This Alpina Z1 showed BMW where it went wrong

Rarely seen but undoubtedly a star, the Alpina Z1 roadster is what BMW should have done with its own sports car

Alpina have been successfully tinkering with BMWs since 1962, offering enhanced performance over that of factory cars. Today they are well know for their potent B5 estate based on the 5 Series and pumped up B3 3 Series, however, their work on BMW’s most radical car is sometimes forgotten. This Alpina Z1 Roadster is a little-known automotive gem.

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The Z1 was created by BMW’s then new Technik division to explore new technologies and future car design. Zunkuft 1 (Future 1 in English) was its first project and envisioned the future of the sports car. The body was made out of thermoplastic, with the panels being easily removed and replaced if the Z1 was damaged. BMW went as far as to suggest that owners should buy two complete bodies should they wish to change the colour of their car — something that could be done in 40 minutes.

Amazingly this futuristic sports car with its electrically retractable doors made production relatively unchanged from its original concept. Called the Z1, it was powered by a 168bhp 2.5-litre straight-six borrowed from the 325i. However, a 0-62mph time of nine seconds meant that, as interesting as it was, this sports car wasn’t particularly quick. Ultimately BMW sold around 8000 cars between 1989-'91.

Alpina saw potential in the Z1 and set to work rectifying its less than stellar performance. Power was bumped to 200bhp via a new 2.5-litre engine which also gave it a new 0-62mph sprint time of seven seconds. While this 142mph version of the Z1 didn’t appear much different to the standard model, the mechanical changes certainly improved the driving experience.

Up for grabs at Bonhams 2019 Scottsdale Auction is a fantastic example of the rarely seen Alpina Z1 Roadster. Said to be in ’showroom condition’ this car is number 63 of the 66 built. The red car is detailed with a gold stripe on the bodywork and a curious grey camouflage upholstery inside. Such a combination might not suit all tastes, but you can’t argue with the car’s recent Michelin Choice Award for excellence at Monterey.

This well persevered motoring oddity goes up for auction on January 17.

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