BMW Z1 goes up for auction


BMW fans in the United States can often consider the Z3 as the company’s first mainstream roadster positioned under the 3 Series in the modern era, spanning the past 30 years. But just a few years before the Z3 made its debut in the era of German pocket roadsters, including the Porsche Boxster and the Mercedes SLK-Class, a very different and very small BMW was available to buyers in Europe and in a few other regions. .

This roadster was the Z1, and besides a new aesthetic it had a few other tricks up its sleeve, including drop-down doors and plastic body panels designed to be replaced by the owner for a color change.

Z1 values ​​have risen in recent years as enough time has passed for them to be considered classics, coupled with their eligibility for import into the United States. So these are not the bargains they once were.

In a few weeks a 1989 Z1 with 69,366 miles on the odometer will be auctioned in the UK, when Classic Car Auctions offers it as part of its London Classic Car Sale.

The Z1 was produced for a short time and was not offered in North America.

Classic car auctions

The Z1 fully earned the Zukunft name when it debuted just over three decades ago, with a hot-dip galvanized pressed steel substructure carrying plastic body panels on the exterior. This approach, coupled with zinc welded substructure joints, resulted in a very rigid structure with no jerk, while the skin was made from a Xenoy injection molded thermoplastic developed by General Electric. To top it off, the doors lowered and raised with the push of a button, on timing belts, allowing the car to be driven with the doors open. The thermoplastic body panels were also designed to be removable easily enough for owners to do it themselves, usually within a few days, as practice has shown, to change their car’s color on the go. opportunity. (This was obviously before cheap vinyl wrap was all the rage).

While the wedge-shaped exterior, drop-down doors, and plastic body panels were certainly futuristic, what lay below was a bit more familiar and a bit more usable for stores that might not have never dealt with Z1 before. BMW borrowed the M20B25 2.5-liter inline-six from the E30 range, namely the 325i, giving the Z1 a lot of horsepower, as it also weighed much less than the larger 3-series with metal skin.

But the Z1 was also produced for a much shorter period, from 1989 to 1991, so it was never really a mainstream offering aimed at the cheap roadsters of the day.

Bmw z1 from 1981
The running gear courtesy of the E30 made the Z1 a skilled handler.


The car offered by Classic Car Auctions is an example finished in Dream Black Metallic over a dark gray nubuck interior, and is a left hand drive originally supplied in the UK, as BMW has not made any right hand drive examples. Among other things, this means that the odometer display is in miles, making it a US export-compatible car, with an odometer shown at 69,366 miles. This car received full service from cambelt in March 2020, as well as a new folding roof in the same year. The auction house reports that this Z1 manual transmission shows a full service history from the BMW dealership with 19 stamps in the service log. As a bonus, there is also a history of celebrity ownership: the first owner of this Z1 was Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys.

The auction house estimates this example to bring in between £ 30,000 and £ 35,000 on auction day, a range between $ 42,500 and $ 49,000.

The values ​​of the Z1 have certainly risen a bit since the car became eligible for import into the United States over the past five years, but they have also increased in general. Ten years ago this model was considered a curiosity and a bit like a toy car, collected in BMW circles but never taken particularly seriously, given other models deemed much more collectable. It was also a model with a fan base of owners who weren’t necessarily BMW collectors, but who liked the car’s cheerful looks, versatility and rarity. So die-hard BMW collectors weren’t really after the Z1, and if they did own one, it was just for the purpose of ticking a box.

Bmw z1 from 1981
The Z1s are now being imported to the United States, and they’re getting a second look from collectors who want something unusual.

Classic car auctions

This is starting to change now that the best examples are taking hold in collectors’ property. Just days ago, a Top Red example with 52,000 miles on the clock, also a UK left-hand drive car, sold for £ 28,688 at Silverstone Auctions in the UK for $ 40,500. This is where these now negotiate that mileage range, although there are really few examples that have gone over 100,000 miles, being runabouts in good weather.

These have been making their way into the United States for a few years now, and at this point we’ve seen about half a dozen on both coasts. BMW fans in the United States are therefore definitely taking note of this model.

This particular example should land in roughly the same range, unless there are multiple Pet Shop Boys fans in the auction house wanting to fight for it. You could say the exterior color is a bit muted, as Z1s tend to look better in lighter colors, but still a could swap the plastic panels in a few afternoons.

Visit the auction site to see the full list of lots for his next sale.

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