The unique Z1 E30


model history

The BMW subsidiary BMW Technik GmbH, founded in 1985, was responsible for the planning and execution of the project. Names to be mentioned here are Ulrich Bez and Harm Lagaay as a designer. Between early 1989 and mid-1991, exactly 8000 Z1s were built in a limited series.

Of course, the Z1, as it was first presented to us at the time, was born as a design idea right from the start. Rather, it was a developing process in which all sorts of curious prototypes were created, which the following example also shows which paths the BMW designers have also taken for possible future variants of the Z1, as the following pictures of a Z prototype show…

BMW Z1 E30 Protoyp / Studie
BMW Z1 E30 Protoyp / Studie


The following innovations flowed into the series product:

  • Doors that can be lowered into the side skirts using a toothed belt. This made it possible to drive with the doors open without compromising body stability.
  • Front mid-engine, which brought the weight distribution between the front and rear axles to the ideal ratio.
  • Hot-dip galvanized sheet steel chassis. By galvanizing the complete, finished chassis, a considerable increase in service life was achieved. The batch galvanizing increased the torsional rigidity by 25% compared to a chassis made of ungalvanized or pre-galvanized sheet metal.
  • Thermoplastic body parts (side panels, doors, rocker panels and bumpers) which are attached to the chassis with screws. This should reduce the hassle of repairs.
  • Flaps (front, top and tailgate) made of GRP.
  • Optimized aerodynamics thanks to a smooth underbody and a rear silencer with a wing profile. The entire floor is made of fiber-reinforced sandwich material, glued into the chassis and additionally screwed.
  • A newly designed rear axle construction, which was also adopted in the subsequent large-scale production of the E36 series.



In order to keep the costs within limits, e.g. large series parts were used for the drive technology. Despite only 125 kW (170 hp), the Z1 was well motorized, the low weight and the complex chassis enabled high cornering speeds.

There was only one model version of the Z1, the vehicles differed only in the color of the body (initially “top red”, “fungal yellow”, “primordial green”, “dream black” – later also “pure blue” and “magic violet”) and the interior (dark grey). , light grey, yellow, red).

66 vehicles were converted by Alpina and sold as Alpina RLE (Roadster Limited Edition). Differences to the production version of the Z1 were a 0.2 l larger displacement, 30 hp more and a modified chassis and exhaust system. In addition, a further eight Z1 were converted by Alpina to the RLE status at the customer’s request. These vehicles then had to be approved for road traffic through individual acceptance. This acceptance was carried out by TÜV Kaufbeuren.


Special features of the Z1

The doors can be lowered into side skirts

The construction of the 3.9 meter long BMW Z1 was ultra-modern. The body consisted of a steel monocoque with pressed and welded sheet metal parts and a glued plastic floor. The developers used plastic elements for the outer skin. These thermoplastic parts were bolted to the body. The highlight, however, were the doors: They were not opened to the side, but could be lowered into the wide side skirts.

Getting in is a bit tricky, especially with the top down!

Anyone who has ever driven a BMW Z1 will remember the slight crunch as the doors, which are moved by a toothed belt, slide down in around three seconds. But the whole thing looks so cool that the show-off factor of a Z1 door doesn’t rank too far behind gullwing doors. In addition, the recessed doors provide even more outdoor fun, you almost feel like you are in a small British roadster. However, in order to appear relaxed and casual when getting in and out, it takes a little practice. Because even with the doors lowered, it’s not easy to squeeze into the small cockpit without twisting, especially when the top is closed! There, getting in and out looks more like trying to get into pants that are much too tight!




Z1 E30 SWide view with the door closed


Z1 E30 Side view with the top closed and the door open. The “entrance hatch” of the Z1 is clearly visible here. Anyone who wants to get in there should be flexible. Considering such a vehicle as a pastime for retirement is a bad idea.


Plastic makes car bodies particularly light

In terms of driving dynamics, the BMW Z1 left many other open-air speedsters behind. This was not only due to the curb weight of 1250 kg, made possible by the light plastic body – after all, there were definitely puristic roadsters that weighed even less. The Munich-based company chose the 2.5-liter in-line six-cylinder from the 3-series as the drive, a real piece of cake with 170 horsepower and enormous refinement.




Manufacturer: BMW
Produktiontime: 19891991
Klasse: Sportscar
Bodyversionen: Roadster
Engine: Ottomotor:
2,5 Liter
(125 kW)
Large: 3921 mm
wide: 1690 mm
High: 1277 mm
Rwheeldistance: 2400 mm
weight (emptyt): 1250 kg
Modell bevor: non
Modell after :



As is typical for Rodster, the trunk of the Z1 doesn’t exist, and access is more reminiscent of a hatch, you can’t get a crate of beer in there.



Das Amaturenbrett des Z1 ist eine völlig eigenständie Kosntruktion und Design

The dashboard of the Z1 is a completely independent construction and design and was also only installed on the Z1

Sportsitze des BMW Z1 meist in Camouflage Design mit Alcantatra

Even the special sports seats, with a few exceptions, mostly in camouflage design with Alcantatra, which were only available in the BMW Z1 and were installed in most Z1s.


