Lot Number

1990 BMW Z1

Sold For £78,400

Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.

RM | Sotheby's - LONDON 7 SEPTEMBER 2016

Chassis No.
  • Less than 250 original kilometres
  • European-specification model delivered new to Sweden
  • Complete with books, tools, and keys

171 bhp, 2,494 cc SOHC six-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with single-pivot struts and anti-roll bar; independent rear suspension with single longitudinal arm, double transverse arm, separate springs and telescopic dampers, and anti-roll bar; and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Wheelbase: 2,450 mm

The Z1 was the first product to be developed by BMW Technik GmbH, following a decision to build a two-seat sports roadster, handed down by upper management in early 1985. It was considered an effort to revitalize the company image as well as to demonstrate that BMW was a leader in innovation. Beyond that, the details were left for the design engineers to determine as they saw fit. BMW hired Harm Lagaay from Ford of Europe as design chief to work alongside Ulrich Bez, head of the new division.

Within one year, a fully operational prototype was developed. Much of the componentry came from the BMW’s 3-Series, including its engine, drivetrain, front suspension, and interior. A front-engine design was chosen with the engine set far towards the centre of the car. This made possible a near optimal weight distribution of 51/49 rear, providing the car with excellent handling characteristics. The rear suspension foreshadowed the multi-link design that was to appear on the next-generation 3-Series. Drawing on its Formula 1 racing experience, engineers designed a novel ground-effect system into the Z1, while the headlamps included the latest technology designed for the forthcoming 7-Series.

The body was fitted with unique electromechanical doors that dropped into the sills for easy entrance and exit by simply touching a button. The entire steel inner structure was coated with zinc to resist corrosion, and the base unit construction was covered with demountable injection-moulded thermoplastic body panels that were also capable of resisting impacts of 5 mph. Furthermore, the panels were lauded for being recyclable. Available in four colours, BMW also suggested to owners that the panels were easily interchangeable should the owner desire to change colours of his or her car! Alloy wheels, unique to the Z1, were also fitted.

The production model was introduced at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show with the intention of building 5,000 units on a special production line in its Munich facility. Production began slowly in 1988 with only 58 cars built that year; customer deliveries did not begin until March 1989. Due to the demand for the Z1 as well as other BMW models, BMW increased the numbers built but curtailed production due to the demand for its more profitable models. In the end, 8,000 Z1s (plus 12 pre-production units) had been built before production ceased in the summer of 1991.

Due to their low production and limited availability, Z1s have become instantly collectable. This example in red over a black leather interior is essentially a new car, with delivery mileage of just 216 kilometres from new. A European-specification model, it was delivered new to Sweden, where it remained unregistered in a private collection until it was imported into the United Kingdom in 2013. It has most recently received a major service, including new spark plugs, timing belt, and battery, as well as new air and oil filters and an anti-freeze and brake fluid flush. Practically factory fresh, the Z1 also includes its original books, boot-mounted tool set, and spare keys.

An exceptional example of a rare and fascinating modern BMW, this wonderful car would be a centrepiece of any collection of the Ultimate Driving Machine.

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