Classified Hero: 1989 BMW Z1

There are lots of interesting things about the Z1, those special doors among them. Only 8000 were built between 1989 and 1991; here’s your chance to buy one

The BMW Z1 is often forgotten about, as it was a bit of an oddity of its day. However, it did lay the foundations for Z sports cars to come. Packed full of quirky details, these futuristic convertibles are not only interesting but also appreciating assets.

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In 1985, BMW created the Technik division to explore new technologies and future car design. Its first project was a two-seat sports car dubbed Zunkuft 1 – or Future 1 in English. The wedge-shaped design retained hints of the defunct M1 supercar while also etching a recognisable silhouette of its own. Its long bonnet and short rear made it a classic sports car in terms of proportion, but in every other aspect the Z1 was unconventional.

The body was made out of thermoplastic, with the panels being easily removed and replaced if the Z1 experienced a prang. BMW went as far as to suggest that owners could completely change the colour of their car in just 40 minutes, thanks to the detachable bodywork. However, the car’s design wasn’t only about the looks; a flat undertray worked in tandem with the rear bumper to form a diffuser and thus reduce lift.

Then there are those show-stopping doors. Thanks to dropping down into the sill, they proved to be a practical means of getting in and out of the car in tight spaces – although the high sill sometimes made it difficult to exit with any elegance. And yes, in case you were curious, it is possible to drive with the doors retracted…

The 2.5-litre straight-six borrowed from the 325i is mounted at a 20-degree slant in order to fit under the Z1’s sloping bonnet. Its 168bhp and 164lb ft of torque took a surprisingly sedate nine seconds to propel the sports car from 0-60mph, meaning that – just like the future – the BMW took a long time to arrive.

Only 8000 of these little cars were produced between 1989 and 1991, making them a rare sight today – especially those with red upholstery, as just 38 were made. All BMW Z1s are left-hand drive, with the majority being sold to the German domestic market.

Today’s Classified Hero is one such model, and is currently residing with Target Cars. €59,500 or about £53k will get you this relatively low-mileage example finished in red. It was presumably bought by a speculator initially, as it was built in 1989 but not registered until 1994, in the Netherlands. There’s 26,896km on the clock and it appears in great condition for its age. It’s the perfect opportunity to go back to the future.

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