BMW Z1 was insanely expensive


The interior wasn’t spartan, but it wasn’t exactly luxurious either. The sports seats were specially designed for the BMW Z1, and one did not expect many shelves – the roadster was primarily intended for driving and not for travelling. From 1989 to 1991 just 8000 Z1 were built. With its price of more than 80,000 German marks, the car was also incredibly expensive

original price:


When introduced in 1988 (BMW Z1) 83,000 German marks
At the end of production in 1991 (BMW Z1) German 90,000 marks



What you should definitely pay attention to when buying a Z1:




Body check

Rust doesn’t play a role in the BMW Z1. Thanks to the plastic body and a galvanized monocoque, this roadster looks like it was built for eternity. The disadvantage: Repairs to the monocoque are time-consuming and extremely expensive. Damage to the bonded sandwich floor is also extremely difficult to repair. Accident cars are not a purchase recommendation for this reason alone. You shouldn’t be bothered by the gap dimensions in the BMW Z1. Because the individual plastic body parts can deform slightly depending on the outside temperature or sunlight.

The door mechanism of the BMW Z1, on the other hand, should work perfectly and without outside help. Otherwise, the toothed belts of the automatic lifting mechanism are probably not tight enough or are even worn out. The belts can be checked for tension and cracks behind the brushes. If it is still the first belt, it should be replaced quickly. Scratches on the outer skin of the door suggest a bad adjustment or a slightly curved sill, which is often pushed inwards by the weight of the body when getting out. The door sills have also often suffered a lot. Corresponding spare parts are available in all colors, but very expensive.

Türmechanismus BMW Z1 E30 im ausgebauten ZustrandDoor mechanism driver’s door BMW Z1 E30


BMW Z1 E30 door mechanism in installed condition with mounted door leaf


BMW Z1 E30 door mechanism in installed condition without mounted door leaf


 BMW Z1 Schlüssel

The Z1 didn’t have a radio remote control on the key. There was only a key with a small lamp


The motor toothed belt on the Z1 must be replaced every 4 years according to the maintenance plan. And the toothed belts in the doors have been working away for almost 30 years and are still not allowed to retire?

That can not be the point of the thing !!!

The lifting technology of the doors is already a “stroke of genius” – it has never been implemented like this again, and designed for a prototype, so no consideration for long-term use, especially not for such a long time…

It runs freely outdoors, so it is exposed to environmental influences such as dirt etc. relatively unprotected. Although it has a high tolerance to these factors, it should be checked and serviced at regular intervals.

We always have a vehicle with us where the doors have never been serviced. This usually shows up in the wrong way through the door, which, for example, causes cracks in the rear fenders (at the top of the lock) or has damaged the sealing strip on the A-pillar, or simply a very sluggish door operation (door at the top) with a loud “bang” when opening …we prefer not to tell what such a door mechanism can look like…

Some components of the door mechanics and electrics are no longer freely available and are no longer available from BMW Group Classic. So if a door “fails”, then the entire Z1 somehow fails…

In my opinion, anyone who risks that has not understood the Z1!

A revision of the doors and their technology should be carried out on every Z1 at least every 7 – 8 years, or earlier if the mileage is higher.

Be sure to check the top of the BMW Z1 for fit and wear. An original soft top closes perfectly and can be recognized by the BMW logo in the lower left corner of the rear window.


Technology check


Serviceheft BMW Z1


Thanks to its relationship to the E 30 and E 36, the BMW Z1 benefits from robust and durable mass-produced technology. With regular maintenance and a toothed belt change (every four years at the latest), the six-cylinder engine usually easily breaks the 200,000 kilometer mark. However, beware of rattling noises and loss of power – then the camshafts of the M20 engine have probably run in. The machine sometimes suffers from a defective cylinder head gasket as it ages.

The engine electronics and the transmission of the BMW Z1 are usually not a cause for concern. Before you buy, you should of course take a look under the car. A heavily oiled underbody at the front right could be caused by a leaking oil cooler. The brake lines are also not considered to be particularly durable. A strong smell of petrol when starting the vehicle can indicate leaking petrol lines. Typical chassis weaknesses are worn ball heads on the front axle and heavily worn rubber bearings on the rear wishbones.

Z1 E30 Motor


weak points



  1. door mechanism
  2. underbody
  3. Arched sills
  4. hood
  5. head gasket
  6. oil cooler
  7. brake line
  8. fuel line
  9. Ball heads front axle
  10. Rubber bearing on the wishbone
  11. interior design
  12. originality


BMW Z1 assessor and rarities

There were also individual accessories for the Z1 E30. Here are a few photos of very rare bags and luggage that are hard to find.


BMW Z1 Taschen und Gepäckstücke


BMW Z1 Tasche / Gepäckstück sehr selten


The Z1 was and is a true work of art and far ahead of its time and polarized like the legendary M1 of its time, which hit the nerve of motorsport enthusiasts at the time, the Z1 hits the nerve of sporty individualists.