Perhaps one of the most obscure BMW’s, and for that matter, cars, ever produced, the BMW Z1 was a strangle little attempt by the company to make a roadster in the late 1980’s, but is now remembered as one of BMW’s weakest creations.

The history of the Z1 goes back to 1985, where the company intended to enter the new and lucrative market for open top sports cars and roadsters. While the chemistry for making a 2+2 roadster is simple enough, BMW wanted to take things a step further by making it technically endearing and obscure in every way. The car was built onto the E30 platform shared with the BMW 3-Series, and the engine comprised of a 2.5L BMW M20B25 Inline-6 powerplant.

The most amazing part of this car was its doors, which, unlike other cars which either
open sideways or upwards, but instead retracted downwards into the lower body! This meant that no parking space was too confinded, and you could even have fun with your car and literally have the doors open whilst driving along. Not that you’d want to though, seeing as with the doors open the car does get very draughty. Another note is that the car was meant to give off an image for female drivers, but with doors like that female drivers didn’t find it particularly practical, especially when wearing a short skirt, resulting in a somewhat revealing entrance and exit from the car!

Harm Lagaay coined the design in 1986 and the car was launched in 1987 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The car was lauded for its innovation and strange design. BMW were so backed up with orders, 5,000 to be exact, that the first cars weren’t ready for sale for another two years, that being in March 1989. Prices started at 83,000 Deutsche Marks. and the initial 5,000 orders were met during the first year of production. Sadly the delay in building the car, coupled with it being somewhat underpowered and very odd in design, meant that interest was lost and eventually only 8,000 of these cars were built when production ended in June 1991.

Today these cars are exceptionally rare, being difficult beasts to find. Many BMW fans I know don’t look favourably on the Z1, largely for its strangeness and comparatively rushed production to meet demand. The Z1 did however get BMW thinking, and even before the Z1 had finished production in 1991, plans were being drawn up for a revised version of the BMW roadster known as the Z3, which promptly took the world by storm upon its launch in September 1995.