BMW Z1: Spotted

It's an odd one, the Z1. With just 8,000 examples built and only around 1,500 of those sold outside Germany, it's comparatively rare. It was also forward-thinking, futuristic - the 'Z' literally standing for 'zukunft' or 'future' - and quirky, marking the first model in a lineage which has since spawned the Z3, Z4 and Z8. Finally, it's an iconic BMW, an iconic two-seat BMW sports car to be precise, which by any measure should make it a very valuable thing in today's market.

Take, for example, the Z8. A car that was hardly the final word in dynamic ability or sporting prowess - despite its E39 M5 powertrain - and yet which now sells for around Β£200,000. To see today's Spotted, an apparently mint condition Z1 with just 16,000 miles on the clock, up for 'just' Β£45,000 seems rather good value.

But no. Back when we last featured a Z1, almost seven years ago, the asking price was nearly half that sum, at Β£25,000. Still, several commenters stated that they'd rather spend the money on a decent 993 - imagine having the option! - while others stated that Β£25k was simply too much to ask for what essentially amounted to some fancy doors.

Those doors were, of course, the car's party trick. There remain few better ways to identify yourself as nonchalantly debonair than to be seen effortlessly cruising the city with them lowered, while new money tryhards in their wrapped Huracans and GTRs blast by. I say cruising the city because the weight of the gubbins required to make them drop electrically into the body, rather than just swing open like a lesser man's doors might, bestowed the Z1 with a hefty-for-the-time 1,250kg kerb weight.

This in a car which had a body made almost entirely of plastic - in fact, at launch, BMW pitched the idea that owners might purchase additional sets of body panels in order to change their car's colour when the mood took them. Combined with the lack of oomph offered up by the 170hp 2.5-litre straight-six borrowed from the E30 325i, this sold the Z1 somewhat short when it came to actual performance. Zero to sixty, for example, took over nine seconds.

It could have been so much more, though. It was one of the first BMWs to use multi-link suspension, it featured a flat undertray with ground-effect-inducing properties and those removable plastic panels were genuinely innovative. Luckily, despite it's underwhelming reception, BMW didn't abandon the two-seater concept, going on to produce several very good (and a few less so) successors to the legacy.

That's the enigma of the Z1, then. Is it worth Β£45,000 as a driving machine alone? No. But in today's market what classic car of any significance is measured purely on its mechanical qualities? Is it worth Β£45,000 as a rare curio, one which would hold its own in any private collection and could still turn heads on a public road today? Absolutely, and likely even more. The Z1 may have struggled to sell outside of Germany in its day, but with values of so many of yesteryear's cars climbing inexorably upwards, based more on what they represent now than what they achieved then, it surely still has plenty further to travel yet...

2,494cc, straight six
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 170
Torque (lb ft): 164
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1989
Recorded mileage: 16,000
Price new: Β£36,925
Yours for: Β£45,000

See the full ad here.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • petemurphy 18 Oct 2018

    fabulous car

  • blearyeyedboy 18 Oct 2018

    Time has been kind to the Z1.

    Its lack of popularity in the UK was surely just a consequence of being Left Hand Drive only. I'm sure RHD models would have sold like hot cakes.

    I wonder if now is a good time to buy a Fiat Barchetta, for similar reasons?

  • g3org3y 18 Oct 2018

    Lovely stuff, quirky but very elegant and clean design cool

  • helix402 18 Oct 2018

    The Z1 also introduced the Z axle independent rear suspension layout. Which may be in a Z shape hence then name.

  • MikeyC 18 Oct 2018

    helix402 said:
    The Z1 also introduced the Z axle independent rear suspension layout. Which may be in a Z shape hence then name.
    Maybe, but according to Wikipedia:
    Wikipedia said:
    The "Z" in Z1 originally stood for Zukunft, the German word for future.
    I'm guessing they changed it for the later 'Z' models maybe ?

    Lovely car tho' cool

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