped down into the sills hark back to the disappearing clamshell tailgates on mid-60s GM station wagons and the sliding pocket doors on the Kaiser-Darrin sports car of the 1950s.
The drivetrain in the Z1 started with a conventional 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder SOHC engine, producing 168 horsepower and 161 pound-feet of torque. This was mated to a 5-speed manual transmission in a traditional front-engine, rear-drive configuration. The drivetrain was borrowed from the then-current 325i.
With the large iron-block engine at the front, the curb weight of the Z1 was a relatively hefty (especially for a small roadster) 3,220 pounds. This contributed to the car’s somewhat lackluster 0-60 time of 9.0 seconds. Top speed was claimed at 137 mph.
Just 8,000 examples of the BMW Z1 were produced between 1989 and 1991. About 75% of production was sold in Germany, with the remainder sold elsewhere in Europe. The Z1 was never formally imported to North America. Initial purchase price was the equivalent of just under $55,000, which was a lot for a fairly slow six-cylinder car, no matter how neat it looked. BMW made up for that, however, with the 1995 introduction of the far more conventional and successful Z3 Roadster.
1989 BMW Z1 Info
6-cyl. 2494cc/170hp FI
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