Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 6th August 2018

Within the car industry, innovation is a driving force and many cars have been heralded as the next big thing. The 1989 BMW Z1 was heralded as a vehicle of the future, due to its unique features. With plastic body panels and vertically sliding doors, the Z1 had a cutting edge design that made it stand out on the road. We’re looking into the history of the Z1.


The technology for the Z1 came out of the BMW Technik GmbH department that was set up in 1985. Director Ulric Bez oversaw the car’s development, while Harm Lagaay headed up the design. The Z1 became Technick’s first concept vehicle.

The department was given free rein to experiment. The prototype featured a body that had plastic panels, flat undertray and innovative sliding doors. Instead of swinging out, the doors retracted vertically. The body had high sills that provided improved crash protection.

In addition to the doors, the panels were made of Xenoy thermoplastic. The panels contributed to the aerodynamic design of the Z1. The undertray also helped to provide a streamlined performance. The Z1’s 170 hp six-cylinder in-line engine allowed it to speed along the road at a leisurely pace.

Production life

The Z1 was unveiled at the 1987 Frankfurt Motor Show, with production beginning in 1988. The cars were produced at the BMW plant in Munich and the majority were sold in Germany. It proved to be a phenomenal vehicle, with the public reacting favourably. Early demand was strong, as 3500 vehicles were ordered before production began.

The car came in several colours, ranging from red to green. The rarest was considered to have a light yellow exterior and red interior. Production lasted from 1989 to 1991, with a total number of 8000 rolling off the line.

The ZI is one of BMW’s finest offerings because it ushered in new features. It helped to move the car industry forward, making it one of the most intricately designed vehicles of all time.

By Benslick [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons