BMW Z-1: A Car That Never Made It To The USA

Another interesting car that I saw at the 2015 Baden Classic rally in Germany was a BMW Z1, which I have never seen before. These cars were built by BMW, primarily for the European market, between 1987 and 1991.  This car certainly caught me by surprise when I saw it.  Those doors are very unique.  I never saw the doors being opened or closed, so I am not sure how they are operated.


The Standout Feature Of This Car Is The Door Design

BMW only produced 8,000 Z1 models. The majority of these (6,443) were sold in Germany market.  The reason you do not see these cars in the USA is that no Z1 models were initially sold in North America, but maybe some have been imported privately since these cars were first marketed.

BMW-Z1 bmwblog

The BMW Z1 Is A Rather Small Car (BMW Blog)

The engine and the five-speed manual transmission in the BMW Z1 came from the BMW 325i.  To fit in the BMW Z1 the 168 horsepower 2.5 litre 12-valve overhead camshaft straight-six engine sits tilted 20 degrees to the right to accommodate the low hoodline.


Notice How The Doors Disappear Into The Door Sill

The dash looks a little strange to me, but I suppose that this is a matter of individual taste. The body of the Z1 was made from plastic and could be removed completely from the chassis.  BMW used a special flexible paint that would not crack due to flexing of the plastic body.


This BMW Z1 Took Part In The 2015 Baden Classic Rally

When new, the BMW Z1 sold new for between €42,000 and €45,500, so it was not cheap.  It also was not successful.  BMW did a much better job with a two-seat sports car with the Z3, Z4, and Z8.

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6 Responses to BMW Z-1: A Car That Never Made It To The USA

  1. John Mattern says:

    You can see another one of these up close, along with many other interesting things, at the BMW Zentrum in Greer SC. It is attached to the BMW production facility, which is also great to tour.

  2. Jay Nemeth-Johannes says:

    They did a restoration on one of these on the show Wheeler Dealers. One of the items they worked on was the doors/windows, so there is a segment showing them operate. You can see the episode here:

    • Thanks Jay, I look forward to watching this. I want to see how the doors work.
      Steve McKelvie

    • Jay Nemeth-Johannes says:

      I apologize. Wheeler Dealers used to have full episodes on youtube, and I just clicked on the link. If you find the whole episode, they do have a segment on repairing the doors.
      The video here: is of a Z1 in Colorado that I actually saw and touched. So there are some that have snuck in.

      • Thanks Jay,
        I had not yet tried your earlier link. As you have mentioned the Wheeler Dealers guys, I have read that they are going to be competing in the 2016 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge! This should result is some good rally publicity. I am looking forward to their adventures during this rally.
        Steve McKelvie

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