The same year Ferrari introduced the F40 at the 1987 German International Motor Show, BMW turned heads with the unveiling of its most daring production car: Zukunft 1.
A few years earlier, the newly established BMW Technik GmbH, who developed the Z1 as their first concept car, came up with some radical innovations, such as its vertical retracting doors, replaceable thermoplastic panels and internal spoilers. With its stunning two-seater roadster look, BMW Technik paved the future of innovation, one that remains visible 30 years later. While the Z1 has turned classic, its looks remain surprisingly modern. Revealing its age to passerby’s is guaranteed too be accompanied by raised eyebrows and expressions of surprise, especially when the doors seems to vanish into the body - a feature still unique in the car world today.
Looking at a Z1 today, most people hardly realize they are looking at a car that started assembly almost 3 decades ago. BMW halted production of the Z1 in 1991, after 8,000 models had left production, but it signaled the start of a new fun segment, and formed the basis for the Z3, Z4 and Z8 series.
The avant-garde aproach of the design team led to some seemingly odd choices, such as the lack of spoilers and wings that were so aparent in other sports cars. Here another design marvel of BMW Technik became apparent, as they were able to achieve outstanding aerodynamics. The 62 degree windshield, combined with the low hood of the roadster allowed for air to smoothly flow over the top. Meanwhile, the underbody formed an almost continuous flat surface and directed the airflow toward an inner rear wing positioned at the bottom instead of the top.
Yet, those who have driven a Z1 will certainly acknowledge that this is not car with racing eagerness. You certainly will not impress with the 0-60 in 7.6 seconds at any red light, having a hard time leaving a 1994 Cadillac DeVille Concours behind you. It didn’t come with airconditioning, as the car’s dashboard was too small to fit both a heater and cooler. And with 154.4 inches in length, don’t expect ample space to put your luggage larger than small duffel bag. No: the Z1 will disappoint any driver seeking trills, speed or added comfort.
But, despite these shortcomings, the Z1 has one mayor advantage that is hard to find in any other car: the sheer smile you get from driving it topless, doors down. No other car comes close in its Freude am Fahren back-to-basics. Its front-engine design, purposely positioned backwards to maintain its curved looks, allows for an almost perfect weight distribution of 51/49 rear, providing the 2,755.8 lb roadster with superb handling characteristics that can be compared to driving at a karting circuit, as the car sticks to corners as if it was on slicks.